tagRomanceBaumgartner Generations: Janie Ch. 03

Baumgartner Generations: Janie Ch. 03


I woke up hung over and I had no idea where in the hell I was. My first clue was a pair of black panties I had wrapped around my wrist. I vaguely remembered having them stuffed into my mouth at one point, and then—had they been used to tie me to the bed post?

I rolled to my back from my belly with a groan. Oh my god, I was sore! My pussy was sore, my arms were sore, my thighs actually trembled when I tried to move...

What in the hell was I doing last night?

Then Catherine sighed and shifted in her sleep, pulling the covers up, and it all came back. Well, most of it anyway. I looked at the smooth curve of her spine, her hair spilling over her shoulders like a river of fire, and felt faint. I didn't even want to think about what I'd done or said the night before. I had to get my stuff and get the hell out of there. TJ and Ronnie were going to be worried sick. They'd probably called a million times already. Where was my phone?

I found my panties and shoes on the floor and remembered my dress was in the living room. I slipped my panties on and carried my shoes, easing open the bedroom door as quietly as I could. Behind me, Catherine sighed and rolled again, but then she was quiet. The door clicked shut behind me and I crept down the hall, past half a dozen closed doors—how many rooms do they have in this apartment?—past the private penthouse elevator, looking for the living room.

The blinds were still open wide and I blinked at the brightness of the morning, my head throbbing. I'd obviously had way more to drink the night before than I'd realized. Shading my eyes and groping my way around the couch, I returned to the scene of the crime, hunting around the coffee table and in front of the door wall for my things. Problem was, they were nowhere to be found.

I stood there for a moment, lost in foggy thought, trying to recall. Had I gotten up in the middle of the night to get my clothes? I didn't think so, but I was pretty hung over. I couldn't be sure. Maybe—

"Are you looking for these?"

I probably would have screamed if my throat and mouth hadn't already been so filled with cotton.

"Who are you?" I squeaked, my arms snapping quickly closed to cover my breasts, my shoes still in hand, but I knew it was too late. And I knew, in an instant, who he was. Of course. It was Catherine's husband. If nothing else, I would have recognized him by the vanity wedding photo over the fireplace—the dark, curly hair and smiling eyes were a giveaway, although he was a few years older in person. And there he was, standing there looking scruffy and disheveled like he'd just woken up, too, wearing a navy colored robe belted at the waist and holding my clothes out in one hand like a waiter.

"I'm Josh." He took two steps forward, putting my folded dress and my purse on the coffee table and taking a step back to turn around. "Go ahead. I won't look."

"Thanks," I croaked. It was a little late for the whole not-looking thing, but I grabbed my dress and pulled it quickly over my head, wishing now that it was made of more material.

"I think you have some messages." He turned slightly to say this over his shoulder, still keeping his eyes averted. "Your phone's been beeping."

I unzipped my purse and checked. Twelve messages—ten texts and two voice mails. Of course, the voice mails were Ronnie and TJ, respectively, the first asking where I was, the second asking if I was okay. The texts were all Lil. I flipped my phone closed—I'd read them later.

"Thanks," I said again, clearing my throat. "I'm dressed now. You can turn around."

He did, giving my outfit a once-over. "It looks much better on. So what's your name?"

I smoothed my hair. "I'm sorry. I'm Jane. Janie."

"Well, Jane-Janie... it's nice to meet you." He held out his hand. I took a few barefoot steps toward him to shake it. What else could I do?

Never mind that it happened to be the hand which had been buried up to the wrist in his wife's cunt the night before... Thinking about that made me want to pass out.

"It just Janie."

"Want some coffee, Just-Janie?" He nodded behind him toward the kitchen. So that's where he'd been when I thought I was sneaking by, I realized. "It's fresh."

I shook my head. "No, I should...I need to get home."

"I'll get you a car." He walked over to the wall, reaching for a button on the intercom.

"No!" I caught up with him just in time, covering his hand with mine. He looked at me in surprise, eyebrows raised. I moved my hand as if I'd been burned. "I mean...I can take the subway."

"In that?" He blinked at me. "I couldn't live myself knowing I let you out of here to ride the subway wearing that."

"I wore it last night," I protested.

Oh crap. I'd also worn a wrap I'd checked at the door and had forgotten to retrieve when Catherine and I left 1 Oak in such a hurry the night before.

"Which is, I'm sure, one of the myriad of reasons Catherine decided to bring you home." He smiled as he began to unbelt his robe. I took a wary step back, my eyes widening, and he shook his head, shrugging the robe off his shoulders. He was wearing blue and gray striped pajama pants underneath. "Here. Put this on. Let's get you some coffee to help your head and I'll call you a car to take you home, okay?"

I reluctantly accepted the robe as he slipped it over my shoulders—it was still warm from his body—and hesitated a moment before following him and the tempting smell of coffee toward the kitchen. All the floors were hardwood, even in here, and my feet were cold. I sat on one of the bar stools, pulling the robe tight around me as I watched him take down two mugs—both matching blue, like the black and blue accents in the marble backsplash in the kitchen—and pour two cups of coffee.

"Sugar? Cream?"

I shook my head, taking the mug as he held it out and closing my eyes, sipping slowly. It was fantastically rich and good, probably fresh-ground. Even in my hung over state, I could tell that much. When I opened my eyes, I saw him watching me over his own mug.

"1 Oak?" he asked casually, leaning against the counter. It felt safer to talk to him from over here, on the other side of the bar that looked into the spacious, wide-open kitchen. The place had ceilings that went up forever.

"Yes," I confirmed, taking another gulp of coffee, my eyes watering at the heat. I studied the stainless steel refrigerator devoid of any personal affects—not even a magnet or a picture—like it was the most interesting thing in the world. "Um...can I get that ride?"

"Oh, right." There was an intercom in the kitchen, too, and he pushed a button on it. I assumed it was the doorman who responded and said he'd buzz when the car was ready. "So, Just-Janie...are you a student? An actress maybe?"

"You don't have to babysit me." I put the coffee cup down on the bar and looked at him. He really was good-looking with all that dark curly hair and olive skin, probably somewhere in his early-thirties, like Catherine. He worked out and took care of himself—his shoulders and arms were nicely defined, I'd noticed when he took off his robe—and clearly he made a good living. He also happened to have a wife who was bisexual and liked to pick up women. What more could a guy ask for in life?

"I mean... I don't know if this is weird for you..." I studied the sink this time. It was stainless, too, and immaculately clean—not even a drop of water in it.

"Well, I've met some of the women Cat's brought home." He put his coffee down on the counter. "But I admit, you're the first one I've seen naked."

I reddened. "Sorry about that."

"I'm not." He grinned. "You're a beautiful girl."

"Thanks." What else could I say? "So...and feel free to tell me to shut up, okay? But I'm curious...you never...together?" I jerked my thumb back toward the bedroom, where Catherine was still asleep. "I mean...you'd think, you know, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em?"

He shook his head. "It's her thing, not mine."

"But you're okay with it?" I took another gulp of coffee and waited for his response. My head was getting slightly clearer. Besides, the coffee was fantastic. Josh was looking past me, and he was quiet so long I almost turned around, thinking there was someone or something there, but then he shook his head as if to clear it and turned to me.

"I love Catherine." He smiled, looking apologetic. "And Catherine loves women."

Which wasn't, I thought, exactly the same thing as being okay with it. It made me sad. And it made me think of Ronnie and TJ, who had always made me feel like it was all okay, that they both wanted and loved me. It never felt strange or awkward or wrong with us.

"I'm a nanny," I said, picking up on his earlier question and trying hard to change the subject. His smile said he knew it, and I think he was even a little grateful. "I live-in. Beth is seven. She's in second grade. And I guess there's another one on the way now..."

My voice trailed off. I'd almost forgotten—Ronnie was going to have a baby. It still wasn't real to me.

"Do you like it?" He reached over and grabbed the pot of coffee to top off his cup.

"Sure." I held my mug out for more, too. "I mean, I don't want to do it forever, but..." I shrugged.

"So what do you want to do?" He poured more aromatic, deep, rich coffee goodness into my cup, and I licked my lips in anticipation.

"I'm a writer."

"Ah." He replaced the coffee pot, nodding. "Of course."

"What does that mean?" I eyed him over my mug, breathing in the scent. It was nirvana.

He shrugged. "Well you know, it's New York. Everyone's a writer or an actor..."

I took a sip, even though it was too hot and burned my tongue a little. "What do you do?"

"I'm an agent."

"Aha!" I wagged my finger at him. "So not everyone's a writer or an actor."

"Well, someone has to represent all the talent." He straightened and went to the fridge, opening it and pulling out a white box. "Are you hungry?"

I groaned when he put the box on the counter and opened it. Inside were the most delicate, delicious-looking pastries I'd ever seen, some of them decadently drizzled in chocolate, others with raspberry or strawberry or lemon.

"I don't want to puke." I reached across the bar anyway and snagged a puffy chocolate-covered thing.

"I don't blame you." He picked something with lemon on top and popped it into his mouth. "So, what do you write?"

"Little bit of everything." My mouth was full of pastry as I said it—oh my god, it so rich and buttery and scrumptious! I already wanted another one. "But lately...I mean, what I really like to write..."

I hesitated, taking a big gulp of coffee, overdosing on richness.

"Go on, you can tell me." He winked and offered the box once more. I indulged again, moaning softly as thick, sweet raspberry ooze flooded over my tongue. "I'm just some guy you'll never see again."

"Erotica." I licked the filling off my lips, catching a drip on my chin with my finger. His eyes never left me as I waited for his response. I'd never really told anyone before, excerpt for Ronnie and TJ, who occasionally enjoyed private readings.

"I see." Josh plucked another pastry from the box, something that looked almost like a chocolate-dipped cannoli. "And were you doing research last night?"

I laughed, popping the last of the raspberry-yum into my mouth. "Mystery writers don't have to kill people to write crime books, do they?"

"True enough." He took half the chocolate thing in one bite as I watched, impressed.

"So who do you represent?" I snuck my hand across to snatch one of those chocolate things. He slid the box so I could reach.

"Are you looking?" His mouth was full and he sounded decidedly Scooby-Doo-like when he asked. It made me laugh.

"Jim Carrey informed me last night that all agents are evil." Oh my god, it was actually a chocolate dipped cannoli! I bit the chocolate coating off the end and sucked at the cream, making little happy noises until I noticed Josh staring at me.

"What?" I licked my lips.

He cleared his throat and took a sip of his coffee. "You met Jim Carrey at 1 Oak last night?"

"I got his autograph for my brother." I patted my purse. "His biggest fan and all that."

"You know, if you're serious about being a writer, you're going to need an agent." He closed the box and I looked at it longingly as it disappeared back into the refrigerator. "We may be evil, but we are, I'm afraid, a necessary one."

I shrugged, licking cream off my fingers. "Lots of people have made it without agents."

"That's a myth." He leaned against the counter, watching me slip my fingers into the soft shell of the cannoli, looking for more cream.

"Of course you'd say that." I sucked my fingers enthusiastically. "You're an agent."

Josh shrugged, standing up and holding his coffee mug, sipping slowly, still watching me. I stared thoughtfully at my dessert-for-breakfast, contemplative.

"What can an agent do for me I can't do for myself?"

I'd tried pretty hard in the couple years, since moving in with Ronnie and TJ, to get published. I had a stack of rejection letters shamefully shoved under my desk blotter to prove it. I'd almost decided give up and start writing porn instead of erotica—there was always a paying market for that stuff in Hustler or Forum. Either that, or I was going to have to start writing about vampires—very handsome, sparkly ones with Victorian-era names and lots of teenage angst.

TJ knew people and had put me in touch with a few agents, but I thought Jim Carrey was right. Agents followed the money and I hadn't made any. None of the ones I'd talked to thought I really had the potential to make enough for them, was my guess. Erotica was a niche market, and I wasn't going to make any real money there. Everyone said so. None of the agents TJ put me in touch with would even look at my writing after I said the word "erotica."

"First of all, an agent keeps you out of the slush pile." Josh interrupted my thoughts and winced at the words. Every aspiring writer dreaded the slush pile—that huge slushy pile of unsolicited manuscripts sent in by unknown authors looking to be published. "And to tell you the truth, a lot of the big houses stopped doing slush after 9/11 and the anthrax scare. The playing field has narrowed. Considerably."

"But it still happens..." I put my chocolate cannoli down, suddenly feeling queasy.

"People still win the lottery, too." Josh laughed, but it wasn't funny. He reached over and put his hand on my arm, meeting my eyes. "Look, an agent will get you in the door. An agent will get you a fair and fast read, which is all an author can really ask for, and if your book is accepted, an agent will get you a better money deal, hands down. That's what an agent can do for you."

I frowned. "Are you a good agent?"

He smiled, raising an eyebrow. "Are you a good writer?"

"I'm very good." I looked down at his hand on my arm and back up at him.

He nodded. "So am I."

The intercom buzzed and we both jumped.

"Car's ready," Josh said, as if I hadn't heard the doorman say so. "Do you have everything?"

I shrugged. I hadn't come with much. I stood, opening his robe and taking it off. "Here. Thanks."

"Don't mention it." He slung it over his arm, looking across the bar at me. "Tell you what, let me give you my card."

"I don't know if that's a good idea."

He was already opening a kitchen drawer, taking out a white card and a pen and sliding it across to me. "Go ahead and write down your phone number and email on the back."

I hesitated, frowning, pen in hand. "I don't know..."

"What have you got to lose?" He opened the drawer, taking out another card. "I mean, I've already seen you naked."

I blushed and laughed, writing both my cell and email on the card and sliding it back to him.

"Here, take this one." He scribbled something on the back. "That's my personal email."

"Thanks." I zipped it up inside my purse. "I guess I better go."

"I'll walk you to the elevator."

It was just around the corner and down the hall, and I didn't bother with my shoes, carrying them in one hand.

"That really is a great dress," Josh remarked as he pushed the button. The doors opened immediately and he held them for me. "I can see why Catherine brought you home."

"Tell her I said..." Yikes. What should I say? I cringed, feeling awkward. "Tell her I said goodbye."

He nodded. "Goodbye to you, too, Just-Janie. Nice meeting you."

"Bye, Josh." I gave him a little wave as the doors closed before leaning against the back wall of the elevator and letting out a huge pent-up breath.

I quickly dug out my phone, flipping it open to scroll through messages, seeing Lil's last one first:


You're not the only one, I thought, smiling and thinking of my unexpected night with Catherine—and my even more surprising morning encounter with her husband.

What were the odds of a writer meeting her future agent after spending the night having sex with his wife? I wondered. Those were long odds, I figured. Crazy-odds. The kind of odds Vegas wouldn't even let you bet on.

Those were lottery-winning odds. And strangely, that's just what it felt like, seeing Josh's card tucked away in my purse—like I'd won the lottery. I just wasn't quite sure yet exactly what my prize might be.

* * * *

I tried to sneak in as quietly as I could. It was still early and I was hoping, since it was a Sunday, everyone, including Beth, would still be sleeping.

I went in the front door because the side door that went through the kitchen had a squeaky screen. I leaned there for a moment as I gently closed the front door behind me. What a night! I still felt a little hungover, although I'd had worse mornings. I was mostly just exhausted. Catherine and I hadn't slept much last night. I warmed at the memory and wondered what to tell Ronnie and TJ, because I knew they were going to ask where I'd been, what I'd been doing, and more importantly, why I hadn't called.

Maybe I could go to bed for a few hours and pretend I'd been there most of the night? I started toward my room but stopped when I heard voices from the kitchen. Ronnie and TJ were awake, and I had to pass the kitchen door to get to my bedroom. Damnit. I inched forward, holding my breath, listening.

"It's not that." TJ sighed deeply. "But I told you before, I just don't know if I can go through that again."

Ronnie spoke up, sounding angry. "I went through it, too, you know."

"I know you did." He sighed again. "Come here."

"I just want you to be happy." Ronnie's voice sounded muffled, not angry now, and I knew he was probably holding her.

"I am happy!" TJ sounded sincere. "I'm just...scared. I almost lost you. We almost lost Beth. I don't want that to happen again."

"I know." Ronnie sighed and I stood there, wondering what had happened. Had Beth's birth been so difficult? I knew she'd had a c-section—she still had the scar, low and faded at her bikini line. But lots of women had those. I hadn't really given it much thought past kissing it as I made my way south or north on her body.

"I mean, look at me," he laughed ruefully. "I couldn't sleep all night, worried about our other girl."

I startled, knowing he was talking about me, feeling even more guilty.

"I wish she'd call or something. I just want to know she's safe," he said.

"I'm sure she's okay," Ronnie reassured him. "She probably went home with someone."

He snorted. "I don't like that idea either."

"Can't have your cake and eat it, too..." Ronnie laughed.

"I sure can..." he disagreed, and I knew that low tone in his voice, the one that told me he was turning wolfish, on the prowl.

Feeling guilty, I decided to make my presence known.

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