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A few things are not re-explained in depth. You might want to peek quickly at chapters 1 and 2. Thanks!
The water is already hot as I step into the shower and close the door. Two shower heads is a luxury, but it’s proven to be worth the price. The front one warms my chest while the opposite one massages the small of my back. I squeeze liquid soap onto one hand and start rubbing my shoulders, working my way down.
It’s easy to stay too long in here. To relax. To dream. I bend over to soap up my right calf and then prop it forward on the wall as I run a razor from ankle to thigh. Slowing, as it slides over my shin and the tendons behind my knee, I switch legs. I prop the left foot up and feel the water flicker over to cold for a moment. As if someone is flushing a toilet in the room. But that’s a thing for old houses. Not my new condo. And not when I’m the only one that lives here.
My mind wanders. What if it is someone? Could it be a neighbor? That seems unlikely…different pipes…too far away. I laugh at my paranoia…that stupid, helpless feeling. I take karate, right? Sheesh. I prop my foot up again. And I have a razor. I laugh…I mean how much damage can you really do with a disposable Bic razor.
Just as I drop my foot, the bathroom lights go out. What the FUCK?!
The shower is still hot and running but the small room – shower and toilet – is pitch dark.
Until it isn’t.
A light comes on but it isn’t from the ceiling. It’s from the door. I watch, frozen, as the light all along a crack in the door starts as a sliver and widens into a strip of brightness.
Someone’s opening the door.
I’m numb. I’m floating. Oh God. Oh my God. I think I’m panting. I don’t feel the water any more. And then I see a shadow interrupt the long stream of light and I can’t feel my body. My naked body. Alone in the shower. The dark shape – back lit from the bedroom light – takes another step inside, pauses, and yells in a deep ugly voice. “BOO.”
I hear screaming. A piercing, continuous screaming. I barely register…that it’s ME. And his laughing. Oh my God. My mouth is open, wider than it’s ever been, straining the tendons in my neck. Where are my legs? I can’t feel anything. Screaming is echoing off the shower tile. And then I run out of breath and I can’t hear myself any more. He places a hand on the shower door handle and I can’t take in a new breath.
Help me. No. NO. Help me. I can’t breathe.
Oh my God, I can’t breathe. Pleeeease…help me.
“Cara!” Cara felt shaking.
“Cara! HEY!” He’s touching her.
Cara opened her eyes suddenly. In the dim light of the room, she saw the outline of his shadow hovered over her. She felt panic…still no breath… dizziness.
Tom’s dark eyes looked down with concern. He was propped on one elbow just off her right side, while his arm draped over the top of her pulling her toward him. A warm hand moved from her shoulder, up to her head, cradling behind her neck. Finally, Cara gasped and air rushed into both lungs.
“Hey baby…” his eyes darting over her.
Cara’s chest heaved and she flailed her arm forward, pushing against his chest… holding onto his bicep.
Tom tried to get through to her again. He felt the warm breath of her gasping on his neck.
“Shhhhh. Hey, it’s alright.”
Cara watched the Adam’s apple roll along his throat while he talked. Her chest heaved, drawing in air. She closed her eyes and listened to the fast, deep breathing that was slowly calming down. One tear dropped from her right eye and slide toward her ear.
“Jesus,” he whispered. His thumb stroked along her temple and back into her hairline. “You ok?”
Cara swallowed. Her throat was dry. Oh my God, she thought, did that all just happen in front of him? Did she say anything? How long had he been awake? What had she done?
“Yea. I… I’m sorry.” Her chin quivered slightly.
“What?!” Tom’s eyes opened wider in surprise. “No…”
He snaked the left arm, that was propping him up, under Cara’s neck and flattened his body against the bed again. He felt her shoulders relax and mold along his side. His right hand stroked her hair and then continued down her back… the light sheen of her perspiration under his fingertips.
His hand flattened against the small of her back. She drew one leg over the top of his thigh.
Cara felt the warmth of him along the full length of her body.
“I…um… I have…dreams. Of being chased. Or… being in trouble.”
He placed a kiss on her forehead. He watched her lashes close half way, shading her eyes.
He kissed the tip of her nose.
“Does it…happen a lot?” He kissed along her jaw line.
“Not…really. Once in a while.” She nuzzled higher into his neck. “Maybe when I’m more stressed – like speaking at this conference.”
She could feel his hand stroking small circles from her back to the public agent porno top of her ass, his fingers grabbing gently at the supple skin.
His concern was still there. But gentler now. More relaxed. “I’m sorry for that. You shouldn’t ever feel that way.”
Cara exhaled deeply, feeling her heartbeat at a slow, even pace.
Reality flickered. She lifted her head a fraction. “Crap. What time is it?”
She leaned over to look at the nightstand clock…6:15am…which also meant she rolled further onto Tom’s chest, her body contacting fully with his. He brought is other arm around her and scooped up her ass… a hand on each cheek.
Cara smirked and looked him coyishly in the eye. “I gotta go,” she said firmly. “Cab to my hotel, shower, change, practice conference talk, on stage at 9:30am.”
He continued pulling on her, rocking her up and down his body with each flex of his arms. His breathing was deeper and she felt the thickness of him on her thigh growing harder by the second.
“Not yet,” he whispered as he tilted forward and kissed her under the ear.
“Ughhhhh… shit. I have to.” She moaned at the heat of him underneath her, but pushed with her arms and arched up. She swung her leg over him and slide to the floor, pushing off his chest. She knew it had to be fast or he’d grab her down to the bed again.
“Hey!” He rolled to his side with a knee propped up for balance. Entranced by the muscled form in front of her, she hesitated, holding her arms at her chest, suddenly shy about standing completely naked before him.
“Believe me, this is killin’ me as much as it is you.”
He stared intently at her. “I sincerely doubt that.”
“I have to be ready for this morning.” She sighed deeply. “I really do.”
He smiled. He’d make her pay later.
“Alright, you win. Go get ’em hot shot.” He rolled onto his back and laced his fingers behind his head watching her move about the room, sliding the skirt on, hooking the bra behind her with arms through the straps, and sliding the top over her head. She walked into the bathroom, licked her finger, and gently swiped under her eyes to clean the smudge of makeup. Finally, she pulled her hair into a knot at the back and secured it with a small black band from her wrist. (Had that been there the whole time, he mused?)
As she turned back to the room for her shoes, Tom stood by the foot of the bed…his eyebrows raised.
“And what about this?” He held up the tiny lace thong, draped over a single index finger.
She opened her mouth for a second and then closed it, looking at him. Her mouth twitched.
“Collateral,” she said softly.
He laughed softly through his nose and nodded slowly. “Ok.” He palmed the fabric. “Good.”
Tom still had nothing on but he followed her to the door as she put on sandals – the heels bringing her 4 inches closer to his face. The front corner of the room remained dark and she watched his shadow loom over her. His hands came to both sides of her face and she could feel the panties against one cheek. As he leaned over and covered her mouth with his, she seriously considered whether ditching a seminar talk was a fire-able offense. But he had work too. And he had promised later.
Cara opened her mouth slightly, touched her tongue to his and then pulled away and opened the door a crack. She thought he’d moved to stand his body behind the door as it opened but he stood his ground as her eyes went wider with surprise. The hallway remained quiet.
He raised his eyebrows and put a hand on the door jam. “Bye.”
For the second time in 24 hrs, she looked up at him thru her lashes. “Ciao,” she said smiling. And then turned and slid out the door, hearing it click behind her.
A restless itch sent Tom down to the hotel gym for 40 min, then he showered, watched some news, and grabbed his satchel…fumbling in it for his phone as he hit the lobby floor. There was a cab right on the curb so he forgot about getting an Uber and jumped in. What had just happened? It felt like being back in that very first year of knowing her. He wanted her company. And he knew from the beginning that he wanted to get her upstairs. But he didn’t think she’d stay. He closed his eyes in the back seat as the cab turned left and accelerated down Michigan Ave. He could feel the soft skin of her thighs…the wet warmth of her kiss. Sitting in that chair – had she really done that? And the bottle. Had she really let him do that to her? He had to be careful…he was going to step out onto a downtown sidewalk in a second and a bulge in his suit slacks would not go over well.
He walked into the glass fronted lobby and asked for the offices of Carter, Ames, and Lewis. His smile was genuine, but he knew meeting the clients was not the root of it.
At 9:15am he pulled out his phone. The conference room was still quiet but the CFO’s executive assistant had promised to return with coffee.
He typed quickly…and hit send.
“GOOD LUCK THIS reality kings porno MORNING.”
The rush of traffic 10 floors below him barely sounded thru the windows. His phone buzzed.
“THANKS BABY. LITTLE NERVOUS.”
He typed again…
“U’LL BE FINE. FLASH EM THAT SEXY SMILE.”
“STILL THINKING ABOUT U.”
He glanced up, seeing no one in the hallway through the glass. Tipping his phone down, he slid his hand into his left pant pocket and pulled out the small piece of lacy white fabric enough to photograph it…and hit send.
Tom thought about counting the seconds, and chuckled.
It took maybe 6 seconds. His phone buzzed again.
“O.M.G.! YOU HAVE IT *WITH* YOU? AT CLIENT MTG?!”
He chuckled again. And wondered what she was wearing this morning.
“I’M PARTLY SHOCKED.”
“AND PARTLY HORNY AS HELL.”
He heard voices from far off. Typed quickly…
“SO HOT. MY LUCKY CHARM. CLIENT COMING. TILL LTR.”
He made sure everything was back, deep in his pockets, and stood to shake hands as the small group walked in the door.
Tara finished her conference session and listened to the applause. A general session like this could have 500 people in the room. She unhooked the lav mic and laid it on the podium and then glided to the right-hand wall as the clapping slowed and the rumble of conversation took over. Someone grabbed her bicep and turned her 90 degrees.
“Damn Sam! That was awesome. Nicely done my friend.”
Amelia McKinney beamed into Cara’s face. She leaned forward and gave her a quick hug.
Cara took in the complement and smiled. She hadn’t seen Amelia yet on this trip and her loud, chatty voice broke the ice.
“Hey you!” Cara exhaled a deep breath as the tension released from her shoulders. “Thanks.”
Amelia turned quickly to her left…
“Mason! Dude, come here.” A guy in gray slacks, shirt and paisley tie took another step toward them.
“This is Cara Lawson. Event Planner, Portland. But, yea right, you heard the talk.” Amelia turned back.
“Cara…Mason Henrichs. He has an event venue and A/V tech company here in Chicago. Helped me out on a CEO summit last year.”
Cara gave him the professional one-two…bright smile and reached out her hand. “Hi Mason. Such a pleasure. Thanks for coming into the keynote.” His grip was firm and warm.
“Oh, absolutely! Especially the bit about international, political, and environmental considerations. Really liked your comments.”
Amelia had made it a whole 16 seconds without talking before she jumped back in.
“Ok Cara! Let’s get coffee. There’s a buffet in the Skylark Room. Mason, you wanna come?” Turning to him.
He looked again at Cara, while responding to Amelia.
“Oh I’d love to ladies… but I have to get ready for my own breakout session.”
Mason took a half step closer to Cara and placed a hand on the outside of her upper arm.
“Hey…ummm…a few of us are having drinks tonight at The Purple Pig. You should come.”
He dropped his hand but remained within inches of her right side.
“Ummmm, yeah ok.” Cara looked at Amelia. “I’m not super familiar with downtown but I’ll find it.”
Amelia lit up and slide her arm thru Cara’s. “Oh, it’s like three blocks from here. Just over the river. It’s that networking thing I told you about! We’ll be there Mason. Thanks!” And with that, she pulled Cara out of the ballroom and down the hall toward the pastries.
Cara sat through three more breakouts and then couldn’t wait any longer. She pulled her phone from the cream leather tote and typed.
“HOW WAS CLIENT MEETING?”
She sat, legs crossed, on a bench seat in the large hallway outside the meeting spaces. People stood in small groups of two and three, talking, passing business cards, texting on phones.
Her suede knee-high boots were surprisingly comfortable for having 4 inch heels, but her feet were still sore from standing and walking all day. The phone buzzed and sent a shot of adrenaline through her chest.
“HEY YOU. IT WAS GOOD… HOW WAS SPEECH??”
She thought back to the morning. It was good, right? Yea, it seemed good.
“PRETTY HAPPY WITH IT. MY GF AMELIA SAID IT ROCKED, SO THAT’S SOMETHING. LOL.”
She typed again…
“NOW I’M JUST EATING LEFTOVER DONUTS. :-0”
It only took him a few seconds to respond.
“HAHA! I’LL BE RIGHT OVER.”
Cara chuckled, adjusting her position.
“GOOD. : ) I HAVE TO DO SOME NETWORKING AT A COCKTAIL THING BUT SHOULD BE DONE BY 7PM. I’M AT THE HYATT REGENCY…”
The suit jacket she was wearing suddenly felt too warm. She grinned at the phone, glancing up to see if anyone else could see her blush.
Her hand buzzed again.
“YOU BET SEXY. I’LL FIND IT.”
The motion off to her left got a little closer. “Yo Cara…let’s go!” Amelia yelled down the hallway but kept walking toward her. rus porno Cara threw up her hand with an index finger pointing for one more minute.
She typed back.
Tossing the phone back into her tote, she met Amelia stride for stride and took the escalator to the main floor and they walked out onto the street together.
By 5:30pm, Michigan Avenue was a sea of controlled chaos. Amelia and Cara walked over the bridge and down two blocks before heading inside The Purple Pig. Long “sharing tables,” with 10 or 12 chairs on each, covered the room and there were already seven or eight people at the table Amelia approached.
“Heeeeeyyyy!!” Everyone looked up to welcome them. Amelia received hugs from two of the women and one of the men, and then took a seat midway down the table, leaving Cara a chair next to her – closer to the empty end. Cara stepped up her heels into the barstool and hung her bag off the back of the chair.
She felt a large hand rest warm and flat on her back between her shoulder blades.
Without thinking, she smiled and then faded into confusion at who it could be. Turning, she looked right into Mason’s face.
His voice was deep. “Hi there Portland. Glad you made it.”
Cara smiled politely. “Oh! Uhhh, it’s Cara. Thanks. Yea, the menu looks good.”
Mason dropped his hand but took the seat next to her. They spent a few minutes with the menus and then the server returned. Mason ordered duck pate, calamari, fried brussel sprouts and a bourdon (neat).
“Let me get your drink. You know, a congratulations thing. What do you want…wine?”
Cara bristled a bit at his assumption but did in fact feel like having Pinot Grigio or something light so she put her order on his tab.
The group was lively and most were from the Chicago area so Cara did more listening than talking but it was a great education in hearing about the local event planning scene. And she valued after hours discussion like this because people start to go beyond the basics…they let their guard down…and spill gossip or trade secrets, which are always helpful to know.
After nearly an hour, she was still nursing her wine, but Cara noticed that Mason had moved onto his third glass. He leaned forward and put his hand on her thigh, drawing his fingers past the fabric so he could slip them into the recess behind her knee. She put her hand down onto his wrist and pushed him down, forcing his hand off her leg.
“Mason, I am here for the discussion. The networking, you know?”
He kept his hand on his own pant leg but leaned over into her arm and shoulder and turned his head to whisper in her ear.
“I cud teesh you a lot ’bout networking cutie. But there wouldn’ be mush discussion.” He laughed, exhaling onto her neck.
Cara turned her head away from the smell of bourbon and checked her watch. 6:48pm. She’d been there more than long enough to “make an appearance.” She smiled flatly at him as she slid off the bar stool.
“Ok thanks…Mason…I appreciate it.”
Amelia had been talking to the rest of the table, but noticed Cara move and opened her mouth in surprise.
“What’s up friend?! No way are you calling it a night!”
Cara grabbed her tote from the back of the chair and swung it onto her shoulder.
“No, I promised to meet…a…friend. For dinner. I am sorry. But thank you for the chance to join you guys.”
Amelia’s attention was drawn back to the other end of the table as laughter grew.
“Ok hun. Well, I’ll see you tomorrow probably. At the coffee.” She turned her head back to the guy on her right, ignoring Mason who was also getting off his chair.
“Hunnnn.” He smiled crookedly and huffed. “I bet that “fren” is me…idin it? Hun.” And as Cara walked around him toward the door, he pivoted 90 degrees and headed the same way.
Cara felt the bulk of him just a foot behind her and she sped up her pace, wanting to put distance between then.
All of a sudden her body pushed forward, hard, causing her to stumble to keep her balance. Mason grabbed her right under the arm and propelled her through the door. Cool night air swirled around her, along with the sound of traffic and – from further away – a train on the EL.
“Mason, what the hell?!” She could feel his fingers digging into the flesh of her bicep. He was holding her and walking with her at the same time. Forcing her further onto the sidewalk.
“You shu go home wif me…” His speech was getting worse. He leaned into her for balance.
Cara tried to pull on him but his hand was gripped hard under her arm pit. Her free hand came up to his chest to push with more leverage.
“Gaaa, yur sexy…” He leaned in more and sniffed deeply into her hair while at the same time, huffing out, reeking of liquor.
Cara frowned and twisted to shrink away from him.
“Mason, I’m serious. Let go.”
He laughed and pulled her 10 feet further up the sidewalk and then turned and put his other arm around her waist. His soft stomach connected with hers while a muscled thigh pushed between her legs. She turned her head sideways to put distance between their mouths. She could hear herself panting, getting scared.
“Whaaaaa, a chic liech you can’t stoop to be with a guy like me? You thing you’re so special…”
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