Even with the air conditioner running full blast, the late July heat seemed to filter through the walls. Every time one of the children opened or closed the door to the rear yard, Gail felt the heat hit her back. Maybe she shouldn't have started this project today. The chemical sizing used in the fabric during the weaving process was beginning to sting her eyes. However, Mrs. Wagner wanted the denim skirt to wear to the big dance on Saturday night and was willing to pay for the rush job. Gail could certainly use the extra money. The electric bill would be a killer this month and next month's bill would be even higher.
One of the children stood beside the sewing machine tapping her on the shoulder, "Miss Gail, Miss Gail, Bobby fell down. His knee is bleeding."
Turning off the machine, Gail stood to tend to yet another minor emergency. "Okay, I'm coming. Let's go see about Bobby's knee."
"Miss Gail, why is blood red?"
Gail chuckled at the child's simple question. "I guess so we can see it easily and fix the place it's coming out of."
After the ritual of comforting a crying four-year-old, Gail washed, applied a spray-on antibiotic, and rewarded Bobby's injury with a blue adhesive bandage. She sent all five children back to the rear yard for a few more minutes so they could forget the injury. Their energetic play would tire them and she might get all of them to take a good afternoon nap.
As she closed the door, she noticed a long, silver Crown Victoria stop at the neighbor's house. She had finished sewing the back seam of the denim skirt when the front doorbell rang. It was so much a part of her concern for the children's safety that she automatically turned off the sewing machine when she left it that she did it without thinking and went to the front door.
Children seem to have some kind of internal radar. As she opened the front door, five pairs of children's eyes stood behind Gail and heard the man on her front porch ask, "Gail Grove?"
Through the locked screen door, Gail spoke to the stranger, "Yes sir. I'm Gail Grove."
"Miss Grove, I'm Carlton Conyers. I have a few questions to ask you. May I come inside?"
"No sir. Can you tell me why you need to question me?"
"I'm a detective and..."
"Private or police?"
"Alright," the man nodded as he reached into his rear pocket and pulled out a leather wallet, opened it and held it up for her to see the badge and the identification.
Gail unlocked the screen door and held out her hand, "May I," indicating she wanted to hold the wallet.
As she examined his credentials, he examined her, from the top of her head covered with a cap of curly short brown hair, all the way down her slightly square face with somewhat sunken cheeks, dark brown eyes, and a narrow nose. He continued looking down the long slender neck, and broad shoulders, across the moderate-sized bust and the flat plane of her stomach. Neatly hemmed denim shorts covered her well rounded hips and half of the thighs of her long slender legs. She was wearing short socks and comfortable looking, well-worn walking shoes. His experience permitted him to guess her age was probably in her early twenties. She was about 5'8" and weighed about 115 to 125. This young woman was pretty in a plain way, not really beautiful and she had a serious look in her eyes, which indicated intelligence and a quick mind.
"You certainly are careful."
"I have to be." Gail answered looking down at the children collected around her. She opened the door wider for the man to walk into her house. Amid the questions the children were asking the detective, she smiled as she half-way listened to her little people discuss if he was with NYPD, did he have a gun, and why didn't he have lights on top of his car.
"Is this just one or two questions or longer?" Gail asked over the next child's voice questioning about why the policeman wasn't wearing a uniform.
"I'd like at least an hour of your time," the detective responded. He looked around the small living room as Gail watched and raised his eyebrows at all the children crowded around them.
Gail lifted her chin, "I'm legal," she nodded toward her framed license for a child care facility she kept on the wall beside the front door. She might have raised her hand to point toward the frame, but children clasped both hands firmly, tugging to get her attention. He turned his head and nodded.
Above the chattering of the children, Gail spoke to the man as he followed her through the house. "It won't get any quieter. You can come back in about an hour or you can wait. It will take less time, if you help."
He raised his voice above an argument over a red or a blue plastic plate Gail was handing out. "Help?"
"It's lunch time, Detective." Gail smiled and laughed lightly. "When they're chewing, they don't talk as much."
Getting all five children sitting down with their color coordinated plates, cups, and forks, and then dishing out small chunks of fruit, cheese, and meat sticks took more time than Carlton could have imagined. Before he realized it, his suit jacket was off and he was showing five pairs of wide eyes a gun hanging from his shoulder holster and talking about gun safety. A few minutes later, he was reviewing a few often repeated phrases from a children's stranger danger video he remembered giving to his sister.
As she worked at getting all the children fed, Gail occasionally glanced at Detective Carlton Conyers to examine him, much as he had done to her when he walked in the front door. He looked taller than the six foot two inch height shown on his identification. Perhaps it was because he seemed to fill so much of the small kitchen with his broad shoulders and muscular build. Yet, he moved with the ease of a man younger than his physical age, which she knew from his identification, was forty-three. His closely cut dark hair was beginning to show a small amount of executive gray at the temples. His dark brown eyes were quick and observant of everything happening around him.
After seeing him bend over to add more fruit to one of the children's plates, Gail turned back to filling a small cup with juice. She was smiling thinking about how his suit pants fit across his tight butt.
Then restroom breaks, washing hands, ten small feet were going down the hall to the middle bedroom. Another fifteen minutes of a short story and the children grew quiet and were soon falling asleep.
When she was back in the kitchen, Carlton had the table cleared and the dishes in the sink. Without showing surprise, Gail commented, "I imagine your wife is a very lucky woman. How many children do you have?"
"I'm not married, Miss Grove. I have a grown niece and a nephew in college. My experience with small children was a long time ago."
"Gail, please," she requested, dispensing with the formality of using her last name.
"Thank you, Gail. Now, can you answer a few questions?"
"Fire away," Gail blushed at the double entendre. "Ah ... yes, I can answer your questions, now. Coffee?" she asked as she pointed at the coffeepot and picked up her cup.
She wasn't surprised that her hands were slightly shaking. The man was crowding her personal space, as if he were doing it intentionally. He stood beside her, his hip nearly touching the counter top beside the coffee maker. When she reached for the coffee pot, he didn't move, not an inch. She barely avoided brushing his arm with the hot pot, and he seemed to know how nervous he was making her.
"Yeah, thanks," he answered easily. "I've already talked to a few of your neighbors." As Gail reached in the cabinet in front of her to remove a second coffee cup, the man's tone of voice did not change when his hand lightly brushed down her upper arm. "You're a very pretty woman."
Gail did not respond to the man's flirting, nor did she turn her head to look at him. Instead, she took her filled cup of coffee to the table and sat down.
Gail nodded when he asked, "Will all of the children go to sleep?" She did not look up when he asked, "How long does their nap usually last?"
"They usually sleep an hour, sometimes a little longer."
"That should give us enough time," Conyers replied moving his head to look down the hall toward the bedrooms.
Unaware that in her nervousness she had crossed one leg over the other and was slowly swinging her foot back and forth, the man moved a little nearer so that her foot brushed the leg of his pants. Tired of the man's flirting, Gail turned her head to look at him, "Detective Conyers, you said you have some questions?"
"Well, I am asking questions," he replied. "You don't like my questions? Darrell Johnson across the street didn't seem to mind my questions." He stood in front of her, his feet at shoulder width. If she looked straight ahead, she would see that he had the beginning of an erection.
Gail looked away from the detective and clenched her jaw, refusing to respond to the man's jibes. Darrell Johnson was not as subtle as Clayton Conyers was. Darrell had offered to fuck her until she screamed. On another occasion, he had promised a pussy licking that would make her eyes roll back in her head. He often sat on his front porch repeatedly running his hand down the back of a calico cat, which sat on his lap. He had told her he would be as gentle with her pussy as he was with his own little pussy cat. At least half of the times she walked out her front door, he was standing on his front porch slowly rubbing his hand up and down the front of his tight bicycle shorts under which he demonstrated his engorged erection, or something he had stuffed down his pants.
"Do my questions bother you, Gail?" Detective Conyers asked as he moved a chair away from the table so he could sit and look at Gail. He made a slow perusal of her, from her slowly swinging leg all the way up to the top of her head as he slowly licked his lips.
Gail sat up straight in her chair, uncrossed her legs, and looked at the man sitting beside her. She'd had enough of his intimidation. "Detective Conyers, you're not going to get anything from me I've already refused to give to Darrell Johnson. If you have specific questions, ask them, or please leave."
Relaxing against the back of his seat, he didn't bat an eye at her comment. Instead, he continued in the same tone of voice, "I need information about the people who live in the house next door."
"I thought that was why you are here. What do you want to know?"
Reaching into the pocket of his suit coat hanging on the back of the chair, Conyers brought out his notebook. He reviewed the number of times in the previous eighteen months when Gail had reported the sounds of a domestic disturbance. He allowed Gail to describe the appearance of the woman on the days following her reports including the two times Gail encouraged the woman to go to the hospital or to see her personal physician.
"What is the first date you can recall that you had not seen Cheryl Ramos?"
"Oh, let me think. I'm not sure I saw her after the last report. She had been over that night. She was limping so badly she could hardly walk. I wanted her to call 9-1-1 for an ambulance, but she didn't want to go to the hospital. I think she stayed over here about an hour and was holding her stomach the whole time. I saw him the next morning, I think, but I don't recall seeing her after that night."
"You said you asked Tony Ramos where Cheryl was."
"Yes, I sort of lied. I told him she left her glasses at my house and I wanted to give them back to her."
"Glasses. Reading glasses?"
"Yes, she wore glasses to read. She bought two or three pair at a time at the drug store and was forever leaving them lying around and then forgetting to take them home with her."
"Did she actually leave her glasses over here that night?"
"Not that night, but I had some she had left on another day. I just used that as an excuse to ask about her."
"Did you always ask about her or see her the day after one of their fights?"
"Usually. I was just letting him know whatever he was doing to her wasn't going unnoticed."
"What did he tell you?"
"Oh, well ... I have to use the words he said, I guess." Conyers nodded and Gail said, "He told me, 'I finally got rid of that lying cunt.' He said some other things, but it came down to a story that she was being unfaithful with his brother and he told her to go to him, or to go live with her sister."
Conyers continued questioning Gail to determine if she knew, or had met Tony's brother, Cheryl's sister, or any other family members or knew where any of them lived.
"I'm sorry, I don't. In fact, I didn't even know she had a sister. She didn't talk about any of her family. We weren't close. I mean we might have a short conversation occasionally, mostly we just nodded, waved, or said hello when we were coming or going and one of us was somewhere we could see the other. Most neighbors are like that, I guess. It's not like when I was a lot younger and played with all the other kids in the neighborhood. Most of those people are gone now, except for Darrell Johnson across the street."
"Oh, you're saying you've lived here a long time?"
"Yes. My Mom and Papa owned this house when I was born. I've lived here all my life."
"And Darrell Johnson?"
"About the same, I guess. As long as I can remember, he's lived across the street."
"You don't like him?"
"I don't really dislike him, I just don't trust him."
"Has he ever done anything to cause you to distrust him?"
"Ha!" Gail exclaimed with sarcasm. "No, I shouldn't say that about him. I'm just not comfortable around him."
Blushing to the roots of her hair, Gail looked down at her fingers intertwined on her lap. "He's ah ... I guess the right word is lewd, or indecent. He has a filthy mouth. He and Cheryl would trade suggestive remarks across the street at each other. Any time they started what Cheryl called 'word fucking' each other, I'd leave the yard and bring the children inside."
"Detective, I really don't want to repeat the things they said to each other."
"Okay, I guess I get the idea. Do you have any reason to believe there was anything other than verbal exchanges between them?"
Gail shook her head, "No, just the words they yelled at each other."
"Anything else you can remember?"
Although Gail did not tell the detective, she was almost glad Cheryl Ramos was gone. The verbal exchanges between the woman and Darrell Johnson were growing so ugly Gail was becoming concerned that the children she cared for might begin to repeat what they heard. It wasn't a daily exchange, yet it had grown more heated and their voices had increased until Gail had gone outside on several occasions to tell them to stop or she would call the police and report them for creating a public disturbance.
After the detective left, Gail rushed through the completion of the denim skirt and called Mrs. Wagner to come by for a hem measurement at her convenience. The woman had a very low hip on one side and wanted her skirt hem to appear to be straight when she stood still. Gail usually managed to adjust the waist of most skirts, but liked to make any additional adjustments before she sewed the hem. It was one of the reasons Mrs. Wagner paid Gail so well to make the clothing she wanted.
By the time the last child left on Friday afternoon, all Gail could think of was a hot shower, an hour to cool down, and chili cheese fries to go with a margarita. Even after telephone calls to a couple of friends, discovering they had other plans for the evening, her interest in the chili cheese fries had not waned. She put on a clean pair of jeans and a plain shirt then left for her favorite restaurant.
Rather than take up booth space in the crowded restaurant, Gail sat at one of the tall tables in the bar and ordered a margarita. When the waitress delivered the frozen drink, Gail asked for a double order of chili cheese fries with melted cheese plus sour cream and sliced jalapeno peppers on the side.
Using one of the four forks sticking out of the side of the serving dish, Gail picked up two long strips of crisply fried potato and allowed the chili to drip off the end, dredged it through the top of the mound of sour cream, then stuck the fork into a slice of pepper. Just as she pulled the slathered potatoes off the fork with her front teeth, a short glass with tinkling ice cubes was placed on the table beside her margarita.
"My God, Gail, what is that?"
Gail looked up to see Detective Carlton Conyers sitting down on the elevated stool beside her. She finished chewing the mouthful, swallowing a little sooner than she should have, and took a sip of her margarita.
"Chili cheese fries are my personal reward for the end of a tough week." She picked up one of the other forks and offered it to Carlton, "Try some."
As they ate, they talked, Carlton teasing Gail about doing everything herself and never asking anyone for help as she described her various jobs. She was a child care provider, seamstress, and part-time tutor for a few students at the nearby high school.
Half an hour later, Carlton was offering to order a second tray of chili cheese fries. Gail declined, but she did hold up her nearly empty glass and admitted that against her better judgment, she would drink a third margarita.
Gail's alcohol induced, slightly loosened tongue, allowed her to say, "I'm enjoying myself. You're not quite the asshole I thought you were."
Carlton laughed, "Yeah, I wasn't very nice to you."
"You tried to intimidate me."
Carlton lowered his voice, perhaps yielding to his own alcohol intake, "You frightened me. I was attracted to you. I didn't deal with that very well."
Without lifting her eyes to his, Gail asked quietly, "You 'were' attracted?"
"Don't go there, Gail. I'm enjoying myself, but I've probably ruined your chances of finding a man tonight, although, I've watched you sending 'Back Off' looks at every man in here. I'm too old for someone as young as you are."
"You're forty-three, that's not old."
He raised his eyebrows at her for remembering information on his identification. "You're right, but you're not even thirty yet. I like you, and yes, I'm attracted, but maybe we should leave it at that."
"Okay," Gail agreed and reached across the table for her purse. Carlton beat her to it, picking up her small handbag and deftly removing her keys from the small clip on the side. "What are you doing?" she asked.
"You've had a little too much to drink. I'm going to see you home." He stood, telling Gail to sit tight for just a minute. He tucked her handbag under his arm and walked across the room to a table where two men sat with a small group of women. The table had been making quite a bit of noise with their laughter, while Gail and Carlton ate and enjoyed their drinks. He tapped one of the men on the shoulder and handed him a key he removed from a key ring he took from his pocket.
When he returned to Gail's table, he helped her stand until she was steady on her feet and walked her to her car then drove to her house.
Once he had her inside her front door, he leaned over to look her in the eyes, "Are you going to be sick?"
"No, I might be a little tipsy, but I'm not that drunk. I'm just tired," she admitted as she leaned against the closet door. "How are you going to get home?"
He patted his shirt pocket, indicating his cell phone, which he had answered several times during the evening. "I'll call a black and white to pick me up."
Carlton put his hand on her shoulder to pull her forward, "Come on, let's get you to bed."
Gail raised her arm and jerked away, "Don't take care of me, Carlton."
"Don't be so damn independent, Gail." Carlton argued.
"Forget it, Carlton. You said to just 'leave it at that, ' so just leave me alone." She pushed against him trying to get away from the look in his eyes.
He tried to put his arms around her to stop her from struggling, at the same time she was pushing against him. "Don't fight me, Gail. Just let me get you to bed."
"I don't need help."
"Dammit!" Carlton exclaimed as he backed her against the wall, lowered his head, and kissed her. She struggled a moment longer then put her arms around his neck and kissed him back. His hand came from behind her back to hold her breast. Her hand moved down to his hip to hold him as he ground his erection against her pelvis. Her hands searched frantically for the buttons down the front of his shirt as his pulled up the front of her shirt and unsnapped the front of her bra.
Carlton's mouth found her breast and her hand moved to the fly of his pants and began to lower the zipper. The sounds they exchanged were groans and simple words, which meant more, right there, yes, or do that again.
"Fuck," Carlton put his hands on her shoulders and stepped back, holding himself away from her. "Go to bed, Gail." Ten seconds later, he was out her front door, telling her to lock up as he pulled his cell phone from his pocket.
Gail had only four children for the week. One of the mothers was on vacation. Wednesday, another mother called to report that her husband had the day off and she would not be bringing her twins that day. It meant there were only two children for the day.
When the doorbell rang, Gail opened her front door to find Detective Carlton Conyers standing on her front porch. Gail unlocked the screen door and took three steps back.
As Carlton opened the door and stepped inside the house, he said, "I have a few more questions, Gail. But first I need to apologize for the other night."
"It's my fault as much as yours. It's not a fair excuse, but I had too much to drink. Thank you for bringing me home."
"You're welcome." He looked around for a moment and asked, "Where's all the kids? I brought them some toy badges." He pulled his hand out of his coat pocket showing her five small plastic police badges.
Gail took the small badges and put them on the table beside the front door as she explained about the missing three and that the other two were taking a long nap. "Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"Sure," he agreed and followed her into the kitchen. "Have you heard from Cheryl Ramos?"
"No," Gail answered as she poured their coffee. "I haven't talked to Tony to ask how she is. He's been getting home after I go to bed at night and he leaves the next day after the children arrive."
"I stopped there first, but he isn't home. His telephone's disconnected. Has he moved out?"
Gail shrugged her shoulders as she placed a cup of coffee in front of Carlton and sat down at the table. "I think the electricity is off, too."
"Gail, will you go to dinner with me Friday night?"
"I'd like to take you to dinner."
"That's not what you said the other night."
"I know. I'd still like to spend some time with you."
"Carlton ... you said..."
"Dammit, don't make this so damn hard. So I was wrong. Okay? I want to see you. I can't say it any plainer than that."
Gail looked up, a soft smile slowly spreading across her face, "Carlton, I'd love to go to dinner with you Friday night."
Carlton nodded, "Why is every conversation I have with you a battle?"
Gail lifted one shoulder and then let it fall, "I guess because I don't want to let you intimidate me."
"I don't do that." His denial was a little too quickly spoken. Finally, he admitted, "I don't like how I feel around you."
Gail didn't say anything. He seemed to think for a minute. He cocked his head to one side as he looked at her. He finally said, "Vulnerable, I guess. It's not something I'm accustomed to feeling. I'm a big bad ass cop. People are supposed to be afraid of me. They're supposed to cower and answer my questions. You don't do that. It's like you know where my soft spot is and your hand is around it ready to squeeze it at a moment's notice."
He watched as Gail stood. He seemed a little cautious, uncertain what she was going to do. Gail took one step and then another as she moved between his knees. He looked up at her, his face showing uncertainty as she put her hands on his cheeks and raised his face. Then she leaned forward and kissed him. He was so surprised he didn't move. He simply enjoyed her kiss. Gail took a step back and asked, "What time will you pick me up?"
"Is seven o'clock okay?" he asked as he stood and started to put his arms around her.
"Seven o'clock is just right." Gail answered as she held him away with one hand against his chest. "I'll even wear a dress."
"I look forward to seeing that," Carlton mumbled as he turned and walked to her front door, followed by Gail's chuckle.
"I'll be gentle, Carlton. I promise," she called out to him as he opened her front door.
"What the hell am I getting myself into?" Carlton asked as he closed the door behind him, letting the screen door slam as he walked down the sidewalk to his car.
"Oh God," Carlton breathed when Gail opened her front door. "You're beautiful," he added as he stepped inside. "Can I kiss you?" he pleaded as she stepped back into her living room and shook her head.
"You're going to make me wait, aren't you?"
Gail held up her forefinger and stepped toward him for the one kiss she would allow. Carlton made her capitulation worth it. He gathered her into his arms and kissed her slowly, sliding his lips across hers and returning to brush his tongue across her lower lip until she parted her lips to give him access to taste her.
When he lifted his head, his eyes were slightly glazed and he didn't want to stop looking at her. "That has to last me until I can get you back here, doesn't it?"
Gail nodded and grinned, then lifted her hand to his cheek and used her thumb to brush across his lips.
"You could have left it there."
Gail's voice trembled. "A big bad ass cop shouldn't be seen in public with lipstick on his mouth."
As he drove toward the restaurant, and throughout dinner, he responded to Gail's questions and discovered the few details he shared about the dirtier parts of his job did not bother her. He would say something, almost as if he was talking to one of his fellow officers, not watching his words, and when he realized what he had told her, he held his breath. She nodded or asked him a question so she could understand what he was telling her.
She may not have witnessed much of the seamier side of life, but she knew it existed and was not surprised about some of the things he told her. Instead of holding everything in, as he normally would have done with a woman he did not know well, he was soon talking to her and sharing some of his emotions. She laughed about some of the details of his investigations that were funny. She commiserated with him about some sad events and shuddered at the few gory details he barely mentioned. Yet, she did not ask him to withhold anything he wanted to share with her.
Alternately, they both laughed at the antics she described that typical four year olds performed. The things they said with such innocence and the things they did kept Carlton entertained until he had finished his steak. He discovered she had a friend who kept three-year-olds and how they had formed a sort of graduation process from one caregiver to another with a third young woman who liked to keep one and two-year-olds.
They learned a little about each other's personal history. He had been married for a few years when he was much younger but admitted it was not much more than a fuck fest for him and uniform worship for her. Neither of them had been faithful to their marriage. He'd had one long term affair with a woman almost his own age and casually mentioned he was faithful for the duration of their affair, but her fear for his safety would not allow her to commit to a permanent relationship. She married a real estate broker about a year after they broke up.
Gail reluctantly admitted she had never had a serious boyfriend. Eventually she told Carlton that she could count her previous sexual partners on the fingers of one hand.
"Good Lord, Gail, you're almost a virgin," Carlton offered quietly.
"Not hardly and it wasn't a very nice 'taking' if you understand my meaning," she admitted. "I thought it was more important than he seemed to, and then I discovered I didn't like him very much. Maybe I'm too particular, but I also didn't have a lot of opportunity. My parents were actually my grandparents and restrictive about my comings and goings. My birth mother was their only child. She died in childbirth, but the woman I called Mom never let me feel bad about it. It was God's will that gave her a daughter to replace the one she had to give back to God. My birth father was never around. I know who he is, but I've never needed him. He remarried less than a year after I was born. I had my grandfather for a Papa."
On the way back to Gail's house, Carlton's cell phone rang. He apologized as he answered, but said he would explain. He was still talking when they walked into her house. Instead of drinking a cup of coffee after their dinner, Gail had volunteered to make them a fresh pot when they returned to her house.
As she stood at the kitchen counter waiting for the last of the brew to drip through the filter, Carlton walked up behind her and put his arms around her, nuzzling her neck.
"Did you understand some of that?" Carlton asked as he rested his chin on her shoulder for a moment then touched his lips to the hard ridge of her collarbone.
Gail nodded, but didn't say anything.
"Sometimes it turns out good and sometimes it doesn't." He paused for a moment then continued, "She must have been bleeding internally when she was over here that night. He told his brother he beat her a second time after she went home. Then he drove her to his brother's house and dumped her in his yard. The coroner said even an emergency surgery might not have saved her."
"Did Tony's brother kill him?"
"He claims he didn't. He says it was a drive-by shooting, a mistaken identity. The brother was the intended victim. He claims Tony was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
"Yeah, I got that part. I ... ah ... I don't think I want any coffee, do you?"
"No," Carlton answered, turning Gail around so he could hold her. "Come on sweetheart, I'll put you to bed."
Carlton stood outside Gail's door as she changed her clothes and when she opened the door tears were still running down her face.
"I may not have liked either of them, but I never wished them dead," she muttered as she used a tissue to wipe away a fresh flow of tears. She wasn't sobbing, just crying a little with an occasional catch in her voice.
"I know, sweetheart. Come on," He encouraged walking into her room, turning her covers down, and then holding the corner up so she could slip into bed.
"Carlton?" Gail asked when she was sitting on her bed after sliding her feet under the sheet and blanket. "Can you ... will you ... would you mind staying with me tonight?"
"That's not a good idea, Gail. I'll come over some time tomorrow."
"I don't mean ... we don't have to ... I think I just want someone here."
"Okay," he relented. He really didn't want to leave her. "I need to make a couple of calls. You get comfortable. I'll be back in a few minutes. Maybe I'll have some coffee after all."
When Gail started to get out of the bed, he stopped her. "I can take care of it. You just lie down. I'll only be a few minutes, I promise."
He turned off the light but left the bedroom door open as he walked down the hall to the kitchen. Gail heard his voice for a little while but was probably about half asleep when she felt Carlton put his arms around her as he settled behind her. It was only then that she finally relaxed.
Gail's eyelids fluttered and then closed again, when Carlton whispered, "Kiss me, baby doll." He was on one elbow, leaning over her, watching her face as the faint glow from a street light filtered through the curtain covering the window above their heads.
So she did. It was a long slow kiss that became something else as Carlton explored her mouth, sucked on her bottom lip and ran the tip of his tongue along the sharp edge of her teeth. He caught her soft moan of pleasure in his mouth and shared his own with her.
His fingers threaded through the soft curls of her hair. He held her head still as he explored the tender spot under her ear. He chuckled when she shuddered from the chills that burst through her skin.
"Mercy, I love the taste of you," he whispered in her ear. His mouth moved down to her neck and his tongue explored the heartbeat under her jaw. "You have about ten seconds to kick me out of your bed, sweetheart."
Instead of asking him to leave, she put her arm around him and rested her lips against his stubble-roughened cheek. "I don't want you to leave."
"I wasn't planning on this. I don't even have a condom in my wallet," he told her as he planted quick kisses on her lips, cheeks, eyes, and forehead.
"You don't need one," she replied as she rubbed her teeth against the rough whiskers on his chin. "Last week maybe," she laughed when he flopped onto his back and she moved on top of him, "but not tonight."
He put his hands on her cheeks and held her face above him, "Preventing pregnancy isn't the only reason to use a condom, Gail."
"Are you telling me you're promiscuous, Carlton?"
"Then hush and kiss me."
He kissed her as he slid his hands under the long t-shirt, pushing against her until she was sitting up and managed to capture her breasts. "Take that damn shirt off, it's in my way," he pleaded.
Gail sat up straight with her legs folded beside his hips as she pulled the shirt over her head and tossed it on the floor beside the bed. Carlton put his hands under her arms, lifted her slightly, and pulled her forward bringing one of her breasts to his mouth. His tongue swirled around the hardening bud and Gail twitched.
"Ah, you like that, huh?" Carlton teased. Although he knew the answer from the sharp intake of her breath, he asked anyway, "Have you ever had a man play with your breasts before?"
"Not really," She answered. "It tingles, makes me itch."
He turned his head to capture the other breast. He pulled his hands out from under her arms to hold the sides of her breast, pushing the center into a firm peak. His tongue moved from side to side mashing the nipple and areola against the roof of his mouth. As he suckled, Gail moved her hips up and down on his stomach, moaning with a long drawn out "O-o-o-oh."
"Easy baby, make it last," Carlton slowed her movements by placing his hands on her hips to hold her still.
"Come here," he encouraged, showing her how to brace her hands on the pillow beside his head and lean forward for him to give attention to her other breast. Gail slowly lowered her head until her forehead was resting against Carlton's and moaned with the intensity of the stimulation. When she would have raised her shoulders, he put his hands on her back and held her still for his ministrations. Her breathing grew faster until she was almost panting.
Her shoulders began to shake, her body trembled, and her stomach muscles contracted against his as a mini-orgasm shook her until she collapsed on top of Carlton.
"Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God," she whispered in his ear. "Never before," she added. "Carlton," she muttered.
"Easy, baby, easy, just enjoy it."
"Whew, what was that?" Gail asked as he allowed her to roll off him. He raised himself on his elbow to brush her hair away from her forehead and from the sides of her face as her breathing returned to near normal.
"God, you are beautiful," he said as much to himself as to her. "I've heard some women can orgasm that way, but I've never had it happen before. You're something special."
"Can I do that to you?" Gail teased as her hands sought his small flat nipples and tried to move her head down to get her mouth to his chest.
"I don't think it works that way," he countered, but he did lift himself to allow her access to his body. "They're somewhat sensitive, but not like yours are."
Try as hard as she could, she still couldn't get much of his flesh into her mouth. She pushed against him to get him sitting up while she was on her haunches. "You're all hard muscles," she complained. "I need some flab to work with."
He was laughing at her, but he wouldn't help either. His hands were busy sliding up and down her back as she knelt before him.
"What was that you did?" Gail asked as she moved her hands to either side of one nipple until she found just the right place for her flattened hands. She mashed toward one hard bud to get enough flesh so she could suck his nipple into her mouth. She finally used her teeth to nibble on him and felt him jerk. She was so elated she was laughing as she worked on the other side.
Pushing her head back down to her pillow, Carlton was laughing too. "You little tease. Lord, I enjoy playing with you."
"Well, it sure as hell isn't work."
"But I thought it was, you know, in a hurry, sort of. Remember, I'm not that ... I haven't..."
"Hey, hey," He interrupted her. "Whatever feels good to you is what I'll enjoy. Yes, I remember when it was a contest. In my twenties and maybe on into my thirties I couldn't get there fast enough and I may not have taken care of my partner as I should have."
Gail's hands moved up to cup his shoulders and then slid down his arms, investigating the feel of him, noticing the smooth skin over the muscles of his upper arms and the hair-roughened lower arms. She put her hands between his torso and his arms, ruffling over each of his ribs, and then around to his back slowly moving up to the sharp edge of his shoulder blades and down the dent of his backbone until she encountered the elastic band of his boxer shorts.
Boldly she slipped her fingers down inside the elastic of his shorts and rubbed across his bare skin. "You have a cute ass."
"You little hussy," Carlton whispered in her ear.
"What?" She asked, "You men always talk about a female with a bubble butt or a sweet ass. I'm just returning the compliment."
While Gail's hands explored Carlton, he did much the same to her, brushing his finger across her lips, moving from side to side, sensitizing them, and then lowering his head to kiss her. His lips touched, retreated, and then touched her again until she was lifting her head for a deeper kiss.