Caution: This Romantic Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Consensual, Heterosexual, Slow,
Desc: Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Natalie feels ugly and unloved; she's just lost her job and could not be much lower until on impulse she picks up a hitch-hiker whose motorbike has broken down. Both characters are in some way broken but find a way towards healing as their relationship develops. Story contains psychological and religious references.
Natalie Reynolds was not precisely ugly, or a failure, but at that moment, she felt both. Her kindest friends might describe her as 'homely', while less kind individuals were wont to liken her to the horses of which she was so fond. In appearance, she was tall (five foot ten), with dark brown (not quite black) straight hair. Her hair was glossy, but otherwise undistinguished. Her features might be described as 'strong', and her figure as 'spare' and to be sure, though she had curves, they were not particularly evident. None of her friends, and she had more than a few of both genders, had ever shown the slightest romantic interest in her. This would not normally have been a problem to her; she had been resigned from an early age to spinsterhood (which did not prevent her from devouring romantic fiction and even, on occasion eroticae).
On this occasion, however, she was on her way home, having been in effect dismissed her post as an account manager for a small, but well known merchant bank. The loss of the second most significant account at the bank was not precisely her fault. The causes were much more complex than that, but involved Bank policy, and one of the individuals involved in the latest mistake, while subordinate to Natalie, was a nephew of the CEO. Nepotism is alive and well at Marchant and Sons, Merchant Bankers. Her own line manager was apologetic, but could not do much. In fact, he'd stuck his own neck out in authorising a very generous severance package, and had promised a glowing reference when she needed it. But she still felt ugly, and a failure.
Not even her classic, carefully rebuilt Mark 2 Ford Cortina, with the hot 2 litre engine and the "E" model interior, could melt her unhappiness as she piloted it round the curves of the A616 towards Sheffield.
Normally, she would have been reluctant to stop to pick up a hitchhiker, especially one clad in black motorcycling waterproofs which looked, to say the least, grubby. But some impulse made her pull in just past the figure sitting disconsolately on an elderly Norton motorcycle. Possibly because the number plate indicated it was at least ten years older than her beloved Cortina...
Charles Newton was really fed up. The classic Model 18 Norton had misfired approaching the M1, and died completely as he crossed the motorway. He coasted the last few yards to the layby on the other side of the roundabout. He heaved the machine onto its stand and lifted the seat to extract the tool kit. But the space was as empty as a politician's promise. No plug spanner, no spare plug. Nothing. So he sat on the seat, facing the road, and half heartedly stuck a thumb out as cars approached.
Then, a beautifully restored Ford Cortina pulled in, in front of him and stopped. He jumped off the bike and walked over to the driver's window. He saw ... a woman, with long, dark brown, glossy hair and the most captivating eyes he'd ever encountered.
"Got a problem?" she asked.
"Fouled plug, I think ... and my tool kit and spares are on my bench at home."
"Where do you live?"
"Sheffield ... Netheredge Road."
"No kidding ... I'm on my way to Edgehill Road, just round the corner. Give you a lift?"
"I'd appreciate it. I'll just get out of this oversuit, though, I wouldn't want to mark your upholstery!"
"I'd appreciate it!" and they both laughed.
It's only about ten miles from that motorway junction to the centre of Sheffield, but the road is quite narrow, busy and passes through Renishaw and Mosborough before reaching the outskirts of the city proper, so it can take up to an hour to cover. In this case, it took them just over half an hour, but it seemed much less, somehow; involved as they were in the relative merits (and idiosyncrasies) of their two vehicles. He exited the vehicle reluctantly on arrival, but before he could shut the door, she asked him how he was getting back to his bike.
"I'll beg a lift from a mate. Shouldn't be a problem."
"I'll wait and take you back, if you like."
He sat back down in the car. "That's very kind of you, but it's a lot of trouble..."
"I'd like to."
"Well ... I can't refuse ... it's really very generous of you ... but I'll accept on one condition."
"And that is?"
"You have dinner with me the next evening you're free."
"Oh ... I think I'd like that. As it happens I have nothing in my diary..." she snorted quietly, "so I'm free tonight, if that's possible?"
"That's great! In which case we'd better get moving!"
The return to the bike was quicker, the replacement of the plug took only moments, and the bike was once more back in action. It happens there is a restaurant on the downhill stretch into Renishaw, just a mile or so further along; Giovanni's. He suggested stopping there as it was already getting late; he had (of necessity) respectable shoes and a jacket in a pack; Natalie, being dressed for work, might have wanted to dress up, however she was not used to formal dates and wasn't sure if this constituted one, so she thought she'd be ok.
It was a much better end to the day than she'd expected. The food was good, they shared a half-bottle of wine as they both had to drive, and they talked, and talked, in fact it's just as well the restaurant wasn't really busy, as they occupied a table much longer than would really be justified by even a leisurely meal. In fact, they only realised as they stood to leave that it was getting on for 10 o'clock.
In the car-park, they stood, irresolute for a moment. "better say goodnight here, then," suggested Charles, rather awkwardly. She nodded. He took a step forward. "Thank you; for the help ... and your company this evening." Then he kissed her. She had no experience to fall back on as to how she should respond. She didn't know, in fact, how, or if, she even wanted to respond until their lips touched. It was pretty innocuous, as kisses go; no tongues, no passion, no heat ... but something changed for both of them.
"I don't really want the evening to end," he said huskily. She just shook her head and met his eyes. He went on, "Are you doing anything tomorrow?"
She cleared her throat; "Er, when did you have in mind?"
"Well, all day, actually ... if you're free."
She thought about her prospects; the pile of ironing (which was hardly vital as she wouldn't have a job to go to on Monday) and other house-work, weekend television ... Of course, she could always start reading War and Peace — she'd always meant to. What was to think about?
"Ok. But I'll drive, if you don't mind." She said shyly.
"Not at all; unless you've got a secret supply of motor-cycle gear, you'd not be very comfortable! Could you call for me sometime after nine?"
The following day, she drew the Cortina up in front of Charles' house on the dot of 9 a.m. She sat, for a few moments, wondering whether her precise punctuality was appropriate, but in the end decided to just be herself, climbed the steps to the front door, and rang the bell.
Charles opened the door a minute or so later, "Hey! Great! Come in a minute, will you? I can't remember where I left my binoculars. I've turned the house almost upside down..."
He showed her into the lounge, and told her to make herself comfortable for a few minutes. She looked around curiously. Not much in the way of ornaments (one or two pieces of distorted alloy she assumed (correctly) were broken pieces of motorbike. A few photographs, mostly of Charles with an attractive, auburn haired woman; one showing the same woman on her own. Odds and ends she recognised as being computer related — an external hard drive, several memory sticks; lots of books, widely ranging in character. Equally widely ranging music in CD and Vinyl form. A stacking hi-fi set up, but not an expensive one. A rather impressive computer in an alcove.
Charles came in; "sorry about that. I'm a bit careless about leaving things around, but I found what I wanted." He produced two pairs of binoculars, a compact pair and a bulky porro prism pair. "Take your choice?"
"Which ones do you usually use yourself?"
"Depends, but I prefer the porro prism pair unless I just want something to pop in a pocket."
"Then I'll take the small pair, please. Before we go, do you mind me asking ... who is the woman in the photos?"
She'd read stories in which 'a cloud passed over his face' but had just taken it as a literary artifice; but at that moment, she saw what that phrase expressed.
"I'm sorry! I didn't mean..."
"No, don't apologise. In a way, that's why I leave the pictures there. It's my wife; my late wife, I should say. She died, oh, just over a year ago ... shall we go?"
Natalie had friends, as I said; one of the reasons being that she is strongly empathic and very good at projecting her care and concern for others; it's as though, for her, the person in front of her is the only person that matters. She took Charles' hand and squeezed it; he felt her loving concern flowing through the touch. Words would have just made the moment awkward, but just then, for him, the world was a better and happier place. He returned the squeeze, smiled at her, and gestured at the door.
Netheredge Road is steep and ends in a junction with a narrow road along a ridge (Brincliffe Edge) which leads, if you can negotiate the parked cars, traffic in the opposite direction and a nasty corner, to one of the main roads out of Sheffield. Sheffield is a compact city and there's only about five miles from the city centre to Whirlow on the outskirts. He directed her that way, and to a car park on a National Trust property called the Longshaw Estate; parking among trees, they strolled through woodland to open moor, and along a track towards the visitors' centre.
As they walked, Charles pointed out a green woodpecker, and they watched its dipping flight until it moved out of sight, then a buzzard circling lazily overhead. She appreciated the view across the moors, the outcroppings of rock, the Iron Age hill fort in the distance, and the quiet, rather desolate peace of the place.
The Visitors' Centre serves an excellent cup of coffee or tea and a range of light meals. They arrived in time for a mid-morning snack of cake and coffee, sat outside at a picnic bench and watched the many small birds making use of the feeders hanging in the trees nearby - Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and on the ground, Robin, Dunnock and Blackbirds foraged and pecked.
"This is lovely!" commented Natalie. "Do you know I've never been here before?"
"I didn't know; but this is one of my favourite places," he commented, "and I'd like to share some more with you today."
They finished their snack and he led her along a different path, through rhododendrons, open ground and more trees, past a pond, across a road and down to the small river running, at that point, through open moorland. It seemed natural as they walked along the rough path, among scattered sheep to the river, for their hands to touch and their fingers to lightly link together. She wondered at her feelings; she felt so ... comfortable? Content? Both; with an admixture of nervousness?
He led her beside the river to a gate, then into the woodland proper. It's mixed woodland, but it's ancient woodland, almost undisturbed for centuries; Firs, tall and untidy looking, sessile oak, ancient, small, gnarled but radiating character. They walked together, happy to be pushed together by the narrow path. They had to scramble down to cross a tributary stream, and back up the other side; the path opened up so they walked, side by side, hands now firmly clasped. It's not far from top to bottom; the word 'gorge' seems to suggest something large ... grand, but Padley gorge is small and narrow ... and they weren't actually in the gorge; for much of its length there are no paths in the gorge ... there's no room. Rather they were walking in the woodland on the more-or-less level (but sloping downhill) land at the top of the gorge.
Near the bottom, she stopped and just stood. After a few moments, she said, quietly, "it's like stepping into Middle Earth ... I keep expecting to meet a party of elves singing among the trees, or maybe hobbits. Even the trees; there's such a sense of life and ... age ... in them, I wonder if maybe some of them are Ents!"
"Exactly!" He laughed, then, and added "that's just how I feel about it; but you're the first person I've met that's responded like that!"
They walked on and, emerging onto a narrow road, turned to cross a bridge over the railway line that links Sheffield and Manchester. On the other side, she saw a classic 'Victorian Railway Building'. The Grindleford Station Café is an institution among active outdoor folk in the Peak District. If you want delicate china, neat table-cloths, matching cutlery and fancy cuisine ... don't bother with the Grindleford Station Café. On the other hand, if you like your tea or coffee in mugs (pint or half pint) and large slabs of fruit-cake or enormous plates piled high with unpretentious but very tasty and satisfying food, if, when you've just walked five miles in chilly drizzle you like to enter a warm, welcoming room with an open fire burning in the grate, and you don't mind that the décor is shabby and the cutlery and crockery is a random collection, then you'll love the Grindleford Station Café. You'll meet climbers, in from the nearby crags, walkers from the moors and cyclists from anywhere within a fifty mile or so radius. You'll meet school parties, dog-walkers and families and while you might see the occasional scruffy Land Rover, you probably won't see many smart SUVs.
It was, perhaps, not the environment Natalie was used to eating in; but she felt instantly at home and happily tucked into a slab of meat-and-potato pie, mash and mushy peas, slathered with gravy. Somewhere between Longshore visitors' centre and the café, she'd stopped trying to analyse her feelings; she'd stopped wondering what she was doing, walking hand-in-hand with a man she'd only met the previous day. More to the point, she'd stopped agonising over being without a job for the first time in nearly twenty years; she was living 'in the moment', emotions fully engaged and wholly positive and her face wore a smile.
Charles watched her as they ate. Her smile transformed her face; only a completely insensitive, physical-perfection obsessional could have called her 'homely' at that point. She looked up, met his eyes ... and blushed. She dropped her gaze and concentrated on her meal until she was sure she had control of her voice.
"Tell me about yourself," she said "I'm having a lovely day, but I'm very aware I know almost nothing about you!"
"Well ... you know I'm a widower and I ride motorbikes. I'm thirty-nine years old and I'm a software engineer. I like a wide range of music, reading and I enjoy nature and the outdoors ... your turn!"
"Oh ... well, actually ... what's a software engineer?"
"Oh, no, no, no ... some other time. Short version, I fix computers when they stop working. I asked about you."
"Actually..." she looked so crestfallen he was about to let her off the hook, "until yesterday, when we met, I was an account manager for a small merchant bank. I've just been made redundant, but I'd rather not talk about that. I'm thirty-five and unattached and I like horses, reading, music and my Cortina," and I'm not going to add, unwanted and unloved, even if I do feel that way at the moment.
"Seems we've got a bit in common, then," he smiled, not adding and there's a lot going on for you that you're not happy about — more than losing your job — and I want to reach you. He stood and held out his hand for her — she smiled and took it in hers. They left the café, crossed the bridge over the railway ... but instead of returning the way they'd come, Charles led her across the river, past the old Mill house and further along the road and up hill. Turning right higher up they continued to climb until they entered the woods again, now following the path through the woods; instead of continuing the direct route to the top of the gorge, however, he led her off to the left and among the denser trees along a much narrower path.
Well among the trees now, he stopped, and pointed. "See the nest-box?"
She looked, and after a few moments, nodded.
"Keep and eye on that while we sit on this rock."
A little puzzled, she did as she was told. They sat for several minutes, during which the only thing that happened was that he put his arm around her shoulders. After a while, he whispered, "Look."
She had, in fact, taken her eyes off the nest box because she'd been thinking more about his arm about her and his proximity, but she duly looked and saw a slim, black and white bird perched on the box that suddenly moved and disappeared inside.
"Pied Flycatcher," he breathed, "they don't breed many places, but this is one of them. Use the glasses!"
They sat for perhaps half an hour, watching the black-and-white male and his somewhat drab brown wife popping in and out of the nest-box.
"You really only see them for a few weeks while they're feeding the young," he explained. "They're around longer, but once the nestlings have fledged, they're up in the canopy and almost impossible to see. In the autumn, they're off to Africa and we won't see them again until next year."
"They're really lovely," she breathed, "I've never really watched birds before."
"I never did until I met my wife," he said. She looked at him, but his eyes were looking at something a very long way away; "I suppose," he added slowly, "she left me something very precious."
She moved away slightly, turned and placed a hand each side of his face, and gently turned his face toward her, then leaned forward and touched her lips to his. It was the first time she had initiated a kiss with anyone except her family; as before when he had kissed her, there was no passion, no heat; their tongues didn't meet. There was, however, an exchange of emotion. She was aware of an enormous lake of sadness, he, of a vast well of accepting love.
"Tell me, what happened?"
"There's a sort of cancer ... choriocarcinoma ... only women can get it, and only if they are or have been recently pregnant. It's to do with the lining of the womb. Usually, it's curable — something like 95%, I think. Laura was pregnant, we were ecstatic, over the moon, but she miscarried. Then, well, we didn't expect ... obviously we were disappointed and upset. I thought she was just depressed, but the doctor sent her to Weston Park Hospital. They did everything they could, but ... she died."
She held him as he wept, feeling anger at the injustice of life, yet somehow privileged to share with him ... and with all that, an odd churning that she didn't recognise. After all, she'd never been in love before and of course it was quite impossible that anyone would love her, would want to love her ... wasn't it?
Such intensity cannot last and may be followed by tranquillity, and so it was. He looked at her, smiling slightly. "Thank you. I'm sorry to do that to you..."
"It's ok ... I'm sort of glad you did."
"I never cried for her, you know, not till today. Not even at the funeral."
"You needed to."
"I did, yes. And now I have, thanks to you. But perhaps we could go on and enjoy the rest of the afternoon?"
So, they walked on, and he pointed out great tits and blue tits, robins and wrens and blackbirds, identified the calls of green woodpecker, dunnock and wood warbler until they reached the edge of the woodland. Instead of continuing, however, he led her aside, up a green road to a small quarry. With a narrow entrance, the old millstone quarry is maybe 25 yards across, grass covered, quiet and seemingly secret. Scattered around, there are millstones in all stages of completion, left where the last, long dead workmen had downed tools.
Natalie drew a long breath, held it and let it go... "Wow ... you can just feel ... it's the spirits of the people who worked here, isn't it?"
"I like to think," he said, "it's them and of others, like us, who have come here over the years and experienced the atmosphere, and found peace..."
Their eyes met and each could see the moisture in the others'. "Thank you," she breathed, "for sharing this with me." She walked softly over to the exposed rock where a millstone had been begun to be cut out; she ran her hand over the rock, feeling the marks of the chisel. He reached for his mobile phone and snapped the picture she made as she glanced toward him, hand on the rock, a half-smile on her face.
"I hate to say this, but I think we ought to be getting back to the car," he said, slipping the 'phone back into his pocket. They left the quarry, fingers linked once more, to walk down the green road and to the footbridge across the river. The bridge is narrow, so they had to separate to cross, but there was no hesitation in joining hands once more on the other side. They walked in a companionable silence (mostly) up to the gate, across the road and into the woodland on the other side; through the woods, across open moor, and eventually back to the woods concealing the car park. It was after six p.m.
"I hope you've enjoyed the day as much as I have," he said seriously, "which is a lot. If you can spare a couple more hours, there are several good pubs fairly near where we can get a good meal..."
She smiled; "I think I'm willing to have my arm twisted."
"In that case," he said, "if you don't mind eating where the décor is less important than the food, why don't we try the Strines Inn?"
It was necessary to drive about ten miles through the countryside, almost drawing part of a circle around the city; from Longshaw, through Hathersage and Bamford and across the Ladybower reservoir to the Manchester Road, heading back towards Sheffield and then turning off; but they did indeed enjoy a well-cooked substantial meal accompanied by wine, for her, and a hand-drawn pint for him. As they relaxed after eating, she commented; "I've thoroughly enjoyed today, but I wonder why you've gone to such lengths in gratitude for a lift, especially after you treated me to such a nice meal last night."
"I've done it as much for myself as you! I wanted to spend more time with you anyway and, you know, you really helped me this afternoon. I've spent the day doing something I love in the company of a lady I think is very special."
"Special!" she snorted.
"Absolutely, special." He said seriously, "and I have every intention of asking you to spend more time with me in future!"
"In that case ... next weekend, how about I make the arrangements?"
"That's a deal!"
The following week was a busy one for Charles, spent chasing an elusive glitch in the computer network of a busy office in the city centre. He was late to bed and up early in the morning, consuming too much coffee and not enough nutrition. By contrast, Natalie did not have enough to do. Certainly she perused the Sits. Vac. columns, surfed the web for job opportunities and signed up with several employment agencies; she prepared balanced meals for herself, watched some t/v. listened to music ... and thought about Charles Newton.
"Is he just being friendly because I helped him? Why did he kiss me; did it mean anything? I really like him and I loved walking in the country and learning a bit about birds. I even liked it that he was able to cry when I asked him about his wife. But surely he's not going to be interested in a horse-faced beanpole like me? Why, his wife was beautiful. What if I get all involved and excited and it turns out he just wants to be a friend? And my idea for Saturday ... what if he doesn't like horses?"
Saturday came around, quickly for Charles, eventually for Natalie, who turned up on his doorstep bright and early.
"Ok," he said in greeting, "come in a moment and tell me what I ought to wear?"
"Ever been on a horse?"
"As it happens, yes, but not for nearly 30 years! Don't expect me to tack up, but I could probably stay on a quiet one. Probably."
His sister had, two years older than he, had gone through a pony-mad period and had dragged him along a few times. He'd been quite interested in a way, but preferred machines to animals. That hadn't stopped him learning a little, but not much. After thought, he settled on cords, t-shirt and Aran-knit jumper.
"What about boots and a hard-hat?"
"Borrow some from the stables."
"Then I'm ready ... I think."
She drove confidently out much the same way as they'd gone the previous week, but kept going through Hathersage to Hope, turning off towards Edale to a stables that provided mounts mainly for pony-trekking. She greeted the proprietor cheerfully and introduced Charles; "Sarah, this is Charles, Charles, this is Sarah who owns and runs the stables here. Sarah, I told Charles you could come up with some boots and a hard-hat for him."
"No problem. Come with me."
Natalie helped him tack up his horse; he found he remembered more than he would have expected. The horse, Rufus, was a roan and very gentle. He found himself stroking his neck and appreciating the richness of the colour. Natalie's mount was obviously rather livelier, a dappled grey. He mounted and followed her out of the yard. For the first few minutes he was absorbed in, well, staying on! No, seriously, he spent some time adjusting to the feel of a large, warm, alive, animal between his knees. But it wasn't long before he started to enjoy himself and take in his surroundings. Unsurprisingly, he first paid attention to Natalie, sitting upright and confident on the grey in front of him — she, and the horse, were a little difficult to miss. But then she speeded up and for a few moments he was too busy adjusting to a rising trot to worry about anything else. Rufus, however, presented him with no difficulties, even when for a little way they began to canter. In fact, he was enjoying the sensation.
They couldn't canter for long, however, and when the dropped back to a walk, he began to puzzle over something ... to do with Natalie. What was it that was different?
At lunch-time, she called a halt at a grassy, mossy spot by a stream. They did what was needed for the horses and then sat by the chuckling water while she produced a picnic from her rucksack. As they ate, Charles thought he'd 'cracked' what was bothering him about his companion. Dealing with the horses, she was confident, competent; riding, she was obviously comfortable and sure of herself and her capabilities; the same applied to her interactions with her friend Sarah. But all that was in contrast to his previous experience of her. He'd probably have described her as shy, but he knew that wasn't quite right ... it was about confidence. She was unsure, she was tentative in her interactions with him. Except, he thought, when she took the initiative in the woods of Padley Gorge ... when she was responding to ... his pain? His sister was a psychotherapist. He'd been unable to avoid absorbing at least some of her understanding of people even though she'd failed to penetrate his barriers after Laura's death. Is it that she's anxious about ... what? Himself? Surely not! Unless it was ... hm. He began asking her about horses and as she talked he enjoyed and admired her animation. Some of what she said went over his head; actually, quite a lot of what she said went over his head, but he was mainly interested in her and the way she was talking. She stood and walked over to the horses and started illustrating what she was talking about by pointing to various characteristic parts of the animals. He was struck by her grace as she moved, listened, fascinated, to her warm, contralto voice and couldn't miss the flutter in his chest when she giggled about some comment he made.
She stopped, abruptly and blushed; apologised for getting so excited and detailed. He merely smiled, shook his head and said, "I've been fascinated," though without specifying what had fascinated him!
The return to the stables by a circular route was uneventful, though every bit as enjoyable for both of them, and caring for the animals, the rubbing down and brushing and checking of hooves, (with considerable supervision, in his case) he found almost as rewarding as the actual riding.
As they were on their way home, she said "I was wondering if you'd like to have something to eat with me this evening? Nothing complicated?"
"I'd like that," he said, simply. "you'd better let me go home to shower, though. I don't mind the smell of horses, but I think I'd like to be clean!"
She laughed. "Me, too," she giggled, "Shall we say, seven o'clock?"
He prepared with considerable care, even shaving for the second time that day (which was an almost unheard-of event) and dressing in clean chinos and a polo shirt; not knowing that she was taking as much care at much the same time.
At some point, her house had been altered so that the already large lounge and similarly sized dining room were now one very large room the full depth of the house from front to rear. She had, however, still furnished the room as if it was still two separate areas; the front being furnished as a very comfortable sitting room focussed on an impressive Victorian fire-place. While there was a television, and an impressive Hi-Fi set-up, what really drew the eye were the shelves and shelves of books, of all shapes, sizes and conditions. The rear part of the room had a beautifully polished oval mahogany table, with attractive leather-upholstered chairs (might they be Queen Anne?) the table set for two, a candle in the middle.
His eyes, however, hardly looked at anything (once she'd shown him into the room and left him to tend to cooking) except the bookshelves. If his collection was eclectic, hers was at least as much so. He noticed complete sets (not matching), of Jane Austin, the Brontes; some George Eliott, some Freya North ... no Dickens, (he smiled) but what looked like a complete set of Asimov's Foundation series ... Tolkien there, near several different versions of the Bible and some books of Bible commentary. A lot of books on horses, of course, but also texts on accountancy and economics, law ... fascinating.
A slim paperback caught his eye... 'Hello Summer, Goodbye' by Michael Coney, and he smiled; it was something of a favourite of his.
She'd prepared a stir-fry of vegetables with chopped chicken, served with fluffy rice and accompanied by a very good, dry, white wine. It was delicious and he said so. That smile lit up her face again; she offered him more and he accepted a second helping with alacrity and enthusiasm. That was followed by an equally excellent, home-made strawberry cheese-cake and then coffee. He sighed as he sipped his coffee.
"That was wonderful ... Browneyes." he said.
She looked momentarily puzzled, but then made the connection and blushed darkly. "I would never have thought I had much in common with Pallahaxi Browneyes," she said.
"Would you not? I suppose that would depend on your criteria," he smiled.
"Why not take your coffee into the lounge, while I clear the table?"
"Can I give you a hand?"
"Not this time, but thank you."
He stood and carried his cup into the front part of the large room. A coffee table stood close to the sofa, so he sank into the sofa and placed the cup on a coaster. He'd once known a couple who owned a sofa they called 'the predicament' because it was so comfortable it was difficult to escape from and he decided instantly that this one would be a competitor for the same title.
When Natalie reappeared he was immediately aware of her nervousness. She hesitated briefly before sitting next to him on the sofa and placing her cup next to his on the table. He wondered again why, how, she was so uncomfortable; but he was quite sure he wanted to explore a relationship with someone he was finding fascinating, intriguing and empathetic. If he had to tread eggshells in order to not frighten her off, well, he thought it was worth it. He sat back, reached out and made a curve of his left arm, inviting her in; again, that slight expression of nervousness before she fitted herself into his embrace and he just held her, lightly, for several minutes. He could feel her tension, could feel it fading as she relaxed.
He took a deep mental breath, and turned and lowered his lips to hers. Again, he was aware of an increase of tension in her, but only for a few moments before her lips parted and her tongue brushed against his. It seemed clear to him that she was not experienced at kissing, but it was definitely very enjoyable and, he thought, she seemed to be enjoying it as much as he was. Should he go further? Would that frighten her off? Ah, well, nothing ventured ... his right hand stroked down he back and up her side; she shivered, and he brushed his thumb across the mound of her left breast. She gasped, stiffened, and pulled away slightly so he moved his hand away again; but she took his hand in hers and placed it firmly on her breast and held it there for a few moments before placing her hand back on his shoulder. He gently squeezed and stroked as they kissed.
He'd just decided that he'd gone far enough this time (though definitely not as far as he wanted to go in the future) when she abruptly pulled away again and to his surprise, unbuttoned her blouse, removed it and after a brief hesitation unhooked and removed her bra, then moved back into the curve of his arm, took his hand and placed it against the underside of her breast. She didn't immediately snuggle back into his embrace, but held back slightly, looking into his eyes.
Her breasts, it is true, were not large, maybe, just, a 'b' cup, but they were perfectly formed and firm with not a hint of sag. He caressed the breast, and brushed the nipple with his thumb, producing a very sharp intake of breath.
"Wow!" he breathed, and after a pause, "Browneyes, you have absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. I don't have enormous experience of women's breasts except in photos, but as far as I'm concerned, yours are perfect."
She shook her head, still looking into his eyes, but he could see her relax a little, but hen she said, "If you're going to call me Browneyes, well, I don't know why you would but I love it; but can I call you Chas? Until I can come up with something more original, anyway?"
"Of course you can! I prefer that to Charlie, which is what a lot of people call me."
"Ok, Chas. There's something I need to say to you, to tell you," he could see the fear back in her eyes, "which is, well, I'm a virgin ... and ... before I met you I never went out, romantically that is, with anyone, so this is all new territory for me. I suppose I might be making assumptions that aren't true about you and what you want, what you expect from me ... oh, I'm making a mess of this!"
"Natalie ... Browneyes ... don't panic! Have you enjoyed the time we've spent together?"
"Yes! Of course I have!"
"Well, so have I. I want to go on enjoying your company and sharing things with you. Do you?"
"Yes, I do."
"We've known each other just over a week, we've spent one evening and two whole days together. There's a lot we don't know about each other, but right now, I want to find out. I think you're very attractive, and..."
"I said I think you're very attractive..."
Natalie burst into tears and buried her face against his shoulder.
Charles was nonplussed, to say the least. What was going on here? He just held her and wondered if their relationship was going to consist of one of them weeping on the other.
"I'm sorry," she said eventually, "I don't know why I did that. What I think I need to say is, I'm enjoying this, but for now, this is as far as I want to go. Do you mind?"
He reassured her that he was quite happy to go at whatever pace suited her and they cuddled happily together for so long they were both yawning. Charles laughed;
"I don't know about you, but I'm off to my lonely bed! Thank you; both for a thoroughly enjoyable day and an excellent meal. Perhaps we can do something together next weekend? I'm afraid I've got some admin to catch up on tomorrow and I expect to be rushed off my feet next week, but I'd like to do something together next Saturday?"
They stood, and kissed, and he watched regretfully as she covered herself with the blouse once more, escorted him to the door ... and watched him walk away.