The emerald glowed in the sales clerk's hand.
Dave reached for the chain, letting the gem dangle and shimmer in the light. It still glowed as if backlit, and Dave knew it would look fantastic against Jennifer's skin. The single stone would fall just above the valley of her breasts and catch the light every time she laughed.
Will leaned in for a closer look. "Wow! That one's more beautiful than any we've seen so far."
Dave turned the price tag to Will's view.
"Wow again! How can that cost less than the last two we looked at? It's clearly better."
Dave just grinned.
"See? I told you jewelry shopping with me would be an educational experience."
Will nodded his head in acknowledgement.
Dave twisted the chain in his fingers, letting green sparkles shower the glass case below. With a satisfied sigh, he handed the necklace back to the clerk, followed by his credit card.
"It's knowing what to look for. Cut, clarity, mounting, quality. Also where to go and where not to go—most of the mall stores are rip-offs. This store, and the last three we were in, are all owned by the artists that make these pieces. A master goldsmith or gemcutter is bound to create something special. If it's what you're looking for, it's a find and the price is much more reasonable than a chain jewelry store can give you."
"So why is this one cheaper than the last two?"
"Did you see how this one was mounted? Just four simple claws holding it in place. Simple and elegant, and emphasizing the quality of the gem. Now, do you remember how the last one was mounted?"
"It had that gold filigree around the edges and those two small diamonds."
"Those diamonds were barely chips, but yes. It was the gold filigree that drove the cost of that necklace up. Now, with this one, did you note the cut of the gem? It had several additional facets, creating more possibilities for light to reflect off of it. While the other gem may have been larger, its fewer facets made it less brilliant. And did you notice the chain? Simple and thin?
"Well, yeah, though I didn't look closely at it."
"Remember the one at Master Goldsmith's—the one before last? It was more of a rope than a chain. Again, it made the necklace cost more without making the emerald look any better.
Will snorted. "You're right. I hadn't noticed. I probably would have bought that one because it was good enough and I was tired of shopping. When did you get so good at jewelry? It certainly wasn't when we were back in college."
"Will, my good man," Dave relished this chance to lecture Will for a change. "It's the same way you get good at anything. Pay attention. Notice the details. Experiment a little—which in this case was comparison shopping. When you find what you like, don't hesitate. It doesn't matter if it's jewelry, wine, theatre, music, you name it."
"Even women?" Will was getting impish and Dave laughed.
"Even women. Especially in bed. Pay attention to the details. Experiment a little. Notice what she likes and keep doing it. Surely you've figured that out with Jen by now."
Will was now chuckling along with Dave. "True. But she keeps surprising me. Finding new things she likes." Will's eyes focused far away, lost in memories he chose not to share with Dave. "I think that's part of why I love her. It's never boring."
The sales clerk returned with the authorization sheet for Dave's signature and inquired about wrapping the necklace. She quickly retreated again upon his assent.
"So ... obnoxious personal question." Dave paused. It had been a while since he'd actually prefaced a question to Will with that comment—they'd been friends long enough not to need it.
For budding friendships and acquaintanceships, Dave usually explained that an 'obnoxious personal question' was one that didn't require an answer. He was letting his conversation partner know than an answer of "None of your business" or "I don't want to talk about it" would be accepted gracefully and for keeps. More often than not, people actually started relaxing more once those words were uttered and found it easier to open up than if he'd beaten around the bush to get to the same topic.
"When am I going to help you pick out a diamond ring? You and Jen have been together, what, two years now?"
Will sighed. "It's not that easy. We've talked about it, but Jen says she's not quite ready. But she can't say what it would take for her to be ready. I think she feels that she'd have to 'settle down' or 'grow up' or change in some way."
"And nothing you say makes a difference."
"Right, nothing I say makes a difference," Will was nodding. "So I don't push it. I know she loves me and that's what matters."
Will met Dave's eyes in a shared sympathetic grin when the clerk returned. Dave picked up the bag with the necklace.
"Okay. One more stop, then we can head back. There should be a kettle corn vendor outside the food court entrance to the mall."
"Jennifer's favorite snack. Watch and learn."
Will rolled his eyes and shook his head but followed after Dave.
The men arrived at Jen's condo to find the girls (women? ladies? Dave was never quite sure how to refer to Jen and Jennifer collectively) chatting on Jen's couch. Jennifer was radiant, almost glowing, as she smiled up at him. She stood and put her arms around him, drawing his head down for a kiss. Dave's momentary surprise—this was not how they normally said hello in the presence of others—was quickly overcome and he returned the kiss. As he brought her arms around her, the bag of kettle corn in his hand bumped against her shoulder blades. She pulled back with a question in her eyes. Dave stepped back and brought the bag into her view.
"Have some kettle corn!"
Jennifer glanced quizzically at Dave but, at his urging, took the bag and opened it. She scooped a few kernels out of the top of the bag.
"Have some more!" Dave urged again.
Still looking a little puzzled, Jennifer thrust her hand deeper into the bag. Dave could see the unsaid "huh?" in her face as she first brushed, then grabbed and extracted a box wrapped in purple paper. She sank back onto the couch.
"Hmmm. Must be like Cracker Jack. Why don't you open it up?" Dave suggested.
She was already ripping the paper off. Jen slid next to Jennifer so she could look over her shoulder as she opened the box.
Jen murmured "oh my" and Jennifer gasped when she opened the lid and saw the gem. She flashed a huge smile at Dave before turning her attention to the task of extracting the necklace and holding it up to the light.
"Oh! Thank you!"
"You're welcome." Dave could feel the pleasure of her smile flow through his body.
"We weren't going to celebrate Valentine's Day until after your business trip!"
Dave blushed a little.
"I know. And we still will. I just thought you might like your present early."
Jennifer just smiled at him, shaking her head slightly. She fiddled with the clasp, got it open, held her hair up and away, and slid the necklace into place. The emerald glowed, just above the valley of her breasts, as Dave had expected. Then Jennifer got a devilish look in her eye.
"Jen, is your guest room available?"
"Sure," Jen replied.
"Good. I need to thank my man properly."
Jennifer stood and took Dave's hand and pulled him towards the hallway. Will chuckled in the background.
When they got to the guest room, Jennifer pulled him in, shoved the door shut behind them, and pushed him up against it. She threw her arms around his neck and began passionately kissing him. She was on fire! Dave began kissing back, but her lips and tongue pressed incessantly into his faster than he could keep up, and then she was tugging at his belt. He reached down and gave her a hand in undoing it and she immediately started unbuttoning his jeans. Sinking to her knees, she slid his pants and underwear down. Then she finally slowed. Gently cupping his balls with her hand, she slid his rapidly hardening shaft into her mouth.
He'd never asked how she'd learned to deep throat. Instead, Dave just let out a slow moan as Jennifer engulfed his entire cock. She began bobbing her head back and forth, varying between quick tight motions and more languid moves, her tongue caressing his shaft whenever her lips loosened their hold. At the end of one stroke, she let all but the tip slide out, sucking lightly on the head, tongue dancing all around. She brushed her hair aside and looked up, meeting his eyes. Never breaking the stare, she slowly pulled her mouth off his cock, then stuck her tongue out and lightly licked the end as if it were ice cream. The sight was as incredible as the sensation.
She plunged forward, again taking his entire cock. A mass of red curls obscured his view, but the pleasure more than made up for it. He began to breathe heavily as she licked and sucked and caressed, sliding forward and back.
"Gonna ... come..."
"No you're not!" Jennifer had pulled completely off of him and clamped her fingers around the base of his shaft, squeezing. "I want you in me!" She started yanking her own clothes off and Dave used the opportunity to pull his shirt off and kick his jeans away from his ankles.
Jennifer knelt on the floor, leaning her shoulders on the bed. She reached below her and parted her lower lips with her fingers. Dave knelt behind her and lined his cock up. Jennifer's fingers caressed his shaft and then she guided him inside.
She was incredibly hot and wet. Dave realized that much of the additional heat was because this was their first time without a condom, only having gotten the STD tests the week before. Then Jennifer pushed back against him and thought fled as he lost himself in what was becoming some rather ferocious fucking.
Jennifer gasped and moaned as she rocked in rhythm with him. Dave could tell her fingers were busy on her clit, as she writhed not only to his thrusts but to her own strokes. He grabbed her hips and rolled them slightly, deepening his penetration. Jennifer let out a deep gasp and was soon clamping down on his shaft as her orgasm shuddered through her. The extra tightness was enough to push Dave over the edge. Several deep shots of pleasure coursed through him and he began to collapse forward as Jennifer's after-tremors caused her to lose her balance as well. They somehow found their way to the floor, entangled and smiling.
"Well that was certainly a surprise!" Dave murmured once they'd shifted into a comfortable cuddling position.
Jennifer giggled and smiled at him. "So was the necklace. One good surprise deserves another, doesn't it?"
Dave laughed in agreement and pulled her close. Jennifer played with her necklace, caressing the gem and twisting the chain lightly as he held her. They cuddled until the afterglow faded and the coolness of the room drove them back to their clothes.
Jen and Will just smirked when Dave and Jennifer returned. They chitchatted about nothings and then it was time to head for home. Two days later, Jennifer came over to help him pack. They gently made love in the early evening and she slipped away with a lingering kiss—a taste of his return, she said. Dave boarded a too-early flight the next morning for his week of hotel living over Valentine's Day.
The evening of that holiday found Dave returning to his room sooner than he'd expected—the usual round of drinks with the client having been foregone so the customers could return to their wives. The room felt dark and cold. He turned the thermostat up before noticing the message light on the phone. He and Jennifer had said no calls, with the time zone difference and the anticipation of his late nights and her early mornings, but he couldn't help smiling at the thought of Jennifer's voice. Maybe he could return the call since he was back early. But no. The call was from the front desk. A package Fed Ex'ed. The home office, probably. More work to look at before the next day. Dave trudged down to pick it up.
But the package wasn't from work, it was from Jennifer. A DVD marked "Do not play unless you're alone."
Back in his room, Dave slid the DVD into his laptop's slot. Things whirred and the drive light blinked as the video software fired up. The image was of Jennifer, standing in front of a couch. It was Jen's living room, Dave realized—the exact same place he'd given Jennifer the necklace. She was looking past the camera at something as the image steadied and the lighting was adjusted. She briefly nodded at some unseen signal and then looked directly into the camera and smiled.