Back to Life Ch. 02byDawnJ©
Peter waited till his body calmed before showering quickly, wishing he could linger to savor the dream. But the job he was tied to for a few more years meant he had to hurry through his shower, dress quickly, and stuff a sandwich into his briefcase that he would swallow hurriedly before class. Thankfully, the coffee machine had made his two cups, so he transferred them, with cream, to his thermos and hurried out. He'd have to drive today -- cycling in his current state was not an option.
The day flew by. There were the first three hours of teaching, followed by a coffee break in which he sat and stared vacantly out the window of the teachers' common room, remembering Karen's scent, her smile, her sassiness in the pub, and wondering what she was doing back in Birmingham. Three more classes, and his day was done, but a scheduled meeting with parents for two hours from seven to nine meant he had to find a place to have dinner, or suffer the uninspired fare they served on such evenings in his school. Opting for a quick meal in a restaurant he favored close by, he walked the five blocks to the Chinese eatery and took a seat with two other teachers from the school who invited him to join them. They were a pleasant enough couple, recently married and glowing with the depth of their new love.
"Hello, you two lovebirds!" he greeted them cheerfully. "Sure you want an old sod like me sitting with you for dinner?"
Willem and Diana Minke laughed as he sat down. They were an odd pair, by most standards, and no one had suspected that they were an item till invitations had been received for their wedding. Diana had moved over from England to teach English, and they had hit it off immediately, but no one had suspected that the friendliness had led to anything more, till the lovely late spring morning when they exchanged vows before a small group of their family, close friends, and colleagues. The brunch reception meant everyone, including the very-much-in-love newlyweds, could spend the afternoon as they pleased, and not have a whole day lost to one occasion.
Peter placed his order and chatted amiably with his two younger colleagues, watching them together and feeling an ache settle in his heart. He hadn't realized, until his first encounter with Karen Mullings, how much he missed having someone of his own to love and be loved by. He had thought his marriage to Alijd would last a lifetime, and his love would never fade. He had been wrong, and the failure tore at his heart even now as he watched the couple before him. He silently prayed that whatever mistakes he and Alijd had made to bring an end to love between them, that his friends would be spared them.
Eating gave him something to do other than mope about his lack of a love life. He savored the flavors in the dishes before him, chewing slowly so as to keep them longer on his tongue. He shared a carafe of some soft drink with his table mates, and reluctantly packed up the rest of his meal and headed back with them to school for the late sessions. Parents came and went in his classroom in a blur of activity and talking, and at last it was over. He had seen more parents this time than he normally did, and he took that to be a result of his having been assigned two new classes mid-year.
He sighed as he packed his things and walked to the car. More and more he felt the need to change his job. He had been eyeing several positions in a couple of universities in Haarlem, Groningen, and a couple of other cities, and had more than half decided to try for them. They wouldn't need him before the autumn term, if he applied and was hired, but it was certainly something to think about, to give him a reason to get up and do the same thing again the next day. At home again, he still had to walk the dog -- poor Scrooge was whining with his need for relief -- settle some bills, and prepare for the next day. After a quick shower, he wrote a sleepy note to Karen, and saved it before rolling over to sleep.
He had decided that he would send them once she contacted him, ignoring the niggling fear that she would never call or write, and he would be stuck with some poetic twaddle that she might find embarrassing, anyway. He ruthlessly shrugged off the misgivings next morning as he dressed for work. He felt a little green around the gills, but he supposed his body was merely protesting having to be back on a rigorous schedule. He grabbed his lunch and briefcase and hurried out to face another day. The rest of the week went by in a flurry of classes, staff meetings, and marking, with little time left over for thinking too much about Karen. He did manage to write to her every night after walking Scrooge and showering, before falling exhausted into bed.
Summer was almost upon them in Leeuwarden when Peter arrived home on a Friday evening, after going out for drinks with friends from work, to find a message on his answering machine.
"Hi Peter, this is Karen Mullings. Do you remember me? We last met at the British Museum, and then went out for supper. I wonder if I might speak with you. Please call as soon as possible." He listened to the number she gave him, writing it on the pad by the phone, and then sat heavily in the chair next to it, his hands trembling slightly. He had almost resigned himself to never hearing from her again, so her call was a little shocking but very welcome. He wondered what she needed, and hoped it was more than just information. Taking Scrooge for his walk helped to calm him, and by the time he sat down to write to her, he knew exactly what he would say when he spoke to her.
Across the English Channel, Karen sat up on her bed, the bedside lampshade tilted just so she could see what she was doing properly, and bit her lip. The story was stalled on the details she needed, and she had tried moving around it, but she knew whatever else she wrote might get changed if the details she wanted weren't supplied first. She didn't feel like rewriting anything on this one, so she saved the work done so far and closed the laptop. Then, on an impulse, she reopened it and opened her e-mail. Maybe she should send Peter an e-mail asking what she needed to know, so they wouldn't need to talk. He could answer when he had a bit of time.
She knew, even as she typed his address in the "To" line, that she was finding reasons not to hear his voice again. Every time he had spoken, the husky, smoky texture of his voice had stroked her insides like a soft hand on tender flesh, and her tender flesh had become increasingly needy since meeting him. She didn't like being so out of control, and the fact that she had had to resort to artificial means to relieve the tension he had created upset her -- she preferred her cocks live, and the toy she had finally given in and bought a few weeks previously, while it gave her the hard orgasms she craved, was not attached to the one man she found herself picturing in her mind every time she thrust its vibrating head into her aching flesh.
She had not been able to forget him, though she had to admit she had not really tried. Her brother George had returned from his business trip to find her pensive but had not been able to coax any explanations for it from her, despite their very close relationship. She hadn't known what to tell him, so she had kept silent. She hoped this feeling would pass, that she would get him out of her system before she exploded. She wondered, even as she explained what she wanted from him, what it would be like to have phone sex with him, or cyber sex. The thoughts made her panties dampen, and she knew she'd need her toy again if she was to get any sleep.
She quickly explained that she was sending the e-mail because she might not be able to answer her cell phone when he called (what a lie!) and she was in rather a hurry to get the information. Could he please tell her all he could about which Dutch cities or towns were most at risk if a hurricane-like storm were to hit The Netherlands, and what the dangers were? She also needed to know if such a storm had ever hit, and what had been done, how much loss of life had there been, if any, and about damage to property. She explained that it seemed easier for her to ask him than to try and search on Bing or Google or some other search engine, because it had the added advantage of being an eyewitness account, as opposed to a clinical journalistic report.
She hit the "Send" button and inhaled deeply, put the laptop away from her, and lay back, letting her mind go over the last dream she had had of him, that had awakened her so horny and desperate for him. She wondered if her hard and aching clitoris when she woke up was a smaller version of what it was like for a man waking to a hard-on. In her dream, she had accepted another date, and he had been walking her to her door, when he had turned back suddenly, on his way back to his car, and told her how much he had enjoyed the evening...
"I've missed your company. And I've wanted to kiss you since we first met. I can't leave this time without one!"
His eyes were on her mouth, and before she knew what was what, his hands were pulling her into his hard and aroused body, and she was kissing him back as ravenously as he was kissing her. Her arms were around his neck, and his hands pulled her body into his, holding her so she could not fail to feel the imprint of his desire on her aching flesh.
"Would you like to come in?" she had asked, dragging her mouth away from his before she gave in to the impossible impulse to lift her legs and let him take her on her front porch.
His nod was enough to get them through the door, which he had slammed impatiently behind them before grabbing her like a desperate man and feasting on her, pushing her up against the door and taking what she offered. When he raised her leg and his fingers had sought the wet flesh weeping for his touch, they had both groaned. And when he stroked her to her first orgasm, she had arched into his hand, and his mouth had stolen the harsh cry that rose from her throat. And when he had stripped her, still by the door, and pushed her up against it so he could send his hard rod plunging into her, she had fallen over the edge again before he took her flying a third time, roaring with his own release...
Karen reached for the toy she had hidden under the other pillows on her bed, thoughts of Peter van der Meulen filling her mind as she stroked herself, letting the vibrator play over her flesh through her soaked panties, wanting, even needing the pleasure to last. When she was almost at the point of no return, she lay it aside, and stripped, getting back into the wide bed and this time sending it plunging to her wet depths, using her other hand to keep her clitoris stimulated, going harder and harder, sending the toy to its highest setting and biting her lips to keep from howling when her orgasm overtook her. She kept plunging the rubber cock into her soaking pussy, needing something she knew in the small part of her brain that was not on a sex overload that it would never give her. It would never be enough. She needed flesh and blood.
Exhausted, she lay back, the tension easing from her limbs, the rubber toy still inside her, her heart slowing. She wished she understood why this one man had the power to drive her wild when she had only met him twice and knew nothing about him except what he did for a living. In fact, truth be told, he knew more about her than she did about him. The thought should have upset her, but she was too sated to care just then. Maybe once she woke up, she would be. Instead, she dragged herself off the bed, changed the sheets and had a shower, cleaning her rubber lover and placing it back under the pillows before going to sleep.
At breakfast next day, George told her she had missed a call from her friend Toni.
"Thanks, love," she said, kissing his cheek. "I'll call her later." She took her bowl of cold cereal to the table and added, "What? No work today?" George chuckled. "I'm retired, remember? Any work I do is entirely up to me! I thought I'd take you for a drive today. You've been acting all pensive and moody, so I figured I owe it to you to help chase the gloom away." He sobered suddenly, and said, "Look, I know you're worried about not having a proper job, love, at least, not the kind you thought you could get, but you've no need to worry. You can stay here as long as you like. You know that!"
Karen smiled at him. "I know, George. You and Elaine have been more than welcoming, and I appreciate it. But I'm forty-four. I need to be on my own!"
"Well, I've been looking into that, and as soon as I hear of something proper, I'll let you know, okay?"
"Okay," she said, and grinned at the thought of what he considered "proper" for his "little" sister. It was probably an apartment in someone's home, with a huge dog and a high fence in a fancy part of town. "But I can't go out today. I need to get some more writing done. I'm on a roll. How about Wednesday?"
She decided to call Toni before getting back to her writing, and was happy she didn't have to wait long for an answer.
"You're finally awake, eh?" Toni said when Karen greeted her. "Are you okay? You're not normally a late sleeper."
Karen rolled her eyes. Was everyone aware of the fact that things were out of whack with her?
"I'm fine, just not sleeping well," she said, hoping the half-truth would be enough for her friend. Her hopes were dashed.
"Worrying about the job still?" Toni asked. "I could ask my boss..."
"No, you couldn't," Karen interrupted her. "Much as I find your job fascinating, it isn't for me." She chuckled, and was relieved when her friend did, too. "I'll be fine, okay? Don't worry about me. As long as I can get this next book done by the deadline, I should be okay. Maybe I just need to wait for the royalties from the first one to start coming in, and stop being so impatient."
"I know George isn't putting you out, so it's not housing you're really worried about. You know if I had room, I'd have you with me in a heartbeat!"
"I know, love, but I can't afford London at the moment, not for more than a few nights in a hotel." Her mind went immediately to her second meeting with Peter, and to the dream that had sent her crashing last night.
"Well, the reason I was calling was to invite you to London for the weekend. I'm having a party for a friend who turns thirty on Friday. She's new in town, and I like her, so I figure I'd introduce her around to people I like. Will you come?"
"I can be there, but I'll have to see if I can find a reasonable room in a hotel close to you."
"You can stay with me, Karen. It's just for the weekend, after all. And anyway, if I'm not mistaken, I may be asked for a sleepover," she ended slyly.
"What's his name?" Karen asked on a laugh.
"Well, good luck with that. Will he be at the party?"
"Yes. It's a pity you don't know anyone to bring with you."
Karen's mind went immediately to Niall, and she said, without thinking,
"As a matter of fact, I do. He lives in London, I guess. I have his cell phone number, and he asked me to call him the next time I was there. Shall I invite him?"
Toni whistled. "Keeping secrets from your old pal, are you?" she inquired, chuckling.
"He isn't a secret. I forgot about him, actually, until just now." Karen wasn't ready yet to share the reason Niall had been supplanted in her mind, so she added, before Toni could ask any questions, "As a matter of fact, I mentioned you to him when we met. I told him I had a friend who would describe him as a chick magnet."
"Ooooh! Is he that hot?" Toni wanted to know.
"If you like very tall, muscular, not-an-ounce-of-fat anywhere hunks with mischief in their black eyes, yes!"
Karen laughed out loud when Toni said, "Get off the phone and call him now, girl! And then call me back and tell me what he said! And you'd better make sure he says yes!"
"What about Rory?" Karen asked, still laughing.
"What about him? He's coming, and he wants me so I'm almost certain he'll ask me over. That doesn't mean I can't enjoy the eye candy you bring with you. A girl has to keep her options open, you know." She paused, and then added, "You and he aren't...?"
"No, love, I've only met him one time!"
"But you have his number," Toni replied knowingly.
"Which means nothing more than he wanted me to stay in touch," Karen said.
"Which means he's interested in you," Toni retorted.
"Even so, it doesn't mean anything more, so don't worry about it."
"I don't want to poach, is all," Toni answered.
"Nothing to poach, love, so no worries!"
"Okay. Then get off the phone and call him. I'll be waiting for your message!"
Toni hung up without waiting, and Karen laughed again. She could always depend on her friend to cheer her up. She went to find Niall's number and dialed, wondering how she would react when he answered, but there was no answer, and she was forced to leave a message. She said she would call back, and then made an effort to get some work done. She had a deadline for the new story she was writing, and it was fast approaching. She hoped Peter would answer soon, and ignored the rush of anticipation that accompanied that thought.
Halfway through the afternoon, around teatime, while she was enjoying a cuppa with George and Elaine, who had gone shopping and had only come in a few minutes before, her cell phone rang. Her heart sped up, and she could feel her cheeks warming as she answered.
"Karen, it's Niall", the voice said. "How are you?"
Swallowing her disappointment (maybe she had only been interested in him because he had been there, a substitute for the man she really wanted, she thought), she said with false cheerfulness,
"I'm fine, thank you. I'll be in London next weekend with my friend who is hosting a party, and she said I could invite someone. You're the only someone I know in London. Will you come?"
"Why, I'd be delighted to be your partner, Karen. Whereabouts in London? Will you need a ride to the party?"
"No, I'm staying with Toni at her apartment," she said, searching for Toni's address and giving it to him. "Call this number if you need directions," she said.
Niall chuckled. "I'll find it, never fear!" He paused, then asked, "You said you're staying with your friend Tony?"
"Antonia Larson," Karen clarified, smiling. "She's the one who will no doubt describe you as a chick magnet!"
Niall chuckled again. "I can't wait!" he said dramatically. "Nor can I wait to see you again!"
His voice had dropped on the last statement, and Karen waited for something to happen, for some reaction to the blatant seduction in his tone. Nothing. Zip. Zilch. Nada. She might as well have been talking to George. She knew she needed to say something, but she was suddenly as tongue-tied as a schoolgirl, though not for the reason he might assume if she didn't hurry up and speak.
"It'll be nice to see you again, too," she managed in a cool tone.
After she rang off, she wondered how the weekend would turn out, but knew instinctively that Niall would never be the man to meet the needs that grew in her daily. She sighed, drawing Elaine's eyes to her.
"Problem?" she wanted to know.
"No," Karen answered. "Just thinking."
She excused herself and went back to writing, abandoning the story she had been working on in favor of one previously begun which she needed to finish as well, though it was on a much looser schedule. She would have missed dinner if Elaine hadn't come to dig her out of the cocoon of her room, and as soon as she had helped with the washing up she had withdrawn again to finish the story. It was quite late, and she felt the need for a nightcap before turning in. The story not on a tight deadline was finally done to her satisfaction, and only needed to be proofread, which she would do on another day. The one for which she needed Peter's knowledge was still waiting as was she, for some word from him. As she poured herself a glass of wine and sat at the kitchen table, she wondered why she was getting more upset that he had not called, and why it mattered so much. Niall had called back within hours, yet here she was, a day later, still waiting to hear the voice of the man she knew she would not easily eradicate from her thoughts. It irritated her, even as she acknowledged that he might have responded to her e-mails, reading it as her sign that she would rather not speak to him. Which, if she were honest, it sort of had been.