Saturday, June 27, 2020

Chapter 11

Right before Nick Thomas stepped down, out of the tunnel of memories into the happy amber light, the last thought that passed through his mind was the suffering he endured to keep his word to remain chaste, maintaining his word to Matthew and himself. He remembered how difficult it was to fight the biological response to this woman of his dreams, while she swam naked in the hotel pool. Sadly, in just over a year, all the fight was out of him. With just a few months’ worth of post-show parties, thick with the spirits, and his inhibitions substantially lowered, he easily gave in to the craving of a single man flanked by dozens of beautiful groupies.
Nick put his foot out to take that step. It was a much bigger leap down than he expected. He felt his body falling and spiraling out of control. It seemed as though he would never land. Names, faces, sounds, songs and visions of his licentious living spun around his head in a blurred flurry. 
As Nick made the leap, all the way down, he had the forethought to change the course of events. When he landed, however, it was, as the present from which he came did not exist. He had no recollection of his time on that sidewalk in Lexington with his angry and hurt Teach, nor any of the disturbing scenes in the tunnel of memories. He was back in time, with no foreknowledge of his future. 
Instead of landing in the warm happy light, he landed in the stairwell of the eleventh floor of the Embassy Suites Hotel. His spirit rejoined his body as his legs were taking two steps down at a time, chasing his Teach. When he finally caught up with her, he grabbed her by the shoulders and put a stern look of authority on his face. She continued to giggle. 


“Now, you listen here,” he said with a tight grip on her shoulders. “You are not going skinny dipping, and I know that is what you are planning. If I have to pick you up and carry you back to that room, I will. I’ll get that key, I’ll bring it back down to the front desk, and then as difficult and miserable as it would be, I’ll leave. We can have a few more hours together with you behaving yourself, or we’ll part now, which is it?” Katie looked up at him, knowing she couldn’t part from him right at that moment. “Please, princess. I don’t want to have to leave you, one minute before absolutely necessary.”
“You don’t fight fair,” she said, sitting down on the steps, pouting. Nick sat down next to her and put the robe around her shoulders.  
“Look who doesn’t fight fair, with you in that bathing suit. Now put this on. She put her arms in the sleeves, and he closed it around her, tying it tight. “I have to keep my word to you, your brother-in-law and myself and not leave here ashamed of myself for giving in to what my body and heart is screaming at me to do, right now,” he said with a whining chuckle. 
“You really should answer the call if your body is screaming at you. No one wants to be screamed at, so I guess, I’m going to have to help you out there. We can go back to my room.” 
“No, we are not going back to your room.” 
“Oh, okay, you like it in the stairwell? It’s a bit different than what I’m used to, but I’m always open to new ideas. After all, I’m a teacher, we have to keep an open mind, you know. All our new experiences that come along could come in handy for story time.”   
“I doubt that sex in the stairwell would be an appropriate story-time lesson for kindergarten students,” Nick said laughing. Katie squished her eyebrows together and squinted, as if she was trying to focus. “Why are you looking at me like that?” He asked. 
“My darling Prince Charming, I never suggested we have sex in the stairwell.” 
“Yeah, you did.” Katie kept shaking her head. 
“No, I did not. I suggested that we could share a Coke in the stairwell,” she said. 
“Isn’t that the same thing?” He asked. She laughed condescendingly. 
“Oh, I forgot, you’re a Coke-stealer, having never been in love before, you don’t really know how to share, now do you? Okay, I may have to demonstrate this one.” Katie removed her robe and reached back to undo her tankini top. 
Nick grabbed her arms and put his hand back there to make sure it was still fastened. He then picked up her robe, putting it back on her and closed it around her. 
“No, there will be no demonstrating,” he said, trying not to laugh. 
“But that’s what teachers do. If our student doesn’t understand, then we use a hands on approach,” she said giggling. “I am just going to put it out there for you to put your hands on,” she said laughing and climbing up onto his lap. They laughed into each other shoulders when Katie put her arms up around his neck to give him a hug. 
“Oh, Teach, you are the funniest drunk.” Nick told her, speaking into her shoulders.  
“So, Nick Thomas, what are you like when you are drunk? Are you a mean drunk like your father was, or are you a funny one? Scotty was a mean drunk.” Nick cocked his head to the side, suspicious of what she meant by that.
“Is that when he hits you, like my father did to my mother?”
“He doesn’t hit me. Now, get off that. He’s mean as far as his words. He picks on me. He used to call me his chub-cub.” 
“But, you aren’t fat, anywhere.” 
“That’s because we broke up. Didn’t I tell you that?”
“Yes, but you aren’t leaving him, even though you broke up, and what has that got to do with it?” Katie nodded. 
“Well, when we broke up, I lost 200 pounds,” Katie said with a straight face. Nick wrinkled his forehead, wondering how this woman could have carried two hundred more pounds on her tiny frame. “I lost 180 pounds of deputy and the other twenty I had been keeping on just to annoy him,” she said chuckling. Nick began to laugh again. 
“He doesn’t call me his chub-cub anymore, he doesn’t call me anymore.” Katie let out a sad sigh. 
“Now, why would you want him to call you? I figure when people break up, they don’t want their ex-to call them any longer.”  
“Well, I don’t mean that kind of calling. I don’t live with him, anymore, so he doesn’t call me to bring home the beer he forgot to get, or to go to the store and get our ice cream for mile-high ice cream cones.” 
“Oh, you are sentimental, then,” he replied.
“Yeah, I miss the ordinary stuff we took for granted and the good times, which were few and far between that last year. He’s so depressed now after what he did, he doesn’t call at all anymore, and that worries me, so I check on him often. That’s why I can’t run off with Prince Charming while he is in the condition that he is in, right now. I’m afraid for him like he was for me. He has a gun, you know,” she said. She turned from Nick and leaned on her elbow, with her chin in her hand, as if thinking about him.  
“You mean suicide?” She nodded. “Were you like that too?” Katie nodded, again. “After Laurie died?” She nodded. “Was this before or after he saved your life?” Katie sat up and flung her head around. “Matthew told me, he told me that was why you were so close.” Katie turned back and leaned on her elbows, again. “So, what did he do that he would be desperate enough for that?” Katie began to tell him, but then stopped herself.
“Well, I picked an awful fight with him when I found out about Collect’s baby being his, and he gets so mad sometimes that he completely loses himself, and he can’t even think straight. I guess I got him that way when I took his belt and started whipping him with it, after he knocked me down with that one punch.” She stopped and rubbed her cheek where he hit her, as if remembering the pain. Katie felt Nick’s body become tense with his own brand of rage, and she realized what he was up to, and how he had just manipulated her into divulging things even Matthew did not know. “Oh, you sneak, getting the drunk princess to fess up, well, I’ll not tell you anymore. I’m not going to tell you about that day he cuffed himself to me to save my life, taking the risk he’d die with me falling, either,” she said with her eyes widened and angry. After his eyebrows went north, she realized that she had given too much information out and deliberately meant to change the subject. “Damn it, loose lips. I get like that when I’ve let my hair down, you know.” 
He stared at her, not knowing whether to laugh from the reminder of her drunken ranting’s at the restaurant, or angry at her deputy’s violence, or in awe of his heroic rescue of her. He was tossed. He just stared into her eyes, amazed at the story of this woman’s life, and how every minute he was falling deeper in love. She turned her body, kissed him on the lips, tasting the residual aftertaste of stale old beer. 
“So, what kind of drunk are you? Do you flirt more, or are you mean?” 
“Well, I don’t get drunk that often, Princess. I’m a big guy and it takes a lot for me to get drunk.” 
“But you were so confused before at the booth with just three beers on board, and I just handled three, or was it four Long Island Ice Tea’s?”  “Teach,” Nick said, snickering.
“You are not handling those Ice Tea’s very well, right now, and you better not have had four. You do know that I’m going to ask Shawn, so you might as well fess up if you got that fourth one. You know, Shawn will rat you out.” 
“No, he won’t. He said he wouldn’t tell.” 
“He wouldn’t tell? That means that you got that fourth one.” 
“No, I meant to say that if I got a fourth one, he promised that he wouldn’t rat me out.” She giggled. “Besides, I’m handling them very well. I’m just a little, what’s the word?” 
“Inebriated?” Nick said cackling. 
“No, I’m drunk, you are the one who’s inebriated, and don’t you try to deny it, cuz, I’m sitting on your lap,” Nick broke down again after just getting it together. He took her off his lap and placed her beside him. Katie started to cry while Nick was still laughing.  
“What’s the matter my princess? 
“It’s just that it’s, well, it’s just been so long since—.” 
“Since what?”
“Since, I’ve shared some Coke, good Coke, you know like Coca Cola Classic, the real thing?” Katie leaned her head on his shoulder and whimpered.
“So, you really don’t like Pepsi, do you?” Katie shook her head no. “Well, thank God for that.” 
“Why? What do you mean by that?” He put his arm around her and pulled her in tight to him. She poked her head out and looked straight up at him with a questioning look. 
“Because when you go back to your farmhouse with your deputy, I don’t have to worry that you’d be tempted, if he’s Pepsi, and you know you can get the real thing with me. My sweet Princess, I promise you, darling, I am most definitely Coca Cola Classic and not a Coke-Stealer as you say.” He tapped the visor of her hat. “I am going to make you a promise, my sweet teacher in the pink hat.” 
“And what would that be, my charming chamber of chastity?” Nick paused from laughing at her newest metaphorical name, causing her to giggle. He pulled her on to his lap, held her tight into his chest, and rested his chin on the top of her hat. 
“My little sexy princess, the next time we are together, I’m going to pull you aside. I don’t care where we are, and I’m going to find a quiet spot, regardless of the amount of time we have. Then, I’m going to lavish all my love all over you, making love to you, soul swapping with you, and prove to you, just how very classic my Coca Cola is.” She chuckled, but he kept up his passionate romantic Prince Charming persona. “Our souls will become one like our bodies and spirits, and we’ll be together forever. I promise you, sweetness, you’ll never long for Coke, again. I’ll be your steady supply, keeping you deliriously happy for the rest of your life. Now, that ought to give you some motivation to get that deputy up on his feet to help him accept his fate, as quick as possible, huh?” Katie took in a big breath, letting out a long wanton sigh for that time to be now.
“Hmmm, that will be so great. So, how about a little sample, now. Plant one right here, PC,” she said, pulling her head out from his chest and pointing to her lips. Nick smiled and brought her lips to his and planted on her a precious wonderful love-filled kiss. After that kiss, they stared into each other’s eyes, smiling contented.  
“Princess, I want to say something, and you don’t have to say anything back. You are so drunk, you won’t remember anyway.”  “What?” Nick swallowed hard. 
“Katherine Lynn Petersen, I’m so in love with you. I can’t believe I could ever feel this way about anyone, especially this quick, but I feel like you’ve been in my heart forever. I promise you that I will love you forever.” She held his gaze, keeping him captive to her heart, and then she buried her head back into his chest. She started breathing heavy, and then she started sniffling. 
“Why are you crying now? People usually do not cry when someone says they love them.” 
“Well, it’s because I’m a little drunk, I think, and you just said those five little words, or was it six?”  
“I thought it was three little words.”
“Um, well, let’s see.” Katie started to count with her fingers while she said each word pausing in between. “I’m— one— so — two— in— three— love— four— with— five— you— six. Yep, it’s six words, unless I’m counts for two words, then it would be seven. Grammar experts would argue that I’m is one word. So, you just said those six little words, and what lovely words they are.” Katie returned to crying while Nick laughed at her silliness. “You know what?” She asked. “When I let my hair down, and I really let it down, this time, like three times, or was it four, I’m confused? Anyway, I think I cry even more than PMS week.” Nick’s body shook with his laughing. 
“You had better have had only three, unless you snuck one when I was gone and Shawn was keeping away any better looking or classier guys.”  
Katie tucked her head under his chin, and her eyes moved two and fro, waiting for him to question her. Nick pulled her out from under his chin by the shoulders and looked her square in the eye. 
“You do know that when I go back to the bus, I have every intention of asking Shawn if you ordered another while I was gone, so you might as well fess up now.” Katie tucked her head back under his chin. 
“Nicolas Paul.” 
“What, princess?  
“Would you really leave if I went swimming and lose out on at least three more hours with me? I mean, who knows how long our separation will be? Really?” 
“Yes, I would, and don’t change the subject,” Nick said with firm conviction. She pulled her head out, looking up with a devious grin. She pulled herself out of his arms. 
“Well, I don’t believe you!” Katie stripped off her robe, tossing it on to Nick’s lap and took off down the remainder of the steps to head for the pool. 
Nick paused deliberating and debated. He did not know whether to follow through with his threat, or deal with the consequences of having to be near his naked Teach, battling the beast within him, in ways nearly impossible to abstain from answering the call. The rest of this night was going to be extremely character testing for him, but he refused to waste one minute. He continued to hope he could possibly get her to change her mind about going back to the deputy and ending all contact with him.
Leaving his drunken teacher in a hotel pool and the danger it posed was what he had to consider and which was what made the decision for him.
Nick would have to assume that responsibility of watching her, whether or not he wanted it. It now became a safety issue. 
He ran down the stairs, following the signs to the pool and as expected, the key was in the lock, and the pool area’s glass door was open. Her soaking wet bathing suit laid along the side. Her dry pink UK hat lay strewn on the floor in a path from the water, furthest from the pool’s edge. The lights in the pool area were still out, and Nick was thankful for the darkened room. Likewise, the pool lights were also not lit, which was another benefit to Nick, helping him keep his promise. 
“Shit, girl this is not fair,” he mumbled. 
“Excuse me, did you say something?” 
“Yes, this is you not playing fair. You knew that I could not leave you alone in the pool as drunk as you are, and now you have me trapped, in agony over here.” 
Katie had returned to weaving above and below the surface while Nick spoke, not hearing half of what he said, or acknowledging his frustration and building annoyance at her persistence to tempt him. 
He claimed the furthest lounge chair from the pool, and turned it so that his back was to the pool, and he did not have to watch the naked form of the most beautiful woman in the world to him.  
“Why did you have to take off your suit? Couldn’t you have done me a favor and left it on?” Nick asked.
“Because I can’t go skinny dipping in my bathing suit, silly.” Katie swam to the side of the pool, closest to his location and pulled herself up by her elbows. She clung to the rim of the pool, blocking from Nick’s view anything below her collarbone. 
“Hey, you wanna come in? I won’t look,” she said fake coughing.
“No, I’ll pass, thanks, ” he said trying to avoid what was happening in him. “You can stay down the other end.  I’ll keep away from you.” 
“No, can’t say that I’d want you to, so I think I’ll pass.” Nick rubbed his palms while grunting at the battle he was facing and losing profusely. He had hoped that this torture would not last the rest of their time together and purposed to give her only a few moments before demanding that she end the torment. 
“I called your bluff, didn’t I? I knew you wouldn’t leave me, because a man in love wouldn’t give up one more minute than necessary with his Princess Cindy.” 
“No, I debated leaving, but the precariousness of you drunk in a body of water would not let me. So, I am forced to be here, and I am not happy about it. How did you get this key anyway?” Katie grinned and giggled.
“Duh, I name dropped. How else do you think? Honestly, do you think they’re going to give the pool key for after-hours swimming to a plain old school teacher from Kentucky?”
“Gee, I didn’t think that my name would be that big, or important enough to get a pool key and a private swim session after hours.” 
“It isn’t, I used Brad Paisley’s.” She gushed a wave full of water his way, spraying him with droplets of water. 
“Ah, damn it, Kat, now I’m all wet and thanks for the ego boost by the way.” Katie pushed off against the wall when he turned toward her, swimming the backstroke to the other side of the pool. Nick turned his head quickly, when he caught a slight glimpse. 
“Well, I’ve been like that all night, even before I got in this pool, so we’re even.” She dove under the water when Nick turned his head at that remark, and he saw her backside, as she went under. He turned his head back away from her. She popped back up out of the water and began a back float, speaking to him. “You know, my silly songwriting saint, I’m just kidding about the Brad Paisley thing, not the wet thing,” she said giggling. Nick shook his head, frustrated all that much more. “I used your name, sweetie. It turns out that the manager happens to be a huge fan. I promised you’d do her a couple of little favors. They’re not that difficult.”
“I’m almost afraid to ask, but what did you promise that manager I would do?” 
“You just have to take both her daughters out on a date, individually, but you have six months to fulfill the obligation. I told her no more than six hours per date.”  
Nick turned his head toward her, then back again, when he noticed she hadn’t gone under the surface of the water still and was floating face-up, and then he coughed out a quick breath. 
“You are kidding, right? Her daughters?”
“Yeah, I saw a picture of them on her desk. They’re not that bad looking, I mean for twenty-nine and thirty-one. So what if they’ve never had a date. I’m sure they probably have great personalities. I don’t have to worry about them stealing you away from me, though, I’m a Barbie compared to them.”  
“Teach, I was thinking actually that I should run for my life. Please tell me you are kidding.”
“Hey, she asked for a date for her gay son, but I drew the line there.” She roared in laughter. 
“Oh, you brat, you had me going there for a moment. You lost me on the gay son, though. You are such a funny, silly, and mean torturing princess.” 
“Nicolas Paul, do you want to know why I have to get naked in a pool of water when I’ve let my hair down?” 
“Okay, yes, I do. Why do you have to?” he asked.  
“Because, being naked in a body of water and swimming is what sobers me up. I know it sounds strange. Some people need coffee; some people need to drink water. I need to be in the water.”  
Nick chuckled. He then turned slightly, noticing the darkness of the wall of glass looking out into a courtyard. He became concerned that someone may be able to look in and watch his Teach swimming naked. 
Without meaning to, while peering at the glass to see if he could see the darkened outside, he noticed a reflection in full view of the pool and Katie as she swam, rising and diving below the surface. 
He could not take his eyes off her perfect human art form. Her body weaved above and below the water’s surface like a delicate needle sewing the most beautiful colors on a blank tapestry. Moonbeams shone down from the skylight and danced among the waves lapping the sides of her body. When she fatigued, she would rest floating face up above the surface, making angel like wings in the wake of her waving arms.
She swam to the side for a rest and noticed her reflection in the darkened windows. As soon as her face came into view in the window’s reflection, Nick dropped his head, hoping she did not catch him looking. Katie looked directly at the window and spoke to his lowered head in the reflection. 
“So, when you came in here, PC, did you sneak a peek?” Nick looked up at the window, and his eyes met hers in the reflection. He was cornered and caught looking, as he feared. 
“No,” he said, looking away. 
“Really, you didn’t see anything?” she asked, returning her gaze to the window, while he doubled checked the reflection to confirm that she did indeed, catch him watching. 
“Well, not on purpose,” he said. Katie giggled. 
“Now, you have me at an advantage, and you’ve gotten a peek.”
“I would not call this an advantage, you bad princess.” Katie snorted out a chuckle. 
“There’s one way to fix that little, or rather big problem, if it is a big problem,” she said putting and extra emphasis on the word big. 
“That’s not funny.” Nick said with a little force of frustration behind it. 
“Well, I say, just disrobe and get in here, and I’ll sit up there while you swim. Then we’ll be even. Unless, of course you’d like me to stay in the pool, with my eyes closed the whole time.” Cough; cough, “Like I really would. C’mon, you know you’re dying to get in here. I mean the pool, of course.”  
At this point, frustration succumbed to aggravation, which succumbed to downright anger, and Nick put an end to his suffering, bringing about a new kind of suffering for her. 
“Okay, that’s it. I don’t care if you are sobered up, or not, swim time is over. Get out of that pool right now, after you put your suit on, and if you do not, I’ll go to the front desk and get the manager or any front desk clerk to come in here after you. They can watch you to make sure that you are safe. I’ll be long gone then, on my way to my bus, and that will be the end of us and our wonderful night.” 
Nick’s tone of voice startled Katie. It was a tone she had not heard before. His warning sounded more like a promise than an idle threat. He wasn’t bluffing this time. She pushed the envelope and lost. 
“I have a mind to just drop you at the front desk and let someone else take you to your room. Then you can  think about all that you have done tonight to make me battle nature and ruin our night.” Katie’s voice changed from teasing and seductive to timid and fearful. 
“Um, I can’t reach my suit without getting out of the water.” Nick picked up his eyes to see her body hidden below the surface from behind the inner wall of the pool. 
“Move on down the wall, Katherine, and I’ll toss your suit closer to the edge.” Katie scooted herself down to the end, pushing herself with her hands on the rim of the pool. Nick rose from his seat, picked up her suit and the towels that she left on some lounge chairs and dropped them near the edge of the pool. Embarrassment fueled his anger for not only being caught looking, but her constant teasing of his other inebriated state of being. Nick grunted out some angry groans and moved down to the deep end of the pool, opposite of the steps, while Katie picked up her suit to dress by the steps. His anger sobered her up more than the water or all the coffee she drank earlier. 
“I’m really sorry, about getting you mad. I guess I’m just a little desperate to feel that way, again. I um, am talking about that soul-swapping thing. There is no high like it, let me tell you.” Her voice started cracking. Nick softened a bit, feeling a bit more empathetic. “Princess, I want that too, but I can’t. Each time you push it, I want to give in to you more and more. If I do then I’ll go back to my bus, ashamed for not keeping my word to you and Matthew. You are too drunk, and I know what you’ll feel in the morning. You’ll be mad at both of us, if not just only me. Plus, the guilt of breaking my word would weigh on me too much. Your brother-in-law respects and trusts me. I want to keep it that way.” She lowered her head in contrition.
“I’m sorry. The Long Island Ice Tea’s are playing a bit of a role, you know. All this reminiscing and feeling this way again, is making me long for that high on the love-cocktail, tanked in your love, like your Gramps says. You know that soul-swapping thing? Well, it’s permanent. Then when that person dies a huge chunk of your heart is missing, void, gone for good. The void is all consuming, and there are times when you think you’ll be swallowed up into the abyss.” Katie started to cry, sobbing as to where she could not talk. Nick dropped his head and his eyes watered. 
“I can’t even fathom it, Teach. Just feeling this way about you scares me if you were to leave my life now. How long were you together?”
“Ten years, if you go back to my sweet sixteen, but, really it was eight years, that he reigned in my heart. I don’t’ know why they call it survived by, because there is no surviving involved. It’s just like dying a little bit, every day.”  
Katie continued to cry and fumble with her suit. Her attention diverted to her sorrow. Her confusion and blurriness from the excess spirits and tears was making untying the knots in her bathing suit impossible. The more she tried, the more she became frustrated with it, thus making her cry even more and keeping her vision all that much more blurry. 
“Crap, I can’t get this stupid bathing suit unknotted. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be crying like this, over him, in your presence.”
“It’s okay, Princess, it’s a tough day.” Nick crooked his head over toward Katie; her bare back was to him, as she struggled to get the top of her suit on her. 
“Damn it!” 
“What is it?” Nick asked.  
“I can’t think straight. I can’t see anything. It’s too dark in here. Everything is so blurry, so I can’t get this damn suit untangled. I might need some help.” Nick shook his head. 
“You are going to have to do this one on your own,” he said with his voice cracking. 
“I’m sorry I’ve been such a brat. I really do need help. I can’t do this.” Katie dropped her hands onto her lap with her tankini top bunched up in her hands. 
“No, I’m not coming over there. You are going to have to get it on your own.” 
“Hey, how about I go back in the water and swim to the other end of the pool. You can untangle it for me, and then I’ll swim back down and put it on. That sounds like a plan, huh?” 
Nick heard the water swishing and the waves lapping at the sides of the pool. He scuffled over to where her tankini top lie in a ball. He straightened it out, untangled the knots in no time and laid it flat for her near the steps. He returned to his hiding spot, trying to conceal the obvious. Katie swam back down to the steps and had her top on within a minute. 
“Okay, I’m covered.” 
Nick moved toward Katie who had her head down and her arms wrapped around her waist, shivering as she stood on the top step below the water’s surface. He wrapped her in the terry-cloth robe, tying it tight and then rubbing her arms to get her warm. He put one of the towels on the top of her head and began to tenderly towel dry her hair, covering half her face under the draped over towel. She put her hand on his sides to keep her self-steady. His eyes still had empathetic tears in them. 
“Can you forgive me for being such a brat?” Nick continued to towel dry her hair. He put the towel around her shoulders and held her face in his hands as her bottom lip quivered.
“We guys may have it tough when it comes being with a beautiful woman and our want of her, but I guess we don’t consider enough the emotional bonding, and how vital it is for the woman. My Gramps told me about that.”
“We feel protected, covered, I guess you could say, when we’re making love to the man we are in love with. It’s a connection like no other.” He put his forehead up against hers.
“I guess I’ve been too insensitive to your suffering, Princess. I’m sorry.” She pulled away and put the palm of her hand against his cheek. 
“No, I’ve been the one insensitive and selfish. I’ve been tempting you to do something I want, but you don’t want to do.” 
“Oh I want it. I want you, crazy. You have to believe that. That’s why when you come to me in August, and it better not be any later than that, I’m surely not going to be able to resist you, then. We have something wonderful to look forward to, something to hold on to, and something to get you back to me sooner, okay?” 
Nick pulled her in to him and held her tight. He caressed her long wet hair that hung just below her shoulders. 
She pulled out of the hug, reached back and squeezed the water out of her hair. She walked over to where her hat lay and searched for the ponytail holder. 
When she found it, she combed back her wet hair with her fingers and put it back up in a ponytail, putting her hat back on and pulling the ponytail out of the back of the hat. She pulled the visor down low to cover her face and eyes and her shame. They walked out of the pool area, locked the door and headed for the elevators. 
“Where are we going?” Nick asked as he ran his fingers through her wet ponytail, hanging out of the back of her hat. . 
“Well, first, we are going to take the elevator up to the eleventh floor. I’m going in my room to change, and then we’ll bring back the key and find a nice quiet booth in the closed restaurant. Nick Thomas, I owe you one helluva story in Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker. That is if you still want to be with me.” Katie walked with her head low, still ashamed of her behavior and worried about his answer.
“Of course I want to, Teach, I don’t want to lose one minute that we have, and I’ve been waiting all night for that story. I just need you to back off a little, please.”  
He looked down at her and nudged her hand, hinting that he wanted to hold it, but she ignored his request, too embarrassed and remorseful.
When they reached the elevator, she shuffled in before him and pushed the button, facing the panel of lighted buttons that glowed and reflected off her dampened skin. She leaned into the corner, raised her eyes at him, and then lowered them. Embarrassment and regret rose with each floor the elevator ascended. He could tell she felt bad, and he made her feel that way. He moved in close to her and lifted her chin to get her to look in his eyes. She kept her eyes lowered. 
“Hey, look at me.” She raised her eyes and had the most pathetic look on her face. “It’s okay, I’m sorry if I made you feel bad by getting angry with you.” Katie gave him a slight nod. 
“It was well over due, I’m sorry. I’ve been the brat,” she said with her voice lowered and so sad that it made Nick feel worse. 
“C’mon, give me that beautiful Cindy smile and twinkle in your eye.” Katie put on a fake smile, and he bent down to kiss her quivering bottom lip. He pulled out of the kiss, and their eyes were glued to each other. She had the saddest eyes he had seen all night. 
“I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll be good for the rest of the time we have,” she said with a shaky voice.
He slipped his hand behind her neck with his thumb caressing her jaw line and pulled her head into his chest. She wrapped her arms around his waist and relished in the vibration of his deep whiskey-smooth baritone voice.
“You’re just so damn irresistible, you can’t help it, princess.” She sighed and spoke into his chest. 
“And so are you, my jolly gorgeous giant of grandeur.” He chuckled and pulled her away looking in her eyes. 
“Sweetness, I’m going to miss those creative metaphorical names you keep coming up with my metaphor mama.” 
The elevator doors opened, and she walked out first. He caught up with her and nudged her hand, again. When she did not offer it, he took it anyway, locking his fingers with hers. She looked up at him while he held a firm grip of her hand, and she gave him a consolatory smile. She looked at the door numbers and then her cleaned wrinkled inside palm of her hand. With the ink gone, she could not remember.  
“It’s this one,” he said with a chuckle. She looked up at him with uncertainty. “I’m sure.” He pulled the key from his back pocket and opened the door. She looked up at him with those still same sad eyes, as he kissed her in the doorway. “Now, go on, and hurry, I want to hear the story. Oh, and don’t come out looking too sexy, put on some sweats and a t-shirt, something you wouldn’t want to impress a guy with, although, you’d probably look great in that, too.” He chuckled as he patted her bottom, giving her a shove, and he closed the door behind her. Nick listened to her singing to her favorite tunes while he was waiting in the hallway and appreciated her talent. 

Nick and Katie left Matthew for the last part of their date. Nick was so looking forward to this part of the night, the long-awaited story of Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker. This complex six-week plot, plan, and ruse, written, directed, and starring a young eighteen year-old Katie Lynn Petersen, would eventually incorporate a cast of characters designed to nab Katie her long-sought after love, Michael Jeffrey Moore. With the build up to the story, and the way Katie narrated and portrayed her stories in life-like details, Nick knew he was in for a treat.
Katie shuffled her feet to the elevator, still somewhat embarrassed about driving Nick to the point of annoyance with her constant temptation of some beverage sharing between the sheets. She kept her head down, as they walked, and Nick nudged her hand, again. He did not wait for her response as before, and he took her hand into his. 
“Are we using the stairs? I can handle going down.” 
“No, there’s no use in that. Let’s not waste any more time.” She pushed the down button, and they waited for the elevator, looking up at the numbers in silence. She released his hand and entered the elevator before him and pushed the button for the first floor. Her face glowed with the light of the buttons on the elevator wall, and it accentuated her newly applied make-up job. There were a few seconds of silence, and Nick knew that she was still feeling bad about his reaction to her skinny dipping. He cornered her up against the wall and cupped his hand under her chin to force her to make eye contact with him. With Nick this close, she could not help but increase her breathing rate, as she fought off the shiver that kept fighting to take control of her, which was the force behind her temptation to give in and just do what their bodies were craving. 
“Teach, honestly, did you have to come out of your room looking so damn hot? I was hoping you’d come out in some ugly sweats, with no makeup and your hair looking like a rat’s nest, but no, you come out looking better than ever. Your eyes are even more beautiful, and I didn’t think that was possible. You just aren’t going to go easy on me, are you?” Katie gave him a questionable grin, not knowing if he was still reprimanding her.  
“It’s just a little face art, I’m sorry.”  Nick realized that he made her feel even more guilt-ridden with that ill-timed compliment. 
“Teach, I’m not trying to make you feel bad. Even if you had come out of that room with your hair all disheveled and in loose old tattered sweats and an over-sized decade-old T-shirt, you’d be just as much temptation to me. You can’t help it, it’s just the way I feel about you.” 
Katie breathed a sigh of relief and leaned into his chest, wrapping her arms around his middle. When the ding of the elevator signaled to them that they had reached their destination, she quickly pulled away, so as to not be seen by anyone as a couple in love.  
They exited the elevator and approached the front desk to return the pool key. With Katie’s need for privacy as a shy kindergarten teacher, their newfound secret love affair would remain just that, thus pitting the two as long-time family friends, poking fun at each other in the manager’s office. 
After straightening her dress and combing her fingers through her hair, the manager nervously greeted Katie and Nick, swooning him as most did, even if he was twenty-five years her junior. As with most people, Nick’s ambience and sweet country boy persona put this manager at ease in no time. Nick looked down on her desk and saw a framed picture of her three children and remembered the prank Katie played on him. Katie smirked at Nick and then chuckled at the less than stellar looking adult children. 
“Beautiful children, aren’t they?” Katie asked, cackling and winking at Nick.
“Absolutely,” he said with his palm flat on his chest, darting a disapproving look at Katie for her prank and shaking his head, trying not to chuckle at their appearance.”
“Thank you, those are my babies. This one’s married now,” she said, pointing to the girl on the left, with a gleam in her eye. 
“The others are still looking. Not much out there you know.”
“Oh yes, I know that.” Katie looked at Nick who lifted his eyebrows. The manager looked at them strangely, putting the picture back. 
“So, you two have known each other for some time?” 
“Yep, I was his favorite babysitter. He always made sure he pooped a messy one in his diaper when I was taking care of him.” Nick coughed in embarrassment and rubbed the back of his neck putting his head down, but lifting his eyes to the manager to note her expression. The manager laughed, and Katie joined in while Nick’s face turned rosy red. He looked down on the ground, shaking his head. 
“She does like to embarrass me like that, but she’s just kidding. She’s a daughter of one of my mother’s friends, and we’ve known each other since we were kids. I used to spit in her plate every time her family came to our house for dinner.” He laughed as did the manager. Katie whipped her head around and threw her hands on her hips. 
“You better not have, or that poop story is going public tomorrow.” Nick and the manager laughed together, and then Katie grinned, joining in on the fun. 
“Well, I can see that you two are obviously good friends. You’d make a cute couple, I think,” she said pointing at them with her index finger waving back and forth.
“Ewe, gross, seriously?” Katie leaned back. “That would be like marrying my younger brother, yuck. Kind of incestuous isn’t it, little Nicky?” He cocked his head over to her and then started tapping his foot. He lowered his head toward the side then lifted one eyebrow.
“Worse, like marrying my Aunt Myrtle.” Katie squinted and stared at him, then broke out laughing, and Nick and the manager joined her.
“Thank you for letting us sit in the closed restaurant, Nicky and I hardly get to spend any time reminiscing these days, with him on the road so much, and with him being a star and all, it’s impossible for us to carry on a conversation, huh Nicky?” Nick pursed his lips, hating that nickname and ready to strike back. Yes, that’s true, Smelly-feet.” The manager looked up at him oddly, while Katie threw her head back in a jerking movement throwing her hand across her middle.
“She used to be able to clear a room when she took her tennis shoes off, so we all just called her Smelly-feet for as long as I could remember.” The manager chuckled when Katie whacked Nick in the arm. Nick cracked up, while Katie stuck her tongue out at him and blew out a raspberry. 
Nick posed with the love-struck manager for a picture. They then each gave her a friendly good-bye hug. Nick and Katie left the manager’s office; giggling at the fun they had poking fun at each other. As they headed for the restaurant, Nick, again, nudged Katie’s hand to hold it, but she put her hands in her pockets, peering around the lobby for would-be eyewitnesses.  
They had only a few more precious hours to bask in the brand-new love that they shared. They found a booth in the far corner of the darkened empty hotel restaurant. Nick made a hand motion for Katie to slide in first. As he started to sit on her side, she pushed him away. She darted a look up at him, with her eyebrows wrinkled.
“Ah, I don’t think so, Nicky, not after the Myrtle comment. I think I’ll take my shoes off on this side, Nicky. You may want to sit over there,” she said with her lips pursed.” Nick guffawed.
Nick chuckled and shook his head, taking the bench across the table in defeat. He reached his hand across the table, wanting her hands in his, and that was as much physical contact as he was going to get she warned. 
“All right, now Aunt Myrtle, I want to hear what I’ve been waiting all night for, Operation Rescue Fair Maiden from Stalker.”  Katie giggled, calling them even. She popped out of her seat to jump in his arms. Nick grinned, welcoming her with his opened arms.
“Aren’t you afraid the manager will see us?” 
“Nope, she was off duty a while ago.  She was just waiting for you to show up, because I promised I’d bring you by. She said she had a wicked crush on you, the little cougar, she is.” Nick guffawed. 
“I can’t believe she waited all that time.”
“What, you don’t think she wanted a good close up so she could go home tonight and fantasize about the things she’d like to do with the parts she got close to, but couldn’t get close enough to grab tonight?” He chuckled. 
“And are you going to do that tomorrow?” He asked. 
“Probably not as much as you are going to,” she cackled. He nodded. They both laughed, and Katie began the story of one man’s journey from pitiful to perfect. “Nicolas Paul, I owe you one hell of a story, and I intend to tell you the greatest story ever written, produced, directed, and acted out by yours truly.  It took a huge array of people, but we pulled it off and turned an unscrupulous, selfish, and yet, self-loathing playboy cad, into the town hero. You ought to get some great songs out of this story.”
“I’ve been looking forward to this all night. Do you want publishing rights?”
“No, just some really good liner notes, okay?” 
“Deal, now let’s get that movie projector in your head rolling. I love how you tell your stories. It’s almost as if I’m in the story watching it play out in the wings.”


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