Cast of Characters

Erin Sullivan











Jon Bon Jovi
















Max Phillips












Tawna ('T') Peterson

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chapter Ten

“You’re an idiot,” Richie Sambora proclaimed, watching Jon as he took a pull from his beer.

They were sitting at Jon’s massive dining room table on Sunday afternoon, and Jon had just confessed where he had been on Friday night. Despite their notorious rock star image, both of them had slowed their roll when it came to picking up women so quickly, and Richie was surprised that his friend had been so impulsive recently.

Jon swallowed and grinned. “Hey now…I know what I’m doing.”

“Bullshit,” Richie snorted. “Sex on the second date? Wait, no, the first date, because you had just met a week before…on an airplane,” he shook his head. “Dude, this ain’t the eighties.”

“I know,” Jon cringed. “I know. But damn, Rich, she’s something else. Gorgeous. Easy-going. Confident. And sexy as hell. I couldn’t help myself.”

“Jon, if I had a quarter for every gorgeous, easy-going, confident, sexy-as-hell woman I’d ever met, that tower in New York would have my name on it, not Trump’s. Women are seductive creatures – you and I both know that. You gotta be careful.”

Jon furrowed his brow. “I know that, Rich. You’re no saint either, you know.”

Richie waved his hand apologetically. “I know, I know. Sorry man. I’m just wary, that’s all.”

Jon saw a trace of pain flicker briefly in his friend’s eyes and he sighed. He understood Richie’s hesitance – the mere subject of women held a dark and painful past for the guitarist.

Richie tilted the beer bottle to his lips and swallowed, considering Jon silently. “So where are you going with this? Are you seeing her again?”

Jon nodded. “Friday night, unless she backs out on me.”

“Right.”

They sat in silence before Jon spoke.

“Look man,” he looked at his friend seriously. “I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m not thinking here, I know that. I’m feeling. But Erin’s a fantastic woman and I’d like to get to know her better.”

Richie snorted again. “You mean, better than you’ve already gotten to know her?”

Jon made a face and grinned. “Shut up.”

_________________________

Clothes were flying from Erin’s bedroom closet, landing on the bed or floor when Tawna arrived at six o’clock Friday night. Erin had called her over, asking for her help in deciding what to wear for a nice dinner out – though she made it sound like a business dinner on the phone – and she had come straight from work, letting herself in through the unlocked door when Erin didn't answer.

Erin had finished up at the office early that afternoon, after working her ass off all day to get through the mounds of paperwork piling up on her desk: Jon would be at her house at seven.

“So why did you need my help again?” Tawna asked inquisitively as she watched outfits still on their hangers land on the ruffled covers of Erin’s bed.

Erin popped her head out of the closet. “Oh good, you’re here. Quick, tell me,” she held up a black cashmere and cream skirt. “Classy and semi-elegant, or…” she held up an over-sized sweatshirt and sleek black leggings. “Cute and casual?”

Tawna looked at her, confused. “For a business dinner?”

Erin hesitated before turning back to the closet. “Yeah…” she replied, inadvertently leaving the answer hanging in the air.

Tawna eyed the clothes on the bed. “Well, definitely not cute and casual…for a business dinner. Classy and semi-elegant would be the better choice out of those two, although a pantsuit would probably be the way to go…if you really want to look professional.” She emphasized the last part, trying to drop a hint.

Erin emerged from the closet carrying a white turtleneck sweater and brown button-up scoop neck with a lace-up tie at the chest. She held them up and looked at Tawna without a word.

Tawna raised an eyebrow, her dark brown eyes searching. “Turtleneck; it's more professional,” she said plainly, trying to get Erin to ‘fess up on where she was really going.

Erin nodded and returned the sweater to the closet, setting the brown top off to the side.

“Okay seriously,” Tawna raised her eyes to the ceiling. “What’s going on?”

Erin continued rummaging through her dresser drawers before she produced a long pair of dark jeans, with simple brown accents on the butt and waist that perfectly matched the top. She set the two aside and eyed them before looking away, satisfied.

She looked at Tawna now, finally pausing enough to get a good look at her. Her thick black hair was done up in a classy bun and she was still in her work clothes. She wore a creme-colored scarf and a sophisticated tan suede coat over them though, which accentuated her chocolate skin beautifully.

Erin took a deep breath. “It’s not a business dinner, T.”

Tawna gasped in mock surprise. “No shit.”

Erin smiled. “It’s a date,” she admitted sheepishly, speaking in the tone of one who’d just been caught red-handed. “And it’s not with Max.”

Tawna sat down on the end of the bed. “I kinda figured. You don’t go through this much trouble trying to figure out what to wear for him.”

Erin looked at her pointedly. She knew Tawna wasn’t fond of Max – and both could tell he wasn’t too terribly fond of her either. Tawna called him an overbearing control freak; Max said she “concerned him.” Erin tended to side with Tawna once in awhile, but she still stuck by Max for the most part and insisted Tawna be nice.

But even despite her dislike for him, Erin was surprised Tawna seemed so casual about the fact that she was doing this behind Max’s back.

“And…that’s all you’re going to say?” Erin urged.

“What is there to say?” Tawna looked at her friend. “Obviously it’s too late to talk you out of it; all I can do is point out that you’re cheating and hope that you do something about it fast.”

Erin grimaced. “I hope so too. This isn’t even the worst of it,” she closed her eyes. “It’s not our first date…”

Tawna raised her eyebrows. “Well, that’s a pisser. Makes things harder to explain when the time comes…”

Erin felt like shrinking into a hole. “And, um, well, it’s not exactly innocent either…”

Tawna looked at Erin with a look that clearly said she hoped that didn’t mean what she thought it meant. Erin blushed.

“Aw shit, honey,” Tawna threw up her hands. “You slept with the guy? Erin…”

“I know, I know, it’s horrible.” Erin sat down on the bed and hid her face in her hands. “I’ve been troubled by it all week. But T, if you knew…”

“What, is he a god in bed or something?”

Erin looked away. “Well…”

“Do I know the guy?”

Erin’s eyes widened. “Well…” she said, now laughing nervously.

Tawna set her mouth in a line, the way she always did when she was about to ask a deadly question. “Erin,” she said solemnly. “Who is it?”

Erin paused. “Well…his name’s Jon.”

“Uh-huh,” Tawna said, waiting for her to go on.

Erin cleared her throat. “Jon – ah, Jon Bon Jovi.”

Tawna raised an eyebrow, her mouth slightly open. “Excuse me?”

Erin smiled. “I know it sounds crazy, but it’s true. We met on the plane home from San Diego and he struck up a conversation and…well, it’s all downhill from there.”

Tawna’s expression was unchanged. “Uh-huh,” she said again. “Okay. You banged Jon Bon Jovi after meeting him on a plane home from San Diego and now you’re cheating on Max with him?”

Despite the seriousness of T’s observation, Erin burst out laughing. It was true, yes, but it just all sounded so ridiculous that she couldn’t help but laugh. The gravity of the situation wasn’t funny, but the circumstances certainly were.

“Yep, pretty much!” she giggled madly.

Tawna stared at her.

“Okay, how hard have you been working? Did you have anything to drink tonight?” she stood up and began searching for empty bottles around Erin’s bed. Erin leaned over and grabbed her hand, stopping her.

“No,” she laughed. “I haven’t been drinking, I worked a normal week, and I’m perfectly sane. Well, okay, the last part is up for some debate, but I swear to you on the Holy Book that I am not lying. I was in first class on the plane home from San Diego, Jon was on the flight and happened to have the seat next to me – we struck up a conversation over a glass of wine and continued talking the whole way home. He helped me get my lost luggage back, gave me a ride home in his limo, and then we went our separate ways. But then later that week I ran into him at the Starbucks down the street from my office, we both thought it was too much of fate stepping in to ignore it, so he took me to dinner, drove me home…and ended up staying…for the whole night,” she blushed again.

Tawna shook her head. “You’re an idiot,” she proclaimed. “And I say that with the utmost in love.”

Erin laughed softly. “No, I am an idiot. And I feel awful for being the woman who’s done this sort of thing. I never thought I’d do this to Max. I certainly never planned to.”

“I doubt anyone plans to, honey,” Tawna replied gently. “Seriously, though. Jon? Bon Jovi? The fucking hot singer with the baby blue eyes and fluffy blond hair, the ridiculously gorgeous smile that could kill, and a great ass?”

Erin grinned. “That’s the one.”

Tawna shook her head. “I must be the one drinking. This is insane.”

“Trust me, I’ve just recently swallowed the reality of it.”

Tawna blinked several times, as if trying to absorb it herself. “Right, okay – so Jon Bon Jovi. In his case, no one blames you for your moment of stupidity. That man makes any woman want to cheat.”

“I know,” Erin smiled. “But it doesn’t make it any easier that Max has been driving me up the wall lately.”

“There’s a surprise. The man’s got you on a leash, Erin, I’ve told you that before,” Tawna looked at Erin pointedly.

“No, he doesn’t,” Erin rolled her eyes. “He just…cares too much, that’s all.”

“Bullshit,” Tawna shook her head. “You know that’s bullshit. He controls your every move.”

“Not true,” Erin protested. “He doesn’t know about Jon, remember.”

“Sure about that?” Tawna raised an eyebrow, and the question made Erin’s blood run cold.

“Fuck,” she sighed. “T, you’ve gotta help me. I don’t know what to do.”

“You need to talk to Max,” Tawna said. “I know that’s the last thing you want to do, but if you’re getting tired of him and things aren’t that great between you two anymore – not to mention you’ve already moved on to someone else – you need to be civil and end things smoothly with him. Even if he’s a slimeball, he deserves that much.”

Erin sighed. “I know…I know I need to do that. I just don’t know how.”

“Well, we’ll figure out something. But for right now, you need to get ready for a date – even if it is going against everything I just told you to do.”

Erin grinned sheepishly. “Yeah, no kidding.”

“Just try to keep your hormones in check, okay?” Tawna said as she tossed the brown top to her. “Having sex with the man again is only going to complicate things further. Keep it tasteful for now – try not to even think about him in that way.”

Erin smirked. “Do you remember who we’re talking about here?”

Tawna nodded. “Yes, I do. And my solution is that I’ll handle Jon while you fix things with Max. You go off and be civil, and I’ll have sex with the rock star.”

Erin burst out laughing again. “Um, no. After we figure out what I’m wearing, you’re leaving. Something tells me things will get even more complicated if you meet the man.”

Tawna opened her mouth in protest. “Hey! Come on, Erin, you can’t tell me you’re involved with Jon Bon Jovi of all people and then send me away just before he arrives at your house!”

“Watch me,” Erin winked. “You can meet him later.”

Tawna huffed. “Fine. But I’m only doing this because I love you. You need to focus on the problem at hand here; you don’t need another person around. Even if it kills me to leave when he’ll be here in an hour…”

Erin smiled. “Thanks, T. Okay, I can do this. I’ll be good until I officially break things off with Max. I’m strong. I have willpower. I have resolve.”

***
An hour later, Tawna had left and Erin was finishing up her makeup just as the doorbell rang. She calmly descended the staircase and checked her appearance casually in the mirror before she answered the door.

As the door opened to reveal Jon on the threshold, Erin’s heart skipped a beat. He looked so sexy standing there, dressed in form-fitting jeans that hugged his muscular legs and a white top that clung to his rock-hard abs - with the top buttons undone, a black jacket slung casually over the ensemble to provide just enough formality that it seemed sinful to think of him in any other way besides a gentleman.

“Hey beautiful,” he smiled his megawatt smile at her while his blue eyes danced. “You look great. Ready to go?”

Damn it. Erin sucked in a breath as she felt all her resolve melt away.

She was doomed.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Chapter Nine

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully, and Erin forced herself to focus at work on Monday, trying to make up for time lost from her rescheduled meeting with her boss. Try as she might, however, her mind kept wandering to Friday night.

She caught herself smiling at random times – in the bathroom, at the coffee machine, at the copier. She hoped no one else noticed; she hadn’t the faintest idea what she’d tell them if they asked what she was thinking about.

She stopped smiling, however, when her phone rang that night and the screen showed Max calling. She groaned. He had been out of town that weekend for a short business trip; he had left Saturday morning and gotten home late Sunday evening, so they hadn’t talked since last week. She was grateful too, for she was nervous about talking to him after the events of her weekend.

She flipped open the phone and did her best to sound normal.

“Hello,” she answered.

“Hey sweets,” Max’s sticky voice replied. “Long time, no talk.”

Erin rolled her eyes, but forced her voice to convey some emotion. “Hey Max, how was your trip?”

“Oh fine, but it would have been better if you were there. I had a hotel room and a big bed all to myself – plenty of room for you.”

Erin forced a small laugh. “Sounds nice. Did you get a lot done?”

“Definitely, we made a lot of progress. But I missed you. How was your weekend?”

“Oh, you know,” Erin looked up at the ceiling. “Boring.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Max cooed. “Did you go anywhere?”

Ha.

“Nope,” Erin said, truthfully. “I spent Saturday and Sunday here.”

“Did you do anything special Friday night? Have anyone over?”

Erin’s heart stopped. “What?” she asked, suddenly unable to breathe.

“Friday night,” Max repeated. “Did you invite a friend over or something?”

Shit.

“N-no,” Erin stammered, closing her eyes and trying to stay calm. “I was here alone, why?” Shit shit shit.

Max paused. “Just wondering. Sometimes you hang out with your friends on Friday nights.”

Erin inhaled deeply. “Oh, nope. No friends this weekend.”

“That’s too bad,” Max said, his voice unreadable.

“Nah…” Erin closed her eyes and chided herself. Calm down. It was a legitimate question. You’re just paranoid.

“So what did you do with yourself all weekend?”

Erin raised an eyebrow. With myself? Nothing. With a famous rock star, however…

“Not much,” she answered, fighting to keep her voice neutral. The last thing she wanted was an FBI interrogation from Max. “Just, you know, relaxed and caught up on some sleep. It was nice.”

“Well, that’s good,” Max replied in the same unreadable tone.

“So tell me more about your trip,” Erin prodded, trying to swerve the conversation in the opposite direction.

They talked for another twenty minutes before Erin forced a yawn and casually mentioned she should get to bed. Max agreed that she needed a good night’s sleep, and told her he loved her twice before hanging up.

Erin climbed the stairs slowly, lost in thought. That one phone call had triggered a myriad of conflicted feelings, and Erin was forced to more closely examine the predicament she had gotten herself into.

She was in a relationship with Max. Had been for six months. She had never thought they would last forever, but she certainly never thought she’d cheat on him. She wasn’t that type of woman.

But she had cheated on him. Recently. While he’d been out of town. With a man - a rock star, moreover – whom she had just met barely a week earlier.

What was worse, she had another date with that rock star this weekend.

Erin groaned. When she thought of it that way, it sounded so sleazy.

For the first time since Friday night, she felt like a tramp. She angrily changed into her pajamas and flopped down into bed, realizing she had to do something. Soon.

Despite her faltering feelings for Max, she had still been irresponsible in allowing Jon’s – and her – emotions to take control that night, as they had led to a night of purely physical infidelity.

But was it purely physical? Erin wondered as she stared up at the dark ceiling. Had it merely been a night of satisfying their cravings of lust, and nothing more?

Try as she might, Erin couldn’t believe that. Aside from the intensity of their night together, there was something deeper stirring beneath the surface. It wasn’t just the sex.

Truthfully, if Erin had it her way, she’d break things off with Max gently and go to Jon. But she knew it wasn’t fair to him – it wasn’t Max’s fault he couldn’t measure up to Jon’s sex appeal and near GOD status. And what would she tell him anyway? It’s not you, it’s me?

Aside from being so cliché it was cringe-worthy, it was also a lie.

Regardless, the fact remained that two men had claims on her now, and neither knew about the other.

Max knew nothing of Jon.

And Jon knew nothing of Max, because Erin had told him what seemed at the time a harmless and small lie. As far as Jon was concerned, she was single and free for the taking.

Max thought she was all his.

If things continued, Jon would think that soon, too.

Erin was lying to both of them.

Shit.

Erin shut her eyes tightly, wanting to block out the blinding truth, but it kept gnawing at her conscience, like a paper had been pasted over her eyes reminding her constantly of what she’d done.

Tomorrow she’d set things right. She’d do something. She’d explain things in a way that wouldn’t hurt anyone.

But how?

With a heavy sigh, Erin closed her eyes and rolled over.

Twenty minutes later, she fell into a fitful sleep.

_____________________


Across town, however, Max was still up, sitting at his kitchen table where he had called Erin earlier. He was gazing outside, lost in thought about their conversation.

He wondered why she had lied to him. He knew she had had company on Friday night – he had seen the Aston Martin parked in front of her house when he had driven by to check on her. He had assumed it was a coworker or business partner, judging by the expensive wheels. Why would she try to hide that from him?

The question unsettled him, making him think it hadn’t been someone from work after all. But he knew none of her other friends had the money for a car like that. Tawna was really the only one who would have visited anyway, and she certainly couldn’t afford a ride like that. Erin didn’t have too many other friends here; since the day she moved here she had kept herself busy working, and Max was really the only one she socialized with.

He was all she needed, anyway. Erin was the type of woman who needed someone true and loyal in her life, a dependable anchor who’d be there for her whenever she needed him; she was one of those people who needed the few and true instead of many and shallow.

Max was her few and true.

He knew from the moment he met her that she was special and in need of his devotion. A California girl who’d up and left her home and dropped in on East Coast life, she was a black sheep among New Jersey natives. Max had met her about a week after she moved into her townhouse, and was intrigued by her seemingly shy, quiet nature and dedicated devotion to her work. She was a self-proclaimed workaholic, but though she worked long hours with seriousness and focus there was no denying she was a woman of deep passion. She was wildly sexy, beautiful, and obviously attractive to nearly every man she passed on the streets, whether she took notice of their stares or not.

Max was instantly drawn to her. Her drive and focus set her apart from other women he knew, mostly lazy drifters who spent their time partying and clubbing, working lousy office day jobs with no clear incentive or purpose in life. Those women were gluttonous, wasting the resources they’d been given in this world to make something of themselves.

Erin was hard-working, embedded in a company and career that provided considerable room for growth and advancement; she could climb the corporate ladder easily. She was independent, economically self-sufficient, and ambitious.

In a word, perfect.

Their first date had been the product of a well-thought-out and rehearsed speech Max had prepared, lavishing upon her compliments and praise for her excellent standing in the throes of the world. Erin had been childishly flattered and laughed quite a bit, which Max at first took to be insulting. His impeding anger quickly subsided, however, when she accepted his date proposal and he treated her to a luxurious dinner on the boardwalk. He forgave her initial resistance; after all, she was a woman in need of his assistance.

Though she was skilled in working and career development, she seemed to lack the basic principles of sociality and emotionality that provided the basic cornerstones for a life beyond making a day-to-day economic living. He quickly saw that she required his constant presence in her life, and he took it upon himself to provide. She was only a half, after all, seeking the other part to complete her and steady her.

Max was that other half. He knew she was what he had been looking for all his life, and he took his newly assumed responsibility very seriously. He made sure to stay critically informed on all aspects of her life: her likes and dislikes, hobbies and pastimes, her address and phone number and office location. He memorized her daily routine so he’d know where she’d be in case of an emergency, and he learned everything he could about her childhood and family, as those were essential components in what made her who she was today.

He allowed her to spend time with Tawna, a friend she’d made at a country club she joined to meet people when she first moved here. He had persuaded her to leave the club, however, since she didn’t need the distraction and obligation of meetings and social events; he provided all the socializing she really needed. Tawna had stayed in the picture even after Erin left, however, to Max’s chagrin. He didn’t particularly like the woman – she was by general definition the type of partying life-waster he so despised – but she and Erin had formed a fairly close relationship and got along great, so Max let her hang around.

Besides, she made Erin happy, and anything that made her truly happy made Max happy. He’d show her eventually that she didn’t need Tawna, though, but for now she could have her fun.

From that first date the rest seemed to be blissful history, and they had now spent six months together. Though Erin was often absorbed in her work and therefore at times distant or preoccupied, too tired to spend much romantic time with him, she was faithful and loyal.

As she should be.

But then who had been parked outside her house Friday night?

She wasn’t the type of woman to play him; he was far cleverer and sharper than she was anyway. She was dangerously vulnerable, however, and Max had recognized early on that she was someone who required extra and undivided attention. Her intense focus on work sometimes gave her tunnel vision and she’d been distracted quite a bit in the past several weeks. There was no telling what kinds of problems she had the potential to get herself into.

Max sighed. This recent mystery only told him that she needed further protection, an even closer eye on her whenever possible. He obviously couldn’t rely on her to let him know what was going on in her life.

He had to find out for himself.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Chapter Eight

Erin woke slowly the next morning, her body easing gently from sleep in the way only experienced after a deep, long rest. She felt deliciously free and comfortable snuggled beneath the thick covers, and as she woke more fully, she noticed an extra warmth seemed to radiate from them. Half-conscious of it, she turned her head lazily and saw the source: the beautiful, sexy, naked man lying next to her, spread out comfortably on his back, an arm flung over his face covering his eyes.

Erin’s eyes snapped open as she suddenly remembered the night before, images and scenes playing out in rapid fast-forward motion, drawing an instant flush to her cheeks.

Oh my God, she thought, closing her eyes and suddenly becoming aware of the slight hangover that resided in her head; her body was loose and sore from other activity.

Chocolate cake…oral fixations…an orgasm on the floor…strawberries and cream…and Erin vaguely recalled pretending she was a cowgirl sometime after midnight when they had come upstairs…

She groaned. She knew she had consumed several glasses of wine last night – and while they certainly weren’t enough to make her drunk, she definitely remembered a liberating buzz…and the tiny throbs in her head now reminded her of it. She had been coherent enough last night to follow through with their actions and to justify her part in them, but now, after she had slept off the wine and her mind had cleared a bit, she wondered where the hell it had all come from.

She glanced over again at the sleeping man beside her. Despite her conflicted thoughts, she couldn’t help but smile. Damn, was he ever sexy. And Lord, was he a good lover…

Erin blushed again as she remembered their rendezvous. Somehow, despite the slight guilt, she felt more satisfied this morning than she had in, quite literally, years. In fact, she had never remembered being brought to the brink of orgasm so quickly, and actually reaching that orgasm four times, in one night before. It had been raw, pure passion at its finest. Jon had indulged her desires, given life to her fantasies, and awakened the sleeping animal inside of her: she couldn’t ever remember being so open with her sexuality as she was with him last night.

And she had just met the guy a week before! That was what unsettled her above all else. Not the mind-blowing sex, but with whom it had been.

Jon Bon Jovi. Holy shit.


As if reading her mind yet again, Jon stirred slightly and turned his head, his eyes opening slowly to reveal their deep blue facets.

Erin smiled. “Good morning.”

Jon smiled back at her, making her heart jump again. “Good morning yourself,” he said groggily. “Sleep well?”

“I’ll say,” Erin rubbed her face. “What time is it?”

Jon turned to read the digital clock standing on the nightstand next to the side of the bed where Erin usually slept. “Noon,” he laughed. “Not surprising.”

Erin laughed softly. “No, not really. How’d you sleep?”

Jon stretched his arms above his head and yawned, nodding as he did so in such a casual, comfortable way that Erin had to remind herself they weren’t a couple. Or at least, not a conventional one.

“Pretty damn well,” he grinned, looking back at her. He looked so sexy in that moment – hair tousled, lips flushed, eyes slightly narrowed from sleep, a light pink mark on his forehead from his arm – that Erin couldn’t help but reach out and run her fingers through his hair. “Good,” she murmured. “Because you needed it after dealing with me.”

Jon tilted his head further back into the pillow and laughed. “After dealing with you? Baby, I do believe it was my name that echoed through these walls when you screamed it – several times, if I remember correctly.”

Erin flushed again. “Well you did your fair share of screaming too, you know,” she smirked.

“Yes,” Jon nodded. “Yes I did. I don’t deny it.”

He met her gaze with dancing eyes and Erin had to resist the urge to have another go at him right then and there. Instead, she heard her stomach take advantage of the silence to let her know it was empty.

“Hungry?” she asked, hiding a smile as she turned away from him and slid out from beneath the covers.

Jon laughed. “This time, yes I am. So I won’t scold you for bringing up food again.”

Erin padded through the plush carpet toward the bathroom, her back to him. “Thank you,” she called over her shoulder. “Because I’m going to eat whether you join me or not.”

“Are strawberries on the menu this morning?”

Erin turned and saw Jon stretched out further on the bed, his arms folded behind his head and the blankets receded along his body as far as his waist. Her eyes traveled downward and her mind wandered for a minute before she answered.

“No,” she said coyly. “But if you get out of bed right now I’ll throw some whipped cream on your pancakes.”

Jon arched an eyebrow. “Mmm, I like when you talk dirty.”

Erin laughed and rolled her eyes. “All right, Slick, out of bed. You can shower in the guest room while I get ready in here, and then we’ll go downstairs for sustenance.” She grabbed her robe off the back of the bathroom door and slipped an arm into it. “There’s soap and shampoo in there, but you’ll need a towel.”

She padded into the hallway and opened the linen closet, retrieving a soft white towel from the top shelf. As she returned to the bedroom she saw Jon had gotten out of bed, and the sight of him standing there completely bare and exposed stirred something in her core.

She inhaled deeply and handed him the towel. “Wash,” she instructed. “Before I change my mind.”

Jon smirked. “Is that a threat?”

Erin forced herself to turn away from him and enter the bathroom. “Maybe,” she said slyly. “But it’s an empty one for now, because I am going to take a shower now – and this door will be closed. And locked,” she added, smiling.

Jon sighed good-naturedly. “All right, have fun,” he winked as he moved toward the doorway. “But not too much, or I’ll have to force my way in there.”

Erin smiled and closed the door. She stood there for a moment, knowing full well he’d try to sneak in. After a small pause, she clicked the snap lock into place…and heard a small laugh from just outside the door. She stifled a laugh of her own and heard soft footsteps as he left the room.

Shaking her head and smiling to herself, Erin turned on the hot water and shed her robe before stepping into the shower.



Twenty minutes later, freshly washed, dressed, and smelling faintly of roses, Erin descended the stairs to find Jon sitting at the breakfast bar in the kitchen. He was dressed in yesterday’s slightly rumpled clothes and unshaven, the light stubble casting a shadowed look on his features that made him look relaxed and calm. His hair wasn’t fully dry yet, and though the top of it was fluffed, if not untamed, the wet ends clung to the nape of his neck. He smelled like soap and Herbal Essences, and Erin thought he was sexier than ever.

As she approached him, he looked up and pulled a face. “You could have warned me that all you had was shampoo that smells like oranges.”

Erin laughed. “Would it have made a difference?”

“No, but now I smell like a fruit basket.”

Erin walked up and buried her nose in his hair. “It suits you,” she proclaimed, breathing deeply.

Jon was ever so slightly taken aback as she hovered over him. It was such a simple thing to do – so casual and nonchalant – and yet he found it desirably sensual.

“Oh yeah?” he tilted his head up and looked into her captivating forest green eyes. They still intrigued him as if each time he looked into them was the first time, and he easily considered them her best feature. Her brilliant smile, easy laugh, smooth voice, and wild body were all close seconds, though.

She smiled and kissed his lips softly. “Yeah.”

She turned and retreated into the kitchen, bouncing away and leaving him grinning. “So how many pancakes, Slick?”

“Two or three,” he shrugged. “However many you’re having.”

Erin opened the cupboard and reached up to retrieve the pancake mix box, her angora sweater rising slightly to leave a strip of her bare stomach exposed. Jon eyed it, feeling the stirrings of desire begin again.

“Think you can handle four?”

Jon smiled. A woman with a man’s appetite. She was becoming more perfect in his eyes by the second.

“Bring it on.”

Jon watched her as she turned toward the stove, shaking his head inwardly at what had transpired in the last twenty-four hours. You’re a crazy bastard, he chided himself. He certainly wasn’t a stranger to the one-night stand scene, but this felt different somehow. Erin was no ordinary woman. Hell, she was anything but ordinary, he smiled to himself, remembering how wild she had become after she lowered her guard the night before. He felt connected to her – emotionally, spiritually – like he’d known her for years.

There was a certain vulnerability about her though, he couldn’t help but notice. At several times during the night, she had seemed hesitant, unsure, as if she were acting against her better judgment.

Well hell, he had been too, but once they had started feeling each other up, it was too late for second thoughts for him. They were at a point of no return as far as he was concerned.

She, however, continued to seem distant a few times – like her thoughts were on something else. Something that was making her feel guilty.

Or someone that was making her feel that way.

For such a strong, confident, and openly sexy woman, it just didn’t seem to fit. Jon mused over it for a bit longer while Erin moved about the kitchen, the enticing smells of pancakes cooking making his stomach rumble.

“You’re quiet,” she announced, setting a cup of coffee in front of him. “Everything all right?”

Jon nodded and smiled. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just tired…and hungry,” he winked.

“Hey, I’m cookin’ these babies as fast as I can. Gimme a few more minutes.”

Jon waved his hand. “No rush, no rush. Mind if I have a look around the place? I kind of missed the tour last night.”

Erin smiled. “Sure, go ahead. I’ll call you when these are ready.”

Jon got up and meandered out of the dining area, entering the living room. A stirring between his legs triggered at the memory of what had transpired on the floor there, and he crossed through the room to the large brick fireplace that sat along the adjacent wall.

A long shelf acted as a mantle above the hearth, and several picture frames lined it. The people in the pictures looked like family – there was an older couple with graying blonde hair and a younger woman who looked a lot like Erin in all three of them, and Jon smiled as his eyes fell on a photo of the Coronado Bay Bridge in San Diego.

Aside from those photos, there was nothing on the mantle but a small vase at the end filled with tiny white daises, which, upon closer look, were fake and made of velvet. A couple of black and white professional nature photographs gave some character to the otherwise bare walls in the room, and the cream-colored sofa was accompanied by a matching armchair and a narrow glass coffee table, on top of which still sat their half-empty wine glasses. The rest of the room was bare and virtually void of personality, with nothing but the furniture and a wide screen television to fill it.

Jon wandered into an adjoining room which appeared to be Erin’s office; a wraparound desk filled the room and was adorned with stacks of papers, file trays, a large Apple computer, a printer, scanner, telephone, and other various office supplies which all looked top-of-the-line and expensive.

At that moment, Jon heard Erin calling for breakfast and he left the office, grabbing the wineglasses from the living room as he made his way back to the kitchen.

Erin was setting two plates on the table as he entered the dining room, stacked with large buttermilk pancakes that smelled delicious.

“Mmm, looks wonderful,” Jon said as he held up the wineglasses.

“Oh thanks, I forgot about those,” Erin took them and set them in the sink before returning to the table. “Okay, I have margarine and syrup, so use whatever you want. And is coffee still okay or do you want orange juice?”

“Coffee is fine, baby. Sit and eat.” Jon smiled as he saw that she had kept her promise and spooned a generous topping of whipped cream onto his breakfast.

They started in on their food quickly, both ravenous. Within ten minutes the last crumbs from the cakes had disappeared from their plates and both Jon and Erin leaned back in their chairs, happily and contentedly full.

“I am stuffed,” Erin announced with a laugh.

Jon nodded. “You’re a good cook.”

He helped her bring the dishes into the kitchen and rinse them, and as they finished they both stood awkwardly, unsure what to say.

“Well, I should probably get going,” Jon finally said, looking at her with apologetic eyes.

As much as Erin wanted to protest, she knew he was right. Her body told her to haul him back upstairs to bed, but her mind knew they had to get on with their lives for the time being. She nodded.

Jon turned and started gathering his belongings – his shoes were sitting by the front door and he pulled them on slowly, taking his time. He retrieved his keys and wallet from the counter and reached for his coat, which was still draped over the back of one of the dining chairs, and slipped it on, in no hurry to button it up.

“So when will I see you again?” Erin asked, slightly afraid of the answer.

Jon shrugged. “Whenever you want, baby. I know where you live, so if you need me, just call.” He winked.

Erin smirked. “My own sex slave service?”

Jon raised an eyebrow, laughing. “Call it whatever you want, I’ll be here.”

Erin smiled. “Sounds good.”

“Thanks for…everything,” Jon cocked his head to one side. “You know, for giving me a place to sleep and feeding me, that is.” His eyes danced.

Erin smirked. “My pleasure,” she winked.

Jon turned toward the door and pulled it open, shivering as the November chill hit him. “Friday night?” he suddenly asked.

“Huh?”

“Second date. I think it’s appropriate, don’t you?” The question was playful and sly, but Jon’s eyes gave him away. And suddenly Erin knew she couldn’t refuse.

“Absolutely,” she smiled.

Jon grinned and closed the door behind him, and Erin moved toward the window to watch him get into his car. Several minutes later, he pulled away and Erin was left wondering what the hell she had gotten herself into.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chapter Seven

Jon inhaled sharply as she sucked gently, then began to swirl her tongue around and up and down, closing her mouth around him snugly and then releasing, simulating. She felt him grow even harder as she took him deep into her throat and back out, and she looked up to see him leaning back against the sofa, his chest heaving.

She smiled. She had always been good at this. It made her feel even sexier now to have the power over him, and to give him the same pleasure he had just given her.

Jon shuddered as Erin released her hold on him, leaving him pulsing and aching for more. “Fuck,” he muttered. “You sure know what you’re doing.”

Erin raised an eyebrow. “As do you.”

Jon sat up and tilted her chin upward. “But I’m still not done with you.”

He reached down and grabbed the hem of her sweater, pulling it up and off her body, exposing her flat stomach and lace-covered breasts. He took hold of one of them as he leaned forward and sucked gently at her neck, then marked a slick trail down her chest. He slid off the couch to meet her at her level, and proceeded to slip her bra strap off her shoulder, working his way downward until his mouth met her breast. Deliberately, he ran his tongue around her nipple, kissing her here and there before his mouth enveloped her soft tip and coaxed it hard. Erin’s breathing turned ragged as she relished in the sensation.

Jon’s hunger for her could not be satiated. He had been fighting the urges all night – hell, he’d been fighting them since they met on that damn plane in San Diego. She was wildly sexy – confident, intelligent, sure of herself in a way that didn’t quite meet arrogance, and she knew just how to play him so that he broke down, defeated, whimpering for more. He hadn’t met anyone with that strong of a hold on him in years – it intrigued every one of his senses.

It never occurred to him that they were embarking on a one-night stand. Jumping straight to sex, to the physical, didn’t seem wrong at this point. At least not to him. He knew Richie, his best friend and mentor, would call him an idiot and berate him for acting so impulsively: it wasn’t the eighties after all, he wasn’t a frizzy-topped puppy anymore. He was a grown man and should “know better”.

But Erin was a grown woman. And she was delivering just as much as receiving tonight. Hell, she was delivering more than receiving.

And Jon planned to change that.

He stroked her skin as he continued to suckle her breast, reaching around behind her and unsnapping the bra clasp. It fell into her lap and he tossed it away, then he took her in – naked body and all.

She was simply beautiful – her long blonde hair fell around her bare shoulders, her eyes were heavy and lustful, her lips swollen with the activity a few minutes ago. He breasts were full and round, sloping dramatically below into a flat, slender stomach, which in turn flared out into her hips and toned thighs. She definitely worked out – it showed.

Jon winced as the throbbing between his legs became painful, and he allowed Erin to rip off his shirt and explore his chest and torso with her hands, taking advantage of his momentary cease in action.

They fell together in a heap on the floor, groping and stroking each other fervently, breathing heavily. Jon pinned her beneath him, enjoying the power and control he had over her, and at the same time going crazy with the desire to feel himself within her.

Knowing he shouldn’t get too forceful for fear of hurting and angering her, Jon moved with painstaking calmness. He grit his teeth against the desire to pound into her, and instead positioned himself between her legs slowly and deliberately. By the time he lowered himself over her he was shaking.

He had every intention of entering slowly, but when Erin thrust her hips up impatiently to meet his, Jon lost the last shred of self-control he had. Plunging himself into her, he steadied his arms on the floor next to her shoulders as she grabbed them. She gasped in surprise and tried to catch her breath as he began to drive into her as hard as he could. She whimpered with pleasure as her body instantly responded, and she arched her back, shutting her eyes tight and losing herself.

They moved together as if made for each other – dancing a feral dance that exhausted their energy. When Erin felt the telltale tremors zing through her body and vibrate in her center, she clung more desperately to him, digging her nails into his back. Jon stifled a small cry, and thrust faster, desperate to experience her orgasm.

After a few seconds she found her release, her body tensing violently and relaxing as she screamed his name. Jon groaned loudly as he spilled into her, intensely turned on by the sound of his name on her lips. He stay upright, supported on arms that quickly began to shake as he felt her squeeze him from within, her walls milking him until there was nothing left.

He collapsed into her then, breathing in her musky, sweet scent as her chest heaved. They lay spent for a moment before Jon tenderly pulled out of her and rolled off onto the soft carpet beside her.

“Jesus,” he said aloud. “Erin…holy shit.”

Erin rolled over to face him and laughed. “I guess that answers my question,” she smiled. “Dinner definitely wasn’t enough.”

~

They lay together for a few more minutes before Erin spoke.

“Mmm, I’m hungry,” she mused, gingerly rising from the floor.

Jon laughed. “Are you kidding? We have mind-blowing sex and you think about food?”

Erin looked down at him, her heart jumping at the sight of his rock hard, rigidly toned body lying beneath her on the floor.

“Yeah, well, some things make you work up an appetite,” she smiled and turned toward the kitchen. Now that she had satisfied her craving for him – for now – her seductive skills were back in play, and she touted them mercilessly. It was too much fun to tease him.

Jon sighed amusedly and hoisted himself up off the floor, following her into the kitchen.

“How about some chocolate cake?”

Erin smirked. “I don’t think so, buddy. I need something less rich. Dare I say it…something healthy.”

Jon scrunched up his nose. “Ew. Now why would you want to ruin a perfectly sinful evening with something good?”

Erin opened the fridge and found the package of strawberries she had bought the day before.

“Because,” she answered, handing him the package and retrieving a bowl of whipped cream from the freezer. “Sometimes something so good can be bad.”

Jon growled in the back of his throat as he followed her back into the living room. He was growing hard again already just watching her body sway as she moved, and the thought of what she planned to do with that whipped cream – and what he’d love to do with it – had him nearly seeing double.

She sat back down on the floor, pushing their discarded clothes to the side.

“I take it you like strawberries and cream?” She raised an eyebrow at him questioningly.

“I like cream,” Jon said boldly, throwing her own sarcasm back in her face with a side of seduction.

Erin held his gaze for a second longer before tearing her eyes away. “Well, good, then this should be fun.”

She popped the lid off the whipped cream bowl and opened the package of strawberries, retrieving a fat, juicy berry from the very middle. Dipping it into the thick white whip, she brought it to her lips, parting them slightly before letting her tongue lick away all the cream.

“Mmm,” she said pointedly. “Almost as good as layers of chocolate cake.”

Jon realized he was smirking like an idiot, and decided not to say anything. He wouldn’t let her win. She was trying to pay him back for his torture earlier, but he wouldn’t let her come out on top. He still had a few surprises left in his play strategy.

Erin took the berry into her mouth and softened it with her tongue, relishing in the luscious blend of juice and cream that slowly oozed out. She held Jon’s gaze steadily, and when she swallowed he reached out, gently wiping away a bit of cream from the corner of her mouth. She smiled, then gestured to the food.

“Don’t you want any?”

Again, Jon smirked stupidly.

“I certainly do,” he replied, not leaving her gaze. “Oh, you meant the strawberries?”

Erin rolled her eyes and tsked. “That was lame. You’re fired.”

Jon chuckled. “Am I? All right, I’m done. But you’re not. Lay back.”

Erin raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

Jon grabbed the bowl of whipped cream and moved toward her. “I said, lay back.”

Uncertainly, Erin did as she was told. Jon slowly hovered over her, holding the whipped cream in one hand. He dipped his fingers into the white sweetness and scooped some out, gathering it on her breast.

Erin giggled. “Is that all you got?” she asked teasingly. “Just a cliché act of foreplay?”

“Hey,” Jon stopped and pretended to look hurt. “You brought the strawberries and cream out, remember?”

Erin stopped giggling and tried not to smile. Oh yeah.

Jon continued to gently cover her breasts with the whipped cream until there were two small mounds of white on her chest. Then he reached for the strawberries and delicately placed one in the center of each mound, creating a sexy and picture-perfect scene right out of a Frederick’s catalogue.

Erin watched as he finished his preparation, then inhaled deeply as he looked into her eyes and lowered himself over her, his mouth dipping into the delicious mixture of berry and cream. His tongue scooped up the strawberry and he crushed it in his mouth slowly, savoring the luscious explosion of juice.

Once he finished the strawberry, he slowly continued to lick away the whipped cream, mouthing it with his soft lips. When he reached the bottom, Erin groaned softly as his mouth and tongue softly slid along her breast, licking off the remnants of the cream and teasing her hard again. His lips were so soft, his movements so gentle, she could hardly stand to lay still. Once he finished one breast, he moved on to the other.

“You’re so sexy, you know that?” Erin muttered as she watched him lick away the rest of the cream from her other breast.

Jon looked up at her grinned wickedly. “So I’ve been told.”

An hour later, the strawberries were gone, the whipped cream bowl was nearly empty, and both Jon and Erin were sticky with sugar.

“Holy shit, look at the time,” Erin said in surprise as she glanced at the clock.

Jon grinned. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”

“Now where have I heard that before?” Erin winked, rising up off the floor.

“Where are you going?”

“Relax, mister, I’m not giving in. I just want to bring these into the kitchen before we stain my clean carpet.”

Jon smirked. “I think it’s already been stained, baby.”

He followed her into the kitchen and watched as she bent over to put the last of the whipped cream into the freezer.

“Nice ass,” he teased as he came up behind her and swatted her.

“Hey!” she yelped, laughing.

“You really kicked my ass tonight, woman.” Jon pulled her into him, his stomach jumping at the feel of her entire bare body against his.

“I kicked yours?” Erin asked incredulously. “You’re a machine!”

Jon laughed. “Yes, yes I am. But you might just be the end of me.”

“What, don’t tell me you’ve never met your match,” Erin said nonchalantly. “How could you not have?”

Jon cocked his head to one side. “What do you mean?”

“I’m sure you’ve been with many women,” she explained.

Jon shook his head. “That’s a common misconception,” he said softly.

He brought his lips gently to hers and kissed her softly. Erin’s heart skipped several beats – ironically, after the crazy, wild evening of passion they had just shared, that simple kiss was more intense and electrifying than anything else they had done.

They gazed out the kitchen window silently, watching the silent neighborhood. Only one car passed, driving slowly and calmly on the dark street.

Erin leaned into Jon from behind, and he immediately wrapped his arms around her, pulling her close to him. She smelled like sex and strawberries, and he rested his chin on her shoulder, breathing in the invigorating scent.

They stood in silence for a moment longer before Jon spoke. “Didn’t that car just drive by?”

Erin looked out the window and saw a car coming from the other direction, driving slowly like the first.

“Probably lost,” she muttered, as she took his hand and led him out of the kitchen. “Who cares anyway?”

Jon smiled and surrendered to her, allowing himself to be led up the stairs and into the bedroom.

It had been a night of passion, a night of discovery, a night of new frontiers and intense pleasure. Both Jon and Erin’s minds were wandering, wondering what the hell they were doing, and at the same time, accepting it without question. Neither could deny they hadn’t been brought to such ecstasy in a long, long time. And neither was willing to forego it for the sake of “taking things slow”.

Erin shut the door behind them and closed the curtains before they climbed into bed together. Her body still smelled sweet and enticing, and Jon was only too happy to taste her as they tangled themselves beneath the covers.

Neither of them saw the car pass by a third time.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chapter Six

Erin sauntered up the walk and let herself into the house, smirking to herself and turning around only once to wave goodbye. The poor guy looks so disappointed, she thought, chuckling. Seduction had always been a stronger point for her.

As she set down her purse and shed her coat, her thoughts jolted back to the dinner. There was no doubt that something was playing beneath the surface for both of them; Jon had made that much clear in his one-man-show of chocolate consumption. The performance had been unsettling for Erin – in a fiery, dangerous way that left her with an unsatisfied craving, and not just for chocolate.

The truth was – she wanted to be that fork.

Erin flipped on the lights and entered the kitchen, reaching for a glass in the cupboard. The blinds in front of the windows above the kitchen sink were open, and she caught a glimpse of Jon’s car still sitting outside, headlights ablaze. She stopped, wondering if something was wrong.

It didn’t look as if he was outside the car, and she figured he was probably on his phone or adjusting something before he drove off. But when the headlights went off a second later, Erin’s stomach jumped.

She set the glass down on the counter and hesitated for a moment, unsure whether to go open the front door or pretend she hadn’t noticed that he hadn’t gone. She decided on the former, but before she could move the doorbell rang.

She couldn’t help but smile as she moved to the oak-paneled door: she had tortured the poor guy after all; it was just funny to see how desperate he was for more.

Erin opened the door and raised an eyebrow at him, asking silently what she could help him with.

Jon wore an expression that clearly said he was acting against his best judgment, but that he could care less. “At the risk of sounding intrusive,” he began, an unmistakable smile playing on his lips. “Can I come in?”

Erin hesitated for a nanosecond before opening the door wider without a word, hiding her own smirk.

“Would you like something to drink?” she offered, heading back to the kitchen. “I was just about to get a glass of water, but wine suddenly sounds more appealing.” Not that you need more alcohol, you idiot, she thought to herself. Nevertheless, she opened another cabinet above the stove and pulled out a bottle of Chardonnay and two wineglasses, then returned the other glass on the counter to its own cabinet.

Jon took off his coat and casually draped it over the back of a chair in the dining room. “Sounds great. Nice place you’ve got here,” he added, looking around him at the spotless furniture and neat, orderly setting.

Erin nodded as she poured two glasses of the pale yellow liquid. “Thank you. It’s not much, but it’s home.”

“It looks like my place,” Jon said thoughtfully. “Unlived in.”

Erin entered the dining room and set down his drink in front of him. “I told you I’m a workaholic.”

“A woman after my own heart,” Jon picked up the glass and nodded. “Here’s to us.”

They each drank deeply without a word, sizing each other up as inconspicuously as they could, but neither openly acknowledging the heavy sexual tension that thickened the air between them.

Finally, Erin spoke. “So, dinner wasn’t enough?” she winked.

Jon met her eyes and held them, his gaze intense and sensual. Erin felt her blood begin to race, and an uncontrollable tremor made its way up her spine. Jon didn’t answer at first, but held her gaze so long she finally had to look away, preoccupying herself with the wine.

“Shall we move into the living room, or do you have a no drink policy in there?” he finally asked, sensuality now mixing with amusement as he watched her squirm.

Erin smiled, trying to still her thumping heart. “No, the living room sounds good. It’s more comfortable.” She got up and left the room quickly.

“Precisely,” Jon whispered, following her a moment later.

Erin chided herself as she sat down on the soft cream-colored sofa in the dimly light living room. You’re playing with fire here, she thought angrily to herself. And you’re losing.

They settled onto the sofa and Erin slung one leg across the other, but Jon sat casually, his legs spread comfortably wide. Erin tried not to let her gaze wander.

A pregnant and very awkward silence ensued as they continued to sip their wine, both trying, and failing, to ignore the blatant beckoning of human nature.

Finally Jon spoke, his voice soft and thick with seduction. “You’re a beautiful woman, Erin,” he said pointedly, swirling the contents of his wineglass around casually, not looking at her.

Erin inhaled deeply. Her desire had become dizzying, her longing primal.

“Thank you,” she said, stupidly. Three points Jon, one point Erin.

Without another word, Jon gently placed his hand on her thigh and slowly slid it upward, sending delightful tingles through her skin. She enjoyed it intensely, but when she tried again to muster up the playful seduction she had so coyly played earlier, she found nothing but blinding indulgence and a timid, uncharacteristic reaction.

Fuck, she thought. The effect this man has on a woman…

Jon’s hand slid further, up her thigh and hip, up the side of her body to her breast, where he stopped and gently covered it, squeezing gently. “Mmm, that’s nice.”

Finally, Erin could control her emotions no longer, and as heavy waves of lust and fuzzy freeness from the wine overtook her body, she succumbed to them gratefully. She grabbed Jon’s hand and shoved it away, then commenced her own torture as she slid her hand forcefully down between his legs. Jon jumped and sucked in a breath, watching her hand as she began to massage him through his jeans.

She worked him expertly, her hand skillfully clenching and releasing, rubbing and stroking at all the right times and places. An instant and powerful rush of emotion flooded Jon’s body: her hesitations had been sexy, but this was a downright turn-on.

He groaned softly, but quickly grew annoyed with the rough denim separating him from her silky skin, and was ecstatically surprised when she reached for his zipper and began to slide it down, her other hand reaching over to undo the button.

Jon leaned over and took her wineglass, then set both of them on the coffee table as Erin slid her hand down his pants and commenced torture, massaging him until he was hard as a rock.

As she worked him, Erin grew dizzy with the lust that had taken her judgment hostage. She tried to contrast the thoughts of what she wanted to do to the man sitting next to her with what she shouldn’t be doing…and why.

But it didn’t work. Her movements grew quicker, and Jon finally took her hand and stilled it, looking up at her with intensely desirous eyes that begged the moment. He took her waist in both hands, sliding them up underneath her sweater and across her breasts, eliciting a small groan from her. Her skin was soft, invitingly supple, and Jon had to readjust himself to soothe the throbbing ache between his legs. He withdrew his hands and slid off the sofa, kneeling in front of her and gently prying apart her legs.

Erin watched him wide-eyed, wondering if he was going to do what she thought he was going to do…and unsure if she wanted him to.

“I’ve wanted you since the day we met, Erin,” Jon murmured as he undid her jeans. “You’ve been parading that ass of yours around in these tight things and expecting me to be a good boy…and I don’t like being a good boy.”

He ripped the pants off her body, exposing her hot, bare skin, and immediately smoothed his hands over her legs and thighs. Erin threw back her head and relished in the feel of his unbelievably soft hands, his fingers lightly trailing along the inside of her thighs toward where they met.

“And don’t pretend you’re a good girl,” he smirked, pressing gently against her center with two warm fingers. She jumped slightly and managed a smile.

“Well you’re no saint, Jon Bon Jovi.”

Jon raised an eyebrow and lifted a corner of his mouth as he slid a finger beneath the thin lace of her thong and tugged downward, keeping his eyes on hers. Erin felt her heart crashing against her ribcage, and a thousand thoughts swirled around in her head, frenzied and anxious, as if she was responsible for stopping their charade…but knew it was too late.

She didn’t want to, anyway.

Jon eyed her wickedly, his eyes gleaming with mischief before he gripped her tightly and lowered his head. Erin gasped, taken by surprise as his tongue dove between her flesh, causing her entire body to jolt as he stroked her tenderly, rhythmically. His tongue was soft and warm, causing her breaths to come in tiny fits while she moaned appreciatively. His pace quickened and she grabbed a fistful of his thick blonde hair, fighting between wanting to force him deeper and pull him away.

Finally, she relaxed her unsettled mind and soaked it in, getting lost in the moment and forgetting everything else as he indulged her fantasies. He flicked his tongue in and out of her, hitting all the sensitive parts and lapping her up with such delicate diligence that she cried out softly, her muscles contracting for a few seconds.

Jon looked up at her from between her legs and cocked his head to one side. “That’s it?” he asked. “That’s all I gotta do for you to go over?”

Erin tried to catch her breath. “No, that wasn’t really it,” she ran a hand through her hair. “I think that was just a small reaction to being surprised.”

Jon smiled wickedly again. “Good, because I’m not nearly finished with you yet.” He dove downward again, thrusting within her walls more forcefully this time, fucking her with his tongue.

Erin threw back her head and shut her eyes, surprised not only at what was happening, but the fact that what was happening was so…incredible. She couldn’t remember feeling this much pleasure from oral sex in a long time…lately, with Max, it had become so…routine.

Max.

Fuck, she thought, a rock sinking to the pit of her stomach. She had succeeded in forgetting about him, but now the thought of him hovered over her like a cloud. She shook her head, trying to forget him again as she concentrated on the sensations between her legs, but he simply moved to a corner of her mind and stayed put.

She didn’t want to think about him. Not tonight. Even though he was her boyfriend. Even though he’d probably haul out a rifle and hunt Jon down if he knew what they were doing right now. Even though she was technically cheating on him.

And Jon knew nothing about him.

She wondered again why she had lied to him on the plane that night. Perhaps, she now realized, it had been because deep down, she really didn’t love Max. And in all honesty, she wasn’t sure why she was with him in the first place.

Suddenly Erin sat up and tugged on Jon’s hair, making him pull away. “What’s the matter?” he asked, his expression asking if she felt guilty.

Erin just shook her head and gestured to the sofa. Curiously, Jon moved to the spot next to her and Erin immediately reversed their positions, kneeling in front of him and tugging down on his jeans. She peeled them off his legs, taking in his bareness and the vulnerability that he was displaying inadvertently. She fought to keep her face passive as she took in his size, and suddenly she was overcome by another animalistic impulse. She settled herself on her knees and leaned forward, taking him fully into her mouth in one swift movement.

Forget Max. She had a debt to pay.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chapter Five

Erin spun around and felt her stomach flutter as she found herself looking right into those deep blue eyes.

“Why yes,” she regained her composure quickly and smiled. “I have, actually.”

Jon nodded approvingly. “Good. I wondered about that – and you – this week.”

“Oh, really?” Erin said slyly, just as the server called her name. “Sorry, just a sec,” she hurried over to pick up her drink and scone.

Jon eyed her cup. “What’s the choice today?”

“Caramel macchiato – what else on a day like this?” Erin winked.

“Good choice,” Jon smiled. “That’s why I came in. I certainly didn’t expect to see you here, however.”

Erin blushed. “Well, same here buddy. I didn’t think you just walked into public places like this.”

Jon rolled his eyes good-naturedly. “I’m not a high-profile criminal, darlin,” he teased. “Besides, they know me here. I’m a loyal.”

“Is that so?”

Jon raised an eyebrow and walked over to the counter.

The girl at the register smiled at him. “The usual, Mr. Bon Jovi?”

Jon turned around and smirked at Erin, who rolled her eyes and laughed.

As he finished up at the register, Erin watched him, her heart beating slightly faster than usual. She took him in again, admiring his toned body and perfectly fitted jeans, her eyes lingering a bit too long on his ass. She inhaled deeply. Damn, he was a sight.

When he returned, his blue eyes were dancing. “So how have you been?”

“Fine,” she said truthfully. “I’m still a bit behind on sleep, but that’s normal. I’m usually a pretty scheduled person, so anything that screws with that usually affects me for awhile.”

Jon nodded. “I used to be that way, until I became a musician. You learn real quickly that you don’t get to pick your schedule when you’re famous.”

“I can imagine that’s tough,” Erin mused. “I certainly couldn’t do it.”

Jon smiled. “Like I said, you learn.”

“So what about you? How’ve you been?” Erin asked.

“Pretty good,” he replied. “I’ve actually been home since I got home, which is a first. I have to be somewhere else next week, so I am certainly enjoying the downtime for awhile.”

The server called his name and he walked over to retrieve his own caramel macchiato. As he sprinkled cinnamon in it and stirred the hot liquid, he looked back over at Erin.

“Hey, you in a hurry?”

Erin shook her head. “No, not really. Why?”

“You hungry?”

Erin held up the bag containing her cinnamon scone. “I’m prepared,” she smiled. “But I was planning on eating something more substantial when I got home.”

Jon finished preparing his drink and picked it up. “Care to get something more substantial now?”

Erin considered him for a moment before making her decision.

“Sure,” she smiled. “I’d love to.”

“Great,” Jon grinned and held the door open for her as she stepped out into the rapidly cooling late afternoon air. He followed suit and motioned for her to follow him to a black Aston Martin parked around the back in the small lot of the coffee shop.

Erin knew enough to follow quickly, but not too closely, so as not to attract attention. Jon held the passenger side door open for her and she slid onto the black leather seat, smiling slightly to herself. She had never been inside a car this nice before, and it gave her a strange sense of importance to be in one now.

Jon hurried around to the driver’s side and hopped in. “I hope you like Italian,” he said as he switched on the ignition.

“I take it you already know where to go,” Erin laughed

Jon winked. “Only the best place in town.”

He backed the car up and pulled out onto the street, heading back the way Erin had come from. She wondered where he was going to take her – she assumed it would be something hidden and out of the way. She couldn’t imagine him walking her straight into an Olive Garden.

Sure enough, about ten minutes later, Jon turned down a narrow alley-like street between two buildings. A small red and white striped awning hung over an old wooden door on one side of one of the buildings, bearing tiny letters that spelled “Gugliemo’s Bistro”.

Jon pulled up just before the door and shut off the engine. He hopped out quickly and opened Erin’s door for her again.

“One of the perks of being a rock star is getting to use secret entrances,” he grinned as he led her to the door and pushed it open. “Welcome to Gugliemo’s.”

Erin was immediately greeted by the smell of oregano and baking bread, and she inhaled the rich aroma deeply. They were standing in a small entrance at the back of the restaurant. The place was humble and cozy, decked in full Italian décor – flagstone spread out to the entrance of a warm kitchen, from which flavorful aromas were wafting out to greet the pair.

A short walkway led to a small inside patio, where two wrought-iron tables and several chairs stood clustered together. Jon steered Erin toward them. “I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere,” he winked.

He returned the way they had come and disappeared into the kitchen. Erin could hear the sounds of cooking, talking, and laughter in there, and when Jon entered, she heard the voices rise in excitement. She smiled to herself. They obviously knew him.

A minute later, Jon reappeared, laughing and talking over his shoulder to a large, beefy man wearing a white apron and traditional chef’s hat behind him.

“Erin,” Jon held out his hand and she stood up. “This is Gugliemo, owner and chef. He’ll be taking care of us this evening.”

“Taking care of you, I am sure!” Gugliemo said in a thick Italian accent. “I am pleased to meet la bella,” he took Erin’s hand and kissed it, making her blush. “You are reason enough to cook a wonderful meal! Not that Gugliemo ever cooks anything less,” he winked at her and she laughed.

Jon laughed as well. “No kidding. This guy’s calzones are enough to make you wish you had three stomachs.”

Gugliemo laughed a hearty laugh. “No no, you must try the pizza tonight, I bake one fresh just for you right now. Lots of cheese, olives, peppers, and the best Italian sausage you ever try!” he kissed his fingers with relish and started backing away. “Vincenzo come out and bring you the best wine in a moment, enjoy, enjoy!” he leaned toward Jon, winked and pointed at Erin. “The girl is beautiful, no? Treat her nice, now!”

Jon laughed. “Thanks, Gugliemo.” The chef retreated to the kitchen, and Jon and Erin sat down smiling and shaking their heads.

“Nice guy,” Erin mused as she settled in her seat. Jon nodded.

“He’s great. I’ve known him for years. Whenever I come here, he makes whatever I want, and I get to sit back here away from the crowd. It’s a perfect win for me.”

“I’d imagine so. You bring a lot of women here?” Erin smirked.

Jon laughed. “Back in the day, sure. Nowadays, I’m usually too busy to eat here myself, let alone bring a lady friend.”

“Are you saying I should feel special?”

Jon grinned. “Yeah, something like that.”

Vincenzo arrived with two large glasses of Borsao and presented them to the diners with a flourish. “You two are our guests of honor tonight,” he set a basket of fresh, hot bread on the table and shook a bottle of olive oil, which he then poured into a dish of vinegar and garlic seeds.

Signora,” he said silkily, opening Erin’s white cloth napkin and laying it flat on her lap. “Let us know if we can be of more service to you, Signor and Signora Bongiovi. Buon appetito!”

As the rich, enticing smells of the kitchen drifted through the air to the indoor patio, Jon and Erin settled into yet another comfortable conversation. Each played off the other’s comments and opinions about topics ranging from politics to religion, from music to books, from theatre to cinema, laughing and teasing the other in a way that flirted dangerously with seduction.

By the time the pizza arrived, Jon was overwhelmed by the feelings saturated with interest, desire, and lust that were coursing throughout his entire body. The woman across the table from him was downright beautiful; her complexion clear and radiant, her smile causing him to lose a few seconds of oxygen every time she laughed. And her eyes were unbelievably captivating tonight – sensual and mysterious in the soft, dim lighting of the patio.

Part of him was thoroughly enjoying the conversation and talk, and he was genuinely interested in what she had to say: she was an intelligent and insightful woman, which made her even more attractive. It was what had initially pulled him to her – the undeniable confidence, composure, and a naturally sexy vibe he got from her.

But the other part of him – the stronger part – was dying to rake his fingers through her hair and crush his mouth down on those beautiful lips, to caress and taste her smooth skin, to make her cry out with passion…

Jesus, he found himself thinking on more than one occasion. What’s gotten into you?

If an internal battle raged within his body, he didn’t let on: he didn’t show it on his face, and kept his expressions under control. Erin seemed none the wiser that he was fighting not to play out inappropriate scenes in his head.

As Gugliemo placed the pizza pan on the table and instructed them to enjoy, Jon played the gentleman’s role and allowed Erin to serve herself first. He watched as she almost gracefully separated a steaming hot slice from the rest of the pie and brought it to her plate, then groaned inwardly as she lifted it to her lips and gently blew on it to cool it off. His stomach fluttered as she took a bite, her tongue licking the grease off her lips afterward and leaving them with a glossy shine.

Fuck. Jon ripped off a piece of his own and started to eat as well, the explosion of flavor from the wealth of toppings and fatty cheese doing nothing to ease the intense sensuality of the evening.

“Mmm,” Erin groaned softly, sending tiny bolts of electricity to Jon’s every nerve. “This is absolutely delicious. I see why you picked this place.”

Jon smiled and took another bite of his pizza. “I told you, it’s the best place in town,” he winked.

After the pizza was finished and Vincenzo had refilled Erin’s glass of wine for the third time – Jon politely refused after the first glass since he was driving – Gugliemo brought out a triple chocolate cake and two cups of espresso.

“Oh Lord,” Erin groaned, leaning back against her chair. “I don’t think I can eat another bite.”

Jon laughed. “Sure you can, and you must. This is G’s famous ‘sinfully delightful’ cake, with three layers of chocolate.”

“Jesus,” Erin mused. “Three layers? How does he do that?”

Jon cocked an eyebrow at her, considering her question. Then he picked up one of the silver forks lying on the dessert dish and slid it sideways along the top portion of the cake, scraping off some of the fudge frosting and chocolate shavings that adorned it.

“Well,” he said, inserting the fork and its contents into his mouth and letting his tongue taste the sugary mix of topping. “There’s one layer.”

Erin’s face had stiffened, her eyes watching his every move curiously. She seemed almost surprised at what he was doing.

Jon returned the fork to the dessert and cut out a piece of the moist, spongy cake part, imitating his first move and inserting it into his mouth. “There’s the second.”

Erin’s expression was hard to read – a mixture of intrigue and near-desire - as he once again returned to the cake and speared the very center of it. Warm liquid chocolate oozed out of the middle, spilling onto the white dish and steaming slightly. Jon scooped out a bit of the molten confection and lifted his eyes to Erin’s, holding her gaze steady as he savored the gooey goodness that met his tongue. Then, slowly, deliberately, he withdrew the fork from his mouth and licked his lips of the remaining chocolate.

“And there’s the third.”

Erin’s lips were slightly parted by now, watching him with darkened eyes, and Jon tried not to smile as he dramatically returned the fork to the dish. Payback was sweet.

“Still too full to try some?”

Erin shook her head slightly and regained her composure, lifting her wineglass to her lips. “On second thought, I’m not. Besides, it looks like I’m missing out on something incredible there,” she said, gazing at him over the rim of the glass.

She set the glass down and picked up the other fork, proceeding to tease him with the same sweet torture he had just inflicted on her.

Jon watched her performance intently and turned away only when Vincenzo returned with the check. “When you are ready, of course, Signor.”

Ten minutes later, they bid farewell to Gugliemo and stepped out into the sparkling cold Autumn night. Jon ushered Erin into his car once again and pulled out of the alleyway.

“I think I remember where you live,” he said thoughtfully as they waited at a stoplight. “But you’ll still have to guide me.”

Erin looked at his shadowed profile out of the corner of her eye. Damn, she couldn’t get over how he was built to impress. The rigid jawline, the gentle slope of his nose, those unbelievably sexy lips…it was all she could do not to reach out and acquaint herself physically with his features. Then there was the issue of his bulging biceps, his flat, hard abs and the narrowing at his waist that led down to the hidden territory within his form-fitting jeans…

Erin looked back ahead, mentally smacking herself. Max, she tried to remind herself. Remember him?

But Max didn’t look like Jon did. Hell, he didn’t look like half of what Jon did. And he certainly didn’t treat her the way Jon did – with admiration and a gentlemanly respect tinged with the knowledge that she was capable of taking care of herself. Even the way Jon looked at her…Max had never looked at her that way before.

They rode in silence for a few moments before she needed to provide directions and guided him back to her house. Jon pulled up alongside the curb outside her house and shifted the gear to park. He helped her out and both tried to ignore the spark they each felt at the feel of each other’s touch.

“So I have to ask,” Erin said, as they stood awkwardly on the sidewalk. “Considering the intimate evening we just spent together, I’d like to assume that I’m the only ‘lady friend’ in your life that you’d do this with right now.” Her eyes gleamed with mischief, showing that she was teasing, but at the same time, truly curious.

Jon smiled. “Believe you me,” he said coyly. “You’re the only lady friend.”

Erin smiled. “Good,” she said, turning to head up the walk and leaving him looking like he would have started begging her to stay any moment. “I hoped I was.”

Friday, October 24, 2008

Chapter Four

Exhausted, Erin slept through the morning and woke up sometime around one. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d slept that late…but then again, she also couldn’t remember the last time she’d gone to bed at 5 am.

She’d fallen straight into bed after she got home, only taking the time to throw on a pair of sweats and wash her face beforehand, and barely had time to mentally recap the night before she was asleep.

Now, as she lay in bed trying to fully awaken, her thoughts drifted back to the night before and the person she’d spent it with.

Jon Bon Jovi. Of all people to have the seat next to hers on a cross-country flight, who ever would have imagined it would be him? Even in her wildest dreams she wouldn’t have imagined it. But there he was – that muscled-bodied, blue-eyed, blonde-haired beauty. And he had struck up a conversation with her.

She had opened up to him so easily – and he with her in return – that it surprised her. But it felt so…right…to talk to him and tell him the things she had. He was a great listener, and though they had just met, he seemed to genuinely care about what she had to say.

Not to mention the fact that she was undoubtedly attracted to him. Whenever he had flashed that mega-watt smile her heart had thumped a little harder, and she wouldn’t soon forget the softness of his hand as he helped her out of the limousine.

She couldn’t deny that she had felt some sort of spark between them, but this morning she chalked it up to being delirious with exhaustion. They had flown all night and she was operating on maybe six hours of sleep and nearly twenty-four waking hours – she hadn’t been thinking clearly. He probably didn’t feel the same way anyway, she told herself. She had just been another woman to cross his path, another passenger on a lonely flight to pass the time with.

I never said you didn’t have an effect on me.

The words resounded in her mind, and her heart skipped a beat. Maybe she was another woman to cross his path, but something told her she hadn’t crossed it for the last time. Or at least, she hoped she hadn’t.

In spite of herself, she smiled and rolled out of bed to begin the day.


After a shower and a quick breakfast – although it should have been a lunch by then – she checked her answering machine messages. There was one from work, one from her neighbor, one from her friend Tawna, all calling with various insignificant reminders or tidbits of news and gossip.

There was nothing from the airline yet, but Erin knew that it could be a day or two before they called. And since she didn’t know if they’d call ahead of time to let her know they had it and were going to ship it, or if they’d call after it had been sent, she decided not to worry for the time being. She wasn’t missing anything she couldn’t live without for a few days, save for her toothbrush and the last bar of soap she’d thrown in her bag before she left. But she could easily pick those things up at the grocery store down the street.

The latest message was left that morning around 9am.

Hey baby, just wanted to make sure you got home all right. You said you’d call me and I haven’t heard from you, so I’m getting worried. I’ll try again later, but let me know that you’re safe. Don’t forget to call me. I love you.

Erin sighed as she deleted Max’s message and consulted the caller ID. Sure enough, he had called three times since he had left the message. She had told him she would be home late when she found out in San Diego that the flight was delayed. Actually, he had called her – he had a copy of her itinerary and was checking the live flight tracker online, and had seen that the departure time had changed. Regardless, he had known that she’d be home in the wee hours of the morning and that she’d most likely sleep in.

Erin knew she had to call him - Max worried easily - and she had just picked up the phone when the doorbell rang.

She opened the door to reveal Max standing on the porch.

“Oh good, you’re home,” he breathed a sigh of relief. “Why didn’t you answer my calls?”

“Well hi,” Erin said with the voice of surprise, letting him inside. "I was just about to call you back..."

Max stepped in and hung his jacket on the coat rack. “I got your answering machine,” he said pointedly.

“I was asleep – I just got your message,” Erin explained.

“You were asleep at noon?”

Erin raised an eyebrow. She got tired of his interrogations quickly nowadays. “Yes, I was asleep at noon, I was tired. I got home at five this morning.”

Max furrowed his brow. “Five? The flight got in close to four. Why did it take an hour to get home?”

Erin explained how the airline had lost her luggage.

“Aww, you poor thing,” Max said, pulling her close to him and stroking her hair. “That must have been so traumatic. I wish I had been there to help you.”

Erin laughed. “I’m fine, Max,” she assured him. “It wasn’t a big deal. It’s annoying, but it doesn’t put me out. And they said they’ll return it in a few days.”

Max nodded. “If you need me to call them and speed up the process, I will.”

Erin fought the urge to roll her eyes. “They aren’t going to speed anything up just because you call. It’s fine, really.”

“All right,” he said softly in her ear. “You know, I missed you. I missed the feel of your skin and your scent and seeing your smile…”

He held her tighter, and Erin could feel through his jeans that he was aroused. Normally, that would have made her smile and she would have begun teasing him until they both collapsed naked on her bed, but this time she was surprised to find herself hoping that wouldn’t happen.

It wasn’t that Max was unattractive – he had a sweet, almost boyish face with dark brown eyes and curly brown hair that sat atop his head, forever unmanageable. He was modestly built, tall and slightly lanky, but with enough muscle to save him from looking like a beanpole. He had long, slender fingers, the kind that performed masterpieces on a piano, which he played in his spare time. His stomach was flat, his hips were narrow. His ears didn’t stick out, and he had two eyebrows. All things considered, he was a good-looking man.

But for some reason, she wasn’t turned on by him in the slightest right then, and she vaguely wondered why. Perhaps it was because he now stood so shadowed by the presence of last night’s encounter – an admittedly sexier, kinder, more confident man that had Erin’s sense of reality temporarily skewed. She couldn’t shake those blue eyes from her mind.

She pulled away from Max. “So is that the only reason you came by?”

He nodded. “I wanted to make sure you were all right.”

“Well as you can see, I’m fine,” Erin smiled. “Do you want to hang around for a bit? I actually need to swing by the store real quick, but you can come with me, if you want.”

Max nodded again. “Sounds good. But bring a jacket – it’s chilly outside.”

A few minutes later they stepped outside and Erin found that Max was right as she felt the nip of a cold wind. It was late September and the weather had been starting to cool off for a couple of weeks on the east coast…but San Diego was still going strong in the mid-80’s and even 90’s as the Santa Anas and infamous “Indian summers” rolled through, and Erin had gotten accustomed to donning shorts and t-shirts outside.

Now, she pulled her coat around her more tightly and kept pace with Max, whose strides were considerably longer than hers given his height. They rounded the corner and approached the small grocery store, and Erin picked up a toothbrush and more soap among other food supplies.

Max walked her back home and helped her put the groceries away, making her go over every detail of her trip and showing his enthusiastic interest. She told him about the retreat and about her quick visit with family, but didn’t even hesitate to leave out details about the flight home. There were some things you just didn’t tell Max.

They ate a casual dinner at her house together and he left afterward, giving her another kiss and mentioning again how much he had missed her.

Since she had to get back to work the next day, Erin flopped into bed early to try to get to sleep at a decent hour. She didn’t have to try very hard, though, as she fell asleep around nine-thirty and slept for nine straight hours.

________________________

A few days later, Erin was eating breakfast and getting ready for a half-day at work for a meeting with her boss when the doorbell rang. She ran to answer it and was greeted by a UPS deliveryman holding a large box. “Are you Erin Sullivan?”

“Yes, I am,” she answered. “Is that from the airlines?”

“It sure is. Could you sign here, please?”

Erin signed the clipboard, then happily accepted the package from him and brought it inside. She finished her breakfast quickly and unpacked the box, relieved to find everything as it was supposed to be, her bag undamaged and still locked with the TSA lock. She carried it upstairs and set it on her bed to unpack that afternoon when she got home.

When she arrived at the office later, Jill, the secretary at the front desk stopped her.

“Mike got called into a last-minute conference call with Spain,” she said. “It’s supposed to take all afternoon, so he had to cancel his meeting with you. You don’t have to stick around; you can go home early. Enjoy an early weekend,” she smiled.

“Oh,” Erin said, surprised. “Is he on the phone with them now?’

Jill nodded. “Just called about ten minutes ago. Apparently it’s a last-minute proposition that couldn’t wait over the weekend. I don’t have details yet.”

Erin sighed. “Okay…well I have some things to do anyway, so I think I’ll get those over with so I don’t have them hanging over me. Thanks, Jill.”

She retreated into her office and closed the door, sighing. She hated when her boss got called into those last-minute meetings, especially when they were overseas. They always took forever, and this one was going to set her back a day since they’d have to hold the meeting on Monday and she couldn’t get started on Monday’s work until Tuesday. And missing a day didn’t sit well with Erin’s tight schedule. She decided to get as much done as she could today and hopefully lessen the backlog next week.

A few hours later, Erin emerged into the crisp Autumn air, satisfied with what she’d been able to accomplish. Since she’d worked through lunch she was hungry, and decided to stop at Starbucks on the way home.

She walked the single block to the shop and pushed open the door, greeted by the warm smell of coffee beans and pastries. There weren’t very many people inside, and she walked straight to the girl at the register and placed her order for a caramel machiatto and cinnamon scone.

She waited for her order quietly, massaging her neck and feeling the lingering effects of the jetlag. She’d probably go to bed early again tonight and catch up on the rest of sleep this weekend, and she’d be good as new on Monday. Right now, she was looking forward to a hot coffee, getting home and changing into her pajamas, and lounging around the rest of the night in front of the television.

Just as she was pondering what movie to watch, a voice in her ear made her jump.

“So,” the voice said mysteriously. “Have you gotten your luggage back yet?”

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Chapter Three

When the plane landed on the runway several minutes later, neither of them spoke. They taxied and approached the gate, the attendants did their customary welcome to the destination city and thanked everyone on board for flying with them…and finally they were allowed to get up and get their bags.

Jon smoothed back his blonde hair and slipped the baseball cap back on. He didn’t don the shades – he’d look even more ridiculous with them at 4am in New Jersey – but he still regained that private, mysterious look he had when Erin first saw him jump on the plane in San Diego. He stood and reached up into the overhead compartment to retrieve their bags, and Erin caught herself admiring the strip of flesh that peeked out from beneath his shirt when he raised his arms. She closed her eyes and chided herself, hoping the heat that rose to her face wasn’t visible in her cheeks.

“Enjoying the view?” Jon asked quietly, and Erin opened her eyes in surprise to see him holding out her bag. She smirked and took it from him, deciding to play along while she still could.

“Cocky, are we?” she slung her bag over her shoulder and rose to her feet gingerly.

“No, just observant. Like you, apparently.”

And a mind-reader, she marveled inwardly. How many times had he gotten into her head that night?

They waited for a moment before the attendants opened the hatch and people began to move, slowly and sleepily exiting the plane through the long walkway. Jon let Erin out first and followed behind her silently, thinking back on the night himself.

Damn it if he wasn’t taken with this woman. She was incredible. It seemed ridiculous, but he couldn’t deny that she stirred something within him that hadn’t been touched in a long time.

She’s just another encounter, he thought to himself. Pull yourself together. In a few minutes you’re going to go one way and she’s going to go another, and you’re never going to see her again. Deal with it.

They emerged into the silent airport, which save for a couple of people scattered throughout the seats at the gate, was entirely empty. Jon and Erin followed the rest of the passengers up the escalator to baggage claim and waited silently for their bags.

A couple of people looked over at Jon as he stood next to Erin and waited, but nobody said anything. Erin was surprised - but then again, this was Jersey. He was a local, and most people were probably used to his presence in public places. Although, she realized, she’d never seen him anywhere.

Jon moved to pick up a long black duffel bag off the conveyor belt, and Erin’s heart beat faster as she realized he was about to leave. As he turned back to her, she smiled and started to say goodbye, but he merely returned to her side and proceeded to wait with her silently. She smiled inwardly. The fact that he wasn’t in a hurry to get going either meant more to her than she wanted to admit.

The conveyor belt continued to rotate around the carousel, and gradually the bags began to thin out as people claimed them and left. Soon, only a couple of people, including Jon and Erin, were left, and when the conveyor belt stopped rotating, Erin raised her eyebrows.

“Why’d it stop?” she asked, traces of anger on the edge of her voice. “That better not be it…”

She looked around at the others to see their reactions, and they looked as perplexed as she did. Erin waited to see if the belt started up again, and when it didn’t, she clenched her jaw.

“Fantastic. So where’s the customer service desk?” she looked around, trying not to let her temper get the best of her. But it was late at night, she was exhausted, and she couldn’t believe that her luggage might be lost.

Jon pointed to her left. “Over there. Come on, I’ll go with you.”

They headed over to the desk, followed closely behind by the other people who had been waiting. “Let me handle this,” Jon said quietly in her ear.

“Excuse me, sir,” he spoke up as they approached the clerk behind the desk. “Can you tell me if there’s another carousel by chance for flight 6502 with Continental?”

The clerk checked his paperwork. “I’m sorry, sir, number three is the only one. Is there a problem?”

“Well, it seems not all the luggage was dropped off from the flight,” Jon explained. Erin admired the calm way he presented himself and spoke with the clerk; she’d have been yelling by now.

“This lady can’t find her bag, and there are a few others who seem to be in the same situation,” he turned around to acknowledge the people standing behind them, who nodded at him. “Is there a way to find out if they’re on another flight?”

The clerk nodded. “Yes, of course, can I have the names of the passengers missing luggage?” Erin gave him her name and the people behind them followed suit.

“Okay,” the clerk picked up the phone. “Let me see what I can find out for you folks.”

“Thank you,” Jon stepped back and looked at Erin. “Believe me, my bags have been lost more than once. I’m sure it’s just on another plane right now. They’ll get it back to you soon.”

“Yeah, I’ve been in this situation before,” Erin sighed. “I just hate being in it.”

“No kidding. It’s no fun. Do you have your wallet and cell phone with you?”

In spite of herself, Erin smiled. “Yes, I do, they’re in here,” she patted her shoulder bag. “I travel enough to know to keep them on me at all times.”

Jon returned the smile. “Good girl. Just making sure.”

The clerk hung up the phone and looked up at them. “I apologize, but it seems the bags were located on a different flight to Seattle. They’re going to forward them as soon as possible, and we will have them delivered to you immediately. Are you folks visiting, or do you live here?”

The others appeared to be visiting. “I live here,” Erin said. “Do we need to fill out a claim?”

“No, since the bags have been located, we just need your address and contact information,” the clerk replied, passing a form and a pen across the desk to her. “You folks, too,” he nodded at the people behind them. Erin filled out the information quickly, thanking her lucky stars that she was home and wouldn’t be without clothes or toiletries for a few days.

A few minutes later, the clerk collected the forms and assured them that they’d get their belongings shortly. “Again, I apologize for the inconvenience.”

As they left, Erin grumbled in the back of her throat. “What a nuisance,” she muttered. Jon laughed softly. “I’m sorry, darlin’, but at least they found them.”

“That’s true,” Erin agreed. “Thank you for helping me out back there.”

Jon waved his hand. “Not a problem.” I wanted an excuse to stay with you.

They walked together again to the curb outside, where once again, Erin turned to say goodbye, figuring that they’d part ways here. And once again, Jon surprised her.

The black stretch limo pulled up as they came into sight, and he turned to her. “Since I figured you’d be taking a cab home anyway, why don’t I just give you a ride?”

In her late-night bout of exhaustion, Erin didn’t need much persuasion, despite the nagging voice in the back of her mind. You’re treading dangerous waters, here.

“Are you sure?”

Jon nodded, already opening the door for her. “Don’t worry about it. There’s no sense in you paying a cabbie an arm and a leg. Besides, this thing’s more comfortable.” He grinned at her as he held out his hand for her to get in.

“Well, thank you,” she said, sliding onto the soft leather seat. Jon slid in after her and the driver closed the door, then hopped into the front and pulled away from the curb.

It was quiet and cool in the back of the limo – much more comfortable than the back of a cab, Erin had to admit.

“Whereabouts do you live?” Jon asked, tossing his baseball cap onto the seat between them. She told him, and he passed the message on to the driver. They rode in silence for a moment before Erin spoke again.

“Well this certainly was a hell of a night,” she voiced, smiling. Jon looked at her. “Yeah? I didn’t think it was anything special.”

The gleam in his baby blue eyes made her insides tingle. “Ouch,” she laughed. “Way to crush a girl’s ego.”

Jon merely winked.

Twenty minutes later, they pulled up outside her townhouse, and Erin grabbed her bag. Jon hopped out first and held out his hand to her, acting every bit the perfect gentleman. Erin tried to ignore the fact that his skin was soft and his hand strong, his fingers grazing hers gently as he helped her out. She couldn’t let herself think like that. They were about to say goodbye.

They stood awkwardly on the sidewalk outside her house, neither knowing quite what to say.

“Well,” Erin finally said, breaking the silence. “Thank you again, for everything. I appreciate the help and the ride. And it was great meeting you and getting to talk to you.”

Jon smiled and fixed his eyes on hers, wanting to imprint their depth and color exactly in his mind. Erin looked back at him, transfixed by an electric current that seemed to pass between both of them as they stood there. “You’re welcome, it was my pleasure. It was good to have someone to pass the time with.”

“Same here, even if it turns out I had no effect on you,” she smirked.

Jon raised an eyebrow and a wide grin broke out on his face. “Oh, I never said you didn’t have an effect on me.” Shut up, you moron. Whet the fuck are you doing?

Erin was pleasantly surprised. “Well, too bad it had to end then. Good night.” She smiled and turned to leave.

Jon watched her head up the cobbled walk to her front door, a slight smile playing on his lips as he admired her from behind.

“Good night...”

She unlocked the door and waved, then smiled at him one last time before disappearing into her house.

Jon climbed back into the limo and sighed as the driver pulled away again. He ran his hands through his thick blonde hair and tried to ignore the feeling she’d left him with.

He knew he’d use their meeting as inspiration for a song in the future. She had been great food for thought. But that’s all she was. It was just a one-time thing. That’s all he could let her be.

Wasn’t it?

Monday, October 6, 2008

 
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