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By the end of the week, the small riot was already a distant memory. The club was cleaned up, a few new bouncers were on staff, and things were as they should be.
Liam returned to The Foxy Lady the following Tuesday, and the Tuesday after that. Della kept him from prying information out of her about Genevieve, by telling stories of some of the other girls. She disliked gossip of any kind, although it was difficult not to get sucked into a little bit now and then. Some of the stories she heard were enough to make even Della squirm, and she was one tough cookie. One thing she did tell Irish, however, was that Genevieve was different than the others. She kept to herself, wasn’t there to steal the limelight from any of the old timers, and minded her own business. The other dancers seemed to like her well enough, and she was no trouble for the club, although she often arrived just in time to go on, which by Della’s standards was pushing it.
But there was something lingering that Della could not put her finger on. Liam wasn’t surprised. Genevieve had proven to Liam that she was someone he could trust, and that went far with him. She was eccentric and edgy, that was for certain, but that wasn’t the issue. What bothered him was her reserve, like she was hiding something, and Liam felt whatever that something was, it was big. She definitely had some deep, dark secret and it bothered him that he didn’t know what it was.

It was early, only ten thirty pm the third Tuesday after the bar fight, and Liam had nothing but time on his hands. Plus, he figured he might get a glimpse if Genevieve happened to walk into the club early. So far he had stayed clear of her on his weekly visits, not wanting to be discovered he was in on her secret, if that’s what it was. The past couple weeks at the salon had been the most difficult. He was dying to talk with her about her double life, dying for an inside peek, though he knew he had no right. But intrigue was getting the better of him and he didn’t know how much longer he could last without revealing that he had been frequenting The Foxy Lady now, just to watch her show. Oh, he had his alibi alright, if she did find him out. Della could vouch for the fact that Irish had been a regular customer there for years, which he had. He’d rehearsed what he’d say to Genevieve, that he didn’t know it was her behind the shadows, or that he’d only just found out that night. There were ways around her not suspecting that he’d known for weeks that this was her alternate ego, that he’d been one of the regulars who ogled her through the dimness of the stage lights.  
Della placed a Ginger Ale on the rocks in front of Liam and sat down beside him. It was a good time to take a load off as the place wasn’t due to start filling up till midnight.
“Ya know, Irish, I’ve been thinking I should introduce you to Savannah, you know, Savannah Porsche, our ribbon lady.”
Liam didn’t raise his eyes from his drink.
“Aw, c’mon Irish, you know you’ve got an eye for her. You always have. She’s a good girl, arrives to work early every night, never gets herself into trouble, and she goes home alone. Imagine that?” Della smiled. “Whadya say, Irish? I hate to see you sittin’ here all alone week after week. Aren’t ya tired of being sad and lonely?”
Della stared singing, Are you lonesome tonight, Do you miss me tonight? Are you sorry we drifted apart? She loved Elvis, and Liam couldn’t help smile at Della’s sensitivity.
“Okay, tell ya what I’m gonna do.” Della grabbed Liam’s hands, resting on the tabletop, and wrapped them in hers. “After the show tonight, I want you to meet me at the backstage door. You aint leaving without a meet ‘n greet. Not tonight. That’s all I ask. Do I have your promise?”
Liam looked skeptically at Della.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” Della stood, stretched her legs and plumped up her breasts to just overflowing, before stepping out onto the main floor.
“Gotta run, sugar. Enjoy the show. Savannah’s first up.” She winked at him, then walked off toward the bar.
Liam nestled back into his corner as the house lights dimmed and the music started. One of the things he loved about coming to The Foxy Lady was that Della took such good care of him. Perhaps it was the mother in her that appealed, though she wasn’t that much older than he was, maybe ten or twelve years, but he knew she’d had a hard life and was trying to do good without all the resources and know-how to do so. Those reasons alone made Liam relate to her – and love her in his own way. They both seemed to have picked up on the similarities in each other’s background, even though they never dared bring it up. It was an unspoken understanding among those from an impoverished, dysfunctional upbringing. They just knew. Liam watched the performance, mesmerized by the soaring ribbons and the beauty of movement onstage.
After the last dancer of the evening walked offstage and the curtain went down, Liam Irish paid his tab at the bar and made his way to the stage door. Della was nowhere to be found so he pushed the door open and walked through. It was a hive of activity, nearly naked woman parading around from room to room giggling and gabbing about the night’s acts. Many of the older women, those in their thirties or early forties, were happily lounging around having a drink and smoking cigarettes. It was their cool down time after the show. On the other hand, many of the younger girls were in a rush to change and get out of the club for what remained of the active part of their stint, walking the streets seeing what extra could be made by turning a couple of tricks. Liam knew this was all in a day’s work.
There was no sign of Savannah, or Genevieve for that matter, and Liam realized he was the only man backstage except for a couple of stagehands. His presence was starting to cause quite a stir. Women stared and whistled and called him over to where they were sitting, trying to entice him to join them for the evening. He tried to ignore their taunts. Even he was beginning to feel uncomfortable. Just then a door opened and out walked Savannah. She was scantily dressed in a black and pink lace bodice with garters that attached to silk opaque stockings. On her feet were hot pink stiletto slippers with fluffy white ostrich feathers puffs on each toe. A sheer, revealing cover up did not do its job, showing off not only dark red nipples that poked over the laced up bodice, but a hint of what might lie in wait down at the bottom. Liam’s breath caught. Should he turn and walk the other way, or should he show how he really felt, completely swept off his feet by her beauty and sexiness? Rather than wait for him to decide, Savannah Porsche jostled right up, as if she had been expecting him. 
“I hear you might be looking for a little company tonight. Is that right?” Her voice was like liquid velvet.
“Where did you hear that?” Liam stammered.
He could feel the heat in his face and it pissed him off that his body gave him away. Why couldn’t he be like other men, grab her around the waist, haul her into her dressing room, and do her right there on the floor with her moaning and screaming for all to hear. But oh, no, not quiet, reserved Liam. He hated this side of him and he often felt victim to his own shortcomings. Before he could give much more thought to his genetic framework, Liam felt Savannah’s body next to his. Her bare breasts ever so lightly touched his arm, her lips brushed against his cheek.
“I’ve got some Grey Goose in my room. Interested?” She whispered in his ear. That alone made Liam’s head spin.
Liam wondered what to say. It wasn’t about the Grey Goose but he had to reply to that offer, and somehow the mention of Lent and sobriety didn’t seem to be what he had in mind. Before he could come up with a clever answer, one came to him another way. Savannah Porsche took him gently by the arm and led him quietly to her room, surrounded by an audience of jealous females. As they arrived at her the door, Liam’s shirt was half unbuttoned and Savannah’s fingers were fondling the hair on his chest, her tongue twirled around his right nipple. He could not stop his hands from reaching for hers, hard and ripe, waiting for him to pull them in gentle arousal. Before they could get the door closed there was a flutter of movement behind them. At first Liam thought it was the two of them causing a fuss, but then he realized women hustled back to their rooms, doors slammed, and what a minute ago was a vibrant, happy, after hours retreat, had just turned into lockdown. Liam tried to see what all the commotion was about but Savannah urged him into her room, and he was easily led. Before she could secure them safely inside, he heard a voice, a familiar voice, coming up to him. This time he turned around and found himself face to face with the one causing the disturbance.
“Eh, bro, what you doin in my house, huh? You not allowed back here. This here’s my office, these girls, my girls, got it?” By now Dominic was standing so close Liam could smell the Wild Turkey and Cohiba on his breath. Behind Dominic, Liam spied Genevieve, dressed in a lovely cream colored silk robe, with her hair loose around her face and down her back. He noticed that Genevieve looked frightened but he couldn’t tell if it was because of Dominic, or because she saw that he was there. Dominic’s eyes flared black and dangerous. Liam knew not to mess around with him but he was also a paying customer and had been for years. He hadn’t stepped out of line. A lot of the guys went back stage when invited, and Liam had been invited. The odd thing was, Liam had no idea Dominic owned The Foxy Lady. He wondered how long he had, or if he really even did own it. Strange things happened in these places so the truth was anyone’s guess. However, the behavior of the working girls when Dominic had come into the room spoke volumes. Piece by small piece, Liam started to put the Genevieve puzzle together.  
…stay tuned…Chapter 6 will be posted next Tuesday, August 16th… 
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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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CHAPTER 3 – MODERATION

Posted on: July 26th, 2011 by Madison Lake No Comments

“All I’m going to say is, you have exactly four, maybe five minutes to get up off the floor and make yourselves decent before Mrs. Furlish walks in. She’s stepping out of her car as I speak. The scowl on her face makes me think she’s not in the best of moods, but then, she’s a tough one to read at best. She might just be struggling with the seatbelt.” Liam stared out the front window intently. “Okay, she closed the door. The only thing you’ve got going for you is she’s elderly and slow. Now get moving.”

            The two careless lovers jumped up off the floor. Miguel followed Genevieve into the staff room, a pile of clothes covering up what they could of their exposed flesh. Liam plopped himself down at the front desk and waited, surfing new messages on his iPad. Nothing. His life at the moment had slowed to a snail’s pace given he was not out and about socially these days. As he watched Genevieve and Miguel tiptoe back into the salon’s main room, he began to have second thoughts about this Lent thing. He was definitely missing out, although, he mused, sex should really have nothing at all to do with drinking. The fact that he had neither in his life was what really worried him.
Before giving up drinking for Lent, Liam hadn’t really been all that happy. Sure, his sexual appetite had been quenched with each visit to the clubs, but even that was getting tired. What he truly longed for was love, and he knew enough that you don’t find that at the Down Under. Nonetheless, he was addicted – addicted to skin, to seeing smooth, taut bodies gyrate and grind with the beats, titillating those who watched by exposing just one small bit at a time  It wasn’t only the physical parts that were exposed to him, but with each thrust or wiggle, these beauties showed Liam a little more of who they were inside. The more he watched the more he understood, until he felt he knew them intimately. That was the ultimate turn-on – that and the tease, the playfulness, the ‘don’t touch’ tantalizing aspect of the experience. He had become a first class voyeur. He longed for it, he craved it, yet he wanted out. Was Lent going to save him?
The door rattled and in shuffled Mrs. Furlish. Liam didn’t mind attending to the few elderly ladies who regularly came to Snippets. He felt it kept a nice balance between the outlandish queens and dykes, the tattooed artsy types, the arrogant young stock brokers with their diamond studded wives who were regulars at the salon for cuts and colors, and who offered him a regular diet of the goings on around town. As long as his clientele didn’t object to one another, Liam figured all were welcome.
“Good afternoon, Mrs. Furlish. And how are you today?” Liam stood up and gave Vivian Furlish a welcome hug. Her thin arms wrapped around Liam’s wide girth. She patted his broad back with her claw-like hands. Mrs. Furlish had to be in her late seventies, and she looked it. She had been coming to see Liam for six years. Every Friday she had a wash and set, and because she was a smoker she got it dyed once a month, to keep the grey bright and fresh looking.
“Sweetie,” Liam said gently while patting Mrs. Furlish on the top of her thinning head of hair. “I’m going to get Genevieve to wash and set you today. I’ve got a last minute cut and color to do. Rather than reschedule your appointment, I figured Genevieve could take over. Besides, she needs the practice.”
“Making the loyal customers your guinea pigs now, are you, Irish?”
“No, no, that’s not it at all Vivian. You know me better than that. You’ll love Genevieve. I know how much you like to talk and Genevieve is a great girl for gossip. And you know I’d never abandon you or leave you with someone I didn’t feel was capable.”
“Well, I guess so. What choice do I have? I’m not about to go home, now that I’ve parked the car and all.”
Mrs. Furlish glanced toward the back of the salon at Genevieve. She was giggling while snipping away at Miguel’s damp, tangled hair. Every now and then she’d lean in toward his face as if she were straining to hear him, and nibble on his ear.
“You might be right for once, Irish. I’m trusting you on this one, but next time I want my regular routine, okay?” She poked him playfully.
“You got it, sweetheart. Thanks for your understanding.” Liam smiled sincerely. “Now, have a seat. She’ll be right with you. Here,” he handed her a magazine. “We got the new People in today.”
On the cover was a glam shot of the new royals. Prince William was wearing a blue v-neck cashmere sweater over a white shirt and khaki trousers, while his new wife, Catherine, was dressed in white a knit sailor suit. Vivian Furlish flipped the pages until she found what she was looking for and settled in on one of the comfy settees to wait. Seeing that she was alright, Liam casually walked to the back of the salon and hovered politely over Genevieve, watching her every move.
“Your next client is waiting,” Liam said, nonchalantly. “I have a cut and color that just booked. I told Mrs. Furlish you’d be happy to take care of her.”
Genevieve didn’t flinch, but continued to snip and thin Miguel’s hair until satisfied with her work. Liam had to admit, Miguel’s new cut was styling. She had cut most of the length at the back and along the sides, but left it lightly feathered on top to give it a tousled look. She kept his sideburns long to accentuate his jaw line. The look was very GQ and gave him an air of sexy sophistication rather than the look of sexy boyishness he had walked in with.
“Just a quick blow job…I mean blow dry…and I’ll be done.” Genevieve and Miguel giggled like teenagers. Liam glared at her with a twinkle in his eye. He enjoyed the breath of fresh air Genevieve brought to the salon. When Liam had first opened, over eighteen years ago, it was rocking all the time. But over the years, and with staff coming and going, the vibe had mellowed – he had mellowed. This new employee was just what he and Snippets needed. It was great to see someone who could enjoy herself on the job and still accomplish great work, although he had to admit, sex on the salon floor even pushed his limits for acceptable on the job behavior. Maybe he was just jealous, but he’d have to speak with her about it.
“Alright, hurry up you two. You’ve got a lovely but rather impatient Mrs. Furlish reading about Jen Aniston’s newest date in an old People. She’s going to tire of it very soon, so let’s be ready.”
“Right, boss.” Genevieve shot Liam a look and Liam couldn’t help but laugh.
He returned to his desk. By the time Genevieve got Miguel dried and out of the chair, Mrs. Furlish was pacing around the waiting area looking at her watch. Liam pretended not to notice, eyes intent on his iPad. He was looking at the Foxy Lady website, reconsidering his fetish regardless of giving up booze. He looked up at Genevieve, taking care of his client, Vivian Furlish. She didn’t have to take her on. He had just sort of dumped her on Genevieve last minute, without asking, and Genevieve had graciously taken to the task without a word. Despite her outward appearance and ostensible flakiness, she was becoming a valuable asset to Snippets. Liam smiled to himself. Yes, he thought, she is going to work out just fine.
            “Here you go, Mrs. Furlish,” Genevieve said. “Come on back to my station with me. I’ll take good care of you.” She turned to Liam.
“That’ll be forty for Miguel, hon. Do you mind taking care of that for me?”
Liam nodded. Genevieve winked and blew Miguel a goodbye kiss. Then she guided Vivian Furlish by the elbow to the back of the salon.
            “My goodness, that’s an awfully mini, mini skirt you’re wearing, my dear. I didn’t know they made them that small.” Genevieve smiled to herself.
            “Actually they make them smaller, Mrs. Furlish, but I can’t fit into those.”
            “Well, better you than me,” Vivian replied as if on par with the lovely Genevieve. Her dentures gave her speech a slight lisp.
            Genevieve helped Vivian Furlish into the chair and stepped on the hydraulic pump to raise it. She ran her polished nails through the thin, straggly and yellow-stained strands, but omitted the additional spice she had used with Miguel’s introductory assessment.
“I’m thinking a little trim might be nice today, Mrs. Furlish, as well as a wash and set. It’s getting long, and I know some very cool cuts that would take at least ten years off your age.”
Genevieve played with Vivian’s stringy locks, gently pulling, lifting and fluffing it up to create volume. “Maybe something like this,” she said to her client, cocking her head as if that would produce another image in the mirror.
            “Ten years, huh? What do I have to lose, right?
Genevieve pulled Vivian’s fine hair up and let it fall down naturally. Then she cupped her hands around the bottom and puffed it up to just below her ears.
“What do you think?”
“Oh, my!” cried Mrs. Furlish in sudden disbelief. Her dentures clacked as she spoke. Her eyes were like saucers.
“It reeks of sex in here.”
Mrs. Furlish looked slyly in the mirror at Genevieve. In return, Genevieve turned beet red.
“Figuratively speaking of course, darling, I don’t mean it really smells like sex, but this place pulsates with it. You, Irish, the pictures on the wall…all sexy, sexy, sexy. And this haircut!”
Genevieve relaxed a little, and looked around. Sure enough, the framed black and white photographs of women and men bordered on erotic but the bodies in them were tastefully hidden in shadow. A few Picasso-esque paintings that hung in the waiting area of the salon were clearly of nude females. Even the furniture was sexy. A leopard chaise lounge, a couple Herman Miller chairs in pale blue and brown, and a modern light blue settee. There was a peanut-shaped teak table for magazines; all very living room comfy. Genevieve had never really looked at the salon that way, but Mrs. Furlish had a point.
“Sex on the beach. Seems to me they make a cocktail by that name,” she continued matter-of-factly. “In fact I know they do. I read it on a menu a while back at the Clay Hotel in South Beach. What do you say we call my new do sex on the beach? Irish will love it.”
“Why Mrs. Furlish! I think you’ve just become my new BFF”

…stay tuned…Chapter 4 will be posted next Tuesday, August 2nd.

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“Hey Jo Jo. How goes it?”
            “What are you doing here Peter? I mean, really, I haven’t heard from you in almost ten years.”
            “Oh, your mom sent me over to pick you up. I’ve been spending a lot of time at the hospital with Walt and Alice. She didn’t want to leave his side, and thought you’d like a ride home from the airport, that’s all. Besides, your mom’s in no condition to drive out here. She’s pretty upset.”
            Joanie hesitated. She wasn’t sure about getting in the Jeep with Peter. It had been so long since she’d seen him. She felt uncomfortable seeing him here – uncomfortable and unexpected. And now he was spending time in the hospital with her father. There was so much she didn’t understand.
            “How’s Mom?” Joanie asked, while climbing into the passenger seat after tossing her luggage into the backseat. She noticed that Peter didn’t get out of the jeep to help her. Jake would have been all over that.

            “Oh, she’s okay. Shaken up, tired, and scared. But she puts on a good front. You know Alice.”
            “Yes, I know my Mom, thank you.”
            “Sorry Jo Jo, I didn’t mean…”
            “Yeah, well, I’ll take care of things now that I’m home again.”
            They drove without speaking most of the way to the hospital. Joanie fidgeted with her purse and nervously checked her iPhone for texts, hoping to find some message from Jake. Finally she spoke.
“So, is Kev around?”
“Yeah, Kevin lives down the street from us. He’s a firefighter now. Don’t you talk to him?”
“No. I rarely hear from him anymore, and Mom doesn’t give away a whole lot.”
“Well, he works, like the best hours in the world, and there are hardly any fires around here so he’s got it made in the shade. Those guys just wash the trucks, sit around in the fire hall, cook great meals, and play cards all night, when they’re on duty that is.”
“Is he married?”
“Nope.”
“Oh, well, I guess he’s still holding out for the right one.”
“Guess so.”
“So, do you two still hang out? I mean, you were best friends – we all were, weren’t we?” She paused. “Wow. That was such a long time ago.”
“It wasn’t that long ago,” Peter chimed in enthusiastically. “I mean, it doesn’t seem like it’s been that long. Time sort of disappears, then you just pick-up where you left off.”
Joanie was leaning her head out the window, letting the wind catch her hair. It blew away from her face as she breathed in the fresh air. She wasn’t sure how to feel. Peter was right, in a way. Time did sort of disappear, but whether she could pick-up where she left off was another matter, and one she didn’t know yet. She hadn’t spoken to either Peter or her brother, Kevin, in a very long time. There was a lot to catch up on, a lot to learn. What kind of man had Peter become, and why had her brother, who she had been so close to when they were growing up, become so elusive? It wasn’t clear yet what the upshot was from all these empty years, but she felt she wanted to take things slowly. Besides, right now her Dad came first, and she hoped Peter and Kevin felt the same way.
They arrived at the hospital and took the elevator up to the fourth floor, where Walt’s room was. He was sleeping, but Joanie’s mom was there to greet them.
“Oh darling Joanie, how good it is to see you. You look the same as always. Oh, I’ve missed you so. And your hair, it’s gotten so long. Are you growing it?”
Alice Scott squeezed her daughter’s cheeks before taking her into her arms in a full embrace.
“I’m so glad you’ve come. Your Dad will be so pleased to see you.”
“How long has he been asleep Mom?”
“Oh, he drifts in and out, but he’ll waken soon sweetheart, don’t worry.”
Joanie walked over to the bed where her father lay hooked up to tubes and monitors. She picked up his hand, limp and frail, and held it gently in her own. Tears were unleashed again, but she didn’t care. She let them roll down her cheeks and neck until she had to wipe them away to keep them from falling onto the floor. Peter came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders, as if to say Don’t worry, I’m here, but Joanie squirmed under the pressure. It felt uncomfortable to have Peter touch her, to be offering such intimate attention at a time like this. She set her Dad’s hand gently back on top of the covers and walked away. Then a nurse appeared in the doorway and walked over to the bed with a new IV bag.
“Listen, why don’t you two young people go into the family waiting room for a little while. There’s nothing you can do in here right now,” Alice suggested. “Your brother is on his way Joanie, but he won’t be here for an hour or so.”
“Really, Kevin’s coming? How is he Mom?”
“You’ll see for yourself honey. Soon enough. Now go. I’ll stay here with your father.”
Joanie and Peter walked down the hall to the sunny day-room provided to the family members of fourth floor patients. They settled down on the sofa, Peter at one end, Joanie at the other.
            “Listen Joanie, I know we have a lot of years to catch up on, a lot of misunderstandings to patch-up, but we have such history together. Good years, right?”
            Joanie shifted in her seat and turned her head away toward the scene outside the waiting room window. She tried to ignore Peter’s confessions. The lawn outside was lime green and neatly mown. Weeping willows provided shade for several patients in wheelchairs and others who wandered the grounds holding the arm of a family member or friend. Although the garden was inviting with lush shrubbery and tidy rows of flowers lined-up in freshly hoed beds along the pathways, Joanie found the sight depressing. She was still in a state of shock. One minute she was having a decadent luncheon in New York City, enjoying the attentions of a fabulous man, Jake, and the next minute she was sitting in a hospital waiting room with the lost love of her life, Peter, preparing to see her father who had just suffered a stroke.
            “You know,” Peter said. “After Walt’s stroke, I knew you would come home, and I almost felt like it was serendipity that he would be the one to bring us together again. Walt was the one who always wanted us to be together, you know.”
            Putting her hands in her jacket pockets, Joanie took a deep breath. She wanted to cry and scream and punch Peter in the face all at the same time, but she just sat there, numb. What was he thinking, telling her these things at a time like this? It wasn’t about him or them. It was about her poor Dad. And why was he going on about them being together again? Peter was married, and had been for almost ten years.
Suddenly Peter slid up closely beside her and put an arm around her shoulder. She turned to him, about to ask him what he was doing, when he leaned in and placed his full lips on hers. She tried to pull away but he held her face in his hands and kissed her more intensely, his mouth melting into hers. Without realizing it, Joanie gave in. She found herself leaning into his palms, then into his body, hungry for this feeling that for so many years she had wondered about. Now she knew, and it felt wonderful. Their kisses became more passionate, wet and welcoming. But the more she relaxed and returned Peter’s advances, the more aggressive he became. Harshly, he moved her toward him, thrusting his tongue into her mouth with unnecessary force. At first his forwardness was a turn-on, but it wasn’t long before she became aware of an intensity she was uncomfortable with. His large hands slipped down to her shoulders and began to yank at the yoke of her blouse. When she tried to pull away he became more insistent, holding on with a strength that frightened her. She wanted him to stop – now – but he wouldn’t let her go. His tongue reached deeper into her throat, even as she turned her head from side to side trying to release from his grip. What was he doing? How had this happened, and why? Just because she had always held a place in her heart for Peter, had thought she wanted him still, it didn’t make it right, and certainly not like this. And now there was Jake. She had just left him back in New York. Although they had just met, she knew Jake was someone special. So why had she allowed Peter to kiss her? She knew it was because she had always wanted to know the feeling of what it would be like for them. Sadly, now she knew.
Suddenly, the waiting room door opened and the same nurse who had administered her father’s IV poked her head in the room. Peter stopped. Joanie instantly extricated herself from his vice-grip. She stood up and stepped as far away from him as possible, trying not to let on to the nurse how disgusted she was.
            “Your Dad’s awake now,” the young nurse said. “He’s asking after you if you want to go see him.”
            Still shaken, Joanie attempted a smile.
            “Thanks very much. I’ll be right in.”
            The nurse looked at Peter then back at Joanie, and closed the door. Joanie felt ill. Her heart was racing and her face was flushed with anger. She glared at Peter with revulsion. Peter, on the other hand, sat smugly on the sofa, a look of triumph on his face. After what seemed an eternity of uncomfortable silence, Joanie said the only thing she could think of.
            “So Peter, how’s your wife?”
            Then she walked out of the room and slammed the door.
…Stay tuned. Chapter 6 will be posted next Tuesday, April 19th…
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CHAPTER 3 – THE LUNCH

Posted on: March 29th, 2011 by Madison Lake 1 Comment
The rest of the morning moved along at a snail’s pace. Although the fantastical visions, not to mention feelings, were still fresh in her mind, now Joanie had a new dream – one of becoming a famous fashion designer. At the moment, men were as far from her radar screen as they could possibly be. Mind you, it’s not that she wasn’t interested. Although many of the men in the industry were gay, she was regularly wooed by male suitors, either photographers or wealthy philanthropists too old for her, but fun for a night out at a lavish fashion soiree. Once she went out with Ryan Freemont, Hollywood’s newest heart throb ten years her junior.
But working and living in the design world was a rollercoaster lifestyle, one meant for younger singles. One night stands were the norm for most men, and although Joanie had partaken, even initiated some in the past, that had been a phase. At heart she was an old fashioned girl. She was tired of the dating game. Besides, at twenty eight it was time to get serious. It wasn’t necessarily the white picket fence and the two kids she was after, but it was more than a wild fling with some big-shot. For her it was about love, passion and the man she felt was meant for her – Peter.
They were expecting her. Joanie was ushered to a cozy window seat that had been reserved under Jake’s name. She was punctual. He was fashionably late, but it gave her time to settle in and touch up her lipstick. Luckily, that morning she had put on one of her own creations, a body-hugging taupe Lycra dress with brown lace over-jacket. Understated but classy. She added a deep purple Swarovski crystal broach set in gold, for an added punch of sparkle and color, and wore gold hoop earrings. And of course her favorite Manolo Blahnik three inch faux-leopard sling-backs adorned her size six feet. Shoes, Joanie felt, made ones outfit complete.
She was just taking a sip of water when a tall, strikingly handsome man swished past her and presented his hand in greeting as he settled comfortably into the seat beside her. Joanie swallowed. For some reason she hadn’t expected Jake to be such so attractive.
Joanie couldn’t help but notice he was wearing a personally tailored dark blue, double-breasted suit with a thin deep purple necktie, sterling cufflinks, and tasteful black Italian leather shoes. Cropped stylishly short, his sandy blonde hair had a touch of grey that gave him an air of sophistication. While his neatly trimmed sideburns enunciated his masculine jaw-line, they also supplied the necessary edge his rugged good looks called for. His eyes blazed bright blue, his smile brought warmth to the room – and to Joanie’s cheeks.
“Hello Joanie, I’m Jake. Very nice to meet you at long last.”
Why did that sound so familiar? Flashbacks of the morning’s erotic dream came to mind. A flush ran through her again. Was it the tone of his voice or what he said that made her feel so warm? She couldn’t put her finger on it so she brushed the questions from her mind and focused on what was in front of her – her gorgeous lunch date.
“Hi Jake. Nice to meet you too, but I must admit, it was quite unexpected to get your message this morning.”
“Well, I hope not to disappoint.”
Joanie shifted uncomfortably in her seat and smiled nervously. Are you kidding, she thought. You couldn’t disappoint a room full of devout nuns.
“No, not at all. So, you never told me, who gave you my name?”
“Oh, that would have been the good man who is your boss, Thomas Carlyle. His lover is my good friend Matthew. Matthew and I work together. That’s the connection.”
There was a pause while Joanie processed this new information.
“Oh, excuse me, didn’t you know about Matthew? Sorry.”
“That’s okay. I mean, I knew about Carlyle, or, you know, that he is, well…”
“Gay?”
“Yes.” Joanie felt foolish now.
“Anyway, he thinks very highly of you. Carlyle that is. He couldn’t say enough about your work.”
Joanie sat there, stunned. Jake had just covered for her. Most men she had spent any amount of time with would have teased her incessantly for missing the beat on the gay boyfriend. In her industry, you just didn’t slip-up like that. And this was Carlyle they were talking about. He had been her boss for the past four years, and was considered her good friend. Of course she knew that he was gay, but why hadn’t she known about Matthew? Joanie realized at that moment that no man had done that before, just smoothed over a blunder and let it gracefully pass. No man except Peter, that is. Her admiration – infatuation – for Jake grew on the spot. The fact that he was not too bad on the eyes didn’t hurt either.
Their lunch lasted three hours. Once the ice was broken and precursory matters were out of the way, Prosecco was ordered, along with a light lunch; fresh Fanny Bay oysters, sautéed scallops in a light lemon puree, and filet mignon, all of which was served and portioned-out throughout the afternoon. Half way through the bottle of Prosecco their bodies leaned in closer to one another, searching for some intimacy amidst the bustling lunchtime business crowd.
It started with a slight, accidental brush of her hand by his, as he reached over to fill her glass. Once the bottle was replaced in the ice bucket, he absentmindedly stroked her wrist while he described what he’d heard of her work. Brilliant! He had said. Refined taste with a twist of the eclectic. We love it. They talked and laughed, their emotional contact increasing as the luncheon went on. Butterflies, like in her morning’s dream, fluttered around in the pit of her stomach. Was this for real? Then he took her hand in his, fingering each bump and bone. He kept talking, as if it were an everyday occurrence, as if they had known each other for months, years. The way he stared into her eyes with such relaxed intensity gave her shivers.
“Some more Prosecco, Monsieur?”
The middle-aged waiter stared directly at Jake, patiently waiting for his response.
“I think not Jean-Paul, but maybe a small sampling from your patisserie, and two espressos please. Do you drink coffee Joanie?” 
Joanie looked at Jake, then up at Jean-Paul.
“Oui Monsieur Jean-Paul. That would be lovely Jake. Thanks.”
            They both smiled broadly.
Jake and Joanie lingered over their coffee and flaky pastries as long as possible, exchanging stories and talking design. As it turned out, Jake wasn’t a designer. He was an art investor, mostly dealing with fine art, often buying and selling rare pieces. He had started dabbling in fashion design because of his sister, who encouraged him to broaden his horizons by supporting her in her modeling career. In less than a year, Jake had researched and began following young, new talent in the industry of fashion design, and he found that he liked it. Not only was it easy for him to maneuver in a world mainly run by women, but, just as he had an eye for fine art, he had an eye for fine fashion. Having not one but three sisters, who he adored and who adored fashion, certainly helped.
Jake had stumbled upon Joanie by accident when at a preview party exhibiting the work of notable New York designers. Only one of Joanie’s pieces was on display, a long sleek, lime-green cocktail dress with plunging neckline that tapered down to the waist, where a handful of individually sewn crystal beads erupted into the shape of a sunburst. All it takes is one – one fabulous piece of art, one classically designed dress, one amazing woman. After reading her bio, seeing her photograph, and talking her name around, Jake fell hook, line and sinker for Joanie. Her unique artistry was only a bonus.
And Joanie could hardly catch breath when Jake asked her if she wanted to meet him for dinner after work. But that afternoon, Joanie didn’t make it back to work.
…to be continued next Tuesday, April 5th…
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