tagRomanceA Steamy Night in Georgia

A Steamy Night in Georgia


Chapter One

As the blistering sun paused midway in its race toward California, Austin Wyatt looked out the window of his room on the 23rd floor of the Peachtree Plaza at the red-dressed hills that evaporated into the sweltering summer haze and was glad to be inside. He looked forward to his next task in Minnesota, where the air would be clear and the ten-thousandth lake would call to him, but for the next four days he would be surrounded by the oppressive heat of Atlanta in July which had surely burned as furiously every summer since the War Between the States.

He had taken three showers already today, but his clothes still clung to him with clammy dampness so he decided to go down to the pool level and swim some laps until the evening brought some relief. Stripping off his clammy jeans and shirt, he tugged his forest green trunks and silver grey tee shirt into place and went to the elevator. There was another man in the elevator, surrounded by his three small kids. The man said that he was in town for a conference and brought his family along for a vacation and Wyatt thought to himself that it probably wasn't much of a vacation for his wife. As the elevator doors opened on the pool level the three kids shrieked toward the pool, leaving behind an inflatable duck in their exuberance. Wyatt held the elevator door open for the apologetic Dad as he gathered the deflated duck together with his bundle of towels and slippers.

The retractable roof of the pool and spa area was drawn back and the sun was brushing against the west wing of the hotel as he dove into the deep end and surfaced about fifteen feet away, coming up into the midst of a game of "Marco Polo." He continued swimming smoothly toward the shallow end and, about five feet from the wall he tucked, turned, and pushed off the wall for the return half of his first lap. The water felt cool and refreshing as he slid easily across the pool. Because of the heat, it seemed that half the travelers in America were in the pool that day, but Wyatt didn't mind the crowd very much; he just wanted to avoid running into anybody. He wanted to do 25 laps in the short pool, figuring that to be about half a mile, and expected to take an hour or so at a leisurely pace to avoid the energetic "Marco" and the fleeing "Polo's." He felt an odd sensation that he was being watched, but quickly dismissed the feeling since there were so many people in the pool.

Part way through the eighth lap, Wyatt bumped solidly into another swimmer. He stopped and stood immediately to apologize. Although the water was only about three feet deep, he lost his footing as he started to stand. The other swimmer, already standing, reached out to take his arm to offer assistance and he saw Victoria Grayson for the first time. She wanted to apologize for getting into his way, but Wyatt tried to assure her that apologies were not needed, and thanked her for helping him get his feet under him. She was wearing a black two-piece suit and the sun was behind her, adding a radiant glow to her glistening hair. Wyatt couldn't help but steal enjoyable glances at her shapely body and envy the water that flowed over her skin in tantalizing rivulets.

He could not have imagined the thoughts that were running through Grayson's mind at the same time. She was surprised at the warm glow that suddenly spread across her chest as she looked at the tall man standing in the water before her. He had pushed his water-darkened brown hair back across his head when he stood up, and a cowlick from his youth stood in defiance. She looked into his eyes and saw a warm but powerful man. She briefly studied the lines on his face and wondered if they were created by laughter or grim determination.

"I'm very sorry..." he said to her. "I didn't mean to bump into you. I was swimming laps and watching out for..."

"It's nothing...Really!" she quickly replied, as they stammered their apologies and he invited her to join him at poolside for a drink, seeming to be the least he might do for nearly running over her.

"Name's Austin Wyatt," he said as he held the chair for her. "Would you please tell me yours?"

He took his seat across the small round table from her and admired the interplay of sunlight and shadow on her tanned face.

"My name is Victoria Grayson, but my friends call me Tori" she smiled.

Wyatt pondered the name. It was classic and elegant.

"There are a lot of famous Victoria's in the world," Wyatt said, looking deep into her eyes. "Victoria Falls in Africa...Victoria, British Columbia...The Old Vic theatre in London...Victoria's Secret...Queen Victoria certainly left quite a legacy!"

"She sure did!" replied Tori breezily. "My great-great Grandfather was an officer in Her Majesty's service, and there has been a Victoria in my family ever since."

Wyatt studied her loveliness for a moment as she sipped from her drink and he mentally raised his own glass in salute to the old soldier, excused himself, and slipped back into the water to resume his exercise. Tori watched him swim. She enjoyed seeing the muscles on his back ripple and flex as he gracefully moved through the water and slowly allowed herself to imagine the power that lay locked within his arms and long legs. His movement was fluid and smooth, with very little wasted effort. She watched him in the turns at the end of each half-lap, thinking about his hair flowing back over the top of his head, slicked down by the water through which he smoothly passed. She thought within herself that Austin Wyatt was the kind of man she'd enjoy spending time with. He struck her as a kind and gracious man, yet fully capable of success at any task.

Wyatt suddenly appeared in front of her, blocking the sun, and she realized that she had been daydreaming. He rubbed most of the water away with a towel and invited her to have dinner with him later. Tori agreed quickly, knowing there would be so much more they could share.

Chapter Two

Tori stepped into her room on the 19th floor and caught her eye upon her own reflection in the mirror. She studied herself there, absently brushed a wisp of hair from her face and inspected the various curves and shapes of her body before getting into the shower. As she showered luxuriantly, she found herself thinking about Austin Wyatt and the long, powerful legs and muscular arms that propelled him across the pool.

Several minutes later, Tori brushed her long brown hair as there was a knock at her door. Quickly, she finished pulling her sundress into place and rushed to open it and see the same handsome face she had studied earlier. She invited Wyatt in as she stepped into her sandals, then held out her necklace, asking him to place it for her. He took the necklace and stepped behind her, then reached around with both arms to place the necklace upon her, centering the pendant above her cleavage. Carefully, he lifted her hair to close the necklace and she felt his warm breath on her neck. Involuntarily, she closed her eyes as he placed a tiny kiss on the back of her neck to secure the clasp. Wyatt inhaled Tori's perfume. Heady. Floral, but musky and dark. He would remember her perfume for a long time.

"Our dinner reservation is for 8:00, so we need to get going." he said, momentarily regretting inwardly that he hadn't made the reservation for later in the evening.

Tori turned toward him and Wyatt cupped her face in both hands and kissed her lips softly. Tori felt herself begin to melt as he released her and stepped back, opened the door, and said

"I promise you, Victoria Grayson, that you will never forget this night."

She took his offered arm and they floated out to the elevator and descended through the atrium to the street level. Wyatt arranged for a limousine to meet them at the curb as Tom, the doorman, greeted them by name and opened the limo door for them. Although it would be only a short ride over to McKendricks, Wyatt really preferred the peaceful solitude of the limo over the more raucous public arena of a cab.

In the limo, he offered her a glass of iced sparking water. He didn't want Tori to drink much alcohol because he wanted her to be able to enjoy the evening's festivities clearly. She accepted graciously and he kissed her on the cheek lightly, then sat back in the deep seat and studied her, downing his own glass in three deep draughts. He placed his glass back into the rack, placed hers next to his, and turned her face toward him. He kissed her soft lips gently, then more powerfully, and pulled her toward him. Their tongues briefly touched, and electricity passed between them.

"I'm glad we bumped into each other." he said, and she giggled at the thought, agreeing that the sweltering day had turned out to be delightfully surprising indeed. He kissed her again, and she moved in the deeply cushioned seat to press herself against him just as the limo stopped.

McKendrick's is one of Atlanta's best restaurants, and well known for their fabulous seafood and steaks. As they entered, the inviting aromas greeted them. The dark-paneled dining room was set with fifteen or twenty tables, and the Maitre-d'hotel led them to a small table for two by the window that displayed the slowly cooling city skyline in the inky sky of night.

"I'd like to start with a half-dozen Fanny-Bay oysters with your famous mignonette sauce." Wyatt said to the waiter as he brought them iced water from the Chattahoochie River. Realizing his impolite presumption, he asked Tori if she liked oysters.

"Yes, I do," said Tori, "they've been known for centuries as an aphrodisiac."

Wyatt smiled a wink at her for her erotic and tantalizing observation.

Tori looked across the table intently, attempting to decipher her mysterious host of the evening. Although they had met less than eight hours before, she sensed an unusual feeling of comfortable familiarity, as though they had known each other as childhood playmates and were now enjoying a delightful reunion after so many years. She thought he must be about six feet tall and decided that the lines in his face were definitely formed by laughter, and she enjoyed looking deeply into his sparkling brown eyes.

His eyes! Tori thought that perhaps she could drown in the deep golden-brown richness of his eyes, and the tinges of grey over his temples caused her to wonder about the age of this charming but enigmatic man.

"How old are you?" Tori asked suddenly, surprised at herself for asking such a question, as he buttered a piece of bread he had torn from the dark, warm loaf that had been placed between them.

"Forty-three." he replied cheerfully as he decisively bit the morsel of bread that he had prepared.

Victoria struggled within herself, trying to decide how much she should say about her own age when Wyatt spoke up:

"My Dad taught me that a gentleman is a fellow that always remembers the birthday of a beautiful woman but never remembers her age."

Smiling at his thought, Tori relaxed within herself a bit, adding mind reading to the expanding list of surprising things she was learning about Wyatt.

The Fanny-Bay oysters arrived. They were arranged in a sunburst with a cup of mignonette sauce in the center of a blue delft platter. Wyatt scooped a bit of the sauce with a spoon and spread it lightly on the oyster.

"Bon appetit, ma cherie." he said as he gently slurped the oyster from it's half shell which action Tori quickly followed. The finely ground mignonette white pepper blended deliciously with the cracked black peppercorns, and the white wine and sherry background of the delicate sauce exquisitely offset the salty residue of the oysters. He motioned toward her with the index finger of his left hand but she did not understand his meaning, so he reached forward with his linen napkin and dabbed the small bit of oyster liquor from her chin, which caused both of them to laugh heartily at themselves.

"When I called to make reservation this evening," Wyatt said, "I asked about the soup of the day. It's a Portuguese bean soup which should be very good. It's made of red beans, lentils, and Portuguese sausage in a peppery beef stock. It should be zesty but not too hot."

"Mmmmmmm...sounds good!" Tori replied, thinking to herself that her earlier plans for dinner included a cheeseburger and fries. She slipped her right foot out of her sandal and caressed Wyatt's leg, hoping that anyone in the restaurant that saw her action might also enjoy the smile that widened across Wyatt's face.

"Please tell me about your necklace," Wyatt asked as they waited for their soup to arrive. "It's a lovely stone, and it's color compliments your skin nicely."

Tori momentarily fingered the highly polished golden stone. "It's Tiger-Eye agate. My Dad used to like to collect rocks. I used to love to go hiking with him when I was a girl, and I used to help him in his shop."

She looked far away, thinking about her Dad, and it was obvious that she loved him a lot. As she thought about such serious things as rocks, she unconsciously drew her foot away from Wyatt's leg and replaced her foot into her sandal. Wyatt reached out to lift the jewel, and admired its golden fire while he allowed his hand to enjoy a brief brush against her cleavage.

The Portuguese soup arrived in two sourdough bowls, each about eight inches across. The inside of the hard-crusted bread had been scooped out and, after filling, the top of the bread was placed as a cover to close the bowl. Perhaps to avert disaster, an additional loaf of sourdough bread was brought to accompany the soup. The soup was nearly as hot as Wyatt had become as he thought about the warm kiss they had shared in the limo, her stroking of his leg and the brush of his hand against her succulent breasts, and the peppery Portuguese sausage in the soup added unexpected zest to the already spicy evening.

"If I eat much more, you'll have to roll me out of here." Wyatt said after finishing his soup and contemplating the next course.

"Let's skip the salad and go for the main event." Tori suggested. Her double entendre did not pass unnoticed as Wyatt ordered Chateaubriand for two, medium well, fresh asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, and stuffed Portobello mushroom caps.

"Mushrooms have also been recognized as aphrodisiacs for centuries..." he said to Grayson with a twinkle.

The meal arrived precisely as Wyatt had ordered. Everything tasted wonderful, but Tori could barely touch anything because the soup had nearly done her in. She leaned forward a bit and studied Wyatt. She liked what she saw in a worldly, well educated man and was pleased with her present state of good fortune. The waiter was concerned because neither were eating, but could see that their focus and desire lay beyond the foods of mortality and did not interrupt them until he felt compelled to ask about dessert. Wyatt thanked him for his concern but declined.

"I've taken care of that for later on." he told Tori, who was quite grateful for the interruption in culinary delights.

The band started to play a slow ballad and Wyatt rose to his feet and held out his hand to Victoria. As she placed her hand in his, she could feel the electricity of her excitement pass between them. Wyatt led her onto the dance floor and swung her into his arms, sliding his right arm effortlessly around her waist and drew her near. Tori caught her breath as their bodies met. They moved smoothly and gracefully around the dance floor and Tori saw that a smile played gleefully on Wyatt's face. Tori reflected within herself that passion burned brightly within this energetic and sensual man and could feel his heartbeat mere inches from the pounding of her own. The dance floor was packed and their dancing became slower until they barely swayed, completely lost in each other's arms. The music stopped and patrons began clearing the floor, and had another patron not bumped into them Wyatt and Grayson would have continued dancing without music. Feeling a glow of warmth on their faces, they turned to leave the floor and return to their table, noticing that several guests extended a nod in their direction as though a secret society of lovers knew exactly what was developing between these two people.

The hours flew, carried upon the wings of pleasant conversation. Shortly before midnight, Wyatt said "We should be on our way. There is still so much to do!" and rose to take Tori by the arm and escort her into the quiet night.

The limousine was waiting at the front door, and as Tori stepped inside she noticed an iced silver bowl filled with fresh fruit and a matching but smaller cup filled with whipped cream. Rose petals covered the seats. Wyatt slipped his arm around Tori's shoulders and plucked a strawberry from the bowl. He dipped the tip of the berry into the whipped cream and pressed it gently against her lips, teasing her. She took a bite, enjoying the sweet and succulent tastes. Leaning forward and looking deeply into her eyes, Wyatt brushed his lips against hers. A soft moan escaped Tori's lips as he began to kiss her more deeply and powerfully. Their combined passion built swiftly until the limo stopped at their destination. Wyatt looked into her eyes once again and said

"Dessert has only just begun." as the driver opened their door.

Chapter Three

Tori was completely unprepared for what greeted her as the limousine door opened. Rather than be alongside a quiet ballroom, a noisier nightclub, or even back at the Peachtree, she stood at the side of the road alongside a wide expanse of trees and meadows.

"Where in the world are we?" she asked, and Wyatt replied that they were on the North side of International Boulevard, just West of Techwood Drive. Tori stood motionless and just stared at him for having given such a droll description and Wyatt realized that he had better provide some more information, and fast!

"You'll remember this place from 1996," he said. "This is Centennial Olympic Park where they had the festivities for the Summer Olympics. Over there is where that guy planted the bomb."

Tori certainly remembered the events, but would not have recognized the setting, which now was serene and tranquil amid acres and acres of trees and wide grass meadows.

"Take off your sandals." he told her as he removed his own deck shoes. She slipped off her sandals, and they tossed both pairs into the limo.

"I thought we'd walk across the park." Wyatt said. "The limo will pick us up over on Luckie Avenue in about an hour and a half."

With that, the driver closed the door behind them and the black limousine moved silently into the night. The dew-wetted grass felt cool and wonderful beneath their bare feet as they began walking, holding hands, toward the Northwest. Tori was amazed that such a quiet and peaceful place could be found so close to the continual hum and buzz of the South's largest city. Wyatt put his left arm around her shoulder, she slipped her arm around his waist, and they drew closer together. As they walked she leaned her head against him.

After several miles, or perhaps only a few yards, Victoria saw tiny, flickering lights coming from a grove of trees in the distance. Seeing that Wyatt apparently hadn't noticed them, she asked what they might be.

"Let's go find out!" he quickly replied, and they quickened their pace toward the grove about fifty yards away.

The grove was about fifty feet by one hundred twenty-five feet, with several large oak trees that stood majestically against the dim night sky. Hundreds of night-blooming Cereus bushes among the oaks lent their fragrant scent to the pleasant sight. The tiny lights were somewhere inside the grove, and as they entered to investigate, Tori was astonished to find a silver candelabra holding five tall, slim white tapers! Next to the candelabra was a wicker basket with more of the luscious strawberries and a large bowl with chilled whipped cream, similar to those that they had enjoyed in the limousine earlier. A quilted tan blanket about twelve feet square was spread on the ground and a smaller navy blue blanket was folded neatly at one corner, near the basket. Although Wyatt appeared to be equally startled by this pleasant setting, Tori knew deep within herself that he knew exactly where to find this lovely tryst.

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