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Passion bubbles over…

 

 

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CHAPTER 4 – SEEING THINGS

Posted on: August 2nd, 2011 by Madison Lake 2 Comments
Liam Irish settled into his usual seat in the back corner of The Foxy Lady strip club. He didn’t like being up close. There were too many loud mouths and creeps pounding back Jack Daniel’s and yelling profanities at the dancers, for his liking. Besides, Liam preferred to be alone with his thoughts.
Savannah Porsche was just finishing her show. Liam liked Savannah. Using ribbons as her dance prop, she slowly unwrapped herself, like a package, creating an elegant frenzy of color around her curvy, near naked body. The grace in which she unraveled herself, then the final flutter of ribbons around the stage, made Liam think of the tails of kites flying freely in the breeze. There was a spacious field near a lake, where, as a boy, he used to fly kites with his grandfather. He remembered the freedom he felt when the kite finally got picked up by the air current and was carried away. How it made his heart lift, like he was the kite itself. The colorful ribbons caught in the sunlight, quivered and swirled in the wind. Liam thought it was beautiful, then and now. Then he remembered having to return home to his hard-drinking father and prostitute mother, the poverty and misery. His grandfather had been his only mentor, his only friend, and then he had died.
            The house lights dimmed to almost black as the music stopped, and Savannah Porsche disappeared into the darkness. Without a break, another song started. It was soft and sensual, an R&B piece, not the usual raunchy songs most of the strippers played. First he only saw a leg, long and lanky, move with the music. The dancer was in shadow at the very back of the stage. Whoever was attached to that leg had to be gorgeous, Liam thought to himself. He wasn’t familiar with this piece, or, he thought, with this dancer.
The leg was stockinged in black fishnets and on her foot was a very sexy, strappy heel with metallic rhinestones that caught the light when her foot moved. Her ankles were slim, and her leg seemed to go on forever. Liam wasn’t sure if the dancer was sitting on a stool while producing this tantalizing leg of hers, or whether she was standing up, but the lighting kept the rest of her body, which appeared to be dressed in black, well hidden. The audience could not see her even if they tried. Liam was riveted.
            As the music lulled its melodic rhythm, the dancer kept her leg twirling and bending with the beat. Her flexibility was beyond what he’d seen before, and he’d seen a lot of dancers in his day. As much as he anticipated, with growing urgency, for the dancer to reveal herself, he was thoroughly enjoying being strung along. The crowd gathered around the stage at the front did not share his point of view, however. They were growing impatient. With every circling tease of her lifted or twisted leg, the men called for more. Finally, another leg appeared to loud applause. Now, thinking they were going to be offered a real show, the men started to hustle, tossing bills onto the stage, whistling and cat-calling their vulgar remarks.
“Show us some pussy with them legs of yours,” cried one young man who was getting so worked up he was visibly perspiring.
“Give us a taste of it, sugar,” demanded another.
“Don’t bore me. Gimme some action.” To this the men started hooting and hollering. A few even tried to clamber onstage and had to be dragged off by a burly tattooed bouncer who Liam didn’t recognize, and who he thought was young enough to be his son. Liam also thought, for a Tuesday night, the house was rowdier than usual, especially this early in the evening. He wondered if there was a stag going on, or a private party. Otherwise, it was particularly unruly behavior for a weeknight.
The dancer continued working the crowd with two legs swinging and pumping with the beats. Her moves were seductive and alluring but Liam knew that it didn’t appeal to the other men in the bar. He looked around. Most of them there were young, which explained the attention span and level of boisterousness. By the number of Grey Goose and Jack Daniel’s bottles beginning to pile up on the tables that surrounded the stage, they were drinking hard, getting shit-faced as their ultimate goal. A couple of guys were already flashing wads of green for lap dances or private rooms. Liam shifted in his chair. Just then his barmaid approached.
“How ya doing sweetheart. Care for another?” She leaned over to place a clean cocktail napkin down on the small, round table, in preparation for a positive reply. Her ample bosoms were close enough for Liam to nuzzle his nose into, had he wanted, and she probably would have only expected an additional ten spot, at least for starters. Since he didn’t bite, she tried another angle.
“You here alone tonight?”
“Yeah, I’m here alone. I’m always here alone, you know that.” Liam winked. “But no Johnnie Walker Blue for me tonight.”
“Oh, bein’ a wise guy, are ya?” Della smiled.
“Actually, no. I’m chillin’, with the booze, that is. Only temporarily,” he added. “I’m testing my will power. How do ya like them apples?”
“Wow. And ya came in for a visit anyway? I’m impressed. Okay, hon. I’ll bring ya a Ginger on the rocks. Will that do ya?”
“That’d be great. So, what’s with the fraternity boys tonight, Della?” Liam asked, looking around warily.
“Oh, shit, them? It’s some sorta high school reunion or somethin. We’re all told to watch our backs. Got extra strong-arms on duty too. And it’s only eleven. Geez. Just tryin to keep cool, is all, tryin to keep cool.” Della gave Liam a wink. “Be right back with your Ginger, baby.”
He watched her walk over to the bar, warding off a couple of hustles along the way. Della was a pro. She could handle herself in almost any situation. Still, Liam didn’t like where this night was going. He figured he’d finish his Ginger Ale and head home, but he couldn’t take his eyes off the show. Not till she was finished.
While Liam had been distracted, the stripper had added arms to her performance, taunting the audience with hand gestures to the area where her legs parted, or by running her gloved fingers up her legs. She was removing her stockings now. He watched in rapt attention. The music was hypnotizing, as were her moves. As she ran her graceful fingers from the tip of her toes to the darkness that was between her thighs, Liam realized he was getting very turned on. His pants began to bulge at the crotch and he desperately wanted to get laid – now. But he was so entertained by the performance that he couldn’t – wouldn’t tear himself away. He had to see who this mystery woman behind the shadows was.
“Here ya go, hon. Ginger, on the rocks.”
“And here you go, Della.” He handed her a twenty. “Pretend it’s my usual and keep the change.”
Della noticed Liam didn’t take his eyes off the stage during their exchange. “She’s good, isn’t she?” Della asked him, with an interest.
“Who is she?”
“A newbie. Came in a couple weeks ago and boy can she dance. Hired on the spot.” Della glanced at the stage. “Alotta the guys don’t like that she doesn’t ‘show all’ but I think she’s damn good. That’s what ya outta be – a tease. That’s why they call it striptease for crissake.” Della laughed. “Listen hon, I gotta run. Nice seein ya. Take it easy, huh? Next week?”
Liam nodded. “Yeah, probably. Take care yourself, Della.”
He settled back in to watch the end of the show. Suddenly there was a skirmish at the bar. A bottle of Bacardi went crashing down on a nearby table and before anyone had a chance to see what was going on, a full on brawl broke out. Guys that were sitting around the dance floor leapt up to join in, thinking it was a good time to show off their muscles. Bouncers came out of the back rooms. The front door was bolted shut. Liam looked around frantically. He wanted nothing to do with this, but he couldn’t escape now. He burrowed into his dark corner and tried to remain incognito. This wasn’t his thing, not anymore. His days of bar fights and drunken disorderliness were over. He’d seen enough of the seedy side of life, had lived enough of it, to understand he was far better off to walk away. Walk away from the poverty, the booze, the eking out some life from those horrible choices. He knew now that he would never drink again, and it occurred to him that it was okay. Like a light bulb had just gone on, Liam Irish laughed out loud at this new discovery about himself. He wanted to jump for joy, to go over and sweep Della off her feet and hug her. He felt great. But he could see Della being pushed into one of the private rooms by a bouncer who was trying to keep her from getting hurt. Beer bottles were breaking and fists were flying. While Liam was having his revelation, The Foxy Lady was erupting into mayhem.
Liam turned away from the fight scene and looked back up at the stage. The dancer was gone. Legs, arms, graceful hands, all had disappeared from view. At least she’s been taken out of harm’s way, Liam thought, but where was she? He looked around, wanting desperately to find her, to know she was safe, to see her one last time. Then, in the shadows of the drawn curtain he spotted the lovely figure of a woman silhouetted against the dim backstage lights. The same long legs, the same graceful arms hung at her sides. She was watching the scene at the bar, in fear, or fascination. Her features were perfect, her stance familiar. Genevieve.
…stay tuned…Chapter 5 will be posted next Tuesday, August 9th…
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SALON ANTICS

Posted on: July 12th, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments
Chapter 1 – JUST ANOTHER DAY
Liam Irish was bored. A week into Lent, he hadn’t had a drink in over a week, therefore, he hadn’t gone out to The Foxy Lady strip joint, or to his favorite fetish club, Down Under. Although he considered himself an Atheist, he had been raised Catholic. Some rituals were ingrained in him, so he used the more familiar rites and holidays as a time to challenge his will power. This year he was quitting alcohol for the duration of Lent, which, he discovered, also included his personal indulgence of biweekly visits to sex clubs. It seemed he couldn’t manage one without the other.
At the onset, Liam had not considered the forty days of restraint to be difficult, but it was day seven, and he already found himself surfing internet porn sites to quench his thirst for voyeurism. Somehow, and in true Catholic form, Liam didn’t feel this indulgence fit into the category he had given up – thank god!
He pulled the flat iron through Frances Del Monte’s hair, careful not to tug too hard.
“So Frances hon, how’s the fam?” Liam asked, trying to make conversation even though he was in no mood for small talk.
 “Oh, you know, Mitch still drinks too much, Laurie can’t decide if she’s going to hairdressing school, Military school or no school at all, and Mitch Junior, well,” she thought for a moment. “Mitch Junior is too busy sitting at his computer playing games and surfing the net. Frankly, I think he’s up to something.”
Frances Del Monte was in her mid-forties, rotund, with a thick head of frizzy black hair and a jovial cackle of a laugh when she got going, which was often. Liam Irish adored her, and in turn, she was one of his most loyal clients.
 “You’re probably right Fran, but what are you gonna do?”
Liam snipped a few stray ends before he whipped the towel away from around her shoulders and lowered the hydraulic chair so she could step off. Her stilettos clicked on the hard linoleum as she stood up.
“Here you go doll face. Good as new.”
He pulled Frances’ faux leopard jacket off the hanger and helped her into it, then walked her to the front desk and opened his appointment book. While they were arranging her next scheduled time, the door opened and in walked a young man with shaggy blond hair and a two day overgrowth. He was drop dead gorgeous.
“Uh, excuse me,” he stammered. “Sorry to interrupt, but I have an eleven thirty with Genevieve. I’m a bit late.”
Liam and Fran just stared. The young man looked around to see what they were staring at. Once he realized it was him, he looked down, blushing.
“Awfully sorry ‘bout that. I look an awful mess,” he said humbly. “I’ve just returned from travel, you see. Really need a cleanup, don’t I?” He laughed. Liam and Fran exchanged glances. Fran finally came to the rescue.
“You look fine to me, sweetheart. If I had my way, which I don’t very often,” she shrieked delightfully, “I’d just preserve you in ice or wax or whatever it is they use nowadays, and take you just the way you are. How old are you?”
“S’cuse me?”
“How old are you? You’re adorable.”
“Fran, honey, that’s not polite,” Liam piped in. “We don’t even know this gentleman. You’re embarrassing him.”
“Well, it’s a fair question, isn’t it, Irish?”
“It’s okay. I’m thirty. Or is that too old for your taste?” He smirked. They all laughed, and the tension in the room dissipated.
“Are you Miguel – Miguel Santos?” Liam asked, holding his finger on a name in the book.
“Yeah, that’s me. Shall I have a seat and wait, then?”
“Oh, Miguel, you can do whatever you want.” Frances followed him to the waiting area, clip-clopping in her strappy heels all the way.
“Fran, focus,” Liam said in a slightly raised voice so as to grab Fran’s attention. “Let’s get that next appointment booked so you can go pick up your two delightful children from school.”
“Oh goodness, Irish, did you have to tell on me? Really. I could have had a chance if you hadn’t exposed that information.”
“Fine. How’s two weeks Thursday? That’ll be the fourteenth.” Liam knew Fran well enough to know when to listen and when to ignore her antics.
“Great, darling. And can you put this on my tab. I’ll pay you next time. How much are we up to, Irish?”
Fran sauntered over to the desk by the door and leaned over Liam’s shoulder.
“You’re up to about four hundred dollars, Fran, and five’s payday.”
“Alright, Irish. Cash in two weeks time. We’re off to Key West tomorrow. Mitch wants to do a little fishing, and the kids want to surf…the net.” Again, Fran cackled with laughter. “You know, Irish, you really should take us up on our offer to come to our condo sometime. Get outta the Miami heat. Mitch’d love to take you out in the boat. God knows he’ll never get me in that thing, unless it grows in length by about forty feet.” Her eyes rolled. “Besides, some fishing and R&R never hurt anyone, right Irish?” Liam smiled and she winked back.
”Ciao, boys.” She leaned over the counter and gave Irish a peck on the cheek, glanced over at Miguel, who was thumbing through a GQ, and waved. Then Frances Del Monte swept out of the salon. Miguel looked over at Liam.
“She’s quite the breath of fresh air, isn’t she?”
“Yes, quite,” Irish admitted. “She’s actually not as ‘large’ as she appears. That’s just her MO, you know?”
Just then, Genevieve walked in. Petite and slim, with long, dark, straight hair, big brown eyes and full, red lips, she was dressed for a typical day in the salon, which was dressed to kill. Miguel stopped mid sentence, mouth agape. Genevieve smiled, well aware that she was a head turner. She turned to Liam.
“Hey Irish, how’s it going?”
She walked up to the desk, dropped her bulky purse on to the floor and leaned against Liam’s broad shoulders, staring at the day’s client list.
“I wonder if I have time to grab a latte before my eleven o’clock?”
She looked at her watch then scanned the room for her first client of the day.
“Miguel, meet Genevieve. Genevieve, meet Miguel. I take it you’ve never laid eyes on each other. Just a guess. And it’s eleven thirty sweetheart.”
“Oh, shit, sorry. Miguel. Wow, good thing I came a bit early then.” She giggled. “I was actually expecting someone more…more…”
“Mexican? Yeah, well my mom’s mom was from Tijuana. Does that count?” He said this without a hint of an accent.
Liam returned to his scheduling book, but was well aware of what was going down. The electricity in the air created the room to buzz with a new kind of energy, one that Liam hadn’t felt in a long time. Damn, he thought, I wish it were me.
Genevieve led Miguel with her eyes to the chair at the back, his gaze riveted to her black lace blouse and body-hugging mini-shirt that offered more than a peek at her firmly sculpted buttocks. The last guy that had cut Miguel’s hair had been gay, and had flirted shamelessly with him. He didn’t mind that he was gay. It was the aggressive nature of his come-on that drove Miguel away from continuing at that salon. Miguel figured it was a pretty good bet that Genevieve was not a lesbian, but then, he had been wrong before.
There was the time at the Romance Novel Convention in Dallas, when a group of writers from the Creating Believable Characters workshop went out for drinks at the end of the last day of the convention. Judith, an attractive brunette with ample breasts and seductive lips, hung onto him throughout the evening. Buying him drinks and nuzzling up to him, he figured he had her ‘in the bag’. When it came time to go back to the hotel, Miguel discovered Judith had been using him to make her girlfriend, Leslie, another convention classmate, jealous. Leslie, as it turns out, had met Hilda, who came from Norway to teach a workshop. Unfortunately for Judith, Leslie and Hilda hit it off instantly, leaving poor Judith in the lurch. Miguel ended his weekend nursing Judith back to a mental equilibrium so she could return home bruised but not battered. To this day Miguel was still miffed at the number of lesbian females who wrote romance novels.
            Liam watched from over top of his reading glasses as Miguel sat down and Genevieve ran her scarlet painted nails through his hair. They were having the ‘first client’ discussion, but Liam knew there was more going on. Hmmm, Liam Irish thought, with increasing pleasure. This is going to be a hot one indeed.
            With his nose in his scheduling book, Liam paid little attention to the salon door opening and closing. After a few minutes he sensed a presence and looked up with a jolt.
            “What the fuck are you doing in here?” Liam asked, looking around to ensure no customers were within earshot.
            “Yeah, nice to see you too, man. Came to speak to Genevieve, what the fuck do you think?”
            It was Dominic, Genevieve’s old boyfriend. Liam hadn’t liked Dominic from the start. There was something dangerously uncertain about him. Liam had tried many times to identify exactly what it was when trying to convince an unhappy Genevieve to leave the jerk.
Dominic was tall and slender, but muscular, wore his long dark hair slicked back, and sported a goatee. Genevieve thought Dominic was handsome. Liam thought he looked like a gangster. But it wasn’t just his looks, as Liam knew looks can be deceiving. Dominic had attitude. He ran an online business that Liam questioned because Dominic could never show him any evidence of what exactly that online business was. Something to do with manufacturing, but what, Liam had no idea.
The friends Dominic hung out with were, in Liam’s mind, sleazy and shady. Once, when the three of them had gone out for drinks at Barney’s after work, a few of the ‘fellas’ showed up. Their conversation had been clandestine, whispered behind turned heads. Dominic’s friends circled around them as if guarding them, and when it was time to go, they pulled out wads of bills and paid the tab with cash, like they were taking care of things for Dominic. They treated him like he was the Godfather, and Liam had noticed that Dominic enjoyed it.
That was, he remembered, the first tip off that Dominic was not a good choice for his colleague, Genevieve, who Liam cared for a great deal. Although she was only ten years his junior, since hiring her, Liam had taken on the role of protecting her, as if she were a daughter. In this case, he had disliked the way Dominic had bossed Genevieve around as if he owned her. She put up with it at the beginning, being completely smitten with his looks and what seemed like his gentlemanly manners. But it soon became apparent that, what she took for manners was really macho behavior, and Liam was grateful when she tired of his ways. However, ending their two year relationship had proven difficult, and if Liam’s instincts were right, trouble had just walked into Snippets Salon.
stay tuned…Chapter 2 of Salon Antics will be posted next Tuesday, July 19th…
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           Joanie lifted her head from the warm pillow and looked around. Even with the curtains drawn, the room was bright. Her eyes focused on a dark figure sitting on the love-seat in the corner of her bedroom. Was it Peter? She blinked to clear her vision, not believing what she saw. Shoulders slumped, he looked worn and tired. Hollowed cheeks and the dark circles that framed his eyes made him look emaciated. His hair was a mess. Not the tousled, handsome looking mess she was accustomed to with him, but dirty and un-kept. His skin, once clear and blemish-free, was dry and chafed.
            “Peter! What are you doing here? What’s going on?”

            Peter woke with a start. Sitting in the warm silence he had relaxed and unintentionally dozed off. He brushed off his pants, as if that would help revive him, and sat up straight.
            “Hey Jo Jo, I’m here to take care of you, that’s what I’m doing.” He smiled. She looked puzzled.
            “But where’s Ruth?”
            “Oh, Ruthie went home. She was tired and wanted to get some sleep,” Peter lied. Joanie sat up, making sure to cover herself with the blankets. Peter stared at her intently, which made her feel uncomfortable, even in her own home.
            “Peter, really, I’m fine,” Joanie said, avoiding his gaze. “You should go. I have things to do. It must be past noon.” Panic suddenly struck, as she realized she’d slept most of the day away. “Really Peter, I have to get going.”
            “You go right ahead, Jo Jo,” answered Peter, without missing a beat. “I’ll just sit tight and give you a hand if there’s anything you need.”
Joanie sighed. “No, Peter. You don’t seem to understand. What I need is for you to go.”
Peter stood up and walked to the window. He opened the curtains and raised the blinds. Glaring light filled the room. He stood, looking out into nothing. 
            “Not a chance, Jo Jo. I’m here for the long-haul, so you better get used to it.” His eyes didn’t divert from the scene outside.
            “Give me a break, Peter Thompson. This is my house, so don’t go telling me what I had better get used to.” Suddenly, he turned and glared at Joanie, his smile gone. Shivers ran up her spine as she remembered her recent experiences with him. The man she once knew – and loved so well – she no longer knew or understood. It frightened her, and vexed her at the same time. Somehow she felt if she were just able to reach out to him, to talk some sense into him, the old Peter might return. But she also thought that might trigger his moodiness. She had to be cautious, to watch what she said and how she said it. She decided to change course.
            Joanie slid to the edge of the bed and let her feet dangle over the side. The nightgown that Ruth had apparently helped her into was, luckily, not lingerie, so she felt safe around Peter, for the time being. Regardless, she could feel Peter’s eyes on her. Her nipples hardened, and she felt heat rush down her body to her groin. Damn, she thought, why…how does he do this to me? She wondered if it was his look of sexual thirst that aroused her, or whether it stemmed from their long-time veiled love for each other that just wouldn’t seem to go away. Whatever the reason, it perplexed her. Jake was who she desired, who she loved now, although Peter had once been the one. Could it be that her feelings for Peter were still there, even though he had become so frighteningly disturbed? She thought back to the afternoon in the hospital waiting room, then to the incident on the cliffs. The memory made her feel weak. Although he still managed to get her emotionally, even sexually stirred-up, something wasn’t right, but she didn’t have time to think about that now. She went with her gut, stood up and headed straight for the bathroom. Before she reached the door, Peter was in front of her, hand firmly on the door jamb, blocking her way.
            “Not so fast, honey-pie. We haven’t even had a chance to, you know, hang out. Don’t I get a little attention first?” Joanie avoided looking him directly in the eyes, but she did notice beads of perspiration had formed on his forehead and upper lip. It wasn’t that warm in the apartment. She wondered if he was nervous, and if so, why? What was he up to?
            “Peter, let me pass. I have to use the bathroom. I’ve been in bed for a long time. I need to go.”
            “Give me a kiss first. That’s all I ask. It’s a toll for crossing the line.” He chuckled, nervously, she thought. “I’ll let you go after that, promise.” Frustrated, and feeling trapped, Joanie was prepared to give him a quick peck and push past him into the bathroom, but when she looked up, what she saw shocked her. Peter’s face had turned a sickening pallor and he had begun to sweat profusely. His eyes appeared distant and wild, and flitted back and forth between her and the kitchen beyond. Joanie noticed his shoulders trembled slightly but he held fast to the frame of the door. Frantically, Joanie began to formulate a plan. She just had to get past Peter.
            “C’mon, Peter. You don’t want me to wet my pants, do you?” She laughed mischievously. “Seriously, all I want to do is go pee. Then I’ll come out and we can talk. Can you make us a pot of coffee?”
            Breathing rapidly now, Peter looked into the kitchen. He seemed to be assessing the situation, looking for the coffee pot, the kettle. Focusing seemed difficult for him. Joanie began to move into the bathroom but Peter secured his arm across the doorway. She sniggered and playfully tried to push him away, but he held fast to his guarded position.
“Damn you, Peter, let me past.”  Joanie was getting annoyed but kept her anger in check. She wanted to prod him along good-humoredly, to win his trust. Peter leaned down and reached his mouth toward hers. She turned her head but it was too late. He latched onto her mouth with his own and forced her up against the wall. Joanie tried to wiggle free but he was too strong for her. A bitter taste, like poison, came through his mouth to hers, making her reel with repulsion. Sweat rubbed against her cheeks and dripped down her neck. She felt ill. Lately, all she had been doing was trying to escape this man – this man she used to adore. What had happened – what was happening to him?
But soon, Joanie began to melt against Peters touch, just as she had always done. His kiss became more urgent and she returned his ardent advances, opening her mouth to freely allow his eager tongue to enter. She gave him access down her flannel pajama top to find her hard nipple, then to cup and fondle her breast. It felt so good, she squirmed. His other hand let go of the door jamb and inch by inch, scanned her body down to find what he was looking for – the wet softness between her legs. Before he pulled the elastic waistband away from her belly to indulge in her sweet moistness, Joanie made her move.
Like a bullet, she tore away from his now relaxed body, darted into the bathroom, slammed the door and locked it. Leaning up against the closed door, she had only seconds to breathe a sigh of relief before the pounding began. Next, she went to the sink to wash her mouth, face and neckline, rubbing herself as if she were exorcising a demon from her body. She didn’t have much time, she knew that, but with all the banging and yelling going on, she felt certain someone would hear and come to her rescue. Just as that thought came to mind, the racket stopped. She heard Peter rustling around in the kitchen, opening and closing drawers and pulling items out of cupboards. Then it got very quiet. Joanie barely moved, waiting, listening, to hear what Peter was going to do next, but there was nothing. Just as she was beginning to think maybe he’d gone, she heard metal against metal and realized he was jimmying the bathroom door. The grating sound made her anxious. She backed away from the door and realized there was no way out. The one tiny window opened scarcely enough to let out steam from the hot shower, or to let fresh air in. Even if she could pry open the window wider, it was four stories down to the ground, with no fire escape.
Her mind raced, trying to find some solution. There had to be a solution. Her phone – where had she left her phone? At this point it was her only hope, but she had no idea where it was. She couldn’t remember getting home last night, let alone where she had left her purse or her phone. It made her think about future emergency situations, if she even had a future. Joanie slumped down against the bathtub in momentary defeat. But retracing her steps from the previous night in her head, Joanie thought she remembered seeing her purse on the side table by the front door. If it was there, her iPhone would certainly be in it. It was always in the little side pocket of her purse. Focusing now on this new discovery, Joanie stood up and began to work on a new plan that would involve accessing her phone to call for help. For a moment she felt a wave of relief, of hope. Then she saw the door handle slowly turn, and she froze.
…stay tuned…Chapter 14 will be posted next Tuesday, June 21st… 
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Joanie awoke to birds singing and the bright light of sunshine streaming through the window. She covered her eyes, then slowly opened them and looked around. Things felt familiar to her. It smelled like home, but she had no idea how she got there. Her bed felt safe and warm, and she was happy to be under her own covers. But before she was able to get too comfortable, memories from the previous night began filtering into her head. She closed her eyes again, hoping this would stop the recall, but it didn’t. It only made it worse.
            “Well hello. Look who’s awake.” Joanie jumped, but relaxed when she saw who it was.
            “Oh, Ruthie, I’m so glad you’re here,” Joanie sighed. “What happened? Where is everyone? Where’s Jake?”
            “Which question do you want me to answer first?”
            “Sorry.” Again, Joanie closed her eyes. All she could see was Jake’s face, sullen and stricken with pain. Then the vision faded into an image of Peter looking cocky and pleased with himself. He sneered at her from across the dance floor. She shook her head in an attempt to get rid of this frightful picture, but it wouldn’t go away.
            “Ruthie, please tell me what happened? I remember some things, but not everything. Was it as horrible as I think it was?” Ruth was quiet for a minute. She tucked Joanie’s blankets around her chin, and rubbed her shoulders encouragingly.
            “Oh, Joanie.” Ruth sat back and contemplated where to begin. Just then the apartment buzzer vibrated through the room. Ruth looked at Joanie.
            “Expecting anyone?”
            “No, but it might be Jake. Would you mind?” Joanie nodded toward the door. Ruth stood up, smiled kindly and went to answer it. Joanie rolled over and closed her eyes against the sunlight. She was too tired to think about last night or even about Jake at the moment. Plus she had a screaming headache. She thought about getting up to get some aspirin but could not even muster the energy for that. Within minutes she was fast asleep again.
            “Oh, hello,” Ruth said, once she’d opened the door.
            “Hi. You’re Ruthie, aren’t you?”
            “Ah, yes, that’s right. And you are…?”
            “Peter. Peter Thompson. I’m sure Joanie’s mentioned me,” he said with confidence.
            “So, what are you doing here, Peter Thompson?” Ruth was taking the cautious route. She knew snippets of the Peter saga, enough to put her on her guard. Fortunately for her, she hadn’t stuck around the Grand Ballroom last night, long enough to see the final floor show. Mind you, Carlyle had filled her in with plenty of details – more than she wanted – and had suggested Ruth go over to give Joanie’s place to offer some female TLC.
            “Same as you, I suppose,” answered Peter. “Here to take care of my Jo Jo.” He paused. “I feel slightly responsible.”
            “Ya think?” Ruth glared at him. Peter ignored her, and continued.
            “Joanie told me what a good friend you are to her. I can see why. You’re really sweet to come over here to take care of her, especially after a long work-week and such a late night, not to mention all the hard work and prep for the fashion award night. That was quite the show.” Ruth’s shoulders softened a little, her grip on the door jamb loosened.
            “So, do you always look so fabulous the morning after?” Peter looked her up and down, grinning. Ruth blushed. She had on her old boyfriend’s college t-shirt with University of Texas emblazoned across the front and a pair of sweats from back in her rugby playing days. She felt completely unattractive and couldn’t understand why Peter seemed so mesmerized. Then she realized she wasn’t wearing a bra. However, with her hair in a messy up-do, and remnants of make-up still on her face, she did feel surprisingly sexy, and Peter seemed to really appreciate her natural beauty, something many men just didn’t see. He reached out and brushed a tangle of hair from her eye. She smiled shyly.
            “You must be tired, Ruthie. Listen, why don’t I relieve you? I don’t mind.” Then, as if he just thought of the idea, he said, “I know. We can take shifts. That way we can see each other every time we take over from one another. Kind of like a changing of the guard.” Completely taken in by Peter’s charisma, Ruth considered this, and more. It did make sense and she had to admit she was exhausted. Besides, if she went home now, she could rest, shower and be back later in the evening looking better than ever.
            “Well, if you’re sure, Peter. But Jo Jo is my responsibility. Her friends are very worried about her. She’s been through a lot, what with all the work involved in the show, the pressure of her new stardom, and then there’s her Dad. He’s sick you know?” Ruth walked down the hall and poked her head around the corner into Joanie’s room. All was well. Joanie was still fast asleep. Ruth didn’t dare waken her now, knowing what a night she’d had. Peter would explain everything to her and to Joanie when Joanie woke up. Peter took her by the elbow and slowly led her away from Joanie’s bedroom and down the hallway toward the door.
“She’s real worried about him. And Jake…that’s her new boyfriend. She’s kinda upset about Jake being upset, if you know what I mean. I mean, they’re real tight and all, but Jake is sensitive and Joanie needs to reassure him if she going to hang onto him.” Ruth babbled on, completely oblivious to who she was talking to. Peter pretended not to be interested but he took it all in, like ammunition for the impending battle. 
            Peter grabbed Ruth’s coat from the hall closet as she continued talking. He helped her into it before hanging his own jacket up in its place. The apartment was quiet, except for the hum of rush hour traffic coming through the half open kitchen window and the clock ticking above the stove.    
“Alright, Ruthie. Y’all take care now. Get some rest so you can come on back here and give me a hand, okay?” He winked at her and grinned one of his cheap, schmoozing grins. Ruth soaked it all up like a sponge.
“Y’all call me now, Peter, okay?” Ruth said teasingly, as she stepped out the door. She was grinning from ear to ear. “I’m on call, right?”
“You are on call, Ruthie. You’ll be the first to know of anything out of the ordinary. Now go on home and get some much deserved rest. I only wish we didn’t have to take shifts, that maybe I could be going home with you.” Peter looked Ruth right in the eye. Ruth turned a bright red and hung in the doorway a moment longer. Was he serious? She looked up hopefully, but Peter only smiled. “See you later, Ruthie. I’ll be in touch.”
Once the door closed behind her, Peter got right to work. First he went to the fuse box and unplugged the fuses to the hall and bedroom lights, then the kitchen. Next he cut the telephone wires from the main connection and disconnected the front door buzzer. He peeked into the bedroom from time to time, ensuring Joanie was still fast asleep. He didn’t need trouble. Not now, not later. He went into the kitchen and removed any sharp objects he could find, including all the knives, and hid them in the pantry cupboard under the tablecloths folded neatly on the top shelf. Trying to cover every angle, Peter found Joanie’s purse sitting on the entryway table. Beside it sat her iPhone and car keys. Grabbing them all in one swoop, Peter shoved her purse under the sofa and hid her keys and iPhone under the sink in the bathroom behind the bleach and Mr. Clean. He made sure her keys were tucked well out of view. Rather than risk the annoying jingle he knew the iPhone played when turned off, Peter quickly slid the side button down and set it to silence mode. She’ll never find them in here, he thought. Scanning the room for anything he might have missed, Peter breathed deeply. He felt satisfied he’d covered everything. He walked softly into Joanie’s room to wait. She looked so peaceful laying there, the feather pillow fluffed-up around her head. Peter thought she also looked ravishing with her messy hair, flushed, rosy cheeks, and red lips slightly parted. For a brief moment he considered kissing her but realized that not only would that surprise her, it might cause her to be suspicious of his motives. He had to be careful not to create unnecessary angst or worry with Jo Jo. She was such a sensitive woman, he thought. He had to play his cards right if he was going to secure her love and their ultimate happiness.
Sinking down into the overstuffed armchair in the corner of her bedroom, Peter settled down to wait. It would be a long day, but he had nothing but time for his Jo Jo, nothing but time.
…Stay tuned. Chapter 13 will be posted next Tuesday, June 14th…
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