Come Saturday Morning
Thanks to Kass and T and Gryph and Jane for the encouragement (although I didn’t need much). Thanks also to the City of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where you can meet really interesting people at hotel swimming pools.
As always, constructive feedback is welcome, to.]
The ground floor of the hotel was as deserted as something out of “The Twilight Zone” when Pete Burke walked through it at Saturday morning dressed in swim trunks with one of the hotel’s towels slung around his neck. There were other guests at the resort—a bunch of them, judging by the crowd that’d been in the bar last night—but they had apparently all decided to sleep in, or had already gotten up to go somewhere else. Feeling like a minor league outlaw as he padded across the terra cotta tile floor barefoot and without a shirt, he peeked into the restaurant and saw no one, although each table had been elegantly set with china, silverware, and linen napkins. The front desk was similarly deserted, although he could hear faint sounds of movement from the office behind it.
Ignoring the posted rule giving the pool’s hours as , he pushed open the gate and walked over to the edge of the water. Nobody out here, either. Shrugging at that, he tossed his towel onto a nearby lounge chair and considered the pool. It certainly wasn’t intended for lap swimming, given that it was shaped like two kidney beans stuck together end to end, but each bean was long enough to allow him to get a little bit of exercise. More, if he swung around the curve and did a double-bean lap. With that decided, he strolled over to the deepest area, where the water would be over his head, and stepped off the edge.
Each time he popped up for air as he did his two-bean laps, he could hear the sounds of dueling lawn mowers echoing across the golf course behind the hotel. It was a championship course, someone at the bar had told him, designed by some award-winning somebody-or-other whose name was probably instantly recognizable to anybody who gave a rat’s ass about golf course design.
That, of course, did not include him. “Great,” he’d told the someone at the bar, but he had about as much interest in golf as he did in…
Being in goddamn Albuquerque in the first place.
Distracted, he miscalculated the turn and cracked his elbow into the wall of the pool. The blow sent an arrow of pain up through his shoulder, all the way into his head. That distracted him even more, and he scrabbled with his feet, looking for the bottom of the pool, didn’t find it, and sank like a brick beneath the surface, sucking in enough chlorinated water in the process to send him bobbing back up, spitting and coughing.
Cursing in a breathless stream that would have impressed every one of the NASA technicians he’d been working with on Thursday, he struggled over to the ladder and crawled up the rungs, his still-shrieking elbow clutched close to his body. By the time he located the chair with his towel lying on it, his nose had started to run and his eyes were burning from the chlorine.
Shoulda just gotten back on a plane and gone right
With his fury bubbling in a way that began to make him feel like a five-year-old, he sank down onto his chair and scrubbed at his hair with the towel, then carefully rubbed at his eyes. If anything, that made the burning worse.
“Are you all right?”
Swell. Now there was somebody here. Squinting, he peered down the length of the pool and found a woman sitting in a lounge chair down at the far end, in the shade of a big blue-and-white striped umbrella.
“Yeah,” he muttered. Whether he’d said it loud enough for her to hear, he didn’t know and didn’t care.
She must have
heard him, though, because she went back to what she’d apparently been doing
before his tirade: scribbling earnestly on a pad of paper. Some golfer’s
wife, he decided: somewhere in the breathing-hard-on-forty range, dressed in
khaki shorts and a white tank top. Short red hair, cut in a tousled style
that probably cost a hundred bucks to accomplish. Glasses, big horn-rimmed
things that made her look like a schoolteacher…or Clark
He couldn’t walk back through the lobby like this, bruised and dripping pool water. He’d planned to finish his laps, sit in the sun just long enough to dry off, then go the long way around, through the parking lot to the rear door that was just a few steps from his room.
Right now, walking across the hot asphalt of the parking lot seemed like a really bad idea. Which meant he was trapped here.
She was watching
Go away, lady. There’s nobody in this dimension. Didn’t you read the signpost up ahead? Just…get lost.
The chlorine was burning his eyes big-time now. Wincing, he rubbed at them, realizing as he did so that that wasn’t the best choice in the world.
When he looked
“Thanks,” he muttered.
Now that he could see her up close—now that he could see anything at all without blinking and squinting—he took a closer look. The golfer had made a good choice: she was a little on the short side, and carrying a few extra pounds, but that made her curvy in a lot of good places. She’d left the glasses on the chair with her pad of paper, and without them she wasn’t bad-looking at all. Emily left her in the shade, but then Emily wasn’t here.
If Emily were here, he’d be in bed right now. Not sitting by the pool with a smashed elbow, being looked after by some golfer’s wife.
“I heard you in the bar last night,” she said. “You do a mean ‘Heartbreak Hotel.’”
“I was inspired,” he told her crossly.
not have been one of
She reached up to scratch a spot under her ear, which put her left hand on a level with his newly functioning eyes. No ring. Okay, so she was the golfer’s lady friend.
“So you’re here by yourself?” she asked.
“Yeah.” Then, for no particular reason, rambled on, “Came all the way out
She shook her head. “I write travel articles. For airline magazines.”
“That pay a lot?”
“No. But I get a lot of freebies.”
“Huh,” he said.
“How do you feel about fresh fruit? I’ve got about fifteen pounds of it in my room, courtesy of the hotel.”
A few weeks back,
one of the NASA doctors had told him that his normal dietary choices were
“less than exemplary.” Too much salt, too much grease and sugar, not enough
whole grains, not enough fruits and vegetables. None of the medical team
could find anything wrong with him more significant than a toe that didn’t
flex properly thanks to his having broken it nine years ago, and it seemed to
him that a non-bending toe didn’t add up to much of a problem, crappy diet or
no crappy diet. Still, being able to return to
“Yeah,” he said. “I didn’t have breakfast.”
“Come on, then.”
She walked back to her chair, picked up her glasses and notepad, and cut through the row of low palm trees that flanked that end of the pool. Pete started to follow her, got about halfway to the trees, and stopped.
If she’s really here with somebody, you’re gonna get your ass kicked.
Maybe she did intend to give him a couple of oranges and a banana. On the other hand, maybe…
Driven by nothing more than curiosity, he cut through the line of trees. It took him a moment to locate her, standing in the sliding-glass doorway of one of the hotel’s “garden suites.” This particular one had a patio area half the size of his apartment. When he reached the edge of the patio, she beckoned to him, then disappeared inside.
She was right about the fruit basket: it was bigger than the TV set. Sitting close to it was a massive, slightly wilted flower arrangement, and next to that was a gold foil box of chocolate truffles, a few of which were missing.
“Freebies,” she said. “Help yourself.”
Her own breakfast had been laid out on the round table near the patio doors, courtesy of room service: a carafe of coffee, a small pitcher of juice, a plate of croissants and muffins, and a container of yogurt. She hadn’t eaten much of it—half a muffin and some coffee, from the looks of the dishes she’d used. When she noticed that the food had caught his eye, she made another “help yourself” gesture, then walked into the bathroom.
That gave him a minute to look around a little more. He was standing in the living room of the suite, which boasted a small sofa, an easy chair, and a glass-topped coffee table. Through an arched doorway was the bedroom, whose king-sized bed seemed to have been abused by either a tornado or a very restless sleeper.
What the hell are you doing in here? Say thank you and hit the road.
His gaze fell on a collection of papers and mail strewn across the coffee table, particularly on the copy of Vanity Fair with the subscription label pasted to the front.
“Julia Ferris?” he said. “That you?”
She came back out of the bathroom with another towel and a tiny bottle of Visine in her hand. She handed the Visine over to him with the explanation, “Your eyes are looking a little like Rudolph’s nose. Yes, that’s me.”
“Pete Burke. I know. I heard that in the bar last night, too.”
He frowned. “I don’t remember seeing you there.”
“I think you were busy drowning your sorrows.”
He considered the bottle of Visine and almost immediately decided against using it. Eyedrop administration was not one of his major talents; without fail the stuff would go into his nose, an ear, or his hair. “Look,” he said with some reluctance. “I appreciate the helping hand, but I should—”
Memories of a
“Mr. Evans. Not for almost two years.”
“Sit.” She flipped the towel onto the seat of one of the dining-table chairs and gestured him into it. Once he was down, she uncapped the Visine and dripped it into his eyes quickly and efficiently, recapped the bottle and set it down on the table. The stuff burned for a second, then his poor tortured eyes began to feel cool and soothed.
The rest of him was beginning to feel a lot warmer. “Look, Julia—”
She didn’t say anything, just stood there looking at him.
Fruit, huh? “I really should get going.” He pushed to his feet, careful not to misstep and do a pratfall in front of her. His reflection in the mirror over the couch told him he looked bad enough, with his wet swimsuit pasted to him, his hair shoved in every possible direction except the correct one, and an already large and impressively purple bruise growing around his elbow. He didn’t need a bellyflop onto the carpet to complete the picture.
“Why?” she asked.
She followed his gaze to the mirror, then seemed to read his mind again. The effort of holding back a grin made her flinch, and the grin got halfway through. “You did look a lot more…presentable last night.”
“In the bar.”
“You were watching me, huh?”
The grin shifted a little. “Guilty as charged.”
“How come you didn’t say anything to me last night, then?” Before she could answer, he did it for her. “Yeah—I was busy drowning my sorrows. Bad move on my part. But I guess I have to give you points for originality now. I’ve never asked anybody ‘How do you feel about fruit?’”
“How do you feel about it?”
“Right now…I’m a real big fan of fruit.”
“I thought you might be.” Pete took a step toward her, but her expression shifted slightly and moved away. “Do me a favor?” she said quietly, and tipped her head toward the bathroom. “Shower’s in there. You’re giving off a little eau d’chlorine.”
True enough; he could smell the pool water on himself. He was about to agree when a thought occurred to him, and he leaned toward her to take a small sniff. “Coppertone?” he guessed. When she nodded, he pointed toward the bathroom. “Shower’s in there.”
Fingers intertwined with hers, he led her into the bathroom, leaned into the glass-walled, terra-cotta tiled shower and turned on the water. It came out cold at first, but after a little adjustment turned comfortably warm.
“Ladies first,” he suggested.
Agreeably, Julia grasped the hem of her shirt and pulled it up over her head, revealing a delicate pale blue lace bra and breasts that put Emily’s to shame. The bra was a pretty thing, but Pete disposed of it with a move he had learned in high school, paying no attention to where it landed. Julia shimmied out of her shorts on her own and tossed them aside. That left just a filmy pair of panties that matched the bra and his bathing suit, which was stuck to him so securely he suspected might have to be surgically removed. Julia met the challenge admirably, peeling the suit down off of him as far as his knees, then backing away just enough to let him step out of it.
Chlorine and Coppertone momentarily forgotten, he gathered her into his arms and found her mouth with his own. As they kissed, she ran her fingers up and down his back with a touch light enough to make him shiver. His left hand drifted into her hair while his right explored her breasts, stroking them until her nipples were hard.
With the pattering sound of the shower as accompaniment they deepened the kiss. They were close enough together that his growing erection pressed against her stomach, and the warmth of her skin helped fray a last lingering thought of Emily. Pete slid his arms around her, clasping his hands at the small of her back, and pulled her even closer. Still, she found enough space to slide a hand between them and ran her fingers up and down the length of him.
Without really being aware that they were doing it, they moved into the shower and stood under a stream that was like a steady summer rain. Pete’s hands drifted down the curves of Julia’s sides to her hips, where he discovered the blue panties. His fingers slipped under the elastic and he skinned the flimsy fabric downward. When the panties reached her feet she stepped out of them and took them out of his hand to flip them over the shower door. Encouraged by her expression he remained crouched and offered attention to one of the few parts of her that she hadn’t bothered to Coppertone. She let out a sound that was a laugh and a purr and a groan all at the same time. He tipped his head back just long enough to smile up at her, then returned to his ministrations. Bringing her to a gasping climax took only a minute. She was still shuddering from it as he stood up.
“Shoulda said something to me in the bar,” he murmured. “We wasted a lot of time sleeping alone last night.”
She found soap, and a washcloth, and haphazardly they washed away the aroma of the pool and the layer of sunscreen. Then the soap and the washcloth were abandoned on the floor of the shower as they kissed, hands gliding over wet skin. When Julia gently, then firmly, grasped him again, Pete shook his head and muttered, “Slippery.”
“Shower.” He found the controls, shut off the water, and pushed the shower door open. “Fell once. Not fun.”
The hotel had provided her with a dozen towels of different sizes. Laughing, they pulled one after the other from the racks, blotted water off each other, dropped a towel, found another, and moved one step at a time into the bedroom. When they reached the bed Julia was closer to it, so Pete pushed her gently down onto her back. She wiggled around until she was fully on the bed, then reached for him. He straddled her for a moment, resting back on his haunches, gazing down at her.
“Whatcha doin’ up there?” she crooned. “C’mon…”
That was more encouragement than he needed. Nodding absently, he shifted position and entered her.
When he stretched out on top of her, part of his weight landed on his injured elbow, but he barely noticed. One small grunt of discomfort was all the attention the elbow got. With Julia’s heels brushing up and down the backs of his legs he eased further in and began thrusting, deeper and deeper. She squeezed him, just a little at first, then harder, making him gasp with pleasure. Distantly he was aware of her stroking his face, the back of his neck, his shoulders. Her feet kept moving, up and down the backs of his thighs. One of them found his butt, then shifted gently down and brushed his balls. He lasted only a few seconds after that, coming with a sound that was almost a howl. As he finished, Julia moved underneath him, encouraging him to keep thrusting until she came.
He had barely settled down onto the soft but very rumpled sheets when he dozed off. When he opened his eyes, only a few minutes had passed—or at least he assumed that was the case, since Julia was lying quietly beside him, watching him, still wearing a very contended smile.
“Sorry,” he muttered.
She shifted her head to whisper into his ear, “Trust me, you have nothing to apologize for.”
He dozed again then, just a little. He was jolted awake by the sensation of Julia’s lips feathering their way down his belly. He intended to say something but it came out as “Ummrff?” and it did nothing to interfere with Julia’s steady southward progress. He closed his eyes, then opened one to peek at her, watching her with a moan of anticipation. When the tip of her tongue touched his shaft he stopped thinking altogether. With lips, tongue, nose, fingers, she again brought him to the edge, then pushed him over, and for a while he drifted contentedly in a haze of pleasure.
As soon as he could focus again—at least enough to remember how to make his arms and legs function—he pushed himself up to a sitting position, then maneuvered Julia around, onto her hands and knees. Crouching, he entered her from behind and found her breasts with his palms, cupping them, rubbing her nipples between his fingers. She moaned softly and shifted back so that he was pushed deeper inside.
Distantly, vaguely, he could hear the sound of lawnmowers, and it occurred to him that she had never closed the patio doors.
Julia came first this time, her back arching, pushing back hard against him.
He held on for a moment, then spilled inside her, his breath huffing out close to her neck. When he withdrew, she rolled onto her back and slipped her arms around him, pulling him down to lie alongside her, nestled in close.
When he opened his eyes she was no longer there. Puzzled, he blinked away sleep and peered around the room. Bathroom? he thought, but he couldn’t hear water running. Finally, when he was about to struggle out of bed to look for her, she appeared in the living room, close to the arched doorway. She was dressed, in light-colored pants, a dark brown top, and sandals. That confused him; what baffled him more was the large suitcase sitting alongside the coffee table.
“Was I that bad?” he asked.
Julia chuckled softly. “No. You were a long, long way from ‘bad.’ But I have to go. I’m supposed to be on a plane in a little while.”
“Take a later flight.”
“I can’t. There’s…someone waiting for me.”
“Not another man.”
Something in her expression told him what the answer was. “A kid? You have a kid?”
Julia crossed the room, sat at the edge of the bed, and bent down to give him a long, deep, lingering kiss. As she drew away, her fingers tangled in his hair, smoothing it into shape, then traced the curve of his mouth. “I have two. Is that a problem?”
Gently, in a way that sent a rush of heat into his belly, she kissed him
again. “I have late check-out on the room. Take your time. Your bathing
suit’s dry—I gave it a hit with the hair dryer. And I left a t-shirt for you.
New. Souvenir of
Pete sighed. “Yeah.”
She turned to walk back toward the living room, then stopped. “You never did say. What is it that you do? For a living?”
“I’m a pilot.”
Julia hiked a brow. “Really? Which airline?”
“NASA,” Pete said.
A teasing grin found its way across his lips. “Never had an astronaut before, huh?”
“Can’t say I have.” Once more she moved toward the living room and this time got halfway there. “You can—”
“Help myself to the fruit?”
“Hmm. See ya around, spaceman.”
Thinking he should help her with the suitcase, Pete got out of bed, and again realized—a lot more clearly this time—that the patio door was open. Explaining with a gesture that he was going into the bathroom to dress, he scuttled away as Julia smiled in appreciation of the departing view he was giving her. He tugged the t-shirt and bathing suit on with a speed that would have impressed an efficiency expert, and hurried back toward the living room, but Julia was already gone.