Disclaimers: They are mine, all mine <g>. Well, expect maybe for Stacy <g>.

Sex/violence/language: Yes, not really, and English. Ok, this story does contain graphic sexual situations between consenting women. If this is not your cup of tea, go check out some sights that offer less um…graphic scenes. There is an implied history of violence, but the only thing that gets hit is a punching bag. And yes this story does contain graphic and profane language…Kyle’s mom would not approve and I’m not even Canadian <g>

However, all sex and dirty words further the plot and are not simply gratuitous.

Obligatory Texan Disclaimer: I am not from Texas. Yet I visit Texas yearly. Any small, slight and otherwise harmless phrase that may seem as if it is tarnishing the star that is Texas was meant purely in jest and is in no way a reflection of the author’s views concerning the lone star state. <whew>

Other Disclaimers: My beta reader, the illustrious kpup, claims that this story should not be read while one is operating heavy machinery, watching the x-files, babysitting one’s godchild, or while at work.

Shameless plug: This story interrupted my other story, Mississippi Blues. Needless to say that this story is in no way related to that aforementioned work in progress. Now that this is done, maybe I can finally finish MS Blues.

Final Author’s note: If you or someone you know has a drinking problem, please get help now. AA is listed in the phone book.

Please remember to feed the bard. I like to know that people actually read what I write. <g> Bayoupup27@yahoo.com. Really, I do answer.

And now on with our show.

Just Business as Unusual

By: Blue Dragon



It was supposed to have been a routine business trip. Adam and I were supposed to go to Houston and spend a few days goofing off after I had finished my mission. The mission was easy. All I had to do was attend one meeting on Friday morning, sign a few documents and make sure everyone was happy with the contract I had authored. Adam had never been to Houston, so he was going with me. However, his wife suddenly decided that she did not trust the two of us together. That was the first surprise. Over the course of those days I was to get several more.

Instead of taking Adam with me, Stacy ended up coming along. Stacy, man oh man, I don’t know whom this weekend ended up being a bigger surprise for, her or me. I almost feel sorry for her. But, she knew about my preferences I think is what she calls them, and I figured everyone needs an education sooner or later. Plus she seemed content to be two-dimensional; I thought this trip would help her out. So, Stacy came along much to the displeasure of her boyfriend. I’m still not sure if he just didn’t trust her with me, or if he didn’t trust me period. Straights, they’ll never understand.

Anyway, the plane trip was uneventful. Well, it was thirty-two minutes late, but with any airline today, that’s almost on time. There was no turbulence, and our captain actually spoke to us, pointing out landmarks along the way. Not that there was anything really to see. I’d learned to swim in the Mississippi River so seeing it from the air for the fifth time this year wasn’t a big deal to me.

We landed at George Bush International Airport. The airport is much like the president it is named for, expensive and full of unkept promises. Of course it is also conveniently out in the middle of nowhere. The price of the taxi to our hotel was astoundingly high, and I was more than glad that I would be reimbursed for such trivial things as transportation.

After we got to the hotel, checked in and unpacked as much as anyone ever does while traveling, Stacy decided she wanted to check out the mall. She had heard it was huge, and being a typical feminine woman, she could not wait to go shopping. I remember rolling my eyes and wishing Adam was with me. At least my childhood buddy hated shopping as much as I did. Yep, we would have hit the bars and looked for women. That might be why his wife had forbidden him to come with me.

Placated with the knowledge that all malls had some sort of food service place within their walls, I agreed. We caught another taxi downstairs. It was another expensive ride; apparently nothing in Houston was close to anything else.

Stacy was right. The mall was huge. Even the Mall of Louisiana did not look as big from the outside. Nor did I soon find out, did it look as large from the inside. A person could really get lost inside this monstrosity.

Since it was still early, Stacy and I decided to look around at the various stores. Of course, our taste in window-shopping did not match. Wanna tell me what it is with straight women and shoes? Anyway, as I checked out the electronics store, Stacy wandered into a large shoe store. I was finished drooling at all the latest gadgets before she had even covered half the other store’s floor space. Maybe it was the bored look and the crossed arms, but she soon got the message and we wandered further along the corridor.

Against my will, I was literally dragged by the arm, into a trendy clothing store. The only consolation was that Stacy promised that she would buy dinner. It was rare enough to make me stop grumbling and follow a little more willingly. However, we were only in there a few brief minutes before I almost turned and ran for my life. I still think I should have.

Stacy was looking at a rack of off the shoulder shirts. I shook my head thinking she’d never actually wear something that risqué. After all, she was not quite a Bible thumper, but pretty close to being a Jesus freak. She had just put the shirt back on the rack when I heard a voice that made my blood run cold.

"Can I help you find something?" The smoky alto asked from behind my left shoulder.

"No, thank you. We’re just looking," Stacy turned to look at the sales lady. "Oh, my god."

That sealed it for me. I resolved not to turn around. I knew what I would see there. That one part of my past that still had the power to bite me in the ass. I am not what anyone would call a coward, but I tried my best to subtly disappear. Diving into the clothing rack seemed a bit too obvious, so I was content to try to sink to my knees and crawl out of the store.

"Barbara, look who it is," Stacy’s innocent voice brought the attention back to me. Fortunately, I had not had the chance to even sink to my knees. Crawling away seemed so much more pleasurable than having that voice crawling in my skin.

I turned around and glanced at the face before me. Those grey eyes that I remembered so well had not changed much in the five years since I’d last seen them. I wondered for a moment if mine had. Maybe she had a few more lines around her eyes and mouth. I don’t know. I wasn’t paying that much attention to details like that. Or to my breathing either. I finally remembered to take a breath when the edges of my vision started to blur.

"Talia," I managed to keep my voice neutral. At least I hope I did.

"Babs, its nice to see you," Her voice sounded sincere. She still had that mocking look in her eyes, so I could not be sure.

"Its nice to see you too," I almost choked on the words. It was anything but nice. I think she noticed. Her grin grew wider at least.

"What are the two of you doing here?"

"I had a business trip. What are you doing in Houston?" The last thing I had heard, she had moved to Oregon with her husband. Damn, that phrase still turns my stomach.

"Seemed a nice place," She shrugged. For just a minute she allowed me to see past those walls. Most of those were new I noticed. Formed since I had last seen her, much like most of mine were.

"Well, maybe you can suggest a restaurant then?" Stacy asked as she noticed I seemed to have swallowed my tongue.

"Sure, where are you staying?" She asked. It took me a moment to remember that she was originally from Houston. I was dying to know why she would move back home, but at that moment I would rather have died first.

"By the Astrodome," Stacy said. I was surprised she got the name right. She was not all that into sports.

"Well, at least you didn’t say Enron. There’s a nice Mexican restaurant across the interstate from the Astrodome as well as a seafood place. But if I recall, Babs, you don’t eat seafood do you?"

"I do," I said. She raised her eyebrows in surprise. What can I say? It was something I learned to tolerate after she had parted from my life.

"Well, then either one of those should please you. I have to get back to work. It was nice seeing you both again," She gave a half smile before sauntering back farther into the store.

"Sure it was," I muttered under my breath. Not waiting to see if Stacy were following, I quickly made my way out of the store.

"What do you think…?" She started to ask something but I cut her off.

"We’ll talk about it later. Right now I just want food and a stiff drink." For once, Stacy let things stay like that. She normally did not let me slide on putting off conversations.

We caught a taxi back to the hotel. Our rental car was finally ready and waiting. I, being the calmer driver, took the keys. We could see the sign for the restaurant Talia had mentioned in the distance. Wordlessly, we found the car and I aimed it in the direction.

The restaurant was obviously one of a chain. On the walls the proprietors had hung several touristy items from Mexico. It made me laugh. Talia would like the atmosphere. She had always been into cheesy. Then again, she had never been to Mexico. I had, five times.

It wasn’t long after the waitress seated us, in the smoking section of course, I overruled Stacy, before Stacy gave into her desire to talk.

"She didn’t look like she had changed much did she? She’s still tall, beautiful and the walking sarcasm queen."

"Stacy, everyone is tall to you. You’re 5’2". Talia is not that tall," I was irritable. I’ll admit it.

"She’s taller than you are," She stuck her tongue out like a child.

"Only by an inch," I shrugged. Talia was 5’9".

"Anything I can get you to drink?" The waitress asked, as she made sure we had silverware.

"Killian’s if you have it," I told her without looking at the drink menu. "If not, I guess I’ll settle for a domestic light draft. Something that isn’t Budweiser."

"Sprite please," True to form, Stacy stayed away from alcohol. "Now, tell me you weren’t shocked when you realized who that was in the store."

"I knew it the second I heard her voice," I told her. She looked surprised. I guess our relationship was better hidden than I had originally thought.

"Oh, my. You loved her didn’t you?" One of these days I need to work on facial control.

"What makes you ask that?" I asked as the waitress returned with our drinks. Before the woman had completely written down our orders, I had drained half the reddish liquid in my glass. "Can I get another?"

"I’ll be right back with that. You’re food should be out shortly."

"I say that because of that look on your face when I brought the subject up. She was your best friend." Stacy protested. Straights never understood.

"Yes she was. And?" I dipped one of the ubiquitous chips into the sauce. It was nice but hot. Just the way I liked it.

"How could you fall in love with your best friend?" I could tell the thought boggled her mind. Its weird, Stacy was always going on about Bill being her best friend. Wasn’t that what Oprah always said, best friends made the best mates?

"Pity the child," At her blank look I expanded on my admittedly cryptic remark. "I was young. Seemed like the thing to do I guess."

"Does she know?"

"Not as far as I know. What’s it matter? It has been years." I was eager to get off the subject.

"You should talk to her about it," The other patrons turned and looked as I let a loud laugh loose. "Seriously Barbara. You should talk to her."

"Nope. I’m going to make sure everything goes ok tomorrow, then we’re going to see what there is to do here, meet up with my friends, and then I’m flying back to Atlanta."

"Why won’t you talk to her?" Stacy was very good at whining to get something. Must be a youngest child thing.

"Because there is no point in it. Besides, I don’t think we’ll see her again, and that is fine with me," Even I was shocked at the vehemence in my tone.

Now I may pick on Stacy sometimes, but the girl is not stupid. She let the matter drop. We talked about inconsequential things while we ate. Stacy dominated the conversation with things she wanted to see and do while we were in Houston. I was too preoccupied to do more than nod or make the appropriate sound when required.

It was still early when we made it back to the hotel. Stacy was extremely white. She had not enjoyed our little trip in the Houston beltway as much as I had. Of course, she was concerned about the beer I had consumed, but I assured her that two beers was not a problem. She did not believe me. I am not sure I would have either if someone else were driving. However, two beers was way below my normal tolerance level.

When we got inside the hotel room, Stacy took over the bathroom. I pulled my walk-man and headphones from my bag and decided to chill on the balcony for a while. Stacy would not let me smoke in the room. Besides, I have always enjoyed sitting outside watching the stars overhead. I was disappointed that Houston did not live up to the big skies of Texas motif. I did not see many stars. Maybe it was all the pollution.

I was tempted to order room service to bring more beer to the room, but thought otherwise. Stacy would be on my case about it and I was in no mood for a lecture. So I just put my feet up on the balcony railing and laid my head back into the chair. I had the music up loud to block out any road noise and any wayward thought. I was sure someone else could hear it. And I do not listen to light music.

I had just gotten comfortable. I was letting my thoughts drift back to the metal concert I had dragged Adam and his wife to a few months ago. I was almost to the point where I could see the band I was listening to on stage when my self-induced trance was interrupted.

Thinking it was Stacy; I turned when I felt the hand on my arm.

"You really had that up loud. I called your name several times, but you couldn’t hear me," Talia stood with her hand on my shoulder.

"I was meditating," I stood up quickly and turned off my little CD player. I stepped away from her reach.

"Wanna go for a drink? There’s a lounge downstairs." I could not see her face so I could not even get a hint as to what her motivation was.

I am still not sure why I nodded in agreement. Nevertheless, I followed her back through the hotel room. Stacy looked up at us oddly from her book, but did not say anything.

Neither of us spoke as we took the elevator downstairs. Talia led the way to the lounge half hidden on the other side of the hall of elevators. It was dark, which I appreciated, and smoky. I liked that part even more. Choosing a table in the corner, Talia dropped gracefully into a chair.

"So, you called this meeting. What’s up?" I finally asked as the silence extended too far for my comfort.

"I just hadn’t seen you in a while. I thought we’d catch up over a drink or two," She said as she flagged down a waiter. She surprised me again when she ordered a beer. When I knew her, she did not drink. I wondered what else had changed.

"So, what’s Gary up to?" I barely could say the bastard’s name.

"I have no idea. We were divorced nine months ago," She looked a little stressed as she said that. Inside, I was doing flips, cheers and cartwheels. I made sure that I lit a cigarette at the time so it would not show on my face.

"That’s too bad," I tried to sound sincere.

"Don’t lie, Babs, you never were very good at it." She was right. I could never lie to her. To everyone else I was compulsive about it, but she always got the truth out of me somehow. Well, except about one thing.

"What happened?" This time I did sound somewhat sympathetic. Course, I was also dying of curiosity.

"He wasn’t the one," It was all she said. However, my over active imagination was ready with plenty of details. "What about you? Have you found that special guy yet?"

I could not help it. I choked on my beer. Could she really think that…? It was too incredible.

"No, I must confess I have not found that special person yet," She could tell I was serious in my reply. Whenever I get serious, I drop the accent.

We caught one another up on small talk after that. She wanted to know how my little brother was doing, how my mom was and what my dad was up to, and I asked all the same questions about her brother and sisters and parents. If I could have relaxed, I might have enjoyed our conversation. Slowly, as the beer made its presence known, we began to talk more seriously.

"So, have you dated? What’s it like out there?" She asked me. We were on our second round of beer, bringing my total for the night to four.

"Yeah, I’ve dated. Mostly it’s been psychos though. You?" The beer had loosened up my tongue enough that I felt disaster coming on strong.

"No one since Gary. I’m a little afraid of starting anew. If you know what I mean," For once she had dropped the slightly mocking tone.

"I know the feeling. I haven’t had a relationship in two years."

"What do you do for sex?" She was appalled at the thought of living without.

"ONS’s and toys. Besides, I work a lot and the dog gets jealous of the computer, I’d hate to see what she’d do to another person,"

"ONS’s? Is that like rodents of unusual size?"

"One night stands," I explained.

"Oh, well, I hope you use a condom."

"Don’t worry, I and my chosen partner take precautions," That was true. You never knew what you could catch. So far, the few times I did not insist on some sort of protection, nothing had happened. Still, it was a crazy world and I have no desire for a STD.

"Partner?" She leaned in a bit closer. "Is there something you haven’t told me Babs? Cause you haven’t once used a pronoun like he or him in talking about partners."

"Um," I felt the heat rush to my cheeks. Well, there was nothing for it but to lay it all out on the table and see what happened. "I’m gay." There, it was said.

"I see," Talia put her cigarettes and lighter into her purse. Before I could blink, she had left me alone with the check. Once again, she had walked out of my life with out so much as saying goodbye.

When the waiter returned, I signaled that he could take the empty bottles away. Noticing the AIDS bracelet he had on, I stopped him to ask a question. He gave me the answer and directions, smiling a little as he did so. I paid the bill and tipped him well for the information.

Without telling Stacy, I asked the front desk to call a cab for me. I waited outside for it. Fortunately it did not take long. I told the cab driver where I wanted to go, and after looking at me funny, he made sure we got there. I paid him and waited for the receipt so I could hand it in to my boss when I got back and get reimbursed for the ride. Getting out of the taxi, I took my first look at the bar. It did not look as run down as I was expecting.

When I had told my friend Janie about my upcoming trip to Houston, she recommended a bar to try. She claimed that she and her wife were regulars there. I was hoping that she would be there on a Thursday night.

This was clean for a women’s bar. It still had the butch biker element hanging around, but otherwise was not as run down as several that I had seen. Thankfully they had a jukebox and not a karaoke machine. It might just be my humble opinion, but I doubt there is anything worse than a drunken lesbian convinced she’s Grace Slick.

I did not see Jane in the bar. Of course I had not seen her for several years. We lost touch after Janie had to leave college and take care of her mom. She commuted to a college near her mom’s house to finish her degree. We had just recently gotten back in touch with one another. Email is a wonderful thing.

I ordered another beer and took a seat at the bar. The bar was a big square block of mahogany. Someone had obviously paid a lot of money to make it look tasteful. The barkeep did not ask to see my identification. Looking my age was something I was slowly getting used to.

I had not been there long when I became aware of a blonde woman sitting beside me. Maybe it was her hand on my thigh, but something drew my attention to her. She smiled at me as I looked over at her. I could not make out her features too well, but I did notice that her eyes were green. That smile she gave me made the evil little part of me chant poontang.

"You look like you could use a friend," She leaned over and whispered in my ear. "And you look like you could give me what I need."

"And what’s that?" Maybe it was the five beers, but I felt pretty thick at the moment.

"A good fuck. Come on," She took my hand and pulled me off the barstool. I followed her down the dark hallway in the back of the bar and into the bathroom. One of the lights was out and the middle stall was declared out of order.

The blonde pulled me into the last stall and locked the door behind us. I barely had time to register what was going on when she pushed me back against the wall. The kiss burned it was so hot. I had never kissed anyone with a tongue ring before. It was interesting and different. Just the way I liked it, hot and a little rough.

The blonde let her hands roam. And roam they did. She roughly pulled my shirt from my waistband and ran her hands along my side. I could only groan and let her continue. She hurriedly unbuttoned my shirt and pushed my bra out of the way. All I could do was lean heavily back against the wall and let her continue. She pulled my jeans down and proceeded to show me just what the advantages of a tongue ring were. I can honestly say that it was the best orgasm I had had since I learned just what made that little egg magic.

She rose up and kissed me hard. A lot of people did not like kissing after giving or receiving head, but I was not one of them. I always liked the taste of a kiss flavored with juice.

After I pulled my jeans back up, I reversed our positions. I pulled her skirt up and spread her legs with my knee. I was on fire. Sometimes rough was better than anything else.

"What’s your name?" I whispered as I began kissing her neck.


"How do you want it Alice?" I asked as I began to lower my kissing and let my hands roam her body. She was a little shorter than I was, but built very nicely. I let my hands get acquainted with her voluptuous breast before freeing them of their confinement. They tasted even better than they looked.

"Hard and fast," She finally answered. I had almost forgot I had asked her a question.

I pushed her underwear aside and brought one of her legs up to wrap around my waist. I kept sucking her breast, using my other arm to brace us against the wall. Roughly, I pushed three fingers into her. She had anticipated the move and pushed her hips down to meet me. I swear I heard the white knight talking backwards. Of course, it could have been the beer.

As we were standing there, I heard someone else enter the bathroom. Neither of us made much noise, so I assumed that no one heard us. It would not have mattered anyway. The possibility of getting caught made it more exciting. After all, it would not have been the first time I had had sex in public.

Alice was getting close to climax. I started pressing against her harder. There is a subtle pleasure to pain sometimes but not many people can appreciate that. As soon as she pulled me closer while I was softly biting her nipple, I knew she was one of the few. She really proved it when she bit my shoulder and scratched my back with her nails as she came. I almost came again when that happened.

"Thank you," She straightened her skirt. "You were better than I had hoped. I needed that." And then she disappeared.

I cleaned myself up after she left the stall. Forgoing tucking my shirt back in, I too left the stall. I paused at the sink and washed my hands. Fortunately, they had really strong soap and I was glad to see that at least I was safe. For once, there were no paper cuts, hangnails or cat scratches on my hand.

My assumption that no one had heard us was shattered by the wink I received from this other woman washing her hands. If I had ever had any shame, I would have blushed then. I smiled, winked back and left the restroom.

I reclaimed my seat at the bar. I ordered another beer and was mentally contemplating how I much sleep I would get before the meeting in the morning when I felt a hand on my shoulder. I do not know whom I was expecting when I turned my head, but it was not Janie. Yet there she was.

"Hey," I was getting slightly unsteady, but I did get off my barstool and hug her. "What’s up?"

"Oh, nothing much. Meg just told me about hearing something hot and heavy going on in the bathroom. You know anything about that?" She grinned as she released me.

"Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know," I told her grinning. "How long have you two been here?"

"For a few minutes. We’re playing pool. Want to join us and meet the wife?" She pointed off into a dark corner where I could barely make out people playing pool.

"Lead the way," I grabbed my beer and followed her. I almost spilled my beer when I realized Meg was the same woman that had winked at me in the bathroom.

"Megan, this is Barbara, my one friend from Southern," Janie introduced us. "Babs, this is the wife."

"We’ve met," The taller woman smiled at me. "I hear you do nice work. I read that article about your company."

"Thank you," I remember Janie had said that Megan was an accountant. She must really keep up with life in the financial world if she read that article.

"You play?"

"Yeah, a bit," I grinned. I used to shark in college. It helped pay the bills.

We played at least three games before I saw something I thought I’d never see in my life. Talia and Stacy had just entered the bar when I looked up from racking the fourth game. I was shocked to see those two together, and in a women’s bar at that. That would make surprise number three.

I pretended to ignore them as Meg’s friend Toni broke. After all, I had one hundred dollars riding on this game. Meg was against my playing Toni for money, but Janie had laughed at her wife’s concern. I had taught Janie to play in our more innocent college days. Actually, I had taught Janie a lot in that year and a half. But Meg did not need to know that.

They just stood at the end of the table as I sunk ball after ball. Toni really was not all that talented at pool. She talked a good game but played a lousy one. I collected my hundred dollars after a smooth bank shot that landed the eight ball in the side pocket I had called. Only then did I acknowledge the misfits in the bar with an incline of my head. Talia had the courage to walk over, Stacy just hung back and looked frightened.

"You weren’t in your hotel room," She accused.

"Like you care," I answered taking one of the shots Janie had brought over and downing it. There’s nothing like a shot of Jagermeister after a cold beer. Well, there is tequila, but I didn’t feel like going to jail in Houston before the meeting in the morning.

"Barbara, look at me,"

"Why should I? So you can walk out on me again?" I asked. I think my voice might have been a little louder than normal but I was not sure.

"No, obviously there’s something we need to talk about. But I’m not talking to you in this condition. Let me take you back to your hotel," She moved up closer and went for the sympathetic female ploy.

"I’m not ready to leave yet. Janie and I are catching up on the good ole days." I took my cue back and was ready to face another defender. This bar had a lot of women that felt they were the best at pool. I was more than ready to show them how wrong they were.

There was no money on this game. The new opponent could not afford me. However, she had a lovely two-piece custom-made pool cue. It was not long before I was using that dragon handled cue to defeat yet another person. I think Megan was starting to fear for our lives after that one. She decided that we needed to find another bar for Friday. Naturally, Janie was egging everyone on. She has always been like that.

Finally it got to the point where I was starting to wobble. I know that I had unbuttoned my shirt a little a few games prior to Talia’s entreaty, but by that point I was ready to take my shoes off. Getting drunk does that to me. I end up shedding something. I would say my morals, but I did not start out in life with many of those anyway.

I gave in and called it a night when Meg finally convinced Janie to as well. Stacy was relieved that we were finally leaving. Both she and Talia made as if they were going to help me out of the bar, but I shrugged them off. It was mostly for show. One woman I had beaten watched us closely, and I wanted to be ready if she decided to get her money back by attempting physical violence.

I did not see Alice on the way out. I shrugged it off. It was not the first time I had done that, although I must admit the bathroom cliché was something I had not done before. Meg was not all that embarrassed by it, at least she never mentioned it. Either way was fine with me. I did not care.

They loaded me and my new pool cue into the back of Talia’s car. Talia was even kind enough to warn me not to vomit in there. As if I would. I can hold my alcohol pretty well. Though I had lost count of the beers I had consumed.

We pulled into the parking lot, and I was out of the car before it was turned off. Talia walked us up to our room. A gallant gesture it was not. I pretty much fell into my bed after setting my prize on the dresser. I did remember to call down for a wake up call before pulling off my clothing. I ended up just tossing my bra somewhere and sleeping in my shirt and boxers. Seeing a naked lesbian sometimes makes straight women nervous, so I took pity on Stacy.

Talia still had not left. I managed to roll off the bed, take two ibuprofens and use the bathroom without falling down. Still she stood there watching the scene.

"Something on your mind?" If I recall, I was slurring at that point.

"Nothing we can’t talk about tomorrow. But when did you get the tattoo?" She was looking at the one on my thigh.

"Two years ago. Why?" I was a little defensive. Her god believed tattoos were the work of demonic influences.

"Its interesting. I’ll see you tomorrow Babs," She walked out of the door. At least, I thought as I started drifting off, I got a goodbye this time.

At fifteen minutes to seven, the phone rang. It was my wake up call. I don’t think I could articulate the word hello, but they had probably called grumpier people than me. Five minutes after I had hung up the phone, the alarm on the nightstand went off. As soon as I had located the switch and silenced it, my cell phone alarm rang. Then the alarm on my laptop went off. Needless to say by seven I was groggily making my way to the shower.

I stripped down while waiting for the water to heat up. The good thing about hotels is the almost bottomless hot water heater most of them have. I waited until it was scalding before I climbed in. For several moments I let the spray land on my head. I was hoping it would make the pounding go away. My hangover wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t that good either.

After a long shower, I was starting to feel more like myself instead of the walking dead. Fortunately I did not have massive bags under my eyes. One thing I had noticed a few months ago was that my hangovers were never as bad if I had gotten laid before I passed out. I would have felt even better if I had walked around the hotel once or twice before going to sleep, but I wasn’t going to get pissed at myself about it.

I put on a nice conservative pants suit. The clothes in my hanging garment bag did not wrinkle for once. I was amazed. I put my newly acquired pool cue in the suit bag for safekeeping. I did sneak another peek at it. It looked better than I had remembered.

After I had gotten dressed, I double-checked everything. My laptop was put in my attaché, all the papers were accounted for, and all the pens had ink in them. The only thing left to do was locate the little refrigerator hotels are famous for. We did indeed have a mini bar in the one I found hiding under the TV. I downed the bottle of scotch. It is an old sailor’s thing: hair of the dog.

The rental car had one of those new GPS things in it. That came in handy. I plugged in the information for where the meeting was, and it guided me through the streets of Houston. The only problem was that apparently the car’s mile did not match its mile. I ended up making one U-turn before safely arriving at the building.

As usual, I had gotten there early. I have always loved empty boardrooms. Only the secretary that had shown me inside had been in the meeting room. She had left bottles of water and various sodas languishing in an ice bucket. She had also set out coffee and some sort of pastry. I left the other stuff and just grabbed a bottle of water. I had it finished before anyone else came into the room.

Five older gentlemen, and one tired looking woman came in and joined me at the table. They were all conservatively attired in grays, greens and browns. I stood out in my blue suit.

For every question they asked, I made sure I had an answer. That’s my one good quality. I can sell Egyptians sand. Even in high school, when I’d give a smartass answer, I knew the real one. I kept up with my homework. Whether or not I felt like turning it in the next day was the real question.

I answered all of the board’s questions. I made sure that they were snowballed completely. The charts and graphs convinced them of my sincerity. Even the CEO, when he questioned the three loopholes for us to one for them in the contract believed me by the time I was done. Course by the time our company has to use one of those loopholes, he won’t be CEO of his anymore. It’s a good thing these contracts bind successors as well.

We wrapped everything up by lunchtime. I carefully put my copies of the signed contracts in my attaché. From there I headed back to the hotel. I like to leave meetings right when they’re breaking up. It’s easier to avoid talking to people that way.

Surprise number five came when I opened the hotel room door. Stacy was sitting on the bed talking to Talia who was sitting at the little table. Neither one had ever seen me in anything but jeans so the suit managed to take them by surprise. I love it when that happens. Unconsciously, ok well, consciously, I added a little more confidence to my steps as I walked over to the table.

I placed the attaché on the floor under the table before taking the remaining chair. Slowly I crossed my legs and leaned back. I had left an open pack of cigarettes on the table so I took one. I lit it and inhaled deeply before looking at either one of them. Stacy was so awed she did not even say anything about my smoking in the room. Talia’s face was unreadable.

"So, has either of you eaten?" I broke the tension in the room.

"Not yet," Stacy answered. At least she wasn’t still in her pajamas.

"I was actually going to ask you the same thing. I figured I owe you a lunch after you paid for the drinks last night," It was as close to an apology as I had ever gotten from Talia.

"All right, but I’ll pay," The vindictive side of me, and it’s a rather large side, was loving the opportunity to show off my so-called wealth. I had a good paying job and most of the time I lived cheap. Well, five days out of the week I did. The weekend was party time. And I love to party.

Talia conceded and the three of us left the hotel room. We ended up downstairs in the hotel’s restaurant. The food was supposed to be good, and no one wanted to argue over options. Plus, they offered steak downstairs. Well, I guess any good restaurant in Texas does offer lots of beef.

Talia was more withdrawn today. I think it was Stacy’s presence. I remember Talia saying that she wanted to talk, but the third wheel made intimate conversations impossible. That was fine with me. The less we talked about serious matters the happier I was. As a result, we talked about nothing more taxing than work, mutual friends and current events over our steaks.

Talia volunteered to play tour guide after the meal since she had the day off. I went back upstairs and changed while they waited in the lobby. I was debating over the wisdom of this, but at least I was sober this time. Well, that might not have been to my advantage either. There is something to be said about the apathetic alcoholic haze and the distancing from reality it offers. I should know; I was a big fan of it.

We spent several hours driving around. Talia took us down to the coastline in Kemah. They have the weirdest bridge I’ve ever seen in my life there. She also drove us by NASA. We did not stop, but it was cool to see one of the real rockets from the first stages of the space program.

Janie called my cell phone as we were turning around in the parking lot of NASA. She asked if we wanted to meet for dinner and then go back to the bar from last night. She claimed that Friday nights brought a whole different crowd to the bar. She even suggested that Alice might be there again. I told her it wouldn’t matter to me if she were. Janie laughed. She said I hadn’t changed a bit. I took that as a compliment.

After hanging up with her, I ran the idea past the other two. They didn’t seem all that enthusiastic, but not opposed to the idea either. Course, I was fully prepared to go on my own. They could do whatever they wanted. I was not about to let them spoil my fun.

Talia skillfully negotiated the eight lanes of traffic. Before I had a chance to get too comfortable in the back seat, we were at the hotel. We still had a few hours before we were to meet the others. Talia and I went into the lounge for drinks while Stacy went up stairs to use the phone in private. I think she was calling to reassure her boyfriend that her virtue was intact.

Now that we were alone, I was waiting for Talia to broach whatever topic she had on her mind. She continued instead to tell me all sorts of gossip about mutual friends, her job and crap like that. If you ask me, I think she was nervous. About what, I wasn’t sure.

It turned out that she too had read that damn article. A stupid blurb it was really. Just a list of the twenty most sought after new "financial consultants". A nice, polite term for what we all really are: corporate sharks and brokers. It’s what I do. The article had made it sound glamorous though. I was even impressed with it after I read it. It made me wonder if that was how the uninitiated public saw us. Heroes to failing corporations we are not. Scavengers and piranha we are.

Stacy came back to join us not too long after she had left. She had brought her book with her. She said something about wanting to sit by the pool and read. She did sit with us through another round. Of course, she did have another clear, carbonated citrus beverage. I think she thought that caffeine was evil. I wanted to tell her that carbonation was just as addictive.

"Can we take this someplace private?" Talia asked as soon as Stacy had exited stage left.

"Like where?"

"How ‘bout your room?" Yeah. The two of us alone in a hotel room. A hotel room with a great bed.

"Sure," I smiled and signaled for the check.

I paid the check despite her protest to the contrary. I even paid for Stacy’s soda. It was that vindictive corporate raider part of me. I wanted to show off. It made me good at what I do for a living.

We made it upstairs without conversation. I could tell she was getting nervous. I enjoyed the silence for that very reason.

"Are you happy?" She asked as she took a seat in one of the chairs by the little table.

"I don’t think I’m unhappy," I said. Not wanting to lay across the bed like a tigress in heat, I took the remaining chair. "Are you?"

"I was. The store is doing great. Mom and I are quite proud of it," She told me. She had told me earlier that her and her mom had gone in together and opened it upon Talia’s return to Houston. It had been a life long dream for both of them.

"It was quite a surprise to see you again, Barbara," She said. "I didn’t think I would ever see you again."

"That’s pretty much what I had been thinking too," I admitted. I was being honest. Seeing her again was something I had not planned on. I would rather have been submitted for testing by some creepy alien race the government is in cahoots with.

"How did it come to this?" She had dropped the mocking tone.

"Easily. You walked out of my life without a goodbye and married Gary the wonder eunuch."

"I’m sorry," She said it a very small voice.

"For what? Marrying a total waste of atoms?" The bitterness I felt tasted stronger than beer that I had consumed.

"That too," She got up and started pacing. I could tell that she was getting anxiously irritated. "Barbara, I am sorry for what I did to you. I am so very sorry for that."

"Gee, thanks. It only took you what? Six years to say that to me?" I was getting madder by the moment. How was I supposed to react?

"What did you want me to do?" She looked shocked by my attitude. I don’t understand why she was shocked. After all, I wasn’t all that nice a person back then either.

"Explain it to me." I got out of my chair and came behind her. "Explain how you could fuck me and then leave me for dickless." I was seeing red.

"Babs…Barbara…I…" She looked scared. It was a turn on.

I grabbed her arm and brought her closer to me. Looking into those eyes I saw the past and the present. I saw her fear of the moment, and her past wants and desires. I saw her innocence and her perversions.

"What are you afraid of?" I whispered hoarsely. She backed away from me. I followed.

"What are you doing?" She backed into the wall.

"This," I trapped her in place. She may have been taller, but she was slightly built. I however, am not. I outweighed her by at least 20 pounds.

I closed in on her and claimed her lips in a hard kiss. I forced her mouth open with my tongue. It was nothing like the slow, sensual assault of old. Of course, back then I was playing it "straight" and trying to convince her she was my first female. It worked. That was the only thing I had been able to lie to her about.

The big surprise was when she started to kiss me back. I ran with it. I pressed my hips into her. One inch difference between us overall, but my legs were longer. I spread her legs with a knee. She wrapped one around my waist. I was feeling a sense of déjà vu. After all, I was starting to spend a lot of time supporting walls. Maybe it should be Houston’s new slogan. The bed was less then five feet away, but I was not going to move.

She was wearing one of the long wrap around skirts she favored. Her mom made them by the dozens. I slid my hand up underneath it. Her thighs were as smooth as I remembered. She moaned and threw her head back, giving me access to her throat. I took full advantage of that.

Before too long, she wrapped her other leg around me. My legs and the wall were supporting her weight. I leaned against the wall harder, thrusting against her as well. I was starting to regret my decision to leave certain accouterments at home. How I would have loved to have taken her with one.

However, I was doubting this idea. I had wanted to take her violently. I wanted to watch as she denied the pleasure I was giving her. Yes, it’s evil. Yes, it was a mean and vindictive thought. I could not help it anymore than I could deny my attraction to her.

I had one hand cupping her ass, and the other poised within striking distance when the door opened.

Now most people would have taken one look at two sweat soaked women in a compromising position and silently closed the door as they left the room. Not Stacy. She screamed and dropped her book. The door slammed shut behind her prone form.

I leaned my head against the cool plaster of the wall. It did nothing to ease my fever. Talia was mortified. She pushed me away from her after returning her feet to the ground. When I say that she pushed me away, I am not joking. I landed back on the bed.

Then Talia did what she always did in stressful situations. She ran. She left me alone in a hotel room with a mortified innocent and the lesbian equivalent of a hard-on.

"I…you…what…?" Stacy tried several times but she could not force the words out. I stayed silent and waited for the storm to pass.

"How could you?" She finally regained her wits and her voice.

"I was trying to figure that out when you came storming in here. What on earth made you scream like that?" I was frustrated as hell.

"I walked in here and found you and Talia about to…" She lost her voice again.


"That’s crude. What possessed you to do that to her?" Yep. No one had figured out what we had been up to the times we skipped a social function to go for an "intimate counseling session".

"The devil made me do it. What do you think?" I needed to lash out at someone or something. Stacy was just the most convenient target.

"If I knew, I would not be asking," She was getting pissed. "Barbara Allen. I swear you could make an angel blush with shame for you. Don’t roll your eyes at me. How can you take advantage of her like that?"

"I wasn’t taking advantage of her. We were getting reacquainted."

"You call that reacquainted? You were trying to have sex with her." She was working her way up to a full-scale fury.

"It wouldn’t be the first time. And I would have made it too if you hadn’t of stormed in here like the human equivalent of a killjoy button." I threw myself back onto the bed and put my arm over my eyes.

"You two had…before…?" I had thrown her for a loop. "I am not a killjoy."

"Go back to your little fantasy land, Stacy," I was growing weary of her presence. Besides, I had an itch I really needed to scratch.

"You are destined for hell, you know that don’t you?"

"Oh give it a rest. All you have ever wanted from me is my head on your wall. Just another soul you’ve saved. Give it a rest Stacy. I’ve done the whole god thing. It’s not me. It never will be. Get used to the idea."

"Is that what you honestly think? That no one can care about you or for you?" She had tears in her eyes by that point. I didn’t care. I stood behind what I said.

"Its not what I think, its what I know. That’s all any of you ever wanted. It was games of let’s convert the heathen. I just played along. Grow up Stacy. You’re never going to save the world."

"I can not believe you just said that," She started throwing her clothes into her bags. "I’ll leave you alone, Barbara, but I’ll still pray for your soul. You need it more than anyone else I know."

"Save your prayers. They’re wasted on me."

"No they are not. And I may not be able to save the world, but I sure will not give up trying." She closed her bag and left. I found out later that she had changed her departure date and flew back that afternoon.

With Stacy out of the room, I laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. I was still wound up tight. Sexual tension filled every part of me. I wanted release in some shape or form.

Deciding to take matters into my own hands, I willed thoughts and images of Talia to the forefront of my mind. It worked. Within minutes I was more than ready. However, I was too wound up, too frustrated to let myself go.

Giving up, I went into the bathroom to wash up. The unreleased energy was making me shake. I had to do something about it. I called down to the front desk and inquired about the condition of their fitness room. I was pleased with their answers.

After changing into a pair of loose shorts and an old shirt, I found the fitness room. In the back corner was what I had been looking for: a punching bag. I had packed my light bag gloves for just such an occurrence.

I taped my hands and pulled on the gloves. The sterile room was a far cry from the lone bag hanging from a pecan tree that I learned to box upon, but it was all I had to use at the moment. As I warmed up, I let my thoughts flow back to my first lessons.

My grandfather had been an amateur boxer on the fast track to becoming pro until he was drafted into WWII. My father and my uncles had learned as children, though only my father’s youngest brother tried to make a living with it. My grandfather had taught my brother and me as children. He had insisted on teaching me despite my mother’s protest.

"Never know when it’ll come in handy, Babs. Remember that you can only depend on yourself in life. No one will rescue you, so you need to learn to rescue yourself," I could hear his voice in my head still. It turned out that he had been right too.

It was actually my grandfather that had gotten Talia and I in bed together. It is not as sick as it sounds. When he passed away my junior year in college, I cried my sorrows out on her shoulder. I ended up seducing her. I had not planned on it. I just needed to feel. He was the only other person I had cared about.

I began hitting the bag lightly. Five hits right, five hits left; uppercuts, crosses, jabs and hooks all in repetition. I started to get into it, hearing my grandfather’s voice echoing in my head from those long ago lessons. It was the only connection I still had to him.

By the time I had finished, my hands were numb. I hated going all out against a heavy bag in light gloves, but I felt a lot better. I stopped as I had started; light hits with each hand. He had always stressed that the warm down was just as important as the rest of the exercise.

I went back upstairs and took a quick shower. Soon it was time to leave. I did not want to be too late for dinner. Janie would tease me badly about that. I was a premature baby, and my excuse for my tardiness was that I was making up for lost time. Course that excuse worked in other ways too.

Sure enough, Jane and Meg were waiting for me at a table. The hostess waved me through. Apparently she had been told to watch for me. I wound my way through countless tables of families and couples joyfully enjoying their dinners. The provinciality of it was in sharp contrast to how I felt.

"You look exhausted, Babs. What’s up?" Janie asked as I sat down across from her.

"I found a punching bag." It was all the explanation she needed. I knew she remembered all the nights I spent in the school’s gym pretending the bag was some professor or my roommate. Boxing has ended up saving me a lot of jail time.

"So, what’s good here?" I asked. I knew the answer.

"Steak. You’re in Texas. Remember?" Meg laughed.

The waitress came and took our orders. I decided to forgo the beer and ordered a water. I figured we’d spend sometime at a bar later and did not want to compound the alcoholic haze I was already feeling. Although, between the fight with Stacy and the workout with the bag, I felt like most of it had already dissipated. I did follow the suggestion and ordered a steak though.

Meg and Janie caught me up on the goings on in their lives. They seemed happy and in control. I felt out of control, full of feelings I could not define. Janie seemed to be changing from the dark, brooding character I remembered into something a little easier for the general public to stand. It was a little strange seeing her like that. Maybe it was the effect of love on her.

Meg was full of questions about my job. I was glad for a topic I could freely talk about. It helped the rest of the tension ease. To me, my job was easy. Go in, get what I needed and leave before anyone could figure out what had happened. It was the easiest thing in my life. Maybe it was that competitive edge I have. I hate to lose. Doing less than my best would be losing.

After dinner and the inquisitions, we decided to take the conversations elsewhere. I had taken a taxi to dinner so I rode with them. I had planned on getting drunk and did not want to think about driving through Houston traffic with less than quick reflexes. It would not have been so bad, but Houston was populated with Texans. Texans as a whole refuse to yield. They also enjoy driving the speed limit or just below it in the fast lane. Maybe it was something in the water. Growing up in a tourist trap, I was well acquainted with how different states provided drivers with weird and sometimes dangerous impulses.

Still they were a more cautious breed than several other states I could name.

We ended up back at the same bar. Janie was right. I did not see the same faces I had seen the previous night. This was a good thing. I had no desire to spend the night in prison. I didn’t even see Alice. I only looked out of curiosity. I was starting to get good at holding up walls.

We ordered a few beers and then Janie and I played one another in pool. She had been practicing. It was not as easy to beat her as it used to be. We played a few more rounds, and drank a few more rounds as well.

Before too long, we had drawn a crowd. Several of Meg and Janie’s friends had joined us at the table. They cheered in unison when a lucky shot won the game for Janie. I laughed. The bar was very supportive of one of their own. It was an interesting contrast to the bars I generally frequented at home.

One of Meg’s friends was quite attractive. Of course, after several beers and the day I had had, I probably would have bedded a mountain troll. Fortunately for me, this woman was nowhere near mountain troll status. She was as tall as I am, sandy blonde hair, blue eyes, and a great smile. Not to mention, she had a great body. I got the feeling that she was as interested in me as I was in her throughout the evening.

Michelle seemed more than willing to give me a lift back to my hotel. Smirking, I bade Janie and Meg a good night. We actually made it to the hotel. That was different. I was good at making love in close quarters. Several times I’d had assignations in my car rather than take the woman home. Taking them home seemed more of a commitment than I felt a one night stand warranted.

We were physically flirtatious all throughout the elevator ride. Fortunately my room was on the sixth floor. Otherwise we might not have made it. That would have been a first. I’ve never had sex in an elevator. That night did not seem the night to try it either.

We made it to the room and actually to the bed before we started. I took the lead, roughly kissing her. I pulled her as close as possible before untucking her shirt. I was tempted to rip it off her, but decided against it. She sat up and pulled it off. I did not care where it landed. All I wanted was sex.

I unhooked her bra. It was a frontal closure one, so to impress her; I did it with my teeth. I began kissing and sucking her breast. My hands roamed down her side and to her abdomen. Hampered by her jeans, I quickly removed them. She anxiously awaited my next move.

I undressed quickly before rejoining her on the bed. I pulled her to me again. I rolled her over and took my place on top. She felt wonderful beneath me. I was still physically hurting from the little encounter on the wall with Talia. Michelle looked like she would be a willing supplicant to my desires.

I kissed her roughly. So roughly that I actually split her lip. She did not complain as I was also teasing a breast at the time. The taste of her blood spurred me on. I have no idea why. I may like it rough, but I had never been into blood sports.

Regardless, I kept kissing her, pinching and pulling her nipple at the same time. I knew she would have bruises there in the morning. I moved down and started biting, licking and sucking on her neck. I raised several hickeys before I moved even farther down.

I showered her neglected breast with my lips, teeth and tongue. I ran circles around her abdomen with my hand. I stroked her thigh, and for every pleasurable act I did with my hand, I increased pressure on the nipple in my mouth. She was moaning loudly before too long. It increased my ardor even more.

I did not prepare her for my entry. I just surprised her with three fingers suddenly buried deep inside her. She screamed at the sensation. I roughly clamped my free hand down on her mouth. It wasn’t all that easy to do given our positions. She squirmed, but I kept pumping in and out of her. My hand was soaked in juices and we were getting soaked in sweat as well.

I maneuvered my hand the best I could, letting my pinky finger stroke her ass every time my hand plunged inside her. I brushed my thumb on her clit and was almost bucked off as a result. I kept biting at her nipple and leaving hickeys underneath her breast. I was determined to have her look like a leper before I was through with her.

I took my hand away after making her promise she would not scream again. After her nod of consent, I moved down and replaced my thumb with my tongue. I sucked on her clit, her lips, and the smooth juncture of her thighs. The smell of her arousal was manna. The taste was ambrosia.

When I felt the time was right, I removed my hand from inside her. I did not let her recover long before I reinserted it. This time I used all four fingers. Her walls were stretched tight around me. I knew it must have hurt, but after angling my fingers toward her cervix, she began to moan again in pleasure. Thank you women’s magazines for telling us where the G-spot is.

She came twice. I could tell she tried hard not to scream again. I would not let her go though. I took her clit into my mouth and gently worked it with my teeth. Then I sucked on it, blew on it and licked it. All the while I was pumping my hand in and out between her walls.

She kept moving her thighs, one of which I had caught firmly between my own. The realization of what we were doing, the friction she was causing, and the much-needed release of physical energy caused me to join her on her third trip to outer space.

Breathing heavily, I rolled off her and laid back looking at the ceiling. Truth to tell, I was hoping she wasn’t the type that liked to cuddle. I’m very much a proponent of the "you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here" school of sex.

"I’ve never had it that way before. Why did you have to be so rough?" She asked. "It was nice I guess, but still…I hurt."

Gods, I rolled my eyes. Not only did Michelle make the mistake of talking after sex, but she critiqued it too. There’s not much in life I hate more.

"If you don’t like it, then leave, cause I don’t do nice and slow," I informed her.

Needless to say, she left quickly. It did not matter; I had gotten what I needed anyway. Yeah, I admit, it was rude. But hell, she picked me up and then had the gall to complain. Plus she had the bad manners to leave before reciprocating. I had to take care of my second orgasm that evening myself. Fortunately it was easier this time.

I called down to room service and ordered one of their late night breakfast plates. Suddenly I was starving worse than a refugee. Or so it felt anyway. Personally I wouldn’t know, having never physically been held captive or forced to flee.

I pulled on my pajamas after the phone call, washed up and then sat out on the patio. I did not use my CD player this time. I had wanted to be able to hear the room service person knock on the door.

I lit a cigarette and waited. By the time I had snubbed out the remains of my habit, the delivery person knocked. I let him in, watched as he sat the tray on the table, tipped him and then security locked the door behind him.

After I finished eating, I had one more cigarette to aid in the meal’s digestion. I was yawning by that time. I crawled into bed and turned off the lights. I did not bother setting any alarm. Saturday was my day to sleep in. However, that was one luxury I was denied that weekend.

What felt like minutes after I had closed my eyes; someone started banging on the hotel room door. I stumbled through the strange room; I had fallen asleep on Stacy’s bed, and made it to the door. I half expected someone from room service to be standing there wanting to take the used dishes back. I was not expecting Talia. Yet there she was, standing out in the hallway, looking very tired and upset.

"What do you want?" I asked. I was too tired to be charitable.

"You’re drunk again aren’t you?" She shot back.

"So what if I am?" I opened the door wider and leaned my forehead against the metal. I braced myself in the threshold with my left arm on the doorjamb.

"What happened to you?" She looked disgusted.

"I moved on," Yeah sure I did.

"I am not talking to you like this. I can’t believe I wasted so many sleepless nights on you," She started crying. I could tell that those tears weren’t the first she had shed that evening.

"Then leave. See if I care," I wanted to hurt her as badly as she had hurt me all those years ago.

She turned and walked down the hallway. I watched her go. The thoughts and images that ran through my mind were jumbled. All I could think was that there she went again. Leaving me alone with out an explanation, without a chance for me to explain anything. That’s when it hit me. She had tried to explain. I was the one who had fucked up this time. There was really only one choice I could make otherwise I would lose.

"Talia," I took off and started running behind her. I did have the foresight to make sure the door wouldn’t close behind me. How would that have looked? The two of us locked out of my hotel room? "Talia Roberts, damn it wait up."

"Are you going to behave?" She asked as she turned to face me. I had caught up to her at the elevator.

"Yes, just please, come back and we’ll talk," It was my one chance to set things right. I promised myself I that I would not blow it. I would at least hear her out.

She followed me back to the room. I held the door open and let her proceed inside. She took a seat in her chair. I could tell that she was trying not to look at my bed. Hell, the room still smelled of sex and bacon so there was no way for her to not know what had happened on that bed hours previous.

I sat down on the bed I had been sleeping on when she knocked. We were silent for a few minutes. I guess each of us was still feeling raw. I took a good look at Talia. It did not appear as if she had slept any. She also had bags under her eyes and her nose was a bit red. I remember thinking that she must have cried a lot before coming back to the hotel.

"You look tired," She said finally. "Rough night?" She indicated the bed with a nod of her head. "Where’s Stacy?"

"Stacy left. I am assuming she flew home. We had a very large fight after you left." I was too tired to maintain a polite indifference. "She accused me of seducing you, taking advantage of you and then we had an argument that should have happened years ago."

"You weren’t seducing me. I wanted it as much as you did," She lit a cigarette. "Maybe more. I don’t know."

"Did you?" That caught me off guard. I lit a cigarette as well. Sometimes nicotine helped ease the pain of emotional conversations. Well, not as much as alcohol does.

"Yeah I did. Gary was not all that good," She laughed ruefully. "Of course half the time I kept pretending he was you wearing a strap on."

We lapsed into silence after she made that statement. I did not know how to handle it. The supposedly easy weekend business trip was turning my worldview inside out. I was feeling overwhelmed. I was also exhausted.

"Maybe I should let you get some sleep before you pass out on me," She said when she caught me yawning.

"Only if you stay," I got off the bed and moved to the other one. "You can sleep there if you want. I won’t bother you."

"Ok," She agreed.

I was able to keep my eyes open long enough to watch her take her shoes off. After that, I was staring at the inside of my eyelids. I heard her move about a little. The bathroom door opened and closed and I was almost asleep when I heard it again. I was a little surprised when the lights went off, but more so when Talia slid under the blankets beside me.

"You don’t still hog the blankets do you?" She whispered in my ear as she spooned up behind me.

"No, you still drool?" I managed to mumble the words as I rolled over. She laughed and laid her head on my chest.

"Go to sleep Barbara. We’ll talk in the morning."

I had the best sleep that night. It was better than I had had in a long time. For once it was deep, refreshing and without tortuous nightmares. The only thing that disturbed it was the insistent buzzing of my cellular phone.

"Hello," I untangled myself from Talia and grabbed the phone from the floor.

"Hey, morning glory. How was the sex?" Janie’s perky voice came through the phone loud and clear.

"We didn’t have sex," I was confused for a moment.

"You mean you and Michelle didn’t do the horizontal tango?" She sounded like she did not believe me.

"Oh, that. It was ok as far as it goes." I lowered my voice to keep from waking Talia.

"Want to meet us for lunch? We can go play around in Houston afterwards." She cajoled.

"I don’t know. I’ll have to call you back. I may have something else to do."

"Another amorous encounter?" She laughed.

"No, just something that should have happened a long time ago. I’ll talk to you later, ok?"

"Yeah, mysteriouso, I’ll let you off the hook. But, I want a full report later ok?"

"Yeah, Janie. I promise. Later," I hung up the phone.

I was feeling pretty grungy. Talia was still softly snoring away, so I quietly got up and went to take a shower. My hang over did not seem as bad as it usually is either. I almost felt human. However, when I looked in the mirror after dressing and brushing my teeth, I noticed that the lip that was split last night was my own. No wonder I had still tasted blood when I woke.

Talia was awake when I walked back into the room. She was sitting up in bed looking very small, yet very appealing. She was talking on the phone, so I took a seat at the table and lit a cigarette.

"Well, what are your plans for today?" She asked after she hung up the phone.

"That depends on you," I told her. "We can talk now, talk later, meet Janie and Meg for lunch and a tour, skip that and do more talking, or whatever. But, I would like breakfast before we do anything."

"Ok, and I’d like a shower. I didn’t bring any clothes though." She still looked slightly awkward and embarrassed.

"No matter, you can borrow some of mine," I opened my suit bag and rummaged around in it. I always over pack by at least one outfit on business trips. You never know what might happen. I pulled out a pair of jeans and a shirt that I had not worn. I also pulled out a pair of boxer shorts that were still in the package. I was even able to provide socks. My mother would have been so proud. I set it all out on the bed for her approval.

"Thanks. I’ll take a shower if you order breakfast." She gathered up the clothing and headed for the bathroom.

"Sure, what do you want? Oh, let me guess, pancakes?"

"Yeah. I’ll be right out."

I called downstairs and placed the order. The room service person arrived with the food before Talia had finished her shower. I gave the guy the other plates from the last time I had ordered and tipped him. He left as Talia walked out of the bathroom.

We ate our breakfast on the balcony. It was not all that easy to do since there wasn’t a table out there. But, we managed. It was a nice day, clear and sunny without being too warm. It looked a nice day for emotional confrontations.

"So, you would like to know why I ran right?" She got up and stood by the low wall meant to keep people from falling to their death on the balcony.

"Yes I would. I’ve never been able to understand that," I lit a cigarette and prepared myself for the worse. I mean hell; I knew I was not all that nice a person. I certainly was not a catch that you’d want to keep at any time of my life.

"I left because," She took a deep breath and turned away from me. "Because I was afraid of my feelings for you. I fell in love with you, Barbara. I did not know how to deal with that. Look at the way I was raised in the church, it was a sin. I didn’t know how to handle it so I took the coward’s way out and left. I left my heart with you, you know."

Not knowing how to respond, I stood up and walked over to the railing. I rested my forearms on the metal and leaned down. Even from six floors up, the parking lot still looked tiny. For the millionth time in my life, I wondered what would happen if I had fallen. Or, if I had ever had the courage, what if I jumped.

"How?" I could not understand her admission.

"How what?" She did not understand what I was asking.

"Talia, I am not nor have I ever been a nice person. How could you fall in love with someone like that?" Words that I had wanted to hear six years previous did not make sense in that present.

"I don’t know much about your life now, though I have my suspicions, but you were not a horrible person then, Babs. You were warm, caring and wonderful."

"Are you thinking of the right person?" I laughed scornfully. Even then I had been a chameleon. I changed into what whoever I was around wanted me to be.

"Don’t base what you were then on what you are now. You’re selling yourself way too short." She turned to face me. When I looked over at her, I could see the sincerity and more in her eyes.

"What am I now?" I whispered. I was hoping she would see the truth and leave before I could have a chance to hurt her. Damn it all, I was still hopelessly in love with her. I hated Houston at that moment.

"From what I’ve seen, you are angry, bitter, sad, fucked up and cold. I also get the feeling that you drink way too much. But, that is just my perspective based on what I’ve seen these last few days. I could be way off base. Am I?"

I had no reply to that. A large part of me wanted to yell and scream denials of her assessment. Another little part claimed she was right. That part also wanted to melt into her arms and let her make it better. I was trapped in an internal dialogue that was ripping my psyche to shreds.

"However," She continued. "I still don’t think that’s all of you. You are very successful, which speaks well of your work ethic. You mentioned you have a dog. You can’t completely have given up if you let something as helpless as a dog depend on you."

"You haven’t met my dog," I laughed. Stray was just that. She was a stray that I had adopted, or that had adopted me one rainy night. Figuring I could use a barking menace at the door if anyone came knocking that I did not want to see, I kept her.

"Does she stay inside?" I nodded. "Sleep in your bed?" I nodded again. "Then that proves my point. There’s a decent person inside of you that you’ve just lost touch with Babs. That’s the person I fell in love with. That is the person I am still in love with even now." She laid her hand on my arm. "When we first became lovers, I thought it was all an experiment. I figured everyone had those thoughts and we just took them a bit into reality. But what sealed it for me was your gentleness. You used to hold me so tight, kiss me so passionately that I would be breathless. Now does that sound like a worthless human being to you?"

"Talia, I’m not worth your thoughts and memories. I had been with women before you, and I lied to you about it. I let you think that you were my first, how can you still see that as good?" The internal monologue still raged in my mind. I did not know how I could convince her that I was not right for her. I was not right for anyone.

"I had always wondered. The reason I left the other night was because I feared I had turned you gay. And if you had other lovers, so what? At least that gave you practice. Gary could never give head the way you can."

"Stop glorifying it, T," I used my pet name for her unintentionally.

"Don’t fight me on this, Babs. You know I’m right."

Before I could stop her, she leaned in and kissed me. I hesitated for an instant before returning that kiss. My thoughts of making her suffer were gone. All I wanted to do was to relive that time so long ago for just a brief moment.

We backed into the room and stumbled onto the bed. Our hands were roaming and the kiss was becoming more and more passionate. My clothing felt too tight on me. It was like my soul was trying to leave my skin. It was the strangest thing I have ever felt in my life. It was also the most wondrous. I have never since felt its equal.

For several long moments, we just held one another on the bed. We kept kissing and letting our hands roam but made no move to shed clothing. Finally, I could not take it anymore. I pulled my t-shirt off of her, removed the jeans she was wearing and her underwear. She took her bra off.

Standing up, I immediately shed my own clothing. I saw her eyes widen at my other tattoos. Without saying anything about them, I climbed back into bed. She pulled me to her and we started the kissing all over again. They tasted different with age. Of course we both had years more experience by then.

I was rapidly loosing control of myself. Unlike my previous sexual encounters in Houston though, this was mild yet more intense. I did not want it rough. I wanted it to be something she would always remember and cherish.

So, I took it slow. I worked my way from her lips to her chin, I began covering her neck with kisses and letting my hand tease her side and abdomen. I laid a path of kisses from the base of her neck to her breast. They were still as full and lovely as I had remembered. In all my brief encounters, I had never seen better.

They felt full and heavy in my hand, warm and tender under my tongue. Her nipples hardened instantly. Her breath became ragged as she held my head in place. I switched from one breast to the other, kissing my way there. She entangled her hand in my hair and moaned softly. Both of us were getting wetter by the moment.

Unable to take it anymore, I licked my way from her breast to her blonde curls. They were soaked. The fragrance I inhaled there almost knocked me out. It was indescribable. Her taste was even more so. I ran my tongue the length of her folds. She bucked her hips and went to guide me home with her hand.

I did not need the assistance. I felt I would die if I were not allowed to taste her more. I found her clit and teased her with quick flicks of my tongue. My hand found the entrance inside her and I maneuvered two fingers into place there.

I watched her face as I entered. I wanted to remember that look always. She was writhing beneath me. Her eyes were closed and the expression on her face is one I will always carry with me. It was pure rapture.

I had always considered my job to be the easiest thing I had ever done, but making love to Talia left it in the dust. She came soon after I restarted my slow licks to her clitoris. I did not let her rest, but changed my style slightly and carried on. She came again soon after when I pulled the hooded bundle of nerves into my mouth and suckled it. Hearing my name on her lips as she ascended the orgasmic ladder was more than reward for anything that might have happened between us.

I stilled my hand and gave her a moment’s rest. I climbed back up her body, raining periodic kisses on the smooth skin beneath me. I pulled her into my arms and held her close. Her bangs were slick with sweat and plastered to her forehead. I pushed them aside and placed another kiss there. She leaned up and kissed me deeply in response.

I was not expecting her to reciprocate. However, she surprised me yet again. This woman was turning out to be one big surprise after another. The biggest was what had just occurred. I had enjoyed making love to her slowly and gently. So much for the rough stuff. What is it about her that does that to me? She can knock down the walls around my heart and mind better more thoroughly than what Joshua and his army did to Jericho.

Talia crawled on top of me this time. She kissed me deeply, like she was trying to taste herself on my tongue. She let her hands fondle my breast with care. Not since the last time we had made love in her bedroom during a Bible meeting, did anyone touch me so gently, so sincerely.

She followed my example and worked her way down slowly. I was on fire. I was more than tempted to take her hand and place it where I needed it to be. It was not all that easy to restrain myself, but I also wanted to remember this moment. I wanted it to last because I knew it would be gone by morning.

When she took my breast into her mouth and began sucking, I almost came. She was thorough. She covered every inch of both breast with kisses, licks and gentle suckling. She latched tightly onto a nipple, and as she did so, she entered me with two fingers.

She sat a slow, easy rhythm that I matched with my hips. She rose up and kissed me again before returning to the delicious torture of sucking my breast. She began to pick up speed and she worked her way down my body. I felt her breath against my dark curls first. Her tongue felt like it came straight from Plato’s land of ideal forms that cannot exist on this plane.

When it was my turn to scream her name, she held me close and rode it out with me. She climbed back up and kissed me again, letting me taste myself on her tongue. Like I said, I love kisses like that. I held her close as we both laid back into the pillows. When I was able to move, I reached down and pulled the covers over us.

We lay there quietly for several minutes. Finally I heard the sound I had been waiting for; Talia was quietly snoring. It took me a long time to gently roll her off my shoulder and onto the bed. As quietly as I could, I gathered my clothes and headed into the bathroom.

I washed and put on the clothes I had been wearing that morning. I snuck back into the room, got a piece of the hotel stationary and scrawled a note to the woman sleeping in my bed, added a business card to it and left it in a prominent place. Then, I gathered all my things together and checked out of the hotel. I guess I am a coward.

I returned the car to the rental place, grabbed a taxi to the airport, changed my departure date and flew home.

It was on the flight that I really started thinking. To keep from doing that, I ordered a rum and coke and pulled out my CD player. By the time we were about to land, I was starting to regret my situation. I really hated Houston at that moment too.

I claimed my car and drove home. The neighbors had been watching Stray, so I walked over and reclaimed my dog. The house seemed so empty, so quiet. I could not stand it.

I drove downtown to one of the bars I generally frequented. The usual crowd was standing around inside. I took a seat at the bar and remembered the bar in Houston. This one was not that nice.

After several drinks, Talia’s voice reverberated though my head. I turned and half expected to see her behind me. She was not there and that disappointed me more than I cared to admit.

I left the bar with a more than decent buzz. That was a mistake. I never saw the cop behind me as I ran the red light. He took me downtown and booked me for driving under the influence. They let me pay my bail as soon as I was sober. Let me tell you that being thrown in jail in Atlanta will sober anyone up quickly.

I was able to collect my car the next day. Which I found incredible seeing that it was Sunday. My court date was not for another couple of weeks, so I was able to maintain a silence about it at work.

I went in that Monday and handed in the contracts. They were all very impressed. We went out to lunch to celebrate. If anyone thought that my not drinking was strange, they made no comment about it.

Later that day, I came to a decision. I realized that Talia had been right. I had a major problem with alcohol. I called down to the courthouse and found out who my judge would be. Breaching all protocol, I went to see him.

He of course thought I was there to bribe him. I soon informed that I was not. What I wanted was a chance. I was more than ready to pay the fines and do whatever community service they might require, however, what I wanted from him was the name of a good rehab center. He was surprised at that. We settled the matter quickly after I convinced him of my sincerity. That took some doing, especially since I had not known what I was going to say to the man before I walked in there.

After our meeting, I went back to work. I told my boss that I had been working too hard, and asked for an extended leave of absence. He asked a lot of questions that I was able to talk around before consenting. I told him that I planned on leaving the following Monday and returning between three and four weeks later. When he asked where I was going, I told him the Caribbean. He believed me. He actually asked me if I were taking someone special along, or if I were secretly running off to get married. I laughed and left him guessing.

All that week I was busy getting ready for my departure. I kept drinking some during it too. I told myself that it was the only way to keep anyone from knowing where I was going. I was lying to myself. It was the only way I could keep grey eyes from my thoughts and a smoky alto from my dreams.

My neighbors had agreed to keep watch over Stray. I told them that I had to go to China for an extended business trip. Lies had always come easy for me, and I saw no reason to tell anyone where I was going. Well, almost anyone. I had called and told Janie. Little did I know that she had taken it upon herself to pass on the information.

When I arrived at the rehab center, New Horizons, my keys were confiscated. So was my mouthwash and anything sharp. It was a lot like that movie with Sandra Bullock. We had curfews, roommates, chores (which I grudgingly did only after they threatened me with an involuntary fast), group therapy and one on one counseling.

My counselor was a youngish female. My pathetic seduction attempts failed on her, as did my charm, my success and my wits. I really began to respect her after that. Granted, I spent the first three days there detoxing. Let me just say here and now that detoxing is probably the worst thing I have ever done. Imagine getting stoned, the flu, chicken pox and ADD all at once. Then double that and you have what I went through.

It was in the group sessions that I realized just how right Talia had been in her assessment. I was a very fucked up individual. Only four things got me through those four weeks, the realization that I was not the most fucked up person there, we were allowed to smoke, the place had a gym complete with a punching bag, and Talia wrote me a letter. My willingness to succeed was also put to the test several times.

Talia’s letter came as a great shock. She did not berate me for leaving her. She thought that I had left her alone to give myself a chance to dry out. In a way she was right. I had come to the conclusion that I would not be a good choice for anyone if I were to continue on the path I was on. She also felt responsible for my decision. She was right about that too in a way. She deserved a better mate than me, but I still wanted to be that person.

As part of the twelve steps, I wrote letters to Talia, my parents, my brother, Janie and Stacy. My parents were concerned of course; Talia offered her support, as did Janie. I never heard from Stacy again. I would have written to all the women I had used, but I could not remember half of their names. My little brother wrote back encouraging me. He admitted to being proud of his big sister. I cried again while reading that letter.

The four weeks crawled by. The first week of it is really all a blur. I am not sure I will ever remember it all. I know for a fact that I do not want to remember that time. I do remember crying after receiving Talia’s letter. I had not cried since my grandfather had died. It felt surprisingly good.

After I was released from the center, I joined an AA group. I returned to my job. Fortunately, I had managed to acquire a slight tan since New Horizons had a pool and I had made it a point to swim several laps a day. I had found that exercise was actually a good thing. The endorphin rush was wonderful in and of itself, but it did not hurt anyone. Moreover, it was actually good for me.

Stray had missed me, and I was surprised to find that I had missed her as well. She became a companion on my evening runs. It was weird to suddenly wake up and not see a dark haze over everything.

I spent another month in Atlanta. I gave my notice to my boss. He was concerned. At least he pretended to be. My leaving meant that he would have to actually do his job. I had discovered upon my return, that I had no desire to work for that company any longer. The hours, the booze, and the constant lure of sex were draining my hard won resolve of needed energy.

I called Janie and told her of my decision. She offered me her couch, and even went so far as offering Stray a home too. I accepted without much thought on the matter.

I did not own much that I wanted to keep. I rented the house, so all I really had to do was inform my landlord. I offered him most of the furnishing. He liked the idea so much that he actually gave me back my security deposit.

I rented a truck, had a few of my new friends in AA help me load it, and then before I could second guess myself, Stray and I were on our way to Houston.

Once there, I rented a storage place. I had planned on staying at Janie’s only long enough to find a place of my own. The first thing I did though was look for a job. Finding one was easy. I wound up working as the Vice President of Finance for the same firm I had hoodwinked on my last trip there. Boy was my old boss surprised, but this company actually paid me what I was worth. As an added bonus, I only had to do my job and not anyone else’s as well.

Using the phone book, I found an AA meeting not too far from my office. The first night there was the usual introductions. Shaking, I told them the highlights of my life without naming any names as was the policy of all AA groups. I was welcomed into the group with open arms. One of the members knew one of my friends from the one in Atlanta. He had called and told them I might stop in. They convinced me I had found a home in Texas.

I managed to find a house on the outskirts of the city. It was going to be a long commute, but then I was used to that. The house I lived in while in Atlanta was not all that close to my office either. This house though was perfect. It was three bedrooms, two baths, a huge living room and a nice kitchen. It even had a back deck, a pool and garage. I put a down payment on it and moved in within two weeks of my arrival.

It was another month before I had worked up the courage to go see Talia. Little did I know that Janie had been keeping her informed of my progress. As a result, she was not shocked to see me suddenly turn up at the store one afternoon. In fact, she was thrilled.

We dated for several months after that. It was nice. We got reacquainted as responsible adults. It was weeks into our relationship before we were sleeping together again. I think both of us wanted to wait and see what would happen. Needless to say, we were pleased with the changes in ourselves and in one another.

It may not be legal in Texas, but Talia and I were joined in a civil service a week ago. She moved into my house after leaving her parent’s place. They were at the service. Her mom cried. My little brother attended and brought with him my grandmother, but my parents declined the invitation. They still could not get used to my lifestyle. My grandmother however could not have been happier. She told me later that my grandfather would have been proud of me, and that he had suspected as much. That was why he insisted on teaching me how to box. That knowledge made me glad.

Janie was my best man/bridesmaid/whatever. She was thrilled and constantly patted herself on the back for instigating the whole thing. I was content to let her have her moment in the sun.

For our honeymoon, I took Talia to Mexico so she could taste real Mexican food. She loved every minute of it. Especially the days we skipped the sight seeing and made love all day. And it was love, too. It was soft, slow and gentle. The absence of liquor from my life caused the desire for rough sex to leave as well. I discovered that I really liked that change.

Now you know the story of how we came to be together again. I hope this helps you on your road to a better life. Believe me when I tell you that it was more than worth the effort.

Ok, Reanne, all you have to do is go up there and tell them your name. Admit that you have a problem and you are one step closer to solving it. I’ll be here waiting to talk to you when you’re done. Don’t be nervous. Remember that Talia and I are going to take you for a steak when this is over.

The End

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