Without even looking up, Tara passed the sheet of paper to the next person. Her throat tightened, the nipples on her full breasts pebbled in her bra she, and there was a flood of dampness in the matching silk panties as she noted the coffee brown colour of the hand, which took the paper.
When the deep, smooth male voice responded, Tara's almost perfect little world fell apart. 'My name is Shaun Jackson. I'm the new regional director.'
Her heart skip more than a couple of beats as she shook the large hand that he stretched out towards her; hands that known her body intimately. He gripped her hand a tad firmly and for just a fraction longer than was necessary. 'And your name is?'
Short of quitting the job she loved and the career she had worked so hard to build, she had no real choice. "Tara. Tara Morgan."
The exceptional looking young black man nodded as an older man motioned for them to join the others. She was grateful when the man she knew was a senior vice president called the meeting to order. It would give her a brief reprieve to think more about this surprising turn of events before she had to face 'him' again. This time though he had a name - Shaun Jackson. He was also to be her boss's boss and they would be seeing one another daily.
It had been a hard few months. A year ago, she had weighed a portly one-hundred and sixty pounds. She had covered her roundness in tent like dresses. She knew that her weight was a physical representation of the emotional baggage with which religion and her marriage had saddled her. She was caught in a cycle of despair and comfort eating.
That had all changed one morning as she stepped from the shower. For the first time, she actually saw the woman that she had become. She had stood there so long examining each angle of her obese body that her son had been late to school. It was the beginning of a string of events that would change their lives forever.
After dropping her son at school, she had driven to the local mall and walked with resolve through the doors of the gym. She knew her husband would call it an unnecessary expense. She readily accepted that she might even pay for the luxury with bruises. But something had to change...and this was as good a place as any. Besides with his promotion to manager at the furniture store, finances were not as tight as they had been when their small family relied solely upon the merger offerings from the dozen or so people that came to hear him preach God's word.
Over the next few months, it became her daily routine. After dropping Joshua at school, she would drive to the mall and spend the next two hours working out. She had changed the family diet too. Gone was the fried chicken and cheese laden casseroles that had been a stable for so long. Instead she chose fresh fruits, vegetables and leaner baked or broiled meats.
Of course, her husband Jerry had been incessant with his complaints. 'Was she running some hippie commune? Real men could not survive on this garbage.' Despite her skilled attempts to present healthy and tasty options, she had born more than one nasty blue and purple mark on her upper arms.
But to her, it was worth it. Each week, she watched the scales drop lower and lower. Although she still wore those dresses, she had been forced to pull out her old sewing machine and take them in quite a bit. Funny thing was that while she was at it, she raised the hem and replaced the ridiculous high collars with a neckline that would be more flattering to her full breasts.
Then she had gone so far as to shear her overly long tresses for a more stylish and modern hairstyle. The beating that followed that particular rebellion had been so severe that she had shied away from the gym for over a week to allow the bruises on her face to heal.
That alone was unusual. Jerry had always carefully avoided her face; anywhere that could not be covered by her clothes really. But not when he saw the sporty, shoulder length layers of blonde hair that made her look almost a decade younger that her thirty-four years.
His rage had been so intense that their son had tried to intervene. Jerry had grabbed him by the collar of his shirt and drug him up the stairs; beating him about the head and shoulders as he commanded the demons to leave his son in the name of Jesus.
That had been it. The final straw. She might have deserved the beatings. Perhaps she was not the wife that she should be. Perhaps the house was not clean enough. Perhaps there was a wrinkle in his blue dress shirt. Perhaps her healthy cooking was not 'food for real men.' Perhaps she did enjoy the carnal side of their marriage more than a good wife would. Perhaps she was even a harlot and a Jezebel as Jerry called her if she moaned even a bit during their weekly 'duties.'
But she was a good mother. She loved Joshua and she would not allow him to be hurt simply for trying to honor his mother as the Bible commanded. As she hid within the house for the next week, a plan began to form in her mind.
Because she had married Jerry straight out of high school, she did not have any real work experience. But she began by making a list of all the things she could do. She knew quite a bit about computers from doing the secretarial work for their church. She also knew cooking, cleaning and sewing. She was determined she would find a job, any job. She would save the money and get them out...before it was too late.
But before she could make an appointment with the local job service, an opportunity had come her way that she could not refuse. That first morning as she walked back into the gym after the absence, the manager had greeted her personally. As they talked, she discovered that he and other staff had noticed the changes in her body. They were all quite impressed actually. In fact, he had an opening for a part-time personal trainer. It did not pay much, but there was money to be made on sales of training sessions and products.
It was not something she had even considered, but it sounded ideal. She could work while Joshua was in school and Jerry at work. No one even needed to know. She quickly accepted and enrolled in the training course.
Within a month of completing the course, she held her first pay check. Two-hundred seventy-six dollars and twenty-nine cents. He had been right. It was not much, but it was the first money that she had ever called her own. She took it to the bank and opened an account in her name; just her name.
The next month, her check was substantially more as she began to draw commission. Many of her clients were the same women that had shared the gym over the months and watched her personal victory unfold. The following month she had faced a dilemma. Her schedule was full. She could not take any more clients unless she expanded her work hours to evenings and weekends.
But that would mean telling her husband about her job. She had weighed that choice very carefully. After the last beating, she feared not only for her own life but also Joshua's. So before she did anything, she consulted an attorney. In fact, before she brought up the subject, she had orders of protection and divorce papers prepared and the number of the local battered women's shelter on speed dial in her cell phone. It was a good thing too. She had needed it all.
Of course, court orders were only so useful. While her husband might not know where they were staying, he did know where she worked and where Joshua went to school. They lived in almost constant fear. It was hard. They could not begin a new life there.
Since she was a kid watching television, she had been fascinated with Los Angeles, an almost mythical city of dreams. Because the gym where she worked was part of a chain, it was easy enough to arrange a transfer. So she had loaded her Dodge Neon with clothes, the computer, a few small household items and her fourteen year old son. They had made the journey along Interstate 10 from Houston to Long Beach in a day and a half, stopping only for food and bathroom breaks.
Fortune seemed to be shining on her. On the second day there, she managed to find a small one-bedroom apartment in a rougher part of town. It was unfurnished, but a quick stop at the local Good Will offered beds for them to sleep on and the basics to cook and eat with. The apartment's best feature was that it was four blocks from the Pacific Ocean and a ten-minute walk from the gym, where she would be working.
After all was said and done including grocery shopping, she had barely two hundred dollars until she got paid again in almost a month. Fortunately, she would be paid before Joshua started school and all the expenses of clothes and supplies. They had made it, barely.
It was almost Thanksgiving now. Last night she was pleased to discover that thanks to a growing following of loyal clients, she would be able to not only have a real Thanksgiving dinner, but also buy Josh, as he now preferred to be called, the new skateboard he simply had to have for Christmas.
Her mind was focussed on all this until he walked in and turned her world upside down again.
By the end of the almost hour long regional meeting, Tara was more dazed and confused than ever. She had found it virtually impossible to give her full attention, especially when he had spoken. She was lucky to have found a large exercise ball in the corner of the room upon which to perch that kept her out of his direct line of site.
As the meeting broke up and the trainers headed back to their own locations, Tara hung back from the exodus. She fiddled at straightening the balls and mats as she tried to gather her thoughts and courage. How had this happened?
Until three months ago, she had only had one lover. She and Jerry had been high school sweethearts. She had given him her virginity on the night of their Senior Prom. When they found out that she was pregnant a few months later, they had done the right thing and gotten married.
Those first couple of years had not been too bad. Jerry had found work in his uncle's store. Joshua had been born and despite money being tight he had insisted that she stay home with the baby. They had been your average young couple. He worked during the week and on the weekends their small house was always full of friends drinking beer and laughing along to the latest country hit.
But the past decade since he had found 'salvation' in an extremely judgmental Pentecostal church everything had changed. It all began when he barely survived a car accident that claimed the lives of two of his best friends. He had never fully recovered from the trauma.
He became increasingly agitated and dogmatic in his beliefs. He had only been home from the hospital for a week when he first hit her. Of course, he had apologized profusely the next day. She had forgiven him and dismissed the whole thing as stress from the accident. But it was a pattern that had continued for years.
He had changed in other ways too. The pain pills the doctors had prescribed for his back had side effects, mainly on his sexual performance. Where once they had enjoyed a normal relationship, sex had become rare and often ended with more violence when Jerry could not perform.
Tara had repressed her sexuality. If she so much as moaned even a tiny bit on those few times that they did manage to have sex, her former husband would preach to her on the sins of the flesh; calling her a Jezebel, a whore and worse.
Since the move, Tara had specifically set out to shake off those shackles. It began innocently enough one weekend when Joshua was staying with his friends for weekend. He had left the computer they were forced to share on. The screen danced with one of those social networking sites that everyone was always twittering about. With no clients that evening, Tara had nothing better to do than try it out or watch a re-runs on television.
Within half an hour, she had created a profile. She had even foolishly posted her before and after pictures to it. She thought perhaps she could use it to attract new clients. But it was not clients she attracted. By the next morning, her mailbox was almost full of offers of a different kind. She knew that she was not interested in another relationship, but she was also tried of denying herself what she considered normal enough needs for a woman at her sexual peak.
By the time, she finished with her clients and returned to cook Sunday dinner for her little family she had convinced herself that a little innocent sex-ploration would not hurt anyone as long as she was careful. So over the next few evenings, she went through the emails with that in mind. She returned a few of them and by the next weekend when Joshua announced that he would be spending the night at his friend's again she had a couple of offers.
It became a normal pattern for them. When Joshua spent time with his friends, she spent with hers. She developed friendships with three fuck buddies as she called them. But by far, JJ was her favourite; a tall dark headed surfer who at thirty-nine had commitment issues that made him the proverbial Peter Pan, never to grow up.
JJ had helped her to explore many of her deepest fantasies; and she him. He had always wanted to attend the swing clubs that were legendary in Southern California, but had never had the nerve to ask any of his asunder girlfriends. She had been more than happy to help him fulfil this fantasy.
It was her thirty-fifth birthday present from JJ that had come back to haunt her, even though she had to admit it was something she could never forget anyway: her first black lover, well her only one so-far.
It was the last of the swing clubs that she and JJ had attended. The crowd was small, only half a dozen couples in the almost shabby house in the Valley. They had even talked about leaving, but in the end decided to stay for the bondage show at least. The submissive though did not show up for the evening. Wanting to experience everything that life and sex had to offer, Tara threw caution to the wind and volunteered to stand in for the girl.
Of course, she was more than a little disappointed to learn that 'show' was the correct term; the chains that held her were real enough but the paddles and whips that made such horrific noises throughout the small house could in fact hardly be felt at all. The show was half over when 'he' walked into the room.
He was the proverbial tall, dark and handsome. At over six foot four inches, his body was lithe and muscular. It could have easily graced any of the fitness magazines she often recommended to her clients. It was not the bulk of a steroid enhanced body builder, but rather the all-natural machinery of a man who respected his body as a temple.
It was his skin though that fascinated her most; it was so dark in the dim light of the room that it almost glowed. It could best be described as the deep brown of the strong black coffee she awoke to each morning; and just as intoxicating. She had shared with JJ on a couple of occasions her fascination with the taboo of black men; and this one was everything she had ever dreamt of.
When the show was over, he had stepped forward and bowed gracefully; saying simply 'Happy birthday. JJ sent me.'
The next half an hour or so had been the best, wildest and most orgasmic filled sex of her life. The two of them had as the saying goes 'burned up the sheets' on the mattress in the corner. He had been everything that she had ever imagined a black lover would be. His thick cock had to be at least nine inches; and even carefully covered in the latex condoms that she detested but recognised as prudent, it had brought her to so many orgasmic peaks that she lost count very quickly.
Of course all good things must come to an end. His 'date' for the evening almost stormed into the room, dragging a sheepish looking JJ in her quake. She had quickly re-claimed her property and with a sullen attitude she had drug him too from the room.
JJ had simply smiled and inquired, 'How was it?'
Tara had been a tad too overcome to give a proper answer.
In the end, the two of them had retired to the hot tub on the patio to soak; something Tara's well-fucked cunt definitely needed at that point. They had not stayed much longer; Tara had to work the next day so she needed at least a few hours' sleep before an almost full Saturday of clients.
She was surprised though as they left to see the young black Adonis running after them. Before JJ could protest, the young stud pressed a scrap of paper into her hand and kissed her deeply; too deeply. Kissing was too intimate an act in Tara's mind for something as casual as fuck buddies and certainly for this. His voice was deep and his dark eyes almost pleading as he said, 'Please call. I need to see you again.'
Of course, Tara had never called. She had actually never even looked at the name and number she assumed were written on the piece of paper that she tossed from the car window before they reached her apartment in the early morning hours.
She had a litany of reasons for her rash act of course. He was too young; he had to be at least a decade younger than her thirty-five. His girlfriend was obviously way more possessive than her casual relationship with JJ; that must mean that she had some reason to expect fidelity from her partner. She had a son to consider as well. After years of his own emotional and even occasional physical abuse at the hands of his father, she had no intention of becoming involved with anyone until he finished school in three years. She had gone over all those reasons numerous times in the past two months; each and every time that she found herself remembering that awesome night and wondering what might have been.
This particular Saturday morning, when Tara came into the gym early for a staff meeting with the new regional fitness director, she had no idea how her life was about to be turned on its head.
As the location, where his office would be, their team was expected to host this meeting. Several of the others were excited about the opportunity to meet and greet the higher-ups in the company; wanting to make a name for themselves and rise up the corporate fitness ladder.
Tara though was perfectly happy where she was; a few more clients would be nice of course, but management held no appeal for a single mother. She preferred things just as they were; the two of them, she and Joshua against the world.
She had been able to repaint and buy a few more things at the second hand shops, so their little apartment was beginning to feel a great deal homier. She had the ability to work her client schedule around her son too; something that management would preclude. All in all, she was pretty content with her life; except perhaps her sexual awakening which had flagged a bit since that night.
Shaun Jackson smiled at life's ironies. After three months of kicking his own black ass for not getting the woman's name and number, she had been literally dumped into his lap.
To be honest though in his youthful arrogance, he had not thought after the awesome sex they had shared that the woman would not call. He had blindly assumed that she would be an anxious to explore this thing between them as he was. So when she did not call that first day, he had convinced himself that she simply did not want to appear overly needy, but when she had not called by the end of the week he was cursing himself for the fool he was.
His dream lover had simply disappeared into the anonymity afforded by the thirteen million faces of Southern California. Until this morning, he thought.
The older and slightly stockier man opened the door carefully. 'You wanted to see me?'
Shaun nodded to his colleague that he knew was responsible for this location, including its trainers and Miss Tara Morgan. 'Yes, please take a seat.'