"Oh darling ... I love you. I love you so much." James then opened one eye. "Erm ... how was that?"
Kent's eyes were red, and tearing. He had an anguished look on his face. "Yeah. That ... that's damn good," he whispered. "James, you want to know a secret?"
Ultimate Empathy Therapy
Part 7 of 8
Copyright © 2013 plaintivesigh
All Rights Reserved.
Tina found herself outside. She was in a shirt, shorts and shoes. Wait a minute. I’m still me — in my girl body. But if I really went back in time, wouldn’t I be back in Dad’s form?
She saw the pool area about a hundred feet in front of her. Walking down to it, she looked at the large decorative dial clock etched into the opposite wall of the pool. The arms on it showed the time.
9:25 p.m.; yeah, that would be about six hours before we got “sent back.” She grinned widely. My god — I lived in a man’s body for a few days, and now I’m a time traveler! This is so cool! I mean, it’s cool especially now that Mom’s not trying to divorce Dad, yet; now that I have a chance to set some things right.
“Hey there, beautiful.”
She turned to see James approaching her. He had his usual charmer smile on. “I took tonight off early in hopes you’d show up. Sam is covering for me at the bar. Shall we take up where we left off yesterday?”
Tina’s eyes narrowed as she cocked her head sideways. “Remind me. Where exactly did we leave off yesterday?” Dad … what were you up to?
James drew closer. “As I recall, we were at this point.” He pulled her into a passionate kiss before she could say WTF.
“MMmmph!” Tina finally broke away. “BACK OFF, Mister tongue! I told you the first day, I’m spoken for!”
James looked at her with a little confusion. “You seem a lot different. I thought they weren’t going to end that secret therapy until tomorrow — that’s what you told me. Looks like they did it a little early.”
I’m glad I stopped him when I did, thought Tina. Mercy, he can kiss. I almost got lost in it. “James … whatever I did with you the last few days, I need you to know that it’s over. I’m sorry, but this therapy may have caused me to, um, ‘lead you on’. I don’t want to interact with you any more this week unless it’s about you getting me an espresso.”
James sighed, still beaming his sexy grin. “Yes, ma’am. I won’t bug you again, unless you initiate it. But speaking of espresso — why don’t you let me fix you one of my ‘special reserve’ ones as a nightcap before you leave, my treat? I’ll make it decaf if you want.”
Hmmmm, Tina thought. What harm could just one espresso do? Then I’m going straight back to the cabana, into my bed and out of any potential trouble. “Okay. If you can make it quick.”
“Lightning fast, milady,” he replied as he hopped to the supply room behind the bar.
Tina kicked at the concrete of the pool area as she considered just telling her ‘wannabe’ paramour to forget it, and leaving. Then she lifted her head, and the bitter taste of gall filled her soul.
There, coming into the bar area, was The Redhead. The cause of all of her troubles tonight. Dressed just as Tina had remembered — “slut seductive.”
Tina walked with cold purpose to the bar. Sam, tending, started to tell her that he didn’t think she was of age for alcohol. Before he said a word, she spoke. “A big container of ice water, quickly, please.” She didn’t even look at him; her eyes were focused on the object of her enmity. Sam gave her a hurricane glass filled as she’d requested.
Tawny Bristol was disappointed. She’d come to the bar area because she was bored, and wanted some illicit fun. But there was not a man in sight. There was the older, stinky, dude behind the bar, but even she had standards. I wish that business exec guy was here; he looks like a stud.
“I have a theory about you,” a voice to Tawny’s side spoke. The auburn beauty looked up to see a teenaged girl sipping a cold drink. Looking closer, Tawny recognized who she was. “Hey — aren’t you that girl who almost drowned the other day? You look better,” The Redhead quipped.
Tina ignored the comment. “My theory goes like this. You married your hubby, but you got bored and started having affairs. Your physical beauty is so stunning, you can’t help but attract men, and you love it. Hubby tries to compromise in an attempt to keep you faithful; he even allows a third person into your marriage bed. But it’s not enough for you; you still sleep around. Eventually the two people at home who you’re cheating on begin to console each other and you start to lose both of them. Is that accurate, more or less?”
Miss Red-Hot squinted her eyes. “Where are you getting this information?”
Tina still didn’t acknowledge her; she just pointed to her ice water glass. “Oh, how I wish I’d had this to pour on my crotch when you seduced me earlier. But now, it’s of no use to me — “
“I seduced you? Baby girl, you need to cut down the amount of crack you’re snorting,” sneered Tawny.
“ — so I’m giving it to you.” With that, Tina emptied the tanker of icy fluid into Tawny’s cleavage. The bra continued to hold most of the ice there as the water continued down to drench her short shorts.
“HUUUAGH,” Tawny gasped.
So, I’m not the only one who says that when they’re doused with cold water, Tina mused.
“YOU FUCKING PSYCHO WITCH,” the drenched woman said as she stood and then walked quickly out of the pool area. “IF YOU WEREN’T A SCHOOLGIRL AND DIDN’T HAVE A HOT FATHER, I’D KICK YOUR ASS!”
“You STAY the HELL AWAY from MY DAD,” returned Tina as she watched her enemy leave.
James emerged from the supply room with a demitasse, spoon, and creamer/sugar/sweetener pods. “Well, here you go. I don’t know if you like it black, or what.”
Tina grabbed the espresso and the sugar. “I like it like I like my revenge: sweet,” she smiled.
“Well? What do you think?” James was eager for an evaluation of his work.
Tina licked her teeth and palate to savor the aftertaste. “Not bad, not bad at all. On a scale of 0 — 10, I give it a solid 6.”
“Just a 6?! That stuff is like liquid happiness — and really expensive, to boot!”
“I’m sorry, James,” Tina meekly answered, cheeks slightly red. “ It’s no cut down on you. I mean, it was perfectly prepared. I’m kind of an espresso snob, I guess — it takes a lot to impress me.”
“Wow. I guess I’m going to have to ‘up’ my java game a notch.”
“You want a secret? Go online and order some ‘Barefeet’ brand espresso beans. Your high-end customers will be impressed. That’s one of my favorites,” she offered. “Now …” Tina had to stop and yawn. “… whew! As I was saying, I’m leaving to go to my cabana and sleep, like a good little girl.”
“You do look a little tired all of a sudden,” he agreed. “If you want to take a nap on one of the lounge chairs, I’ll watch you.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Goodbye, James. Quit flirting. Others may get fooled by you, but you smell like a ‘playa’ to me. **yawn** If you approach me again — unless it’s to deliver me my ‘spresso — I’ll complain to the management and my Dad - **yawn** … got that?”
“Loud and clear, miss.”
“Good.” Tina started for the pool area gate. Once through, she started on the path back to her cabana. The way was intermittently lit by lights, so she shouldn’t have had much trouble negotiating it. It was an uphill trek, slightly. But for some reason, Tina had more and more trouble with each successive step. Her legs felt unbelievably heavy, and she was yawning every five seconds or so now.
God, I need to just sit down and rest for a second. I’m so tired. She tried to sit ladylike on the grass next to the trail, but instead went down on her butt — and then her back — with an awkward plop. My god — I’m acting like I’m drunk or something! But all I had was a mediocre espresso.
Her last fading thoughts were fueled by a horrid realization. No. No! It couldn’t have been … help!
The last thing she saw was James’ face over her, barely illuminated by the moonlight. “Hey there, hot thing,” he whispered. “I suspected you’d be needing a lift right about now. Let me give you one.”
It began as an irritated tickle in the lumbar area, barely noticeable. However, the tickle intensified over the next ten minutes into an ache. Finally, still mostly asleep, he tried to turn over in bed; perhaps changing positions would help.
FWUMP! Kent’s body hit face down on the underlying grass. Immediately he was fully awake, and rolled over quickly to get his bearings. Directly above him, partially silhouetted against the moon, a hammock twisted and shook as if laughing at his clumsiness.
Brushing grass and dirt out of his facial hair, he took a minute to orient himself. He didn’t need the full sixty seconds before he had adequately assessed the situation. He jumped up and ran to the girl’s cabana. Opening the door quietly, he looked at the beds his girls should have been occupying. Janis was there, but Tina …
He glanced around rapidly — there were some sweat pants on the chair next to the hammock. He put them on over his shorts. There were also some slippers. Forget them, I need my sneakers. He carefully entered his cabana and grabbed them, taking care not to wake Marlene. Back outside, furiously slapping on and tying the footwear, he formulated his plan.
Okay, so when I got sent back, I arrived in my male form. And when I arrived, I was asleep in that cursed hammock. How long have I been dozing? He checked his watch. Roughly 25 — 30 minutes have passed since I was due to get back, if the travel was six hours exactly. Since Tina’s not here, I need to make sure those creeps haven’t gotten her. Damn me to hell for not thinking — there were only seconds from the time we learned we’d be sent back and it happening, but I still should have thought to warn her about James, about the espresso!
He didn’t change out of the short sleeve undershirt he had on; breaking into a run down the path, he raced to the pool area.
Kent got to his goal. The water and bar was slow tonight, with one solitary couple embracing and kissing in one of the corners of the pool. The only other persons there were at the bar - the bartender, and an auburn haired woman with four empty shot glasses lined up in front of her.
Kent realized the woman as the voluptuous redhead he’d seen at the beach a few days ago. The one who had seduced Tina — somewhat — earlier tonight, before they switched back, before they were sent back 6 hours. She was wearing tight, white jeans, and a floral bikini top with an unbuttoned white blouse draping around it. The white clothes were bright and clean, as if she had perhaps put them on very recently.
Kent looked at the man behind the bar again; he recognized him as James’ line cook buddy.
“You,” Kent barked as he strode to the bar. “I think my 18 year old daughter was here within the last half-hour. Longhaired brunette, beautiful. Did you see where she went?”
The line cook, wearing a “Hi, I’m SAM” name tag, replied. “No, I ain’t seen no teenager ‘round here tonight. It’s pretty slow right now, just you and me and her,” as he thumbed over to the The Redhead. “You wanna drink?”
“What about James. Have you seen him?”
“It’s his night off.”
Kent towered over the ‘tender by at least six inches; it was time to cut to the chase. He leaned over the bar, grabbed Sam by the lapels and pulled him off of his feet, halfway over the bar. He grabbed the corkscrew off of the bar’s work counter and held it with his left hand in front of the cook’s vision, while suspending him half elevated by the collar with a strong right hand.
“Look. Let’s be real with each other. I know that you’re lying and covering for your friend, James. So instead of wasting more time, here’s how it’s going to go. I will ask you questions; for every evasion or lie, I will remove a cork-sized chunk from your body. We’ll start with your neck.” Kent put the point of the corkscrew against the barkeep’s jugular.
The smaller man was sweating profusely now. James was his buddy, kind of — but not worth being beaten up over. “N-no problem, sir. I’m sorry for lying. Here’s what happened.”
Kent found out that Tina was given an espresso, started to look sleepy, left for bed, and that James had followed her.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Kent said through clenched teeth. “One more thing you need to know. I’m going to go get my daughter; if you call and warn James — if you interfere in any way — I will come for you. With a bigger corkscrew.”
“I won’t warn. This is between you and him. Just leave me out of it,” Sam quavered.
Kent let go of him. But before he could turn and leave, he felt some lithe arms wrap around him from the behind. Who …? Aw crap. The redhead; and she’s ‘well lubricated’, per all the empty shots on the bar.
“Hey, hannsome. I need someone to talk to, like really badly. Care to help out a damsel in distressss?” She pressed her huge breasts into Kent’s back from behind.
“NO. Get off me, lady.”
“Hey, drunk chick. I said, GET OFF.”
“NOPE. Nope, I won’t,” she giggled. “Not until you siddown and talk to me. Or, kiss me. Those ‘r yer two choices.”
What do I do now? I can’t hurt her, like with an elbow shot to the ribs; she’s not assaulting me, she’s just slowing me down. And I HAVE to LEAVE! I HAVE TO FIND TINA NOW! GRAAAAAH!” — he could feel his rage taking him over.
No! Gain control! Blue Morpho, Blue Morpho. Kent felt his heart rate drop, and an idea sprouted in his new calm. If I can’t beat her, I’ll pretend to join her.
“Okay, Miss Sexy. Let’s talk.”
“Oh, yay! Thank you, Mister Hunnky.”
She loosened her grip, and he turned around to face her with a gentle smile. In one swift motion, he picked her up by the legs and back, as if carrying her like a bride over the threshold. He then walked towards the pool lounge chairs. “There’s two things I’m dying to tell you, Miss …?”
“Call me Tawny, hunny,” she said, with as much sensuality as her inebriated self could muster.
“Okay, Tawny. Two things. One, I’ve seen you in your full bikini; you really are one of the most physically stunning women I’ve ever met.”
“Wait ‘til you see me without my ‘kini,” she breathed.
“And two,” Kent ignored her while turning at a right angle, “You need to know this …”
“What, lover,” Tawny whispered.
“You don’t hold a candle to my wife in her Victoria’s Secret.” And with that, he dropped her. Into the pool, which he now stood at the edge of.
He took two steps back, watching to make sure that she broke the surface again. She did, cursing and splashing, her wet red hair covering her whole face like ‘Cousin It’ from the Addams Family. “BASTARD! SONUVABISH! FUCK YOU!”
Kent smiled. That’s for Tina, you shameless hussy. Now, to find my daughter.
Just then a different female voice sounded, from behind him.
He turned to see a shocked Marlene. She had one hand covering her mouth, the other wrapping with her arm holding her stomach. But despite her attempts at self-restraint, she began smiling, then laughing, then guffawing.
Kent approached her, relieved; he’d worried at first that she’d misunderstood what was happening.
“You don’t think that was a little extreme?” Marlene giggled.
“Actually, no, I don’t, honey.”
“Me neither,” Kent’s wife whispered to him, grinning widely.
Kent held his spouse in his arms. “I love you so much. I want to show you how much. As soon as — “
Marlene’s brow fretted. “But the therapy …”
“Is over, honey. And I can’t wait to make passionate love to you. But first, I have to find Tina and get her to safety.”
She frowned. “What’s going on with our oldest?”
“I think that she’s in trouble; I think James has her.”
“But Kent — isn’t that what we wanted to happen? To maybe have a fling with James or some other boy here, to break Mitch’s spell?”
“Honey, I’ve just found out tonight — James is worse than Mitch, even. He drugs his girls and date rapes them. But I think I know where they are, and I’m going there.”
“I want to come with you, to help.”
“No, Marlene. James has friends that like to get violent — the three groundskeepers. It’s too dangerous. Just go back to our cabana, and call Angelo and tell him to get himself and security to James’ shack right away. Then wait for our return.”
“Honey — you may be going up against four young, strong men by yourself!”
“Mar — this is our daughter we’re talking about. If I fail, she gets hurt, or worse. So I’m NOT going to fail. Not with that to motivate me. Please believe me — I’ve got to go, now!”
The worried wife and mother quickly assessed her husband, the resolve in his eyes, the desperation in his voice, the strength of his body. She’d never known him to not succeed when he was this focused. He could defeat a small army with the force of his will.
She smiled. “Okay. I’ll call Super Mario. Go get her, honey.”
That was all he needed. As they bounded out the exit of the pool area, she broke in a run to the cabana, praying silently as she ran. God, protect our daughter. Protect my husband. And thank you for reminding me to pack my Victoria’s Secret lingerie.
Kent ran the path he’d remembered James taking him down earlier when he’d been in Tina’s form. He was trying to formulate a plan of attack as he did so. Being slightly distracted, and without much light to guide him, he didn’t notice an object just to his left. His shoulder grazed it, and he almost fell from being thrown off balance.
He glanced back to see what the object was. From this angle, it was more visible; the golf cart that the three landscapers used to carry them — and their tools — around. One of the tools in it was a big shovel. Kent went to grab that, and while doing so noticed the keys lying on the seat of the cart.
Seconds later, the cart was bounding over the manicured landscape, its electric motor barely making a sound. Kent had his plan now. He had seen how these punks fought, their strengths and weaknesses. He had seen them beaten by a funny looking Italian. Like Tina said yesterday: Time to kill some toads, he thought. Please let me get there in time.
Freddie, Ron and Stuart sat inside the small shack.
“Where is he? I’ll bet he screwed up. She probably just blew him off,” Freddie grumbled.
Ron was lying on the bed; he replied with his eyes closed. “Patience, my friend. James is the slickest con man I’ve seen when it comes to women. You can’t rush these things.”
On cue, the shack door shook as if being knocked. Except it was being kicked. All three hoodlums jumped to their feet; Stuart hopped to the door on his good foot, and cracked it open, peeking to see who it was.
“James! Finally, dude!”
In walked the Isla’s bartender, carrying a comatose young girl over his shoulder. He was gasping for breath. “Man … that half mile walk’s … a lot harder … with a load like this.”
“You wimp,” sneered Fred as he took the young woman’s limp body from James. Transferring her to the bed, he added, “You shoulda let me go with you and carry her. She don’t weigh nothin’ to me.”
“Except you’re about as quiet and discreet as a drunken elephant,” sighed Ron. “No, this was James’s job, all the way. Since he’s out of breath, we’ll let him go last.”
“Hold it …” James gasped. “First … where’s my … payment?”
“Right here,” Stuart said, shaking a big freezer baggy filled with smaller ones. “I’ll leave it on your window sill for the moment.”
Freddy was already shedding his clothes. “Hot damn! Whatta set of tits! I can’t wait to feel ‘em.”
“Dude,” said Stuart. “All you gotta do is get your dick in her, not get nekkid.”
“Fuck you! I want the full feeling of her raw bod next to mine.” Fred was now fully nude. He rubbed his hands together as he stood at the foot of the bed. “First, these.” He grabbed her sandals and pulled them off. “Now, the good stuff,” he drooled as he began to unbutton her shorts.
All four boys turned to the front door and saw that it had been kicked in. Standing there was big Kent, wielding a shovel as he had been the last time they had seen him.
“Back away from her and let me take her home, and I won’t kill you. This is your only warning,” he roared.
Stuart looked to their leader, Ron, for direction. Ron pulled out a knife. But before he even had it securely grasped, the sharp edge of the shovel came down blindingly fast on his hand, shearing the skin and producing blood. Ron dropped the knife and was about to yell in pain when the back of the spade slammed into his face, flattening his nose with a WHUNGCH.
As Ron fell unconscious to the floor, Stu dove for the dropped knife. He saw from the corner of his eye — the shovel was being swung like a baseball bat, down towards him. He put up his arm to protect his head and block the blow; before the big tool could be redeployed, he would stab the old man and end this.
But the shovel didn’t hit at the head, or the torso. Instead it tore into Stuart’s swollen ankle. The boy screamed and rolled around on the concrete floor, clutching his foot, essentially neutralized.
“GYAAAAH!” Kent turned at that sound; sure enough, it was Freddy, charging like a rhino. Predictable. The older man dropped the shovel, set his feet, and turned his shoulders perpendicular to the ground, Angelo-style.
In the next second the nude thug felt his neck grasped and hyperextended, blunting his charge; followed by a knockout punch to his nuts. “HUKKK!” he gasped, dropping to the floor in a fetal position.
“Don’t move. Don’t come near me, or I’ll slice her.” It was James. He had picked up that knife that Ron and Stu had failed to use, and he held it against Tina’s neck. The bartender now held the upper hand — yet he looked scared to death as he and Kent locked eyes.
If you can’t beat him, pretend to join him, Kent thought. He sat down on the solitary chair in the place, and kicked his shovel to the side. “Actually, I wasn’t planning on pounding you, James. Unlike these three thugs, you look to me like a lover, not a fighter. I’m not angry with you so much as impressed. Tina doesn’t fall for just anyone. How do you do it?”
“How d-do I do what?”
“How do you win girls over? I’ve heard they fall for you by the dozens. You’re a real Don Juan. It’s got to be more than just the words you use; how do you get them to believe that you’re sincere?”
James was agape. Out of all the possible interactions he could be having with Tina’s dad right now, this was the last he would have expected. “What? Why do you want to know?”
Kent remained sitting but leaned forward. “Come on, James. I am a businessman, and successful; every out of town trip I take, I have women throwing themselves at me. But I’m tired of those easy lays. I want to snag the very top women, the ones who turn their nose up even at me,” he lied. “The supermodel. The happily married ‘uber-MILF’. The wife of a head of state. I want that thrill, but I need to know your gift, and see how you use it. Teach me how you act out ‘being in love’ so convincingly.” He then leaned back in the chair, an expectant look on his face.
James looked bewildered. “Ah … well … the main-“
“Oh, by the way, you probably ought to take that knife away from my daughter’s throat. Because if you do hurt her, even accidentally, then I will have to kill you. Just sayin’.”
James carefully put the knife on the floor.
“Thank you,” Kent said. “Now please, go on.”
“W — well,” the boy stammered, “I think back to my first crush, and first kiss, how I felt I was in love. It really was just lust and infatuation, but it felt so true. I imagine I’m ‘in love’ again, and say the right words. And then when I kiss her, I’ve usually got her. It took a lot of practice to perfect the technique, but I think I can seduce most girls. Is that what you needed from me?”
“Almost. I need one more thing.” With that, Kent exploded out of the chair, tackling James before the knife could be picked up again. Kent now had him pinned up against the back wall. “You should have just run,” Kent snarled. “I wouldn’t have followed you. All I wanted was my daughter. But no, you had to put a knife to her neck.”
“Let me go, man!” James struggled to get free.
“Tell me you love me, James,” Kent proffered in a low voice.
“Close your eyes and pretend like I’m a girl you’re trying to seduce. Give me your best stuff.”
“YOU’RE CRAZY! I-I’M NOT GAY!”
“Oh, I know that very well. But I’m not letting you down on the ground ‘til you do it. Pretend that I’m a hottie, and you want to seduce me. I know you can.” Kent pressed James’s back into the wall even harder.
James swallowed hard, and closed his eyes. His face relaxed, and a slight smile arose on his lips. “Baby,” he whispered, “I’m afraid. I’m afraid to hold you, to kiss you; because I’m at the precipice. I feel like I’ll fall in love so deep, I’ll be lost. I don’t know how you got to me, but you did; I don’t know how I can live without you. Oh darling … I love you. I love you so much.” James then opened one eye. “Erm … how was that?”
Kent’s eyes were red, and tearing. He had an anguished look on his face. “Yeah. That … that’s damn good,” he whispered. “James, you want to know a secret?”
“YOU BROKE MY HEART, YOU SON OF A BITCH!” Kent buried a punch deep into James’s solar plexus — the blow made the boy pass out. The bearded man, sobbing with raw emotional pain, then turned and walked back to his sleeping daughter. After a few seconds he composed himself; gently picking up Tina, he walked through the human flotsam on the shack floor, and outside.
As he walked out, Angelo trotted to him from the side, three large Scandinavian female security officers in tow. “Signore Kent. You and di bambina hokay?”
“I sure could have used you a few minutes ago,” Kent replied as the guards entered the shack, restraint devices in their hands. “You weren’t as quick as the last time I called. Wait, - you DO remember ‘last time’, right?”
Angelo’s eyes twinkled. “Sure do. Di first time was when you wassa here in you daughter’s form. Nottin’ big gets done here on di Isla witout me an’ di dottores are in on it.
“So. Using last time as a guide, you probably could have figured out that James was going to go after my daughter. Want to tell me why you didn’t just stop it at the pool, before Tina could be drugged by this creep?”
“Drogare? He usa that?” Super Mario seemed surprised.
“Yes, he does. I’m amazed you didn’t know that, Angelo. I’ve come to expect that around here, you know it all.”
“Ima sorry, signore. I did not know James usa di farmaci stuff. I know a lotsa tings, but not everytin’. I thoughta you daughter would just — how it said? ‘Blow offa’ — di creep atta di pool, an’ all be hokay. But it looka like you no need me after all, si?” The Italian smiled wide and slapped Kent’s back, knocking the breath out of him. “BEL LAVORO! Atta mean ‘good job’, amico!”
TO BE CONTINUED SUNDAY, JULY 21
This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to an actual person or situation is completely coincidental.
Tremendous thanks to Cyclist for beta-reading and help!
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