Author's Note: This story is a sequel to my first story "His Annual Visit." While it is not absolutely necessary to have read it to enjoy this story, there are several references to what had happened during Rick's previous visit. Reading it first may be beneficial to the reader.
"Even if nothing happens between us, I am still looking forward to seeing you and Evan again." Tasha read the message with a slight grin and a sigh. The exasperating man, she thought. That was how it had been all year. She could never get a proper read on his feelings. Alternately flirty and reticent, it sometimes felt like she and Rick were having a coded conversation for which neither of them had the full translation.
Tasha thought back and felt again the almost intoxicated giddiness of the memory. After twelve years she and Rick had finally given in to their long-term mutual attraction and kissed. That brought out long-buried emotions and over a decade of sexual tension to the surface. Things had rapidly accelerated until she was topless on his lap. It had almost gone further, but Evan's surprise when he found them had put things to a halt.
Tasha started to frown as she remembered her terror at the interruption, but it quickly dropped and she grinned again. Instead of anger and outrage at her, Evan had admitted that having seen her with another man had turned him on. She was still amazed. She and Evan had never been monogamous, but their other affairs had always been with women. She had never involved another man. The closest she had come in the past was a single disastrous kiss with Rick years earlier that had caused a scene so ugly it had left her a recluse too scared to go out.
The last year had been a serious relationship adjustment, but she and Evan had grown closer and more in love than ever. They had broken down the last walls and barriers between them and could both finally be honest with each other in ways they hadn't been able to previously. Tasha knew that Evan simultaneously battled jealousy and desire, just as she had with him and their ex-girlfriends. At the same time he knew she had to sort out layers of guilt, shame and need that had been with her most of her adult life.
Evan loved to tease her about her growing thirty-something libido and wondered regularly why she wanted another aging man staring down mid-life crisis. His gentle humor made it considerably easier to ride out the waves of their changing dynamic and Tasha blessed him every day for it.
Tasha chewed on the side of her cheek, torn between excitement and exhaustion. She had dreamt of seeing Rick again and what would happen, but the emotional gauntlet she had run for the last year had left its mark in sleepless nights, worry lines around her tired hazel eyes and slivers of grey in her dark hair. She had rung out her mind and laid bare to herself every hidden reaction and awkward misstep in their decade plus acquaintance in a desperate attempt to sort out her chaotic feelings.
Not all of it was pretty. She had barely been able to stand him most of the first year after they met. Yes she had felt a spark when they met, but they had butted heads almost constantly for months afterward. The arrogant and occasionally obnoxious lothario would bring out her inherent need to challenge self-appointed authority figures as well as her desire to prove to him that at least one woman was immune to his charms.
As naïve as she has been at eighteen she was sharp enough to spot a player. He may have had great game, but she had no interest whatsoever in playing it at that age. She didn't particularly want to play now for that matter. However the game had definitely changed and to one in that she didn't understand the rules of and in which she knew far less about her "opponent" than she had ever thought.
A dozen conflicting impulses pulled her in different directions. Tasha was quite fond of Rick. It had taken a long time and a lot of dissension, but they had been great friends for over a decade. An attraction had been there for a long time and she didn't regret what had happened the last time he was in town. Yet there was a part of her that felt a little sketchy about the whole thing.
It wasn't his free-love advocacy that was the problem so much as she was bothered by the feeling that she had gone "where everyone had gone before." She had succumbed to the charms of the most notorious Don Juan she had ever met and there was a part of her that couldn't believe she had fallen for it or him. She had to admit though he had put the practice to good use. She thought again of the incredible intensity and gentleness of his kisses and caresses.
Anticipation may be the world's finest aphrodisiac, but nearly fifty-one weeks later anticipation had turned into vague doubts and second-guessing. It didn't help that she was too afraid of rejection to ask him point blank about his feelings, especially when she wasn't sure of her own. Sometimes she suspected that he was doing the exact same thing. They both wrote the occasional message or post that seemed to have a second meaning. It almost felt like they were having two conversations at once, but she was scared to presume. She couldn't afford to be wrong and cost herself one of her dearest friends.
At times he was openly salacious like a lover. She chuckled at the memory of his public suggestion that she needed to masturbate when she mentioned she was tense and Evan was out of town. Or his veiled comments when he got back to Annapolis about how much he liked small breasts. There were his words of advice that sounded so general, but always managed to be exactly what she needed to hear.
Then there were the weeks on end she didn't hear a word from him and she wondered if she had upset him or said the wrong thing or pushed too much.
At least his message meant she didn't have to worry about him having blown her off. As he had said to her; even if nothing happened she still looked forward to seeing her friend. She smiled again, now re-focused on the positive. She clicked the reply button and typed, "Can't wait to see you....," she stopped, unsure of what endearment to use. She ran a few through her head before she went with her default "hon." She tended to use it with her friends as a matter of course so it seemed the least controversial choice, even as another part of her brain told her it was a cop out. "No matter what happens," she finished. She clicked send, let out a long, anxious breath and took a sip of Syrah.
Tasha's eyes blurred looking at the sent screen, her mind lost in thought. There was more to look forward to than just a visit from Rick. Evan's oldest friend Chase, who he hadn't seen since they were kids before they had all hung out with Rick the year before, was also coming up for a visit. She had rarely ever seen Evan so excited. The pair of old friends had only had a few minutes the year before; this year she hoped they would have the opportunity to really catch up.
Chase seemed to be a really sweet guy and she was pleased at the chance to get to know him better. She ignored the memory of the mildly flirtatious look they had shared. Things were already more than confused enough. She took another sip of wine. If nothing else; it would be a nice night of old friends re-connecting she thought.
Tasha looked up from her computer over to where Evan sat watching TV. She drank in the sight of the man she had loved since she was eighteen. He still looked amazing. His nearly black hair had barely greyed and the lines in his face were more from laughter and still fairly few. His sideburns were salt and pepper, but they added distinguish to his looks He caught her stare and gave her a million dollar smile. "What's up Sash?" he asked.
"Not much; just heard from Rick. He's looking forward to seeing us," she responded.
Evan's blue eyes glimmered with humor. "Yeah, I'm sure he's looking forward to seeing YOU."
Uh oh, Tasha thought. She had better calm Evan's ego down and quick.
"He said he was looking forward to seeing US. It's not like you two weren't friends before I ever came around," she carefully replied.
"True," Evan said, "but we weren't exactly close. We were a couple of twenty-something assholes competing with each other and bragging about getting laid. Even with you."
"Huh?" Tasha mumbled in confusion. "What was that?"
"What, you didn't know he was crazy about you? I practically had to beat him off you with a stick when we first got together."
"Well we flirted the night we met...it was before you and I were together and I had no idea you were interested...hell I never knew HE was that interested. The others around told me he was a womanizer that went after all of us eventually."
"Yeah, well there is that. But he would ask after you every time I saw him during that month between the two of you meeting and our first date. He would try and keep it casual, but I told him to stop barking up my tree."
"Your tree?" she asked with a raise of her eyebrows before she collapsed into a heap of laughter.
Evan joined in with the laughter. "Yeah, my tree. I saw you first so I had dibs. Admittedly he called second dibs and it seems he got them, even if it did take a while."
Tasha felt a dual urge; she wasn't sure if she should be angry at one or both of them or whether to be impressed. She had never wanted to be one of those girlfriends that caused drama, but it was hard not to feel a little bit ego gratified. The having called dibs part....she tried to stop her titters for long enough to give Evan a stern look, but couldn't help it as she fell over into another round of guffaws.
"Men," she giggled as she gave Evan a kiss. She made herself ignore the disturbing fact that Evan's story had raised a lot more questions than it had answered.
Tasha and Evan arrived at the overcrowded eatery their friend Guy had chosen for Rick's welcome back dinner around 6:30. It was packed to the rafters with hipsters and loud frat boys wasted in the bar. She hated the type of place, but it was worth it for the company. At least she knew she could get a good beer. She adjusted the skirt of the little black dress she had bought for the occasion and caught her ring against her thigh-high stocking and stretched it out. Damn the thing, she thought as she pulled it back up. It was loose around the elastic band. She looked up, her eyes scanned the room and Guy waved them over to a table.
She spotted Rick a moment later. He had put on a few more pounds and his espresso brown hair was greyer. His face was set in lines of sadness and pain. Even his facial hair was less exotic than she had seen it in the past. The divorce had obviously taken its toll. At the sight of them his brown eyes sparkled out the same as she remembered. They met hers in a greeting simultaneously friendlier and more intimate than the polite hellos that came out of their mouths. He stood up, gave her a hug and the mildest peck on the cheek near her ear and whispered, "Hello dear. It's good to see you"
She returned the gesture as casually as possible, "It's great to see you too hon." Tasha sat down as Evan pulled her out a seat. He went in for a back-smacking hug of his own. The warmth of Evan's reception seemed to dispel some of Rick's tension. They made room at the table and Guy handed her a menu. Rick smiled over the top of his glass at her and said, "Get whatever you guys want. And get a drink too." He flagged down a waitress to take their drink orders. Evan requested a Guinness and after a quick look at the beers on tap she ordered an ESB.
Tasha glanced at the menu as Evan and Rick made small-talk with Guy and another friend of theirs, George. The waitress brought her ale. Tasha took a sip and savored the sharp flavor and allowed the hops to calm her fluttered nerves. After a debate with her jumpy stomach she decided on a simple salad. The thought of trying to get anything heavier down made her feel sick. She drank a little more and allowed the warm buzz from the alcohol to quiet the fears in her mind. The general affection among friends helped and she soon found herself deep in conversation with her anxieties forgotten.
Guy and George compared the food to a place they had gone while visiting Rick in Annapolis a few months earlier. Tasha's mouth watered at the descriptions. It certainly sounded better than the bland fare they currently ate. "You guys should try and make it out eventually," Rick said to her and Evan, "I would love to have you two come for a visit." The stress had slowly dropped from his face while they ate.
Tasha smiled back as Evan replied, "We definitely will...when people finally start paying me what I'm worth." That got a laugh out of the entire table.
Rick quipped, "If that's the case, I'll be waiting forever on that visit."
That set off another round of laughter. Rick patted Evan on the back and pulled in close to him and Tasha. "No pressure, I would just like to see you guys more often," he whispered out of Guy and George's earshot. He sat up abruptly and waved down a waitress for another round of drinks.
Dinner had passed in a blur of friendly banter. Tasha steeled her nerves and they all headed for their favorite bar to meet up with Chase and his girlfriend. A whirl of smells hit her nose; a mix of sweat, whiskey and cologne that hung over almost any dive bar in the world that was also uniquely its own. Rick hit the building and went to look for the young woman he had met the year before. Guy and George grabbed stools at the bar to watch the ballgame. Tasha and Evan snagged a booth.
Tasha looked around the room and took in all the details. She was struck by how many things had changed while others had stayed the same. The barroom looked almost identical and the patrons were friendlier than they had been at one point, but it wasn't quite the scene of urban debauchery it had once been. The morality police had left their permanent mark on more than just her battered psyche.
Or perhaps not, she thought as she saw a couple buried deep in each other enter the room. She recognized Chase's strawberry blond British Invasion cut. He looked up and beamed as Evan waved them over to the table.
Chase gestured to the petite dark haired woman on his arm, "This is my girlfriend Samantha. Sam this is Evan and Tasha. Evan's the one I told you about; we were best friends as kids. We hadn't seen each other in thirty years before last time." He stopped and looked around. He spotted Guy and George who came over to say hello. "Now where in the hell is Rick?" he asked.
Another round of hearty hugs was shared. Chase asked after the score of the game and quickly was lost in conversation with Guy and George. Rick wandered back over to greet Chase and Samantha. Tasha stifled a chuckle when she saw the animalistic gleam in his eyes as he was introduced to Samantha; same old Rick she thought.
It wasn't just Rick, she realized. She noticed that Evan had a similar expression. The same look was also in Chase's eyes...and they were fastened directly on her face. She felt a surge of electricity and tried to choke it down. The potential for things to get completely out of hand was apparent to Tasha and she was nearly paralyzed as fear and desire battled inside her mind and body.
Rick spotted his attempted conquest of the previous year and excused himself to greet the busty brunette. Short brunettes must be the type for this bunch, Tasha thought with a snicker. Chase tapped Evan on the arm and pulled him aside for a private conversation. She was vaguely disturbed yet oddly invigorated by the way they sent glances back to the table. They had to be up to something and Tasha had a pretty good idea what. The thought made her skin tingle.
She tried to make small talk with Samantha as they both attempted to ignore their partners. A few minutes later they headed back to the table, glasses in hand. Chase passed them each a double shot of whiskey. Then they switched sides; Evan sat down next to Samantha and Chase slid in next to Tasha. His leg touched hers and she felt another jolt of erotically charged energy. Yet at the same time it felt comfortable in spite of their lack of acquaintance.
"I've been looking forward to the chance to get to know you better," Chase said. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Tasha had to admit she liked the way it felt. Across the table Evan was in the same position with Samantha. She sighed lightly and relaxed against Chase's arm. Rick shot them a wicked grin from the other side of the bar where he was deep in conversation with his object of desire, Anna. What a terrible influence he is, she smirked back at him at the thought.
"I've wanted to get to know you better too," Tasha replied. She meant it, although she hadn't thought it would be this way.
Or maybe she had. She couldn't deny her attraction and how natural being close to Chase felt. She might try to lie to herself, but the thought had definitely crossed her mind in the past year. She had attempted to ignore the flash of attraction she had experienced when they met. Yet here she was, again staring down the consequences of her belief that someone was "just a friend."
Those consequences didn't appear particularly negative at the moment, she had to admit. Chase's arm felt warm against her neck and his hand on her leg was titillating but not inappropriate. No one appeared at all bothered by their display. No moral authority jumped in to scold them. No evangelist screamed at their activities. Tasha relaxed and raised her shot glass. "Cheers to getting to know each other better," she proclaimed.
"Cheers," the others repeated and downed their shots. She savored the soft sweet tang of Jameson's on her tongue and sighed. The jukebox began to play one of her favorite songs and she hummed along with the melody. Chase's hand on her thigh sent a warm pulse through her that caused a heady rush of exhilaration.
"Oops, "said Chase as her thigh-high stocking came loose and fell past her knee.
"Damn," Tasha muttered. She stood up and moved to give herself room and adjusted her stocking. She could feel the eyes of the room on her and she blushed in embarrassment and excused herself to the restroom.
Tasha went into a stall and sat down to catch her breath as her body fought a war with her mind. Things had moved so quickly and she wasn't sure what was going to happen. She immediately tried to shut off the part of her that screamed, "What will people think?" It wasn't relevant what other people thought. Why should they even know about anything beyond what they had already seen? "They" didn't matter. What mattered was what she wanted and right then she wanted to see where things were going and what would happen, even if she was half-scared out of her mind.
Tasha came out of the stall resolved and stopped to and check her makeup at the mirror. The door swung open behind her and Anna came in.
"Hi, "she greeted Tasha. "We met last year. "
"Yeah...Anna right?" Tasha asked
"Yeah. You're friends with Rick, right?"
"Mmm hmmm, I've known him for years."
"Has he always been that much of a full of himself jerk?"
Tasha was caught off guard by the question. Her anger bubbled up at the insult to her friend, but she caught herself and giggled. She had thought pretty much the same thing when she first met Rick after all. It took a moment of thought to decide how best to get across Rick's unique communication style.
"He's actually a lot better than he used to be. But I know what you mean; it's the way he makes his opinion sound like an inarguable universal truth. It's not even so much what he says as how he says it. Once you get used to the way he expresses himself, you realize he isn't really that bad. He wants people to disagree with him and challenge him. He will even cede the argument if he's wrong. It's just most people don't dare do it because, annoyingly enough, more often than not he's right," Tasha answered with a laugh.