Chapter 1

Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Romantic, Heterosexual, .

Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Karen's ex-husband gets on with life, but life gets complicated and circular.

Jack Bell sat quietly, soaking up the early morning sun. His rented villa sat in the hills of a small town in southern California, overlooking the Pacific. He took another sip of his coffee and let his mind wander a bit.

It had been well over a year since his divorce had become final. Karen had not contested it and the legalities went smoothly. She had made repeated attempts to speak with him which he avoided. He really had no desire to hear any apologies, any 'I was wrong and I'm sorry, ' explanations. Her desire to fuck her old boyfriend and to do so with his 'approval' outraged him then and still aggravated him whenever he recalled that conversation. He also recognized that his intense anger had abated, and all he felt now was sadness and emptiness.

"I thought we had a strong marriage," Jack mused, "I guess I was mistaken." He still couldn't get his mind around the 'why' of it. He knew that Karen was not a stupid woman, she knew that he would never allow her adultery. "I guess I didn't know her as well as I thought."

"Shit," he said to himself. "I had no choice but to rid myself of her. She destroyed any respect I had for her and I sure as hell wouldn't trust her any further than I could throw her. I have to learn to build a new life for myself, and that's exactly what I'm doing and as far away from her as I can get."

Yet despite his reasoning to divorce, he had to admit that he felt an overwhelming sadness, an emptiness and a worry that he may have acted precipitously.

"Was my reaction too extreme?" he wondered. "Did I act too hastily? Do I actually still love her? Ahh, now that is the question." He knew that he did not have the answers to those questions.

The weeks that followed their separation were hell on earth for him. He found that he couldn't concentrate on business and problems at work were falling through the cracks due to his inattention. He also discovered that he really couldn't get up any enthusiasm for the business and he actually began to hate getting up and going into the office.

Fate then stepped in. An out of town conglomerate made a tentative offer to buy him out, lock, stock and barrel. This financial institution didn't have a presence in this region and it seemed that they were desperate to establish one. This wasn't the first time offers had been made for his firm, but he had refused them earlier. This time he hesitated and allowed his attorney to enter preliminary negotiations. It wouldn't hurt to hear what they had in mind.

What they 'had in mind' staggered him. When all was said and done, he would realize a shit pot of money - much more than he imagined. He could retire a very wealthy man if he wished and would never have to worry about where his next Rolex was going to come from.

He knew that he had to be careful, that entertaining a buyout wasn't just a reaction to his personal problems. He had his attorney stall, squeeze them a little harder, just to give him the time he wanted to fully examine his motives. He finally came to the conclusion that he would go along with the deal. Getting out of the rat race at age 50 would not be so terrible - and getting out rich was not going to be hard to take. He realized that he really had lost enthusiasm for the career and business he had built - it was time for newer pastures. Jack's mind continued to flicker over some of the events that took place before he finally moved to the west coast. He thought of Mike Gould and the last lunch and conversation that he shared with him...

"Well, Mike," Jack said as they sat awaiting their meals. "Have you made up your mind about June? Did you actually go ahead with the divorce or have you found a way to deal with her affair?"

Mike smiled wryly at him. "Is this why you invited me to lunch, Jack? You trying to be a marriage counselor? Nah, don't get excited, I'm only kidding you. To answer your question, I did file for divorce and now it's just a matter of time. Tell you the truth, Jack - one day just blends into another. I have this emptiness in me that I have to deal with a day at a time. I guess it'll get better. I miss June terribly, but not enough, I guess, to forget and forgive. I suspect that that makes me into some kind of idiot - but that's the way I feel now. What she did just hurts too much."

Jack toyed with his beer. His primary motive in seeking Mike out was ulterior and he felt a bit bad - he didn't want to saddle Mike with his problems right now, but perhaps they could at least commiserate with each other.

"Jack, what's going on? You look like hell, are you ailing?"

Jack made up his mind and gave his friend a condensed version of "the conversation" that Karen and he had had. It was difficult for him to get it all out and he found himself tearing as he finished.

Mike sat there, his mouth agape, as Jack finished. "Son-of-a-bitch," he muttered. "I just can't believe this, not Karen. Shit, I can't tell you how sorry I am, Jack. It seems that the entire fucking world is falling apart. I never would have guessed that something like this would happen to the two of you... "Jack, let me ask you the same question that you had asked me - can you find a way to get over this? Is there a way back for the two of you?"

Jack shook his head. "Don't think so, Mike. Maybe, just maybe, I could forgive a momentary lapse of judgement, a one-time meeting. Shit happens, a little drunk, a little something, who knows. But sitting there and telling me, after she had already screwed him, that she was going to continue screwing him was just too much for me. That was taking her betrayal and rubbing it in my face. I don't think that I can get over that. She doesn't know what kind of man I am, Mike. After 25 years, she still doesn't knew who I am!"

Mike just grasped his shoulder. "This is still very raw, Jack. Who the hell knows how you'll feel in a year or so." Mike chuckled a bit, "That's what I keep telling myself anyway."

Jack found that his coffee was now cold and he put the cup down on the ground next to his chaise. He hoped that Mike was doing ok, he had a lot of respect for him. A sudden chill came over him as he recalled another event before his move to the west coast. Kate, Karen's sister, had finally worn him down and got him to agree to a last meeting with Karen. Kate had impressed upon him the need that Karen had to speak with him and so he finally agreed, but with trepidation. He really didn't want to see her, but felt that since it would be the last time they would ever see each other, he gave in to Kate.

Jack walked through Kate's front door and found Karen seated in the living room. She looked pale and drawn and it looked like she had lost weight. He felt sympathy for her, but quickly suppressed it. Karen looked up at him with eyes filled with sadness.

"Hello Jack, thank you for agreeing to see me. I really do appreciate that," she said softly.

"Ok, Karen," Jack replied. "I'm here as requested although I have to tell you that I was reluctant to agree to this meeting. There really is no need for it. Everything that had to be said has been said, so I guess you have the floor."

Jack's tone was totally neutral with virtually no emotion in his voice. Karen recognized that and swallowed with difficulty. She had her speech memorized, but suddenly realized that the words she was going to deliver were totally inadequate. She knew that Jack would impatiently listen and then leave. She decided to just tell him what she wanted to tell him and let the encounter end.

"Jack," she began is a soft voice. "I had a very nice speech in which I had an explanation and an apology ready to deliver. I now realize that a speech is not what I want to give. This won't take long as I know that you're anxious to go. I just want to tell you that you are absolutely right to hate me for what I have done and what I had intended to do. I have no excuse to offer and I guess I really don't deserve your forgiveness. I just want you to know that I do love you and I will always love you."

Jack shook his head. "Karen, I don't hate you, but I do hate what you've done and what you had planned. I also don't really believe that you do love me. If you did, you would never have started on this path. If you loved me, you would never have been unfaithful, you would never have had a man outside your marriage, you would never have humiliated and betrayed me."

Jack continued, despite Karen's tears. "I feel empty, Karen. I feel an emptiness in my chest where once there was a heart. Sounds really corny, doesn't it - like something out of cheap, romance novels."

Karen sat with her head bowed, sobbing. Jack felt his heart go out to her, but knew that he didn't have the forgiveness necessary to calm her.

"Karen, I'm sorry." Jack said. "It wasn't my intention to beat up on you. I'm sure that you're suffering as am I. I do have fond memories of our life together these past decades. I guess that I'll cherish them, but right now I need a total change. I think that Kate did tell you that I'm moving out of state.

Karen looked up, startled. "No, she didn't. Why are you moving? Where are you going?" Karen appeared almost panicky. Would she never see him again?

"I just told you, Karen. I need a total change in my life. You know that I sold the business. No, no, don't assume any guilt about that, it was time. I came to the realization that the opportunity was too good to pass so I made up my mind and took the offer. Anyway, you remember Hank? I called him and asked him to keep an eye out for a place on the ocean. He found something which sounds nice and I leased the place for a year. It will give me the opportunity to relax and get my head straight.

"Karen, please listen to me. I really don't hate you. What I feel mostly now is just sadness and loss - and, I guess, a sense of disappointment. Remember what we used to say? 'grow old with me, the best is yet to be ' We could have had wonderful golden years together. I'm just sorry... " Jack couldn't continue. He sat there with his head down.

Karen had her hands over her mouth in horror. As much as she ached and hurt, she never guessed the depths of Jack's despair. She now saw, in stark reality, the pain she had caused and realized that, in all probability, Jack would never actually forgive her. Her life as Mrs. Jack Bell was truly over.

Jack shook himself and stood. "Is there anything else, Karen? This really is painful for both of us. Is there any point in going on with this conversation?"

Karen stood with him. "Thank you for coming and speaking with me, Jack. I really do appreciate that. Just one more thing and I'll let you go. Could you please find it in your heart to hold me for just one second before you leave? No Jack, no tricks, just one hug. Please?" Jack, with tears in his eyes also, took Karen and held her gently in his arms. He felt his heart drawn to her... and then he slowly released her and walked quickly out of the door.

Jack's gaze was drawn to the ocean. This was truly an amazing place and he was grateful to Hank for finding it, he thought to himself. He thought about Hank. "Good old Hank. How long have we known each other? " Jack had spent almost a year in the army after high school before he was discharged because of a back problem. Funny, that condition had never given him any problems and his doctor told him not to worry about it - it was relatively common.

He had met Hank Simmons while in the service and they had become fast friends and had made the attempt to stay in touch despite the fact that they lived about 3,000 miles apart. Hank was a San Diego native and couldn't wait to get back there after his stint in the service. He had also gone on to university and had gotten a degree in criminology and then on to law school.

Jack and Karen made trips to visit Hank and his wife Peggy and Jack was grateful that the girls got along famously. Hank and his wife also made it a point to visit them on the east coast when possible. So it was no surprise that Hank was totally shocked when Jack told him that he and Karen were divorcing. Jack did not go into detail, but did ask Hank to look for a place in the San Diego area, perhaps just south of San Diego. Hank had come up with this beautiful villa whose owner had been recently transferred overseas and was looking to lease it while he was gone. It was also a short drive to Hank and Peggy's place. Jack looked at the pictures that Hank had emailed and immediately started the lease process. He moved and never looked back.

The phone brought Jack's mind back to the present. He arose, strode to the cordless and answered it.

"Jack, it's Hank. How have you been? We haven't heard from you for a few days."

Jack laughed and replied. "Hank, you guys are like mother hens. I've been fine, just lazing and enjoying this fantastic weather. Now I'm beginning to understand your love for the area."

"Great, Jack. I'm really glad that you're doing ok. I thought that maybe you would start getting a little homesick for that great weather in Philly," Hank laughed.

"Nope, you can have the winters, I'll take this, no question. How's Peg, by the way?"

"That's why I'm calling, Jack. We're having someone over for dinner tomorrow and Peggy and I want you to join us. C'mon Jack, it'll do you good to get out," Hank pleaded.

"Damn, Hank. Am I reading you right? Are you guys trying to hook me up? Like I really need that now? Give me a break, buddy. I really don't want to get involved with any woman at the present," Jack was emphatic.

"No, no, Jack. Nothing like that. Mariah just seems like a really nice gal. Peggy got friendly with her, shopping at her place. She owns one of those posh ladies' clothing shops. She's also planning to open another one on the east cost and is thinking of Philly - you can talk to her about that. Let me tell you, pal; she is gorgeous, smart and also wants no man in her life. It would be perfect for both of you. She doesn't want any real relationship and neither do you. It would just be a nice, friendly dinner with some really good conversation. Jack, please, do this for me. Peggy will have my balls if I don't convince you to come."

Jack couldn't help but laugh at his friends dilemma. Ah, what the hell. It wasn't like he had that much on his plate now anyway. "Ok, Hank, ok," he sighed. "I'll be there, but I'll have your nuts if Peg is trying to play the matchmaker."

Kate glared at her sister across the living room.

"Goddamnit, Karen. Enough is enough. It's been over a year and a half since Jack moved out and you haven't had one single date. You're a single woman, not a nun. Get a life."

Karen smiled wryly, "Kate, I do have a life. I have good friends from work and we see each other socially. I have you, thank goodness, and you know how important your support has been for me, and now I have been volunteering at the local hospice and I like to feel that what I'm doing there is making at least a small difference. No, it's not penance, it's just something that I wanted to do. It's not that I've become a hermit."

"You know what I'm talking about, Karen. You have been avoiding men like the plague. You're still a relatively young vibrant woman. Open yourself up, allow some man in your life," pleaded Kate.

Karen hesitated, looked at Kate before replying. "Kate, I have to explain why that's not going to happen. Let me start with you forcing me to see Dr. Steen. I really have to thank you for that. He has helped me tremendously and I also appreciate that fact that you have never asked me one question about how my sessions were going. Over the past few months I have come to learn quite a bit about myself and while the emerging picture isn't one of which I'm proud, at least I'm gaining an understanding about what kind of person I had become."

Kate put up her hand. "Wait sis, you know that it's not a good idea for me to become involved with your therapy," she protested.

Karen shook her head. "It's alright, it's alright. Dr. Steen and I have talked about this and he sees no reason why I can't share some insights that we've achieved with you; you as my sister, not as a psychologist. This is important, Kate. Please, just hear me out."

Karen continued. "Dr. Steen is a remarkable man. I really didn't know what to expect - an old professor type with a beard and glasses on his nose?" Karen laughed.

"You know, Kate. He never told me anything, he never explained anything to me. We have spent the past few months just chatting, like old friends and those chats have opened my eyes as to what had been happening to me. I had begun to realize that he was actually my guide, leading me to certain truths that I needed to discover.

"You see, when I first met Jack and fell in love with him, I felt that I had really hit the jackpot. I loved a man who was kind, compassionate, highly intelligent, really sexy and, most importantly, loved me unconditionally. I spent my early years with him trying my best to be the 'perfect wife.' Then, as the years went by, I became complacent. I began to feel that I deserved my husband's adulation, his total love and his total commitment to me. I had begun to take Jack for granted, and more to the point, I began to take his love for me for granted. I was the 'perfect wife', I should be adored. This was my mind set, even though I didn't consciously realize it."

Karen saw Kate nodding slightly, and then continued.

"I became self-centered. My decisions about what I would cook for dinner was based on what I wanted. Little things, like renting a movie was based on what I wanted to see. When I went shopping for a dress, I bought what I thought looked best on me, not what Jack might have wanted to see me in. Do you understand what I'm saying, Kate? I became a 'me' person, instead of a 'we' person, and like the fool that I had become, I never even realized what I had turned into.

"You're going to appreciate this next part, sis. It was when I turned 40 that I really flipped. I know, I know, I filled your ears with my whining about getting old and ugly. The funny part about that was how turning 40 really rocked me. I guess I became aware of my mortality, but even more important to me, I became aware of the fact that I was no longer a young and pretty woman. I felt that I had become unattractive and was no longer an object of desire to my husband or anyone else. Also, it was right around that time that Jack's business had really begun to grow and expand and he was spending quite a bit of time tending to it. He was tired at night and our sex life really tapered off. That's not meant as an excuse, it was just another factor which reinforced what I was feeling about myself."

Kate look at her sister fondly, she followed Karen narrative and saw where she was going. She felt sure that she knew what Karen's final remarks were going to be.

Karen returned her gaze, smiling softly. "You know, don't you? I guess it really is rather apparent. Anyway, this was my state of mind when I first saw Jim Belsen at work. Suddenly, I was 18 again and I wanted to be young and I wanted to be attractive and I wanted someone to find me an object of desire. I was sure of my husband's devotion. He idolized me and he would do whatever it took to make me happy. I was the 'perfect wife, ' wasn't I? I'm sure that you understand where I'm going, Kate

"I was a foolish, shallow and very stupid woman. My obsession took control of me and I was too weak and too self-centered to make the effort necessary to wake up and smell the roses.

"Jack had every right to expect his wife to be faithful. That I, in my utter stupidity, proclaimed that I was going to have a 'brief affair' was, without doubt, the height of idiocy. It's a wonder that he didn't throw me out the front door. By my complacency, my obsession with my lost youth, my arrogance and surety about how Jack felt about me, I certainly sealed my fate. I totally destroyed that which I held most dear, I destroyed Jack's love for me and I destroyed my marriage.

"That's why I assumed our family name again. Being called Ms. Bell was just too painful for me. Do you now see why I have absolutely no desire to date, or to open myself up to any man? Kate, there is really only one man for me, and that man will never again be in my life. Do you understand what I'm saying, Kate?" Kate looked at her sister with tears in her eyes and nodded.

Jack arrived promptly at 6:30 carrying a decent quality Napa Valley wine which he presented to Hank who greeted him at the door wearing a wide grin.

"Hey buddy, thanks for coming. You won't be sorry, believe me and Peggy's tickled pink that you agreed to come."

"Yeah, yeah," muttered Jack. "Where is that lovely wife of yours? At least I get a kiss from her as a reward for showing up," he laughed

At that moment Peggy appeared and replied, "You betcha, Jack," and with that reached up and planted a juicy one on his mouth.

"Wow," Jack said breathlessly, "With that kind of reward you can ask me to dinner anytime you want."

Peggy looked up at him fondly. "Really Jack, thanks for coming. This isn't a set up, just an opportunity for you to meet someone new - make a new friend."

Jack returned her gaze. Peggy was really one of the good people. Short, pert and still looking great, she had a good heart and he knew that his divorce had really upset her. She considered Jack and Karen among her closest friends, despite the geographical distance.

"Anyway," she continued, "Mariah should be here soon, so let's just relax here. Dinner won't be ready for awhile," and as she finished her sentence the doorbell rang and Hank jumped to answer it.

Hank reentered the room accompanied by a woman who momentarily took Jack's breath away. So this was Mariah, yikes. He quickly evaluated her. Tall, busty and legs that seem to go on forever. Short dark hair and eyes that seemed to smolder. She moved with a sinuous grace - it was apparent that she worked out and was assiduous about keeping a svelte figure.

"Mariah, let me introduce you to Jack Bell. Jack, this is Mariah," Hank gestured with a wide sweep of his hand.

Both Jack and Mariah chuckled at Hank's obvious showmanship as he obviously played the role of ringmaster. Hank laughed along with them and they all made themselves comfortable. It wasn't long before Peggy looked at her watch and commented.

"Well folks, I think dinner is just about ready," Peggy told them as she headed for the kitchen. "Wait, let me help," exclaimed Mariah as she followed Peggy into the kitchen.

"Well Jack, what do you think? Isn't she something? Did you ever see a body like that?" whispered Hank, leaning forward toward Jack.

Jack laughed softly. "Hank, you had better not let Peg hear comments like that. But you're right, she really intrigues me; although there is something about her that I can't quite put my finger on."

Hank muttered, "I know where I would like to put my finger," he replied crudely.

The evening went very well. The conversation flowed easily and Jack felt comfortable and loose. This woman did intrigue him. She oozed sexuality and didn't seem to realize it - or else she was a consummate actress.

They discussed Mariah's desire to open a second boutique in Philadelphia, the reason being that she had an associate who lived there and was interested in providing some of the capital necessary. Jack was questioned about the region, although he stated that any information he could provide wouldn't be of much help. A boutique as described by Mariah was totally out of his expertise. He did state that there was a large population in the city and surrounding area with the wherewithal to keep an expensive boutique busy.

Jack was a bit surprised to discover that it was now 11:00 pm. He apologized for overstaying his welcome, despite the objections voiced by his hosts. Mariah also indicated that she had to be on her way and told them that she would call a cab. Jack was a bit surprised at her lack of transportation and immediately offered to give her a lift.

"Really Mariah, it's no imposition. I would be more than happy to drive you home. I think that Hank indicated that you don't live far from here. Please, it would be my pleasure," Jack insisted.

Jack held open the passenger side door. Mariah slid in and Jack watched as her skirt slid to mid thigh. He quickly moved around the car and got behind the wheel. Jack turned to ask directions and saw that Mariah had turned to face him. Her skirt had risen again and her long legs were almost fully exposed. Jack now began to wonder where this night would lead.

Mariah smiled and gave Jack directions to her home and they were soon on their way. He glanced at her and said, "Mariah is a lovely name. What do your friends call you?"

"Mariah, Jack. My friends call me Mariah," she murmured.

Jack glanced at her again and raised an eyebrow. "Yes," he thought, "this lady definitely intrigues me."

They were soon at her condo and Mariah asked Jack to park in the appropriate slot. Turning to him, she asked, "Jack, could you please come in for a moment? There is something that I'd like to show you. It shouldn't take too much time."

Jack nodded and followed her through the door. She turned on a small table lamp and motioned Jack to a comfortable chair in the living room. Jack sat and waited, not speaking. Mariah moved to the center of the room and with a graceful move at her back, unfastened the dress and allowed it to fall to the floor.

The shadows in the room played across the planes of her body. Her ample breasts strained against the confines of a small, lacy bra. He saw that her panties were brief and cut very low on her abdomen. There was no sign of pubic hair.

Mariah smiled and purred, "Cat got your tongue, Jack, or are you speechless by the sight of my body? Would you like to see more?"

Jack continued to sit and gaze at this erotic picture before him. He was by nature an open and accepting man, but his caution flag was raised by the sudden turn of events.

"By all mean, Mariah. I would love to see more," he said softly.

Mariah walked to him, bent over and placed her hands on his shoulders. "Put your hands on my back, Jack. Feel for the clasp of my bra. Do you feel it? Unhook it, unhook my bra."

Jack followed her instructions and quickly freed her breasts from their confinement. His eyes widened as he took in the magnificence of those orbs. They sat high on her chest and were almost perfect in their symmetry. Her areolas were dark with nipples that were erect and turgid. He passed his palms over them, gently squeezing the soft flesh there.

"The panties now, Jack," she whispered. "Lower my panties, but slowly, very slowly. I want to feel their softness as they fall to my feet."

Jack again did as she instructed. His fingers slowly pulled the sides of her panties down over her hips, feeling the silkiness of her skin as he allowed them to fall free. Again his eyes widened as he saw that she was totally hairless. Her pudenda seemed to glow and her nether lips were slick and puffy.

She sank to her knees before him and quickly unbuckled his belt, unzipped him and extracted his cock which was by this time erect and pulsing. She slowly engulfed the head and laved it with her tongue. She spent the next few minutes doing nothing more than this, gently sucking and nibbling on the head of his phallus.

Jack had enough and he asserted himself forcibly. He arose suddenly, secured his trousers and flung Mariah over his shoulder in a fireman's carry. Turning into what he assumed was the bedroom he spotted the bed and threw her on its surface. She almost seemed to be in a state of shock, as she lay there, limbs askew, stunned by his sudden aggressiveness. Jack wasted no time in shedding his clothing and then pinned her to the bed with his body.

Her eyes blazing, Mariah hissed, "What the fuck are you doing? Get the hell off of me, you prick."

Jack gathered her wrists and yanked them over her head and held them fast with one hand. She was effectively immobilized. He took her chin in his hand and turned her face to his.

"It's my turn now, sweetheart. You've been seducing me all evening. Now I'll do a little teasing of my own," and with that he mashed his lips to hers. She fought to escape his invading tongue to no avail and soon felt herself begin to respond to his need. Her breasts flushed and she felt her nipples harden.

"Shit," she thought. "What a fucking brute." She had completely misread this man, a man whom she thought was a dilettante, a bit timid and retiring. Who the hell knew he was Tarzan.

Jack shifted his hips and felt his erection press against her pussy. He slid the shaft along her crease and felt the moisture there. He slid his cock between her lips and moved just slightly, up and down. She gasped as she felt the head slide over her clitoris and she felt herself begin to lubricate freely... He knew she was turned on and he felt her hips begin to move against him. It took little effort to position his cock and slide it fully into her. He was balls deep in a second and began the old familiar dance. It took only seconds for Mariah to begin to moan softly as she wrapped her legs around his hips. She began to respond fully to his movements and was soon amazed to find herself approaching a shattering orgasm.

Her eyes opened wide and with total amazement realized that she was indeed crashing into an almost violent climax, one that she hadn't felt in years. She had planned to seduce this man and then fake her orgasm as she had done countless times before. She never anticipated a real one overcoming her. The very violence of his attack seemed to precipitate this reaction. She was learning things about herself, things that she never realized before. All thought vanished as she went over the edge. It was moments before she could catch her breath and breathe normally. Every nerve in her body seemed to tingle and vibrate and she held Jack tightly as he emptied himself into her. They soon separated and lay quietly next to each other.

"What the fuck," Jack wondered. "When the hell did I decide to become a caveman? What the hell got into me?" Jack had no idea why he had reacted as he did. He acted almost without conscious thought. It just seemed the appropriate thing to do at the time.

Never before in his life would he have ever treated a woman as he just had. Maybe it was something in Mariah that had brought this out, or just maybe it was the feeling of being free and without the bindings of matrimony? In any event he felt no remorse, in fact, maybe just a little sense of pride in his masculinity.

Turning to Mariah he asked, "Are you ok? I hope that I didn't hurt you. I guess I got carried away a bit."

Mariah chucked and snuggled into him, "Get carried away anytime you like, lover. Anytime you like."

Jack smiled at her, "You know something, Hank introduced you as Mariah, but I never got your last name."

Mariah turned to him, "It's Cookson, Jack. My name is Mariah Cookson."

Jack Bell sat quietly, seemingly lost in thought. This Mariah had gotten under his skin, but not, fortunately, into his heart. There was just something about her that made him uneasy, some quality that raised his hackles just a tiny bit. After a few more moments, he strode to the phone.

"Hello, may I speak with Hank Simmons? Tell him it's Jack Bell. Yes, I'll wait." He sat and drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair while waiting for Hank to come on the line.

"Hey buddy, how's it going," Hank boomed into the phone.

"Hi Hank. Look, are you busy and if not can you see me today in your office? I really need to speak with you."

Hank was silent for a moment. He seemed to recognize the gravity in Jack's voice. "Wait a second, Jack." Jack heard rustling sounds, and then Hank resumed.

"Jack, I'm clear after 2:00 p.m. Can you come in around then?"

"Great pal, I'll see you then," Jack rang off, putting the phone down quietly. He had to get his thoughts in order, and he knew that that wasn't going to be easy. Not easy articulating his unease and his concern.

At 2:00 p.m exactly Jack Bell strode into Hank's office. Hank rose to greet his old friend. "Have a seat, Jack. I suspect that this isn't quite a social call, is it?" Hank asked quietly.

"Not exactly, pal. Let me ask you something first. What do you really know about Mariah Cookson? Believe me, this isn't a rhetorical question. "

Hank looked at him steadily for a moment. He paused before speaking. "Well, I know that you've been banging her for over a month now, but I suspect that you want to know more than that," he replied.

Jack nodded. "The relationship hasn't been exactly a big secret, Hank. I know that you and Peggy are aware that we have, ah... been screwing like rabbits."

Hank smiled, "That's why we introduced you to her. We felt that you needed a casual affair to get your mind off your recent problems. Mariah seemed just the gal to do that. Were we wrong, Jack? Let me tell you what we know about her, ok?

Jack nodded again and sat back to listen.

Hank continued, "She showed up here about 2 years ago. At least that's when her shop opened up. Small tidbits had begun to appear in the local paper about the shop opening and it wasn't long before many of the local ladies were chafing at the bit. It was reported that she would carry the latest fashions from Paris and New York and the shop opened with a bang. From what I understand she wasn't cash poor, she put down a bundle on that shop.

"That's how Peggy got to know her. It's not like Peg bought a ton of stuff from her, but they seemed to hit it off and became a bit friendly socially. That's why we thought of her when you moved here. We thought that maybe she would help you get on with life, but we never considered her a permanent fixture for you. Now tell me, what's going on? Why the third degree?"

"Hank," Jack began. "I really can't give you chapter and verse about what I feel, it's just a very uneasy feeling. She's been all over me like a cheap suit. It's gotten so that I try to take a drive alone just to avoid her, It's a little suffocating, I guess. She insisted that I look over her books, even though I tried to beg off."

Hank interrupted. "She wanted you to examine her books?? Why, for God's sake?" He seemed flabbergasted.

"Yeah, I felt the same way. Anyway, I gave in and did just that."

"Did you find anything out of the ordinary? Were her books ok? Any irregularities?" Hank pressed.

"Not one thing wrong, not one irregularity. Every T was crossed and every I was dotted. Her books were absolutely perfect. That's what raised my eyebrows. I've never seen a set of books that good. They actually looked sanitized. I've no proof of course, but I feel certain that they were dummy books, she has the real one hidden somewhere,"

Hank had a puzzled look on his face. "But why?? Why is she going to all this trouble? There's got to be something cooking."

Jack bit his lower lip absently before replying. "Yeah, there is something going on and I think I know what it is. Look Hank, this is just between you and me, but I want to retain you as my legal counsel and here's what I want you to do first. Get a handle on this Mariah Cookson. Check into her background... Find out where she came from - and anything else you can come up with in the next couple of days."

Hank made some notes and then asked, "Jack, tell me what you're thinking. I don't want to go into this blind. You have something in mind and you need to share it with me - not only as your counsel, but also as your friend."

Jack decided to level with his friend. "Hank, this broad's been coming on to me like gangbusters and I know it isn't my boyish charm that's got her all excited. This is the way I'm figuring it. She knows that I'm not exactly poor. She's been talking up this new venture of hers in Philly and I think that she really wants me to invest in it. She thought that I would be impressed with her books and after examining them, I'm even more suspicious of her motives."

Hank sat there with a rapt expression on his face. He grinned at Jack and chuckled. "She sure doesn't know who she's fucking with. Anything else you want me to do?"

"Let me get you up to date, Hank. The guy running things at my old company has been on the phone with me a few times already. It seems that they're having trouble with a couple of my old clients. I told him that they needed hand holding, but he's nervous and is pleading with me to fly in and smooth things over. After thinking it over, I decided to do just that. I'm not that interested in solving his problems, but I am getting bored, and this could be a break. Now here's where it could get interesting, old buddy.

"When I tell Mariah that I'm flying into Philly for a few days, she going to flip, if I read her right. She'll want to come with me, maybe meet this person who wants to invest in her boutique, and then talk me into coming up with a chunk of dough. I smell a scam and if I'm right, this isn't the first time she's been involved in something like this. Also, I wonder where she got the bucks to open her present place here. So there's where it stands. If you can get some information on her before I leave, it could come in very handy," Jack concluded.

Hank finished jotting down a few more notes and looked up and grinned again. "Consider it done. I'll give you a call in a couple of days. Also, make sure that you let me know when you're leaving and where I can get in touch with you."

"You have my cell number. I'll be staying in center city, within walking distance of my old offices. I'll call you and get you the number of the hotel and of my suite."

With that they both stood and shook hands. Hank put his arm about Jack's shoulder and asked quietly, "Jack, are you going to see Karen while you're there?"

Jack felt himself choke up suddenly. Karen had been on his mind lately and he had conflicted feelings concerning his ex-wife. He did realize that his heart ached every time she came to mind.

"I don't know... I just don't know, Hank."

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Heterosexual /