***This is a romantic story that I have been working on periodically for several months. Where the story will lead, I'm not exactly sure, yet given the dynamics of the characters, I have a general idea.

As with real life, erotica is very likely to occur in this piece but those things will have to happen in their own time when the characters themselves lead us to that part of the story. Constructive criticism appreciated.***


With a flourish like I was about to be Knighted by the Queen of England, Karen handed me her gold fountain pen and said

"Sign on the "X" please, sir".

Without saying anything I signed on the line indicated with an "X". I then sighed deeply as I handed back her pen, was I really doing this after all the years of talking and thinking about it?

Jeeze, I wish Mom were here to share this moment with me, I thought briefly.

Snatching up the papers then, Karen put them in a manila envelope with my last name written on it and then placed the manila envelope in her briefcase. Snapping closed the latches of her briefcase she smiled at me and said

"Its official my dear, you are now a registered and legal Snowbird." Holding out her hand and smiling she said "Congratulations!"

Standing now myself, I took her hand and shaking it firmly said in a rather sardonic tone

"Yes, but I was a hell of a lot richer a few minutes ago".

Waving the comment aside as if she had heard it a million times before she then said

"We have to hurry now so we can get your home owners insurance, it's mandatory by law that you have it and the condo association requires it before you even move in. C'mon we can still be there by four forty five if we hurry."

I shook hands and thanked everyone in the real-estate office and then followed Karen out the door and to her little red sports car that was sitting in the parking lot.

The car was a fun little Mazda MX-5 Miata and really rather cute, it seem to fit Karen's personality perfectly and I was happy being a passenger. The weather was warm and earlier, when we'd stopped for lunch, she had put the top down.

Karen stood about five foot nothin' I guessed and she had big brown eyes, she also had a striking resemblance to Crystal Gayle which was fine by me. I wasn't quite sure of Karen's age but I would have dialed her in somewhere around fifty. From conversation with her over the last year and a half I knew that like me, she was a recent divorce' and that like most of us that have lived to the age of fifty-something that she'd been to hell and back.

Presently she was wearing a dark blue sports coat with matching slacks and a white button-up shirt with a ruffled collar. Her appearance gave the impression of being extremely professional and competent yet also approachable and friendly by nature, which she indeed was. She wore black, low heeled Harley-Davidson type boots tucked inside the slacks which gave the slight hint of rebellion hidden somewhere within her and added a touch of excitement to the mystique of her presence. Karen also wore a few silver bracelets and stylish watch on her right wrist. The slightest scent of perfume was also evident within close proximity of her. She was stunning.

She rarely drank, enjoyed an occasional cigarette but was otherwise an avid health nut and it showed. She was slender and toned and liked a lot of outdoor activities which kept her in the excellent physical condition that she was. Karen also had a cute face and bright smile which was framed in long chestnut hair that reached almost to her bottom.

"I'd sure like to buy you dinner tonight Karen. You've worked hard from the very beginning on finding and closing this deal for me and I'd like to show my appreciation if I could." I said now as we drove through rush hour traffic.

" Awww, that's so sweet. There's a condo meeting tonight that we have to attend but I will certainly take a rain check on the dinner, Tim." Karen replied and smiled.

It was the first time that I had really made any advance towards Karen in the time that I'd known her and I was a bit disappointed about being "rain checked" for dinner but I liked the way she had said, "There's a condo meeting tonight that -WE- have to attend."

"Oh ok, I didn't know there was a condo meeting. I appreciate your going the extra mile and going with me then Karen, whatever a condo meeting is, and a definite YES to the rain check, anyplace you want to go and it's on me ok?" I said smiling.

Karen rolled her eyes at how naïve I sometime was and said

"You'll have bi-annual condo meetings from now on cowboy, that's where everyone associated with the property gets together to make decisions about the grounds and building, the grounds and building that you're now part owner of. There just so happens to be one scheduled for this evening which is good because it will give you a chance to meet your new neighbors face to face. And yes we will have a celebratory dinner and soon. You're a nice guy Tim and I think it'd be fun." She added smiling.

"Dinner for two, It's a deal then Madam!" I said smiling widely; I really could have cared less about any condo meeting.

Settling back into the seat of the sports car again, I took a deep breath and noticed that my hands were shaking slightly and that I was a bit giddy at the thought of taking Karen on a date, a date that had nothing to do with real-estate but was just that, an actual date. In my mind's eye I had already stolen the first kiss from her. God, yeah, I think I'd like that.

Karen continued driving and we both fell silent for a while.

"What's wrong?" she suddenly asked

"Oh nothing, I'm just a little disorientated right now Karen." I said.

I then continued with

"I've been talking about doing all of this for decades and am finally doing it. I wish Mom were still alive, you would have really liked her."

Karen and I had talked about Mom some over this last year and half and Karen knew how much my Mom had meant to me.

"I know, Tim. I wish I could have met her too, she's here in spirit though and this is your big day!" Karen responded with slightly feigned optimism as she glanced quickly at me and continued to drive the little car through the late afternoon traffic.

Looking out at the Mojave Desert now as we drove, I suddenly got the impression that I must be a bit emotionally hung-over at the moment. Losing Mom, getting divorced and buying the condo all within the span of two years seemed to take some sort of emotional toll on me, individually as well as collectively.

I'd always planned, at some point in life, to buy a get-away condo in Nevada even before I married Susan yet it still felt like I was going through a mid-life crisis to some degree - especially now that my marriage was over and Mom was really gone. The end of my marriage really didn't bother me that much I reflected; in all honesty it had ended long ago. Losing Mom was something else entirely.

She had been Christened Lovisa Svea Olofsson in the year 1927 , "Lovey" to her close friends, and she had been as beautiful as her name had sounded. The carnival photo of her in her late twenties flashed through my mind for the millionth time. And for the millionth time I could not fathom why she had hated that photo to the degree in which she had. Twice I had rescued the photo out of the trash bin over the years, thankful she had not torn it to pieces. I've never been a sentimentalist but Mom's "Carnival photo" was now on the opening page of my cell-phone and it always would be.

Olofsson had been her name until the old man had come along. I shook my head in wonderment...

Karen was shaking my arm slightly; we were stopped at a red light now I noticed.

"Are you sure you're ok Tim? You haven't heard a thing I've said have you?"

Rubbing my forehead slightly I said "No, sorry Karen. Guess I was lost in thought."

The light turned green and we sped off from the traffic signal.

"Your experiencing some sticker-shock I think Tim, its normal after purchasing a piece of property. It'll pass quickly my friend." Karen assured me as she looked over her left shoulder and changed lanes without signaling

We arrived at the insurance brokerage at exactly four forty five and Karen quickly screeched to a parking spot and jumped out of the car with her briefcase.

"C'mon, hurry Tim; Lisa is waiting on us right now!" Karen exclaimed.

I was almost running by the time I caught up with Karen in the parking lot and when I did she turned to me briefly and made a silent motion with her arm as if to say "HURRY UP!" We then briskly climbed six or seven cement steps and entered the massive office building.

A high ceiling and polished marble floors greeted us upon entry and a large decorative stone water fountain sat in the center of the huge lobby. The water gently cascading down the fountain's sculpted masonry and into the pool below which gave the large open space of the lobby a touch of solitude and tranquility I noticed.

Following close behind in the wake of Karen's perfume and fast paced echoing heels we walked quickly passed the fountain and towards the elevator banks which were adorned with more masonry and polished steel. Without saying anything Karen pushed the elevator button and dug out her cell-phone and after a few swipes of the screen, spoke into the device "In the lobby, five minutes" she then pushed 'Send' and returned the phone to her breast pocket. We stood motionless together watching the digital numbers for each consecutive floor of the elevator's downward progress.

The lobby was mostly empty now I noticed as Karen began tapping her toe impatiently, she glanced quickly at her watch and made a verbal huff while simultaneously flipping her long hair backward and out of her eyes with an overly dramatic gesture, as if that would somehow speed up the elevator car's arrival. Karen then shook her head in disgust and moaned "C'MON!" I stood gazing at our reflection in the polished steel doors and said nothing.

_________________ 2 _____________________

Karen was practically dragging me by the hand as we stepped out of the elevator and made a sharp left hand turn down a huge hallway and passed dark and vacant offices with elaborately scripted logos etched onto their front windows. I was suddenly reminded that it was, after all, five o clock Friday.

Walking another forty feet farther, Karen made another abrupt left hand turn and led me into a lighted office with "McGowan & Associates" ornately stenciled on the entryway glass. Without letting go of my hand Karen put her briefcase onto a vacant chair and held out her hand to the only occupant in the office.

"LISA! Thank you so much for waiting on us! The elevators in this building are horribly slow I'm afraid."

Lisa, a very lithe and slender blonde, around five feet, three inches tall and sporting a thick mane of grey/blonde hair that hung slightly past her shoulders was around sixty I guessed and dressed very similar to Karen. The ladies shook hands and then briefly hugged.

"You look GREAT Karen! No trouble at all, I'm here until six o clock, anyway, on Fridays. This must be Tim!" Lisa said holding out her hand for me to shake.

Taking Lisa's hand and receiving a firm handshake I looked into large, inquisitive ice blue eyes and detected a hint of exotic perfume. Lisa then tilted her head back and looking up at me, gave a sardonic half smile and said

"I just got off the phone with Patti a few minutes ago; she speaks highly of you and sends warm regards."

Lisa's eyes never wavered and seemed to be watching for my reaction to her statement. After a long second she released my hand but her eyes never left mine. She was gorgeous and I was a bit self conscious all of a sudden.

"Patti Anderson in Anchorage, you know her? Real-Estate Patti you mean? I asked and then glanced quickly at Karen.

"That's the one, I've been in this business for over thirty years and after a while you get to know everyone." Lisa responded as she waved her left hand in an all encompassing gesture.

I noticed there wasn't a wedding ring on the hand.

"Patti is the one that set up my first meeting with Karen when I got serious about buying a condo here. I trust Patti implicitly and so I trust the both if you." I said earnestly and glanced at Karen again.

"Thank you, I appreciate your confidence Tim, and I know Karen does as well, we'll try to help you as much as we can." Lisa said as she looked at Karen.

"Patti is a good lady and one of the best Real-Estate agents in the business Tim; I don't blame you for having a crush on her either." Karen chimed-in smiling.

Now I was blushing and I could feel it. Patti was one of three women in my life that I had fallen in love with - on the spot, twenty some years ago. Her feelings for me weren't mutual but we'd shared a lot of adventures together and I cherished her friendship. Patti and I could talk about anything together and I genuinely respected her opinion on things. Suggesting Karen as my Real-Estate agent in Nevada was one of them.

After offering us coffee, Lisa then walked behind her polished steel desk with its glass top and motioned for Karen and I to take the two seats facing her desk. Karen and I sat down as Lisa began tapping on her computer keyboard.

The tinted window to Lisa's back was massive and went from floor to ceiling, providing her with a magnificent view of Las Vegas below; I also noticed a large memorabilia calendar depicting semi trucks that was hanging on the westward wall of her office. On the opposite wall was a large framed photograph capturing the side profile of a P-40E Flying Tiger in flight, the shark's mouth and eye painted on the airplane's nose section was scowling menacingly while the pilot of the aircraft, wearing his helmet and goggles, looked directly into the camera of the photographer. Obviously the photograph of the World War Two fighter had been taken at a relatively recent air show, cultivated farmland could be seen far below in the photo and the weather conditions looked perfect for flying. The photograph was perfect for day dreaming whenever Lisa wanted to be somewhere else other than her office I imagined.

Almost any other time I would have commented on Lisa's choice in adorning her office with semi trucks and combat aircraft, I possessed a little knowledge concerning both subjects but I really didn't want to start a conversation regarding another subject. Presently I was exhausted and just wanted to finish what we were doing here so Karen and I could leave. I did silently wonder if Lisa was a pilot, herself, though.

For the next hour the ladies and I sent e-mails, faxes and made phone calls to God knows where. Lisa tapped on her computer and I signed my name on several forms and answered verbal questions. I really had no idea what I was signing but simply relied on my faith in Patti's judgment on selecting Karen as my Real-Estate agent and now Karen's judgment in choosing Lisa for the home owners insurance. I knew that when I had some time in the near future that I would call Patti and kind of check-up on Lisa's character but I had no doubt that she was on the level and honest, especially since Patti and Lisa apparently knew each other.

Finally at a quarter to six o clock we were done. The sensation for me was very similar to that of a hygienist letting me up and out of her chair after cleaning and polishing my teeth for an hour. Presently Lisa began tidying up her desk as she rattled off numbers and quotes for me to consider in the near future concerning my home owners insurance.

"Do you understand your policy better now Tim?" Lisa asked.

"No Lisa, that's why I have you and Karen, because I don't understand any of this, as I mentioned earlier, I trust Patti implicitly so I now trust both you and Karen as well." I said to Lisa.

I then asked "May we walk you out to your car?"

Lisa replied quickly with "Yes please, let's get out of here; there's an espresso stand just down the street that we could walk to also if the two of you would care to have a coffee - on me."

Karen glanced briefly at her watch and said "We have time for a quickie before Tim and I have to go to the condo meeting, Lisa."

Looking at me with a dimpled smile from across her desk, Lisa then asked

"Is a quickie with two ladies ok with you Tim?"

All three of us laughed at Lisa's innuendo.

"Considering the company that I'm presently in, yes." I replied smiling.

______________________ 3 ______________________

The outside air and sunshine was an oasis to all three of us and I felt my energy level rise immediately after getting out of the stuffy office building. A slight evening breeze was blowing through the city and as the ladies and I went down the cement steps of the insurance brokerage I honestly wondered how anyone could work inside an office building and push paper all day.

Lisa guided us as we began to stroll down the sidewalk towards the espresso stand with me walking between Lisa and Karen; both ladies had donned stylish sunglasses and were somehow even more stunning to me now that the three of us were outside in the open air and in motion.

As we continued down the busy street Lisa and Karen were still "talking shop" which left me completely out of the loop but I didn't care, I was just glad to be out in the fresh air again and neither of the ladies were hard to look at or bad company.

We approached a section on the sidewalk devoted to street vendors selling hotdogs, burritos and various other food stuffs. My guess was that the vendors made a very good living catering to the office crowd from the surrounding buildings within the vicinity. We then stopped in front of a coffee cart with a mouth watering aroma of coffee emanating from it.

"Tim, this is Maria and she owns the best damn coffee cart this side of Colombia, Maria this is Tim, a friend of Karen and mine and also a new client." Lisa said, introducing me to a very attractive and petite Latina around thirty five years of age.

I shook hands with Maria and received a warm smile in return.

"Hello Maria, I'm pleased to meet you and rather surprised that you're still open at this hour." I said.

In a Spanish dialect Maria replied with "It is the tourist season Tim, I will be here until six o clock tonight."

Lisa and Karen both ordered lattes and I chose a light roast that was on the overhead menu of Maria's cart. After taking our orders, Maria began making our coffees and chatting to Karen about a recent trip Maria had taken to Mexico City that summer.

"What's the matter Tim, don't you like smoothies? I would have thought that a man of your caliber would have a real taste for them." Lisa said looking up at me and smiling.

The ice blue eyes were now hidden behind mirrored sunglasses and I wasn't sure if Lisa was making a simple observation or if the question was loaded with innuendo.

"I guess it all depends on the mood I'm in Lisa." I replied in earnestness to whichever way the question had been intended.

Lisa laughed at my reply and then, switching subjects said "You're in very good physical shape Tim; Karen tells me that you really enjoy the outdoors and fitness."

"I bicycle a lot, Lisa, and I also like to hike some. My job can be physically demanding as well at times and so are some of my hobbies." I said in reply.

"What hobbies are those?"

Lisa asked as our conversation was briefly interrupted by Karen, handing Lisa and I our coffees.

Without saying anything, Karen turned back towards the espresso stand and continued her conversation with Maria.

"I tinker with old cars and build hot rods, late nineteen thirty and early forties stuff, coups, mostly." I said to Lisa as I took a sip of my coffee.

I explained to Lisa the process of first locating a vintage relic, acquiring it and then modifying it with a modern power train. I then elaborated on the difference between a "Hot Rod" and "Rat Rod" and what some of the options for a build were and a few of the physical and time consuming, labor intensive jobs that were involved.

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