Carabella Ch. 06byDawnJ©
Cara let herself be kissed and hugged by her friends before walking into the kitchen to put her basket of goodies down on the wide center aisle counter. She inhaled deeply, expecting a barrage of questions, and trying to think of honest if vague answers to them. She wasn't ready to share Rick with anyone, not until she had sorted out in her own mind what was happening between them. She could still feel his hands on her, his mouth, his breath, his heartbeat beneath her hands.
"Well?" Jody's voice broke into her musings as she took the casserole dish out and went to turn on the oven. "You have nothing to tell us?"
"Like what?" Cara hedged, turning the oven on to 350 degrees.
Jody chuckled knowingly. "Like who he is, where you met him, and what he was doing at your place this evening."
The other women had walked in by then -- Jenna was setting the table for five, Max was unloading her baked goodies, and Shae had the salad out of the fridge and was plating it.
"I'm kinda interested in that kiss at the door, myself," Shae announced, a teasing grin on her face. "He sure seemed to be into you. And not shy about showing it, either!"
"Is it me, or is he a sweet young thing?" Jenna asked into the amused silence that greeted Shae's comment.
All the women burst out laughing at that, and Cara felt her cheeks warm with color. She had known she would be teased mercilessly about him, and she tried not to mind too much. He WAS much younger than she was, but he didn't seem at all concerned by that fact.
"He likes cougars!" Shae opined with an amused chuckle, causing Cara's cheeks to burn with a combination of embarrassment and amusement.
"Then he's looking at the wrong person," she finally managed to say, "since I'm a lamb to the slaughter!"
"And he's the lion rearing to eat you up, eh?" Jenna winked at her, and they all laughed again.
"Still no answer as to who he is and what he was doing at your place today," Jody commented. "Dinner's almost ready, so we have time before we eat." She looked innocently at her friend before continuing slyly, "You know, in case we choke over the details!"
Her friends' snickers warmed Cara's heart, even as she wondered how she was going to handle the question. She supposed it was a legitimate question, as in all the time since David's departure, they had not even heard her speak about a man, let alone have one in her house. And Rick had kissed her in front of them, seeming to care not a whit about what they thought of his actions.
"He's my creative writing professor," she began, "and my..."
"Toy boy?" Max asked on a laugh.
Cara rolled her eyes. "Hardly!" she answered. "He's my dissertation director!"
"So you're telling us you've got a relationship going on with your college professor?" Jenna seemed incredulous, and for some reason, that stung.
"We're both adults," Cara replied with more asperity than she had meant to let into her tone. "I'm not robbing the cradle you know! And HE was the one who initiated the action, not me!" She hated that her words sounded defensive, but she couldn't take them back.
"Action?" Jody pounced on the word, and Cara's cheeks reddened again instantly. When she didn't answer, all four women turned to stare at her, and Jenna voiced all their thoughts in her next words. "What kind of 'action' are we talking about, then, eh?" She walked over to Cara and led her to the table, pressing her into a chair, while she and the others stood around her, inquisitive expressions on their faces.
"You guys are like predators, you know that?" she said, defying their interest.
"You know you're going to tell us, Cara, so you might as well stop delaying and spill the beans!" Jenna dismissed the insult and added, "Now talk!"
"Talk about what?" Cara asked stubbornly.
"She needs it spelled out for her, Jen," Max said derisively. "We wanna know if you've slept with him, rolled in the hay, made the beast with two backs!"
Cara's silence was as deafening a yes as if she has shouted it from the rooftop. Her friends continued to stare at her in shocked silence for a long minute, and then they all started speaking at once.
"Damn, girl, but you sure can pick them!" Max said, obviously referring to Rick's stellar good looks.
"You got that right!" Shae agreed. "How did you manage to net HIM?"
"You make it sound like I don't have what it takes to make a man like him interested in me!" Cara protested, stung anew by the questions. She realized she was still raw from the emotions Rick stirred up in her, and that probably explained why she was feeling so sensitive to their teasing and probing. Yet she still felt like she needed to add, "I'll have you know his family have a history of older women marrying younger men, and he seems to find me quite fetching!"
Jody put an arm around her, and she missed the look her closest friend gave the others. "Trust me, Cara, we ALL know exactly how "fetching" you are!" She squeezed Cara's shoulders and then declared that dinnertime had come.
Cara was grateful for the support. She hated feeling so vulnerable, especially among these women, who all were highly sexual and unafraid to share it but who didn't seem to have the need for the fairy tale that she did. She still often wondered how she came to be friends with someone like Maxine, who had a "love 'em and leave 'em" attitude towards the men who paraded through her life, and her bedroom. She was a tough as nails, and yet possessed a beauty of spirit that drew Cara to her. And tough as she was, hers would be the first eyes to fill with tears.
She thought about the other three as they dished up food and then served themselves. She was grateful for the ritual of silence that began their shared meals together, as this time, she could use it to think about how she came to be part of the group. Jody had been her best friend all her life it seemed, their bond sisterly. Jenna, Sharon, and Maxine had been college roommates, and when they all ended up within fifty miles of each other after graduation, and found each other at a convention, the friendship was sealed.
Jenna and Sharon were married to each other's brothers, which was a constant source of amusement to the group. Maxine was determinedly, almost recklessly, single, and Jody was about to say yes to the man who had been hotly pursuing her for five years. Only Cara was left without any apparent rudder in the relationship seas -- until now. Rick had changed her worldview overnight, and she doubted she would ever be the same again. She didn't know what would happen, and it worried her...
"Earth to Cara!" Jody's voice broke into her musings. "Let's say grace and eat, please, so we can finish this conversation!"
It always amused Cara that Jody insisted on praying over their shared meal, and she was usually ribbed by the others mercilessly. But not today. After the few murmured words of thanks for the food, everyone turned their attention back to her. She sighed inwardly, and prepared herself for their questions.
"So how do you feel about him, Cara?"
"Wait!" Before Cara could answer Jody's question, Max asked, "What's his name?"
"Rick," Cara said. "Professor H. Erick Montienna."
"Italian, is he?" Shae asked, sipping her wine.
"I don't know, actually. We haven't gotten around to...well, to a lot of stuff!" Cara lowered her eyes to her plate, and stabbed some green leaves, prepared to stuff her mouth to stop herself from giving away more information she had meant to keep to herself.
"So answer me, Cara. How do you feel about him?" Jody repeated her question, her eyes boring into Cara. "I'm assuming you wouldn't have hit the sack with this guy if you didn't feel something!"
Cara thought for a minute, chewing slowly, and realized she was more than a little in love with her dishy professor. But she wasn't sure she should be telling anyone that, in case he didn't return her feelings. For all she knew, it might just be lust, and as soon as he tired of her body, he'd be on his way. She had to find out first...
"Cara, either you have feelings for this man or you don't, sweetie! And unless you're telling me you've joined Max, I cannot believe you'd sleep with a man you have no feelings for!"
Jody's reasonable and worried tone shook Cara out of her reverie.
"Of course, I have feelings for him, Jo! I just...well, it seems a bit soon to speak of them. What if he doesn't...?"
Shae broke in, wiping her mouth on a napkin. "What if he doesn't like you back? I'd say, based on that tender little scene at the door, you've got nothing to worry about there, sweetie!"
"That could just be lust, Shae!" Cara protested. "And anyway, you all just want me to get a man!" She chuckled half-heartedly and put more food into her mouth.
"We're your friends! That's what friends do! We fret over you and tease you, but it's only because we love you!"
Cara smiled at them through sudden tears, which she swallowed with a large gulp of wine. "Thanks, you!"
By the time dinner was over, the dishes washed and put away, and Jody dressed, Cara knew she would call off her clubbing with them. She sighed inwardly. For all her talk of independence and liberation, she didn't want any man to see her looking like she did, as long as there was Rick to look like that for. She wanted to save the sexiness for him. She watched her friends gather their things and when Jody asked if they were ready for her to call the cab, Cara shook her head.
"I think I'd better call it a day, you guys! I'll call Rick to come get me, if you don't mind! It's been quite a day for me!"
She knew how it sounded, but she'd rather they think he had exhausted her in bed, than have them realize she was backsliding. Their knowing looks and teasing grins did not deter her as she called his number. She was relieved when he answered almost immediately, and promised to be there in ten minutes. While the others waited for the cab, which they had all agreed they should splurge on rather than drive impaired, she retrieved her casserole dish and sat with them, listening idly to them talk about where they wanted to go. The doorbell rang, and Jody went to get it. Rick stood there, a smile on his face that was only for Cara, who stood and hugged her friends before going to him, an answering smile on her face. She hid her nervousness, and when she passed by Jody, her friend said in a stage whisper,
"Have a nice night, girlfriend! Don't do anything I wouldn't!"
Rick chuckled, his eyes alight with desire and some other emotion, and Jody laughed in response.
"I promise to take good care of her!" he said, and saluted the girls before leading her back to his car.
Cara knew Jody stood at the door watching them, and when Rick leaned in to kiss her gently on the lips, she could almost see her friend's smile. She waved to her as they drove off, and said to Rick,
"Why did you do that?" She tried to sound indignant and failed miserably.
"Do what?" Rick asked, turning onto the main drag.
"Kiss me!" she answered.
Rick chuckled. "Better that than what I really wanted to do!" he said, and turned to look at her. He reached over and took her hand, pulling it onto his leg and cradling it there. "I missed you!" he continued, " and I wanted you to know I was glad to see you again!"
Cara's breath caught in her throat, and she had to struggle to draw air into her lungs.
"Did you all go clubbing already?" he wanted to know next. "I hadn't expected you to call me so soon!"
"The girls are just waiting for the cab. I..." Suddenly, she was tongue-tied.
"You what, Bella?" He squeezed her hand on his thigh in encouragement.
"I told them I was tired," she confessed, and prayed he wouldn't ask why.
He didn't. He figured out her secret immediately, if the way he suddenly raised her hand to his lips and nipped her knuckles before kissing them was any indication. Cara inhaled deeply, and her heart melted a little more when he said,
"Thanks, baby!" His voice, husky with emotion, washed over her, raising her heart rate when he added, "Maybe we can find a way to reward you for dressing up so nicely tonight, eh?"
He licked her knuckles, and then lowered her hand to his thigh again, rubbing the back of it with his thumb. The gesture was very sexual and more erotic than Cara had thought such a gesture could be. She stole a glance at his face, and admired again the high, hard cheekbones and full lips. Pausing at his lips, she let herself recall the feel of them against her own, and of his tongue, and his...
"What are you thinking about?" he asked, breaking into her erotic thoughts. She looked straight ahead as she answered "Nothing, really!" but wasn't surprised when he chuckled softly and squeezed her hand again.
"Liar! We're going to have to work on that, you know. I don't want you lying to me and hiding your feelings from me. Ever!"
"What makes you think I was lying?" she asked, fighting to keep the amusement from her voice.
"I saw you staring at me, and I felt you go still." When she quieted under his hand again, he said "Just like that!" When she made no reply immediately, he teased her, "What? Cat got your tongue?"
Cara smiled, and tried to pull her hand away. When he refused to let her go, she chuckled and said, "Okay, I WAS thinking about something!"
Rick raised her hand to his lips again, before asking, "What's the 'something', then?"
"I'll tell you when we get home," she temporized. Secretly wishing he would forget, but hoping he wouldn't, and confused by her opposing desires, she hoped he would give her a reprieve, so that she could collect her thoughts. He didn't push her, and she settled back against the seat, letting her hand relax in his, closing her eyes to savor the sweet feelings that were beginning to crowd in on her.
"Bella, I want to ask you something."
Rick's voice brought her out of her daze, and she turned her head on the back of the seat to look at him. He sounded serious, and she felt her heart clutch in fear.
"What?" She couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Will you spend the weekend with me?" He paused, as though he wanted the question to percolate in her brain for a few seconds before adding to it. "I know it's only been a couple of days, and I know you have reservations about starting something with me, but I told you how it's been with me for the last three months. I think about you as much as I do about work, and if this afternoon is anything to go by, that will soon change."
He negotiated a turn, and she realized he was driving away from her home.
"Where are we going?" she asked suspiciously, hoping he wasn't taking her acquiescence for granted.
"My little brother has a little place on the beach. The food is excellent, the ambiance is intimate and classy, and the price is reasonable. I ordered a bottle of wine and some finger food for a picnic on the beach." He turned to look at her, and squeezed the hand he still held on his thigh. "I hope you don't mind?"
He made it a question, and Bella could hear the uncertainty in his voice. She smiled, amused that such a big guy could sound so unsure of himself, and pleased that he had been thinking about her enough to plan a romantic after-dinner treat.
"I don't mind," she answered, letting her smile sound in her voice. "As long as it's not a bribe!"
He laughed at that. "Now why would I need to bribe you, miss?"
"So I will say yes to your weekend request," she returned immediately.
"I would never bribe you, baby! I'm better than that!" His chuckle rolled around her in the car.
"Really?" she asked, amused at his returning confidence. "How were you planning to get me to agree, then?"
He raised her hand to his lips, and licked her knuckles lazily, like a large cat anticipating his meal. "Ever heard of seduction?" he asked, suddenly hoarse, his mouth lingering on the knuckles he kissed.
Cara's breath caught in her throat as she was transported immediately back to their lovemaking, to his hands and his mouth, right back to what she had been thinking about before.
"What?" His voice called her back again, and she knew he was asking the same question he had asked before. This time, she told him.
"I was just remembering..." She blushed, glad of the dark interior of the car that hid her flaming cheeks.
He turned her hand over and kissed her palm, letting his tongue touch her in the center of it, before breathing on the wet spot and closing her fingers over it.
He kept his eyes on the road after that smug comment, but Rick could almost feel the anticipation in her studiedly relaxed pose. She was wired, just as he was, and doing her best to hide it. He hoped she would say yes to his weekend plan, but he knew better than to assume she would. And he knew he didn't want her to become a good little uncomplicated yes woman. He liked her feisty and confrontational. He needed her to keep him in check, to remind him of what was most important, to ground him when his need for her might make him fly off half cocked. He smiled at that thought -- he was already more than "half cocked" as it was. A chuckle escaped him, and he knew she would ask why, so he said, when she did,
"Just thinking about me flying off half cocked!"
He waited for her to get it, and was rewarded almost immediately by a gurgle of laughter. He joined her, and felt her squeeze his hand. He squeezed back, aware that she was vulnerable to him now, and knowing he needed to handle her with care. But the closer they got to the beach, the harder he got, and nothing he did, not even letting go of her hand, on the pretext of searching for a CD to put in the player, made any difference. He was hot, and he needed her.
His brother Marc was waiting for them when he finally parked close to the back of the little eatery. Rick could see the speculative looks his brother cast over Cara's face, trying to decide on her age and her potential as a mate. Rick knew his brother. That was his MO, especially after he met his own love, who was even now coming through the door at the side with a blanket and pillows.
He reached over to kiss his sister-in-law, making sure to keep his body from contact with hers, and then straightened to make the introductions, glad of the semi-darkness to hide his raging hard-on.
"Marc, Penny, meet Carabella. Bella, my brother and sister-in-law."
He waited impatiently till they had all shaken hands, and then took the basket from Marc and shepherded Bella towards the spot he used to go when he wanted to be get away from the rest of his boisterous family. Bella spread the blanket, and he helped her settle herself on it, before he opened the basket and took out the bottle of wine. Pouring for them both he rested the bottle on the ice in the bucket and turned to her.
"I've wanted to take you out on a date for so long, and dreamed of how it would be. And now, at last, I can fulfill some small part of my wish. Here's to dreams, and to you!"
He leaned over and kissed her mouth, and then tipped his glass to hers. "Ciao!"
He watched her sip the wine and lick her lips, and his cock jerked in his slacks. He hadn't made love to her in a few hours, but it felt like years, and even if she chose to go back to her own home after their picnic, he had to take her again. He watched her hungrily, knowing he was making her uncomfortable, and not caring too much, because he knew she wanted him too, even if she was fighting it. Yielding to a sudden desire, he relieved her of her glass, placed his next to hers on the flat rock where the basket sat, and lay with his head in her lap.
"You're in a mood tonight aren't you?" she asked, seemingly unaware that she was threading her fingers through his hair. The gentle caress was driving him wild, but he tried to keep control, if only for a while longer.