A Degree of C Ch. 02byLSEiland©
Hello, again. I'm very proud of this chapter. I knew where I wanted the story to go, but had trouble getting everything out- until I posted Chapter 1, read your comments, and saw your ratings. They really inspired my creativity, so keep them coming (good or bad), please. Thanks again for reading A Degree of C. I hope you enjoy Chapter 2. -LSEiland
Playoff hockey. A boss who micromanages his employees. These are a couple of the topics Ben found himself trying to appear interested in, while out to dinner with a few of his closest friends. This visit to New York City kicked off the way his previous touchdowns had, but this time he wasn't invested in the reunion. They sat at a large square table nestled in the back corner of Masci, his favorite Italian restaurant and go-to spot for reacquainting himself with his hometown.
The conversation had shifted again when Ben's gaze fell briefly on each of his friends. To his right sat Marco, the reason the guys were summoned to town for the weekend. Sitting opposite Marco, on Ben's left side, was his childhood friend, and the only other native New Yorker at the table, Tony. Luis, the newest edition to their circle, sat directly across from Ben.
Each man lived a very different lifestyle. Ben reflected on those differences for a moment. Marco had been labeled "the humanitarian." He was an Argentine firefighter in NYC who would not hesitate to give any of the men at the table his last dollar. Luis was "the funny one," literally. He was a sought after comedian who made it known that he was passing up big bucks to support his friend's milestone. Ben threw himself in the mix. His days were spent as Senior Trader at Grilland Capital Management. As for the type of guy he was, the term "closet creative" came to mind.
Tony was "the womanizer" of the group and, like clockwork, ran through the play-by-play of his one-night-stand with a beautiful Latina he met the night before at Reason, the hottest club on the East Coast. Hearing the words "sexy woman" and "perfect body" invited visions of Elise to flood Ben's mind. Three hours had passed since their flight landed. Saying that he was suffering from withdrawal after having her in his presence would be an understatement. Ben had only made it to the middle of the story, where Tony boasted about receiving the best head of his life, when he decided it was time to stage an early retreat.
A lag in the conversation gave Ben the opportunity to make his exit. Standing and citing a bullshit jetlag excuse, which didn't go unnoticed by Marco, he dropped his part of the tab on the table. Ben headed for the door after bidding farewell to his pals for the time being.
The door handle was in hand when Ben heard Marco's approach. His friend followed him out, requesting a quick word. The two men settled away from the door, leaning their backs against the front of the building.
"Who is she?" Marco said with confidence and a smirk. "I'd be the most gullible friend in the world if I let you bail without question because you're severely fatigued after spending two hours in the air."
Ben searched for an answer that would get his friend off his back- one that would not require Elise's name to enter the conversation.
"A little birdie told me a certain someone was overseas. Maybe those plans have changed?" His sentence ended with a "why bother trying to hide this from me" expression.
Marco knew him like the back of his hand, so Ben opted to lead with the truth.
"I met someone on the plane today." Ben said, trying to hide his enthusiasm for the best flight of his life. "She's beautiful, smart..."
"You're the only man who can find beauty in any blonde that crosses his path." Marco interjected. "What's different about this one?"
"For starters, her hair is black."
"Trying something new, okay... straight to her mid-back?"
"Shoulder-length and curly," replied Ben, proud that Elise did not fit the mold his friend was mocking him for preferring in the past.
Marco thought of his next challenge before speaking. He would inquire about the trait all of Ben's love interests had in common. "Pale skin and blue eyes?"
Ben smiled, knowing he was about to shock his friend. "Warm caramel is what her skin reminds me of, and nope, brown eyes."
It took several seconds for Marco to process what he had just heard. "I always joked about my heavy firefighter gear giving me a heart attack one day, but this revelation might do it." Marco looked over at Ben in disbelief. "Two hours in close quarters with a black woman and you've jumped ship?"
Feeling the need to clear up his attraction to Elise, Ben continued, "For the record, this woman has much more going for herself than just being in close quarters with me, but yes, I guess I have."
"You won't let anyone belittle her appeal, including your best friend, duly noted," Marco said while holding his hands up. "So, you inhaled your food hoping it would give you extra time to spend with her tonight?" he asked, looking Ben in the eyes.
Exhaling heavily, Ben answered his friend's query. "She shot me down when I asked for her number- so no, I'll be heading back to the hotel."
"She evaded your charm, yet you talk like you still have a chance with her. Care to explain?"
"Something was holding her back, but I know she feels the same way about me." Hope spread across Ben's face as he looked to Marco for support. "Let's just say I'm confident that my Hail Mary will reunite me with the woman I want."
"Speaking of what the heart wants, have you forgotten..."
Knowing where his friend's question was headed, Ben ended Marco's inquisition by assuring him they would discuss it later- and simultaneously hailing a cab.
Relieved to be alone in the backseat of the taxi, his yellow-lacquered savior, the closeness of their friendship reminded Ben that Marco would not drop inquiring about "the elephant in Amsterdam."
Four hours into her weekend getaway in New York, the tour that Elise found herself taking twice, was of her hotel room at the Mandarin Oriental. A mix-up in booking landed her with a suite overlooking Central Park. Even the word "luxurious" could not do this room justice. The main door opened to a spacious living room. Its cream walls were accented by a sleek gray sofa that was paired with cream chairs displaying an abstract gray texture. Color was brought into the room by placing vases full of brightly colored wildflowers on the coffee table, as well as a dining table that sat in front of floor-to-ceiling windows.
As much as Elise loved the living room, the bedroom is what made her consider canceling her obligations to lounge in style all weekend. A warm hue on the walls bathed the room in comfort. Cream was carried into the room in the form of a plush rug and ridiculously soft bed linens. Elise decided that the floors reminded her of dark chocolate, as she sat on the bed and leaned against the headboard.
Thoroughly relaxed, she grabbed her Blackberry from the bedside table and sent a quick text to her best friend, Cara Mueller.
*You're not the only one with a suite this weekend! Come see me, 2112. --E*
Cara had checked into the same hotel the night before. Elise expected her to make an appearance soon, after finalizing any last minute arrangements. She pondered what her friend might be dealing with at the moment, when something caught her eye. Ben's hoodie was draped at the foot of the bed. The sight of it pained her, a sign that she was starting to regret her decision to leave the airport without swapping numbers with him. How could I pass on a man that I already want so much? Elise thought.
Lifting up onto her knees, Elise reached behind her and slowly unzipped her teal sundress. She released the zipper after reaching the small of her back. Still fixated on the infamous garment, Elise shook each strap from her shoulders and shimmied out of the dress. Leaning forward, she picked up the hoodie and inhaled its heavenly scent. A needy moan escaped her lips. It smelled heavily of Ben's cologne and what she guessed was his natural fragrance. The combination was intoxicating. In need of release, Elise put the garment on over her light pink strapless bra and matching mesh panties. She scooted back toward the headboard and pushed the cover down with her bare feet. Lying down, she lifted up slightly to glide the panties off her firm butt and over her toned thighs, letting them rest at her ankles.
"Mmm...Ben," Elise moaned as her right hand slipped inside the left cup of her bra. She used her fingertips to tease her nipple. The soft bud responded to her gentle stimulation as her left hand traveled from her tiny waist to her well-trimmed mound. Elise stroked the thin strip of soft hair before guiding her digits toward her clit. The contact, coupled with images of Ben's physique and panty-dropper smile, drove Elise to arch her back and buck against her fingers as she continued to moan his name. Getting closer to the edge, she moved her right hand from her now hardened nipple to her slit. Easing a couple fingers inside, Elise began to drive them in and out of her pussy with fervor- mirroring the way she imagined Ben would make love to her, if he found her in this compromising position.
Incoherent words escaped her mouth as she came all over her fingers. The sweet juice also seeped onto Elise's inner thighs. Loving the taste of her essence, she brought the two fingers up to her mouth and sucked on them until every drop was ingested. Mmm...
Coming down from this amazing high, Elise adjusted the hoodie with her left hand. The hand had just slipped into the left pocket when she felt it- a folded up piece of paper. Elise sat up immediately. Please be what I think this is. Aware that she might have just found an old receipt, she quickly unfolded the paper, trying not to get her hopes up.
SKYMALL was written in bold letters. She knew immediately that Ben had slyly torn off part of the cover from the airline magazine without her noticing. Seeing nothing written under the title, she turned it over to verify whether or not she was missing something.
Don't think, just call me. I miss you just as much. --BEN was written plain as day, along with a smiley face and his phone number. Apparently, he had anticipated being rejected when he would eventually ask for her digits.
Thank God for his Plan B was Elise's voiceless response. That was followed up by an exceptionally girly squeal.
"You have to call this guy right now." Cara almost melted hearing Elise recount her journey to NYC.
Elise had barely managed to shower and tidy up the bedroom of the suite, when she received a knock on her door. Cara practically bounced into the room. The two friends had not been in the same room, let alone state, in almost two years. Judging their embrace and chattiness during Elise's third tour of her suite, no one would know.
Now splayed out on Elise's newly remade bed, Cara felt the need to make a statement about what she had just heard.
"Elle, as much as I love you, I would have understood your need to blow me off for a handsome man that sounds as charming as my Marco." She finished by placing her left palm on her heart.
Elise could not help but smile at her friend's proud display of her engagement ring. "After all, I have dibs on you for two more days," Cara beamed. She was elated that she would be marrying a man she felt infinitely lucky to have, and get to share it with her honorary sister.
Elise pouted as she shook her head, "Not a chance, Cara. While I have never met a man like him before, I literally just broke up with Vincent this morning. The timing just isn't right." Those words hurt Elise, but she felt it was a true statement.
"Oh, screw timing!" This rebuttal was classic Cara. "I don't know who this man is, not his name or number..." She narrowed her eyes because Elise had refused to share his note with her. "...But a man that mouthwatering and chivalrous doesn't come around often. And when he does..." Cara appeared sincere as she continued her rant. "...It's for a reason, Elle. Don't let something as insignificant as timing make you miss out on such a rare connection."
Damn Cara's excellent points. Elise never had a problem acknowledging when the girl was right.
"Oh, and also Vincent is a dick who doesn't deserve you. I'm glad you're finally strong enough to let him go. I have no idea what you saw in him anyway."
"Don't hold back, Cara, jeez... you're right about Vincent and I promise to call- but not until after my bestie gets married," she grinned, genuinely happy for Cara. "Besides, I'm making up for having to relinquish my Maid of Honor duties to Rachel."
Juggling a full-time job and veterinary coursework made it difficult for Elise to help Cara plan her dream wedding. That load, added to the fact that they lived roughly 800 miles apart, made the feat impossible. Their mutual friend, Rachel, had the luxury of working for her father, a genial man who never hesitated to spoil his daughter. She was able to drop everything and fly to New York whenever her assistance was needed.
"Do not get me started on Rachel. She has been spending her daddy's money on Fifth Avenue more than she has accompanied my brother and me to meetings and fittings while planning this wedding."
Elise chose to remain silent. While she did not doubt Rachel's inability to focus on someone else's needs, she was not a fan of Cara's brother either.
- - - - - - - - - -
James had notoriously given Cara grief on many occasions throughout her college years. Two years older, he attended Northwestern University in Evanston, while Cara had chosen to enroll at DePaul University in Chicago.
Day one of her freshman year is when Cara met Elise. The two had been assigned to the same dorm room. They became fast friends and remained inseparable. After spending two rough years on uncomfortable twin beds in a tiny shared-room, the two opted to rent a two-bedroom apartment off-campus. The first letdown initiated by James, that Elise had witnessed, came on moving day. Cara gushed that her brother would help them move with his oversized SUV. That never happened. Instead, the girls were forced to use their grocery money to rent a U-Haul and move their belongings sans the help of a strong man.
Cara suffered many disappointments on behalf of her brother over the years. Elise was there to comfort her each time. The final straw, in Elise's eyes, came when James failed to show up on their graduation day. Later that night, after crying over being letdown again, Cara confided in her friend. Not only was James adopted, but he had been a troubled kid who was now a full blown alcoholic. She explained that she tried to arrange help for him on many occasions, but he had evaded each attempt to regain his sobriety.
The last time the two had a lengthy conversation about him was four years ago. Cara's failed attempts to save her brother had finally stuck. She was overjoyed when he was able to turn his life around. He finished school and became very successful. The details of his turn-around were never shared with Elise- probably because she never asked. James' wedding present to Cara was the wedding of her dreams, paid for on his dime. Hearing that James offered to do that for his sister was a great gesture, but Elise considered it too little, too late. His input in the wedding plans was actually Elise's secret reason for dropping her Maid of Honor title. Interacting with that man is what she hoped to avoid on Saturday.
- - - - - - - - - -
Elise's trip down memory lane had quieted the room. She broke the silence by grabbing her friend's left hand, as they lay beside each other. She inspected Cara's ring finger.
"Jeez, Cara, your rock is huge!" Elise said. She thought about what Marco did for a living. "The fire department must pay pretty well."
"You think so, Elle? I told him it was too much," Cara appeared slightly distressed as she looked down at her engagement ring. "Finance is where the funding for this rock came from. Marco switched professions a year ago after deciding that Wall Street paid the bills but could not keep him happy. My man is in his element now that he's fighting fires and lighting up little kids' faces." She exchanged giggles with Elise before suggesting they order room service.
The reunion in suite #2112 lasted until midnight. Cara had only agreed to leave when Marco called her phone for the third time that evening. He anxiously awaited spending one final night with her, before honoring the tradition of not seeing the bride until she walked down the aisle.
Cara looked forward to their final romp as an engaged couple. Before saying goodbye to Elise, she changed into an outfit that she was certain Marco would appreciate. The plan was to increase his desire by making him wait for her arrival. Too bad she practically ran to their suite.
Opening the door to their bedroom solidified their love story. Marco had taken advantage of the time apart by decorating the room with her favorite edible treats. Her puzzled expression was the reaction he had hoped for. It was a sign that she had no idea what to expect.
"I'm going to devour my fiancée tonight," Marco borderline growled as he walked toward Cara slowly, like a lion stalking its prey. Still unaware of his intentions, she stood frozen, waiting for his next move. "I hate to say goodbye to her, but I'm looking forward to welcoming my wife the next time our bodies touch."
Cara yelped as Marco pulled her flush against his body. Feeling his cock hardening against her stomach elicited a breathy moan. He dipped his head for a quick, but passionate, kiss. She wrapped her hands around his neck, desperately trying to deepen their embrace, only to have him pull away.
"Hmm... you're very anxious, mi amor." His keen ability to turn her on so quickly was a sense of pride. "Let me look at you."
Stepping back, Cara radiated disappointment for a split second before becoming determined to seduce her future husband. His sudden intakes of breath disclosed his gratification with her gratuitous modeling. A red silk wrap dress clung to her athletic figure. Its softness and simplicity was the best contrast to the body Marco loved to feast on. Nude stilettos completed the look. The outfit highlighted her assets, but was nothing compared to her face. Big blue eyes, high cheekbones, pouty lips, and an angelic smile won him over every time.
Closing the distance between them, Marco twirled a finger in Cara's auburn hair as he spoke. "You look very hot, but I'm hungry," he leaned back, dropping his eyes to her core before continuing, "May I unwrap you?"
Cara nodded and bit her lip as the wetness from her arousal became more prevalent.
The achingly slow removal of her clothing gave Cara the time to ogle her fiancé. He hovered over her 5'6" frame at 6'3" tall. Marco had recently turned 28, but was already sporting a very sexy dusting of salt and pepper hair that complimented a golden tan the June sun had created. His muscular build was compliments of his firefighter gig. Unable to resist him any longer, she gazed lustfully into his brown eyes, "Marco..."
Just as needy after finding her naked under the wrap dress, Marco made short work of his own clothing and nimbly deposited Cara onto the bed. Kneeling between her legs, Marco kissed her deeply as he fervently slid home.
Cara gasped before chuckling out a question that was on her mind. "What happened to being hungry and using the goodies I saw on the nightstand?"
"I couldn't wait that long. Anyway, the night is still young," he confessed while sliding his dick out of her pussy and then back in to the hilt, before increasing his pace.