Chapter 1

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

Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Charlie gets the bad news from his wife while he is in Barcelona and she is in London. Why does he go on a cruise? And who is Ana?



CASTLE ROCK, COLORADO

The sticky note was on the outside of one of those disposable file folders you can get for practically nothing at Wal-Mart. We both traveled so much that we might go weeks at a time without seeing each other. I was Charles Castillo — yeah, I know, I was getting tired of the Mr. Castle living in Castle Rock jokes — but everyone universally called me Charlie. My wife was Candy... that almost kept us from getting married; she was afraid everyone was going to call her Candy Castle of Castle Rock.

We had worked out that whichever one of us came by the house when the other was gone would take care of the mail: dump the junk, pay the bills, etc. Stuff that needed personal handling we would put in one of the folders and leave it on the hallway table. Sometimes we would include little love notes but lately it seemed that I was doing that a lot more than she was.

Charlie,

Please look at the large manila envelope as soon as possible. There is a letter from me explaining everything and some papers that need to be signed and mailed in the enclosed prepaid envelope.

Candy

Damn! She used to always sign at least 'Love, Candy' if not something friskier, depending on her mood. Lately it had just been, 'Candy.' I looked in the large folder and saw the envelope. It was sealed so I put off looking at it for a while. It was already dark and I'd just gotten home from Mexico City. While I was at the airport waiting for my luggage I got a call from one of the senior partners at the law firm I worked at telling me of an emergency in Barcelona and I need to be there soonest.

I figured I'd grab a shower and send out for a pizza. I was mostly sent to Spanish speaking countries, so sometimes nothing in the world sounded better than a pizza and a couple of beers. I wasn't going to have time to look at the stuff Candy left me until I got on the plane. United had a flight that left Denver at seven a.m. through Philadelphia and then an overnighter to Barcelona getting there at seven the next morning. I started thinking what time I would have to get up to catch the early morning flight and felt sleepy already.

I called in the order for a small supreme and figured the thirty minutes they told me for delivery would be more like forty-five. I took a shower and finished my first beer before the delivery guy showed up. I took my time with the pizza and repacked my clothes. I did this so much that I had enough extra of everything so that I could do a quick turnaround if I had to and not worry about washing clothes. I figured I'd get five or six hours of sleep if I were lucky.

I lay there in the dark after I went to bed trying to relax. I just had a general outline of the problem so there wasn't much I could do until I got to the hotel. When I went to Barcelona they always put me up at the Grand Marina Hotel. It was right next to a trade center and convention center and on the waterfront.

The meeting I would be in would be at a conference room at the trade center. The hotel was the closest one to the cruise terminal so there was always an eclectic group of people around the hotel: passengers going to or returning from cruises, trade conventions, groups for meetings. There were people from all over the world at the hotel which made it a fascinating place.

As I drifted off I wondered what was so important in that manila envelope... it couldn't have been more important than pizza and beer.

I slept better than expected and check-in for business class was a whiz. I really didn't feel like looking through the folder in the mail; I left it in my briefcase in the overhead rack. I usually sat by the aisle but there was no one next to me so I moved over to the window. As I looked at the ground moving steadily below I mused about how I'd gotten into this business.

My mom and dad were from Perú and dad had come to Colorado to attend school at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden. He liked the teaching environment and stayed on as a professor and did a lot of research. After he graduated, he had gone back to Lima and married his long time sweetheart. They were the most compatible couple I'd ever seen.

Both of them had always spoken Spanish to me and I had spent every summer in Perú with one or another relative, so I spoke Spanish like a native, even though I'd been born in the US. I had consistently been a good scholar athlete. The grades came easy to me. The fast times less so but still, I was all state in cross-country, and in track in the mile and half-mile.

That got me a free ride at Stanford where I did a double major in Spanish and International Relations. On the advice of my faculty advisor I went on to The Fisher Graduate School of International Business at the Monterrey Institute of International Studies. I did a double specialization in International Negotiation/Conflict Resolution and Translation and Interpretation with a minor in Portuguese.

What I was interested in — and this came from a paper I'd done at Stanford — was International Conflict Resolution. I found the topic fascinating and spent a lot of time drinking beer with students from all around the world. We would argue until no one had money left for beer and resume a couple of days later. It was fun and I learned a lot — I was motivated so I soaked it up like a sponge.

I met Candy a couple of months before I was to graduate. I wound up two courses short to graduate in the spring after two years so I had to stay for the summer. I was playing golf at the course at Pacific Grove. Their fourth hole was 259 yards from the white tees. I could hit the ball pretty good but I was inconsistent as hell. I'd never come within thirty yards of the green even with the wind. This time I was hitting into a light breeze but somehow everything went just right and I really hammered one.

It hit right at the edge of the green, took one bounce and hit the blonde leaning over sighting her putt in exactly the right place for her to get to her maximum level of being pissed off very quickly. Her shorts were stretched tight as she bent over and the ball bounced off her butt like it was coming off a trampoline! I remember thinking, "Damn, that had to sting!" I ran up to see if she was hurt. I was dazzled by her beauty and was as close to speechless as I've ever been.

She was quite short, maybe five-one, with a round, firm body. I figured she was carrying about ten pounds more than ideal for her, but she looked sexy as hell. I stood there staring at her while she ranted and raved at what an idiot I was. This went on for a couple of minutes before she finally figured out I wasn't listening... I was admiring. Her feminine instincts took over and she gave me a smile that would have done Marilyn Monroe proud.

"I'm Candy Allard. Where are you taking me to dinner?"

I finally woke up and quickly suggested a fine Hungarian place in Carmel. She was in a twosome with a girl friend of hers and I was playing was a friend that was a good professor but a duffer at golf, so we made it a foursome and finished the best of friends. Later that night she showed me her bruise — it was nasty — and she made me rub it. I did a really good job!

She had just finished her law degree at Santa Clara and was taking a cram course in Carmel to prepare for the bar exam. Her specialty, of course, was International Law. Six months later we were married and she was working with a law firm in Denver that did a lot of legal work in petroleum exploration in all the appropriate places around the world.

I took a job with a New York firm doing Conflict Resolution. Most of my work was in Spanish speaking countries, mostly Spain and South America. In addition to actually helping resolve disputes I would sometimes do training to help companies - or once in Madrid a union and a government organization - to work together to resolve conflicts.

With all the travel I did I could live anywhere. When I hired on they actually wanted me to live in Madrid; that, of course, was a non-starter with my new wife, Candy. Not to mention the bonus of being able to see my parents anytime I wanted.

I changed planes in Philadelphia and fell asleep quickly on the overnight leg to Barcelona. When I got checked in at the hotel I was rested and wide awake so I picked up the faxes and after a light breakfast I prepared for the two days of meetings the next day. As I was putting the material back in my briefcase I saw the folder that Candy had left me.

I figured I'd better get to it so I went down by the pool. I figured I might as well enjoy myself. It was such a lovely day I ordered a glass of cava, a sparkling wine, from one of the local producers.

As I took the glass from the waiter a woman was getting out of the pool and she immediately captured my attention. She had on a bikini — not much material as was the European style, and as she pulled herself up the weight of the water made the top part of her suit sag. I could see her breasts, not large but certainly enough for most men, with the nipples erect over the dark pink areolas.

She looked up and saw where I was staring and gave me a megawatt smile as she climbed on out of the pool. She walked over to a nearby lounge under an umbrella. I was always amazed at the more relaxed view women in Europe - especially in the Mediterranean countries — have about showing their bodies. I guess this woman took my interest as a compliment.

She wasn't what I would call pretty; she had a handsome face with strong bone structure, long dark red hair and a body that was close to being all I could ask for — not that I was asking! Her breasts were slightly small and her hips were slightly wide. But somehow the overall package exuded sex appeal. She was the woman that once seen led to erotic dreams for a lifetime. I nodded to myself: the man that wins her (I'd seen no rings) was better off than if he'd won the lottery.

I shook my head as the woman lay down because she folded her swimsuit bra down to get the sun, barely showing her still erect nipple. Focus, Charlie!

I sipped the slightly sweet cava as I looked through all the stuff in the folder Candy had left me, saving the manila folder for last. I was, finally, getting curious about it. Mostly it was routine: a letter from my tax guy about IRS questions about my expenses, a bonus check for a good result in Santiago, Chile, and several letters from my investment broker. I took out the envelope and slid my finger under the edge to open it up. There was something from our lawyers and a letter from Candy.

I figured I'd better read the letter first to see what it was all about.

Dear Charlie,

I'm sure this is no surprise to you, as we almost never see each other. I wasn't looking for it but over the last few visits to London I've fallen in love with one of the lawyers there.

At this point I dropped my cava with pieces of glass shards flying everywhere. The well-trained staff immediately cleaned it up and brought me a new glass. The woman with the long dark red hair and the perky nipples looked over at me with at first curiosity, then concern, as she slowly unwound her long legs from the lounge and walked over to me.

She asked me in Spanish (all of our subsequent conversations were in Spanish), "Are you okay?"

I mumbled, stuttered, "My wife, she... oh, shit!" I took the new glass of cava and downed it like it was the cheapest rye.

She looked at me in a sad way - I think she kind of figured it out. It was only after the left, giving me one of those lingering, curious but non-intrusive looks that women seem to know how to do from birth. Maybe it was some atavistic instinct having to do with survival of the species. It wasn't until she had walked away that it dawned on me that her accent was not from Spain, but from Chile.

I waggled my empty glass and started reading again.

I don't see any problems. I'm moving to London right away; the transfer is already approved. I never liked Denver... it was just too provincial for me. Except for me you would have been working out of Madrid anyway. I guess you will miss your parents, but — well, I don't know what to say.

I didn't exactly fall out of love with you; it's that we were apart so much that you were no longer a habit. Please sign the papers as soon as possible since Llewellyn and I want to get married at Christmas. You remember him, don't you? We met him last year when he was in town for a meeting.

Yeah, I remembered him. Damn, I thought he was gay!

Do be a dear and don't ruffle any feathers. I mean, Charlie, what good is it to be civilized if we don't act that way.

I felt very uncivilized right then.

Please do take care of the money things. Llewellyn is such a darling and his family has so much money that there is no rush for you to clean up the details, but, dear Charlie, we do need to keep things tidy, don't we?

I'm sorry to do it this way but we just never seemed to see each other. Do take care of yourself, dear.

Candy

Why, that bitch! Why, that goddamned bitch! I didn't know which I was more of, pissed off or supremely embarrassed. I grabbed my stuff and headed to my room. As I passed the woman, as I was now thinking of her, she gave me such a serious look that I could swear she had read the letter.

I got to the room and threw the folder full of shit against the wall and picked up the phone to order a bottle of fine Spanish brandy. I looked in the mirror and shook my head. No, that was the easy route - I wasn't going to go that way. Instead I took a small bottle of Lustau Amontillado from the mini-bar and poured it in a glass... slowly sipping it, enjoying the nutty character as my frustration made me feel like hitting something — or someone.

There was no one to yell at. No one to hit up the side of the head. No one to explain what the hell had happened. I didn't even know what country Candy was in. We both had international cell phones that operated in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Pacific Rim including Australia, plus with the added GSM 1900 frequency, the United States, Canada and a growing part of South America.

I called her cell and to my amazement it rang and she immediately answered it.

"Candy, it that you?"

"Charlie! I was hoping to talk to you. You were a dear and signed the papers, didn't you?"

"Uh, well, no. I had to immediately come to Barcelona. I've just had a chance to read your letter. I haven't had a chance to look at the papers as yet."

"Oh, Charlie, you have to sign them. It is just so important. Llewellyn's family is crazy ready for the wedding. His dad is the sweetest man... he is an Earl or Duke or one of those things. I can't keep it straight, but he seems totally important and everyone calls him sir!"

I held the phone away from me, giving it a strange look. Had this small piece of plastic and its embedded electronics somehow captured the brilliant lawyer I'd married not so long ago and made her an airhead Valley Girl? Maybe Llewellyn was gay! I couldn't see how that could really help, but the thought made me feel better.

"Unh, Candy, look, I gotta go. A meeting. Look, I'll read the papers and see what's going on."

"Oh, Charlie, you are so sweet. Thanks, ever so much. Toodle-oo."

'Toodle-oo?' Who the hell was that? Damn, maybe she was gay too?

I took a shower, shaved, and just for the hell of it, took another shower. I felt depressed... depressed and wet and as red as a lobster.

I went down to the restaurant, the Aire de Mar, which was as highly rated as the hotel was. The maitre d' knew me well and led me back to a quiet corner. As we approached the table I usually sat at, a woman with long dark red hair, the woman, stood up.

"Señor, please sit with me."

The maitre d' looked at me and I shrugged, so he pulled out the chair for me.

The woman gave me a generous smile that turned her somewhat plain face into something enchanting.

I smiled back, "I have something to confess, Señorita - not knowing your name I have come to think of you as the woman. I am Charlie Castillo and I can't just call you that. May I have the pleasure of knowing your name?"

"Of course... Charlie? I'm Ana Gálvez but please call me Ana."

"Ana, I have to say that you have the loveliest," here I paused and glanced helplessly at her low cut dress that showed more than enough of the cleavage of her breasts delicately hidden behind the décolletage of her dress to keep me interested, "the loveliest hair that I can ever remember seeing."

She blushed, faintly — she was after all a woman of the world — but in a manner that made her immediately endearing to me.

I continued, "That dark red color, the color of the tiles at Montserrat, aged by the sun and wind over the centuries. That color makes the light green of the new pastures in Ireland each spring captured in your eyes look even more lovely."

I was in this strange mood of despair and freedom - from what? - mixed together with the sudden appearance of this charming woman. The hell with Candy! I was going to flirt with this woman, Ana. I felt a release... almost like a drug taking effect and making me as open and easy with this woman as I had ever been with any I'd ever met. I was playing a part and I would play it to the hilt.

"Your Spanish, Charlie, I can't place it. Where are you from, Charlie?"

I rapidly answered in Castilian Spanish, then the noticeably different Argentine accent, and quickly finishing in the Peruvian Limeño and of the barrio in Santiago. "I'm here tonight to bring a smile to an expatriate woman from Santiago."

"You... you're not from Chile, no?"

"No," I laughed. "My parents are from Lima, I was born in Colorado, but I have an ear for language, for the nuances of place, for the talk of the people.

"I have spoken Spanish all my life but I have also trained hard at it as both a translator and as an interpreter. My friends from college were from most of the Spanish speaking countries. I have, many times, been to Santiago on business." Looking at her fingers, still no rings to see - not even white lines showing on her well tanned ring finger - I continued, "And I have to say, Señorita, that the loveliest of all women are from Chile."

She laughed, then responded, "And how much Irish do you have in you... you seem to have more than your fair share of blarney."

I smiled at that, and then she continued, in a more serious mien.

"Charlie, I... I couldn't help but notice this afternoon when you dropped the glass. You were fine, flirting with me like you should, then... you changed. What happened, Charlie?"

It was like she had dumped a pitcher of ice water over me. The false gaiety one sometimes assumes in the face of perceived danger was gone as fast as the betting stub of a favored horse finishing ten lengths behind the field. I stood up too suddenly, knocking my chair over backward with a resounding crash, and with a murmured 'excuse me' made my way unsteadily to the restroom.

I felt the sudden need to heave my guts out, but couldn't. I looked in the mirror and was shocked at the pasty gray of my face, the sweat on my forehead looking greasy. I bend down and took several deep breaths, feeling on the verge of passing out. I washed my face for long moments in the cold water, over and over, scrubbing... something away. Trying to scrub it away — whatever it was.

I realized I was in shock and knew I had to go lie down. I made it, stumbled but made it, back to the table with the lovely woman, sitting, now rising, as I approached.

I said in a stiff, formal Spanish, "Please, Señorita Ana, please excuse me."

I walked, shuffled away, and turned back at the last moment to see her standing there, looking more than anything like she was crying.

I made it to my room and fell on the bed — passing out as much as anything else. In the middle of the night I struggled out of my clothes, fighting with the shoes, and falling quickly, at once into the nothingness of oblivion.

TRANSITIONS

The phone was ringing, calling me, ordering me to wake up. I came up from the depths of hell and nightmares to sit on the side of the bed and looked at the phone for an unknowing moment, then picked it up. An unplanned breakfast meeting... urgent, at once. Someone else will cover your other meetings — leave the faxes at the front desk. I rushed, showered, cut myself shaving, dressed and went down to meet with the client.

I clamped down on my personal problems and had a smile (grimace?) on my face as I walked to the table of Señor Benavidez. It was a catharsis to quickly fall into the known, the routines of business, of life... of the living. I put Candy in some corner of my mind and focused on real things.

The client worked for Royal Cruise Lines and was responsible for hiring contract workers to keep up with turnover. It seemed that there had been some unpleasant advances made on women of various ages by persons furnished from the companies with which he worked. That there were problems was readily apparent from the grim visage of Señor Benavidez.

I listened, nodded as appropriate — this was a customer — then I was startled by his proposition. He wanted me to go on the next cruise ship, in two days, from Barcelona to Miami.

"Yes, Mr. Charlie, we will give you a suite and everything taken care of."

"Of course, Señor Castillo, the Captián knows you will be on board and will assist you in any and every way possible."

"No, Señor Charlie. You have only to observe. We need the truth of the matter. You are the truth!"

"Yes, Mr. Castillo, yes, of course we know that you resolve the conflicts. We must know the truth and you tell us the truth, verdad?"

"Of course, Señor, your company knows what we ask of you. Please, Charlie, the truth, only the truth!"

The ship, the Sea Bright, owned by Royal Cruise Lines was to dock the next day plus one in the morning and I would immediately be boarded and escorted to my suite. It was so sudden and so different that the shock of Candy had been overlaid by a new shock.

I was so stunned by what Señor Benavidez was saying that I just nodded and looked wise. Truth was I had no clue what I was supposed to do. Look for the truth, I guess. I called New York and talked to my boss.

"Damn, Charlie. I don't know what they want. I just know it's important to RCL. They are talking of losses in the millions in bookings if they get a bad reputation and women don't feel safe."

He gave a deep sigh, and continued, "Just do what you can."

He went on to tell me that Candy had called him, checking on something or other. "Charlie, don't worry about it. Just keep your eyes open and... well, I was going to say have fun, but just try to do something to distract yourself."

There was a long pause, then Gerald came back, "Hey, Charlie, I bet they have shuffleboard on the ship. Glenda and I had so much fun on our cruise to Alaska entering the shuffleboard tournaments."

He said his goodbyes and I looked at the phone like it was something cursed. I really felt reassured.

After the meeting I went to my room and checked for messages. There was one, so I played it.

"Charlie, this is Ana, the woman," she added with a laugh that sounded too bubbly for this early in the day. Maybe she was drinking bubbles — that suddenly seemed like a great idea. "If you don't have any plans for lunch, please meet me by the pool. I'll save a table for us, and a couple of lounges."

I couldn't think of anything better to do for the rest of the day so I changed into my swimsuit and went down to the pool. True to her word she'd had one of the waiters move a table and two lounge chairs apart from everyone else. There was a bottle of wine in an ice bucket on the table and my lounge already had towels on it. Ana was laying on her front trying to spread sun lotion on her back.

She heard me walking up and raised her head. "Charlie, you save my life!"

She handed me the bottle of tanning oil and I rubbed it on her back. She had untied the strings on her top and had only something akin to a bandana doing a less than effective job of covering her well tanned globes. Her skin was hot from the sun and the oil was viscous as I rubbed it up and down her back.

"Charlie, down to here please?" she murmured sleepily as she reached down to her tailbone just above what I was now thinking as her red bandana.

I obediently followed her directions and slowly but firmly rubbed the oil from her shoulders down to her buttocks, making sure I got the sides too. I smiled to myself. No job too tough for Charlie! I was waiting for her to say that was enough. Finally I looked around and saw that she was sound asleep. I started tapering off but I just knew that she would have wanted me to get under the edges of her bikini bottom.

I went to the rest room to wash my hands and came back and swam a few quick laps. I sat on my lounge with the back up so I could look around. Ana had turned a little and I could see the side of her breast with a hint of pink nipple showing. I felt like a voyeur as I frankly admired her almost bare form. For the first time the idle thought came to me, "Candy who?"

After twenty minutes or so Ana woke up and did that — amazing to me — feminine trick of tying the back of the bikini top without lifting up. I wondered if they had a school for girls somewhere that taught them things like that. While Ana had been sleeping a woman across the pool had put a towel over her top, removed the bra part, nursed her baby and reversed everything, all the time revealing nothing. Amazing! From her skin color and her apparent rectitude about showing her body, I guessed she was from the states.

Ana jumped in to cool off and came back waving for a waiter. We had a light lunch of assorted tapas washed down with the bottle of cava the waiter had opened. Ana had more than her share of the food and I had more than my share of the wine. Seemed fair to me. I was still in a funny mood... like I was out of my body watching what was going on.

After lunch we sat in the lounges idly chatting and watching people. I reached out for Ana's hand and held it as I looked at her. "Ana, while you were asleep I was admiring your body."

She didn't seem to look upset, maybe curious with where I was going with my comment. I added softly, "You have a lovely body. I have to say you are a lovely woman." I paused for a minute looking at her, and then I rubbed my thumb gently over where a wedding ring would be. "Why has no man found out what a treasure you are?"

She looked over at me the glanced away. Quietly, almost with a whisper, she replied, "Later, over dinner."

I felt I owed her an explanation for last night. "Ana, about what happened at dinner..."

She stopped me by standing up and pulling my hand so I stood beside her. With a slight smile, she repeated, "Later, at dinner," and pulling my hand we both jumped in the water. We fooled around for a while, splashing water, and she soundly beat me in an impromptu race for a length of the pool.

We got out, dried off a bit with the towels and I walked her to her room. We decided to go out for dinner to a favorite place of mine. It was out on Avenida Diagonal and a ways from the hotel so we took a taxi. It was better known as a businessmen's lunch place and usually wasn't too crowded for dinner.

The inside was quite nice with wooden paneled walls aged to a rich patina of dark brown. They specialized in the traditional Castilian asados: Cochinillo and cordero (roast suckling pig and lamb). Ana had not had either in her time in Spain.

"Even though I like meat a lot, the seafood in Barcelona is incredible, so I've kind of stuck with that."

So I told her, "Okay, tonight is meat."

I gave the order to the waiter and asked for a pitcher of Sangría. For some reason I always liked that with either of these dishes. I'd ordered one of each dish so Ana could try both of them.

My story was simple, so while we were waiting for our food I told what had happened. She was amazed that Candy could be so cold about it.

"I would never do that to you!"

Hmm. That was interesting. Was that a just a general statement of her feelings about the topic or was this something she was actively thinking about? Again, this idle thought eased itself into my consciousness like a thief in the night, "Candy, who?"

Ana was really making an impression on me. It wasn't just the physical attraction — although that was considerable. We had a connection at so many levels: a common cultural history and language, many common interests, and, as far as I could tell, we were just nice persons.

She really liked both of the dishes and couldn't decide which she liked best. "So I guess they are both my favorites now."

They were actually quite good. The skin was crisp and inside they were moist and tender with an almost indescribably delicate flavor.

We were having some sherry after dinner and Ana told me her story.

"I'm now twenty-eight. Eight years ago I married a wonderful man from Bilbao, Aitor Azkarra. He was a political editorial writer for El Correo, one if the newspapers there. Aitor was a passionate Basque but he was tired of the killings. He felt the fighting should stop, that an agreement should be reached with the Spanish government that would still allow a lot of separatism for the Basque homeland, but not full independence.

"To say the least, it wasn't a popular position in Bilbao." She bit her lower lip and looked at her glass. I could see tears forming in her eyes. "One night after work, he... they put a bomb in his car. He never knew what happened.

"Afterward — that's the problem with something like this; there is always an afterward — I had to change back to my maiden name and move to Madrid. I had to stop wearing my rings that Aitor gave me... I just couldn't afford to have people ask questions. There were threats... his parents and his younger brother and sister moved to Miami. I'm, well, I thinking of moving there too."

She looked at me, a burning fire in her eyes, "God, Charlie, you can't say a word of this to anyone! They are so fanatical. It's sad because Aitor was as much a Basque in his heart as anyone. He was just so... gentle. He wanted peace and died for his beliefs and for the things he said in his columns."

I took her hand and held it, gently. I brought her hands to my lips and kissed them as softly as I could. I thought about her pain - and thought about mine. His countrymen had betrayed her husband. My wife had betrayed me. There was no way to compare the depth of pain and betrayal in the two cases. For the first time I thought that Candy's leaving me might be the best thing that ever happened to me.

I took her back to the hotel and she asked me to come to her room. "Charlie, I don't want to be alone tonight. Can you just... well, hold me?"

She changed clothes and put on a conservative gown. I took my coat and tie and my shoes off and lay beside her. She gave me a short, but serious kiss and turned over and seemed to fall asleep at once. By a serious kiss, I meant that it wasn't a shallow good night kiss to an acquaintance but a kiss from a woman to a man that says, "Not tonight, but soon." At least that's the way it felt to me.

I cuddled up to her in a spoon position and turned the light out. After a bit I put my hand on her hip to make myself more comfortable. She took my hand and placed it on her breast and held it there. She wiggled her butt against me and fell into a deep sleep. After a while I fell into a deep sleep myself.

Later, the clock said it was a little past two-thirty in the morning. I woke up. Some noise on the street, a slamming door, I didn't know. I had a raging erection and I lay there wide awake — it just felt too good to lay there and enjoy the pressure of her body against me. I knew, somehow, that if I did what I wanted to it would be the right thing at the wrong time. I felt it was a catharsis for her to tell me about Aitor. Her dreams tonight belonged to her memories.

I knew at that time that we had a future together. I didn't try to figure it out. I didn't worry about Candy. Everything about her seemed so... distant, so passé. I eased out of bed, grabbed my stuff and went up to my room. I immediately got the legal papers Candy had given me and signed as marked, dotted the i's and crossed the t's. I put everything in the envelope the law firm had provided and put it on the corner of the desk.

That action was like closing the book on a part of my life. As I drifted off to sleep, my last thought was that I needed to find out more about Ana. Was I in love with her? I had no idea. But somehow I realized that I could be happier with Ana than I had ever been with Candy. I slept the sleep of the just; I had no dreams and slept deeply. When I woke with the dawn the next morning I felt refreshed.

I hadn't been running as much as I wanted so I put on my running shoes and ran for an hour along the waterfront and up and back on Las Ramblas, the defining wide avenue of the city as it was just waking up with the early risers.

I got back to the hotel and felt so good about my run I ordered a simple breakfast from room service: toast, orange juice and coffee. When I dropped the envelope for the divorce papers off at the desk I had a sudden epiphany; this was Candy's problem, not mine. I had thought it was the love of the ages but now I realized she was more of a sexy habit than anything.

From the time she had me rub that bruise from the golf ball she had held me in thrall with her body. Truth be told, Ana was much better for me no matter which way you looked at it. I was remembering things now about Candy and, truth be told, outside of her unquestioning hot body she was a shallow person. Not dumb, hell, she was much smarter than I was. But her values, the things she wanted out of life were to me the dreams of a shallow person.

I had my closure. I didn't need to see her and pathetically ask why. I didn't want, yea, I didn't need anything from her but finality. I was sitting out on the deck outside my room watching a giant cruise ship debark from Barcelona. The sense that I had was that Candy was on that ship and she was sailing out of my life. Farther out I could see the pilot boat dropping off a pilot to bring in the next load of passengers to ravage the shops and stands and stalls along Las Ramblas and I had the companion image of Ana being on the new ship and was sailing into my life.

The phone rang and, unthinking, I picked it up.

"Hello, Charlie. Are your okay?"

It was Candy. I thought about it for a minute, and answered, "Yeah, Candy, actually I am. I signed the papers and they should be delivered in two days."

She gushed, "Oh, Charlie, thanks! And Llewellyn thanks you too. Oh, his parents will be so happy. Did I tell you that we are being married at St. Paul's? Oh, I'm so excited."

She ran on for a bit and as I listened I asked myself how a woman so smart could be such an airhead? I honestly felt great all of a sudden. I realized that it was my pride that had been injured, not my heart. I finally hung up and turned to take a shower when the phone rang again.

I had been patient, but enough was enough. This was her game and I wasn't going to play anymore. "God damn it, just leave me alone!" I slammed the phone down, surprised that I didn't break it.

About ten minutes later there was a soft, tentative knock at the door. Ana stood there looking afraid, like she was going to cut and run.

"Charlie, what did I do? I'm so sorry, but..." and she did. That is she did cut and run.

I chased after her. "No, Ana, it wasn't you. I'd just talked to Candy and when the phone rang again I thought it was her again. I'm so sorry! I did mail in the papers so in a few months we will be divorced." I pulled her close and hugged her tight, her tears mingling with the sweat from my run.

"Oh, Charlie, I thought... I don't know, it was like something died in me." She looked up at me, the words I'd said coming through to her. "So you will be free again?" This was said with a faint smile.

I pulled her into the room. "There is some coffee left on the balcony. Why don't you wait out there while I take a shower and get ready. Do you have any plans for the day?"

"Just a wine and cheese thing I'm supposed to go to tonight."

"Have you ever been to Montserrat?" She turned her head back and forth with a clear no. "Okay, let's do that."

Two hours later we took the cable car up the steep route to Montserrat after reaching the end of the line of the interurban train. It really was an incredible place; it was the site of a Benedictine abbey, Santa María de Montserrat. It was perched on the top of a steep hill with incredible views. Its history dated back to 880 AD and there was a fascinating museum.

We spent a fun day climbing around the rocks and had a decent lunch in the cafeteria. We got back to the hotel around five and Ana was adamant that she had to go to the reception. I suddenly felt desperate. I had this quick realization that I might not see her again, that I might lose her. I tried one more time.

"Ana, I have to leave in the morning. I won't see you again. Ana, I can't do that... I, you mean a lot to me Ana."

I could see that she was about to cry, and I didn't want to do that to her. I reminded her that she had my email address and I gave her a tight hug, and walked away.

Going up the elevator I realized I should have asked her about the party — maybe it was something I could crash. I got to my room and ignoring the flashing red light on my phone I went out to the balcony. I sat there a long time, looking along the waterfront and seeing nothing. I felt despondent; how could I lose Ana so quickly. I felt like I should fight for her but I didn't know which dragon to slay. The phone rang, and I slowly went in to answer it. The thought that it might be Ana quickened my last few steps.

"Yes," I answered in the abrupt American manner.

"Señor Castillo? Yes, this is you?"

Recognizing the voice, I responded, "Señor Benavidez, what can I do for you?"

"Ah, Charlie. It is good to hear you. I trust all is well with you." Without giving me a chance to say if I was well or not, he continued, "I left you a message but I wanted to make sure. The passengers will be meeting for a wine and cheese party in meeting room A at seven-thirty. This is a tradition; about two hundred people that take the cruise usually stay here at the hotel for a day or two. The night before debarkation we give them a party — they seem to like it. I think it would be good if you could attend."

Distracted, I tossed off, "Yes, sure, Señor, I'll make sure I go."

"Señor, Charlie, we hire two types of personnel: crew, which cleans the rooms and so forth, and staff, such as chefs, chief stewards, finance people — all that sort. You must remember that this ship carries about 2000 passengers and about half that many employees. There is always turnover at each port with vacations, turnover and all that. We are adding about twenty low level positions for this cruise and about a dozen of what we call staff. It is the staff that will be at the party tonight."

I guess he wanted to me to look around. Maybe I could meet some of the contract workers hired by Señor Benavidez. As I was going down the elevator my spirits picked up. Maybe this was the party that Ana was attending?

It was a large room and there were obviously some of the new contract workers plus a number of Royal Cruise Lineslocal support and management personnel there in uniforms of one kind or another. There were tables of appetizers in addition to a row of tables for tasting wine and cheese at the end of the room.

The room was more crowded than I expected and I had some trouble trying to see if Ana was there. I finally found her pinned in a corner by a slick looking guy in a RCL Uniform. As I got closer I remembered his name from the list Benavidez had provided from me. Aldo Bommarito was from Naples and was a trainer in the gym. I didn't like his looks and I sure didn't like the way he was invading Ana's personal space.

As I came close Ana saw me and stepped around him, giving me a big hug. "You're here! Are you going on the cruise? Where is your cabin? I have an interior cabin on Deck Eight."

As long as Aldo was around I didn't want to tell her where I was, in the Owner's Suite on Deck Ten. That's what they had available to stash me and I wasn't going to argue.

Aldo gave me a kind of smirk, a knowing smile... one gigolo to another. It made me feel unclean. I would certainly look for the truth, the verdad with this guy!

I finally got Ana alone to talk to her. "I didn't know you were going on this cruise, Ana."

"Yes, that's why I've been at the hotel. I'm meeting some of my family... and Aitor's parents in Miami to see if I want to move there. Aitor had some money saved and I wanted to do something different. Are you really going to be on this ship?"

Since she had asked me to hold a confidence, I figured I could trust her. Hell, I didn't know what I was doing anyway. I took her arm and led her out into the hallway to a sitting area and explained what was going on.

"Would you like to board early? I can probably do that for you."

"Would I go on with you?"

"Sure, I can probably get you on a ships tour, too. Just a minute and let me check."

I called his home number — he told me to call if I had any questions. "Señor Benavidez, how are you? This is Charlie Castillo." I went on to tell him what I wanted to do.

"No problem, Charlie. Listen; when you see the ship dock you and your lady friend take a taxi with your luggage to the dock. They will be expecting you."

I explained to Ana and she was okay with that. We went back in to the party and circulated. I wanted everyone to think I was just another passenger. I told Ana to be ready around ten the next morning and to sleep well. I gave her a quick kiss and left her to get ready.

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Story tagged with:
Ma/Fa / Romantic / Humor / Cheating /