She remarked, "I've read that women seem to want sex more when they get to their late thirties or early forties."
"So I've heard. Why are we talking about this?"
"I don't know," she answered, more to herself than to me.
"You're unhappy, aren't you, Sarah? You don't have to tell me why, but if it will make you feel better, I'll listen."
She gave me a shy grin. "How much do you charge for a session, Dr. Croswell?"
"No charge. Professional courtesy. Now, tell me as much or as little as you want," I said.
"Maybe we can talk while you drive me back to my car. I should try to get some sleep tonight."
Sarah was quiet for most of the trip back to her office building.
"Where do you live?" I asked.
"Twenty minutes up the highway from here. I would drive past your hotel on my way to Owens' building if I came straight from home. Should I pick you up in the morning?" she asked.
"Meet me in my lobby at eight. We'll have breakfast and then I'll drive us to the plant.
"Ooh, I'm going to meet an older man at his hotel again. Sounds naughty," she laughed.
"Breakfast and work sound naughty? You don't get out much, do you?"
"I was raised to work hard. It's what I do. Anything out of my routine can seem like an adventure to me," she said.
In the parking garage of her building, Sarah got out of my car, but leaned in to say, "See you in the morning!" I got a quick close-up of her chest when she did that, and a nice view of her legs when she climbed into her minivan.
The next morning, Sarah was waiting in the lobby when I came off the elevator. As promised, she was dressed in slacks with a matching blazer, over a light sweater. If she was trying to cover up her good looks, she failed miserably. Even in this outfit, she was very attractive. Her height and those long, long legs were simply accentuated by the full-cut trousers she wore, and, if anything, I got a better appreciation of her trim torso and entertaining bust line. With her hair pulled back and held in a pale blue clip that matched her eyes, she looked even better than she had the day before. Even more desirable.
"Good morning," I called.
"Hi!" Sarah smiled, turning to greet me. "Ready for breakfast?"
"Sure." We walked toward the restaurant.
The place was set up as a buffet. We got trays, and she took a lo-cal blueberry muffin, a grapefruit half, and black coffee. I almost felt guilty piling my plate with scrambled eggs, sausage, and "hash browns," but that's what I felt like eating.
"No wonder you look the way you do," I remarked as I buttered a piece of toast.
"What? This?" she asked as she picked a bit off the muffin and popped it in her mouth.
"Yes. I thought we were having breakfast. I feel like a glutton, sitting across from you."
Sarah laughed. "You said last night you wanted to know more about me. Here's something I wouldn't tell just anyone. I made French toast for the kids this morning before they left on the school bus. I make damn good French toast. I had some nice, crisp bacon with it. It's okay, I did my miles on the treadmill after I got home last night."
"I see you wore slacks today."
"Yeah. That creep doesn't need to be looking at my legs like he did," she said.
"You'll break his heart," I teased.
"Do I look okay in this outfit, Don?"
I looked at her between sips of my orange juice. I wanted to tell her that she would probably look great even in a burka, but instead, I said, "I think you look just fine. I like what you did with your hair. If you were going for business professional, I'd say you pulled it off."
"I wanted to look a little more severe today, you know, hair tied back, ready to start digging. Maybe these will help." She fumbled in her bag, pulled out a pair of reading glasses, and perched them far down on her nose. "I decided to give the eyes a rest from contact lenses today. I have my prescription sunglasses for driving and these for work."
The glasses certainly completed the look, if she wanted to resemble the librarian that gave all the guys wood in high school. "Perfect," I deadpanned.
We worked non-stop that day, eating delivered pizza in the conference room. It was almost six o'clock when Owens appeared in the doorway. "Should I start another small project? Or are you two about ready to call it a day?" he asked, still wearing that painted-on, cheerful, lecherous smile.
"Are you at a good stopping point, Ms. Blevins?" I asked, saving my file and closing my laptop.
There was something in her eyes when she spoke. "Might as well," she replied. She packed up her materials.
As Owens ushered us through the door, he said, "Lovely outfit, Ms. Blevins. Is it a designer I should know? Even these loose, non-tailored styles look good on a body like yours. Maybe it's the sweater."
Sarah gathered herself to her impressive full height and gave him an icy stare. "Clearance racks at the mall last year, if you must know. You are starting to be inappropriate, Mr. Owens. Good day." She strode off in the direction of the car.
"Owens, think about the laws we have these days about harassment, and the court cases. You already have enough problems. I'll let your secretary know when we'll be back," I said, as I turned to catch up to Sarah.
She threw herself in the car as soon as I unlocked it, and already had her seat-belt on by the time I opened my door.
"Get me out of here."
"Sarah, that bastar...." I began.
"Drive, please. I'd like to have a drink. And then I'll buy you as many as you want. I'm going to have to drive home. You just have to get on the elevator."
"Why are we drinking?" I asked.
"Hush. I need to look up a few things," she said as she worked with her phone.
I drove to the hotel in silence, parked the car, and turned off the engine.
After a moment, Sarah said, "Can you wait a minute or so?"
"Of course." The car made its muted cool-down noises, and Sarah's nails clicked on her screen.
"Okay," she said with a grin, putting her phone away. "Now, yes, let's have a drink. I need to talk to you."
We found a quiet booth and placed our order. "I'm waiting for someone to get back to me," she said, "but let me tell you what I do know. I understand the real reason his wife is divorcing him."
"The payments to their former housekeeper, that Jamaican woman," I said.
Sarah replied, "I think there's more. Everyone knows he cheated once. That' on record. It was when he started leering at me that I decided to look for more of that sort of nonsense. After all, he's been making those payments to the Jamaican for almost fifteen years. That's a long time for a man who has strayed once before. Besides, there seem to be company expenditures that could be similar to the support payments he's already making privately."
"Company expenditures?" I repeated. "Did you find anything concrete?"
"When my friend gets back to me, we'll know if I'm right."
"Owens really pissed you off back there, didn't he?" I asked.
"Yes, he did. Dammit, I'm not that kind of woman. I'm certainly not dressing to seduce some slimy little man like that. Hell, I don't even have sex!"
Her words hung in the air for a moment before she realized what she had said.
"With someone like him, I mean! I can't believe I just said that!"
"He really offended you. Do you want to pursue it?"
"What, take legal action against him? Hopefully, it won't be worth it when his wife's attorney is done. Besides, Tim would never understand."
"What do you mean?"
"He would probably think I had done something to entice the pig."
"You haven't," I said.
"I'm certainly not trying to. That's not who I am. I'm not comfortable being sexual in public. I'm not sexual, am I? Be honest, Don."
"Do you feel sexual?" I asked.
She looked down, played with the ice in her drink for a moment, and then looked at me again. "Am I talking to Dr. Croswell now?" she grinned.
"Is it better if you do?"
"If I see it that way, then I can answer you. No, I don't feel sexual, not usually, anyway."
"You mean, not in public," I said.
"Hoo, boy, honesty time. No, I mean I don't feel sexual at all, anywhere, usually. Why am I talking about this?"
"You need some private time with your husband," I said.
"I try that. I manage to get five minutes of affection every once in a while."
"He's actually said that he does it to please me, but he's finished in no time, so I fake it so he can get some sleep," she said.
"Sarah, I don't know what to say."
"It's okay, mostly. He's the father of my children, so obviously we've had some sex."
"How long has it been, if you don't mind me asking?"
"Believe it or not, no, I don't mind. It was when the kids were at my parents' place for the weekend about three months ago," she said. "I guess that's a long time."
"It would be, for some people," I answered.
She continued, "He usually won't do anything if the kids are home, even if they're sound asleep. Their rooms are upstairs, and we have motion-sensor nightlights all over the place for safety, just in case someone wanders. We would easily see the light under the bedroom door, and we would lock it anyway, but he doesn't think it's worth the risk."
I said, "To a degree, I see his point, but you two should be able to work around it. Give the kids a gold star or something if they stay upstairs, and then some reward when they earn enough."
Sarah shrugged. "The kids already stay upstairs. It's probably been three years since either one of them has gotten out of bed in the middle of the night, and that was only when we all had the flu. Tim's just not that into sex, I guess."
"You are?" I asked.
"Wow, pretty direct with the questions, there, Dr. Croswell!" she laughed.
"No, I guess not. If I actually dragged Tim to counseling or something, they'd probably ask the same thing. So, I guess the answer is yes. I do like sex. Or, at least, I think I do. Or would. I can't believe I'm saying this,..." she trailed off.
"I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying you think you should like sex, but you're not sure if you do?"
Sarah's phone rang. "It's Tim," she said.
Finished with dinner, I excused myself to give her privacy to talk. She was just hanging up when I came back to the table.
"Problem?" I asked.
"No, just an update from the home front. The kids are getting ready for bed, and Tim's going to watch one of his stupid war movies," she replied.
We sipped our drinks quietly for a minute. Then she said, "I'm going to try to answer your last question. I think I like sex, but I feel like I should enjoy it more. See, Tim's the only man I've ever been with. We saved ourselves for our wedding night."
"Stop being so clinical, Doctor," she chuckled.
"I'm sorry. I'm just not used to learning this much from a work colleague. Okay, you gave each other your virginity on your honeymoon."
"Yes, we were both raised to wait, and we did. I guess that's good," she said.
"Well, sure, you shared, you expressed your emotional love physically, and you learned together how to bring each other pleasure," I said.
"See, that's the thing," she responded. "I'm not sure how much we've learned."
"What do you mean?"
"Do I have to say it out loud? All right, fine. I've never had an orgasm from sex. I've never had an orgasm with Tim in almost nineteen years of marriage. I've faked it every time."
"Sarah, some women have a lot of difficulty achieving a strictly vaginal-based orgasm. As long as he's satisfying you in some way,..."
"But he's not. That's another problem," she said.
"What about manual stimulation, or oral?" I asked.
"He spends a couple of seconds rubbing around down there, and then he's ready to go. Tim doesn't do oral. He says it's not clean, and that it's disgusting. I even tried to do it to him, since I've heard guys like it a lot. I thought maybe he wouldn't be so hung up about it if I did it first, but he pushed me away and wouldn't even kiss me for a couple of days."
"There must be something you two can do to make things better," I said. "How long has it been this way?"
"Tim said early-on in our marriage that he thought maybe sex wasn't exciting for him because he was afraid of an unwanted pregnancy. When we decided to start a family, I got pregnant right away. He was thrilled when I told him, but he wouldn't touch me until after our daughter was born. It was the same thing with our son."
"Do you think that's why you have so little sex now? Fear of getting you pregnant?"
"Hardly. We talked about it way back when we were in high school. We wanted two kids, period. When our son was born, we discussed it again, and I had my tubes tied. So no, that's definitely not it."
"So, there's no physical intimacy between you two?"
"We always hug and kiss when we get home, and we make it a point to give a kiss good-bye, even if we're just going to the convenience store down the street. He kisses me good-night, but it's pretty much the same kiss we give the kids. What's wrong with me? Am I that unattractive?" Sarah asked.
"You're very attractive, Sarah. A man would have to be blind to not see that.
"I wish that were his problem," she said. "I just think he doesn't like sex. I know he was raised to believe that sex is wrong unless it's for procreation."
"There were people in my generation who were raised that way," I said, "but I thought all that nonsense stopped with the Age of Aquarius, free love, and the whole 'If it feels good, do it' hedonism thing."
"Apparently not," she mused, "at least not in my house."
"I'm sorry. I don't know what to say," I replied.
"There's nothing TO say. Now, I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention this to anyone. The whole thing is pretty personal, you know."
"Of course. I would never reveal a secret told in confidence."
"I gather you like sex," she said.
"Well, yeah, I do," I answered. "It's not just the actual sex act, either – you know, penetration and orgasm. I like the whole intimacy thing, the foreplay, discovering ways to give and receive pleasure, and the after-play, if you will – the cuddling, the shower, whatever it is people do after sex. I enjoy all parts of making love with a woman."
"How do you make love to a woman?"
"Hmmm. I never had anyone ask me to lay it all out before. I guess it depends on whether we've been together before, or if it's going to be a new experience," I mused. "If she's a partner I've been with before, hopefully I already know what pleases her and what things she doesn't like. I build on that knowledge base."
"What if it's your first time with someone, or if the woman is inexperienced?" she asked.
"Inexperienced, as in she's a virgin? Or inexperienced, meaning she hasn't done all that much? I was with one virgin, way back in high school."
"Let's say she's not a virgin, but she's never had really satisfying sex," Sarah said.
I caught myself before I said, "I'll show you." Instead, I tried to make myself think in theoretical terms. Finally, I said, "I think I would start with something relatively benign, like holding her hand on a romantic walk, or over dinner or drinks."
"So, you're saying, the situation we're in right now could be the start of a seduction for you?"
"You mean, if you were holding my hand right now, it would mean we were headed for bed?"
"Not necessarily. Besides, you're a colleague, and you're married. I'm talking about a situation where both parties wanted sex, and were working their way up to it."
"How many women have you been with?"
"Hmm. I'd have to make a list, but I'd say around fifty."
"Fifty!" she exclaimed.
"Is this a research assignment? Do you want me to work on a list tonight?"
"Have you ever been with a married woman?"
"Yes, once," I admitted.
"What about the marriage vows? Didn't you feel like you were committing a sin?"
"I guess we were. She was separated from her husband and was in the process of a divorce, so maybe it could be argued that she wasn't really all that married any more. She initiated it, and we discussed the ramifications of adultery. By the time the subject came up, we were already naked, so we just did what we did."
Our conversation moved on to the discoveries we had made so far in poring over Owens' financial records.
Her phone rang. She greeted the caller, and then listened for a while, taking some quick notes. "Really?... Yeah.... You're kidding!... Oh, that slimy bastard!... Yes, send it all to me. I owe you. Talk to you later." She closed her phone again. "That was my contact. He turned up some very interesting information. Those consulting fees we saw? You know, the ones to parties we didn't recognize? The ones that happen on the first of every month?"
"Yeah?" I responded.
Her phone rang again. "Great," she grumbled. "Hi, Tim.... No, we're still working.... Uh huh.... Okay.... Well, I don't know.... I'm waiting for someone to send me some files.... I may just sleep on the couch in the office. You know I always keep an overnight bag and a change of clothes in the car.... Yeah, that way, I can keep working and still be at the plant early tomorrow.... All right.... Love you, too. Bye." She put her phone back in her purse.
"You were saying?" I prompted.
"Yes, the so-called consulting fees. One of them could be payment for services rendered and for ongoing silence. That money goes to an unlicensed abortion clinic."
"That's not all," Sarah said. "Another of those consulting fees gets laundered into a cash payment to a neighbor woman who has a six-year old son. She somehow got pregnant right after she moved in to her new house. The really shocking one, though, is to the parents of a girl who was fourteen when the payments started."
"Fourteen? Smiling Bill Owens has a child by a fourteen-year old girl?" I sputtered.
"It seems that way. I knew I didn't like the bastard," Sarah said.
"I didn't either, but I had no idea he was doing that kind of thing. How did you find all this out?"
"You probably don't want to know. Let's just say, if someone's skillful enough, or unscrupulous enough, they can hack into almost anything," she said.
I shook my head. "Owens, that greasy slime-ball! No wonder his wife wants to be done with him. But if this information was obtained in, shall we say, less than honorable ways, what are we going to do with it?"
"Not sure yet. Owens probably thinks he has his tracks well-covered," Sarah mused.
"Could be, but he's got to be nervous with us snooping around."
"What if we just don't talk to him for a day or two? Let him stew. We'll see if we can find a way to corroborate any of this through more legitimate channels," Sarah suggested.
"I did tell him I would call his secretary to schedule our next visit when you stormed off."
"Good. So, since we can't do anything until I get those files, let's have another drink," she said.
When our re-fills came, Sarah removed the clip from her hair and combed it out with her fingers. "Tell me what you do for foreplay with a woman," she said.
"It depends on the woman, of course, and what signals I'm getting from her. Usually, I like to be the one who gets her undressed. There are a lot of opportunities for teasing, touching, kissing, and just generally building sexual tension with that."
"Do you like your woman to undress you?"
"Sure. She has the same opportunities to help the build-up as I do."
"What do you do to the woman after you have her undressed?"
"I like to touch her, run my fingers all over her. Then I kiss her, starting on her mouth and working my way down."
"Do you perform oral sex on your women?"
"Yes. I love doing that, since most women seem to like having it done. Often, it's easier to bring a woman to multiple orgasms with my mouth than it is through genital-to-genital sex."