tagRomancePaul's Goblins

Paul's Goblins


"Calling all Goblins."

It was a cheerful, deep-toned voice, and Laurie turned her attention away from the chore of trying to find the ripest melon on the stack in the produce bins to taking a straight shot look down the cereal aisle. There a good-looking young man was gathering in three racing young boys, ranging, it appeared, from the age of three up to five. He held two boxes of cereal in his hands and apparently was opening the choice up for a vote.

The vote, of course, was split—and changeable in response to noisy argumentation—and the man gave a shrug and shoved both boxes in his cart. He cheerfully ignore the middle boy's plea for a third brand of cereal, and they urchin gave up too easily for it to be a life-and-death request.

Laurie smiled in spite of herself. She had just been nursing a scowl as she went over the recent breakup with Pete in her mind. And seeing the three young boys interacting with the man in the cereal aisle so easily and happily had made a bittersweet connection with Pete that made her watch the cereal box transaction with added interest.

They'd almost made it all the way—Pete and her. Of course, from Pete's perspective he'd made it all the way with her. Several times. But they'd almost tied the knot. And then she found out how little she knew about him, and, upon reflection, had realized that the marriage talks had all been by her. Yes, he planned to stay in the service. And, yes, this meant he would be deploying to some combat zone or other every couple of years. And, the clincher, no, he didn't want them to have children. He wanted Laurie all to himself, or so he said—with tying the knot being all that necessary. That is, he wanted Laurie available when it was convenient for him to be around.

She had taken the break hard, and her best friend, Susan, hadn't really been helpful.

"He's a skunk. I told you that time and time again." (Laurie couldn't remember any such thing. What she remembered Susan say was that Pete was a real hunk.) "You're not getting any younger, you know, Laurie. If you want to start a family, you need to stop sulking in that party store you're working in and get out of the apartment more. Go to concerts. You always liked going to concerts—before Pete showed up. That should have been your first clue. That he didn't like concerts. He didn't want to be seen with you outside your bedroom."

And then, the worst part, she'd gone on to say, "And I've got just the guy for you to meet."

That was the first time—but not the last—that Laurie had just hung the phone up on Susan. Thank god they were such good friends that Susan didn't take that as an insult.

The young man was coming down the cereal aisle, toward her, pushing a cart, with the youngest of the boys sitting in the basket, and the other two hanging off on either side. All three boys were chanting, "Oreos. Oreos. We want Oreos." The oldest of the boys broke off to say, "You said we could get cookies, Paul. We want Oreos."

The young man winked and smiled at Laurie as he rounded the end of the aisle and started up the next one. She involuntarily smiled back. The scenario was making her feel happy. That wasn't fair. She hated grocery shopping and tried to schedule it when she was in high dungeon and wanted to sling things around. Just before she'd heard the man call of an assembly of goblins, she'd been hefty the melons and contemplating heaving one through the store's front window. She'd blame it on Pete Stansberry when they clicked the handcuffs on her wrists.

And the man and his kids had ruined all of that. One of the boys had called him Paul. How comfortable the man's kids must be—and easygoing he was—for them to be able to call him by his first name.

"Lead the way, Ronny," the man called out in a rich baritone voice with laugh lines in it as the group pulled away from her in the canned goods aisle. "If you can find an Oreo in this pumpkin patch, I'll buy it for you."

Laurie felt the "harumpf" rise up from her belly. Why was she stuck with the Petes of the world when there was a rare Paul out there? Pete and Paul. The phrase "robbing Peter to pay Paul" entered her mind. If only. Life wasn't fair. She turned her gaze back to the stack of melons, hefted a larger one than she'd ever need for eating alone, and gauged the distance between the produce stand and the store's front window.

The word "goblins" surfaced in her mind. She didn't have time to sit around for the police to arrive and arrest her for vandalism. She had to be back at the party costume and favors store she worked in in another hour. Halloween was approaching. There was too much to do—more than she could do from a jail cell.

She plunked the melon in her cart rather than what she'd wanted to do with it, and turned the cart toward the checkout stations. That was all the grumpy shopping for her today. Paul and his goblins had ruined a perfectly good pout session.

* * * *

The next time Laurie saw Paul and the boys was at a choral concert at a church. Laurie didn't really go to church, but Susan had dragged her out. It was a municipal chorus and just using the church sanctuary, Susan had said, because it was a big hall with a wide, deep stage in front. The choir was big and they'd be singing Mozart's Requiem. Laurie loved the piece and hadn't heard it in years. Susan had used just the right bait to get her out of the apartment. Susan had even said that her own Steve had bailed out on her at the last minute and the extra ticket would go to waste if Laurie didn't use it.

What Laurie glimpsed in the church corridor was the back of Paul at the door to the room where people who had brought kids could corral them for safe keeping. She would have recognized the three little goblins anywhere, squirming around and laughing just as they had been doing in the grocery store. One had called out the name "Paul," which had been what had gotten her attention.

Susan had immediately grasped her arm and swung her around to move toward the door into the sanctuary. "It's going to be crowded," she said. "If we want good seats, we have to fight the teaming masses for them."

Once in, Susan let Laurie find seats, and Laurie, without even thinking about it, settled in ones with a good view of the door they'd entered into the sanctuary.

"Looking for someone in particular?" Susan asked after a few minutes.

"No, of course not," Laurie replied. "Who would I be looking for?"

"Prince Charming perhaps," Susan said, with a little laugh. "This would certainly be a better place to find him than where you had found Pete. On the loading dock behind your store, wasn't it?"

"Be nice," Laurie had said. But it was with a distant voice. She was looking hard at the door and then scanning the crowd, thinking she must have missed his entrance. Wanting, she told herself, to see what woman had landed such a cheerful hunk and given her three children, each a year apart. Thinking of what that meant about the man and his probable virility gave her chills. She wanted not to understand why, but of course she did.

But he was not to be seen in the hall by the time the lights went down and the choir began to file onto the stage.

"My god, there he is," Laurie couldn't help blurting out. And then paid the price.

"Who? Prince Charming?"

"Just stop it, Susan."

"Which one?" Susan asked. Again that little laugh.

Laurie felt defeated. "The one at the front of the stage," she whispered in a tired voice. "Obviously one of the soloists. The one all the way on the right."

"My god, girl, you aim high, don't you? Might as well, of course. According to the program, his name isn't Prince Charming, it's—"


"Yes, Paul Wilson. He certainly is a hunk. You'll have to introduce him to me."

"He hasn't been introduced to me yet. And he's married and has a passel of kids. This is just window shopping and 'was dumped' wishful thinking, Susan."

"And he's one fine example of window dressing. I say go for him, married or not."

"Please just stop, Susan. There's nothing in it."

"Uh huh, right," Susan said. That little, irritating laugh again. "You have such a thing about 'no married men.'"

Laurie descended into a depressing pout. But she couldn't stay there. Paul Wilson's baritone solos and ensemble work were so divine that she . . . just . . . couldn't . . . hold a grump.

* * * *

Laurie had no choice in the matter of going to the Halloween party, she was determined that this wouldn't be a happy time in her life, and she definitely would have come up with an excuse not to go if she'd known she was going to have a good time there.

She really had little choice about going. The party was an adult one—but certainly not one where there was meant to be any hanky-panky going on. It was sponsored by the holiday costume and party accessories store Laurie worked for and was held in the store's party room. The idea was to get parents to buy their urchins' Halloween costumes and party supplies from the store, and those attending were given discount coupons to use on costume purchases. Even with the discount, the store made a killing on sales this way. Beyond that, many of the adults who attended rented or bought their own costumes from the store, so there was money to be made that way.

The store provided a cake, popcorn, and apples to bob for, and some background dance music. Dancing was not expected, but this year, for some reason, that seemed to be the most popular activity at the party.

Laurie came dressed as Little Bo Peep. She, of course, didn't have to pay rental on the costume, which was one of the fanciest ones the store had on offer. That might be why she was the woman most in demand on the dance floor. Not to say, of course, that Laurie wasn't a good-looking woman. She most certainly was—especially when she let her strawberry blonde hair down and wore something that pushed her breasts up and had a plunging neckline.

She was being manhandled a bit more than she really wanted to be by a Zombie, who kept forgetting one of his arms was supposed to be swinging dead rather than latching its hand on her buttocks, when the Phantom of the Opera thankfully cut in on the unwelcome grope.

So, he started out in Prince Charming mode.

He hummed as they danced to soft waltzes and pulled her ever closer into him. For some reason Laurie didn't mind where his hand wandered like she had the Zombie's, and he was holding her so close that she could feel the interest and need of him, one that was sending chills up her back and making her wet. She didn't feel like a slut, though. She felt like she was just receiving her due after a long, dry period in Pete's absence.

Maybe it was because of the richness of his humming set against the Zombie's beer breath. All she knew was that, to her surprise, she was disappointed when the party was coming to a close, and the Phantom had vanished. Of course, she reasoned, that's what phantoms were supposed to do, and the effect he'd had on her probably had everything to do with how long since she'd had a man inside her. Pete might have been a dumb cluck, but he did manage to take care of her needs in that department quite well. And once having been taken care of that way, a woman naturally expected to be able to continue to enjoy that sort of attention.

The best Laurie could do, though, was too take her "special friend" to bed with her that night and fantasize about the Phantom opening his cape while they were dancing close, to reveal a strong, muscular—and naked body—underneath. And then to gather her close to him in his arms, to lift her and lower her onto his manhood, and for the two of them to sway there together against each other to the tune of some Hoagie Carmichael song or other, while other dancers swirled around them, totally unaware that they were coupling until the tension built and built and . . .

Well, scientifically speaking, it had worked, but she was too smart to even try to argue with herself that it was sufficient.

The next day, in what was becoming an increasingly thin excuse for coincidence, Paul Wilson and the goblins entered the store to pick out Halloween costumes for the little tykes. Of course Paul had a coupon to help cover the cost and a very nice—if studiously innocent—smile for Laurie as she rang up the sale, having to try to correctly get the cash register to open multiple times because her hands were trembling so much.

"And what about a costume for you, Mr. Wilson?" she managed to say in a wavering tone she'd never heard herself speak before. She now was able to call him Mr. Wilson to his face because she'd seen the name on the credit card he gave her. Of course she couldn't be so forward as to call him Paul. They still hadn't been introduced—at least not properly.

"Oh, I won't be needing a costume," he answered, giving her dazzling smile.

And what the hell does that mean, Laurie thought. And yes, she had been testing him out on whether he had a Phantom of the Opera costume. It only now hit her that that hum last night had been far too rich and trained—and familiar in tone.

Just as she started to try to think of ways to keep him in the store and smiling at her, though, the goblins were more than ready to go on to their reward at the ice cream parlor, and they were bustling out of the door and leaving Laurie in breathless silence.

"Shit," she said out loud and reached for the telephone. "Susan, what the hell have you been up to? I told you not to mess around with me on the boyfriend shopping thing."

"I haven't the slightest notion what you're talking about, sweetie," was Susan's "butter-wouldn't-melt-in-her-mouth" reply.

* * * *

Laurie was kept so busy in the store in the days leading up to Halloween that she didn't even think about the time going by without another "coincidental" meeting with Paul Wilson and the goblins. Which, of course, was a lie. She constantly wondered when the next "accidental" sighting would be. It ate her up so much that she tracked Susan down in person to quiz her on the schedule.

"I told you I haven't the slightest notion what you're talking about on a campaign with this Paul Wilson, Laurie," Susan answered.

"Yes, but—"

"No 'yes, but' about it, honey. You latched onto the man all by yourself. I had you matched up with Kevin Turner."

"Kevin Turner? The plumber?"

"Kevin Tuner, the toilet bowl king of three counties, sweetie. The man's rolling in—"

"Let's not go into what the man's rolling in, Susan. I thought you liked me?"

"I see you driving a Mercedes. What's not to like about that?"

"And you weren't working on setting me up with Paul Wilson?"

"No, I'm sorry to say. You one upped me there. But once I saw that you were working on reeling him in, I dropped the idea of Kevin Turner altogether. It's been all your own work, sweetie."

"But I haven't been doing any work on it," Laurie wailed. "I thought you—"

"Don't know the man. But if you want me to help trap him for you—"

But Laurie had shut down. She'd let one get away entirely on misassumptions. But she'd been a fool. Three kids. The guy was married. She wouldn't have anything to do with that. And now she was even more bummed. She'd thought that Susan and Paul were working this. That had made her mad, of course. But now that she knew that they weren't . . . she was completely lost and adrift. she had, of course, been counting on Susan.

Two more days passed up toward Halloween, and there had been no appearance by the Wilson crew. She got more and more despondent each day. So despondent was she that, on the afternoon of Halloween, she had to go out and buy a new batch of candy to give away at the door that night. The first batch had become an unsuccessful attempt at comfort food. She'd always enjoyed that part, the giving out of the Halloween candy at the door. That had been what had made going to work at the costume store an ideal job for her. She loved seeing the little kiddies come to her door all dressed up, their eyes big with anticipation, wanting her to guess correctly who they were impersonating.

This year her heart wasn't into it, however, and though she answered the door promptly, smiled wanly, and handed out treats graciously, she didn't spend the time she usually did in examining the costumes and discussing with the children who they were pretending to be. This had always been a highlight of the evening for her—and for the children as well.

Thus, she almost failed to recognize the costumes of Paul's goblins when they came to her door. It was only when she looked up and saw, standing down the hall, the man in the Phantom of the Opera costume that she realized that the connection again was being made.

She froze as he walked forward, stooped and put his arms around the middle goblin and asked, in that rich baritone voice of his, "What have you got there, Trent? Did you thank the nice lady?"

When Laurie closed the door and stood against it, trying to catch her breath, she almost didn't believe that Paul had looked up then and said, "After I get these goblins home, would it be possible for me to come back and thank the lady too?"

What had she told him? She couldn't remember. Oh, god, she was trembling so badly.

* * * *

Paul was her other half—that one other half out there in the world to make her sexually complete. She somehow knew that he would be. She lay on her side on her bed, her buttocks cupped into his groin. He inside her, moving slowly, massively, meltingly. They were one, meant to be a pair. He seemed to realize it as much as she did. He was kneading a breast and toying with a nipple with one hand and had the index of the other hand moving in her folds, giving her intimate attention there that wasn't as possible from a rear approach as from the front.

Not that they hadn't already done the frontal approach, each tearing at the clothes of the other, in mutual high heat, neither questioning what they wanted, what they intended to have. He had laid her on her back at the foot of the bed, his tongue working its way down the hollow of her neck, her breasts, and belly and teasing and working her at the center until she moaned for him to rise up over her, invade her, and pump her vigorously with the virility and staying power that could produce three children in as many year.

Not that there would be children from this. She had insisted on precautions, and he hadn't made demands. Not with a married man. She would only abandon so many principles—even with a man this beautiful and forceful and . . . Oh, my, she was exploding again.

"We can't do this again," she whispered, her voice full of regret as she lay cupped into his body, feeling him go flaccid inside her.

"Oh, are you too tired after those two. I was hoping for—"

"No, it's not that. I feel like a slut. You, a married man, with those darling little goblins of yours. They obviously worship you and depend on you. I just can't."

He laughed. She became incensed and tried to pull away from him. But he held her tight in his embrace. And to her pleasure-laced dismay, she felt him coming alive inside her again.

"It's not funny, damn it," she growled.

"Oh, yes it is. I'm not married. Those aren't my kids. I just help my cousin with them."

"Your cousin?"

"Yes, they're a handful for Rachel to take care of alone. She needs some time alone, and some help with the marketing. I'm sure you can understand that they would be a challenge, even as precious as they are. Her husband, Peter, is off to service in Afghanistan again. Obdurate military. He goes off on two-year tours at the drop of the hat. The longest time he has been home can be seen in the age spans of the little urchins. But I love them. Hope to have a passel of them myself one day."

"Peter, you say."

"Yes, Peter Stansberry. Or Sarg, as we all have to call him—when we salute."

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