Tuesday, October 31

Chapters Nine and Ten

Chapter Nine

They woke a couple hours later, silently and sleepily making love until they shuddered against each other and then fell asleep again, with him still inside her. When the morning light began to seep through the bedroom window, Jordan’s eyes fluttered open. Still nestled closely against him, she let the haze of sleep clear. His leg was thrown comfortably over her lower half, an arm curled around her with his hand cupping her breast. It was so natural and intimate that she had to remind herself that this was a person she had just met the day before. I’ve known him less than 24 hours. How did I end up here?

Well, that and the fact that he was, well … who he was. She wasn’t sure which aspect of the situation was more unsettling.

Realizing she wasn’t going back to sleep, and that the call of nature was getting louder, she eased from his arms and padded to the bathroom.

The image in the mirror startled her somewhat. Her hair was wild and tangled, her lips dark red and even a little bruised, and she flushed when she saw the hickey on the inner curve of her shoulder. She reeked of sex and wasn’t sure how she felt about it. She was definitely no prude and had always been comfortable with her sexuality, but never before had it appeared so evident to her. The person looking back at her in the mirror was far from the person who met with million-dollar donors and CEO’s of major corporations. She smiled, thinking that, truth be told, a lot of those CEO’s would love to see this side of her.

She tried to finger-comb her hair but it was far too much of a mess. Then, taking into consideration who was lying in the other room, she opened the toiletry case sitting on the counter and sure enough, found a brush nestled inside. After some amount of work she managed to tame her tresses a bit. She splashed some water on her face and opened the complimentary bottle of mouthwash, swishing the minty liquid in her mouth and spitting it in the sink.

Now what? She took one of the plush robes from the hook by the shower, slipped it on and opened the door, stepping quietly back into the room. She watched him sleep; he’d kicked off the comforter and lay naked on his stomach, his arms encircling the pillow. She smiled softly to herself. It was probably one of the sexiest sights she’d ever seen—the bed head that was as bad or worse than hers, the light growth of stubble forming on his face, the hint of a smile at his lips, the finely toned body … not to mention his bare ass. She felt the early stirrings of desire beginning again and shook her head in disbelief.

“What are you looking at?” His voice startled her and he laughed quietly. He opened his eyes and smiled. “Enjoying the view?”

“I…uh… um…” she stammered. She felt a bit foolish at having been caught.

“What, you’re gonna get shy on me now?” He rolled over casually and she fought to keep her eyes on his rather than let them travel southward. “C’mere,” he said softly, patting the bed beside him. She moved to join him, folding her legs under her as she sat, leaning against him. He raised himself up on his elbow, resting his head in his hand and watching her. “Good morning.”

“Good morning,” she smiled back. She fought the impulse to reach out and run her fingers through his tousled hair. Suddenly she was a little afraid to touch him. “How’d you sleep?”

He groaned satisfactorily. “Like a dead man, I think. Thanks to you.” He moved his hips against her sexily. “And you?”

She flushed. “Ditto. I don’t know if I could have moved if there was a fire.” She laughed lightly then, sighing.

“Damned straight you couldn’t.” He grinned at her and she reached over him, swatting his ass. “Ooh. I like that. But can we save the spankings until after we have some coffee?”

She laughed, shaking her head. “You are incorrigible.”

He grinned back. “You had no complaints last night.”

She leaned in closely, as if to kiss him, then whispered in his ear. “Neither did you, as I recall.”

He reached up and pulled her down beside him, pressing against her and growling in her ear. “I’m tempted to give you your spanking right now, woman.” Then he released her. “But I gotta pee.” He winked at her then rose from the bed, and this time she let herself watch him without embarrassment as he crossed the room.

She lifted herself from the bed and walked to the window, pulling the drapes aside to survey the scene outside. It was still cloudy and gray but the snow had stopped falling some time during the night. Snowplows were out in force along Michigan Avenue and a few hardy souls were out with snow shovels already.

She was lost in thought when he moved up behind her, lifting her hair to kiss her lightly on the nape of her neck. He wrapped his arms around her waist and rested his chin on her shoulder. “So what’s the damage out there?”

“Looks like a couple feet. Was it supposed to be that bad?”

“I don’t know. At least the wind hasn’t kicked in to make it worse,” he said.

“So do you suppose this means we’re stranded here a little longer?” she asked, not sure how she felt about what the day might hold. “I guess we should call the airline or turn on the news or something…” her voice trailed off. She wasn’t ready to deal with reality yet, and she was somewhat embarrassed to admit it, even to herself.

He turned her to face him. “Probably a good idea,” he answered, without conviction. He pulled at the belt on her robe, letting it fall open, and then slid his hands inside. He pulled her to him and planted a minty-fresh kiss on her lips. She felt the beginnings of an erection stirring and she couldn’t help but smile. “Well, Someone’s awake now.”

“What can I say? I like what I like.” He stepped back, letting his eyes scan her up and down, and noticed the mark on her shoulder. “Oops. Looks like I got a little carried away there. Sorry about that,” he said, his fingers lightly touching where his mouth had branded her. He couldn’t help but feel a little bit of pleasure, though. He liked that he’d left a telltale sign of their passion. He was about to kiss her again when there was a knock on the door.

“Room service,” a voice announced.

“There’s a phone in the bathroom,” he said, answering her before she could ask the question. He pulled her to him quickly and bit her lightly on the neck, growling softly against her skin before pulling her robe shut. “Now where the hell are my pants?”

He found them lying half beneath the bed and smiled. He pulled the jeans on, grimacing as he tucked his semi-stiff penis inside. “I believe yours are in the other room. I’ll be sure to hide them before I let him in.” He grinned again, pulling the bedroom door shut behind him.

Minutes later they were sitting, sipping steaming cups of coffee. She laughed as she surveyed the spread in front of them… a basket of pastries, an assortment of fruit, a Belgian waffle, some scrambled eggs and a plate of bacon and sausage. They had freshly-squeezed juice, yogurt and granola, as well as a bottle of champagne on ice. “Are we expecting company?”

“I wasn’t sure what you liked,” he grinned, shrugging. “They have a great breakfast buffet so I told them just to bring up an assortment of stuff. Besides… I think we burned some serious calories last night. I don’t know about you, but I worked up an appetite.”

She felt her stomach flutter at his reference to their sexcapade. Without the influence of alcohol, her awareness of his unabashed sexiness what more acute than ever in the light of the morning. No longer was she seeing the rock star; instead she saw a man completely at ease being himself—a man comfortable with his sexuality but who saw it for nothing more or nothing less than just a part of who he was. He showed no discomfort with the situation.

She, on the other hand, was trying to sort out her own emotions. In addition to admitting the complete wantonness of her actions, she was faced with a “morning after” that she’d never encountered before. All of this in addition to the fact that he wasn’t just some guy she’d met in a bar, and they both had to return to their real lives before the end of the day. From what she could tell, none of this concerned him. But then again, she had to admit that such occasions probably weren’t as foreign to him as they were to her.

He watched her, wondering what was going on behind the green eyes. He couldn’t help but pick up on the fact that she was holding some part of herself in check, and he was surprised that it bothered him a little. She’s probably thinking more clearly than you are. He pushed the thought away as quickly as it entered his mind. He wasn’t going to listen to that voice quite yet. As long as it was just the two of them, he was going to make the most of every moment.

“So,” he said, breaking the silence that was threatening to become uncomfortable. He reached for the champagne bottle. “What looks good? Besides the obvious?” He winked at her again, coaxing a laugh out of her.

She took another sip of coffee, enjoying its richness and warmth. “You’re feeling especially cocky today, aren’t you?”

He nodded, trying to appear serious as he poured the champagne into the flutes, followed by some of the orange juice. “Yes, I am. I rather enjoyed hearing you cry out my name,” he paused and looked slyly at her. “More than once, if I’m not mistaken.”

She tried to ignore the warmth spreading across her face. “I’d think you’d be used to women screaming out your name after all these years.”

“Yeah, you’d think so, wouldn’t you?” He picked up the glasses and handed her one, waiting until she raised it to her lips. “But most of them don’t have their legs wrapped around me at the time.”

She choked, almost spitting the mimosa back into the glass. He smiled satisfactorily and took a drink from his own glass, reaching for a slice of bacon.

Their eyes met and he felt some of her reserve melting away. She smiled, shaking her head. “So I enjoyed myself. What’s wrong with that?”

“Absolutely nothing,” he said, some of the laughter leaving his eyes. “You’re alive with passion, Jordan. Don’t feel the need to suppress that or apologize for it.”

“I don’t, really. But…” she paused. But what? She couldn’t tell him that he brought something out in her that she hadn’t felt in a long time. What would be the point?

“But what?” he held out the plate of fruit and she took a strawberry.

“Oh, nothing,” she took a bite of the strawberry, buying time while she thought of something to say. She knew he wouldn’t let her get away with not finishing the sentence. “It’s just that not everyone is privy to this side of me,” she finally managed.

He nodded, although he suspected that wasn’t what she was originally going to say. “Well, for the record … not many people have seen this side of me, either.”

“Please. You don’t have to pretend that I’m that special. I’m far from a naïve schoolgirl.” She took piece of bacon herself.

“I know that, and I’m not claiming to be any kind of angel. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a time when I—we—ran a lot of girls through our hotel rooms,” he scooped some eggs onto his plate, picking the green peppers out with his fork. “But they never woke up in my bed or had breakfast with me the next day.”

He raised his eyes to hers, accentuating his point. “And I damned sure didn’t care if they called out my name.”

She felt that now-too-familiar flutter in her stomach as she opened her mouth to reply and then closed it again, choosing instead to take her fork and spear the bits of green pepper from his plate. Not many people could render her speechless but he had it down in spades.

“Look, you know I didn’t set out to seduce you. And I know you didn’t set out to seduce me. It just happened. And since I’m being so frank here,” he stopped himself, realizing maybe he was going too far.

She watched as he drained the last of the mimosa in his glass and suddenly became very interested in the basket of breads. He selected a large blueberry muffin, breaking off the top and popping part of it in his mouth.

She didn’t push him to finish his thought. In a way she was afraid of what he was going to say, and unsure as to what she hoped he might say. So instead she stayed silent, watching as he struggled to decide whether or not to tell her what he was thinking. For the first time since she’d met him, he seemed a little unsure of himself and she found it both comforting and a little disconcerting.

She was a little surprised when her heart jumped a little as his blue eyes finally came back to rest on her. He sighed, a hand slowly stroking the stubble on his face. “Part of me would like nothing more than to learn that the airport is still shut down,” he said. “So we have no choice but to stay here all day, and…” he smiled slightly then, letting the thought linger.
“Fuck our brains out?” She finished the sentence for him, not blinking.

He grinned. “Well, there are worse ways to pass the time. And hanging out in a crowded airport with a few thousand other delayed passengers is at the top of that list. I’m not going to make my meeting anyway.” He poured some more coffee into their cups and held hers out for her.

“All valid points,” she said, returning his smile and taking the cup from him. It also meant there was no reason for him to go on to Denver, she admitted to herself.

“And be honest… are you in any more of a rush to get home now than you were last night?”

Even less, she thought. “Don’t you think we should at least check in with… people?”

“Sure. You check in with your people, I’ll check in with mine, we’ll take a shower” he paused, taking a sip from his cup. “Then we’ll get all sweaty again.”

Chapter Ten

They turned the television on to WGN while they finished their breakfast. Reports were that the airport was scheduled to resume flights later in the afternoon, but that it would be the next day before things were running on time—if that—and that passengers should expect lengthy delays. The phrase “no unnecessary travel” was being mentioned frequently.

Their eyes met across the table and he smiled softly. “Well there’s our answer.”

She nodded slowly. “Yep. Snowbound in Chicago. Sounds like a movie.” She rolled her eyes at the lameness of her humor.

He grinned. “Yeah, well… snowbound at the Drake isn’t exactly a hardship.” In fact I couldn’t have written this better if I’d tried. “Why not take advantage of it?”

She smiled. “I have no doubt we’ll do just that.” The idea of spending the entire day hidden away with him certainly had its appeal, even if it was postponing the inevitable. “So did you see my jeans anywhere?”

“Maybe. But I kind of like you in that robe. Easy access.”

She felt the rush through her veins again. Damn him. She wondered if he realized just how much power he had over her. Probably. Hell, it’s what the guy did for a living…hold women in the palm of his hand. Instantly her thoughts flashed back to the night before, and she smiled as she replayed scenes in her mind.

“Access doesn’t seem to be a big problem for you,” she teased. “As I recall, it took you no time at all to get my jeans off.”

He burst out laughing. “Are you kidding? It took me all night.”

“Well, I meant once I was in the room with you,” she grinned.

“I know what you meant. But hell… by the time you got in here we were both so ready to explode you’re lucky I didn’t tear your clothes off.” Just thinking about it made the blood rush to his groin. He took a final sip of coffee and then stood and walked to the chair behind the desk in the room, where he had hidden her jeans before letting the room service waiter in earlier. He tossed them to her, grinning. “I think the rest is in the bedroom. What little there was, anyway.”
She stood, shaking her head in mock offense. “I have a good mind to spend the day in my room by myself reading the newspaper and watching bad movies on TV.”

“The hell you do,” he moved to her, wrapping an arm around her and pulling her close to whisper in her ear. “Now go make your fucking phone calls so I can take advantage of you again.”

Jordan gathered her nightshirt and then snuck across the hallway to let herself in her room, feeling almost like a guilty schoolgirl sneaking in the house before her parents woke.

She brushed her teeth while looking out over the lake. Snow was beginning to fall lightly as the snow removal vehicles continued their chore along the roadways. She realized she needed to at least call the airline and get some idea of when she could expect to get a flight home.

She pulled her phone out of her purse and turned it on. There were four messages—one from her office, one from Tina and two from David. Everyone basically checking to see if she was okay and when she’d be home, although David’s messages were a little more strained.
If you’re not going to call me back at least let me know you’re okay. It’s not what you think it is, really. I love you. Please call me. Please come home.

She sighed. Somehow he was going to manage to make her the bad guy here, she could tell. She couldn’t help but wonder if her behavior the night before wasn’t partly retaliatory.
Whatever. Truth be told, it was worth it.

She dialed the airline first, and after several minutes on hold was told that they could possibly get her on a flight out at 8:30 that night but were reasonably confident that the noon flight the next day would be leaving on time. She had them rebook her on the latter, then called down to the front desk to extend her stay another night.

She called her office next, leaving a voice mail for Beth, her boss, letting her know what was up and promising to keep her updated. She hung up and lay back on the bed, debating the next call. She supposed she should feel a little guilty about what she’d done but oddly enough, the emotions wouldn’t come. She was still a little too high from it all to feel bad about it.

She took a breath and hit a speed dial number. The voice that answered sounded worried. “Jordan, thank God. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine; I just got snowed in in Chicago.”

“Really? You’re okay?” Tina sounded unsure. “Have you talked to David?”

“No, I’m not really ready for that. And to be honest I don’t even know what to say at this point.” She heard a knock at the door and rose from the bed. “Will you do me a favor though, and call him just to let him know I’m okay?” She walked to the door and opened it, finding Jon on the other side. She let him in, motioning for him to stay silent and he nodded.

Tina sighed. “Of course I can. Not that he deserves it. But for you, I will. What do you want me to tell him if he asks where you are or what you’re doing?”

Jordan looked at the man she’d spent her lustful night with—and with whom she was planning on spending another lustful day—and smiled. “Tell him I’m holed up in a hotel room with a rock star.” Jon cocked an eyebrow at her and grinned.

Tina laughed. “Okay, I like that. But seriously, Jordan, he’d better not try to give me any excuses or I’ll rip him a new one.”

Jon came up behind her, wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling her neck.

“Please don’t,” Jordan answered, trying not to let the laughter escape her lips. “I’ll deal with it when I deal with it. But I appreciate the thought.” She felt his hand sneaking in the front of her robe, teasing her nipple, and elbowed him. He laughed quietly in her ear.

“Jordan… what’s going on?” A tinge of suspicion could be heard in Tina’s voice.

“Nothing; I’m just going to enjoy a day off, that’s all. Really, Tina, I’m just not that sad. I think it’s been coming for a long time. I just wasn’t ready to admit it. I’m going to take the day to do some…” she paused, watching as he walked to the bathroom and turned on the shower. “Introspection.”

“Okay. As long as you’re all right. Call if you need anything.” Tina seemed pacified, for the moment at least.

“Thanks sweetie. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” Jordan hung up and tossed the phone on the bed. Looking up, she saw his jeans lying on the bathroom floor. She walked into the bathroom, undid her bathrobe and opened the shower door, stepping in with him.

He smiled sexily, pulling her to him and beneath the cascading water. “Introspection, huh?”

She wrapped her arms around him, bringing a hand up behind his head to pull his face closer to hers. “Yes. You’re helping me rediscover myself.”

His eyes sparkled. “Mmm. I like the way that sounds.”

“Do you?” She watched as he gave a slow, almost imperceptible nod. “I’m glad.” She kissed him lightly, teasingly, her tongue barely touching his.

He chuckled. “I am certainly up for a little exploration, myself.” He pulled her closer, his mouth more demanding on hers as her hands tangled in his wet hair. They stood under the water, kissing voraciously for several minutes before coming up for air.

“Well this is fun,” she murmured, reaching for the shampoo. She rubbed it into a lather between the palms of her hands, smiling seductively.
Talk about fulfilling a fantasy of millions…

He closed his eyes and let his head fall back as her fingers massaged his scalp. It felt luxurious and oddly decadent, given the other things they’d already done. When she took some of the lather and moved her hands down his torso to the patch of hair below his stomach, he groaned in appreciation. “My turn,” he said finally, taking the shampoo bottle from the ledge.

The room filled with steam as they soaped, fondled and teased each other. Eventually their play became more serious, desire overtaking them. He pressed her against the shower wall, lifting her in his arms as he entered her, her legs encircling his waist and her mouth hot on his. He drove into her until she once again cried out his name and her tremors made her cling even more tightly to him. He breathed heavily in her ear. “God I love that.”

“What?” she panted, as her orgasm slowly subsided.

“I love the way it feels when you come on my…” he paused, deciding to choose less graphic words. “When you come with me inside you.”

She sighed, still shaking in his arms. “I love the way you make me come with your… when you’re inside me.” She contracted her muscles then, setting off a second wave that caught her by surprise. He moaned and began pumping into her again until his own climax overtook him. He gasped, throwing his head back and letting the water rain down upon them.

Slowly they disengaged, their hearts pounding and legs shaking. They stood that way under the shower for some time, kissing and laughing lightly. She was the first to speak.

“That’s my idea of a morning workout.”

“No shit. This is much better than the hotel gym,” he grinned, turning off the shower as she opened the door to retrieve their towels.

He lie naked on the bed, the sheet casually pulled across him as he watched her slip the robe over her shoulders and then proceed to comb the tangles out of her hair. “So what’s next? I’m definitely liking this whole introspection thing.” He flashed that beautiful smile at her and she couldn’t help but laugh.

“Well I was thinking as soon as I’m done here we could go again.”

“Jesus woman… you ARE trying to kill me,” he laughed, shaking his head. “I’m forty-four years old. You gotta give me a little recovery time.”

“Well you have only yourself to blame. You brought this beast out in me, mister.” She walked to the bed, sitting beside him. “So you’d better be prepared to tame it.”

He nodded as if in deep thought. I can’t believe what’s-his-name was willing to fuck up such a good thing. “Well, I don’t expect I can tame it but I’m damned sure willing to strap myself on for the ride.” He reached up to grab the collar of the robe, pulling her to him and pressing his lips to hers. “However, you are going to have to wait a little while for me to become fully operational again. But in the meantime…”

She let him pull her down beside him, his hands undoing the belt on the robe. “In the meantime what?”

“In the meantime I hope you don’t mind a little whisker burn on your thighs.” He licked his lips in anticipation and she laughed.

“Well, if you insist…”

Some fifteen minutes later she lay in his arms, languid and spent. It occurred to her that she’d come more with him in the past several hours than she had with David in the past several months.
You’d better get your fill, girl. Because tomorrow you turn back into a pumpkin.

His own mind was wandering as well. The rush he was feeling from the warm body curled against him was disconcerting. A one night stand was one thing, but this…

He was surprised at the odd sense of satisfaction he felt at being able to bring her to such ecstasy. Even more, he was surprised at the sense of jealousy he felt for the man who had placed the diamond on her finger but, from what he could tell, whose name had never passed her lips in the throes of orgasm. He loved the taste of her on his tongue and the way her body responded to his every touch…and he loved that the last man to have her wasn’t able to do for her what he himself could. He wanted to do it again and again. And again. What the hell was he thinking?

Knowing what we’re doing’s wrong but better left unsaid.

He drifted off to sleep, only to awaken to the feel of her mouth on him. He lay silently, his eyes closed as she fellated him slowly and he grew hard in her mouth. Gradually she increased her intensity, bringing him fully awake with longing. Groaning, he sat up, reaching down to stop her before he came. She removed her mouth long enough to look lustfully into his eyes, then placed a hand on his chest, gently pushing him back against the pillows. He sighed, watching her for a few moments then letting his eyes close and losing himself in the sensation. Finally he could hold back no longer, his hands clutching at the bed beneath him. “Baby… I’m gonna… damn… Christ, Jordan!”

She kept her mouth on him until he went soft again, drinking him like he’d drunk her. She felt his hand twining in her hair and lay her head on his thigh. Her own heart was racing and she felt the wetness between her thighs growing. Wow.

“Get the hell up here, girl.” He reached down to pull her to him, looking into her eyes and running a thumb across her swollen lips. He kissed her, tasting himself slightly as well. He wrapped his arms around her and she rested her head on his chest, feeling his heart pound.

The words of Johnny Cash echoed in his mind as he stroked her hair.

I fell in to a burning ring of fire.
I went down, down, down
And the flames went higher.

To next section...

Saturday, October 28

Chapter Eight

They stood that way for a few moments, his desire for her growing—in more ways than one—while she caught her breath. His hands stroked her back, his fingertips luxuriating in the feel of the silk beneath them.

She let her own fingers explore him, up his arms and across his shoulders. His skin was hot to the touch, and when she ran her nails lightly down his spine and along his waist at the top of his jeans, he responded with an almost inaudible groan.

She smiled. “Well, I got what I came for. I’ll just be going now,” she teased, making move as if to pull away from him.

“The hell you will,” he said thickly, pulling her more tightly against him. “I am far from done with you.”

She tilted her head back to look up into his eyes. “No?”

“Not even close.” The eyes were dark with longing.

She licked her lips. “Thank Heavens.” Her hands wandered leisurely down his back and over outside of his jeans, pausing to give a slight squeeze with both hands. She sighed. “God, I’ve been wanting to do that all night.”

He smiled sexily, reaching down to swat her ass lightly. “It’s about fucking time.” He kissed her again, delicately, and then pulled away, taking her by the hand and leading her to the bedroom.
She found herself trembling again as he slowly undid the buttons on her nightshirt, letting it fall open. She felt her breath catch in her throat as his eyes scanned her nakedness.

No longer patient, he pulled her to him, anxious to feel the heat of her skin against his. They kissed voraciously, her fingers tangled in his hair as his hands explored the smoothness of her body. She felt his hardness straining against his jeans as he pulled his lips from hers, his mouth moving slowly, hungrily, down her neck to bite lightly at the curve of her shoulder. His breath hot against her, his lips slowly brushed the nipple of one breast as a hand closed on the other, eliciting a small gasp from her.

Slowly he worked his way down her body, his mouth like fire as his lips traced along her stomach to kiss lightly below her waistline. Her legs grew weak and his hands gripped her waist, steadying her.

Languidly he moved back up her body, savoring the taste of her beneath his tongue. When his mouth reached hers, she devoured him, insistent and impatient. She reached down to feel his hardness through his jeans, rubbing her hand up and down against him. He pulled back, smiling seductively. “You’re such a tease.”

She leaned in to bite his lower lip gently. “Oh, I’m done teasing,” she whispered, undoing the buttons on his jeans. Carefully she peeled them off, avoiding direct contact with the part of him that was craving it the most. She rose to kiss him again, as her hand closed around his erection. He breathed heavily in her ear as she gently stroked him. Her mouth began to water and she knew she couldn’t wait any longer.

She moved easily down his body, inhaling his scent. On her knees in front of him, she planted a trail of kisses along the top of his thighs, her tongue moving so languorously it was almost torture.

Finally he felt the warmth and moistness of her breath, and his cock leapt in anticipation. Then her mouth was on him, warm, wet and inviting … the mouth he’d been fantasizing about all night long. Her tongue danced across the slit at the tip, down the side and back up to swirl around the head. He watched her for a few moments and then closed his eyes, letting his head fall back as he reveled in the sensation. His lips parted slightly, his breathing heavy.

She moved her mouth slowly along the smoothness of his skin, relishing the feel and taste of him on her tongue. She felt a hand twining in her hair and found herself unsuccessfully trying to stifle her own moan of pleasure. She brought one hand up to play in the small trail of hair on his stomach while the other moved in tandem with her mouth and caressed his scrotum lightly. She alternated between stroking and sucking, occasionally taking him deep into her throat and delighting at the groan she elicited from him.

Finally he forced himself to push her away, tempted as he was to give in to desire and explode in her mouth. As good as that sounded, he didn’t want to come so soon. More importantly, he was aching to bury himself deep inside her. He pulled her up and kissed her forcefully, enjoying the increased swell of her lips and the reason behind it.

She pulled back, grinning flirtatiously. “You liked that, didn’t you?”

He chuckled at the look of satisfaction on her face. “You know damned well I did,” he replied, letting his gaze fall and enjoying the view. He ran the back of his hand down across her stomach and across the light patch of hair at the V of her legs, then slowly brought it back up, his eyes smoldering. “But so did you.”

She swallowed, feeling the blood rush to her face. “Does that surprise you?”

“Not really. But it’s still sexy as hell.” He kissed her again, softly this time. He slid the nightshirt off her shoulders and eased her back slowly until her legs were touching the bed. “And now it’s my turn.” He paused to pull down the comforter on the bed and then gave her a slight push, causing her to fall back onto the sheets. He crawled up with her, easing a knee between her legs as his lips found hers. His hand traveled down her side, along the length of her body and up her bent knee.

She wrapped her arms around him, feasting upon his masculinity. Her fingers canvassed the hardness of his torso as she explored every inch of him, amazed at the intensity of the passion seeping from her. She was dizzy with longing. She felt goosebumps rise on her flesh as his fingers played upon her skin, her hips involuntarily rising, reaching out for him.

Leisurely he worked his way down her body, his mouth perusing the silkiness of her skin. She felt as if she were melting under his tongue, dissolving into a liquid pool of desire. Yet she was keenly aware of his every touch—his hands, his mouth, his body against hers.

The taste of her skin on his tongue intensified his hunger for her and he brought his mouth back to hers, rapaciously. Her ardor matched his as their mutual need overwhelmed them and she whispered his name.

Slowly his lips trailed down her throat and between her breasts, and she arched her back as his mouth grazed across the flatness of her stomach. He moved between her legs and kissed her inner thigh softly. He looked up at her, smiling slyly, and then bit her lightly in the same place. She felt a tremor pass through her body as the reality of the moment hit her.

He dipped his head then, and she felt his breath on her, releasing a delicious fire that raced through her veins. He paused, letting the anticipation build and her lust for him deepen. Finally he lowered his mouth and let himself taste her, languidly and expertly, letting her moans guide him. His tongue worked circles on her clitoris as he eased a finger inside, pressing against her g-spot. Her wetness was like a nectar to him then, an intoxicating mixture of salty tinged with sweetness. He’d forgotten how women tasted different from each other.

He hadn’t forgotten, however, the rush he got from going down on a woman and the power he felt at having her open herself up in the most intimate and vulnerable of ways. Few things were a bigger turn-on.

She clutched at the sheet beneath her, her heart pounding and her mind foggy with yearning. She felt her orgasm approaching, then the feeling would subside, like a frightened animal afraid to leave its lair. Still he persisted, his mouth and fingers playing her as effortlessly as he played his guitar.

He felt her muscles clenching as he moved his finger within her walls, and his erection throbbed between his legs. He withdrew his finger and she cried out softly, only to sigh lustfully when he began to lightly fuck her with his tongue. He could feel the tremors building and moved his tongue back to manipulate her clit, penetrating her once again with his finger. He delighted in the fact that she was giving herself up to him completely, tempestuously.

It happened then, her hips rising from the bed as he drank her—literally. Her spasms came in waves and suddenly her hands were at his shoulders, pulling him up in desperation. He swallowed the last of what was on his tongue and allowed her to pull his mouth to hers, letting her taste herself on his lips.

He pulled back slightly, teasing, the head of his cock pulsating at her entrance. His eyes were dark with desire and his voice husky. “Now say it.”

She panted beneath him. “I need you. God do I need you.”

He smiled wickedly, dying to sink himself into her but savoring the moment for just a bit longer. “What do you need?”

“Dammit,” she growled impatiently. “You want me to say it? I need to feel you inside me. Now.”

He had every intention of easing in slowly but as soon as he heard the words, he found himself plunging without restraint, catching his breath as she enveloped him. She wrapped herself around him, holding him still for a moment. Then they began to move together, starting slowly but soon giving in to their pent-up desire as it became fast and furious. The sheets were soon drenched beneath them, their bodies slick with perspiration and passion.

They slowed for a moment, clinging to each other while they caught their breath, both sitting upright, with her on top, her legs wrapped around him. He sighed and closed his eyes, leaning his head back and shaking the hair from his face. A bead of sweat trickled down his temple, across his jaw and down his neck. Impulsively she leaned in, catching it with her tongue. It was a purely prurient move that sent shivers down his spine and reminded him of a song he’d written years before.

I wanna taste the sweat that’s running off of your body…

His hands slid up and down the slickness of her skin, grinding her hips against his groin as he groaned in pleasure. He pulled her closer, sucking and then biting at her shoulder, wanting to brand her with his mark.

She began contracting the muscles of her vagina, squeezing and releasing his cock. He growled under his breath. “Damn, woman…what are you doing to me?”

She smiled and then kissed him softly, her tongue teasing at his mouth, all the while continuing the sweet torture on his dick. Finally he could take it no longer, and swiftly flipped her until she was lying beneath him once more. He withdrew, pulling her roughly to the edge of the bed. He stood and entered her again, finally giving in to the animal wantonness he’d been suppressing all night. He drove into her with a blinding passion, until he felt the pressure building. He felt her coming, the pulsations of her orgasm pushing him over the edge as he gave in to the sweet release. It was long and intense and he collapsed against her, his voice muffled in her hair. “Oh, God, Jordan. Sweet Jesus. Fuck,” he panted in her ear and swallowed hard. “Holy shit.”

The feel of him growing soft inside her caused the little aftershocks of her orgasm to sweep through her body again, making him groan in a mix of pleasure and pain. Slowly he pulled out, his semen spilling out of her onto the already soaked sheet beneath them. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d come that hard. He smoothed her hair back, smiling as he kissed her.

They moved up to the top of the bed and pulled the comforter over them, their hearts still pounding. She wanted to say something but found she had no energy to even speak. Instead she let him curl himself around her, kissing the fingertips that intertwined with hers.

Thank heavens for that snowstorm, she thought before falling blissfully asleep.

To next section...

Thursday, October 26

Chapter Seven

Almost in a daze, Jordan dropped some ice into a glass and followed it with some of the bottled water. She decided maybe his advice about the hot bath might be good, and walked in to the bathroom to turn the on the water. She was trembling as she brought the glass to her mouth and sat on the tub to steady herself.

What the hell just happened? Are you nuts? She watched the steam rise and took another gulp of her water.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Across the hall, Jon stood looking out his own window. He took a deep breath and blew it out his mouth. Probably for the best, he thought. No need to go asking for trouble just because you have a hard on. He shook his head, smiling to himself. If only it were just a hard on. He had wanted her more than he’d wanted anyone in a long time—if only because he let himself get drawn into it.

“Fuck,” he said out loud. He pulled a beer out of the minibar, opened it, and tossed the cap on the dresser, watching as it skittered across the polished wood. He took a long swig and ran his hand through his hair. He sure as shit wasn’t going to sleep now, he knew that much. He wished he had his guitar with him but no such luck. “Fuck,” he said again. He walked into the bathroom, opened the glass door to the shower and turned it on. He stripped off his clothes and stepped in, taking his beer with him.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Jordan sank into the tub and leaned back, trying to quell the ache inside her. She closed her eyes and willed herself to think of something else, but flashes of the evening dominated her thoughts.

The smile across the bar …
… the touch of his hand on her elbow
… the blue eyes that felt as if they were penetrating her very soul
… the way his shirt molded his every muscle and made her fingers ache
… the heat that rushed through her when he smiled
… the feel of his lips on her throat and his breath on her skin…

She’d almost forgotten what it felt like: true, unbridled desire for someone else. She had decided that it was something very rare and had come to accept that she might live the rest of her life without experiencing it again. Until tonight.

She decided that the heat of the bath was not doing anything to relax her—indeed it was probably making things worse. She reached to release the drain and stepped out of the tub, pulling the fluffy towel from the bar and wrapping herself in it. She dried off and smoothed some lotion on, wondering how on earth she was going to get to sleep.

She heard another Jersey boy on the radio as she pulled a white silk nightshirt over her head. She unwrapped one of the chocolate squares left on her pillow as she listened, unbelievably, to the words.

Hey little girl is your daddy home
Did he go and leave you all alone
I got a bad desire

I'm on fire
Tell me now baby is he good to you
Can he do to you the things that I do

I can take you higher
I'm on fire
Sometimes it's like someone took a knife baby
edgy and dull
and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my soul
At night I wake up with the sheets soaking wet

and a freight train running through the middle of my head
only you can cool my desire...

She couldn’t ignore the wetness growing between her legs. She considered letting her fingers seek the release but she knew that wasn’t what she wanted. Not tonight. She grabbed a pair of jeans from her suitcase.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

He was sitting on the bed, surfing through the channels on the television when he heard the quiet knock on his door. He turned the TV off, setting the remote on the bed stand as he stood.

She was about to lose her nerve when he opened the door. The sight of him, wearing jeans with no shirt and barefoot, made her heart pound more than it already was.

“Hi,” she said simply.

His eyes took it all in. Her standing in front of him, still flush from her bath. Her hair was gathered loosely on top of her head and the nightshirt tucked haphazardly into her jeans. The thin silk clung to the dampness of her body and he could see the swell of her breasts, her nipples hard and begging for his touch.
Jesus woman, are you trying to kill me?

“Can I come in for a minute?” she asked. He found his voice stuck in his throat, so he just nodded and stepped aside, motioning her in.

They stood there in silence for a moment. Finally she gathered the courage to speak. “You know what I said about not wanting to wake up tomorrow regretting something we did?”

He nodded again slowly, his eyes never wavering from hers.

She looked down at the floor and swallowed. “Well, there’s just one thing that I can’t help thinking.”

He watched as she slowly raised her eyes to meet his, and when she did any shred of doubt was gone from them.

“I’m actually more afraid of waking up tomorrow regretting something I didn’t do.” She fought the urge to let her eyes travel down his body again, deciding it was better to hold his gaze and see what happened next.

His eyes were serious and his mouth showed only a hint of a smile. “Are you sure?” He moved closer then, closing the gap between them. “Because this time I’m not taking no for an answer.”

She nodded. “Absolutely,” she muttered, her voice thick with desire.

“All right then,” he said quietly, hooking his fingers in the waistline of her jeans and pulling her to him. “Come here.”

Then his mouth was on hers, hungry and demanding. She opened her lips to accept his tongue, and they tasted each other, the mix of chocolate and beer adding to the intoxication they were already both feeling. She brought one hand to his chest, the other finding its way into the thickness of his hair. He tugged at her nightshirt, pulling it loose and running a hand inside, up across her back. He reached up to release the comb that held her hair, letting it cascade down around her face. He grabbed a fistful and gently pulled her head back, his tongue making a trail down her throat. He brought his mouth back up to hers, pushing her against the wall. He pressed against her, pulling her arms above her head, his eyes steady on hers. Holding her wrists with one hand, he brought the other hand down to her mouth, running his fingers lightly across her lips and then down slowly to the valley between her breasts. He kissed her again, slowly and deliberately, then moved to breathe seductively in her ear.

“Say it,” he whispered, his hand brushing lightly across the outside of the silk and over the hardness of her nipples.

She gasped, swallowing hard. “What?”

“Tell me you want me.” He smiled wickedly, and she could hear it in his voice. “No… tell me you need me.”

She felt as if she could spontaneously combust at any moment. She wanted to toy with him but had no will. “Please.”

He chuckled. “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that.”

“Dammit, Jon. Yes. Please. Now.” She squirmed beneath him, dying to wrap her arms around him, but he wouldn’t release her.

“Well I guess that will do. For now.” His hand snuck under the nightshirt, cupping her breast. His mouth found hers again and she was relieved when he slid a leg between hers, helping to steady her, as she wasn’t sure how much longer she could stand on her own.

His hand slid down her side, so slowly it was almost painful. His fingers found the button on her jeans, and then lowered the zipper. She was shaking visibly now, and as badly as he wanted her, he was savoring every moment of the seduction. He wanted her desperate for him.

She moved her hips to help him lower her jeans, as the hem of the nightshirt fell below her waist. “Promise me you won’t move if I let go of your arms,” he said huskily. “Promise.” She nodded breathlessly, not knowing if she could keep from touching him if her hands were free to do so.

He released her arms and bent to pull her jeans all the way off. Quivering, she stepped out of them. He stood back up slowly, his fingers tracing the outside of her thighs until his hands were at her waist. “Good girl,” he purred. “No panties. I like that.”

He brought his mouth back to hers, and as soon as her arms came to encircle his shoulders he pulled back. “Ah ah ah,” he scolded, and then smiled. “What the hell.” She pulled him back to her, drinking him in.

His hand found its way to the warmth between her legs. “God, Jordan,” he whispered, discovering her wetness. He felt her trembling as she wrapped one leg around his waist. “You’re beautiful; you know that, right?” As he said it, he slipped a finger inside her and felt the muscles contract. His cock jumped, and he breathed heavily in her ear. “Easy, baby. We have all night.” He kissed her again, his tongue forcing its way between her lips as he slowly withdrew his finger and then slid it back inside.

She came with a shudder, crying out in surprise. It was sudden and intense, and she threw her head back, eyes closed and lips parted. He watched her, pressing his hand against her as the convulsions subsided. Finally she melted against him, gasping as he pulled his hand away. He looked in her eyes, noting the slight tears forming. “Shhhh. It’s okay,” he said, kissing her cheek.

“Wow,” she managed, shakily.

“No shit,” he said, smoothing her hair back. “I told you, we have all night.” She nodded wordlessly, resting her head against his chest. Then she felt him chuckle.

“Saxophone my ass.”

To next section...

Sunday, October 22

Chapter Six

She hesitated. And then what?

He sensed her apprehension and withdrew his hand, letting the choker fall lightly against her throat and trying to ignore the fire he’d felt when he touched her. “What if I promise I’ll be good?”

Now that’s a promise. “Well,” she said softly. “Maybe just one drink. I could show you the view from my window.” Show you the view? How cliché.

“Sounds perfect.” He stepped back so she could turn to open the door. He was amazed at how intoxicated he felt—and not from the wine. It was her; of that much he was certain. The way she smiled, laughed, smelled … the confident way she held herself. And the fact that she was obviously trying to fight the electricity between them. He was enjoying the challenge—and he wasn’t sure how far he’d let it go before he stopped himself.

Jordan tossed the key card on the nightstand. “One slight problem with that whole nightcap idea … unless we want to raid the mini bar for tiny bottles of vodka.”

“Well that’s one problem I can solve,” he said, picking up the phone and hitting the number for room service. Less than 10 minutes later, they had two snifters of the hotel’s finest cognac, along with some bottled water and ice. He opened the entertainment armoire and turned on the Bose radio, hitting scan a few times. When he stopped, David Gray was singing “Sail Away.” He adjusted the volume and closed the doors to the armoire.

“Shall we,” Jordan said, motioning to the ornate loveseat by the window. He nodded, joining her. They clinked their glasses then sipped the golden liquid, feeling the smoothness as it flowed down their throats. She reached down to unzip her boots, pulling them off and crossing her legs beneath her. She vacillated between being totally comfortable with him and being incredibly uncomfortable with the sexual tension that was ever-present. The warmth of the cognac seemed to help balance the scales, however.

He leaned his head against the back of the loveseat, savoring the moment. He stretched his legs out in front of him and brought his hand to rest on her leg just above the knee. He was pleased when she didn’t pull away from him. He felt her eyes upon him and decided to wait a moment before meeting her gaze. He wasn’t sure what he wanted to happen or what he hoped to see in her eyes.

“So,” he began, without turning his head. “I don’t know about you, but I have really enjoyed myself this evening.” He turned to look at her then. “Thank you.”

She looked puzzled. “I think I should be the one thanking you—for dinner, for taking care of the hotel reservations… for getting me out of that airport,” she took another sip of the cognac, running her tongue lightly across her lips. “I don’t even want to think how miserable this night could have been.” She smiled then. “You really did rescue me tonight.”

His smile was soft and his eyes steady. “I’m glad. But in a way, you rescued me, too. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent bored to tears in hotel rooms away from home. Pretty soon they all start to look alike and you long for the opportunity to connect with someone for intelligent conversation, if nothing else.”

“You don’t take advantage of that time to write?”

“Sure, sometimes. But I still need inspiration,” the smile broadened. “Room service club sandwiches and hotel porn only go so far.”

She laughed, appreciating the levity of the moment. The fingers on her leg played lightly to the music. They sat that way silently for a few moments. She looked out the window, watching the lights along Lake Shore Drive reflected in Lake Michigan. “I told you I had a great view,” she said, turning back to smile at him.

“So do I,” he replied, his eyes not moving from her. Her breath caught in her throat and her lips parted silently, as the voice of Damien Rice filled the room.

And so it is

Just like you said it would be
Life goes easy on me
Most of the time
And so it is
The shorter story
No love, no glory
No hero in her skies
I can't take my eyes off of you
I can't take my eyes off of you…

She willed herself to look away and set her drink down. Standing up, she moved to the window, watching the traffic navigate the snowy roads below. Her mind was swimming with emotion. She felt him come up behind her, close but not touching. “Jordan,” he said, simply.

“I can’t believe it’s still snowing,” she spoke casually, trying to appear nonchalant.

“Jordan,” he repeated quietly. Then she felt his hands on her hips, turning her to face him. “Look at me.”

She raised her eyes to his, unable to speak. Suddenly she wanted nothing more than to kiss him, to taste his lips and luxuriate in feel of his skin against hers.

He felt her trembling and gently slid his hands up beneath the hem of her shirt, circling them around her waist and pulling her closer. She gasped at the feel of his touch on her bare skin. She tipped her head back slightly as he brought his mouth to her throat, his breath warm on her neck as he moved slowly up to speak seductively in her ear. “Did it ever occur to you that maybe there is a reason we were on that flight together? That maybe I need you tonight as much as you need me?”

His words echoed in her mind. Maybe I need you. She was almost drunk at the thought. But was she really prepared to become just another of Lord knows how many others before her? Not to mention the aspect of his life she wasn’t letting herself think about…

As if sensing her thoughts, he brought a hand to her face, his fingers pushing her hair back but remaining tangled within. “I already told you I don’t do things like this anymore. I’m as surprised by this as you are.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that,” she laughed shakily, suppressing the desire to pull him closer. “It’s just …”

“Just what?” The hand still at her waist slowly teased along her stomach, the back of his fingers lightly grazing her skin. “What are you afraid of?”

That once I get a taste of you it won’t be enough, for one thing. “I’m afraid of doing something tonight that we both may regret in the morning.”

He stepped back, and she almost cried out as he withdrew his touch. He looked down, taking her hand in his. He stood that way for a moment, not speaking.

Still reeling from the feel of him, she found herself wishing the glass of cognac were within reach. Part of her was dying to tell him to ignore what she’d just said…and dying to rip that shirt right off his body. She felt as if she truly had a devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other, and they were about to kick each other’s ass.

“Jon…I… it’s not that…” she struggled for words, not sure what she wanted to say. “It’s… I… Oh, fuck me.” she muttered in frustration.

He laughed softly then, looking at her. “Apparently that’s not an option.”

She joined him in laughter, almost crying from the mix of dismay and desire. He pulled her close again, kissing her temple.

“Listen,” his voice was husky but resigned. “I don’t want you having any doubts about anything. I want everything about tonight to be a great memory for you. Because I know it will be for me.” He ran his fingers lightly across the fullness of her lips and electricity shot from his fingertips directly to the throbbing in his jeans. “In fact, it already is.”

Instinctively her tongue touched her lips where his fingers had just been. She watched wordlessly as he brought her hand to his own lips and then lowered it slowly.

“You know, it’s not too late to run yourself that nice hot bath. I am pretty sure there are even candles in there,” he squeezed her hand. “And I’ll say goodnight.”
And jump in a nice cold shower myself.

She opened her mouth to speak and he shook his head. “Shh. Let me save a little dignity. This way I’m choosing to leave; you’re not kicking me out.”

She walked with him to the door. Turning the handle, he paused before pulling the door open. He leaned in closely to kiss her goodnight, averting his mouth so his kiss fell on her cheek. She was shocked at the profound emptiness she felt when he did so.

“I’ll see you in the morning,” he said, his voice almost a whisper. “Sweet dreams baby.”

To next section...

Tuesday, October 17

Chapters 4 & 5

Chapter Four

He navigated the airport quickly, with purpose and without acknowledging any of the attention he drew. Only once did his hand touch her arm, and she immediately understood to stay close but not too close. Whomever he’d spoken to earlier had given specific instructions as to which door to exit. There was a black sedan with tinted windows waiting for them. The driver opened the door for them and took their bags as they slid into the backseat. He closed the door, deposited their bags into the trunk and took his seat behind the wheel wordlessly.

The car was warm and WXRT was playing on the radio. They settled back for the slow ride into the city. Neither of them felt a need for conversation, feeling oddly comfortable with each other in the silence.

Jordan watched the snowfall out her window, listening to Natalie Merchant and finding the words oddly reminiscent of her own life.

Have I been blind
Have I been lost inside myself and my own mind
Hypnotized, mesmerized
By what my eyes have seen
Have I been wrong
Have I been wise
To shut my eyes and play along

She supposed she felt a little sad. But more because she wasn’t sad, if that made sense. Or perhaps it was that she was sad not for what she lost, but for what she’d never had in the first place. And now she was in the backseat of a chauffeured sedan with an international rock star. But then again … deep down she knew that even if she hadn’t gotten the call about David she’d probably still be here, if the invitation had been offered. She couldn’t ignore the electricity she felt when she looked at him. Me and countless other women around the world.

He watched her stare out the window, her face unreadable. Maybe a hint of sadness, but he couldn’t tell for sure. Why was he so interested? He had enough of his own shit to process.

He looked out his own window and through the blur of snow and traffic on the Kennedy. Living in the public eye didn’t often afford a person the luxury of addressing life’s ups and downs in private. The past several months hadn’t been easy at home. His passion for his music always took him away and, as much as he hated to admit it, it was still the fire that fueled his utter being. Which meant that everything else came second—at least part of the time. It’s who he was. He could go without it for a while but inevitably it drew him back, like a moth to a flame.

Part of that meant living the façade. The happily married, clean-cut Jersey boy living the American dream. He’d long ago realized the value of public relations and was an expert at placing his face in the right place at the right time and for the right cause. It wasn’t a lie, exactly. In fact, a lot of it was very much representative of who he was and what he believed. But behind closed doors, well…

What marriage didn’t have snags? They’d gotten together so young and had lived through so much. But what are the chances of two people growing in the same direction as the years go by—in a normal world, much less one like his? They certainly still loved each other. But after all these years it had become more of a friendship than anything else. She wasn’t wowed by him, and hadn’t been for a long time. Maybe because she knew him too well.

“Do what you’re going to do,” she had told him early on. “But don’t ever humiliate me.” Just recently they’d had the conversation again. He was pissed because it had been years since he’d strayed, and when she’d retaliated by having a fling with her karate coach. He’d deserved it, he knew, although at the time it had stung—his ego more than anything else. He’d set out to prove that she was wrong about him—about them—and had stopped seizing opportunities when they presented themselves.

They still slept together most of the time but more often than not that’s all they did, and they both seemed comfortable with the arrangement. There were moments of passion, of course, and it was so easy because they knew every inch of each other. But the stress of life, combined with familiarity, had taken its toll. He actually looked forward to the times when a tour or a movie would take him away for days or weeks at a time. That way neither of them had to fake anything, and they had time to miss each other again, so when they came back together it was like old times. He knew he had little to complain about. But even he craved excitement … and the thrill of the unknown.

In a way he was happy to be stranded in Chicago, too. Nobody was expecting a call, or anything from him tonight, really. Outside of the friend in Denver and his assistant, no one was the wiser.

Forty-five minutes later they pulled up in front of the hotel. They stomped the snow off their boots before stepping through the revolving door into the ornate foyer, and then up the stairs to the lobby. The woman behind the desk was expecting them—or him, anyway. He pulled a black American Express card out of his wallet. “Wait,” Jordan stepped up. “These are separate,” and she opened her purse to pull out her own Visa.

The desk clerk looked back and forth between the two of them. He shrugged his shoulders. For some reason he thought better than to argue with her. He could appreciate her not wanting him to pay for her hotel room. And although he knew the hotel employees were expected to uphold the utmost discretion at all times, he couldn’t guarantee that word wouldn’t leak out that he “had checked into a Chicago hotel with an unknown woman.”

The clerk handed them their key cards, and they grabbed their bags; neither saw a need for a bellman, given their light loads. “Oh, just a sec.” he turned back to the desk clerk and leaned in to ask her quietly, “could you check for availability in the private dining room for say, a half hour from now? Just call up to my room and let me know.”

The clerk nodded. “No problem sir. It’s quiet tonight. They’ll welcome you at any time. I’ll call ahead to let them know you’re coming.”

“Excellent, thanks.” He turned to smile at Jordan. “Elevators are this way.”

They stepped off of the elevator onto a private floor that housed four corner suites. Their rooms were opposite of each other. There was an awkward pause. Now what?

He broke the tension. “I don’t know about you, but that airport snack didn’t hold me for too long. How about a real dinner?” He saw her hesitating. “The chef here is phenomenal.”

Their eyes met and she realized that she couldn’t have said “no” if she’d wanted to. She smiled. “I’d love to.”

Her voice was soft with a tinge of sexiness, he noted, and he was surprised at the relief he felt upon hearing her answer. It had occurred to him that she might decline and disappear into her room, and he wasn’t ready to tell her goodnight. Not yet. “Great. Half an hour,” he grinned. “I’ll pick you up.”

She laughed and shook her head, turning to insert the key card into its slot. She looked over her shoulder as she opened the door, watching as he let himself into his room, still smiling.

Almost exactly 30 minutes later, there was a knock on her door. She was still in front of the mirror, smoothing on some lip gloss and adding a coat of mascara. She looked at the clock and then dropped the mascara wand into the sink, smearing black across the marble. “Shit,” she muttered, grabbing a tissue and trying to clean up the mess. She ran her fingers through her hair and shook it out. There was a second knock. “Be right there,” she yelled, taking a final look in the full-length mirror. Jesus…I’m acting like a schoolgirl. It’s just dinner and he’s just a man. A married man, at that—at least she thought so. He wasn’t wearing a wedding ring but she knew better than to make assumptions based on that. Quit over thinking things and relax. She took a few deep breaths, blowing them out her mouth.

She opened the door to find him casually leaning against the doorway, not looking at her but instead looking around the hallway, feigning disinterest.

“Oh sure, keep me waiting,” he joked. Then he turned to look at her. Damn. She’d changed from the sweater to a washable suede shirt that matched the pants exactly. It was open to just between her breasts and lay comfortably against her body, ending just at her hips. A silver and brown choker nestled at her throat, matching earrings peaking out from the hair that now hung in waves to just below her shoulders.

She watched as his eyes quickly scanned her up and down, and as he nodded in approval. “Very nice. You clean up pretty good for a cowgirl.” He winked at her.

“Gee thanks,” she said, and felt emboldened to give him the once-over as well. The tight blue jeans had been replaced with an equally snug pair of black ones, and he wore a blue silk long-sleeved t-shirt that molded every muscle of his fine-toned torso. She willed herself not to let him see she how impressed she really was. That her mouth was watering. “You’re not so bad yourself, I guess. You’ll do in a pinch.” She gave a mock shrug.

He laughed. “So are you saying you’re immune to my charms?”

“I’m saying I’m hungry,” she played along, stepping into the hallway. “And you offered to buy me dinner.”

He nodded. “That I did. And you won’t be sorry.” He reached past her and pulled the door shut. As his body brushed past hers, she briefly took in his scent—undeniably masculine and overwhelmingly sexy.
If she were to get any closer to him it wouldn’t just be her mouth that was watering.

He placed his hand at the small of her back and she suddenly felt as if hot water were rushing through her veins. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.

He leaned in closely, his lips brushing her hair. “Relax, baby,” he said softly. “I don’t bite."

Chapter Five

They were seated off of the main room, in a small private room that contained a long table with cushioned bench seats and lots of pillows. Soft jazz played on the overhead speaker.

“Okay, this is pretty much heaven,” Jordan sighed contentedly. They were on their second course of the chef’s menu, and she was savoring a goat-cheese stuffed Portobello mushroom cap, which she followed with a sip of a French Sauvingon Blanc.

“See, and you didn’t trust me,” he smiled and shook his head.

“I never said I didn’t trust you,” she disagreed. “I’m just not accustomed to letting someone else order for me.”

“You mean letting a man order for you,” he countered.

She chuckled. “Well, that too. So shoot me.”

“Hey, I love an independent woman,” he studied her for a moment. “Somehow I’m betting that they don’t get much more independent than you.”

She met his gaze but didn’t respond.

“You like being mysterious, don’t you?” He paused as the waiter stepped in the room with their next course and filled their wine glasses. When the door closed again, he continued. “I think you have an unfair advantage.”

“Oh you think so, do you? What makes you think I know anything about you?” She feigned ambivalence, focusing on the pan-seared fois gras in front of her.

“Ouch,” he gave a small laugh. “Pardon me while I retrieve my ego from off the floor.”

She took a bite, marveling in the velvety texture on her tongue. She slowly withdrew the fork from her mouth, a deliberately teasing move. He was toying with her, and she figured turnabout was fair play.

He didn’t blink, but instead smirked and raised his wine glass to his lips, the blue eyes steady on hers. “You tell me your secrets and I’ll tell you mine.”

“What makes you think you can trust me?” she swirled the wine in her glass.

“Because you like the idea of ‘what happens here stays here’ as much as I do.”

She eased back against the pillows. “All right,” she said. “But I get to go first.”

He took a bite. “Fine. Give it your best shot.”

She studied him for a moment, at the ease in which he had settled into his seat and the obvious comfort he felt sitting across the table from her in a very private and intimate setting. “How many women have you brought here before?”

He didn’t seem too shocked at the question. “None, actually. I’m usually here with an entourage. I’m not in town that often, but when I am I generally stay here or over at the House of Blues. I have memberships in both this club and the Foundation Room.” He grinned. “That’s usually where I take women…but they were booked tonight.”

She laughed. “Smart ass. You can’t blame me for being a little curious.”

He shook his head. “Not at all. Had you asked me that same question 15 years ago it might have been a totally different answer.”

“And now?”

“Let’s just say I’ve mellowed with age.”

“Mmm…like a bottle of wine?” she reached for her water glass.

“Just like that,” he grinned, spearing a section of his foie gras. He paused before putting it in his mouth. “Good to the last drop.”

She almost choked on her water and he felt a small rush of satisfaction. “I’m sorry,” he said innocently. “Was it something I said?”

She forced aside the image that had leapt into her mind and tried to appear unfazed. She did not want to give him the pleasure... Yeah, who was she kidding? “So you’re saying I should feel special?”

“Absolutely,” he nodded, reaching for his wine glass. “But not because you’re sitting here with me.” He took a slow, deliberate drink. “But because you’re a smart, successful, beautiful woman. Don’t sell yourself short.”

Their eyes met across the table and it was she who blinked first. “Okay… your turn.”

He leaned back against the pillows, running a hand through his hair. “All right. Suppose that plane had taken off as planned. What do you think you’d be doing right now?”

She smiled. “Well, my original plan was to go home, pour a glass of wine, put some music on, run a hot bath,” she paused. “Light a few candles.”

“Of course.” Actually he was envisioning the scene with candles before she mentioned them. “Alone?” She nodded. “What’s on the stereo?”

“I don’t know… a little Sam Cooke, Tom Waits maybe.”

“Very nice,” he said, nodding in approval. The waiter reappeared to take away their plates and serve the next course, which was accompanied by a bottle of French Bordeaux. They both took a moment to enjoy the tender filet and sample the wine, savoring the flavors. Jordan was amazed at how sensuous it all felt.

He inhaled his wine deeply and let the liquid sit on his tongue before swallowing. He watched as she did the same.

“So …you said that was your original plan. What made you decide you’d rather be stranded in Chicago?” He paused and then added, “Or should I say who?”

She set the wine glass down slowly without looking up.

He sensed perhaps he’d gone too far. “If you’d rather not talk about it, I understand. I’ve got lots of other questions.” He made a motion as if reaching into his jeans pocket for a list.

She smiled. “No, no… that’s okay. Hell, it might feel good to say it out loud.”

“Say what out loud?”

“That today I found out my fiancé is still seeing his ex behind my back. And to tell the truth, I don’t really care,” she laughed slightly. “In a way I’m relieved.”

Now we’re getting somewhere, he thought. “Because?”

“Because now I have an excuse not to marry him,” her eyes met his and she was surprised at how comfortable she felt being so frank. “At least one that’s not my fault.”

He felt himself drawn into those dark eyes again. There were no tears, just honesty. “Meaning what?’”

She shrugged. “I don’t know… it’s just that everyone thinks he’s such a great guy. He is, actually, for the most part. But the prospect of spending the rest of my life with him was…” her voice trailed off.

He watched her struggle for the words and decided to let her find them without any suggestions from him. “Was what?”

“Perfunctory, I guess, at best. If that’s the right word. It just seemed like the thing to do. Even if…” she stopped herself and decided maybe she had said to much.

“It’s okay,” he assured her, and then smiled. “Consider this a confessional. Tell Jonny what’s on your mind.”

She raised her eyebrows, smiling. “Oh really? Should I call you ‘Father Jon?’”

He smiled broadly. “Hey, if that’s what works for you.” Then the smile softened. “Seriously. Obviously something was missing from the relationship.” And I bet I know what it was.

She took a drink from her own glass. “Let’s just say he didn’t rock my world. Selfish as that may sound.”

He shook his head. “Not selfish at all. Passion is a big deal.” Then he grinned. “And an admirable trait, I might add.”

She felt the rush through her veins again and decided perhaps it might be good to change the subject. “In any case… tomorrow I can look forward to that conversation.”

“And tonight?” Man, you are approaching very dangerous waters.

“Tonight I’m going to enjoy my dinner and the pleasant company. After all,” she smiled and adopted a slight southern drawl, “tomorrow is another day.”

He laughed and raised his glass in toast. “All right then.”

They enjoyed the rest of their meal, discussing their favorite travel spots, movies and of course, music. He was pleased to find her depth of musical knowledge substantial, admiring her thirst for live music and laughing at her admission of a “guilty pleasure” for Barry Manilow. She found it incredibly interesting talking music with him.

“Do you have a favorite concert ever?” she asked.

He shifted in his seat slightly so he could stretch his legs in front of him. “That’s tough. I suppose Elton and Petty are strong contenders. You?”

“Ever? I’d have to say Bob Seger is right up there at the top,” she answered, smiling at the memory. “But Elton is definitely a favorite, too.”

She was surprised to find that he seemed to be genuinely enjoying a simple, casual dinner, and at the fact that he was so obviously comfortable visiting with her, as just two people having a conversation. It was almost easy to forget he was a rock superstar. Almost. She was pleasantly buzzed from the wine—enough to loosen her up but not so much as to make an ass of herself, she thought.

The waiter appeared with their dessert, a warm chocolate truffle cake with a Grand Marnier sauce drizzled over it. They accepted the offer of coffee and watched as the waiter closed the door upon leaving them.

Jordan took her fork and cut slowly into the cake, releasing the warm chocolate filling. She brought the fork to her mouth, closing her eyes as she let the morsel dissolve in her mouth. She let out a slight, inaudible moan.

He burst out laughing. “You want me to leave you alone with that?”

She blushed, laughing. “Sorry. I can’t help myself. Try it!”

“That’s alright. I'm good just watching you eat it,” he chuckled and shook his head. “What is it with women and chocolate?”

“It’s a sex thing,” she took another bite and winked at him.

“Obviously,” he laughed, “Keep it up and I may need a cigarette. Especially given what you told me about What’s-His-Name not rocking your world.” What a fucking waste.

She nodded. “Yeah… I’ve eaten a LOT of chocolate the past couple years.”

He cocked his head, smiling. “Better living through Hershey’s, huh?”

“That and Duracell.” She closed her eyes. I don’t believe I just said that.

She opened her eyes to see him watching her, his lips curling just slightly at the corners. She found herself wondering what they tasted like.

“I’m sorry. Obviously I’ve had a little too much wine,” she took a drink of coffee and tried not to let her eyes travel the length of him.

“No apologies necessary. It’s a confessional, remember?” he ran his finger through the puddle of the orangy-chocolate sauce surrounding his dessert and brought it to his mouth. He withdrew it slowly, teasing her.

She drew a breath inward. Heaven help me. “So are we done with the Q & A part of the evening or what?”

“No, I was just takin’ a break. That is good, by the way,” he gestured towards the dessert. “Okay, I have one, since we’re sort of on the topic.”

“Uh-oh,” she laughed. “Can I plead the fifth now?”

“Nope. You’re in it now, babe. No backing out. So,” he paused, looking both ways as if someone could be listening. “How old were you when you lost your virginity?”

Her eyes opened wide and she grinned at the irony of his question. She went to answer him and then found herself unable to speak without laughing.

With her guard down she was even more sexy, he thought. She had thrown her head back in laughter and his eyes traveled past the hollow of her throat, down to where a touch of lace could be seen peeking from beneath her shirt. Down, boy.

He looked at her inquisitively.

She took a drink of water and shook her head. “I’m sorry. It’s just… nothing. I was seventeen.”

“And?” clearly there was more to the story and he wasn’t giving up until he got it.

“And, nothing, really,” she ran the fork through the remains of her dessert, avoiding his eyes and trying to decide whether or not to share her story.

“Bullshit,” he said. “Don’t make me come over there.”

“Come over here and do what?” she challenged, looking up from her plate.

His eyes locked on hers unflinchingly. “Don’t ask that unless you’re prepared to handle the answer.”

She was pretty sure she wasn’t prepared to handle him any closer to her than he already was, so she acquiesced. “Well, let’s just say that YOU actually played a part in that rite of passage.” She told him then, and when she finished he was leaning back, running his thumb and forefinger across his lips, smiling.

“You’re just full of surprises, lady,” he shook his head. “But that brings up another question.”

“What now?” she laughed. “I think I’ve told you more than enough for one night!”

“Just one more,” he promised.

“Fine,” she sighed, in mock resignation. “What?”

“What I really want to know,” he suddenly appeared very serious. “Is what Bob Seger has that I don’t.”

She burst out laughing. “That’s it? You’re jealous?”

He took a drink of his coffee. “Maybe a little. Why does he get top mention? What’s he got?”

“Honestly?” She paused and smiled wistfully. “A saxophone.”

“A saxophone?”

“Hey … saxophones are very sexy. When I heard them do ‘Turn the Page’ live I almost had an orgasm right then and there.”

It was his turn to throw his head back and laugh. “Hard argument to beat,” he said, then nodded slowly. “Note to self: hire a saxophone player.”

She smiled, sighing as she scooped her hair up off her shoulders, stretching her arms behind her and arching her back, revealing a brief flash of skin at her waistline. “If it makes you feel any better,” she teased, “when Bob asked me to dinner I told him no.”

He opened his mouth to reply just as the waiter entered to see if they needed anything else. They declined and after he signed off on the check, they rose to leave. “You’re lucky we were interrupted when we were,” he said, matter-of-factly.

“Oh I am, am I?” she laughed, “I thought you said you don’t bite.”

“Yes, you are,” he reached up to squeeze the back of her neck gently, feeling her catch her breath as an unmistakable shiver shot through her. “And I lied.”

The elevator stopped at their floor and they stepped into the hallway. They walked to her door and she turned to face him, her back against the door. He leaned in, his lips touching hers briefly. “So I guess this is goodnight,” he said, his hand reaching up to toy with the silver choker at her neck. “Unless you want to invite me in for a nightcap.”

She exhaled nervously. “I think I’ve had enough to drink.”

“Fuck the nightcap then. Just invite me in.”

To next section...

Wednesday, October 11

Chapters 1-3

Chapter One

The woman sighed heavily as she sank into her seat. She slid her purse under the seat in front of her, saying a silent prayer of thanks that the snowfall hadn’t been as heavy as predicted. She was aching for the comfort of her own bed. She had only been on the road just over the week, but it felt longer for some reason. Probably because she hadn’t seen the sun since she left. Seattle, Detroit, Columbus, Boston, and now Chicago. How do people live in places where they go weeks without sunshine? She’d be suicidal within the first month, she thought. At least the trip had been productive… two commitments, one check and several other good prospects for follow-up.

The flight attendant’s voice interrupted her thoughts. “Can I get you something to drink?” She ordered a glass of Cabernet and inhaled the aroma deeply before taking a sip. Okay, that helped a little—some cherry, plum, and maybe a hint of vanilla. She stared out the window and let her thoughts wander as passengers filed onto the plane, past her, mostly, to the coach cabin. She always felt a little awkward sitting in First Class…like she was a big fraud or something. Her frequent flier status automatically upgraded her when available and she definitely preferred the comfort of the larger seats, but she certainly didn’t travel like this all of the time. The window seat next to her was empty and from the looks of things, might stay that way. There weren’t many people in the First Class cabin tonight, and the seats across the aisle from her were both empty.

She looked at her watch. 5:30. It felt later than that. It was dark out and the snow was falling. Why hadn’t they closed the doors yet? She heard the flight attendants say something about “waiting for one more” so she guessed that answered her question. She laid her head back against the seat and closed her eyes, imagining herself already home, lighting some candles and sinking into a hot bath, Van Morrison playing on the stereo. She felt a pang of guilt when she realized she was not at all sorry that David, her fiancé, wouldn’t be there. He left this morning to L.A. for a business trip of his own and wouldn’t be back until the end of the week.

Funny how once she committed to marry David, she was in no hurry to actually walk down the aisle. Hell, she wasn’t an aisle kind of girl anyway… she was too old for white dresses, bridesmaids and flower girls. David kept pushing for them to just run to Vegas for the weekend sometime—which actually would be fine with her—but they just hadn’t found time. Deep down she knew she wasn’t trying that hard to make the time, either. It wasn’t that she didn’t love David; he was smart, successful and generally reliable. He was by all standards a “good catch.” She just wished he made her heart jump when he walked in a room. The last time she’d felt that was a decade earlier with a thirty-year-old graduate student. He was sexy, funny, thoughtful… and an amazing lover. He’d brought her to orgasm the first time they made love and was only the second man to do so, in spite of the numerous lovers she’d had in college. They could barely keep their hands off of each other and would laugh together until their sides hurt and their faces ached. She was going to have his children and be with him for the rest of her life. It was the greatest feeling she’d ever known. Then a year into the relationship he’d broken her heart into a million pieces—the typical
I’m not ready to commit, I need to find myself, it’s not-you-it’s-me bullshit.

It amazed her that she still found herself thinking of him after all these years—the way he smelled, tasted, felt. It also pissed her off, because she had a good man that wanted to marry her. She chided herself for her schoolgirl fantasy—when was the last time she met a man whose mere presence made her feel giddy? She’d read somewhere that the Japanese don’t believe in romantic love and don’t believe rational thought can take place during the throes of infatuation. But for some reason part of her still seemed to think her love life should mimic a Danielle Steele novel. Or a Jackie Collins novel, if you wanted to include sex. It’s not that sex with David was bad. He made the best of what he had to work with but, sadly, it wasn’t much (although of course she always assured him it was fine). He tried to make it up with oral sex but his fascination with cunnilingus bordered on a little creepy to her. He made noises like a starving man when he was down there and wouldn’t let up until she came. Or faked it, which she was doing more and more often. She’d usually wait for him to fall asleep and then finish herself off, and things worked out okay.

Outside the bedroom they were very compatible. They liked the same types of music, books and movies, enjoyed hiking and cross-country skiing, felt the same way about politics and generally enjoyed each other’s company. He told her she was beautiful and that he was lucky to have her. She had tired of the whole dating scene years ago and felt fortunate to have someone like David who respected her and wanted to spend his life with her. There had been one incident a year ago but she’d forgiven him. She was no saint, either, and he had been so apologetic…

The opening of one of the overhead compartments jostled her out of her thoughts. She opened her eyes and reached for her wine glass. As her fingertips played on its stem, she couldn’t help but notice the man putting his carry-on above the seat across the aisle from her. Or rather, notice his ass. Damn. David sure as hell didn’t fill out a pair of jeans like this guy. Actually, few people did, she smiled to herself. They fit like a second skin; too bad he couldn’t stand there like that the whole flight. Her eyes traveled up, taking in the whole picture. Black turtleneck—looked like cashmere—and a tan leather coat, which he was taking off to stash with his carry-on. He had a shaggy mane of blonde hair and was wearing sunglasses, which he didn’t take off. Must either be Somebody or think he’s somebody, she thought to herself. It reminded her of the time she was on a flight with Robert De Niro—who snuck on at the last moment and was the first one off. Then there was the time she was next to that television actress. She recognized her but didn’t know her name, but they had a nice conversation anyway.

The man settled into the seat across the aisle and ordered a glass of white wine from the flight attendant. He ran his hand through his hair and stretched his legs out in front of him. He was wearing expensive cowboy boots—well-worn, she noted, with some scuff marks. He looked across the aisle at her and raised his glass in toast. “Here’s hoping we actually get out of here tonight,” he said, the nodding his head towards the window. She turned to look and was dismayed to see the snow falling harder. She looked back at him and raised her glass. “I’ll second that.” A small smile formed at his lips then he looked away. She pulled the in-flight magazine from the seat pocket and began to thumb through it absent-mindedly. She thought of David and envied the fact that he was in sunny L.A. instead of on a snowy tarmac at O’Hare. She should plan something special for Friday night when he gets home, she thought.

The plane was de-iced, pushed back and was twelfth in line for takeoff. Forty-five minutes later and fifth in line, the captain’s voice came over the intercom. “Sorry folks, but they’re sending us back to the gate. Snow removal isn’t able to keep up and we’re down to one runway. Your safety is our first priority so we’re going to de-board and try again in a few hours.”

A collective groan resonated throughout the cabin. Another stretch at O’Hare she thought to herself. Such a shitty airport to be stranded in. And the primary reason she’d finally caved and bought a membership in the airline’s private club. The plane pulled back up to the gate and she gathered her things. The man in the sunglasses pulled his coat and carry-on from the overhead compartment. He reached into a side pocket on his bag and pulled out a baseball cap, which he placed on his head after sweeping the mane of hair back. He then politely gestured for her to go first. She smiled a thank-you and pulled her own coat & carry-on from the bin and headed back into the airport.

Once inside the gate, she pulled her cell phone out of her purse and turned it on. Two messages. She hit the speed dial for her voice mail. The first was from her friend Tina, and everything about the tone made her uneasy. “Hey, it’s me. Call me as soon as you get this message. Shit. I love you honey.” The next message was from David. “Hey doll. Listen… I can explain everything. Call me.” The sick feeling in her stomach grew.

Fuck. She hoped it wasn’t what she suspected. Yet she knew it was. She walked over to a chair, sat down, and dialed Tina’s number. Tina answered after the second ring. “Should I have a drink in hand for this?”
Honey…I’m so sorry but I just didn’t think this could wait until you got home … my flight from Phoenix ended up being routed through L.A. today… I saw David at LAX with her … he saw me watching them … didn’t give him a chance to say one goddamned thing … you deserve better than that …

She listened and assured Tina she was fine and hung up. Well, there you go. Easy ending to that story, she thought. Her phone rang and she saw it was David. She silenced the ringer and turned the phone off.

Chapter Two

“Hey, how you doin’? Let me take a look at your wine list.” The bartender at the Ambassador’s Club registered no recognition on his face as he handed the list to the man, watching as he took off his sunglasses and ball cap. They got their fair share of celebrities and it seldom made an impression on him. Of course, he would delight in telling Amy, the bartender whose shift he was covering tonight.

“I’ll take a glass of the Conundrum. I’m going to hit the head but I’ll be back.”

When he returned, he noticed the woman from the plane taking a seat at the bar. She was wearing caramel-colored suede jeans, brown leather boots with a not-too-high spiked heal, and an ivory sweater that fit just well enough to hug her curves. She wore a low-slung belt on the outside of the sweater and carried a brown purse—the kind that doubled as a backpack. Like him, she must have checked her carry-on at the front of the club. She seemed distracted—probably just frustrated, like he was, that the weather was impeding their travel plans. The woman at the customer service desk had told him to check back in an hour or so but didn’t sound hopeful that their flight would take off any time soon.

He took a drink from his glass and watched the woman settle into her seat. She was about five seats away from him at the curve of the bar, which made it easy for him to observe without looking obvious. She had long, chestnut-colored hair that was pulled back into a high ponytail, revealing simple gold hoops in her ears. All in all, a nice package; elegant but sexy. He guessed she was in her mid-thirties. The bartender put a coaster down in front of her and asked her what she’d like. “Do you still have the Conundrum?” she asked. He smiled at the coincidence. She obviously had good taste in wine, as well.

She still hadn’t noticed him, so he kept watching. He felt a little voyeuristic but in the darkness of the bar it felt safe. He didn’t often get the chance to watch someone else without their realizing it. He was fascinated by people and loved to try to guess their stories. Airports were great for that. At least as long as no one recognized him—or acknowledged that they did, anyway. He could usually tell the difference.

He watched as she took the wine glass, swirled the golden liquid and brought it to her lips. At first she took a sip, then, as she started to set the glass down, brought it back to her lips and took a bigger drink. He knew that feeling. Trying to restrain the urge to drown some emotion… frustration, anger… hell, even lust. He wondered which it was for her.

Then he saw it. She set her glass down and looked at the diamond on her left hand. Then slowly, with a virtually imperceptible movement, she removed the ring and dropped it almost ceremoniously into her wine glass. He saw a faint smile cross her lips, along with what appeared to be a silent, brief chuckle. It was a motion of resignation. Sort of an “I-should-have-known” expression.

It was a moment that he knew he would end up translating onto paper and then, ultimately, into song. He was surrounded by a lot of heartache these days, he thought to himself. But some his best songs had come from dark places—either his or someone else’s. He looked at the clock over the bar. Just after 8:00. Looked like they were in for a long night.

He was draining the last of his glass when she noticed him. Their eyes met and he nodded at her. Without the sunglasses, it was clear to her who he was. The epitome of a rock star, she thought, and wondered what he was doing on a flight from Chicago to Denver. He motioned for the bartender to refill his glass. “Get her another one, too,” he said. He saw the surprise on her face. “Well, you’re drinking my wine, after all. We might as well share the bottle—especially since it doesn’t look like our plane is going any where any time soon.” He raised his eyebrows in inquiry, his lips curving mischievously at the corners. Nice mouth, she thought to herself. She gave a small smile. Why not? “All right. Thank you.” She drained the last of her glass and hoped no one noticed her dumping her engagement ring onto the cocktail napkin. The bartender set a full glass in front of her, wondering if she knew who the guy was.

Her stomach grumbled and it occurred to her that perhaps she shouldn’t be drowning her sorrows on an empty stomach. “Will you watch my things while I go grab some food?” she asked the bartender.

“Sure,” he replied. “There is a whole happy hour smorgasbord on the other side of that wall.” He gestured to the adjoining room. She slipped off the barstool and instantly felt the wine buzz in head. Good thing she had thought of food sooner rather than later.

She was loading up on crackers and cheese and raiding the veggie tray when she heard his voice behind her, doing a bad Midwestern accent. “What, no wings, pizza or hot dogs? I thought we was in Chicago.” She turned to see the blue eyes twinkling, crinkling at the edges. Wow. “What’s with all these healthy options?” She doubted he ate much pizza and wings. Not with the way those pants fit.

“What, you don’t do broccoli?” she feigned shock.

“Well, I do, but then I get those little green things in my teeth and you know, that just is not a good look on me,” he smiled then—a big broad smile that almost took her breath away. Good lord he was beautiful. She had to admit that anything marring up that smile would be a crime. Then she watched as he loaded his own plate up with plenty of vegetables himself—including the broccoli. She took some comfort in knowing that he probably had to work hard to stay that fit.

He followed her back to the bar. “Do you mind if I join you?” he asked. She wondered if any woman had ever given him a “no” to that question. “Of course not,” she replied, and motioned for him to take the seat next to her. Before he could ask, the bartender had brought his wine glass over. He smiled and nodded acknowledgement. Their eyes met with that “take care of me and I’ll take care of you” exchange.

He raised his glass. “Here’s to?” It was more of a question than a toast. He was curious as to what she’d answer.

“Apparently another night in the Windy City,” she responded.

“Fair enough,” he answered, and their glasses clinked. He watched as her fingertips played on the wine glass. Finely manicured hands, her not-too-long nails polished with crimson lacquer. Blood red nails on your fingertips. He stifled a smile and fought the urge to roll his eyes. Being closer to her, he could smell a hint of perfume. It was slightly spicy, with subtle floral overtones. It suited her.

“So, is Chicago home?” he asked, popping a cube of cheddar in his mouth.

She shook her head. “No, actually, Denver is. I’ve been here for a couple days on business.”

He nodded. “Which is…”

“I work for the University of Colorado Medical Center.”

“Doctor?” he seemed impressed.

She smiled. “Hardly. I actually work for the foundation.” He appeared to remain interested, so she continued. “I’ve been meeting with prospective donors the past week”.

“Very cool. Any luck?”

“Yes, actually. Good trip. Everything has gone very well,” she paused. “Well, until tonight.” He saw the flicker of the memory of whatever she was thinking earlier cross her mind. Then in an instant it was gone. “I mean, what with the delay.”

“Thank God. I was about to take it personally.” He smiled that brilliant smile again. She tried to tell herself it was the wine when a warmth flashed through her body that felt almost unnatural. Breathe, you idiot.

“And you?” she inquired, willing herself composure.

“Business meetings. Chicago today and then tomorrow afternoon in Denver. I figured I’d get there early and hang out with a buddy of mine. So much for that plan,” he shrugged it off. “S’alright though. Not the end of the world. Better in here with a good glass of wine than cooling my heels on the plane.”

“It appears we’re not the only ones who the same idea,” she nodded towards a large group coming in the door of the bar.

He glanced over his shoulder. “Shit,” he muttered. “Hey, buddy,” he motioned for the bartender. “We’re going to move over to that booth in the corner. Would you do me a favor and have someone check on the flight to Denver for us?”

“Yes, sir.” The bartender picked up the phone.

“Grab your stuff and follow me,” he said calmly, gently taking hold of her elbow and expertly steering her towards the booth, which small and dimly lit. Instantly she knew she should take the seat facing the room and allow him the less conspicuous one. What the hell am I doing?

Chapter Three

“Much better,” he said as he sank into the booth. “Isn’t this more comfortable than those wooden barstools?”

Actually, it was. She relaxed a little into the seat, deciding to go with the flow. She was really in no hurry to get home now anyway. She was quite sure that David had cancelled his meetings and was on his way back to Denver and she just wasn’t up to dealing with him yet. A little more time in Chicago was just fine with her. A soft smile formed at her lips and she rolled her head side to side, stretching her neck muscles.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he chuckled. “So, Denver… you spend a lot of time on the road?”

She nodded. “Enough. About one trip a month I guess.” She started to ask him the same question and realized the absurdity of it. “It’s not so bad. Gives me a lot of time to myself, actually. Sometimes the only time I have to myself is when I’m traveling.”
That obviously would be changing, too.

He could certainly relate to that sentiment. Time to himself was not a luxury he had often, and one he most missed… even after all these years. “So how do you normally kill time in airports?”

“The usual… books, magazines, people watching. I like imagining the lives of the other travelers. Must have a frustrated writer on the inside or something,” she blushed at the admission.

“Yeah? Okay…” he glanced over his shoulder and scanned the room. “What about them?” He indicated a man and woman who were obviously having an intense but intimate discussion.

She observed the couple for a moment. “Married about ten years. No kids. She’s a lawyer. She worked full-time as a paralegal while he went to med school, and got her law degree going to night school. He’s just finished his residency, and she has been offered a senior position at a law firm in another city. He doesn’t want to move. She’s frustrated because she thinks it’s about time he gave something up for her for a change. He thinks they should think about having a baby and she thinks he’s being selfish.”

He laughed. “Okay… clearly a lot of happiness at THAT table. So,” he snuck a glance around the room and spotted two men and a woman at the bar. “How about them?” His eyes locked briefly on hers, noticing every detail in a few seconds—almond-shaped, almost emerald in color, framed by long, thick eyelashes. He imagined more than a few men had lost themselves in those eyes.

“Those three? Let’s see…” she sized up the trio. “They are on their way to an architectural conference in Phoenix. The man with the beard and the woman are having an affair and the other guy has no idea. In fact, he has a crush on her and was hoping to make his move at this conference, while the two of them were hoping to ditch him at the reception tonight so they could sneak off for a little illicit rendezvous. Now they’re stuck here, having to pretend it’s all business.”

He nodded his head slowly. “Nice. You’re good. Maybe you should listen to that inner voice a little more.” And I should ignore the one inside me before I get myself into trouble.

She held the wine glass at her lips and allowed herself the luxury of letting her eyes drink him in. She found herself wondering what it would be like to run her fingers through his hair. Sure. Have a fantasy right here in the bar. She chased the thought out of her mind. “Okay. Your turn.”

“Who, me?” From his vantage point he couldn’t really see much and he really didn’t want to draw attention to himself if at all possible. “All I can see is the back of a couple heads and the bartender.”

She realized that she really didn’t want anyone to notice him, either. She rather enjoyed having him to herself. “Okay. Then do me.”

He cocked an eyebrow and a crooked smile stole across his mouth. She realized what she’d said and she felt embarrassment sweep through her veins. At least she thought it was embarrassment...

He decided not to comment on her slip. Freudian, he found himself hoping. Besides, the look on her face was priceless enough. “That’s not really fair. I already know where you work and why you’re traveling.”

“Chicken.” That’s it… tease him more.

“All right,” he said, rising to the challenge. He emptied his wine glass, then lowered it slowly. “You own a house in the foothills, have a cat at home and you garden as a hobby. You have spent the last decade or so focusing on your career.” He paused, and then decided, what the hell. “You recently broke up with your fiancé because he turned out to be a lying bastard.” He paused for dramatic effect. “And you are actually really happy you’re stranded in Chicago right now.”

Her lips parted in a silent gasp. She had a great mouth… the kind of lips that had fueled many a wet dream, he was sure. “So? How’d I do?”

“Well… I actually live in a condo. I hate gardening and I have two cats.”

“And the rest?” He’d come this far…might as well see it through.

“Pretty accurate, actually. What are you, psychic?”

“Not exactly,” he decided to fess up. “I saw you drown your engagement ring earlier.”

She gave a soft laugh. “Ah. Busted. I was afraid I had a big break-up aura around me or something, and that you could just tell by looking at me!”

He grinned. “No. Actually, though, it’s amazing how much you can tell about a person by observing them a little. And by listening ‘between the lines,’ I guess.”

Spoken like a true songwriter, she thought.

Just then the bartender came up and interrupted them with the news that all flights were cancelled and that passengers were being re-booked on later flights the next day.

“Not too much of a surprise, I guess,” he said. He didn’t seem terribly concerned, either, she noticed. He reached into a pocket of the leather coat lying on the booth beside him and pulled out a cell phone. He hit a speed dial number.

“Hey, it’s me …yeah, I’m still at O’Hare—all flights out are cancelled tonight. I need a couple rooms downtown … either one is fine …yeah, great, okay. Talk to you in a bit. Thanks.” He closed the phone and looked at her. “Unless you’d rather spend the night here. I think it’s a safe bet that the airport hotels are already full.”

He had a point. Not that she couldn’t find a room downtown herself. But tonight she was okay with letting someone else take charge. Especially someone like him.

“Actually, I’ve spent more than my fair share of time at this airport and spending the night here doesn’t sound even remotely fun. But you were right. I’m glad I’m not home tonight.” The emerald eyes met his unflinchingly. “Excuse me for a moment?”

He watched as she crossed the bar to the ladies’ room, her words echoing in his ears. He wondered what the rest of her story was. She didn’t seem as if her world was crumbling, that’s for sure. He wondered about the man who had given her the ring—and what he’d done to make her take it off. There was something about her that was incredibly intriguing. Or maybe it was just that it had been so long since he’d indulged in intimate conversation and drinks with a beautiful stranger…

She touched up her lipstick in the bathroom mirror. Her mind flashed back to the summer of 1987: McNichol’s Arena. She was barely 17 and was dating a boy her parents hated. Mark was 21, had long hair and drove a souped-up 1969 Dodge Charger. She had left the house wearing jeans and a t-shirt but later changed into a white leather mini skirt that she’d borrowed from a friend, along with a zebra-striped tank top. And the boots—black cowboy boots with fringe and studs. Her hair was permed and teased and her eyes rimmed with black eyeliner.

They were drinking rum & cokes in the parking lot and missed the opening act. She was definitely feeling no pain when the lights went down inside the arena. She remembered Mark expertly navigating the crowd until they were pressed against the front row barricade. The music was loud and fun, and she found herself wondering who was cuter… the guitar player or the lead singer. The singer wore skin-tight zebra-striped pants, which she thought matched her own ensemble quite nicely. She also thought he had the nicest ass she’d ever seen.
Nice to know some things don’t change.

She’d lost her virginity that night, in the backseat of the Charger. Then a few months later, she and Mark had broken up, and she went back to listening to Richard Marx and George Michael. She shook her head at the memory. This is too surreal.

When she returned to the table, he was getting off the phone. “Okay, we’re in. We’ve got two rooms at the Drake, and there is a car waiting for us. I’m ready if you are.”

She nodded. He took a $100 bill from his wallet and tossed it on the table. He grabbed the coat and looked at her. “So, Denver… you got a name?”

She met his gaze. “Jordan.”

“Well Jordan,” he slipped the sunglasses on. “I’m Jon. Let’s get outta here.”