Mom was being unreasonable, again. Jennifer ground her teeth in frustration. All she wanted to do was watch the Sharks game on TV. It was her place, and her satellite dish and television, but her mother was determined to watch Survivor reruns, and wouldn’t let Jennifer put on the hockey game. Rather than lash out in anger at her mother, she spun on her heel and went into what passed for her room. She couldn’t wait until her mom’s house was finished. Her mother was sharing Jennifer’s small apartment, and what was supposed to be a four month stay had stretched into twice that long. Jennifer had given up her room and her king size bed in deference to her mom, staying in what had originally been her office, a small room only large enough to hold a twin size bed and a dresser. She put on some tennis shoes and grabbed her cell phone, laptop, wallet and car keys. When she was young, a ride on her horse had always calmed her down. Now that she lived in the city, a long drive to the ocean or the mountains was an adequate substitute. She let herself out the sliding glass door, trying not to slam it, even though she wanted to rattle every wall in the place. It was nearly midnight, but she wasn’t even remotely tired, and besides, it was Friday, so she could be up late and not worry about getting up to go to work. Hopping into her little gray Sentra, she slipped her Gaslight CD into the stereo, and cranked up the volume. She backed out of the driveway, pulling out onto the side road that led to the freeway. Luckily, she was just a quick hop from a major road out of civilization. Pausing briefly at the intersection, she pointed her little car south. Deciding to go over the mountains to the beach, she settled in for about an hour’s drive.
About halfway to her favorite spot, she figured she’d try a little side road that looked promising. Half an hour later, she wasn’t so sure she’d made the right choice. The road stretched out before her, appearing to head towards the beach, but there was a surprising lack of buildings. Was she so far out in the country that there were only farms? It was too dark to see, and her headlights illuminated only a few feet on either side of the road. It didn’t look like any part of Santa Cruz County that she remembered, and she’d been exploring these hills since she was old enough to drive. She saw some lights ahead in the distance, and decided to either stop and ask directions, or turn around and go back. She pulled up in front of what looked like a bar, noticing the sign above the door. “Crowe’s Tavern”. She shut the engine off, stunned. //There was NO way this was the place she’d been reading about. It couldn’t be. Could it? Well, it was either a wild coincidence, or…? After all, there was a restaurant in Santa Cruz called the Crow’s Nest, so it’s not like the name was THAT unusual. Was it?// Taking a deep breath, she decided to find out just where she was.
Walking up to the front door, she was relieved to find it unlocked. //At least they’re open.// She eased inside, grateful for the warmth. She’d left so quickly, she was still wearing the tank top and jeans that she’d had on all day, and it was a cool evening. She usually kept a change of clothes in the car, along with her favorite TOFOG baseball cap and a couple of jackets, just in case, but in her hurry to get away from her mom, she’d forgotten to put one on. Walking through the nicely furnished pub, she noted the tables, booths, and barstools were all empty. There was a dance floor off to the side, a jukebox nearby. Everything shone, a warm glow seeming to infuse the room. She felt instantly comfortable and at ease, surprising since she’d been in a foul mood, and didn’t usually feel at home in a bar. She went up to the counter, looking for signs of life. There had to be a bartender or a janitor here somewhere, right? “Hello?” She called out. A resounding crash reverberated from a doorway behind the bar, followed by colorful swearing in a decidedly masculine voice. A young man came through the doorway, pulling off a dripping apron and brushing wet hair out of his eyes. He stopped abruptly as he saw her standing there. //No, it couldn’t be. She must be dreaming. But he DID look familiar, from his light brown hair and green eyes down to his muscle shirt, jeans, and sneakers. She knew he was about 28, but his boyish features made him look much younger. Time to test the theory.// “Andy?”
“Yeah, luv, can I help you?” He looked at her, puzzled, using a towel to try and dry off a little.
“Um, you don’t know me. I just, well I, um.” She gave an embarrassed laugh. “I’m not sure how I ended up here, but this IS the Crowe’s Nest and Tavern I’ve been hearing about, isn’t it?”
He smiled at her, and she found herself smiling back. “It sure is. Welcome.” He extended a now-dry hand in her direction. “You know my name, but what’s yours, luv?”
“Jennifer.” She put her hand in his, starting a little at the warm, firm handshake. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” She realized their hands were still clasped, and pulled back, a little embarrassed.
He laughed and looked down at his wet clothes. “I was on the wrong end of a keg of beer when you called out. Guess I didn’t expect anyone to be in here.”
“Keg of beer? Oh, no! I’m so sorry!” //Great move, Jennifer. You managed to soak this sweet guy in beer within an instant of showing up. Off to a good start as usual.//
“S’alright, luv. I’ll have it cleaned up in a jiff.” He moved back behind the bar, grabbing a mop and more towels.
“Please, let me help.” She took the towels from him, and followed him through the doorway into what looked to be a storeroom full of every imaginable kind of alcohol. Behind one of the rows was a large amber puddle, evidence of the broken keg. They set to work, mopping up the floor and wiping down everything that had gotten splashed or sprayed by the beer. In what seemed like no time at all, the storeroom was spotless, Andy disposing of the broken keg outside while she finished mopping the floor. She wrang out the mop and put it back behind the bar where he’d gotten it. He came back in, whistling a little tune as he turned out the light in the storeroom, shutting the door behind him. “Can I get you a drink?”
“Oh, I don’t want to trouble you. It’s late, and I’m sure you’re closed.” She slipped onto one of the barstools, leaning her elbows on the counter.
He gave her a cocky little grin. “We technically don’t close here, although most people are settled in their own rooms by now. What would you like?”
//You. On the bar. Now.// “Um, do you have any sweet cider?” She took a deep breath, trying to clear her mind of the images running through it, especially the one of him making love to Celia on the couch.
“You bet. Coming right up.” He turned away to get a glass, and she noted how well his jeans fit his body, the still-damp patches from the beer slightly darker than the dry denim. //What is WRONG with you? Come on, Jennifer, get it together! The last thing you need right now is another heartache. Besides, he’s younger than you are. Okay, only by three years, but still younger.//
He handed her the glass of cider, and her hand brushed his accidentally as she took it from him. She looked down, embarrassed, taking a drink. It was very, very good.
Andy poured himself a beer. “Mind if I put some music on?” He walked over to the stereo, smiling as she shook her head. “Do you like anything in particular?”
“Country, if you don’t mind.” She took another drink of her cider as music came from the speakers strategically placed around the room. Andy asked if she wanted to go sit in one of the booths for a bit, and she agreed. They settled in a nice, cozy corner. Andy gave her a little grin. “So tell me, how did you come to be here?”
“In my car.” Her sarcasm wasn’t lost on him, and he swatted at her playfully. She laughed. “Do you want the long or short version?”
“I’m a pretty good listener, y’know. There’s got to be a reason you were out driving around in the middle of the night.” He reached out and took one of her hands in his big ones.
She sighed. “Now that’s a long story.” She started from the beginning, telling him how her life had turned totally upside-down a few months before. All within a week, her mother had moved in, she started a new job, her divorce finally came through, and a man she’d been dating for nearly a year relocated 3000 miles away. Things had gone downhill from there. It seemed that mom would be staying with her much longer than she’d anticipated. She paused, not really sure if she wanted to talk about the other part. Andy squeezed her hand, encouraging her to continue. Taking a deep breath, she poured out her broken heart. She had truly cared for this man she’d been dating, wanting to continue a relationship even though he was moving far away. She’d even planned to move out to where he was, after her mom was back home. Imagine how devastated she felt when she talked with him when he came to visit a few weeks later, only to find he’d started seeing someone else. The final blow had been when he told her, a couple of months after that last visit, that the new girl had moved in with him. She guessed she’d still been holding out hope that he would realize he missed her, and want her nearby.
She stopped there, unable to continue. She wasn’t quite crying, but couldn’t talk past the lump in her throat. Andy came around the booth, sliding in next to her and putting his arm around her shoulders. She buried her head against his chest, grateful for the comfort. He smelled of beer. Suddenly she giggled, surprising both of them. //Here I am crying over someone who doesn’t deserve me, and this poor, sweet man is probably sticky from the dry beer, most likely wanting nothing more than for me to stop blabbing so he can go take a shower.// He looked at her like she’d lost her mind, and she giggled harder, even though she must seem a total idiot. “What?” He asked, holding her shoulders, his eyes meeting hers.
“You are totally covered in that beer, Andy.” Her eyes sparkled at him, and he laughed ruefully. “Yeah, I know. Can you hold on a sec while I run up and change?”
“Of course. I should have let you do that ages ago. I’m sorry!” She hugged him in apology, feeling like a total ogre.
He hugged her quickly, then moved to go change. “Oh no worries, luv. You needed to talk to someone. Back in two shakes.”
She watched him duck out of the room, heading up the stairs. //Now why hadn’t she noticed those before?// Wandering around the main part of the tavern, she looked at the decorations on the walls. They were covered in old items like road signs, pieces of driftwood, and black and white pictures. The overall effect was one of antiquity, like it was someplace that had been there for a long time. She walked over to the jukebox, perusing the selection. The stereo was still playing, and she tapped her foot to an upbeat song by Lonestar. She jumped and squealed as someone came up behind her, wrapping their arms around her waist. “Andy!” She spun around, heart racing.
“Did I scare ya, luv?” He laughed, putting his arm around her shoulders.
She noticed he’d changed to a fresh shirt and jeans, his hair wet. He smelled of soap now. “Oh, just a little.” She said sarcastically. “I’m just glad it was you, and not Sid or something.”
“Sid? Nah, he’s probably plugged himself in for the night.” He looked down at her, his eyes almost blue in the dimmed lighting. The music changed, the first notes of a slow song drifting on the air. “Would you like to dance?”
The question surprised her. Before she could think of the thousand reasons why she shouldn’t say yes, she found herself nodding and moving with him out onto the floor.
The bar was empty, I was sweeping up the floor
That’s when she walked in; I said, “I’m sorry but we’re closed”
And she said “I know, But I’m afraid I left my purse”
I said, “I put one back behind the bar. I bet it’s probably yours”
And the next thing that I knew, There we were, lost in conversation
And before I handed her her purse, I said, “You’ll only get this back
on one condition”
She only came up to the top of his shoulder, and he gently rested his cheek on the top of her head as they danced, slowly moving to the music. She felt so secure here in his arms, the heartache she’d been talking about earlier seeming to lift away for the first time in months.
And we danced
Out there on that empty hardwood floor
The chairs up and the lights turned way down low
The music played, we held each other close
And we danced
Jennifer twined her arms up around his neck, looking into his eyes as they swayed together. // Talk about life imitating art! //
And from that moment, There was never any doubt
I had found the one, That I had always dreamed about
And then one evenin, When she stopped by after work
I pulled a diamond ring out of the pocket of my shirt
And as her eyes filled up with tears
She said, “This is the last thing I expected”
And then she took me by the hand
And said, “I’ll only marry you on one condition”
Andy pulled her closer, one arm circling her lower back, the other around her shoulder, his hand stroking her neck and caressing her hair.
And we danced
Out there on that empty hardwood floor
The chairs up and the lights turned way down low
The music played, we held each other close
And we danced
He was nuzzling her neck now, sweet little kisses that tantalized her, sending little tingles of pleasure through her body.
Like no one else had ever danced before
I can’t explain what happened on that floor
But the music played
We held each other close
And we danced
Yeah, we danced
Time seemed to stand still as the song ended. Andy looked into her eyes, wordlessly asking permission. She pushed her worries aside as she raised her lips to his. They shared a sweet kiss, Andy pulling back to make sure she was alright with this before kissing her again, more intently this time. Her heart was pounding in her ears, pulse racing as their yearning grew more urgent. Breaking the kiss, he took her hand in his, leading her across the room, towards the stairs. He paused at the bottom, kissing her again, nibbling lightly on her lower lip. She responded, tangling her fingers in his hair, wanting more. He picked her up, carrying her up the stairs. They reached his room, and he opened the door. Still holding her in his arms as they entered, he kicked the door shut behind him.
There was a SLAM, followed by a loud voice from the doorway. “Hey, mate, whatcha doing having a lie in? We’re supposed to shift those supplies, remember?” Jennifer sat up groggily, squinting against the bright light to see a man, make that a shirtless, jeans-clad man, in the doorway.
The man in question stood there, a shocked expression on his face. She felt Andy stir beside her, groaning and throwing his arm over his face. Belatedly, she grabbed the sheet, pulling it up to cover her body. She looked at the doorway again, a giggle escaping her lips as she realized what was going on. “Colin? Hi, nice to meet you.” His expression went from shocked to astonished. “I’m Jennifer. Has Michelle mentioned me? I keep telling her how much I love your tattoo.” She looked at his nicely developed upper body, finally letting her gaze linger on his left bicep, the barbed-wire design clearly visible in the morning light. //These men are just too beautiful.//
Colin smiled. “G’day, Jennifer. Michelle’s mentioned you a time or two. I can see you’ve been made welcome here.” He looked over at Andy, who had finally opened one eye to check what was happening. “I’m sorry, mate. Didn’t realize you had company.” //Was it her imagination, or was he blushing?// “I’ll uh, let you two alone. Come find me when you’re ready.” He ducked out the door, closing it behind him.
Jennifer turned and looked at Andy. They both started laughing at once. “Did you see his face?” He giggled, and she nudged him in the ribs. “Of course, you DID forget to LOCK the door.” She squealed and squirmed as he grabbed her arms, pulling them above her head with one hand, tickling her unmercifully. “Stop, oh stop. Mercy! Uncle!” Gasping and laughing, she wriggled around, trying to break his hold.
“Oh no you don’t, luv.” His eyes sparkled a light green in the morning light. His expression changed, becoming more intense as he lowered his head towards hers, their lips just inches apart. “I’ve got you now.” He kissed her gently, lips caressing first her mouth, then her face, little sweet kisses that made her heart pound in her chest.
A sharp knocking on the door startled them both. “Shit. What now?” Andy got up, slipping on his jeans as Jennifer snuggled back under the sheets. “Yeah?” Opening the door, he stepped outside, closing it behind him. She heard the sounds of conversation, not quite being able to make out what was being said. Andy came back in a moment later. “Sorry about that. I’d better get a move on. Why don’t you sleep a bit, and I’ll be back in a little while.” He looked like a disappointed little boy, and she smiled at him.
“Sure, it’ll be nice to relax for a change. You don’t mind if I take a shower, do you?” She looked over at him as he shook his head. She lay there, just watching him as he got ready to go, pulling on a shirt and rummaging for his shoes. “Andy.” Her voice stopped him, and he came over to the bed. She slipped out from under the covers, reaching up to wrap her arms around his head, pulling his face down to hers for a lingering kiss. “Hurry back.”
He smiled and wrapped his arms around her, lifting her off the ground and swinging her around. “I’ll be back before you know it, luv. Can’t wait to show you around.” He lay her back on the bed, placing one last kiss on her lips before practically sprinting out the door.
Jennifer stretched on the bed, grateful that Andy had a queen size mattress. After eight months on a twin, she’d forgotten how nice it was to be able to stretch her five foot two frame and not kick the headboard or wall. Rolling over to snuggle into Andy’s pillow, she inhaled deeply, liking the way it smelled of him. She dozed off, warm and comfy in the sun, hugging the pillow as if it were Andy there with her.
She awoke a while later, and decided to take a shower. Walking over to the closet near the bathroom, she found a clean towel. She looked around. Andy’s room was simple, but nice. Other than the bed, there was a dresser, a small desk and chair, and a bookshelf that stretched nearly to the ceiling. No television, she noted. Interesting. She wandered over and looked at the books. He had a real mix of titles, everything from fiction paperbacks to hardbound textbooks. Smiling, she went into the bathroom, taking a long, hot shower. She was just brushing out her hair, clad in the jeans and tank top she’d worn last night, when there was a knock on the door. She opened it, knowing it probably wasn’t Andy. “Colin!” She smiled, surprised.
“Hi Jennifer. Andy asked if I could swing round and make sure you were okay. He’s going to be a little while longer, and didn’t want you to be stuck in his room.” Colin leaned against the doorframe, looking tanned and handsome. //Chelle’s a lucky lady.// “Would you like to come down with me, or wait for Andy?”
She had to think on that one. On one hand, it would be nice to take a look around, but on the other, she wanted Andy to be with her. “I’d like Andy to show me around, but to tell the truth, Colin, I’m starving.”
He laughed and took her arm. “Okay, some breakfast coming right up. Or should I make that lunch?” She blushed as he grinned at her. They went down the hallway, Jennifer pausing briefly at the bottom of the stairs. Luckily, there were only a few people in the tavern, most choosing to be outside on such a beautiful day. Colin ducked into the back to grab some food while she went over to the corner booth she’d shared with Andy last night. There were a few curious glances in her direction, but she didn’t recognize anyone in the room. Colin joined her a few minutes later, a plate of sandwiches in one hand, and a couple of cans of soda in the other. They sat companionably, eating lunch and chatting. He was a great guy, going out of his way to make her feel at ease. She did manage to make him blush once, when she mentioned that he made a good alarm clock. He apologized to her again, but she laughed, telling him not to worry about it.
They were sitting there, chatting and laughing, when Andy came in the front door. He looked a little tired, and was definitely sweaty. His face lit up when he saw her though, and he crossed the room in a few bounds, wrapping her in a big bear hug. Colin laughed and clapped him on the shoulder. “‘Bout time, mate. Much longer and someone might’ve made off with your girl.”
A brief flicker of some indefinable emotion crossed Andy’s face, then he laughed. “Yeah Colin, thanks mate.” They exchanged grins, and Colin headed for the door after giving Jennifer a quick kiss on the cheek.
“Ready for the tour?” Andy laughed at the pained expression on her face. “C’mon, luv. Everyone here is really nice. You’ll see!” He reached out and took her hand, pulling her towards the door.
Still holding hands, they emerged out onto the grounds. Jennifer took a good look around, noting her poor little car off to the side. “Hold on a sec.” She unlocked the trunk, making sure her laptop was secure and checking her cell phone for messages. None. //Gee, big surprise there.// “Okay, ready. Remind me to bring in my change of clothes later, eh?” She slipped her hand into Andy’s waiting one, and they walked together towards the Nest. Andy started telling her stories of the residents as he showed her around, making her laugh at some of his observations. For all his youthful exuberance, he really was an intelligent guy. She had a feeling most people misjudged him, mistaking his simple, direct manner for a lack of depth. She had a feeling that there was much more to him than he let on.
Once inside the hotel, Andy introduced her to Peaches, who was chatting with Cort. She hadn’t known Jennifer was coming, but was more than happy to put her down for room 333 the next weekend. Andy looked a little upset that she wouldn’t be staying with him, but she cajoled him into a better mood, whispering in his ear that not only would they have a nice, comfy suite, but also the lock on her door would surely work. He giggled a little at that, admitting that his room wasn’t the most private area for them.
She chatted with Cort a little, inquiring after Sunday services. He was surprised to learn she was a student at a Christian College, and was working towards a Biblical Theology minor. Promising to discuss the subject more later, Jennifer let Andy lead her up the stairs, getting the grand tour of the second and third floors, Andy pointing out everyone’s rooms. //I won’t be able to remember any of this. I’ll be lucky if I find my way back here.// They snuck a peek into her room, 333, a nice little corner suite with a view of the hills. Jennifer loved the little sunny alcove. She could just imagine curling up in the sunshine there, reading a book or doing homework on her laptop. The Jacuzzi tub looked very promising. She chuckled at the thoughts running through her head.
Andy led the way back down the stairs, making a reservation for dinner before going outside for a tour of the grounds. They bumped into several people Jennifer recognized, and a few she didn’t. East was very kind, letting her pet the horses. When he found out she’d ridden for years before moving to the city, he offered to take her riding one morning. She was more than happy to take him up on that, and they made an appointment for the following weekend. They were hardly out of the stables when Lachlan flagged Andy down. He was a charming man, asking if he could take her flying. Laughing, she declined. Sitting on a horse was about as far off the ground as she liked to get, and thinking of flying in his plane made her queasy. Still, it was sweet of him to ask. She and Andy walked all over, lying under an old oak for a while to kiss and cuddle.
Jennifer felt like she was a teenager again. Andy held her hand, put his arm around her, and treated her like she was a precious flower. After the events in the last few months, she had put her guard up so high it seemed no one could overcome it, but here he had swept aside all her reservations in a day. She was afraid, so afraid to open her heart again, and he seemed to know it. Just being held in his arms made the hurt go away, and when he looked at her with his heart in his eyes, she felt her barriers start to melt.
It was getting late in the afternoon, and they decided to head back to Andy’s room to get ready for dinner. Andy kept giggling over a “surprise” he had for her afterwards, but try as she might, she couldn’t get him to spill the beans.
Andy went upstairs to take a shower, while she brought her clothes up from the car, thankful that she had kept them in the trunk. She let herself into his room, hearing the shower running. //Hmm, wonder if he’d mind some company?// She slipped her clothes off, sneaking quietly into the steam filled room. Drawing aside the curtain, she slipped in behind him, reaching for the soap. They washed each other thoroughly from head to toe, kissing and licking and biting and teasing. Andy wrapped her up in a big towel, carrying her over to the bed. He dried her off inch by inch. Taking the towel from him, she returned the favor, stopping when he claimed her mouth for a passionate kiss. He made love to her, drawing out each emotion, each feeling, until it was almost painful.
They cuddled for a while afterwards, Andy telling her of his family. Realizing it was nearly time for dinner, they got up and started to get dressed. Andy tried playing “keep away” with her shirt, until Jennifer started chasing him around the room with the damp towel, snapping it at his still-bare backside. Calling a truce, they finished getting ready, heading out the door for her first dinner at the Nest.
Entering the dining room, they were greeted by a few of the people they knew. Michelle and Colin were there, as were Kath and East. Andy had gotten them a cozy table in the corner, where she could see everyone as they entered. The tables were all covered with white tablecloths, and decorated with candles and flowers, and the room was pleasantly lit, not too bright, creating an intimate and comfortable atmosphere. He entertained her with more of his stories, and made the introductions when someone would come over to meet the “new girl”. Jennifer felt pretty self-conscious at first, but everyone was so nice, she soon relaxed. Peaches and Cort said hello when they came in, and Jennifer finally got to meet Maximus when he and Laura walked by. //Wow. Who would have thought he’d look even better in normal clothes?// She must have been staring as they walked away, only coming back to reality when Andy nudged her and laughed at her startled expression. She smiled sheepishly, and he giggled. “It happens all the time. He could stop traffic if he was walking around on the street. We’ve gotten used to it.” He took her hand and kissed it softly. “I’m just glad you’re here with me tonight.”
About halfway through dinner, she excused herself to go to the ladies room. Coming out of the doorway, she literally bumped into a man going into the men’s room. All she could do was stop and stare. He was SO beautiful, she thought her heart had stopped. He put his hand on her shoulder, his blue-green eyes narrowing in concern as she just stood there. Pushing his long hair back out of his face with his other hand, he asked her if she was okay. She slowly shook her head, looking at him in wonder. “John.” She squeaked. Clearing her throat, she tried again. “You’re John.”
“Yes. I don’t think we’ve met?” He made it a question, still watching her closely as if she might swoon at his feet.
“I’m Jennifer. This is my first night here. Well, sort of.” She stopped, blushing. She took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bump into you. I wasn’t watching where I was going, and then I realized it was YOU and you’re just so much more handsome than I, well, you’re just so incredible, and I loved watching the hockey game and…” She trailed off, realizing that not only was she babbling, but John had turned about three shades of red during her gushing diatribe. //Good one, Jennifer. Just embarrass the poor man.//
A woman came around the corner, calling John’s name. She stopped, seeing him there in the hallway. Jennifer turned to her with a smile, extending her hand. “Hi, you must be Tina. I’m Jennifer. I bumped into John and thought I’d introduce myself, since I’m new here. Unfortunately, I seem to have run off a bit and have now managed to thoroughly embarrass the both of us.”
Tina realized the effect her handsome John must have had on Jennifer, and came to the rescue, initiating some small talk and managing to put them both at ease. Jennifer excused herself, saying she had better get back before Andy thought she’d gotten lost, eternally grateful to Tina for saving her from making more of an ass of herself than she already had.
She managed to get back to the table without further incident, casually mentioning to Andy that she’d met John and Tina. Andy told her about the skating lessons he’d been taking from John, and suggested they go visit “The Pond” sometime. She readily agreed, hoping she could manage to keep her tongue from lolling out when she saw John skate. Mystery, Alaska was one of her all-time favorite movies, special to her long before she put two and two together and discovered it was Russell Crowe playing John.
They finished dinner, she and Andy waving goodbye to a few people as they headed out the door. He put his arm around her shoulders, guiding her down a path she hadn’t noticed before. It was a nice night, not too chilly, and the stars were shining brightly overhead. The moon hadn’t come up yet, but it was still light enough to see. She gasped as they came down to a sandy beach. “Oh! Andy! How beautiful!” He smiled down at her, kissing her cheek. She slipped off her shoes and wriggled her toes in the sand, feeling like a kid. They walked down the beach for a while, holding hands, both of them quiet. It was nice to be able to just enjoy someone’s company without having to make small talk.
They came upon a driftwood log nestled up against a grassy bank just up from the water line. Stopping her just before they got to the log, Andy told her to close her eyes. She giggled, wondering what he was doing. She heard some rustling noises, and when he told her to open her eyes, she saw a woven blanket on the sand, two oversized pillows perched on the edge and up against the log. Next to the blanket was a cooler, a bottle of wine inside. Andy stood watching her reaction. “Surprised?”
“Oh, it’s fantastic! When did you do all of this?” She knelt down on the blanket, then lay back against one of the pillows. The view was gorgeous, with the moon just peeking up into the sky and illuminating the crests of the waves as they rolled to shore.
Andy poured two glasses of wine, handing one to her as he lay down on the pillow next to her. “That’s what took me so long this morning. After we’d finished unloading the supplies, I asked Colin to keep you occupied while I brought everything out here.”
Jennifer didn’t know what to say. She was so touched by his thoughtfulness. No one had ever gone to such effort for her. “Andy, it’s wonderful. Thank you.” She moved to kneel beside him as he lay there on his side. Gently running her hand through his hair, she brushed it back from his face, following it around to the back of his neck. Bringing her hand back up, her eyes searched his as she gently touched his cheek, feeling the smooth skin. She leaned down, kissing him softly on his lips. She trailed light kisses over his cheeks, his eyes, and his chin, then back to his soft, sweet lips. His arms came around her, tangling in her hair as he kissed her back, deepening the kiss and slipping his tongue between her lips. They lay that way for a while, kissing long and passionately, their bodies entwined. Neither one of them wanted to rush things, knowing they had all night. The soft murmuring of the waves echoed their whispered words to each other. It felt as her heart was slowly being mended, piece by piece, with each caress, each word, each look Andy gave her. Somewhere, somehow, she must have done something right, something good to deserve this beautiful man who cherished her with his every move. Ever so slowly and gently, they undressed each other, lingering over each touch. When their two bodies finally merged, they cried out in unison, reaching heaven together.
Jennifer lay snuggled on his chest, watching the waves and the stars above. His hand played with her hair, and she stretched against him, practically purring. He reached over and grabbed a blanket that had been lying folded off to the side, pulling it over the two of them. She felt warm and safe and cherished as she lay in his arms, the crashing of the waves lulling her to sleep.
A slight tickling on her ear kept nagging her. Jennifer kept trying to brush it away, but it kept coming back. As she struggled up from the layers of sleep, she realized that the pillow she was lying on was moving. Wait, it wasn’t a pillow. Andy! Waking up fully, she grabbed his hand as he was about to tickle her ear again, his chest shaking from trying not to laugh. Pinning his arm down on the blanket, she knelt quickly, trapping both his arms at his sides. He was laughing out loud now, even though she had him pinned down. “So you thought you’d play with me, hmmm?” Jennifer tried to keep from laughing as she gave him a mock-stern glare. “You know what I do to naughty boys that tickle me, don’t you?”
Andy tried to look afraid, but ended up in a fit of giggles. “No, what?” He managed to gasp out.
She responded by pinning his arms above his head, the blanket that had covered them falling off, exposing them to the cool morning air. Andy’s expression grew serious as she looked down at him, a smile playing around her lips. Leaning down, she slowly kissed his neck, licking the sensitive spot where his neck joined his shoulder. She flashed him a wicked grin as she licked, kissed, and nibbled her way up and down his neck, Andy starting to groan as she kept up the sweet torture. “Please.” He whispered.
She just smiled, licking his neck just under his ear. Keeping his arms up above his head, she straddled him, her hair tickling his chest as she kissed him everywhere except his lips. She could feel how aroused he was, their bodies scant inches apart, both naked in the early morning sun. Their eyes met, and time seemed to stop, a feeling without words passing between them.
Letting go of Andy’s arms, she leaned down to kiss him on his soft, full lips. He took her face in his hands, holding her and looking into her eyes as he softly murmured, “I love you.”
Their lips met and their bodies joined, both moaning at the exquisite pleasure. They moved together, feeling like they were the only two people in the world. His cry joined hers as they each reached their peak, Jennifer falling exhausted onto his chest. His arms came around her, holding her close, safe and secure.
Andy chuckled softly, and she raised her head to look at him. “Now I know to take you seriously when you threaten me.” He brushed her hair back off her face and kissed her gently on the mouth, a kiss so tender and sweet she thought she’d cry. //He is so incredibly wonderful. I wish I could stay like this forever.//
They lay quietly for a while, until Jennifer started to shiver from the cold. Laughing together, they got dressed, Andy teasing her about how anyone could have seen them on the beach this morning. They walked back to the Tavern, holding hands and talking about nothing in particular. //I can’t remember the last time I felt so comfortable with someone. This feels great.// She snuggled up against him as the Tavern came into view, liking the way he felt against her.
They walked through the Tavern, getting some good-natured teasing from a few of the guys. Andy noticed how quiet she was as they walked up to his room. Sitting on the edge of his bed, he pulled her onto his lap. “Why so quiet, love? Is everything okay?”
She sighed. “Oh Andy, I just can’t quite believe all of this. It’s like that Star Trek Next Generation episode with Riker and Minuet. He asks her how real she is, and she says `As real as you need me to be.’ That’s how I feel, like this is a dream and I’m going to have to go back to my real world now.”
Andy pulled her tight against his chest. “I know, love. I don’t want you to go, but I understand. You have your job, and your responsibilities. Just remember I’m here for you, and I hope you’ll come back soon.”
“I’m going to miss you, Andy. Especially when I hear that song.” She smiled and kissed him softly. //He’s as afraid as I am that he’ll wake up tomorrow and it will be gone.//
He smiled at her, eyes still wary. “You’ll be back next weekend then?”
“Well, let’s see, I have to go riding with East, and Colin said he will teach me how to play poker, and I still have to meet more of the residents and�” She broke off as his face fell. “Andy.” She took his face in her hands, looking him in the eye. “I will be back, next Friday night, and the first thing I want when I get here is for you to kiss me until I can’t breathe, then make love to me until I can’t move. Is that okay with you?”
His smile lit up the room. //Wow, he should be made to carry a license for that. It’s lethal.// “Is it Friday yet?” He hugged her, then kissed her.
They went to shower, Andy his usual playful self. He told her to relax, doing everything for her. She leaned back against him as he washed her hair, enjoying the way his strong fingers massaged her head and neck. He took special care, making sure she didn’t get shampoo in her eyes, touching her so lovingly it made her heart ache. //I don’t want to go home. I wish I could stay here.// She rested her head on his chest as he slid his soapy hands over her back, kneading her knotted muscles. “Mmmmmm.” She was almost purring. He rinsed them both off, shutting off the water and grabbing a big, fluffy towel.
Wrapping her up like a child, he carried her to the bed, laying her down across it. She was so relaxed, she didn’t want to move, and was surprised when he pulled the covers over her. “Just rest, love. I’ll be back in a little bit.” He kissed her, pulled on his jeans and t-shirt, and went out the door.
She rested for a little while, then got up, dressed, and towel-dried her hair. She was sitting on the bed, checking her email on her laptop, when Andy came in the door, bearing a tray. Peeking over the edge as he brought it over, she was surprised to see a huge omelet, lots of bacon, two glasses of orange juice, and a single white rose in a small bud vase. “Andy! That’s beautiful!” She kissed him as he set the tray down on the bed.
“Thanks, love. Hope you don’t mind if we share.” He settled on the bed, so they had the tray between them. “This is for you, of course.” He picked up the rose and slid it along her cheek, looking at her with his heart in his eyes.
“How did you know white roses are my favorite?” She felt tears spring into her eyes at his thoughtfulness.
He blushed and looked down. “I didn’t really. It just seemed to express how I feel.” He looked at her again as she took his hand in her own, turning it over to kiss the palm softly. His eyes closed and he groaned, then laughed. “Stop that. The food’s gonna get cold.”
She giggled, and took a bite of the omelet. Cheese and spinach, an unusual combination, but a good one. She closed her eyes briefly in bliss, not realizing how hungry she was until just now. “This is great, Andy. Thank you.”
He smiled. “Glad you like it, love. Didn’t spend all that time working in the kitchens for nothing, I suppose.”
She leaned over and kissed him, letting her lips linger close to his. “I love a man that can cook.” Smiling, she tucked in to the food, thinking that it was fun working up an appetite with him.
It was getting later in the afternoon, and Jennifer started to fidget nervously. She didn’t want to leave, part of her afraid she’d never be able to come back. Andy tried to reassure her, telling her of how Tina and Michelle and Laura and all the other girls left for their real lives, coming back when they could.
Gathering together what little she’d brought, they carried her things down to her car. It was nearly dusk, and she wanted to get going while there was still enough light for her to find her way home, not to mention memorizing the way back.
They kissed softly, arms wrapped around each other, afraid to let go. “I’m going to miss you.” Andy whispered in her ear. She smiled up at him, brushing her fingers through his hair. The setting sun brought out its golden highlights, and emphasized the light green of his eyes. //I can’t believe this gorgeous man will be here thinking of me.// She sighed, and he pulled her tight against him.
Hugging him hard around the waist, she broke the contact, getting in the car and starting the engine. He closed the door, and she rolled down the window, Andy leaning in for one last, sweet kiss. He stepped back and she pulled out of the driveway, pointing the car back the way she’d come two nights earlier.
As the Crowe’s Nest and Tavern grew smaller in her rear view mirror, she flipped on the radio, the strains of a song keeping her heart company as she drove home.
And we danced
Like no one else had ever danced before
I can’t explain what happened on that floor
But the music played
We held each other close
And we danced
Yeah, we danced