Character: Hando “Romper Stomper”
Disclaimer: The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own. The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.
Karen wearily rubbed her eyes and looked at the clock on her mantle. Four, frigging, thirty. She had been on the computer for hours with her new acquaintances, chatting about the actor and the various roles he had played. The time had just flown. Since she had joined the list, she had been glued to this stupid box, not wanting to miss a minute of any chat, story or discussion. She could now see how people could get so addicted to the internet.
She stretched painfully as she felt a crick in her neck. “Shit”, she had a meeting at 8 am which meant that she would only get about two hour’s sleep. She yawned but didn’t get up from her chair. She kept thinking about him, his strong, virile body… the way he walked…his eyes, the way they flashed blue and green highlights…his voice, deep and husky…his hands, large yet oh so light in his touch…
She groaned in response and let her fingers dip down lower and lower to touch the moist velvety folds. She made slow smooth strokes as her fingers pressed deeper inside. She thought about him kissing her, using his mouth as a weapon to bring her closer to surrender. She flushed and felt the heat within her rise. His hands were moving all over her, exploring every intimate inch. Her mouth parted and her tongue caught the saltiness of her sweat. She moaned louder as she felt her body start to tingle all over. She quickened the pace and thought of him and only him. The sweet, sweet climax drove her back further into the recliner. Once again, he had done this to her. Gradually, she let herself calm, her breathing softened and her eyes slowly opened.
She went through the rest of the week attending to the daily grind of her job. She was an underwriter for a large insurance company. She had been at this same position now for thirteen years. She could do it blindfolded. Eyeballing for her supervisor, she cranked up the music a little louder and sighed as it pulsed through her headphones.
I’m working overtime anyhow, she rationalized, for the umpteenth day in a row. I need a vacation.
She thought once more about the list and the promise of escape that it proposed. Could it be for real? She tried to be logical. Characters in movies are usually fictitious. They don’t suddenly spring to life at the drop of a hat, or in their cases, at the end of their movies. But why would all these women lie to her? Maybe they were all one brick short of a full load; the skeptical part of her raised its ugly head. Karen thought she was fairly intuitive though and could smell deception a mile away. She didn’t suspect that these women were trying to con her or lead her astray. In fact, it was just the opposite; she felt encouraged to share her thoughts and daydreams. And even though she didn’t feel threatened, she chose not to disclose too much. She kept it on a superficial level. Oh sure, she babbled on about how gorgeous RC was in his many incarnations; but she never told them who made her heart pound, her blood simmer and boil, and who it was that her very soul hungered for. That was her secret, and she fully intended to keep it to herself.
She relived again the recurring dream. Every time she had it, the details became more defined, the background more descriptive and the action more intense. Time and again, she couldn’t wait to fall asleep and end up with his arms wrapped around her, taking her higher. What if it were true? What did she have to lose by going? They said that if you were meant to be there, you would find a way. No one would know if she tried and didn’t succeed. She twisted her hair around her fingers, an old habit that she reverted to when she was nervous.
Tonight, she would speak with Michelle and frame it in a way that would be very nonchalant. If she wasn’t busy, she would make it there, , if she didn’t, then c’est la vie. Yes, she decided, that was the way to go.
Karen pulled over and looked at the vague set of instructions again. She hated driving and only did so when she absolutely had to, when there was no other possible way to get to her destination. For years, she had been phobic about learning until one of her exes asked what she would do if there was an emergency? Would she just sit around twiddling her thumbs waiting twenty minutes for a taxi or God forbid, an ambulance? She honestly had no sense of direction and had even got lost once in a restaurant while her friend had sat at their table laughing at her.
“Well, it should be right around the corner”, she declared aloud.
But it wasn’t, and she continued on for another fifteen minutes. The view through her windshield seemed fuzzy and then the road blurred. She saw the outline in the distance of several buildings. One was definitely a hotel. Yep, she had arrived at last. She inhaled deeply.
“I can’t believe I’m doing this.” She quickly took a glance at herself in her rear view mirror. She sighed, “It’ll have to do.”
She parked in the main driveway at the furthest spot from the front doors of the hotel and pulled her tote bag out of the back seat, but then she just sat there, afraid to get out.
“Who am I kidding? I can’t do this. With my luck, the first person I’ll run into is Sid. He’ll take one look at me and he’ll never accuse Sheriff Biebe of being tubby again.”
Karen studied her clothes. She always wore the biggest, baggiest outfits she could find, anything to try and disguise all the weight she had put on within the last four years. She had been relatively slim all her life and then she had undergone a crisis. Nothing had been the same since. She was really self, conscious about her looks. While all these thoughts were racing through her head, she didn’t see him approach the car until she heard a tapping on her window. She jumped at the sudden sound and hit her head on the roof of the car.
“Shit!”, she exclaimed. She rolled down her window.
“I’m sorry Miss; I didn’t mean to startle you.”
She looked at him; he definitely wasn’t an RC character. He was tall, blond and thin.
“Are you Rick?”, she asked tentatively.
“At your service, Ma’am. Though you have me at a disadvantage. I don’t know who you are.”
“Karen”, she stuck her hand out and Rick shook it. “Though if you call me Ma’am again, it might as well be Jason, Freddy or Hannibal if you get my drift.”
He laughed quietly and then said, “Are you going to come out or are you planning to camp out here in your car?”
“Oh, right”, she answered rather stupidly and grabbed her purse. Before she could open the car door, Rick had already done so.
“Here, I’ll take your bag.”
She stepped out into the bright sunlight. “Oh, it’s beautiful weather here. I didn’t expect it to be so warm.”
He took another glimpse at her. She had dark red hair that fell softly just beneath her shoulders. She was petite in stature and her clothes seemed to swallow her up. It was hard to see her eyes as she kept them riveted on the ground.
“You might want to change into shorts or something cooler. It can get quite hot in the afternoons”, he suggested, glancing at the long sleeved green peasant blouse she was wearing with black leggings.
“Oh, I’ll be fine”, she replied somewhat tersely, suddenly looking up at him.
Wow, she had the most amazing dark blue eyes, he thought, even though she was wearing glasses, they seemed to just leap out at him, catching him unaware. She stared at him for a moment and then turned to look at the hotel entrance.
“Is Michelle here?”
“Yes, and she’s got your room all ready for you”, he held the door open for her.
Michelle looked up from the front desk. “Karen, is that you?”, she greeted coming around to give her a hug. “Welcome to the Point. I’m glad to see you found us. See, your sense of direction can’t be all that bad.”
“Well, I made three U, turns and went the wrong way on a one, way street and almost backed into a five foot ditch, but I’m here”, she finished waving her arms triumphantly.
“Here is your room key. Most of the boyz and guests are out and about right now so you can get settled in and have a nap if you want. I’ll have one of them call on you at five and introduce you around. Seeing how it’s Friday, you’ll get to meet a lot of the ladies too.”
“Thanks, Michelle. That sounds great.”
Rick led her to her room and after saying he’d see her later left her to her own devices.
She walked around her room taking in all the decor. The spacious suite was painted in varying shades of dusty rose. That was odd; these were the exact colours she was planning to do her living room in back home. The bed was a four poster with no canopy, and the night tables were a mahogany hue. There were pictures and posters on the walls, most of them were of waterfalls. A gigantic painting at the far end of the room caught her eye. It couldn’t be but it was. It was a painting of IguaÁu Falls in Brazil. She had a thing for waterfalls and had even intended to go on a trip and look at the world’s most famous ones, Angel Falls in Venezuela, Victoria Falls in Africa, Yosemite Falls in California… She touched it in wonder; such surreal beauty and power together. She went into the bathroom. There was a large sunken tub, good for all those relaxing bubble baths she loved to take. There was even a bidet in the corner. This room was sponge painted in mauve.
Strolling out into the bedroom again, she spotted some equipment she had overlooked earlier. It looked like, yes it was, a mini Nautilus set.
“How did they know?”, she pondered out loud.
She had wanted to ask Michelle if there was a gym in the complex but was too embarrassed to. She didn’t want to work out in front of all the guys, watching their perfect bodies while all the while constantly aware of her own flawed one. But she couldn’t help but smile at the vision that came to mind of seeing all those shirtless men, muscles flexing, sweat running down their broad shoulders and chests, their solid thighs jogging in unison. What a photograph that would make. She would love to be a fly on the wall.
She walked over to the TV console. There was a DVD player with a variety of movies, all of RC’s, which was to be expected, but also a selection of old time classics, westerns, dramas and action movies. It was like someone had picked her brain and knew what she would like best. She yawned and realized she was pretty tired after driving for hours. She looked at her watch. She had time to take a siesta and then a quick shower.
She flopped on the bed and fantasized about how she might meet him, what words she would utter and what would follow, if anything. Would the chemistry be there? More importantly, would he let her help him; would he let her inside? She curled her hair around her fingers and fretted to herself. She had three strikes going against her. Number one, she was at least ten years older than he was. Number two, the weight thing again; and Number three, she had never been good at starting and maintaining relationships.
She giggled and sang out, “High stress situations baby, never been a friend of mine”.
Yes, RC and TOFOG knew what they were singing about. She yawned again and slid under the bed covers. She was asleep in five minutes.
She awoke to banging on her door. It took her a minute to remember where she was. The knocking came again.
“Just a minute”, she called out. She took a few deep breaths trying to compose herself and then opened the door.
“G’day Mate. I’m Jeff. Pleased to meet you”, Jeff bounced into the room.
“Jeff, from the ‘Sum of Us’, she whispered awestruck as she took in the mop of wavy hair, the striped shirt and the oh so fabulous footie shorts.
“The one and only Luv”, he smiled and shook her hand. “Rick told me you were here so I thought I’d come by and have a gander.”
“Please come in”, she waved him into the room. “Were you just in a game?”, she asked.
“No, actually, I missed my morning run so I thought I’d take it before I start my shift at the bar. So have you settled in then?”
“Pretty much, I just lost track of time and dozed off.”
“Beaut of a room”, Jeff observed looking around, “It always amazes me how you sheilas turn these rooms into something so distinctive and unique from each other.”
Karen gave him a stunned look.
Karen laughed, “That’s the first time I’ve been called a sheila.”
Jeff laughed as well, “Well you’d better get used to it. There are a lot of Aussies around here.”
“About the room, I didn’t do anything”, Karen admitted, “It was like this when I got here.”
“Ah but Luv, that’s part of the magic of Crowe’s Point”, Jeff replied with a wink. He watched as her eyes continued to burn holes into his. It was slightly disconcerting.
“You’re staring”, Jeff said and then giggled, the high pitch sound that only RC delivered so well.
“Oh, I’m sorry, it’s just that…”
“I know”, Jeff interrupted, “it takes a while to get adjusted here. Everyone goes through this. No worries”, he patted her on the shoulder. “Anyways, I have to start work but Chelle told me to tell you that Bud will be up to get you at five.”
After he left, Karen jumped into the shower and examined the clothes she had with her. She decided on a long purple and grey blouse with flared sleeves; and the rest, well that was easy, it was a choice between royal blue, navy blue, beige, brown, green or black leggings. That’s all she ever wore these days. She brushed out her hair and carefully reapplied her makeup though she didn’t wear a lot. She then slipped on some pumps to try to heighten her 5’3″ frame. She heard another knock at her door, this one slightly more forceful. Checking the clock, she opened it and said throatily:
“Well, Officer White, I wondered when you would come knocking on my door”, looking up at him seductively through her bangs. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist”, she laughed and then noticed his somewhat wary expression. And then she realized to her horror what she had said.
She put her hand up to her mouth. “Oh, Bud, I didn’t mean to make fun of you and Lynne. I know your movie is real life to you. I didn’t think. Gees, remove foot from mouth”, she finished awkwardly.
“It’s okay, no harm done. I have a pretty thick skin. Really bad impersonation though. Don’t take up acting as a day job.” Seeing that she wasn’t mocking him, his features relaxed and he shook her hand.
My gosh, he had a firm grip, she thought as she tried to shake out her numb hand without him noticing.
Bud took a moment to appraise this new guest. She wasn’t very tall; she was probably a medium build though it was hard to judge through all her clothes. Nice hair and eyes and a beautiful smile.
“Well, since I see you already know who I am; I can pass on at least one introduction”, he smiled then and her heart started to race. My goodness when these boyz smiled, they totally took your breath away.
“I’m here to escort you to the tavern and let you meet all my wild and crazy brothers with hopefully one exception.”
“Sid”, they both said together and then laughed. He stuck out his arm and Karen took it.
“So how long are you planning on staying?”
“I’m not sure. I have two weeks off but I need to do stuff around the house, visit the folks so they still remember who I am”, and then she paused, “but I guess it depends…”, she trailed off.
“Depends on”, Bud arched his eyebrow, “whether you connect with that special Mister Right?”
“What did I say something wrong?”, Bud asked as he saw a dark shadow cross her face.
“Bud, I just got here. To be honest, I don’t believe in miracles or magic. I’m a little too long in the tooth to buy that a fairy godmother will swoop down and wave her wand, and me and my white knight will ride off into the sunset forever. I’m just here to kick back, have fun and link up with some good friends that I’ve made. By the way, they all just happen to be female”, she added looking sideways at him.
“Okay, he said putting his arms up in mock surrender as he saw her grim expression. “I’ll drop it however I think the lady doth protest too much.”
Fuck, she got on the defensive pretty fast, he thought. He’d bet anything that this one had a temper to match her red hair. She certainly couldn’t hide her emotions with those eyes of hers. They gave away all. Right now they were flashing out clear warning signals. In spite of this, he was intrigued.
They continued on their way to the Tavern discussing more harmonious topics such as the landmarks of Crowe’s Point. He offered himself as a tour guide. They entered the Tavern and were waved over to a table by Michelle.
“Hi, you two. We saved a seat for you.”
Tina, Lisa and Kath all gathered around Karen to welcome her warmly. She was surprised to see Tina and John as she thought they would be up at their own little nest. She turned back to the table to meet all of their men.
She felt a little overwhelmed suddenly face to face with variations of the same face and body. Lachlan gave her a big grin and immediately asked if she liked to fly.
“Actually, I prefer to keep my feet on terra firma. That way, I won’t hurl my cookies and muck up your plane during take off.”
“Oh, but darlin’, when you’re with the right pilot, it’s smooth sailin’ all the way.”
“He’s right Karen; he’s great with all of his passengers, especially those who might be a little nervous”, Lisa chipped in throwing her arm around his shoulders.
“Yeah, he only saves the killer upside down, comet vomit, break the sound barrier rides for us”, Colin grinned. Lachlan flipped him the bird.
“Do ya ride?”, East asked. “Kath or I could show you around the trails.”
“I know I’m going to sound really boring but the only two times I’ve been on a horse; it was a disaster. The first time, they could tell I was uneasy so they put me on the children’s horse, even though I was twenty at the time. Then when we cantered, I had to hold on for dear life. I swear my whole life flashed before my eyes. The second time, we crossed through a river; and my horse just stopped and I couldn’t get him going again. I called out to the other riders and then I realized, now how can I put this delicately, the horse needed to do his business.” They laughed with her as she acted out the tale with grandiose gestures.
John then said encouragingly, “There are lots of other tamer things to do here. If you like to hike, swim, fish, skate or just lie around on the beach; feel free to do what you want. It’s your holiday.” John smiled at her, and again her heart throbbed in her chest.
She must admit she had a little crush on the handsome Alaskan sheriff. She had a thing for men with beards and “Mystery, Alaska” was one of her favourite RC movies. But he only had eyes for his beautiful wife, as he pulled Tina closer to him, placing a light kiss on her forehead. They were so much in love that it almost hurt her to see it.
“I think I need to get another drink”, she announced as she got up quickly and made her way to the bar.
“Jeff, can I have a vodka martini?”
“Sure Luv, coming right up.”
She sat down on a bar stool and briefly held her head in her hands. Jeff slid her drink in front of her.
“So have you made any plans for your stay?”
“I think I’m going to do some exploring tomorrow. I still can’t believe a tropical paradise co-exists with the cold frigid Alaskan wilderness. It blows my mind.”
“Wait till you see the sun rise and set in the same place.”
“So I’ve heard.” She seemed to hesitate about going back to her table.
“Do you jog? Maybe, we can take a run sometime together.”
“I may just take you up on that offer. Well, I’d better get back”, she sighed as she got off the stool. Jeff watched her head back just as Rick came up to pick up an order.
“So what do you think of the new sheila?”
“I don’t know mate, she seems pretty quiet”, Rick replied.
“She doesn’t seem very happy”, Jeff observed.
“Uh…I don’t think her mood’s going to improve anytime soon.” Jeff turned to see where Rick was looking. Sid had just come into the room.
Sid scanned around to see which of his brothers he had to pick on tonight. He was bored. Tawny wasn’t able to come tonight, and he needed something or someone to play with.
He directed his gaze towards the bar and saw the poofter with his lover, both of them returning his stare. No, they were too easy a target; he felt more like a challenge tonight. His eyes roamed to the back of the room and saw the usual crowd of lurkers. One looked boldly at him and ran her tongue suggestively over her lips. He was surprised to find that he didn’t even feel tempted. There wasn’t the usual stirring in his groin. What had his Tatiana done to him? He felt completely pussy whipped.
He heard laughter then and turned to find the source. Oh, yes, the usual suspects together: Sheriff Tubby and his exquisite wife, Colin and Michelle, Flyboy and Lisa, Mister Hothead and…what do we have here? His path of sight was arrested by a newcomer who had not yet had the privilege of meeting him. Another redhead. He made his way over, slinking up to their table.
“Ma Cherie, I don’t think you’ve had the pleasure of being introduced to me”, he took the stranger’s hand and kissed it. “Have you been escorted around the gardens? They’re really quite lovely at this time of year.”
Sid liked what he saw from the waist up, the only view he was able to see from where she was sitting.
Bud scowled at Sid, “Leave her alone cyber freak. Get the fuck outta here!”
“No, it’s okay Bud”, Karen said standing up to greet Sid. “Hello Sid, I’m Karen. I’ve heard so much about you.”
“All of it enthralling, I’m sure.” His eyes dropped as he gave her the once over. His mouth fell open. My, my, for a little thing, she wasn’t quite as svelte as he had imagined. She wasn’t obese but she had just a little too much tummy for his taste. He tried to hide an expression of distaste.
Karen knew what he was thinking and called him on it. “Speechless, Sid. That’s a little unusual for you, isn’t it? You can say it. I’m not going to fall apart. I’m not fragile, just fat”, she smiled up at him. “I mean that’s what you were thinking, right? And let me guess, you suddenly aren’t free anymore to accompany me around. But that’s okay. Dig your suits by the way. Green and purple are my favourite colours.”
He looked into her eyes. In spite of the smile she had plastered on her face, they were cold, daring him to say anything further.
“Alas, Ma Cherie, I suddenly recall a previous engagement I have, tout suite. I trust my brothers will take care of you.” He gave a slight bow in her direction and quickly walked past their table.
Karen regarded the others. No one seemed to know what to say.
John finally spoke, “Ignore Sid; he always hits on the newcomers.”
“John, let’s be candid. Sid wasn’t going to touch me with a ten foot microchip once he saw all of me.”
Then everyone started talking at once.
“You can’t expect Sid to be a gentleman. It’s not programmed into him.”
“Oh Karen, you’re not that heavy, honest.”
“Sid’s a jerk!”
“He’s so vain that he sees imperfection everywhere but in himself.”
“Don’t forget his pet name for me, Sheriff Tubby.”
“Don’t waste any time thinking about that fucking psycho.”
Karen held her hand up to silence the comments. “It’s okay guys. I’ve dealt with people like Sid before. Besides I’m not here to win a beauty contest, or pair up with anybody, so I’m not worried about offending anyone’s aesthetics.”
Tina and Michelle shared a glance. They certainly didn’t want Karen to feel uncomfortable about herself. She was actually very pretty. Her hair and her eyes gleamed under the lights of the tavern. Women were always their own worst foe. Michelle also wondered after meeting Karen on-line whether she had a particular preference for any of the boyz. She had never said so in any of her messages. Yet she was here; she had found the place.
“I believe Bud there’s more of your brothers here that I haven’t yet been acquainted with”, Karen said firmly changing the topic.
Bud moved her around the room. She met Andy and his enchanting young wife Jennifer, Johnny, Jack, Dominic, Zack and Buggy and Steve and Donna. She socialized with all of them, laughing when appropriate, putting all her best acting skills to use. She was just having a ripper of a time as Jeff would say, but those who looked closely could tell her eyes said something completely different.
Eventually, those who were part of a couple started wandering out. She said goodnight to her dinner companions and declined Bud’s offer to accompany her to her room.
“Bud, it’s safe. I’m quite sure I won’t have to fight Sid off.” Or anyone else for that matter, she muttered under her breath.
Alone at last in her room again, she threw her purse on the bed. She went to the stereo and turned the radio on. Roy Orbison was singing “Pretty Woman”.
“I don’t believe you’re not the truth;
no one could look as good as you…Mercy.”
“I can’t win”, she whispered weakly, and then turned the radio off.
She viewed herself in the dresser mirror. All she saw staring back at her was a short, laughable figure. She noted the too round face, the plump upper arms, the ever expanding waistline and the cottage cheese thighs. She wanted to break every mirror in the place. Instead, she calmly took some big fluffy towels from the bathroom and covered all of them. She got undressed and put on her workout clothes. She put TOFOG’s Gaslight on the CD player and started her routine beginning with weights. After a while, the endorphins started to kick in and she felt better. Before turning in, she set her alarm for 8 am and took her medication.
She was driving down a dimly lit street. Cassie was excitedly pointing out the pub.
“There it is. I’ll only be two tics.” She watched as her friend opened the car door.
“Don’t take too long. In case you haven’t noticed, this is not exactly a good neighbourhood.”
She tapped the steering wheel impatiently, looking at the tiny digital clock on the radio. thiry minutes had passed and Cassie still wasn’t back.
“Come on Cassie, I have to work tomorrow.” She beeped the horn. Nothing happened.
She should have known better than to take Cassie at her word. Since her friend had met her latest fling, she hadn’t stopped raving about how incredible he was and that he could finally be THE ONE. She leaned on the horn.
“Fuck!”, she threw open the car door, slammed it shut and strode towards the pub. She didn’t bother to glance inside. She pushed past two or three men who were standing in the entrance.
She could see Cassie at the back, her arms around a tall, dark-haired man. He was leaning in close, ready to plant one on her.
“I’m not waiting any longer, Cassie. If you want a ride home, you’ll have to leave now.”
Cassie pulled away reluctantly from the man and pouted petulantly, “Chill Kar, we haven’t seen each other in a week.”
“Yeah, what’s the rush”, the man said thrusting his hand down Cassie’s blouse and looking insolently at her. Karen, despite the alcoholic fumes he was breathing into her face, bent down so her face was near to his.
“The rush, Big Guy, is that I have to work for a living. I just moved here. I don’t know anybody; I don’t know this area and I want to leave now. And since I’m the driver, I hold the trump card.”
Cassie was really pissed off.
“Don’t get your knickers in a twist, Mate. Chuck a sickie tomorrow and then stay. You might meet someone. God knows you need a good root”, Cassie’s Australian accent always came out stronger when she was drinking.
Karen fought the impulse to throw Cassie’s drink in her face.
“Well then…Mate, I guess you’re on your own.”
She turned to go and discovered that all eyes in the room were on her. She felt like she was moving in slow motion; for every step she took towards the door, it seemed like two back. She felt the first tickle of fear as she saw angry tattoos, big heavy boots, what did they call them, Doc Martens?, and shaved heads. She had read about these gangs in the Melbourne paper. They were called skinheads.
She gave herself a little shake mentally. She wasn’t going to let herself be intimidated by these punks. She took a deep breath and waded through the crowd now gathered at the door.
“What do we have ‘ere, a bushfire blonde.”
“Hey Luv, where’s the fire?”
“Let’s have a Captain Cook at you darlin’.”
“I think I’m going to crack a fat; she ain’t no dog.”
“Give a bloke a fair go. Don’t get above oneself.”
“C’mon give us a pash.”
“How about a canoodle?”
All the Australian slang was flustering her even more. Someone slapped her behind and then she was pinched. Using all of her strength, she shoved at the man blocking the door. He was so pissed that he fell backward and landed heavily on the ground outside.
She told herself not to let them see the fear and she walked quickly to her car, the temptation to run almost winning out. She glanced behind. No one had followed her. She searched her pockets for the keys. They weren’t there. She checked again and then rummaged through her purse. Then, she looked through the car window.
“Shit!”, she yelled, seeing how they were in the ignition.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw a shadow move towards her until he was standing a few feet in front of the car.
“I can get them out for ya”, he said quietly.
He was tall, dressed in a long dark coat and white jeans. He was also one of them, a skinhead. She thought frantically. What should she do? If she screamed, there was no one around to help her. He just stood there calmly, not making any threatening moves. She really didn’t have any choice but to trust him.
“Okay”, she said, her heart in her mouth.
“It’ll cost you”, he replied as he swaggered to the driver’s side. He brought out a long thin instrument from his coat and within seconds had the door open.
She hastily brought out her wallet and began to count out bills.
“I don’t want your dosh.”
“I’m sorry. It’s all that I have”, her voice quivered, as she tried to give him the thirty dollars she had on her. He didn’t take it and continued to look at her.
“I don’t have anything else”, she pleaded.
“Sure about that Luv?” His eyes raked down her body. She suddenly felt naked under his gaze. Her conservative dress now seemed sheer and barely able to cover her.
His eyes were piercing and blue-green in colour. She almost felt hypnotized by them. He was good looking and she was surprised to find herself almost attracted to him. He really wasn’t her type at all. She stayed away from the bad boys. She dug her nails into her hands to break his hold over her. Her temper got the better of her. She reached the car and pulled out the keys.
“Here”, she said angrily as she flung them at him. “Keep the fucking car; I’m not on the market.” It was a rental anyways.
She walked past him seeing lights in the near distance of what looked like a train station.
“I wouldn’t go there. It’s not safe for a little girl like you.”
She kept on walking, digging into her purse until she felt her Swiss army knife which she carried everywhere with her. She hid it in her hand.
Without looking back, she answered him, “I’ll take my chances.”
She refused to look back and she breathed a sigh of relief when she reached the station. Perspiration poured down her face and body and her hair and her dress clung to her. She wasn’t sure where to go now. She was nearsighted and could barely see three feet in front of her. Yet oddly enough, she wasn’t wearing her glasses.
Then they came out of nowhere, ambushing her. Skinheads again. She felt dizzy as she spun around trying to find an escape route. She started retreating as they pressed forward. She kept on until she backed up into a firm hard body. She felt arms grasp her shoulders tightly.
“She’s with me”, a deep familiar voice said.
“She’s your bitch, Hando?”, one of the approaching skinheads voiced in surprise.
The leader halted his gang. “She’s not your typical bird. I guess I wasn’t kept up to speed”, he said roughly cuffing the head of the man who stood next to him. “Sorry, mate”, he said before withdrawing.
Hando nodded and grabbed the girl’s arm and dragged her through the tunnels until they were outside again and then released her. Karen felt sick to her stomach and bent over to retch. She felt the blood suddenly rush to her head. She had been petrified and yet this man had saved her. She slowly stood up and faced him.
“Thank you. I thought I was dead.”
“In a few minutes, you would have wished you were”, he replied.
“Where am I?”
“If you could just tell me where I can find a cab”, she gasped as he swung her around so her back was pinned up against him once more. One arm went around her throat.
“You don’t listen too good. See this is my turf and everything that happens on it is my biz. If there had been blood shed tonight, that would have been a big problem for me. And anyone who is a problem gets taken care of personally by me.”
His arm tightened around her throat. She froze and then jerked her hand holding the knife up, slashing at his other arm. It started to bleed but he ignored it. He wrenched her hand hard forcing her to drop the knife and cry out. He was going to kick it away and then stopped. He knelt with her still in his hold and picked it up.
“That was a mistake.”
He dangled the knife in front of her face smiling darkly. He watched her eyes, paralysed with terror, as he touched the knife to her neck and gently pressed until she could feel the edge pricking her skin. A thin trickle of blood followed the knife as he traced it down to the collar of her dress.
He whispered in her ear, “Rebellion doesn’t go unpunished.”
Her mind was racing. Then she remembered a TV program where a woman was in the same position as her. The woman in the show had pretended to faint and catching her attacker by surprise, she had kneed him in the balls and got away. She tried to make her stiff body relax and fell back against him. He yanked her up by twisting his hand in her hair.
“Don’t even think it or I’ll have to hurt ya.”
He then took the knife and began to slowly cut off the buttons on her dress, one by one, pausing between each. He could smell her fear and it intoxicated him. Her dress fell open. Her breasts were heaving from her exertion in trying to get away from him. They spilled out of the plain white bra she was wearing. He deftly undid the front clasp and freed them. She cried out again.
His fingers mixed with her blood and he smeared it around her right breast and then he lightly toyed with the nipple. He then roughly pinched it until she screamed.
“You have nice tits. It would be a bloody shame to have to mark them.”
He slid the knife between them and continued down across her abdomen and stopped at the fringe of her white cotton panties. Her trembling increased. He then threw the knife away. He brought his hand up to her face so she could see the size of it. With these hands alone, he could tear her to pieces.
He lowered his hand, brushing it against her skin and she felt it move under the elastic band. His fingers touched the swirls of the curly short hairs. He descended further until he reached the very essence of her. He stroked it gently at first and then more roughly, all the while watching her face for her reaction. She had closed her eyes. He then inserted a finger pressing deeper. She was dry but not as much as he expected.
He moved his mouth down her cheek and his tongue licked its smooth creamy surface. He now had two fingers inside.
“Relax”, his voice softened.
He could feel her defences dropping. She was breathing heavily and a tiny moan escaped her lips. Her eyes were dark with desire.
She was wet now. His fingers expertly continued their work. She tilted back her head until it rested against his chest.
She was close.
He suddenly stopped and withdrew.
Her eyes flew open and she spat at him, “You Bastard, if you’re going to rape me, then do it quickly. Let this hell be over.”
He laughed at her and it was the cruellest sound she had ever heard.
“It’s only rape when one of ya doesn’t want it.”
He let go of her and pushed her away. He started walking. He threw something back at her and she caught her car keys.
Knowing she had been tricked, used and then discarded, she hung her head in shame and started to cry. She felt even more violated than if he had indeed taken her.
“Oh my God!”, Karen sat straight up in bed. She was shaking. The dream had never ended like that before. Usually, it finished when they both gave in to their baser instincts to their mutual satisfaction. She reached for the glass of water on her nightstand and drained it in one gulp. She kept seeing his face, smirking at her, taunting her. She looked at the clock. 6 am. She knew his schedule. He would be up, getting ready to go to the training ground. If she crept downstairs and over to the Tavern, she could watch him as he left.
She leapt out of bed, threw on a robe and carefully opened her door to peek out into the hall. It was quiet and empty. Keeping near to the wall, she tiptoed down the stairs and darted outside. She hadn’t even stopped to put on her slippers. The damp cold ground made her shiver or was it due to something else? She heard a noise and dived for the nearest hedge in the gardens surrounding the hotel. She could hear the pounding of running feet. She peered through the greenery. She saw a tanned, muscular figure with short dark hair running in the opposite direction.
Could it be? …. “Yes, I think that’s the General.”
Her heart skipped a beat. She hadn’t yet met Maximus and she could only surmise that he was leaving Laura’s room on his way to the same place as Hando. The Master and the Student. She stood up and made her way to the Tavern. She found another hiding spot and waited. It didn’t take too long.
Before she even saw him, she sensed him. It was like an electric current zapped through her. She closed her eyes and envisioned him. He was running on the spot just outside the doors. His sweat pants were grey. He wore a red T-shirt and she visualized the bone shaped tattoo running up his arm to his neck. She put out her hand and touched it in her mind, her fingers exploring the pattern. His face was an unreadable mask though she tried her hardest to track with her mind what emotions he might be feeling. She could smell his scent and it enflamed her.
She then got an uneasy feeling that she was being watched, even though she had not made herself visible. He had stopped jogging and turned to face in her direction. She held her breath and her body muscles cramped as she had not moved in some time. He made a move towards her and stopped. He was smiling, only it wasn’t an inviting one, and it didn’t reach his hooded eyes that she knew so well.
She tugged her robe more firmly around her. She had on only a thin cotton nightshirt. She was trembling so hard that he must be able to hear her very skin break out into goose bumps. When she thought she couldn’t take one more second of this game they were playing, he nodded at her and continued his run away from her. She stayed there in hiding far longer than necessary. He was long gone.
It was now well past lunchtime and Karen was thirsty after her morning’s exploration of the Point’s grounds. But unfortunately, after walking around aimlessly for the last hour, she was hopelessly lost and didn’t have a clue as to how to get back to the hotel. She had started out on her journey by walking to the stables hoping that she would run into East and Kath. When she got there, no one was around and some of the horses’ stalls were empty. She concluded that they were probably out on a ride.
She had kept on hiking at a brisk pace, not really caring where she was headed. She felt like she was in the country and felt carefree and happy in the brisk clean air, so different from city living. Then the landscape changed and she found herself in a forest grove. She had felt peaceful at first with the sun warmly shining down on her through the trees. She had been following a well worn trail but she was distracted by the many wildflowers she saw and without realizing it, had traipsed off in other directions.
The different kinds of trees fascinated her and she gave in to a childish impulse to climb one of them that had been knocked down probably by some storm. She pulled herself up on the big root and walked along it with her arms outstretched like she was on a balance beam. She giggled as she pranced up its length and stood boldly on one foot while she did a pirouette. Of course, not being a graceful ballerina and not being particularly coordinated, she slipped and landed hard on her backside.
“Ouch! That ought teach me. I guess my tomboy days are over”, she whimpered aloud, rubbing her posterior.
She continued on deeper through the woods.
“Where’s the path?”, she wondered.
The forest floor was now covered in long grass and spindly weeds that tried to trip her up. Several times, she lost her footing. She stumbled on, sure that she would soon find a way out of the dense growth. A low hanging branch slapped against her cheek. She put her hand up and felt a sticky wetness.
“Okay, this isn’t fun anymore. How do I get out of here?”
She found a big tree trunk and sat down on it trying to get her bearings. Her leg brushed against something stinging.
“Ow!”, she cried out as the sensation went right up her leg. Her leg felt like it was on fire.
She rolled up her pant leg and saw an angry red rash quickly developing. She glanced at the foliage near her. She was surrounded by nettles. She jumped up trying to ignore the pain in her injured leg. Panic was starting to build in her.
“I need to retrace my steps and stay calm.”
She wished she had told somebody back at the hotel where she was going or said yes to Bud’s offer as a guide. If she couldn’t find her way out, no one would know where to look for her. She felt a sharp bite on her arm. She scratched at the itch mechanically. Slowly, she started to backtrack looking for familiar landmarks.
“Where’s a boy scout when you need one?”
Karen wandered around becoming more disoriented by the minute. She heard a rustling sound in the bush behind her. Whipping her head around, her heart seemed to stop as she listened to a low pitched growl. Her imagination took over and she thought of all kinds of animals that could be prowling around out here. The noise sounded again, starting off deep and rumbling and getting louder.
Terror took over and she started running blindly through the vegetation. She heard a crashing noise behind her. Her lungs were about to give out. Then gunshots echoed in her ear. She threw herself on the ground and rolled down an incline, knocking the breath out of her.
“Miss, Miss, are you all right?”, an urgent voice rang in her ears. “Are you hurt?”
She tried to raise her head but dizziness overcame her and she collapsed back into the dirt. She felt herself being turned over and lying on her back, she stared into a pair of anxious blue green eyes. Her vision was blurry and her mouth felt like sandpaper. She made a grunting sound.
“Just relax Luv, you’ll be right as rain in a minute. Here have some water.” Her head was lifted and a canteen put to her lips. She drank hesitantly at first then gulped it.
She felt the man’s hands moving along her arms and legs and then down to her ankles.
“What are you doing?”, she managed to gasp out.
“Checking to see if anything is broken or sprained”, came the response.
Her vision cleared and she tried to sit up. The man firmly pressed her back down.
“Easy, you took quite a tumble. Do you remember what happened?”
“Yeah, I was trying to get back to the hotel. Then something started to chase me and then I heard a gun go off. At least it sounded like gun shots.”
“It was and you were lucky I was in the area doing some target practice. I found this on the ground a few clicks back.” He handed her the bandanna that had slipped off her hair.
She took it and asked, “How did you know anyone was here?”
“I saw fresh footprints and tracked them. That cougar would have been on you in two tics. Don’t you know the worse thing you can do is run when you’re cornered like that?”
All the tension and fear caught up to her and she snarled back at him. “Well, excuse me. I must have forgotten my Zoology 101. I didn’t have time to brush up on my how to meet a cougar etiquette.” She sat up again. “Why don’t you have signs up warning people it’s dangerous around here?”
“Why didn’t you stay on the main trail? It would have led you right back out to the road.”
“I thought I was on the main trail.”
“Lady, you were nowhere near it. You were heading north into the back woods. It’s all wasteland and wilderness where you were going.”
“More like a jungle. How can you have a jungle out here? This isn’t fucking Africa!” She was really wound up now.
“You obviously don’t know a lot about the Point. We have all kinds of terrain out here; what you call jungle, frozen tundra, hell, we’ve probably even got a rain forest by now. The boundaries keep getting bigger and unless you’re an experienced hiker, you shouldn’t be out here alone without a guide or without water”, he told her, noting she didn’t have any on her. He found himself raising his own voice, his concern turning to irritation that she should be so careless.
Then he took another look at the situation. His anger dissipated as he realized she must feel pretty awful. She was probably dehydrated. Her face was smudged, scratched and bleeding from a cut on her cheek. Her hair was tumbling untidily out of her ponytail. She was scratching incessantly at her arm which was swelling up and favouring her right leg. He noticed that underneath all of the dust and grime, she was attractive. He must have a thing for redheads. The color of it reminded him of Kaz and how much he missed her when she wasn’t here.
“I’m sorry. I should be getting you back and having the doctor check you out.”
“I’m fine”, she replied as she tried to stand. She leaned on him for a moment. “I guess I should thank you for rescuing me. My name’s Karen.”
An image flashed through her brain of an intensely passionate kiss. “Proof of Life”. She must have hit her head pretty hard not to have recognized him. Those amazing, powerful biceps were now wrapped around her, steadying her.
“Are you sure you can walk? I could carry you.”
“No!”, she raised her voice in sharp protest. “I’m all right and I don’t need to see a doctor.”
He was going to argue with her and then thought better of it. He didn’t want to get her back up. It would only be wasted breath. She seemed quite determined to put this incident behind her as if it embarrassed her. She had a slight limp, but with his help she made it back to his car.
She’d felt foolish when they got back to the hotel. Michelle, Wendy and Laura had made a fuss over her and wanted her to get checked out by Anthony, the Point’s doctor. She insisted she was okay and said that the only thing she had injured was her dignity. She had put cream on her leg and antiseptic on the bite.
She was now at the Tavern downing another screwdriver. She saw Bud come and waved him over.
“I heard you had quite an adventure this morning.”
“Oh no, not you too. I do declare that the grapevine around here is the longest and the nosiest I have ever come across”, she replied in a much exaggerated southern drawl. “But I won’t worry about that now; I’ll think about that tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day.” She then said only slightly more seriously “I thought I’d make you reconsider my acting skills. Want to hear my John Wayne?”
Bud laughed and they started chatting about this and that as if they were old friends. Karen’s normal self-consciousness was eased around him.
He was so easy to talk to, thought Karen. She couldn’t understand why he would waste his time on her when he could have any girl in the joint? He was so handsome.
They discussed her favourite RC films.
“To tell you the truth, Bud, and don’t let this go to your head, but I really liked LA Confidential. It’s in the top three.”
She saw him puff up in pride.
“It must have been because of that memorable guy who played Exley, what was his name? Oh yeah, Guy Pearce.” She poked him in the arm seeing his face deflate. “I’m only kidding you nutbar. You were awesome.”
“I can’t believe Gladiator is not in your top five. Max draws all the women here”, Bud acknowledged without the slightest trace of begrudgement.
“Not me. I mean I liked the movie, and Max does have his charms but it never really got to me.”
“And what does get to you, Miss Summers?”
She considered a moment tilting her head. “Lots of things; a sunset at twilight, the sun reflecting on the water, the chirping of the birds at daybreak, the scent of eucalyptus…”, she paused. “I’m babbling again. How you do let me run on.”
“Why do I suspect that you’re more of a romantic than you let on?”
“Because Bud White, you’re a cop and suspicious by nature. However your instincts on this particular matter are incorrect. I’m as practical as they come.”
They had talked and joked around some more and then Bud had excused himself to do an errand for Michelle. She had been invited to dinner by Zach and Buggy, but she begged off saying she wasn’t hungry, and to herself, she thought she didn’t want to be a third wheel. In actual fact, she was starving. She hadn’t eaten anything but an apple all day. She was determined to remain in control and not let food conquer her. She wanted to join some of the girls sitting at one of the tables but they looked like they were having such a good time, she wasn’t sure she should intrude. After all, she didn’t know them that well. She didn’t want to be a wet blanket.
She went back to her room and furiously worked out, pushing her tolerance level. She was now up to a hundred sit-ups. She bounded into the shower.
While blow drying her hair, her attention was drawn back to him. She hadn’t seen him since their early morning encounter and then she still hadn’t really seen him, just sensed him. She just knew that unless she sought him out, he would keep to himself and avoid newcomers. She empathized with how he must feel being torn away from his gang and his life on the streets. It would be harder for him than the others to adjust. He couldn’t even go back to his movie for solace. Nothing was left for him there. He had lost everything; his squat, his fellow skinheads, his last girlfriend (no great loss in her opinion), his adopted little brother Bubs, his best mate and in the end, his own life.
She shuddered as she vividly recalled his final moments. What had gone through his mind in his last fleeting seconds, knowing he had been betrayed by the only person he had ever loved? The look of shock on his face as the knife (the very same one that he had bought for Davy) had penetrated the back of his neck, and then he had stumbled backwards taking in the sight of the two of them wrapped in each other’s arms,Gabe and Davy. Karen wiped the tears from her eyes. Of course, she realized in her heart that Hando would have choked the life out of Gabe if Davy had not intervened. His hatred of her after she had revealed that it was she who had informed on them was white hot and wouldn’t have been extinguished any other way. Still she couldn’t help but feel sorry for the skinhead leader. Dying alone with no one to comfort him, no one to hold him and ease his fear, no one to love him and take away all the pain.
How could a person get over something like that? She was certain in her heart that Hando still suffered, still had nightmares and had still not recovered. That was a big part of the reason she was here. Of course, she desired him sexually, but she also wanted to help him get over the psychological scars he surely must have. She felt his pain as if it was her own. She hoped he would let her offer comfort and a shoulder to unladen himself to. From what she had heard from the girls on line, Hando kept to himself all the time. He must feel more than alone; he must feel lonely as well.
“I’ve got to stop thinking so much about him. He’s probably going to be bad news, and I don’t think I’m someone who could ever hold his interest.”
Like his creator, he would have an affinity for skinny little blond girls. For a moment she despaired again and wondered why she had come here. Then a little voice inside of her urged, take a chance. For once in your life, risk a little. Love might be a mistake but it’s one worth making.
She smiled. She didn’t often heed the advice of that little voice. She often suppressed and buried it in favour of years of common sense, safety and self-protection. It was time, time to act. She left the hotel and walked towards the one place she had avoided all day…the beach. She knew that it was his special place, the one that he came to day after day in search of something…peace of mind?
She drew her sweater around her; the sun was just setting. The sky around her had exploded in color,a hundred shades of reds, tangerines and burgundy. She could hear the roar of the incoming surf striking the rocks. She took off her sandals and walked barefoot along the shore, digging her toes into the wet sand. She bent down every now and then to examine some seashells. She picked up a flat smooth stone, threw her arm back and laughed in delight as it sailed through the air and skipped over the water.
Hando glowered at her in silence from behind a grove of palm trees quite close to her. When he had first noticed her, he had been annoyed that she had disturbed him in his sanctuary. She was just another bloody guest that had invaded the Point, another silly twat who wanted to sink her claws into any bloke with a stiffy and suck him dry. The guests to him were nothing more than the lurkers who came weekend after weekend hoping to get some horizontal action. At least the lurkers were honest in what they were after. They didn’t think up elaborate lies and speak earnestly of romance, love and connections.
As he continued to follow her with his eyes, he noticed how her hair had caught the dying sun’s last glints. It was a fiery red and the wind swept it over her shoulders in a tumbling disarray. She had taken her jumper off and her pale skin stood out in contrast to the dark colour of the deep blue water and the dark brown sand. She advanced through the waves slowly, spinning round now and then, loving the splash of them lapping against her legs. She had rolled her trousers up and he watched the turn of her impossibly tiny ankles, and his eyes moved up to the well-toned curves of her calves. The rest of her body was covered completely by a long flowing caftan. She was too far away to see her face up close and he was surprised to find himself wanting to see it.
What difference did it make what she looked like? She could be butt fucking ugly or even a looker; he would have nothing to do with her. Dirty little skanks, that’s what they all were anyways. His face rolled into a sneer.
It was then that she became aware of him. Like before, she felt him first. He was watching her; actually he was checking her out. His eyes were narrowed as he studied her. She couldn’t see them but felt cold under their gaze. His mouth had just twisted into a scowl. It was meant to intimidate. That was the wrong thing to try with Karen. The more someone tried to frighten her, the steelier her resolve became. She had just as much right as he did to be here. She held her head up high and called out an invitation.
“Why don’t you come out of hiding? I don’t believe we’ve been properly introduced.”
A second later, he tore out of the trees.
“Fucking hiding? I don’t think so. This is my place, and you’re trespassin'”
“Funny, I don’t recall seeing any signs. In fact, I distinctly would have remembered being told if this was private property.”
A smart ass, this one, he thought. “Look Bitch, why don’t you just sod off and wiggle that little arse of yours somewhere else. You’re wasting your efforts here.”
“Actually, my name isn’t Bitch, and trust me Mate; I’m not here to impress you. I was simply enjoying a walk with no one’s company but my own”, the woman looked squarely into his eyes.
Her defiance angered him even more. He sidled up closer to her. She stood her ground and kept her eyes locked on his.
He noted that her breathing had become more rapid, she swallowed a few times in quick succession and the skin showing above the collar of her shirt had reddened.
“You’re all the same. You come here practically drooling, willing to spread your legs for the first dick that cracks a fat. Well, I’ve got news for you darlin’, that snatch of yours isn’t made of gold and my good strong Aussie prick here isn’t tempted to blow my wad. So why don’t you just go back to the hotel and cream in your panties with no one’s company but your own.” He then walked on by her.
“Is this how you generally welcome people by insulting them and presuming to know why they are here? You’re pretty full of yourself aren’t you, Hando, are you always this way? If you are, it must get tiresome being a first class fucking asshole. It must get so old after a while.”
So she knew who he was. He stormed back to her and his hand went to her throat. He squeezed and got the satisfaction at last of apprehension in those deep blue eyes of hers.
“You don’t know jack about me Cunt, and no one calls me names and lives.”
He squeezed harder and smiled as panic crossed her features. Her hands scratched at him trying to claw his hands away. He watched as her eyes went out of focus, her surroundings darkening as she was about to lose consciousness. He threw her away at the last possible second, and she collapsed, coughing hard into the sand.
He leaned down into her face, “I believe we’ve been properly introduced now. Ta Luv.” He then spat on the ground in front of her and strode off.
She didn’t know how she made it back to the hotel but somehow she did. She was intending to just quietly slip back to her room, but Michelle and Colin met her at the hotel doors and wouldn’t take no for an answer. She was on auto pilot and accompanied them to the Tavern and then took off for the washroom. She looked in the mirror and could see bruises already developing on the front of her throat. She dug through her purse for powder and tried to cover them. Her fingers were shaky and she fumbled with the compact and then dropped it. She burst into tears. She could still feel the pressure of his hands around her neck, squeezing. Her dreamy school girl illusions about him shattered. She had never expected him to physically assault her.
While he had been speaking to her, she had been shamelessly examining him. She had noted his strong straight nose, his bow-like mouth and the light growth of his beard. She had ached to touch it to see if it was as soft as she had imagined it would be.
She had been stung by his cruel words and his utter disdain and scorn. No one could have prepared her for this first brutal encounter. She had been so right about his anger growing; it hadn’t stopped just because he came to the Point. What other emotions were swelling up inside him?
She trembled and stayed in the washroom until the tears stopped. She walked stiffly to the bar and asked Andy for a double zombie.
“Are you okay, Luv? You look a little off.”
“Did I ask for your concern? You’re a bartender; just pour the damn drink Andy”, she snapped.
She knew she should instantly apologize but didn’t. She took a big swallow of her drink and gasped as it burned down inside her. She shouldn’t drink rum; it usually went right to her head.
When she got back to the table, she was encircled by a whole group of people,Wendy and Jeffrey, Kath and East, Laura and Max, and even Norma Jean and Mannie had managed to come down from the cabin. Karen was not at her best and merely nodded to Max and Mannie. The conversation and laughter went right over her head, and she wished she could just disappear.
Her first meeting with Hando was nothing like her dreams or imagination. He had acted exactly like he would have in his movie. Why was she so surprised? And yet, was he right in what he had said? She had come to the Point full of hope thinking she might have a chance with him. She looked at the far end of the room where the lurkers congregated. She saw how they were dressed, how they moved, how they all had bedroom eyes, and how triumphantly they looked at each other every time they made a conquest.
The tables were turned. It wasn’t the women being ogled and pawed at. The brothers were a handsome brood, and there weren’t enough of them to go around. Yes, a lot of them were attached now to regular partners and they seemed happy to be so. Did they feel sometimes like women did, that they were on display, just a piece of meat? Her eyes had certainly run down Hando’s body on many occasions in her mind, eating him up like whipped cream.
She remembered again her main reason for being here. It was not to ravish him but help him mend his wounds and bring him back to the land of the living. How could she do that now when all his raw anger had been focused on her? He thought so little of her.
“Karen,…Yo Karen…Are you still with us?” She looked at Wendy.
“I’m sorry, did you say something?”
“Girlfriend, where did you go to? You haven’t heard anything tonight.”
“I’m sorry. It’s been a long day. I should get some rest.”
At once, Michelle and Wendy were concerned, remembering that it had just been this morning that Karen had got lost and taken a tumble. She waved off the offers of being escorted to her room. But she didn’t go directly back to the hotel. She sat down on one of the benches in Tina’s rose garden. The alcohol on an empty stomach had made her tired, and she laid down along the bench using her sweater as a pillow. Within minutes, she was asleep.
Later, she felt her arm being lightly shaken. She didn’t want to open her eyes. She then felt something light touch her face. She twitched her nose and tried to move away from it. It continued to tickle her until she let out a big sneeze.
“Whoa”, Bud rebounded, the feather falling from his fingers. “Major cooties!”
Coming fully awake now, she slapped at him lightly but he had fulfilled his purpose.
“It’s not safe to sleep here. That fucking hunk of nanogoo could come around or it could rain and you could catch a cold or worse.”
“So, what are you Bud, my babysitter? I swear you and your brothers have to learn to be a little less protective. This macho raging testosterone thing you’ve all got going can be a little hard to deal with. We’re not damsels in distress. This is the 21st century last time I looked”, she stretched still lying on the bench, not knowing how provocative she looked in the moonlight.
Bud looking at her was trying to fight off a growing attraction. He and Trisha were still having problems, and it had been awhile since he had been with a woman.
Karen was oblivious to what was going on inside Bud and would have been truly amazed at what was going through his mind. She yawned, sat up and then let out a yelp. She began to rub her leg furiously.
“What’s wrong? You got a cramp. Here, let me”, he pushed her hands away and began to massage her leg. His strong fingers kneading the muscles soon released the knot.
She lay back and closed her eyes. She sighed heavily and Bud noticed the sheen of moisture on her upper lip. He had the strongest urge to kiss her but he fought it and instead he said, “C’mon Sleeping Beauty, time to go to bed.
Hando paced back and forth in his room like a caged lion. The nerve of that stupid slut crashing into his personal space and then acting all high and mighty. He bet he could take her down a peg or two. Teach the bitch a good lesson. Were he back in the streets of Melbourne, he would have quickly shown her who was boss.
He shook his head. She wasn’t worth getting worked up about. Since he had begun training with Max he had been able to control the rage that was such an integral part of him. It was still simmering just underneath the surface, but he had been able to channel it and release some of the negative energy through his daily exercises with Max and his own personal fitness regime. Sometimes he would be overwhelmed with the fury and the feelings of revenge that bubbled up inside him. On these occasions, he would just disappear for a while in the environs around the Point. Sometimes he would be gone for days. He would always tell Max when he went away so no one would be alarmed and send out a search party for him. Lately, he had begun to open up more with Max as he trusted him, and what’s more, he respected him. Of all of his brothers, Max knew about hate and a thirst for vengeance and could understand some of his feelings.
Just thinking about some of his discussions with Max and the advice he had been given was starting to calm him down. She was so not worth it. Just another ditsy sheila with an obvious agenda. He grabbed onto his exercise bar and did his usual routine of chin ups and sit ups. But try as he might, he couldn’t get her out of his mind. His memory flashed back to her hair ablaze in the sun and her eyes staring at him with such fierce intensity. She had called him by name, and at first, had not been afraid of him. The others would surely have warned her about him. He was pretty sure that it was standard protocol when guests first came to the Point to be alerted about Sid and himself.
He had seen first hand how many of the guests would go out of their way to avoid him, or they looked at him with either fear, revulsion or a bizarre kind of fascination as if he was a specimen to be examined,the Neo-Nazi! He often covered most of his tatts, not because he was ashamed of them, but because he didn’t like being on display for the latter group. They probably expected him to hollar “Heil Hitler” or whip out his copy of Mein Kampf. He rarely socialized with his brothers and did the bare minimum of work demanded of him before he once again was on his own,the lone wolf.
His thoughts again travelled back to the woman on the beach. She didn’t tell him her name. He could tell she was older, in her mid to late 30’s, maybe. She was short and small boned he realized, as he recalled how narrow her ankles and wrists were. Her clothes looked expensive but were so shapeless, it was hard to get a good fix on her figure. The bulk of her torso had been covered by that tent-like top.
Maybe she was a porker, he thought, and found it amazing that this didn’t automatically dismiss her image from his brain. As a general rule, he wasn’t attracted to fat women. He thought they were lazy, indulgent, negligent and lacked self-discipline. Had he ever fucked any? Once or twice when he was shitfaced and there was no other pussy around.
He was tired of her barging into his head. He needed a pint. It was late so there probably wouldn’t be too many people downstairs. He went to the bar and Andy immediately set him up with a VB. He looked around. Only Johnny, Jack, Alex and Bud were left. He decided to stay where he was on the bar stool. He and Bud didn’t get on.
“So any new arrivals come?”
It took Andy a second to realize that Hando had spoken and was actually speaking to him.
“Not today mate. But yesterday, one did.”
Hando cursed silently. In the old days, it had been so easy to get Andy to spill on any news or gossip, but ever since he had fucked up one time with his loose lips, he was now much more careful about what he said and to whom.
“She a friend of one of the regulars?”
“She seems to know all the ladies, but I tell you that one’s got a short wick”, Andy replied, remembering the way she had reamed him out and demanded her drink after he had just asked if she was okay.
“Yeah and with red hair to match.”
“What’s her name? I’m just askin’ so I’ll know who to steer clear from.”
Andy thought that was kind of odd for Hando to say as he always steered clear from everybody but he shrugged and said, “Karen…I think her last name is Summers.”
Hando wanted to ask if Andy knew how long she was staying but knew that would be showing way too much interest. He turned away and watched as Johnny and Jack left. Alex had joined Bud who was morosely looking into his glass of scotch. He couldn’t hear exactly what they were saying, but it sounded like Alex was trying to cheer him up. What a loser. He was probably moping around cause Trisha wasn’t there. He would never let a dame get under his skin like that. He didn’t trust any of them and only used them to do the nasty with when he was desperate.
He had tried to get Davy to see that. Women were trouble with a capital T. They were only good for one thing. But Davy hadn’t listened to him and had got involved way over his head. As he made himself remember her, he clenched his fists. The stupid cow had come between them. There were few things that Hando regretted but one of them was bringing Gabe into their world. He had known at the time he met Gabe that Davy lusted after her. He had seen it every time they joked around and especially when Davy had risked his life to get Gabe’s jacket from their squat while it was under siege by gooks. He had fully intended to pass her on to Davy when he was through with her. But she had pissed him off and after slapping her, he had ordered her to leave. Davy had followed, and that was when Hando realized he was in danger of losing his best friend for the first time.
He closed his eyes tightly and blocked out the rest of what happened. He came back to the present. Women were the same all over; treacherous, deceiving vultures. He repeated this to himself over and over like a mantra.
Karen slept in the next morning. Her stomach was growling, and she knew she had to eat something. She unwrapped the crackers and peeled the banana that she had stuffed in her purse. She had nicked them from a tray she had found in the hall. There were four crackers in the pack so she only allowed herself two. The other two she would hoard for later. She felt a little dizzy but attributed this to the rum she drank last night.
What should she do today, and for that matter, the rest of her time here? Hando didn’t want to have anything to do with her. She doubted that would ever change, and to be honest, after what he did to her, it was probably for the best, though she honestly believed in her heart that he needed her as a friend.
Perhaps, she should hook up with the women, but then there would always come the awkward time when they would be whisked off by their men, leaving her alone and feeling like a wallflower. Maybe, she should just go home.
“With my tail between my legs”, she murmured.
It wasn’t fair. Nothing in her life had ever been easy. Her childhood had been marred by the bullying of other children, her teenage years were dateless and she had faded into the background of every classroom. Her only enjoyment had come from music and reading, and she would escape gladly at every opportunity into make believe. She would become the muse of every song and the heroine of every story. When she got her first job at sixteen, she then had money to spend on movies. Her world of pretend expanded and she would be cast as the leading lady facing off against the protagonist. In this world she was beautiful, glamorous, mysterious, clever, alluring and she had her pick of men.
Unfortunately, reality always bites you in the butt, and as she got older, her life became predictable and mundane. She went to college, began a career, moved out on her own, and the daily grind of being an adult, quite frankly, sucked. Slowly, very slowly, at an advanced age, men became interested. She had been initiated into the rites of flirting, the chase, and then the sexual dance. Her friends had married, had babies or travelled to exotic places. She was on a shoestring budget and could never get time off from work to join them on their voyages.
Then before she knew it, her twenties were over. She had felt deprived of the normal experiences of youth,going on picnics and BBQs at the beach, camping up north, watching firecracker displays on holidays and necking up a storm in someone’s daddy’s car. She had gone a little crazy when she turned thirty. She had to make up for lost time and she had and how!
Out of the blue, disaster struck and for four years, she merely existed. She dreaded each day and went to bed terrified each night. She couldn’t read any more; she couldn’t listen to music. She couldn’t sleep; she couldn’t work. She lost her friends one by one who didn’t know how to relate to this stranger she had become. She had prayed to God then like she never had before. She didn’t use the formal prayers she had been raised to say but just talked to Him. She begged Him to ease her suffering. In despair, she ranted and raged and said in the end whatever she did, it would be His fault. Then she had taken the pills. Karen was openly sobbing now at the memory.
It had worked though; some angel must have been sent to look after her. She had gradually recovered, and life took on new meaning. She had vowed never to take her life or happiness for granted again. She made new friends who were free, independent single women. She quickly grew impatient with them as they were always complaining, scheming, sniping and competing. She didn’t want to become like them, but one day she had looked in the mirror and saw a bitter, stubborn, cynical and jaded woman staring back. That’s where she was right now, and she wanted to change but didn’t know how. She wanted to reach out and belong but, all too frequently, she put her foot in her mouth and unfailingly alienated yet again someone trying to help her. She wanted to fit in here at the Point, but she already had let her temper erupt on a few occasions. She didn’t want to go home to an empty apartment and a phone that never rang.
Maybe she would go into town and do some shopping. Spending money that she didn’t have always seemed like a pleasant diversion. She would just make sure she got specific directions so she wouldn’t be stranded in Timbuktu. She laughed at herself. It felt good to be able to do that.
Karen wandered into the various shops and was pleased to note that quite a few of them sold antiques. She loved to browse and look at the jewellery, the fancy china and silver tea sets. She imagined a much simpler time back then and tried to picture how life must have been. At her age, her family would have given up hope of her ever marrying and having children. She would be considered an old spinster, the crazy lady with a million cats as her only companions. She giggled at the thought. But she would have adored the clothes, especially the corsets which would have cinched in her waist quite nicely, and the hats, right out of “Titanic”. And as a bonus, she would finally have cleavage as those dresses certainly pushed everything up and out. In fact, that was the only good thing that had come with her gaining weight; she finally had grown a chest.
She saw a rack of parasols and opened one up, twirling around with it.
“Why thank you kind Sir, it will be my pleasure to be your escort to the ball”, she mimed and smiled bewitchingly as she curtsied before an imagined gentleman caller. “I’ll be sure to save you a spot on my dance card, if there’s any left”, she giggled coquettishly.
Ah yes, she should have been born into another time. Then she thought seriously about it for a minute and shook her head.
Women back then didn’t have the freedom and choice that she took for granted even though history did have some fine examples of those who broke the mould.
She went back to the jewellery case and bought a cameo broach and a Celtic cross necklace. Being of Irish descent and having travelled once to Ireland, she admired it as a symbol of her heritage. She continued down the street of shops and came to a sleepwear and lingerie store. She looked in the display window and winced at seeing the skimpy teddies and tiny thongs on the mannequins.
“Why would any sane woman want to wear one of those and have a permanent wedgie?”, she wondered aloud. Because, she assured herself, they are so darn sexy and men didn’t seem to have an aversion to women wearing them.
She entered the store and looked around. As usual, there were no plus sizes.
“Can I help you Miss”, a saleslady smiled at her.
“I don’t think there’s anything here that’s my size.”
The woman gave her a perusing glance. “What size are you, a 12?”
Karen laughed and shook her head, “More like a 16.”
“No, I don’t think so; here let me measure you.”
Before she could stop her, the saleslady went back to the counter and pulled out a measuring tape.
“Here Dear, pull up your blouse.”
Karen hesitated and then did what the saleslady asked. She had her waist, bust and hips measured.
“You’re definitely not a 16, and I think I have something in your size that you might like.”
She followed the saleslady and said, “There must be some mistake; I’ve been a size 16 for the last four years.”
The woman gave her a no-nonsense look. “My Dear, I’ve been in this business for thirty odd years, and I know how to measure and I know what fits my customers. Now here’s what I want you to look at.”
Karen looked at the delicate negligee set. It was gorgeous. It had a floral pattern on it of yellow and purple, was sheer,very sheer,at the top. It was also slit on both sides up to mid thigh and came with a matching robe.
“Do you want to try it on?”
Karen was about to say that it wouldn’t fit but didn’t want to get the old dear all riled up. It certainly was beautiful. She had never owned something quite like it. Maybe she should buy it as an incentive and then diet into it. It would help her motivation.
“Actually, I’ll just buy it, thanks.”
She hustled out of the store thinking how blind could that lady be. She couldn’t have just lost two dress sizes; she had only been dieting and exercising for the last two months. She suddenly felt dizzy and had to sit down on the curb. She hoped she wasn’t going to faint. She put her head between her knees until the feeling passed. Time to eat something. She unwrapped the two remaining crackers from her purse and crammed them into her mouth. Chewing slowly, she hungrily eyed a hot dog cart that was across the street. The temptation was strong but she fought it. Knowing she needed something more substantial in her stomach, she went into a fruit market and bought two apples, two oranges, some grapes, bananas and a case of bottled water. There, she was set for the rest of her stay.
She gnawed at one of the apples and, despite her misgivings, pictured herself in the negligee in front of Hando. His rough hands on the filmy soft material, were touching her through it and her nipples hardened in response. His fingers were lightly caressing her breasts and moving up to her neck and then were replaced by his lips, tender and warm. She felt the dampness between her legs and then remembered his furious face from last night.
He deliberately tried to scare here by choking her even though she knew deep inside that he was testing her. What would his touch and kiss have been like last night? It would have been harsh, demanding and savage. If it was possible, she was now even more wet. Now that scared her. What kind of woman would want to be treated like that? She thought of her past boyfriends and her clandestine encounters with them. She had always been treated with respect, kindness and thoughtfulness.
Some lovers had been better than others and had been able to satisfy her. Some times she had faked her orgasms, not wanting to hurt their feelings. When they were gone, she would just reach for her vibrator. At other times, she would stare at the ceiling when they weren’t looking and wonder why they were so excited, hot and sweaty while she stayed cool as a cucumber. She sometimes fantasized they were her favourite movie stars. When they rolled off her, she would wait an appropriate five minutes before excusing herself to the bathroom and wiping away all their traces.
She also wondered why she was so quiet in bed. She didn’t scream, shriek or talk dirty. Every now and then, she would moan or gasp so she would still be considered an active participant.
When she had first seen Romper Stomper and the sex scene between Hando and Gabe at the party, she became highly aroused. She never had been taken that way and it excited her. She had kept rewinding the movie so she could watch it over and over. Hell, sometimes she would fast forward through the whole thing just to get to that scene. The pumping action, the expression on Gabe’s face, Hando steadying himself with a hand on the wall as he came, all were recalled. There had been no doubt; Hando had been in control. Was that what she was hoping to find here with him, someone to sexually dominate her? No, that was just a little bit too kinky for her. She tried to push these deviant thoughts from her mind.
It was getting late. It was time to go. She drove back to the Point, feeling good that she didn’t once have to stop to see where she was going. It was starting to rain and holding her parcels over her head, she ran into the hotel lobby.
She stopped to say hi to Colin who was manning the front desk.
“Did some shopping I see. Anything good?”
“Just some jewellery and some fruit.”
“What about in that little bag there; you know the one that says ‘Erotic Dreams’ on it?”
She blushed furiously wishing she could disappear into the floor.
Colin patted her on the shoulder, “Just teasin’ Luv. I’m sure you just bought a pair of flannels right?” He winked at her.
She ran up to her room and slid the offending bag under her bed wondering what possessed her to buy it.
She took a cold shower and towel dried her hair before noticing an envelope that had been shoved under her door. Opening it, she saw it was a note from Bud asking her if she would like to have dinner with him. He left her his phone number. She was torn now. She wanted to have Bud’s company but she didn’t want to eat any more today. Maybe she could get away with having just an appetizer or a salad. She could then just work out twice as hard tonight. She dialled his number.
“Do you always answer your phone so formally?”, she said giggling.
There was a slight pause and then she heard a deep chuckle.
“Old habits die hard. Besides, not too many ladies call here anymore so they may have the wrong number.”
“C’mon Bud, you’re such a studly specimen, I can’t believe that’s true.”
Another pause, this one longer then a change of subject.
“I presume you called about dinner tonight.”
“Yeah I would love to have dinner with you.”
Bud hadn’t realized he had been holding his breath expecting to be rejected. “Great, I’ll phone down and make a reservation for one of the dining rooms.”
“Dining rooms?”, Karen panicked to herself. That meant formality and lots of food.
“I figured we could have a late supper and then maybe do some dancing.”
“Uh, Bud, I’m actually not that hungry. See, I ate a late lunch in town. How about if we just have a bite to eat in the restaurant?”
Bud felt disappointed but he didn’t want her to know. “We could do that. But aren’t you sick of the same place and seeing the same ugly mugs of all my brothers?”
She laughed again. She had a very loud and raucous laugh. It sounded good to his ears because it sounded genuine.
“Well then what would I be doing with you if I was sick of those same faces?”
“You got a point Sweetheart. How does 8 o’clock sound?”
“Perfect, I’ll see you then.”
She hung up and looked through her wardrobe again. She wished she had brought a skirt or dress, even a pantsuit would do. Every now and then, she liked to fancy up but she hadn’t thought she would have an occasion to do so here.
“Silly me, I just thought I would be in bed all the time getting laid and wouldn’t need any clothes.” She banged her head on the closet in frustration.
She finally decided on a lacy white blouse and added an elastic belt that helped to narrow her waist. She pinned on her new broach and wore the necklace.
Bud was already at a table when she entered the restaurant. He rose and kissed her on the cheek and then pulled out her chair before seating himself.
“You look nice tonight”, he said warmly.
“Why thank you.”
“Is that new?”, he pointed to her broach.
“I just got it today. I love old jewellery. There were some great stores in town.”
Jeff came by to take their order, asking how her day went. They small talked for a while and then he put in their order. Bud had ordered a steak and another scotch.
“I forgot to ask you if you wanted some wine”, he said mentally kicking himself for forgetting.
“No thanks, I’m still recovering from rum poisoning.”
“You sure you don’t want more than a salad?”
She assured him that she didn’t. She noticed that Bud seemed a little nervous tonight, more wound up than normal.
“So anything exciting happen around here while I was gone?”
“Just Sid being more fucking obnoxious than usual. He always drives everyone nuts when he’s expecting Tawny.”
He then shared some stories with her about Sid’s antics and how the boyz retaliated. She couldn’t stop laughing. Bud certainly had a way of telling a story, especially with all the colourful swearing.
“So tell me about you”, he finally said.
“What do you want to know?”
“I don’t know; tell me about your home or your job.”
“As you know, I’m Canadian, eh, and I live in Toronto, what is commonly known as Hogtown. I’ve lived there all of my life. In fact, I have never lived more than a five mile radius from my grade school, my high school, the family church, the hospital I was born in, the old age home where I first worked…etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. Are you getting the picture of Dullsville? I guess I’m not too adventurous.”
“No, it just sounds like you were content where you were living. Is your family close by?”
“No, when my dad retired, they moved out to Windsor. It’s not that far away but far enough to be out of sight, out of mind.”
“You don’t get along with them?”
Karen puckered up her mouth, “That would be an understatement.”
Just then the food arrived. They started to eat and Karen saw that Bud enjoyed his food, digging into it with gusto.
He noticed that she took little bites and was pushing the lettuce all over her plate.
“So, we were talking about your family. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“One of each, older with the standard 1.5 kids each. I really love my nephews and nieces. They’re at an age now where you can talk to them about anything. Of course, they think you’re too old and not cool enough for them to waste their breath on because you don’t know what Eminem’s latest song is or who’s playing against the Leafs.”
“Well don’t tell John that. Isn’t hockey supposed to be your national sport?”
“Uh huh but since my dad always hogged the TV during every game and I couldn’t even skate because of weak ankles, I wasn’t that interested. Treasonous, I know. But come to think of it, I played a mean game of road hockey when I was little.”
Karen then asked about his life as a cop. He told her more amusing anecdotes about his work, avoiding any mention of his former partner, Stens or Lynne Bracken.
She told him that she really didn’t like her job but it paid too well for her to just up and quit. “I’ve got good benefits, a good pension plan and five weeks of holidays.”
“Yeah but if you’re miserable, you should do something else.”
“That’s just it. I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.”
“I think you’re plenty grown up”, Bud said quietly and Karen couldn’t fail to notice the drop of his eyes to the low neckline of her blouse.
“Any men in your life back in Toronto?”
She swallowed hard and then wiped her mouth with her napkin. “Not at present, been a few in my past and who knows what the future holds.” Their eyes met and Karen broke the stare. “What about you Bud? Don’t tell me some woman hasn’t hitched herself to your wagon.”
He thought again of Trisha, his pretty English rose. That was the problem though; he felt like she wasn’t his anymore, that he had lost her. Karen seeing the inner turmoil reflected on his face reached for his hand. No words were necessary. He squeezed it and smiled that he was okay.
Just then, Michelle and Colin approached their table.
“So Bud, did you tell Karen about the beach BBQ we’re having?”, Michelle asked lightly.
“Must have slipped my mind”, Bud said looking down at his plate.
Michelle gave him and Karen a curious glance wondering if she had interrupted a private moment and then decided to continue.
“Next weekend, we’re having a party on the beach. We’re going to play volleyball or badminton then have a sunset BBQ. Oh and they’ll be swimming. Did you bring a bathing suit?”
Karen, dejected by her encounter with Hando and not wanting to risk any more rebuffs replied, “I’m not sure if I’ll be staying that long. I was thinking I’d leave by mid week.”
“You just got here, and believe me you haven’t been to a real barbie until you’ve been to an Aussie one”, Colin added. “See we convince Annabella to take a break and then we take over. Bud, can’t you sweet talk her into coming?”
“The parties here are pretty good. You should stay.”
“Karen, I speak for the ladies. We haven’t had much chance to talk and get better acquainted. On the Friday night, we were thinking about a girl’s night out.”
“Oh Oh, another Hen’s Night, here’s trouble”, Bud said and Colin raised and crossed his fingers in front of him as a hex to ward off danger. Karen and Michelle laughed.
“Okay, consider my arm twisted. I’ll stay til next weekend.”
After Colin and Michelle had left, they ordered coffees and drank them comfortably in silence. He walked her to her room hoping that she might invite him in.
She thanked him for dinner and on an impulse, lightly kissed his lips before saying goodnight and closing her door. Leaning on it, she wondered why she had done so. He was just a good buddy for heaven’s sake. Don’t complicate matters she told herself.
Karen sat on her bed thinking about her day. From a dismal beginning, it actually had turned out pretty good. She had started it by giving in to self-pity and feeling sorry for herself.
“No more. My life is my own and I have to make it what I want.”
She looked at the waterfall painting on the wall seeing again beauty and power in the thundering cascade and she was comforted.
The next few days passed quickly for Karen. She did some more sightseeing, doing everything but dropping bread crumbs to follow, to ensure she would not get lost again. She saw Lachlan’s hangar and watched him take some passengers up for a flight. He tried his best to coax her into his biplane, but she just laughed him off. She watched John playing hockey on his ice rink with some people she didn’t know. She roared out her approval when he scored. He gave her a thumbs up. East and Cort galloped by her and she followed them with her eyes full of awe at their skill and grace. Her nights were spent at the Tavern either with a handful of people or just Bud.
It was now Thursday and Karen sighed thinking she would soon be leaving. She hadn’t managed to meet her objective, but she had had a good time, and that was the most important thing. She was walking through the hotel’s main corridor when she heard a sweet tenor’s voice singing a hymn. She quietly pushed open the door where the music was coming from.
Arthur had his back to her and was singing the words of a song she recognized from childhood. She found herself at first humming softly and then singing in full harmony with him. Arthur stopped and went three shades of red discovering her but she motioned to him silently to keep singing. He did so, and they finished the whole song, all five verses of it together. They clapped at the end for each other.
“Arthur, that was wonderful. What a beautiful voice you have.”
He blushed again at the praise. “Thank you and you did well with the harmony.”
She was fascinated by his strong Welsh accent.
“Well, I’m afraid that’s all you ever get to sing when you’re an alto and not a soprano in the church choir.”
His face then lit up. “You should come and sing at Sunday’s service. Do you know a lot of hymns or the Psalms?”
“I don’t think that would be a good idea Arthur. I’m not exactly a churchgoer.”
“If you don’t mind me saying so, Cort’s services are different from more formal rituals. It’s non-denominational and there’s lots of music and singing. Cort always keeps the sermon short.”
“I’m sure the services are great, but I haven’t sung in public in a long time, unless you count drunken karaoke parties.”
“I wouldn’t know anything about them, but perhaps you might just like to sing a few verses with some of the other members or a solo if that’s what you want.”
She almost felt herself persuaded. She did love to sing and had many fond memories of singing in choirs growing up.
“I’ll think about it Arthur and let you know.”
It was mid-morning and already she was feeling the heat as she walked outside. It was going to be a scorcher today. She looked down at her outfit. It just wouldn’t do for a day like today. She had bought a sleeveless blouse with her but not any shorts and certainly not a swimsuit. She went back to her room and changed into the blouse and then she remembered she had brought a pair of silk pyjamas where the bottoms were actually shorts. She changed again into the pyjamas. Where she was going, no one would see here anyway. She grabbed a blanket, towel, sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen and a book and she was off again to catch some rays.
She headed towards the bluffs that she had seen the other night from the beach. First it was a climb up an embankment in which you had to pull yourself up on the rocks. She laid out her blanket along the flat hard surface. It wouldn’t be as comfortable as the sand to lie out on but at least she wouldn’t have to worry about running into His Lordship. She put on some sunscreen, as she was very fair and prone to sunburn. She leaned back against another rock and opened her book. Soon she was avidly devouring its contents.
The sun rose high in the sky. Her eyelids kept drooping lower and lower. The book fell from her hands. She gave in to the land of Nod and spread out on the blanket.
Dark eyes were silently watching her closely as she slept fitfully, as if she was trying to drive certain thoughts from her mind. She mumbled something and then gave out a little cry. Her head rolled from side to side. Her hands moved in front of her as if pushing something away. She moaned and turned on her side. Her eyelids blinked furiously as if the dream taking place was in fast motion and she was trying to take it all in. She sighed and exhaled another little scream…”No…oh No!” It rose in pitch and then suddenly it stopped. She woke with a start.
“Bloody hell, you’re a noisy tosser aren’t ya? What were you dreaming aboutómy big thick cock inside ya? Naughty girl.”
She sat up abruptly and hit her head on jutting rock. She groaned as the pain alerted her to her whereabouts. Hando was leaning over her. She wriggled backwards trying to get away from him and found herself pressed up against another rock wall.
“What’s your problem? You weren’t afraid of me the other night or so you kept telling yourself. How’s the throat by the way?”, he said pointing casually to his own. Hando’s voice almost sounded pleasant as if he were just asking what time it was.
Her hand still rubbing the bump on her head, she looked up at him. His eyes were cool; his smile mocking her.
What are you doing here?”, she finally found the words to say.
“I live here…remember. You’re the outsider.”
“What cat got your tongue? No smart assed comeback? You disappoint me Luv.”
Karen was still trying to get her bearings. She glanced at her watch. It was three o’clock. Why was she feeling so stiff? She looked down and saw that her arms and legs were reddened.
“Yeah, you’ve got a bit of sun. I was trying to wake you so you wouldn’t fry anymore.”
She looked at him in disbelief. “How stupid do you think I am? You…a good Samaritan, please! Forgive me if I don’t laugh; I’m in a little much too pain.”
His eyes darkened. “That smart yap of yours is gonna get you in heaps of trouble one day.”
She ignored him as she piled on more sunscreen. She was unnerved and was unable to match his stare for stare.
“Little late for that. Like closing the gate after the horse has bolted.”
He picked up the book she had been reading. It was on Jack the Ripper. He cocked an eyebrow.
“What? So I like reading true crime. Something wrong with that?”, she yanked the book out of his grasp.
Why don’t you just talk to Sid? Then you’ll get a first hand account of what it was like killing all those prosties. I’m sure old Jackie boy has a big place in his heart.”
She shivered at the harrowing images that came to mind. “That’s not why I read it.”
“Do you read them to find out their motivation; what makes them tick? Do you want to know what goes through a killer’s mind? I could tell you”, Hando’s voice softened but his face remained impassive and his mouth cold.
Her temper flared again. “Give it a rest will you. Stop trying to scare me. You’re doing a piss poor job of it.”
He laughed. She was feisty, he liked that.
“Why are you staring at me?”, Karen asked thinking it was because she must look dreadful.
He took a step back. “You were the one”, he said in surprise, his face now showing puzzlement.
“What are you talking about?”
“You were the one watching me the other day when I was starting my run. You were hiding.”
She blushed but since her face was burned red already, it probably didn’t show.
“Why were you there?”, he asked harshly. “Having a perve were you?”
“Don’t flatter yourself. Why would I waste my time checking you out when there’s guys like Max and Terry around? Real men.”
He moved fast and straddled her, grabbing her wrists and holding them above her with one hand. “I’m more of a man than you could ever handle darlin’. Feel this”, he pulled one of her hands down to his dick.
She gasped and drew it away like she had touched fire but not before noticing that it was big and hard. He grabbed hold of her hand again. He wasn’t through. He kissed her then. His tongue forced his way in, his lips raped hers. She tried to fight it but she couldn’t. She opened herself to him and her tongue wrapped around his and swept across his lips, sucking and tasting. He freed her arms and she reached for him to pull him nearer.
He resisted and got off her. For one moment, she could see arousal and desire in his face, and then it was gone, replaced by disgust and loathing.
She couldn’t bear it and began to gather her things. He hadn’t moved. She started to leave but he stopped her with a hand on her arm.
“Why were you really there that day?” There was no sarcasm or venom in his voice.
She looked directly into his eyes. “Because I came here for you. Not to make fun of you, not to play silly games and not to sleep with you. I came here because you need someone. You need to start to heal. You need a friend.”
She hurried away, not seeing bewilderment cross his features. Trying to descend the rocks as fast as possible, she kept going. In her distraction, she didn’t quite make the leap from one rock to the next. She felt her ankle twist, and she stumbled and fell, but luckily for her, she was now on the grassy hill. She rolled to a stop. Her leg was bleeding and the bump on her forehead was also oozing. She started to shout out Hando’s name, but he was already there.
He grabbed her towel and ripped it. He wrapped a strip around her legs.
“Here keep your hand on it.”
She did what he said.
“Do you have any water?”
She shook her head. He cursed under his breath but she could still hear him say “stupid git”. He spat on part of the towel and began to wipe the blood and dirt from the cut on her forehead. She cried out as his hands were far from gentle.
“Shut up. You’re not carking it.”
“Whatever that means. You’re forgetting the sunburn”, she brushed his hands away angrily.
“Do you want my help or not? It’s no skin off my nose to just leave you here.”
Hando felt like giving this one a good gobful. He was about to when he noticed that the top of her blouse had torn, and he could see the milky tips of her tits. From what he could see, they were firm and ripe. “Fuck”, he swore.
He took a good look at her. She looked bloody awful. She was red as a lobster. Her hair was a bird’s nest, and she had black shit smudged under her eyes. Yet he already had a hard on for her.
“Why did you bail back there?”
“Do you mean why did I leave? I wasn’t in the mood to be laughed at or told again that you wanted no part of me, that I was just being a stupid little slut that you wouldn’t look twice at.”
“Did you mean what you said before?”
“Every word, but don’t worry I won’t force myself on you. I’m leaving at the end of this week, and you can go to hell for all I care,” she shouted, hot tears streaming down her face.
She pushed him away and tried to stand. Her ankle gave out on her, and she fell back but he caught her.
“Let go of me!”, she screamed at him, slapping away at his arms.
She kicked him hard in the shin. He reacted instinctively with a firm backhand. She fell again to the ground, holding her cheek, but before she got any wild ideas about going for the crown jewels, he grabbed her by the back of her hair and jerked her up.
His face nose to nose with hers, his voice full of menace, he said, “Now we can continue this row if you want but I guarantee you I’ll win. So I’m giving you fair warning; shut the fuck up, stay down and do as I tell ya or you’ll be one sorry little Yank.”
“I’m a Canuck”, she managed to spit out before seeing his glare and wisely deciding to stay quiet.
Her cheek still stung from his slap. She had never been struck in her life. She should be very afraid of this man. She had already seen the violence in him flare up. She knew from his movie what he could do with his fists and a weapon, but she wasn’t frightened, and that terrified her more than anything.
For the second time in a week, she felt her body being touched and probed for damage. Terry had been a lot more tender. Karen knew that Hando was probably very experienced in looking after the resulting cuts, bruises and scrapes that his gang would endure after a fight. That’s what made him a leader; he was almost paternal in his care. He ripped more of her towel and cleaned and wrapped her other small wounds.
“There, that should do it. You should be able to put weight on that ankle once the swelling has gone down. If we get you back, you can put ice on it. You have a choice now; I can go and get one of the blokes to carry you back or I can do it.”
“I’m sure I’ll be able to get there on my own volition, thank you very much”, she said somewhat haughtily.
He gave her an exasperated look. “Fine, be bloody stubborn. I’m outta here.”
He walked briskly away from her, not once looking back. She waited until he was out of sight and then tried to get up. She could hop a little, but it would take a long time. She felt like she was burning up and she had a nagging headache. She stopped to rest every few feet. She could hear thunder rumbling in the distance. Little droplets of rain began to fall around her. She would have to wait out the rain as it would quickly turn everything around her to mud. She looked around for shelter. There was a bench under a group of trees. Maybe that would provide some coverage. She hobbled over to it already slipping on the wet ground. She pulled the blanket around her.
The rain continued to splatter down. She felt dizzy again. Along with her water, she had forgotten to bring her fruit. She was really sick now. The rain started teeming leaking right through the trees. Her clothes were soaked through and plastered to her skin. She shivered. She hadn’t meant to come across as a pain in the ass when she refused Hando’s offer. Why did guys always want to carry women? Fuck, did they think they were that helpless?
Truth was, she was mortified about her weight. She remembered only too well when one boyfriend had tried to sweep her to her bedroom and he had fallen. Another wasn’t even able to lift her. She knew down inside that the boyz were very strong and could probably carry her, but she didn’t want to be compared to the unbearable lightness of other women.
She changed the subject in her mind back to Hando’s kiss. She had wanted more but he had pulled away. Was he just toying with her? Did it mean anything to him? Was he just paying her back for what she had said? Her head was spinning. She had to sit down. The sky had darkened and soon it would be nightfall. She sat on the bench but the water quickly seeped through the blanket.
Hando was back at the Tavern downing a pint. Fuck, she made him mad. No, she hadn’t wanted him to touch her, even though he had no intention of doing anything but dropping her on her fat ass as soon as he got her back to the hotel. She was probably ashamed to be seen with him. Well the little tart could just totter back on her own. All that garbage she had been spouting about her being there for him was just that, fucking bullshit! She was all piss and wind. What did she mean he needed to heal? Was she trying to be his shrink? Dumb cow. He should have slapped her silly.
He thought of the kiss. He had done it as a power trip; to prove to her that he wasn’t a man to mess around with; that he could always take what he wanted. It wasn’t supposed to have meant anything other than that. But when he felt her lips pressed against his, desire had crept in unexpectedly. She had responded with ardent fervour and that had jolted him back to senses.
His attention was once again drawn back to the weather. He could hear the rain pounding down on the roof. She must be drenched. It’d serve her right if she caught pneumonia. He finished his beer and was going back to his room but something made him look outside. The wind was picking up now. Maybe she got back all right; maybe someone else had come across her. He turned away, but something again stopped him. He knew she wasn’t back.
“Bloody hell!”, he bellowed before pushing open the door and stepping outside.
“What’s up with him?”, Steve sitting at the bar asked Andy. Andy just shrugged. You never could tell what was going on with Hando.
Hando was soaked in a matter of minutes. He went to where he had left her. She was gone but she had dropped her book, what was left of it anyways. He picked it up and kept searching for her. He looked across the shoreline. She must have found her way back. He started to head home until he heard what sounded like a groan. He looked in the direction it came from, and there Karen was, huddled under the trees, holding on to her head.
“Are you daft, or are you expecting to just float home?” He grabbed her roughly around the waist and hauled her up, hoisting her over his shoulder in one smooth motion. She started shouting out expletives at him so he swatted her hard on her bottom and she shut up. When they were approaching the hotel, she begged him to stop.
“Please Hando. I don’t want anyone seeing me like this. All they’ll do is fuss. Is there a way I can get to my room without being seen?”
He looked through the window. Arthur was at the front desk. He carefully put her down.
“Stay here. I’ll get rid of him.”
In a few moments he was back. He slung her over his shoulder again and hurried up the stairs.
He set her down. She leaned against the door and fished out her key. He opened it and let her lean on him. He walked her over to the bathroom.
“You need to get out of those togs and in the tub. Do you want me to get Chelle or one of the other girls to help?”
“No, I’ll be able to manage.” She could hardly stand to look at him.
He grabbed the nearest towel which for some reason was covering the mirror and threw it at her. He went to go but her voice stopped him.
“Thank you. I’m sorry for being a brat before. I know you only meant to help.”
He grunted something unintelligible and left.
Hando went back to his room. He took off his own wet clothes and had a shower. He could still see her shivering as he had lifted her to her feet. Her sopping blouse had stuck to her skin. He could see her nipples erect and he almost had touched them, wanting to pinch them and cup her full breast in his hand. Her shorts had clung to her ass which was well-rounded in shape. She wasn’t exactly fat, but she definitely wasn’t all that thin. She was curvy and he usually didn’t go for that type. After all, you only needed a mouthful.
He knew she hadn’t looked her best today but there was something about her that drew him in. Her eyes widened and changed colour to a vivid sapphire blue when she was angry. Her lower lip was full, and he figured she would be a pretty good pouter or sulker. Even though he knew she was older than him, she had seemed almost childlike in some respects. She might be a handful for him to tame. Hando always thought in these terms with women. He needed to be in control. He would never allow himself to be led around by his dick. Did he want to bed her? Surprisingly, yes he did. Did he want more from her than a quick fuck? He didn’t know.
Karen took about four Advils and limped over to the bed. When she had got out of the bath, she had found that Hando had left a bucket of ice outside the door. She leaned back against the headboard after wrapping an ice pack on her ankle. She was slathering herself in Noxema. The shrill ring of the telephone on the nightstand startled her. After wiping off the grease on her hands, she picked it up.
“Where the fuck have you been?”
It took a minute for her tired brain to register that it was Bud.
“Where…Have…You…Been?” Bud enunciated every word.
“I’ve been sleeping. You just woke me up. Is something wrong?”
“Does cocktails tonight ring a bell or do you make a habit of standing men up?”
Damn; memory of their date tonight had been erased. “Oh Bud, I’m sorry. I forgot about it completely. I was just so tired today that I overslept when I got home.”
“You certainly are a sound sleeper. This is the fifth time I’ve called. I also knocked on your door twice.”
Shit; she didn’t need this aggravation. He sounded really pissed. “How about if I make it up to you tomorrow?”, she said cheerily trying to diffuse his anger.
“Don’t you have a ladies night out tomorrow?”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that.”
“What are you doing right now?”
“Now’s not a good time Bud. I got a little too much sun today and I have a really nasty headache.” At least that was the truth.
“Maybe, you just need a little TLC. Why don’t I come up and pamper you a little bit.”
“That sounds lovely Bud but I think I’m going to have to pass. I need to sleep off this headache.”
The silence was deafening.
“Bud, are you still there?”
“Yeah but why do I get the feeling you’re trying to blow me off.”
He was starting to push her buttons.
“We’re friends. It’s not as if we had a lover’s tryst planned.”
“You would find that a real hardship wouldn’t you; if we were more than just friends?”
She started to count to ten but was close to losing it. She adored Bud but lately he had been getting possessive and she didn’t know how to handle it. She was flattered with his attentions but her heart was elsewhere, especially after today. Bud was funny and sexy as all hell but she was a one man woman and that man was Hando. Besides she really believed that Bud’s interest in her was just a poor attempt to erase Trisha from his mind.
“Bud, I don’t want to do this. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.” She hung up.
She turned off her night lamp and lay in the darkness. The stereo was playing one of her Shania Twain’s CDs. She advanced the songs to her personal fave. She had dubbed it “The Hando Song”. It said exactly what she felt about him.
Deep in Denialville
Tryin’ to fight the way I feel
I go jello when you smile
I start blushin’…my head rushin’
If you stand too close to me
I might melt down from the heat
If ya look my way one more time
I’m gonna go out of my mind
Whatever you do…
Don’t even think about it!
Don’t go and get me started!
Don’t you dare drive me crazy!
Don’t do that to me baby!
You stop me in my tracks
My heart pumping to the max
I’m such a sucker for your eyes
They permanently paralyse
You got my heart under attack
You give me shivers down my back
D’ya have to walk the way you do?
I get weak just watchin’ you
Way to go Shania! She couldn’t have said it better herself.
In spite of the discomfort from her sunburn and her ankle, she couldn’t help but beam. She was thrilled that he had come back for her. No one on earth could have made him do that if he hadn’t wanted to. She was still amazed that he had first found her on the bluffs. His intentions must have been good though she had seriously doubted them at the time. How long she wondered did he watch her sleep? She was a little bit worried about what she might have said or done. She was a restless sleeper at best and she often talked and even yelled in her sleep. Once she had been fighting in a dream and she had actually kicked out and almost knocked her lamp off the night table. She had woken up fast with a smarting foot. Past boyfriends had noticed too that she frequently masturbated in her sleep. Of course, they would watch and not wake her, like the secret voyeurs they all were.
Time to plan a strategy. She only had two days left and she wanted to leave quite an impression on the Marquis de Sade Junior. She didn’t want to go the girlie girl party tomorrow night. She felt out of place with them. They all knew each other so well, and she felt like she was as entertaining as a lamp post most of the time. Beside it would just use up precious time. How was she going to get out of it without looking anti-social and very unfriendly? She could play the sick card, but that would mean she would have to keep out of sight all day, then there was Bud to keep at bay. Too bad she couldn’t just suddenly become a lurker, then she could just be as obvious as sin. What if she said she had an emergency at work? She had her laptop with her. But then everyone would wonder why she didn’t just go home earlier. Developing sudden amnesia? No that was another one of those ideas that only worked in soap opera land, and she was sure she would be reminded about it tomorrow.
What if she used Bud as her excuse? She could say to the ladies that Bud really needed someone to talk to. That wasn’t unfeasible. Everybody knew that Bud wasn’t himself. She could play the consoling good buddy and then after doing her part, vanish mysteriously.
In spite of her eagerness to be with Hando, she felt a small twinge at stooping to such mind games to be with him. She decided to abandon her conscience temporarily. It was time to look after Number One; All’s fair in love and war; The end justifies the means. All those old clichÈs sounded real good to her ears right now as she justified. She said to herself, “Don’t go there”, when she thought about Bud and how she had the power to hurt him. Her mind was made up.
The next day she was up early. She could walk easier on her ankle now. She had to put tons of makeup on her face to cover the ugly redness. It was cooler today so she could get away with wearing long sleeves and leggings. She reminded herself to eat though she still felt a nagging emptiness in her stomach. She typed up a note on her computer and marched, well whatever resembled a march, to the restaurant. Seeing Rick, she asked him if he could deliver a note to Bud’s room. Then seeing some of the girls at a table, she invited herself to sit with them.
She tried to be as vivacious as possible, and more than once said how she was looking forward to the party tonight. She giggled at the jokes, made meaningful small talk (if there was such a thing) and dropped a hint now and then that she was concerned about Bud. The others knowing she had spent a lot of time with him bought into it and shared their feelings as well. Everyone adored Bud and nobody liked seeing him in pain. He always paid the utmost respect to women, and he was their primary champion. Karen shoved down that little moral voice of hers that was acting up and buried it under about five cups of coffee. Feeling slightly nauseated, she left when they did, and once more promised to jump on the bandwagon bright-eyed and bushytailed.
“I deserve an Oscar for that performance”, she mumbled.
She walked outside and sat down on the same bench as before in Tina’s rose garden. She soon heard footsteps and braced herself for an ugly confrontation but none was forthcoming. She turned to face him and the sight almost broke her resolve. It was a much more subdued Bud that was now staring at her.
“Hi”, she said softly, “I’m glad you came.”
“I almost didn’t”, he answered just as softly.
He looked away and then back at her. “I’m sorry about last night. I was out of line. You were right. Friends shouldn’t act that way.”
She felt another twinge. “I could have been nicer. I’m never my best when I first wake up.” He was still standing. “Please sit down.”
He sat and put his hand up to rub his face, a nervous gesture. “It’s just that I thought we were getting closer. I know you said you weren’t here to get involved, but I kind of hoped I could change your mind.”
She took his hand. “Bud, if anyone could, it would be you. But I’ve had some bad experiences, and I’m not just ready to trust myself again, not you, but me.” This was in fact true about the men in her past.
“You never talk about those other men, what they did to you. Maybe it would help. I don’t mean you have to talk to me but maybe someone else here. I don’t know maybe Cort or John. They understand things better than me and they know what words to say.”
That was pure Bud, already thinking about her and not himself.
She turned his face towards hers. “Now you listen here Bud White, don’t go selling yourself short. You were the first friend I made here and you still are my best one. If I need to talk to someone, it will be you. Understand?”
He reluctantly nodded.
“Now as I remember, my invitation stated that I wanted to spend the day with you. That is, if you want to spend time with me.”
He smiled at her, got up and stuck his arm out, just like at the beginning. She linked arms and they went to the kitchen. She put aside for the moment her aversion to so much food as Bud ordered a picnic basket for them from Annabella.
They had spent a delightful day together. The more time she spent with this man, the more she realized what a big heart he had. Even though you had to get through the rough exterior he wore most of the time, there were so many layers underneath that showed a complexity and depth that most men didn’t have. He was a brooder and Karen could always relate to such men, as she herself was very intense, and on the surface people were to her just shallow and empty. Why, oh why, couldn’t she have fallen for him? She was closer in age to him, and she wouldn’t have had to constantly deal with hostility and contempt. But Karen felt with her heart and not her head, so now she was a permanent rider on this emotional rollercoaster called Hando.
“I should let you go and get ready for your party.”
“I don’t want to go Bud. I’d rather stay with you.” It wasn’t a lie but neither was it the whole truth. “Do you want to come up to my room? We could watch a movie or keep talking or just hang out”, she was rambling.
He looked into her eyes. What was she trying to say? Something in them almost stopped him. A doubt flickered in the back of his mind. She took his hand and let him in. While she went into the bathroom, he walked around jamming his hands in his pant pockets. He tried to focus on the paintings on the wall, her collection of CDs, but he was drawn back to the bed, the huge elephant in the room. He sat down on a chair and undid the first couple of buttons on his shirt. She came out.
“Did you want to watch a movie?”
“I guess”, he said noncommittally.”What kind of movie do you like? Let me guess, adventure, mystery, cops and robbers? You could shoot holes through all the plots.”
“It doesn’t matter, you pick.”
She came to him and kneeled down. “What’s on your mind Bud?”
“Are you playing me Karen? One minute, I’m walking on eggshells around you and the next you invite me up here, and I’m not sure what my next line’s supposed to be.”
“What do you want it to be?”
“You know”, he drew her onto his lap.
Oh God. This was not how it was supposed to go, she thought frantically.
Before she could think straight, he tilted her face to his and then kissed her. It was soft, gentle and left a question mark. She didn’t resist but she didn’t pursue either. He traced his finger down her cheek to her lips. Her eyes told him all that he needed. He lifted her off.
“Please understand. This is confusing.” She didn’t know what else to say.
“Baby, you need to be sure. I need to know that it’s me you want. Until I can read that loud and clear in your eyes, we’re nowhere.” He then had left.
She had felt like dying right then and there. She felt cheap and dirty. She had deliberately arranged for the day together to act as a smokescreen to avoid the party and her true aims to vanquish Hando. She rushed into the shower and scraped her skin raw, trying to punish herself. She had let herself be caught unaware. She had let Bud in thinking she was clever enough to shut herself down, but she had been oddly moved by that kiss. This was dangerous, and Karen didn’t like the path she was on. She had to cut him loose, that was the only way she could live with herself.
Someone knocked on her door she didn’t know how many hours later. It was Rick.
“The girls sent me up to see if you were okay. They were worried when you didn’t show. Are you all right?” She looked as if she had been crying.
“I’ll be fine. Can you tell them I’m sorry; that something came up?”
“Sure. Is there anything I can do?”
Her eyes became steely and determined. “Can you keep a secret?”
“It depends on what it is. I don’t keep Jeff in the dark about anything.”
“I need to talk to Hando. Can you please give me his room number? It’s important.”
“Please Rick. If you don’t give it to me, I’ll swear I’ll knock on every door until I find it.”
He gave it to her. “Can I give you a friendly warning?”
“Be careful what you wish for. Fantasy and reality often turn out to be two very different things.”
“I don’t know what you mean by that. I just need to talk to him.”
Rick’s last words to her, “If you’re planning to bluff in poker, better remember to wear sunglasses.”