Duets, Part 1

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Duets, Part 1


NOTE: This story is now available as an ebook on Kindle! This first part has been left available for free here as a preview: if you want to read more, check the book page for a link!

CHAPTER 1
“When I Fall In Love”


– Cam –

In a room full of suits, she stood out like a cardinal in a field of heather. Bright, wavy red hair, deep green eyes, athletic rather than simply slender, tall and clearly proud of it. A touch taller than me, she nonetheless had the confidence to add height with three-inch heels. For the meeting that morning, she was wearing a sky-blue jacket over a soft, snow-white blouse, a black pencil skirt, and nude stockings.

“Liz Talbott,” she said, sizing me up with a direct, confident gaze when we were going around the table doing the initial meet-and-greet.

“Cameron Savin,” I responded. And those were the only words we spoke to each other for some time. Cavendish, Edwards and Gunn had sent three lawyers to Pittsburgh for this meeting, and I was by a very long stretch the most junior. At a meeting that included the General Counsel and a Senior Vice President for a national telecom company, an attorney only six months out of law school should be seen and not heard.

Cavendish, Edwards was representing the company in an antitrust suit pending in federal district court in D.C. The case had been filed well before I joined the firm and a great deal of work had already been done. I was tasked with pulling together materials that would be used for the Senior VP’s trial testimony, as well as the deposition that he would need to give in advance of trial.

I was surprised and pleased to learn that Liz would be my liaison at the company. I was far too junior to be talking with a Senior VP, and anyway, a whole lot of staff work had to be done before it was worth taking up any of his time. So at the end of the meeting, Liz and I exchanged contact information and a few more words. None of consequence.

I didn’t resolve to keep things professional only because it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do anything else. Liz gave the term “out of my league” new meaning. She might as well have been the Duchess of Cambridge. I had dated girls, but this was a woman – and one that had her shit together.

Liz and I met frequently and had other remote meetings to pull together the information that the VP would need to make his testimony compelling. My job, knowing the contours of the case and the legal elements of the claim that we would need to prove, was to take the information that Liz assembled and create a narrative that tied everything together. Integrating disparate pieces of information into a coherent whole is pretty much what I do best, so it was a good assignment for me.

Liz always listened carefully to my questions and made sure that I thoroughly understood her answers. She also knew what she didn’t know and never tried to bluff or guess. When she needed to get information from elsewhere in the company, she knew where to go and tended to get the information quickly.

The testimony took shape, and I was able to provide the senior associate and the partner with outlines and rough drafts earlier than they expected.

Liz was surprisingly friendly, and in the course of some long days she would break the tension by telling some stories from work or commenting on things in the newspaper. I enjoyed those informal times, but assumed that she was just being collegial.

While we were still working on testimony, the senior partner on the case got a feeler from opposing counsel suggesting that the other side might be amenable to settling the case without trial. After some back and forth, the parties agreed on a mediator and set a date for a three-day session. This was to include a bit of “show and tell,” giving a preview of each side’s view of the evidence.

With my knowledge of the key testimony from the Senior VP, I was able to help prepare the presentation for our side (which was, of course, given by the partner). The VP, the General Counsel and Liz all came to DC for the mediation, along with a few other corporate types that I didn’t know. It was occasionally contentious, but the parties were both eager to avoid a risky and cost-prohibitive trial and we reached an agreement in principle in just a day and a half.

The firm hosted the celebratory dinner at the Old Ebbitt for our side (and why not? We made a crapload of money from the case)! Liz came and sat next to me for the entire dinner, which surprised me. Everyone but me had a lot to drink – I’m really not fond of being drunk, so I tend to be careful – and Liz and I had a good time making quiet comments poking fun at the senior folks who were giving fulsome congratulatory toasts.

With the case over, we were finally able to relax and just be people for a change. And, surprisingly, Liz seemed to enjoy hanging out with me as a person. By the end of the evening, I surprised myself by inviting her to lunch. “What’s your plan for tomorrow? Heading back to Pittsburgh first thing?”

She hesitated, but only for an instant. “Nope; my flight’s not ’till 6:45 in the evening. We all figured the mediation would take all three days.”

“Do you have any lunch plans, then? Can I talk you into joining me?” I hope I don't look or sound as nervous as I feel! I can usually count on my face to show only what I want to reveal, but this was an extreme case.

She smiled easily. “I have absolutely no obligations tomorrow, and I’d love to join you. What did you have in mind?”

Oh. My. God! I can’t believe it! I thought. “DC's a great place for ethnic food – ExPat communities from all over the world here. What kind of food do you like?”

“Fantastic! I love trying different things, so long as I don’t have to make them!”

“Hmmmm. Spicy, or not?” I asked.

“I’ll eat anything, but given the option I usually go with spicy,” she replied.

I thought for a moment. Even with the long hours I usually put in, I’d been exposed to lots of options, just within walking distance of my Adams Morgan apartment. “Ever try Ethiopian?”

She grinned. “Not yet – and I’m counting on you to fix that!”

We had a date!


– Liz –

I was unusually thoughtful as I sat in the conference room that fall morning. Mostly, I was thinking, No good deed goes unpunished. Shortly after I joined EverComm three years ago, I had volunteered to help a couple of my senior colleagues who were struggling with a complicated marketing study. Neither of them were with the company any more, so when the marketing study turned out to be relevant to some lawsuit we were pursuing, I was tasked with helping out lawyers.

Sal Peroni, a Senior VP and one of my mentors, was at the head of the table. Daniel Cosgrove, the General Counsel, along with my buddy Tim Jackson, were there from legal. Someone from Finance – an older man with a disapproving face whose name I didn’t catch – rounded out our team.

When the lawyers from the D.C. law firm we’d hired trooped in, I suppressed a sigh. Eight people in the conference room, and once again I was the only woman. It was 2018; you’d think that the times might have gotten around to changing.

But it’s not an uncommon circumstance and I’m not the type to bitch about it. Our group had gotten up and everyone was shaking hands, so I sized up the new arrivals and tried to remember names.

As the meeting progressed, I discovered I would be working with the junior member of the litigation team, who had introduced himself as Cameron Savin. Lean build, intense blue eyes. Maybe a touch shorter than me, though it was hard to tell since I was wearing power heels for the meeting. His demeanor was as composed and buttoned-down as his suit, but he wore his hair in a low, tight pony tail and had a single gold hoop in his left ear. An interesting combination.

I was worried he would overcompensate for his youth – I probably had five or six years on him – by being assertive or bossy. But I was pleasantly surprised to find him very easy to work with. He didn’t pretend to know more than me about marketing or the workings of the telecom industry. He asked lots of good questions, listened carefully to my answers, and then followed up with more questions that demonstrated that he was absorbing what I was telling him.

I appreciated that he was professional and respectful, deferring to my expertise but understanding – as I did not – how the testimony we were working on fit with the rest of the evidence the trial team was putting together. It was a true partnership, and I found it exhilarating to be appreciated for my smarts and my expertise.

I hadn’t expected to become attracted to him. My divorce back in 2015 had soured me on romantic entanglements. Although I went on dates from time to time, all I was really looking for was the occasional one-night stand. I knew where to find men who weren’t looking for more than that – they aren’t all that hard to find – and that was more than enough.

That wouldn’t do with Cam, and besides, I would never date anyone I was working with. So I told myself firmly that we were both professionals and behaved accordingly. Cam made no move; he never even introduced non-work related subjects during our discussions. On the other hand, he wasn’t stand-offish, and charmed me on the occasions when our conversations turned to other matters.

The case surprisingly settled while we were still finalizing the VP’s proposed testimony. Everyone was in D.C. for the mediation. After the settlement was reached, the whole litigation team went off to a restaurant for dinner and stayed until late in the evening. It was a happy crowd – the company was happy with the settlement, the VP was happy that he didn’t have to testify, and the lawyers were happy that their clients were happy. The wine flowed and everyone relaxed after a lot of long, intense, and stressful work.

I made a point of sitting next to Cam and enjoyed the evening. We shared a bit about our backgrounds – where we were from, where we were living, but nothing too personal.

As the party was breaking up, Cam asked if I was free for lunch the next day, or whether I was heading back to Pittsburgh early.

I found myself acutely aware of two things. First, as a result of the settlement, we wouldn’t be working together any more. And, second, he did not wear a ring.

Not without some trepidation, I agreed to join him for lunch.

Being Cam, he asked about my favorite types of foods, and upon learning that I was adventurous and liked things that were both different and spicy, suggested that we meet at an Ethiopian restaurant he liked.

Lunch was great. Really great. We stayed for almost three hours, sitting on low stools, tearing off pieces of spongy bread to pick up different stews, laughing and talking about everything and nothing. We shared a bottle of wine – a thin, dry red that paired well with the food. He said he didn't drink during the work day but was taking the afternoon off. Apparently the firm didn’t care exactly when he worked, so long as he billed plenty of hours and got the job done.

By the end of the lunch he pretty much had my whole life’s story. He’s very good at getting people to open up. There’s just something about his deep blue eyes, I thought. When he looked at me, quietly taking in the story of my life, I felt like I was understood, not judged.

“But what about you?” I asked. “You’ve had me babbling forever.”

“Not much to tell, really. Born and raised in St. Louis. The youngest of three. My sister Fiona’s the brainy one; she's a doctor in Boston. Just got engaged, too, so she’s got her act together. My brother Iain’s a starving artist in New York. By comparison, I’m just a geeky guy who went straight from high school to Washington University, from there straight to the University of Chicago for law school and from law school straight to Cavendish, Edwards.”

“That’s a pretty short summary!” I chided when he stopped. “Birth order and education. Surely there’s more?”

“Well, work has been pretty all-consuming since I got here.” He looked embarrassed.

“Like any sports? Hobbies? Interests? Good cookie recipes?

He smiled. “Baseball, if the Cardinals are in the hunt, which – just sayin’ – they almost always are. I used to play chess, but it’s been a while. I’m interested in politics – majored in PoliSci back in college. I like lots of different music, but I can’t play any instruments. Uhhh . . . cookies? No. Almost positive I don’t have a baking sheet. Wouldn’t know what to do with it if I did.”

But all of that was said in a lighthearted way and with an easy manner that suggested he was comfortable in his skin. We talked more and, while he almost never said anything about himself unless asked directly, when I got him talking about things he was interested in, he was animated, engaged, smart and funny.

I felt something stirring . . . something I hadn’t felt in forever. Something that, frankly, scared me. Scar tissue from ten years of marriage that had ended in complete failure.

I married Jack Trainor when I was eighteen and a day. In those days I went by BethAnn, and was the Empress of my little pond – a popular head cheerleader, getting ready for graduation. Jack was a twenty-three-year old Marine Corps Lieutenant: six foot two, powerfully built, buzz cut, square jaw, barrel chest. A living, breathing recruiting poster for the Green Machine.

But I got tired of his domineering ways, his arrogant assumption that I would want to do whatever he wanted to do without any need to even have a discussion. He had resisted mightily when, at twenty-three, I decided to go back to school. I went to my graduation from George Mason alone. Even though I received highest honors, Jack adamantly refused to let me get a job.

It came to a head two years later, when he discovered that the little wifey wasn’t popping out babies because she was on the pill, and had earned a masters degree through a correspondence course in the ample time each day that he was down at Quantico doing Marine things and hanging with his buddies. Which is how, at 29, I found myself back in Pittsburgh, starting a new life.

Did I really want to get involved in another romantic relationship? Really?

But in fairness, Cam was about as different from my ex-husband as one could imagine, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. That was probably why I was attracted to him in the first place.

So I swallowed my fears and invited Cam to visit me in Pittsburgh. I wasn’t sure what I felt, but . . . I wanted to see whether there was something there. “Come on out,” I urged. “There’s lots of trouble to get into in Pittsburgh, and I can put you up in my guest bedroom. It’ll be fun!”

“I don’t suppose you like baseball?” he asked, with a sort of wistful note in his voice. “I’d love to see a live game at PNC Park!”

“Sure, I like baseball,” I said, smiling. “Though the Pirates are likely to struggle this season. Which I only say because they always do.”

I do like baseball – well enough, anyhow. It’s just as well that I’m not as much of a fan as Cam is, though, or I would never have been able to bring myself to date a Cardinals fan. My dad, as faithful a supporter of the Bucs as you are likely to find in the whole of the Iron City, didn’t need to know.


– Cam –

Lunch was incredible. Liz had never tried Ethiopian food before, and so we had great fun with the unusual seats and eating off of the sponge-like injera flatbread. We talked and talked. I don’t know how long we stayed there. Since my schedule had been cleared for the mediation, I didn’t have a lot of worries about taking the afternoon off. The other side was supposed to do the initial draft of the formal settlement agreement, so we had some time to wait.

Liz must have done her homework before coming to lunch, because she dressed sensibly in dark slacks that made the most of her long legs without making it hard to get into and out of the low seats in the restaurant. She wore a russet-colored crew-necked blouse that showed off her fine collar bones and emphasized her long neck without showing any cleavage. The autumn colors blended with her fiery hair rather than contrasting with it, as the colors she wore more often tended to do.

I was enchanted by the way she moved, the way she showed her brilliant teeth when she smiled, by the sparkle in her jewel-green eyes. I couldn’t believe it: Liz Talbott, the Liz Talbott, was having lunch with me, nerd boy, and apparently enjoying the experience.

It was almost like an out-of-body experience. As a kid and an adolescent, I was undersized and unathletic, so I overcompensated by hyper-focusing on being smart, which was the one thing I was naturally good at. I never dated much. I had one relationship that lasted half a year when I was in college, but we both kind of lost interest. A couple of other “relationships” ended before they even got off the ground. In law school I had lots of friends who were female, but no girlfriends.

So imagine my shock when Liz invited me to come to Pittsburgh to visit her. Only my poker face saved me from completely humiliating myself. We set a date for three weeks later.

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 2
“Sometimes Love Just Ain’t Enough”


– Cam –

I was on cloud nine every day of the three weeks from our lunch to the Pittsburgh trip. How could this woman – this beautiful, intelligent, experienced, put-together woman – want anything to do with me? I couldn’t wait to get on the plane.

She picked me up at the airport early Saturday morning? “Hey, Cam!” She waved to draw my attention as I exited security.

“As if anyone wouldn’t spot you in a crowd,” I said as I came up, matching her smile of greeting.

“Yeah,” she laughed. “Endowed by nature with a big red flag!”

“Uh huh,” I said. “That, too!”

She was dressed in active wear suitable for a mild spring day: black nylon tights and a lime-green hoodie. Her hair was pulled back away from her face, which just made her devil-may-care grin pop even more.

The first order of business was to rent a bike for me to use for the day. Her car had a rack that supported two bikes and she had hers with her.

We spent a few enjoyable hours cycling and working up a sweat. Then we went back to her house. She had very modern tastes – everything showed clean lines and the art on the walls was abstract and colorful.

I rode my bicycle a lot when I was growing up, but it had been a lot of years since I was in the saddle so I was feeling pretty sore. Before I knew it, Liz was giving me a gentle massage on my neck and shoulders. I put my head down on her dining room table and thought about where I was and what was happening.

This woman had a life, if you understand what I mean. She had a car, a house with a guest bedroom, a defined decorating style . . . . I was barely out of law school. I lived in a one-bedroom apartment furnished with a few pieces of rented furniture, and I had never even given the least thought to putting anything on the walls. I was going to date her?

Who do I think I am?

But I put my self-doubt aside. The question was, who does Liz think I am? And, can I be that person? So, I pulled myself out of the chair and gave her a reciprocal neck and shoulder rub.

When she got up, she turned to look at me, separated by mere inches. I wanted to cup her cheek in my hand and kiss her full lips. But my self-doubt was too great. I couldn’t believe that’s what she wanted, so I asked first, which was clearly a mistake.

But she let me.

And suddenly, I felt like a king, like a rock star, like a god on earth. I wanted to be everything this woman could ever want, anything she needed.

The next day we went to see the Cincinnati Reds defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates, but the Bucs reversed the script and won a close game. I didn’t have a dog in the fight – the Cardinals weren’t playing a weekend game at PNC until September – but it wouldn't have mattered anyway. I was with Liz.

We had a picnic after the game. Naturally, Liz had the perfect picnic basket and assorted accouterments, and we sat on a comfy checkered blanket under poofy white clouds and enjoyed each other’s company. Before long, we were cuddled together kissing. It got pretty heavy. I’ll admit that I was concerned that my erection would be noticed.

But I stamped down on my raging hormones. I wasn’t looking for a fling, or anything that would be over and done in a hurry. I wanted Liz in my life. “We should take it slow,” I told her. “I don’t want to rush and give you regrets.”

She told me that was sweet, and agreed.


– Liz –

On the first day of Cam’s visit we rented a bike for him and I took him on one of my favorite rides, the North Shore River Trail. About an hour of the ride goes right along the Allegheny and Ohio Rivers, with great views of the Three Sisters Bridge, the Carnegie Science Center, and PNC Park. Taking the full loop we also went through Riverview Park. I’m a Pittsburgh girl and proud of it, and I love to show off my city.

After several hours’ riding we were hot, sore, dirty and happy. Back at my place, I got us some Gatorades and I gave Cam a neck and shoulder massage. He put his head down and groaned with pleasure.

After five minutes or so, he got up and gestured to the chair. “Your turn.” He gave as good as he got, or better. His long, tapered fingers were adept at finding the knots in my muscles and working them out.

I stood and faced him, intending to say thanks, and was captured by those blue eyes.

He held me in his gaze for a long moment. “Can I kiss you?”

That’s taking care and respect too far! “Don’t ask. Just do it!”

We did, and it was sweet. Very sweet. But we left it there. He slept in the guest bedroom and I went to my own, feeling hopeful. Something was definitely stirring, and I felt my fears receding.

We caught the third game of a four-game series between the Pirates and the Reds the next day. To the surprise of me, Cam, and ninety percent of the people in the ballpark, the Bucs got to hoist the Jolly Roger for the third night in a row, creating quite the festive mood among their long-suffering fans. Afterward, we went out for a picnic. This proved to be an opportunity for considerably more kissing, and damn, it felt good.

The period of my romance with Jack hadn’t extended long into our marriage and the kissing that’s involved in my occasional sexual forays doesn’t involve a lot of romance. In fact, my goal during those sessions is best described as, bam, purr, thank you, sir. So it had been a very long time since I felt that heady, crazy, intoxication of new love.

But at the end of the day, Cam said he didn’t want to rush on to sex, because he was looking for something lasting. He suggested that we take it slow and see where it went.

I agreed . . . and didn’t. I wasn’t eager to dash into a relationship either, but my body wanted what it wanted. That night, I had to be satisfied with my little mechanical friend – a toy I had purchased well into my marriage, and which kept me sane many times since.


– Cam –

Taking it slow only lasted until the very next time I came up to Pittsburgh, two weeks later. We had come back from a run and took showers (yeah, her house had more than one bathroom). I came out toweling my hair, wearing a T-Shirt and shorts.

She came out a few minutes later, her flaming hair blown dry, eyes shining, wearing a long night shirt in some satiny fabric.

I got up, wrapped her in my arms, and gave her a deep, lingering kiss.

When we finally broke the kiss, she looked at me with her straight gaze. “Time’s up, bucko. In the sack – NOW!” And there we went.

Undressed, Liz was a marvel. As a result of her many outdoor activities, she was firm, lean, and well-muscled. Her breasts were perfect orbs with silky smooth skin, neither too large nor too small; soft and sensitive to the touch. Her long legs wrapped around mine, her hair floated above me, and before I knew it she had straddled my aching member and we were moving together as our hands and mouths reached, touched, and explored. How long did I last? Damned if I know; I was in heaven, and heaven is forever.

We slept.

This was the beginning of my time in paradise. We saw each other every couple of weeks. Mostly I went out to Pittsburgh, where we spent time with her friends most days and had alone time at night.

Her friends were all from her office. They had great stories and made me feel incredibly welcome. I think that they were very happy that Liz was dating after being single for so long. All of them were older than me – I think Fernando was the oldest; close to forty – while Janet, who was thirty, was probably the closest to my age. Tish, who was dating Fernando, was Liz’s age (32), and I think Tim Jackson, the lawyer, was a year or two older than that. But I worked hard to fit in, and I think I was reasonably successful at it.

I had never been into sports, but fortunately the activities that Liz enjoyed were all ones that did not require the sort of close coordination and muscle mass that kept me on the sidelines in school. I can hike, bike, and kayak for long distances, and even running was something that I could do without much difficulty. In fact, I was surprised and delighted to discover what I had been missing. I enjoyed being outdoors and engaging in physical activities.

I was simply giddy with happiness. A stunning, smart, experienced woman wanted me – ME! Every time she called, I was overjoyed. I wrote her silly notes. I sent her small presents. I couldn’t wait for the next time that I would see her, kiss her, enjoy the sight of her tight, round ass as she ran ahead of me during our morning runs. To feel her eyes on me; to hear her laugh. To come to her bed and make love to her.

I was in love, and didn’t hesitate to tell her so.

She was reluctant to say anything. “Look, I don’t know what love is. Not for sure. I thought I was in love before, but I really wasn’t. I was in love with being in love. But Cam, it’s not the same thing. I don’t want to get too far ahead. Let’s enjoy what we have for now. No commitments.”

I agreed, of course, even though I had no doubts at all where my own feelings were concerned.


– Liz –

I got Cam into my bed the very next time he came to see me. We’d had a good run, the endorphins were pumping out happy juice, and when I saw him after a shower my body said, “Now!”

He was more than willing. He was eager, and caring . . . but very inexperienced. Not a virgin, but pretty close. I took the lead and that helped, but on the whole the experience was a bit disappointing.

I wasn’t too worried, though. Practice is the sovereign remedy for inexperience. So I kept my disappointment to myself.

Cam and I continued to see each other every few weekends or so for the next few months. I flew to D.C. a couple of times, but more often he came out to Pittsburgh, either flying or driving. He had a pretty small apartment in D.C. and hadn’t really explored the city much. In Pittsburgh, we were able to join my work crew for long hikes, camping and kayaking.

We had a lot of fun. He liked my friends; they liked him. He proved to have a wicked sense of humor and he and Fernando could be the life of any party when they were together.

My crew wasn’t much into cycling or running, but Cam and I did those activities together on our own. We explored the Panhandle Trail, the Montour Trail, and the one I knew best, Butler-Freeport Community Trail, giving Cam some appreciation for the area. There are things that you see when you are running or cycling that you never catch when you’re whizzing along in a car, and the rugged hills and wild rivers of Western Pennsylvania are special.

We walked around the city, hand-in-hand or arm-in-arm. Went shopping. Explored restaurants and the food scene. I loved his attention and the care with which he treated my feelings. He always made me feel like I was the most important person in the world.

But the sex didn’t get better; in fact, I was finding myself getting dry while we were making love. That had never happened to me before, leaving me confused and frustrated. Here he was, seemingly the perfect guy, Mr. Right. Everything my husband had failed to be.

I couldn’t figure out what the problem was. I hadn’t become frigid; my occasional one-night stands had always satisfied me sexually. But however much I cared for Cam, respected him, felt somehow drawn to him, in the bedroom there was just no spark. The more I wanted it, the harder I tried, the worse it got.

In desperation, I invited my friend Tish over for dinner and opened up about my tangle of feelings and frustrations. It’s not something I’m at all accustomed to doing, and it made me acutely uncomfortable.

She was sympathetic. “So . . . trouble in paradise? I’m so sorry, Liz. I really thought he might be the one.”
“The worst of it is, I did too!” I said.
She asked some pointed questions about what things I had tried to improve my response to our love-making. The sorts of questions that make me very uncomfortable.
“We tried lots of different things. He is always game for adding romance – a little mental and emotional foreplay. We tried different positions," I said. “And, look . . . Cam and I both have pretty whitebread upbringings. I’ve got a lot more experience, obviously, but . . . we’ve tried things I never did with Jack – or with anyone else. Nothing works. I don’t know what’s wrong!”
“I hate to ask, but . . . he’s okay, physically?”

I shrugged. “Yes. I mean, he’s not deformed or anything. A bit . . . I don’t know . . . delicate. But he’s fully functional, if that’s what you mean.”

Truth is, Cam was on the small side. And maybe that was part of the problem. But that explanation didn’t feel right. Or, at least, sufficient.

She leaned back in her chair, holding her water glass in both hands and giving me a measuring look. “I guess you have to decide how important the sex is for you, Liz.”

“How important?” It seemed like a strange question to me.

She shook her head. “Sex is super important for a lot of people. Maybe most, I don’t know. For other people, it’s kind of nice to have, but other things matter more. If you really like Cam, but he doesn’t do it for you in bed, will that still be okay for you?”

I thought about it. Hard. Do I really need good sex? I thought about how much I enjoyed Cam’s company. Thought what a truly wonderful guy – a wonderful human being – he is. Isn’t that enough?

Finally, I met Tish’s eyes. “No,” I said, sadly. “It would be at first . . . but not for the long term.”

“Do you need to think about the long term?” she asked, practically.

But this question was much easier. “Yeah. Yeah, I do. Not for me. I mean, I’m the queen of flings, right? But . . . that’s not Cam. He only plays for keeps.”

She put down her glass, reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Liz, you’ve got to stop beating yourself up over this. It’s not Cam’s fault that you are sexually incompatible, and it’s not your fault. And if that matters for either of you, it matters. That’s not your fault either.”

Tish has a really bad habit of being right.

But I was still torn. I didn’t want to throw away something that had seemed to be so good, but I didn’t want to deceive myself or Cam.

So I told Cam at the end of a weekend that I wasn’t sure this was working for me and I needed some time to think about it.

Cam got very still, his blue eyes very focused on mine. Finally, he said, “Liz, you know that I love you. Take all the time you need. I will be here when you are ready to talk, or ready to decide.”

He flew home.

I spent the next few weeks thinking about it, but my mind didn’t change. He’s a lovely person, but Cam is just not the man that I need in the bedroom, and he never will be.

I needed to find a way to tell him, and it didn’t feel right doing it over the phone. It was too cheap, too callous. He hadn’t hesitated to tell me his feelings, and even if I couldn’t share them – or at least, share them fully – I respected them. I wanted him to know, to understand, that I really did care about him. Even though we couldn’t be a couple.

I invited him up for one more weekend; the gang has a camping night planned with some hiking and rock climbing. I would tell him at the end of the weekend.

I knew I had to. But damn, it will be hard.

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 3
“You Always Hurt the One You Love”


– Cam –

When Liz sat me down and told me that she needed time to think about our relationship, I assumed the worst. I’d heard the “needing time” line before. But I had never been in a relationship like this before, so I didn’t want to just assume that Liz was attempting to push me away without having to say anything directly. Besides, that’s just not who Liz is.

I did what I had to do: I told her that I loved her and that meant that I would give her as long as she needed. We slept apart that night, and I returned to D.C. the next day with a heavy heart.

I spent the next few weeks like a guilty man awaiting a judge’s sentence. I not only feared the worst, I expected it and in some measure even believed that I deserved it. Liz would not be having doubts, if she felt the same way that I did. So, somehow, I had failed.

I worked hard to steal myself for what I was almost certain was coming. I had ample experience with smart, pretty girls who said they loved me, but weren’t in love with me, "if you know what I mean.”

I knew what that meant, for sure.

I also understood that there’s no point in a relationship where the attraction isn’t mutual. So I had plenty of practice accepting rejection with understanding and, where needed, a bit of self-deprecating humor.

But I wasn’t sure all that experience would be enough, this time. Liz was too special. Too important. And the fact that I was keeping any hope alive kept me from hardening my heart and strengthening my defenses.

After what felt like an interminable time in purgatory, Liz called to invite me to a camping weekend with her work gang. So I pulled together some camping gear and flew to Pittsburgh.

Liz was distant from the start of the weekend. Whatever hope I had faded fast.

The hike into the campground was strenuous and everyone arrived hot, sticky and tired out. By the time we put up the tents and ate a quick dinner, we were all ready to turn in. Liz and I shared a tent, but not a sleeping bag, and we were too close to the other tents to have a private conversation.

Liz simply said, “Goodnight, Cam,” then rolled over and went to sleep.

I lay awake deep into the night, trying to figure out where I had gone wrong and whether there was anything I could do – anything at all – that might salvage the situation. Long after midnight I drifted off into a fitful sleep, only to be awakened a short time later by the sounds of scratching outside the tent.

In the moonlight, I could see the shadow of something small moving along the outside of the tent, about the size of a large, but short, cat. I made a movement of some kind, I think, and the animal stopped, turned, and froze. In an instant, the air was filled with the indelible smell of skunk.

That woke Liz as well. We quickly left the tent, only to discover that the skunk had sprayed not only the tent, but the open packs that we had left under the rain flap. Everything we had with us was permeated with skunk smell. We had to move the tent by moonlight to spare the rest of our group, but there was no sleep for either of us for what little remained of the night.

Liz and I took off down the trail at first light so that our colleagues could eat their breakfast in peace. We made much better time going downhill, and once we got to the car we dumped all of our gear in the back and drove home with every window open.


– Liz –

My plan for the weekend had been a complete bust. I couldn’t give Cam the ax up-front or the weekend would be ruined. But I couldn’t act like there was nothing wrong between us. Always sensitive to my moods, Cam knew immediately what was coming and retreated into his head. Pulling him out again would lead to a discussion I wasn’t ready to have, so I allowed the silence to stretch.

The hike was far more strenuous than any of us thought it was going to be, and Tish in particular was struggling by the end of it. For the last mile or so, Cam kindly volunteered to take her pack and Fernando helped her get to the camp. There was barely time to set up the tents and eat before it was dark, and I had to face sharing a small tent with the guy I was going to dump the next day.

All things considered, my effort to spare Cam had not been well planned. I should have just flown out to DC and met him on his home ground without anyone else around. Coulda. Shoulda. Woulda.

I avoided the situation by crawling into my sleeping bag and pretending to go to sleep right away. I fully expected a bad night, but after the stress I had been under leading up to the weekend, the realization that I was going to relieve the pressure tomorrow, and the strenuous hiking, I actually fell asleep quickly.

That was a good thing, because I woke up much later to the smell of a skunk doing its thing right outside our tent and on top of all of our things. Cam and I dashed out of the tent, pulled up the stakes and moved it fifty yards away in the hopes that the others could sleep. But there was no sleeping for Cam and me. The tent stank, we stank, and all of our clothes stank. Fortunately, there wasn’t much night left.

In light of how badly we reeked, when Janet emerged from her tent at dawn we told her we were going to head home early and asked her to make our apologies to the others. We got home in the evening, stopping only to buy gas and tomato juice from a teenage clerk who actually held his nose.

We made a bee-line for the washing machine in my master bedroom suite. Everything had to come off, and we dropped it all in the wash with a hefty dose of soap and some deodorizer I had left over from the time I took care of a neighbor’s dog. I zipped into my shower and was about done when the hot water started to run out. I shut down the water, dried off, and then slipped on a nightdress.

Then it hit me that Cam had nothing to wear. I didn’t want to have this discussion with him bare-ass naked or wrapped in a towel. So I grabbed the least overtly-feminine robe in my closet and slipped it into the bathroom where Cam was still showering. I went back into my bathroom to dry off my hair.

When the bell on the laundry rang, I pulled my clothes from the dryer and put our hiking clothes in, smelling to see whether the wash had done its work. I threw in three dryer sheets to help the deodorizing process. Intending to fold my laundry, I grabbed the basket and went toward the living room.

When I opened the door, I saw Cam sitting on a small chair by the gas fire that I had turned on when we came in, rhythmically brushing out his hair. Because the robe left his legs exposed practically to his crotch, he had his knees together.

I was suddenly struck by how very feminine he looked, with his long, mostly hairless legs modestly together, in a short lady’s robe, stroking his long dark hair with my hairbrush. His blue eyes were distant, and his rapidly drying hair, loose from his normal ponytail, settled in dark waves around his oval face.

When he became aware of me, Cam attempted to stand up, but this brought a fresh crisis. He got an erection and the short white robe couldn’t cover it. He blushed like a girl and seemed at a complete loss for words.

Inspired by my fresh insight, I grabbed a pair of panties from my laundry basket and tossed them to him. He looked even more embarrassed, if that were possible, but put them on without any protest.

I waved him back to his seat, put down my basket, and sat across from him to give him the horrible little speech I had been preparing for days in advance.

What to say? To someone older or more experienced than Cam, it would be simple enough. Some variation of, “Sorry, it’s not working for me.” But Cam is clearly head-over-heels in the throes of feelings that he has never experienced before. How can I be kind, but still definitive?

“Cam, we need to talk. I’m not going to beat around the bush. You are a wonderful guy. I enjoy spending time with you. But . . . I just don’t think we are sexually compatible. And without that, I think we have to stop seeing each other romantically. I don’t know whether you’ll want to remain friends. We don’t need to decide that today. . . .”

His distant expression transformed into complete misery – desolation. “Oh, God, no!” His voice was husky with pain.

“I’m so very sorry. I wanted it to work out. I really did,” I said, trying to salve the hurt I was inflicting on him.

“Please don’t, Liz. I . . . I’ve never felt like this about anyone before. I’ll do anything . . . .” He began to weep.

I was uncomfortable. I knew he would be devastated, but still! “Cam, we’ve tried. It’s not like there’s some annoying personal habit that you can just fix.”

“But surely there’s something I can do – anything!” To my embarrassment and horror, he slipped off the chair and went down on his knees. “Please, Liz! Please give me another chance!”

“Cam, get up!” I tried again. Surely Cam, who had always listened, always been sensitive to my feelings and needs, would listen and understand. But my words suddenly couldn’t penetrate.

The culmination of all of the stress of the bad weekend, and of Cam’s inexplicable behavior, caused me to lose it. “Okay, look, I tried doing this the easy way. You are forcing me to say things I didn’t want to say. You can’t be my man, Cam. You don’t satisfy me. I’m sorry. I didn’t want to say it, but you forced me to. You forced me!”

He looked like he’d been punched. But even that wasn’t enough. “I can learn! I can! I’m begging you – teach me how to satisfy you!”

I couldn’t believe it. I just looked at him, kneeling before me in my short bathrobe, wearing my panties, crying his eyes out. I looked, and I looked again, and suddenly an idea came to me from out of nowhere. It felt, strange, alien. Dark.

“Fine, Cam,” I said angrily. I lifted up my nightdress. “Eat me.”

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 4
“Wild Night”

– Cam –

We got back to Liz’s house around six o’clock that night. We took everything out of the car, stripped everything we were wearing, threw it in the wash and dashed to the showers. I was showering when the hot water ran out, but I still stank so I gritted my teeth and kept at it with tomato juice and the harshest soap Liz had in the house.

Liz, always considerate, had apparently popped in during my shower and left me a robe to wear while our clothes were drying. It was white cotton with a kind of quilted pattern; utilitarian but very short – a style Liz no doubt favored because she knows that her legs look great. I was a bit embarrassed, but Liz and I were clearly not at a stage in our relationship where she was comfortable having me wander around her house nude.

I put it on. It didn’t cover all that much, but it did manage – barely – to hide the essentials. I couldn’t find my comb, which must have been lost in the hurried trek back from camp. So I asked Liz through her bathroom door if I could borrow one.

She stuck out an arm and handed me a brush with a quick apology – it’s all she had. So I sat down by the gas fire and started brushing out my hair while I waited for her to finish what she was doing and come out.

Eventually I looked up to see her in the doorway to her room. She had a basket of clothes on her hip that she had pulled from the dryer to make room for our load of wash, and she was wearing a long, straight sleeveless cotton nightdress in a medium blue that hugged her perfect breasts and flared out beneath them.

I stood up to meet her and, to my extreme embarrassment, I really stood up. My erection pushed up the bottom of the short robe I was wearing and exposed me. I’m sure I turned flame red. Not that Liz hadn’t seen me hard before, but . . . this was not the moment.

Her eyes quirked at the sight, then she reached into her basket and tossed me a pair of underwear. Hers, of course; mine were still drying.

I was even more embarrassed, but realized that it was better to put them on and cover up than to leave myself visibly standing at attention while she pronounced my fate. I slipped them on. Nothing fancy or over-the top, just white nylon panties that held my disobedient member in place.

She waved me back to my seat by the fire and lowered the boom.

I thought that I had prepared myself, but when the moment came, I knew that I had been kidding myself completely. I felt like a gigantic hole had been ripped out of my heart. Unbidden, tears began to flow down my face. I can’t to this day remember the last time I had cried. I was suddenly in anguish, a complete wreck.

I had wanted to go out with dignity, to make it as easy on Liz as I could. She had taken a chance on me and I had failed; I didn’t want to make things any worse. But I couldn’t bring myself to do what I had done so often before: tell her I understood and walk away.

Unreasonably, crazily, overwhelmingly, I felt the need to fight, to plead, for the relationship that was over. I found myself on my knees before her, all dignity gone, begging for another chance, asking that she just tell me what was wrong so I could change.

This was, clearly, not the response that Liz had hoped for, nor was it the one she expected. She tried to stop me. Told me it wasn’t my fault and it wasn’t something I could “fix.”

But I wouldn’t just accept that, and kept at her. I was desperate, and desperation isn’t pretty. It’s not noble, and it’s sure as hell not attractive or sexy.

Liz started to get frustrated, then angry, and finally told me that I didn’t satisfy her in bed.

I was hurt, shocked. I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. But still I persisted. I begged her to teach me how to satisfy her.

She sat there looking at me, on my knees, tears leaking down my face, for a good minute before saying, “Fine, Cam. Eat me.” She lifted her nightdress above her thighs, exposing her bush and her sweet, sweet lips.

I was shocked before; now I was stunned. I tried to bring myself back from the brink, to return to the person that I had always been – the cool, poker-faced lawyer, the thinker and planner. And I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t turn away. I shuffled forward, on my knees, lowered my head between her legs, kissed her lips, and began to use my tongue.


– Liz –

I couldn’t believe Cam had so little thought for his own dignity, for his self-worth as a man. I had known him as a composed professional, and here he is, on his knees, wearing women’s clothes, kissing and licking me in response to my angry demand.

What’s worse, in a way, is that somewhere deep inside, I liked it. I felt powerful, in charge, a goddess accepting worship from a lesser being. Little BethAnn the cheerleader, Jack’s little wifey, was suddenly the boss. I felt myself grow wet, then wetter still.

As Cam’s tongue penetrated deeper and deeper, all of my frustration, all of my stress, all of my uncertainty faded away. I felt boneless, leaning back in my chair, panting, as wave after wave of pleasure overwhelmed me. I grabbed his hair and pulled him closer, not allowing him to break contact, not allowing him to stop. I came, again, and again, and again.

Finally, I allowed him to pull away. I was glassy; he looked dazed. I had just enough presence of mind left to direct him to the guest bedroom. I told him we would talk in the morning.

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 5
“Guilty”

– Liz –

I woke early, hearing nothing but the usual morning birds. I was a wreck. How could I have done that to someone that I cared about? How could I have humiliated him like that, and then, unpardonably, gotten off on it? I’m a Pittsburgh girl and my bedroom desires have always been conventional.

I felt dirty.

But how must he be feeling this morning? The woman he was passionately in love with had just treated him like . . . I couldn’t even come up with a good analogy. He must be absolutely destroyed!

I quickly threw on a robe, popped into the kitchen and got coffee started. Then I headed back into the master bedroom, stopping to empty the dryer and dump our dry clothes onto the bed. While I was getting everything folded, I heard the shower by the guest bedroom, so Cam was up as well.

I wasn’t ready to face him yet. But I put his folded clothes on his bed, went into the kitchen, poured him a cup of coffee and dropped it off on the vanity while he was still showering. I saw the panties I had loaned him last night drying on the towel rack, so I clearly was not the only one who got relief last night. I snagged them on my way out, went back into my bedroom suite and started my own shower after tossing the still-damp panties into the dryer.

I took my time in the shower, washing my hair, lathering multiple times, using conditioner and rinsing. I got out, toweled and put the blow dryer to my hair, taking the time to get it completely dry. Then I stood in my closet, trying to figure out what to wear. This was about as unlike me as I can imagine. Finally I got disgusted at my own stalling, threw on something sensible and comfortable, and went out to face the music.

Cam was seated on the back deck sipping his coffee and to all appearances contemplating the woods. Again, I paused to observe him. Cameron Savin was definitely back; I couldn’t imagine how I found him to be feminine the prior evening. Of course, his hair was now pulled back into his usual low, male ponytail, and he was wearing a very practical hiking shirt tucked into his Levi’s.

But the real difference, I thought, was his face: composed, collected, exuding intelligence, understanding, and balance. It was the face I remembered from our first meetings. There was no trace of the distress or desperation that had overcome him.

He finally turned his head and “caught me out” looking. A small smile touched his lips and he waved me over.

I grabbed a cup of coffee myself and brought the pot out with me to top up his cup.

He thanked me and said, “It’s okay Liz. Sit down; I’ve got my shit back together. There are some things that I need to say, and then I’ll leave you to enjoy what looks like a beautiful day.”

I sat and – for a change – said nothing.

He took a minute to sip his coffee, then set the cup down on a side table and faced me directly.

Once again, I felt held by those incredible blue eyes.

Then he sighed. “Look, I don’t think this is going to get any easier, so let me plunge in. I’m so very sorry about last night. I thought I was prepared, but I just lost it. Completely. I had no right to do that to you. None. Especially knowing your history with your Ex. We gave it a try – a really good try – but it didn’t work out. Sure as hell, it’s not how I would have wanted you to remember me. So, that’s first.”

Before I could jump in, he added, “The other thing I have to say is thank-you. Putting yesterday aside, these past couple of months have been amazing for me. I’ll treasure the memories. You are really incredible and my only wish is that you have all the best that life has to offer.”

He stopped suddenly, picked up his coffee, and took a longer pull. “That’s all I needed to say, Liz. I told you it wouldn’t be so bad. Let me finish this coffee and I’ll get myself an Uber to the airport.”

Suddenly, I found myself tearing up. “Damn, how do you do that?” I grabbed a paper napkin before I made a mess of my face.

He looked, I don’t know . . . Surprised? Concerned? “Liz, what’s wrong? Please . . . I’m trying not to make this worse.”

I nodded, took a shaky breath followed by a sip of my own coffee while I tried to figure out what I wanted to say. Finally, I had myself together enough. “I can’t believe you’re apologizing – much less thanking me. After what I did last night, I thought you would hate me. I was afraid to face you this morning. That’s why I took so long in the damned bathroom. I was a complete bitch, and all you had done – the only thing you had done – was love me too much. I don’t know how you can even bear to look at me!”

I said this, keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the coffee I was cupping in both hands, afraid that I wouldn’t be able to finish if I looked at him. But the silence dragged on, and finally I looked up into those blue eyes. That quiet, still face.

He just looked at me. I saw love and understanding that I knew I didn’t deserve.

Before he could say anything, I had to tell him the rest. “The worst of it is, Cam, I enjoyed it. Not the breakup. I hated that.

“But the rest of it . . . . You were there; I think you have a very real idea of how much I enjoyed it. I can’t fake an orgasm to save my life. I lost count of the number I had last night. I’ve never experienced anything like it. And it wasn’t love, it wasn’t even lust, exactly. It was power. I felt powerful. Invulnerable. What does that make me, Cam? What the fuck am I?”

He processed that quietly, never taking his eyes off my face. Finally he said, very quietly, “Liz, you are who you are. What you experienced last night is a part of who you are. And who you are, as a whole, is pretty amazing. There is a dark side to every personality trait.”

I cut him off. “But I hurt you, dammit! If that’s a part of me, I don’t want it!”

That seemed to stop him. He looked away, finally. Took a moment with his own coffee. Opened his mouth to say something, then closed it again.

Still looking away, he said, “Okay. I don’t want you to have to bear that burden, so I guess I’m going to have to dig my grave a little deeper than I already have. Your rejection hurt me. Of course it did. I lost it.

“But what came later? I enjoyed it, Liz. God help me, but I enjoyed every humiliating minute of that sexual experience. I exploded while I was getting you off. Never even touched myself. You think I can’t bear to look at you? Are you kidding? It’s the mirror I’m having trouble with. And what you will think of me, now that you know.”

This, I was not prepared for. I tried to wrap my mind around it. I wasn’t sure that I could. He offered me redemption from the hell that I woke up to . . . but at what price? He had tried to reclaim his dignity this morning, but in the end he sacrificed it again, telling his deepest secret, his deepest shame, so that I wouldn’t hate myself for what I had done.

I was completely at sea. No idea what to say; how to respond. What would Cam say, if he were sitting in my seat, and I was in his? Just for a minute, don’t be Bossypants Liz. How would the voice of an understanding heart respond?

Finally I knew what I had to say. “Cam. Look at me, please? Look at me.”

Slowly, he turned his gaze back, and while his expression remained calm his eyes were full of pain.

“You are the most understanding person I have ever met,” I began. “In all the time I’ve known you, I have never felt judged. Even this morning, when I had every reason to expect anger and worse, you gave me understanding and love. Can’t you give yourself the same gift? And can’t you trust me to extend just a bit of the same understanding you give to me? What did you just say? What you felt last night is part of who you are. I’m here to tell you that who you are is pretty damned special.”

The pain in his eyes eased, but it didn’t go away. “Thank you for that. But honestly, I don’t know if this is something I can understand. I don’t know if I can be both Cameron Savin, attorney, professional, and . . . and whatever it was that I was yesterday. I don’t know how I can bridge that gap.”

“If it were another person,” I asked him, “if it weren’t you, would you condemn the person you were last night?”

“I don’t know. I’d like to think I wouldn’t. I’m just an overeducated boy from the Midwest. But I know that different people are turned on, sexually, by different things. Some of those are harmful; I suppose being turned on by being dominated by someone else isn’t. Pretty weird for a guy, though.”

I wonder why he thinks it’s okay for a girl to be submissive, but not a guy. But I don’t think it would help him to have that discussion. And . . . I’m not positive that I don’t share his bias.

“Okay,” I said. "Let’s think of the person you were last night as someone else. Let’s even pretend that person wasn’t a guy. Imagine it was a girl. Let’s call her, I don’t know, ‘Candi.’ You don’t know anything about Candi, you just know that this is what makes her tick. Is Candi evil? Nasty? Someone to avoid?”

He thought a long minute. “Taking myself out of it, and imagining that it was a girl? No. I wouldn’t condemn Candi. She is who she is. I wouldn’t think less of her for it, though I might not want to date her. I’ve never tried it, but I’m very confident that I don’t have any desire to dominate other people.”

“So, we’ve got mirror images, don’t we? I got off on dominating Candi; Candi got off on being dominated. She and I enjoyed it . . . a lot. Is that okay?”

Cam took even longer to think about the question. “Yes, I suppose that’s okay. . . . The difference is, you don’t have to split yourself to make it work, and I do. It would be a mirror image if we were talking about you and me, or if we were talking about someone else and Candi.”

“I’m not sure I follow,” I said.

“You clearly were disturbed by finding power to be intoxicating, but being powerful is absolutely part of who you are every day. You can be proud to be that person, while understanding that power has dark sides, like domination, that you have to be careful about. On the other hand, Candi isn’t part of who I am every day, and thank God she isn’t. There’s nothing about powerlessness and submissiveness to be proud of.”

I tried to think of a counterargument, but he said, “Tell me this. When you said last night that we were breaking up because I couldn’t satisfy you, you weren’t saying that I should have used my tongue, were you?”

“Cam, do you really want to go there? I’ve hurt you enough this weekend.”

“I understand, Liz, and I know you are trying to spare me. But . . . we clearly do have a way to satisfy each other’s sexual desires. It simply requires me to be Candi in the bedroom and Cam outside of it. I doubt that’s what you were thinking about, and I doubt that’s what I have been looking for. Am I right?”

I hadn’t thought about it like that, but . . . . “You’re right. Last night’s sex, call it sex with ‘Candi,’ was incredible. But it wasn’t just the difference in technique, and it wasn’t about love. It was all about feeling powerful and sexually dominant. But . . . no, that’s not what I’m looking for in a long-term relationship. I’m so sorry. I really am.”

But he nodded in agreement. “That’s pretty much where I’m at too. When I get married, I want to be in a relationship that doesn’t depend on games in the bedroom. That’s what I’ve always looked for; I’m pretty sure it’s still what I want. ‘Candi’ isn’t a main course.”

After that, we sat for a long while, just sipping our coffee and sharing the quiet. I thought about Cam leaving. I had learned so much about myself in just the past day, and had explored that with an incredible person who did not judge me for it. He could not be my man, but I didn’t want to just let him go. Can we just be friends? Is that enough? Or . . . .

“Cam.” I got his attention again. “I don’t want to let you go. I really want you to be in my life, even if you can’t be my man and I can’t be your girl. I want Cam Savin as my friend, my confidante, my conscience.”

I paused, took a breath, and plunged on. “And . . . I want Candi too. Not forever. But right now. What happened last night, what I experienced, was like a door opened in my world. I’m afraid of what’s on the other side, but I want to explore it, too. But I only want to explore it with you, with Candi. With the person who can explore it with the same fears, but also the same . . . I don’t know how to describe it. Joy? Pleasure? But also love and compassion.

“Please . . . you don’t have to answer now. I know it’s hard for you, and I understand why you say it’s harder than it is for me. I get it. You may not be comfortable, and if that’s the case I absolutely understand. But if you want to open that door again, I’ll go through it with you.”

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 6
“Can’t We Try”

– Cam –

The discovery of my over-the-top sexual reaction to Liz’s order to eat her, my arousal at being dominated, my overpowering urge to please her, was earth-shattering. But our conversation the next morning was, in its own way, even more stunning.

I was up early and showered to clear my head and get the smell of sex off me. When I got out of the shower, I found that Liz had left a cup of coffee for me on the vanity and my clothes in the bedroom. She had also taken the panties that I had hand-washed and hung to dry before going to bed. My face burned in shame with the reminder.

I got dressed and packed. I heard her shower running, and thought briefly about just walking out, catching an Uber, and going home. I was so embarrassed, and I couldn’t imagine what I was going to say to Liz. She must despise me. Why not? I despise me.

But I couldn’t do that.

As bad a mess as I’d made of things, I wanted to try to end things on a better note, and I really, really owed Liz an apology. I needed to face her, however hard, and say what had to be said. So I took the coffee she had poured for me out onto the back deck and tried to still my mind, to center my thoughts, so that I could get through what had to be gotten through, and do what needed to be done.

After a while, it became clear that she was going to give me plenty of time to compose myself. She still hadn’t emerged after forty-five minutes. I was starting to think that she might want me to do what I had contemplated earlier – just leave, without saying anything more. Maybe she was just waiting for me to get the hint and get out. I decided I’d give it another five minutes.

Then I turned and saw her through the sliding glass door, standing in the doorway to her bedroom, watching me. Time to face the music. I waved her out.

She stepped out onto the deck carrying coffee for herself and the pot for me. Liz always looked great, and this morning she had clearly taken some time. Her hair was glossy and flowed in the morning sun like waves of fire. Her skin was flawless, her make-up minimal but perfect. She was wearing a pair of jeans that flattered her lean curves, tan ballet shoes that showcased her delicate feet and ankles, and a sleeveless top in cornflower blue, with a high collar, a gathered waist, and a flare at the hips. As always, she looked completely put-together.

I asked her to sit down and said what I had to say. I hoped to put her at ease and make the parting as painless as it could be after the events of the weekend. But instead, she started to cry. I couldn’t imagine what I had done.

I was shocked to discover that she was feeling terrible about her own behavior the previous evening. Sure, she was angry and lashed out. But I thought her anger was entirely justified by my own behavior. I was prepared for her rejection and knew from experience how I was supposed to react to it. That’s how I intended to respond, how any adult should have responded. She had a right to expect that, and when I collapsed instead, she had the right to be furious. But that, clearly, was not how she saw it.

And, she appeared to be completely shaken by the intense sexual gratification she got when I went down on her. It seems strange to me that she was so surprised. Our prior lovemaking, which I had enjoyed (though she, as I learned to my dismay, had not, or at least, not to the same extent), was varied – at least, I thought it had been.

But even within our whitebread range, she was on top more often than not. She had a tendency to take command in the bedroom and outside of it. That hadn’t distressed me. I’ve always preferred to ride a strong current rather than fight it.

I tried to ease the anguish she was clearly feeling by saying that there wasn’t anything wrong with the fact that she was a dominant personality, but that didn’t seem to penetrate. She was convinced that she had hurt me, deeply hurt me, by the sexual demands that she made.

I couldn’t let that stand. I just couldn’t. I had done enough damage already. But the only way to ease her mind was to tell her the truth, even though that was probably the only thing that could make her think even less of me. I had to tell her how much I had enjoyed the experience.

And I had. Lord God, I had.

Finally I told her, but I couldn’t bear to watch, to see in her eyes the same loathing I felt in the very core of my being.

But amazingly, she did not condemn. She reached out with compassion and understanding. I was relieved, but also saddened. Where would I find such a treasure again? Put aside her physical beauty, she was intelligent, kind, and understanding too.

But . . . she made it clear that we could not be a couple, and I had to accept that. I was not going to make the same mistake twice.

We ended the talk, or so I thought, with a long silence. Silence that, finally, was not ominous or oppressive. We had each bared our souls and received a form of absolution. It was almost time to go, but I stretched the moment of companionable quiet just a little longer.

And then, suddenly, she broke the silence with one more bombshell. Despite everything that had happened, she wanted to remain friends – something that I have heard often enough, but she clearly meant it – and she wanted to continue to explore the sexual dynamic that we had both experienced the prior evening.

More specifically, she wanted Cam as a friend, and my submissive, feminine alter ego that she called “Candi,” as a . . . what? Lover? Not really. Sex toy, maybe. Call a spade a spade.

She wasn’t expecting an answer right away, and I wasn’t prepared to give her one. The prospect both excited and repelled me. I did not know whether I could be both Cam and Candi. But I also really, really didn’t want to say goodbye. Could we simply be friends with this issue left unresolved? I was skeptical.

What do I want? My sexual experience last night was explosive.

Finally, I put my hands in hers, and said, “Thank you . . . for your open heart, for your understanding, and for the invitation. I don’t want to say goodbye either, and I’ll be honest. I’m also intrigued by what happened last night. Probably more fundamentally distressed than you are, though. So I need to think about whether I can afford to open that door and walk through it. Let’s think about it and be in touch in a few weeks. You may feel completely different in a couple days. I might, too.”

And so I caught my flight home. When I unpacked my suitcase, I found that Liz had slipped a couple of items into it while I was making my last trip to the restroom before leaving: the pair of white nylon panties I had creamed the night before, together with the matching bra.

She had pinned a note to the left bra strap that said, “To Candi, for her thoughts and daydreams. Eros, Liz.”

~o~O~o~

CHAPTER 7
“Your Wildest Dreams”

– Liz –

After Cam left my house, I sat on the deck trying to come to terms with everything that had happened, and trying to rationalize the offer I had made to Cam. What was I looking for? Why did I get wet at the very thought of sexually dominating a man that I admired and respected for his calm, his well-tempered mind, and his dignity?

Finally I did some background research, using private browser settings to ensure that I would not receive an avalanche of embarrassing ads every time I used my computer. I learned that my desires were not unique to me, and I learned a bit about the unique sub-culture of dominance and submission. My reading helped me to understand Cam/Candi a bit as well.

Okay, we were not “normal.” In the Congregational Church in which I was raised, “normal” would have been far from the description used in connection with what I was contemplating. But, it seemed at least possible that we would be able to experiment with the kinks in our sexual desires without harming each other. We were not married or otherwise attached, and, before I met Cam I hadn’t been looking for anyone either.

I’m well aware that I’m thirty-two and I have heard of a biological clock. But I’ve never been very maternal. I have four siblings and plenty of nieces and nephews for when I feel the need for a kid fix. I hand them back afterwards, and everyone is happy. I don’t need babies of my own to complete my life. So I have time, even at my advanced age, to play around.

Cam had suggested that we sit with this for a while, and I decided that was a good idea. Besides, a little book-learning goes a long way. So I went about my normal routines for a while. I had dinner at Fernando and Tish’s house, and let them know that I had broken up with Cam. Based on my earlier comments, Tish wasn’t surprised. She asked how he had taken it, and I lied smoothly.

Or maybe I didn’t. Cam had taken it well. He had been calm and understanding, had thanked me for a wonderful few months, and had assigned no blame. Candi, on the other hand, had been a wreck. Of course, I hadn’t known about Candi at the time, and there was no earthly reason why Tish and Fernando would ever need to know about her. But saying that Cam had been warm and understanding was true, looked at from a certain angle.

Anyhow, Tish and Fernando both agreed that Cam was a great guy and they were sorry things hadn’t worked out. We talked about other things.

The passage of time did not change the way that I felt. If anything, my desire to explore a sexual relationship with a gentle and feminine Candi only grew. I could give myself an orgasm just thinking about it. More than once, I did.

I half expected to hear from Cam, but as the weeks passed it was clear that the initiative, as usual, was mine. So I pulled out some paper and wrote Candi a “come hither” note. Then I tore it up and tried again. And again.

I had to clearly communicate, first, that I really valued Cam as a person and friend, and I didn’t want anything to screw that up. And, I wanted him to know that I wanted his friendship whether or not he decided to explore our sexual fantasies together. Too, I wanted to underscore that, regardless of what we were doing in the bedroom, we were no longer a couple. There were a lot of crosscurrents there.

I settled on a letter to Cam and a separate letter to Candi. I re-read them several times, and finally sealed Candi’s note inside the envelope with Cam’s letter and dropped them into a mailbox on my way to work.

I had hit on the notion of booking a room at a good hotel in neutral territory – neither Pittsburgh nor D.C. – and giving Cam/Candi the choice to show up, or not. The two suites were expensive, and I would regret the expense if s/he didn’t show. But I decided the chance was worth the risk.

I put the odds of Cam showing up at greater than fifty percent, but the odds of his being willing to let Candi loose at closer to forty percent. Nonetheless, I did a little shopping so I would have some toys to spice up the encounter if Candi should choose to make an appearance. Nothing too crazy. Just being “Candi” rather than “Cam” was going to be a lot for him to deal with.

On the day itself, I drove out to Philadelphia, checked myself into the hotel and left a key to the adjoining suit at the desk for Cam to pick up.

If he came.


– Cam –

A couple weeks passed after my trip to Pittsburgh. Work was busy, which was a good thing for me. Fortunately, I’ve always been good about compartmentalizing. I was working on three other cases, and between drafting memos to partners, preparing deposition outlines, and researching potential expert witnesses, I was able to put aside my emotional turmoil and stay focused.

I had a performance review and learned that everyone was very pleased with my work. Yay.

But when I would get back to my apartment late in the evening and cautiously loosen the iron bands I kept around my emotions, it was rough. What Liz was offering wasn’t something I had ever wanted in a relationship. But, much as I hated to admit it, the thought completely turned me on.

I started wearing Liz’s panty and bra set when I sat at my kitchen table eating my typically Spartan dinner late at night, my cock hard as a rock and straining against the thin, silky fabric. I would lie down and imagine the things Liz might want me to do, how it would feel . . . .

Liz’s suggestion was like a tap root into my soul. It brought up old, old memories that I thought I had put behind me a long time ago, things from my childhood. Whatever the reason, though, I wanted what I wanted, and there was absolutely no denying that the thought of being Liz’s Candi, while deeply humiliating, was also something that left me practically panting.

Still, I thought that Liz herself might have second thoughts as a bit of time passed. That the memory of the sexual excitement she felt would be replaced by contempt for the girl-man she had allowed to get close to her. For weeks, I was poised on a razor’s edge between fear and desire, longing, and self-disgust.

Then I received a note in the mail from Liz. I brought it into my apartment and stared at it for a couple of minutes before I was able to work up the courage to open it, finding a letter and a second, sealed envelope.

The letter was short – “Dear Cam – I want to thank you for our time together these last few months. You are a truly remarkable person, and I hope and pray you will stay in my life as a dear friend even though our relationship didn’t work out. Everyone says that. I mean it, Cam. I really, really do. So please, whatever else happens, don’t just walk away. I won’t bother you if you affirmatively tell me to leave you alone, but I warn you now that’s what it’s going to take. And, of course, feel free to call any time. The crew misses you as well; they thought highly of you and would certainly welcome your continued participation in our outdoor activities, even though we are no longer a couple. Fernando and Tish are the only couple in the group, so I don’t think you would have to feel like the odd man out. Think about it. Know that I care about you deeply.”

This was lovely, and thoughtful. Far better than I had any right to expect after the complete hash I had made of things when Liz had lowered the boom. And, truth be known, it was appealing. Through Liz, I had connected to a whole social circle that was a lot of fun, and discovered activities that I had never even thought to partake in were thoroughly enjoyable. I wasn’t ready to jump back in as “just a friend” to Liz. But in time, maybe.

I didn’t dwell on that, though. The interior envelope was addressed to Candi, and the note inside was even shorter.

“If you are ready to come out of hiding and find out who you really are, meet me at the Rittenhouse Hotel in Philadelphia on September 28. I have booked adjacent suites with a connecting door, and I will leave the key to your room at the front desk in an envelope addressed to Cam. I expect he and I will have a few things to settle before you are invited, but after that I will strip you of your defenses, put you through your paces and unlock your desires, one by one.”

The note was initialed, “LT.”

To be continued . . . .

For information about my other stories, please check out my author's page.

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Comments

Excellent start

Robertlouis's picture

An intriguing premise and very well written.

☠️

Thanks!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thanks!

Emma

Debut

Wow what a debut ! Absolutely realistic story. Looking forward to the sequel.

Thank you, Max

Emma Anne Tate's picture

So good of you to comment, and thanks for the words of encouragement!

Emma

Two POVs adds to the story

It was interesting to see the happenings from both sides. Furthermore we learned the undergarments turned Cam on. I look forward to seeing how this story progresses. Nicely done.

>>> Kay

Thanks, Kay!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I'm glad you enjoyed the first installment!

Emma

Loved This Series

I was hoping they'd find a solution that allowed them to be together, but you were clear from early on that wasn't going to happen. I respect you for that.

Thanks for sharing your story here. I hope you'll have more to share going forward.

Thank you!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

I don't know how I missed your comment earlier. So glad you enjoyed it!

Emma

Differing points of views

Jamie Lee's picture

Having the differing points of view give a more complete view what Liz and Cam are actually dealing with.

The one problem they both face are their mutual attraction, Liz because she found the sweetest man she'd ever met. Cam because he enjoyed being with Liz.

But their brief dominance session left them both shook up, feeling that what happened was wrong. But was it wrong for them, or just an area they'd never considered because neither had such past experience in that area?

What draws them now into considering continuing with the bedroom adventures? Is it the memories of sexual satisfaction they achieved or because they would continue being together why they even consider continuing? Do either actually know the reason?

Others have feelings too.

Thanks, Jamie

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thanks for the feedback. Exploring both Liz and Cam's internal journeys and the evolving dynamic of their relationship made this fun to write. I hope you enjoy the rest of the story!

Emma

Dialogue

I don’t know people who always speak in complete prose as Liz and Cam do, yet somehow the words still ring true.

How do you do that?

I actually try really hard . . .

Emma Anne Tate's picture

NOT to have everyone speak in complete prose. Glancing back on this chapter, I maybe was less careful . . . . :D

Thanks, Catherd!

Emma

Whoa... Binge worthy!

RachelMnM's picture

I was told this was a rewrite and - WOW - I'm blown away by how smoothly the characters were brought together (Cam / Liz), how they ran into a bit of relationship exploration trouble, and ultimately were presented an opportunity to explore something neither had expected. This story is so worthy a read / reread.

You get the benefit of great writing AND this story being complete - so a total binge worthy read opportunity! Oh, and it leads to the life of Cam AFTER this story is complete (Aria for Cami) and that is a brilliant work of fiction, w/ the benefit of that one also being a complete story and so worthy of a binge read! A 2-fer that you're gonna enjoy! I know I did while reading "Aria for Cami" - I'm feeling this one already!

I'm floored at how much I like this story just one chapter in! Emma - you played this intro masterfully with these two characters Cam / Liz. I read "Aria for Cami" first - so I know the future for Cam, might be looking into his past is helping me love Cam even more in his early days - what may have helped him discover who he really was? Those hooks into my wanting to read / binge either story wouldn't be there though without excellent writing and you've nailed it (again)!

Thank you for the wax job on this story - this is a wonderful look back at where it all began for Cam.

Off to the next chapter! Thanks Emma!

XOXOXO

Rachel M. Moore...

Thanks, Rachel!

Emma Anne Tate's picture

Thanks for checking out the revised version, Rachel! I spent a chunk of time on this after getting detailed and extremely helpful suggestions from Angela Rasch and corrections and ideas for Pittsburgh detail from Catherd. So very glad it connected for you!

Emma

Unsure

Dee Sylvan's picture

I liked this the first time around and the second time reading through I like it, but... I'm not into femdom humiliation but I don't get that vibe from Liz. I do think she is a bit shallow, but had they never had oral sex before the breakup? I know Cam was inexperienced, but given his nature and Liz's personality I would have thought Liz would have guided Cam to pleasure her before the end of the relationship. I never thought of giving a woman by a thorough tongue lashing as demeaning. Perhaps I am a little naive.

Liz certainly knew from the beginning that Cam was the polar opposite from her Neanderthal Jack. It seemed that's what initially attracted her to Cam. The only one that was worse than Liz was the one giving her advice, Tish. We all make mistakes, but Liz's abandoning her own feeling and following Tish's advice is unfortunately a convenient excuse that will lead to a lifetime of regret.

Liz's confrontation of Cam at his lack of dominance in the bedroom seems to have woken Cam to his own inner feelings. But I wouldn't classify his wanting to capitalize on his feelings for everything about Liz except for her seeming infatuation with size as anything but a desire to give pleasure to his girlfriend. There is always someone bigger, but I think Cam is being spared a lifetime of disappointment from Liz by her showing her true colors at this point.

I do think that things happen for a reason, and fortunately for Cam, his discovery of his inner feelings will hopefully lead to finding his true love.

Great stuff Emma! I enjoy a story that makes you think and there are a lot of emotional currents that lets the reader's imagination take over. :D

DeeDee

Love the Pittsburgh details

It’s a great city. Were it smaller it could be a mountain resort.