Plus-One With A Vengeance : 17 / 29

Plus-One With A Vengeance : 17 / 29

[ An Altered Fates Story ]
by Iolanthe Portmanteaux

 


"If you want to know if he loves you so
It's in his kiss
That's where it is"
— Rudy Clark, It's In His Kiss


 

Talk about a shot of adrenaline! Okay — I had fifteen minutes to check doors and windows. Then I have to call Kass, and after that, search the house. I'll leave the upstairs for last. It's the least accessible, and I didn't hear any signs of life from up there.

On the first floor, there are are only two doors: one in front, and one in back. I started at the front door and circled the house clockwise, checking the windows. The only windows on the North side are in the kitchen, so I arrived at those two after trying the kitchen door. All windows and doors locked; first floor, secure.

Now for the basement. As I descended the stairs, I wondered, Is it possible that Kass imagined seeing that person? Immediately, I rejected the idea. It seemed too unlikely. Kass wasn't flighty or nervous, as far as I'd seen. It's possible she misinterpreted what she saw, but I felt sure she'd seen a person. It could have been a neighbor walking their dog, or a late-night jogger. Something a little unusual, but entirely innocent. In a way, though, it hardly mattered: I still needed to check the house.

Why, though, would anyone hide on the North side of the house? There was no entry on that side. The North side, the side away from the driveway not only had no door; its few windows were too high to reach without a ladder and too small for an adult to fit through. Whoever Kass saw, it wouldn't have been a burglar.

Just for the sake of argument, let's say a mugger decided to spring an ambush at either door, front or back. They'd find it a losing proposition. At ever step, they'd need to overcome real, physical obstacles. From the outset, the moment they stuck their head around the corner, they'd been seen. After that, there is no straight shot to the door: front and back there are small shrubs that the bad guy would need to navigate around, and finally he'd find a short set of stairs and a stair rail in his way. It would take so long to launch the assault, they'd entirely lose the element of surprise. Even a nervous, clumsy target would already be safe inside by the time the attacker arrived.

And yet, Kass said she'd seen someone come out from the side of the house. Not from the driveway: She had just come from the driveway herself. She would have said "driveway" if she meant driveway, but she didn't.

Back to my search: Directly at the bottom of the basement stairs stood a door to the backyard. This was the separate entrance, for the mother-in-law suite. That door, like the two upstairs, was securely locked with a deadbolt.

I'd already cleared the first floor, and intended to continue my search of the house down here, in the basement, in the mother-in-law suite. But before I opened the door to my previous abode, I stopped, stock still, and stared a door that I'd seen countless times but never opened once. I'd looked at it, but never really seen it. It may as well have been a piece of wall, as far as my recognition of it went. The door was steel, a fireproof door. Max called it "the door to the mechanical room." Back on Christmas Eve, when he helped me move my belongings inside her, to the suite, he made a vague hand wave to indicate the door, and told me that the water heater, the electric panel, and HVAC were inside, "along with assorted junk."

I never needed to open that door, and I'd never given that door a moment's thought. Now it looked like a big, gray, rectangular puzzle piece to me.

I called Kass, who was still in the Uber. "Listen, Kass," I told her, "I'm going to open a door I've never opened before. It's in the basement. The heat and electric and stuff is all inside there. Can you stay on the line with me while I do this?"

"Absolutely."

I pulled open the door and flicked on the light switch. It was a typical basement room: concrete floors, cinder-block walls. The ceiling was nothing more than the underside of the floor above, supported by wooden joists and supported by two black metal posts. Aside from a good-sized water heater, a furnace and some ductwork, there was only a small table and a few shelves that someone long ago had knocked together out of scrap lumber. The room smelled of wood and old paint. The floor was dusty, although clearly someone had taken a broom to it recently. The broom itself was leaning against the wall in a corner. Aside from a few rusty old tools and some broken garden implements, there was nothing to see. Except...

"Kass, there's another door here. I didn't know it was in here. It opens to the side of the house."

"Is it locked?"

"Doesn't look like it. There's a deadbolt that isn't thrown and the switch in the doorknob is straight up and down. That's got to mean unlocked, right?"

"I'm not sure. I think so."

"I'm going to open it a sec and try the knob from the outside."

"Lorelei — don't. Just throw the deadbolt and get the hell out of there!"

"I need to know," I told her. I didn't tell her why. What I needed to know was whether this was Amber's way of getting in and out.

I put my phone on speaker and set it on the table near the door. Then I braced myself, one foot back, one foot forward, and took a deep breath as though I was about to dive underwater. I grabbed the doorknob and silently turned it as far as it could go.

I yanked the door open quickly, almost violently. A moth, who must have been lying in wait outside, shot into the room like a bullet, narrowly missing my head. I jumped backward and nearly fell. Then I shrieked like a little girl and jumped to the side: a large spider who'd been living in peace beneath the door ambled out and crawled away slowly into the darkness. I shook myself and took a deep breath. A quick look, poking my head out, determined there was no one there. No one waiting, no one hiding. While looking for the spider, I noticed there were no footprints outside the door. There couldn't be: on that side of the house there was a concrete pathway which was dry and clean.

Now that I'd looked at everything else, I returned to my missing: I tried the knob on the outside. Unlocked.

I slammed the door shut, threw the deadbolt, and turned the switch in the knob. Goodbye, Amber, I said in my head.

Then I picked up my phone and reassured Kass that I was still in one piece.

"Oh my God!" she exclaimed. "I was having a heart attack here!"

"I as well!" her Uber driver shouted.

"Everything is fine," I assured them both. "Doors and windows are secure. All I have left is to check the upstairs, but I'm confident no one's up there."

"We can stay on the line!" the driver called.

"There's no need," I said. "I'll send a text when I've finished searching."

I heard the driver tell Kass, "I will be on tenterhooks! Tell her! Tenterhooks!" Kass laughed and wished me luck before hanging up.

What I'd said to Kass wasn't strictly true. I hadn't searched the basement. Not all of it.

I left the mechanical room, turning off the light, closing the door, good and tight, and then I entered the mother-in-law suite. My old home.

Starting in the bathroom, I pulled the curtain and looked behind the door. No one there. No one under the bed, either.

So far, so good, I said to myself, and opened the first closet.

I blinked several times in disbelief. The closet was empty! No matter how many times I blinked, it remained empty.

I mean, yes, no one was hiding in there — which is great. But all my clothes were missing! Everything that belonged to me, as Elliot — gone. I opened the second closet: also empty. The chest of drawers, the bedside table, empty, empty.

It reminded me of Christmas Eve, when Max and I discovered the vacant trail Amber left, when she absconded with all her belongings. It was exactly like this: the shock of opening a door or drawer, expecting to find clothes, belongings, possessions... but instead drawing one blank after another.

I returned to the bathroom. Even my old shampoo and toothpaste were gone! I want to say it was baffling, but it wasn't. It was simply crazy.

Amber's purge even extended as far as the kitchenette! There was nothing personal about the food or drink that I left; nothing that specifically stamped it as mine, but even so, Amber made it all disappear.

I took a deep breath and shook my head.

Luckily, none of it was particularly important. I'd gone three years without buying new clothes or new shoes. I'm not sure whether I even bought any underwear or socks during those years. As far as things that were important, I'd taken them all to Melissa's house with me: my laptop, my car keys, and all my documents.

For a moment a wild thought sprang up in my brain and tried to ring a panic alarm: by taking my clothes, had Amber condemned me to remain Lorelei forever? It brought to mind an old folk tale about a werewolf who couldn't return to human form without his clothes.

That wasn't my case, though — I still had a complete set of "Elliot" clothes at Melissa's house: everything: shirt, shoes, underwear, pants, belt. I was all set if I needed to go backwards.

Funny thing, though: the initial thought shocked me for a moment (that I might be stuck as Lorelei forever) -- I'll admit it even scared me for a few seconds -- but it didn't bother me. Deep down, it was clear to me: I'd be okay with it. I nodded to myself at the realization, filed it mentally under IMPORTANT REALIZATIONS and went back upstairs. I'd already searched the first floor — except for the pantry. In the interests of being thorough, I opened that little room and checked for the last three Christmas presents: P, V, and S. Still there.

Still there? Did that mean that Amber wasn't aware that the presents were up there? Maybe she just couldn't reach them. Who knows?

Max was still sound asleep in the same pose, seated, bent over, chest to thighs, feet flat on floor.

I looked at the staircase running up from the front door, then back down at Max. Search upstairs first? Or put Max to bed? I looked again from the staircase to my friend.

When I was Elliot, Max and I were around the same weight. He was a bit more muscular than me, but we were about the same build. Now that I was Lorelei, he was at least sixty pounds heavier than me. I was pretty sure I wouldn't be able to wrestle all that muscle and bone up the stairs by myself. Unless he managed to wake up again, the way he did in the car, and walk up the stairs himself, he was going to have to spend the night on the couch.

Even though it wasn't strictly true, I sent Kass a text: "All clear. Thanks!"

Immediately the reply came back: "Any time, girlfriend!"

Okay. Max first, then search upstairs.

I pushed the coffee table away from the couch to remove any danger of Max banging his head on the table's hard edges.

Somehow he'd already untied both his shoes and taken the laces out of one shoe for some unknown reason, but it was impossible for me to work his shoes off his feet. All his weight was pushing directly down into his heels. The first thing to do was sit him upright. Kneeling on the floor in front of him, I put my hands on his shoulders and pushed. It was difficult to get him moving, but soon I had a little momentum. His upper body abruptly flopped back against the couch. His dropped backward, a dead weight, and made a resounding thump! against the couch's wood frame.

I swore, but Max only let out a few soft snores.

Unfortunately, Max had seated himself on the very end of the couch, hard against the arm rest. If I tipped him to his right, his upper body would dangle over the arm rest. If I tipped him to his left, he'd be mostly lying flat, but his legs have to bend over the arm rest. Not a great position, but still, it seemed the better of the two options. I tipped him onto his left side, and on a sudden inspiration, pulled the back cushions off the couch. This had the effect of enlarging the seating area to the width of a single bed. Great idea! When I lifted his legs over the arm rest, he turned fully onto his back. If his legs weren't dangling weirdly over the end, my work would have been done. Now, I needed to haul him up by the arm pits until his legs were resting on the couch as well.

But first, I knelt on the floor again, and placed my hand on his chest. His chest rose and fell with his breathing, carrying my hand with it. I could feel his breating, and I could feel his heart, beating steadily beneath my palm. His left arm dangled over the side, touching the floor near my knee. When I bent his elbow and lifted his arm — I didn't mean to make it happen, but the backs of his fingers brushed the length of my thigh, from my knee to my hip. His index finger just missed my mons veneris. I held my breath for a moment, feeling my own heart beating inside me, and then I laid his hand on his chest.

I always knew that Max was handsome. All our lives, everyone said so. Thank God, he was never vain. I don't think Max ever really knew how good-looking he is. I licked my lips — they must have been dry. Max's face looked so relaxed and peaceful. Had I ever seen Max asleep before? I don't think so. His expression was nearly angelic — no worry, no fear, no stress, no hurry. Just pure, unfiltered Max.

His lips were slightly parted, giving a glimpse of his even, white teeth. His eyes were closed. His breathing slow and steady. I leaned closer, to look at his skin. Then a thought came, unbidden. It popped into my head, all by itself. The thought said, Max has kissed me twice — admittedly, only on the cheek — but I've never kissed him once. Then, right then, exactly then, before another thought could run in, screaming DON'T DO IT, I kissed him.

I planted my lips softly on his and held them there for a moment. Then I let go.

It was nice, it was good. I liked it. But I was sure that kissing isn't as good as it could be, if it's only going one way. It wasn't a real kiss unless he was kissing me, while I was kissing him.

Another thought came, unbidden: So what? I nodded to myself. Good point! and I kissed him a second time, longer this time. I put more into it this time, a lot more. I turned my head right and left as I kissed, the way people do in the movies. I put my hands on the sides of his head (as people do in movies!). I don't know what that's supposed to do, but it seemed to enhance the experience somehow.

That was better, I told myself, and it was. Was it my imagination, or did I call up some kind of warm, loving energy from inside Max? *I* felt warm, anyhow. I had the feeling he was warming up, as well.

I stood up, quivering. I shook myself. I was a little embarrassed. I felt a little... guilty. Above all, I was... excited. My heart was beating faster and harder. I looked down at his body, lying inert, passive, and had a silly thought: if this was a romantic comedy, then somehow, without meaning to, I'd end up falling full length on top of him, face to face, nose to nose, and he would wake up in that instant, and I'd say, "Oh!" in a pretended innocent way, and try to make up some idiotic excuse, but before I even got started, he'd stop me by placing his hand on the back of my head, kissing me, and drawing all the breath out of me.

Of course, that didn't happen! Something else happened instead.

I licked my lips again. I swallowed. I took a quick breath to steel myself. One last kiss, I told myself, and knelt down next to the couch again.

This time, I moved in close, and caressed his nose with mine. I brushed my cheek against his. My heart was pounding. I kissed his cheek bones, I kissed his chin. And then, wanton wench that I am, I kissed him full on the mouth, working my lips on his, and then like a fool I slid my tongue between his lips. Just a little! But then, I plunged it into his mouth. A thrill shot through me when my tongue met his. Oh, God, that was nice! No, it was more than nice. It was electric, it was illicit. I knew I shouldn't do it, but once I started, I was hooked, and I didn't want to stop. Even when I felt him stirring faintly beneath me. I didn't want to anything but go on kissing him with all the kissing energy that was in me.

But then, what happened?

I'll tell you what happened: Max's eyes popped open, just like in a romantic comedy.

I leapt to my feet and said, "Wow!" like an idiot. I don't why I said it or what it was supposed to mean, but as it turned out, it didn't matter.

Max, who was still well and fully drunk, blinked a few times, and said, "Whoa. That was hot! That was... really hot. How long were we kissing for?"

"Oh," I said, nervously. My shoulders were jerking around like a marionette's. I couldn't control them — or my hands, which were uselessly running over my hips and thighs, as if I was wiping my guilt and embarrassment off my palms on my skirt. "Not long. A few minutes, a few seconds, I don't know. Ha ha!" That ha ha sounded so patently foolish that I wanted to slap myself. Instead, I heaved a big, idiotic breath and asked him, "Did you like it?"

"I think so," he admitted, sheepishly, "but I feel like I missed part of it, like I woke up in the middle. Sorry!" He looked around, I could see his poor little brain, still addled by alcohol, laboriously figuring out that he was lying on his couch in his own living room. His eyes darted to his left and he stared at my knees for a few seconds. He was still working out where he was and what was happening. My knees were not a helpful clue. So he turned his face upward and gave me an apologetic look. "I had too much to drink," he confessed, as if it were a well-kept secret.

"Yeah, I noticed."

"I'm sorry," he continued, "I want to blame Tamara, but I..." he paused, as if he'd forgotten what he was about to say. Then, after a long pause, he finished the thought. "I took off, like, I took off my parking brake. On a hill. Do you know what I mean?"

"I guess so. You're usually careful and responsible, but tonight you just—" and then I trailed off, too, because I got it. I understood what Max meant about the parking brake. I knew why he let himself go.

"It's okay, Max," I assured him. "I understand."

With a perturbed expression, he began to raise himself up on his elbows. "But I'm sorry I fell asleep while we were kissing. That's... bad. Really bad."

"It's fine," I told him, feigning a nonchalant magnanimity. I waved my hand like a silly dope, to signify that it didn't matter.

"Did *you* like it?" Max asked me, dropping back down, flat on his back, blinking with big, dark eyes.

"Oh, yes!" I exclaimed. "Much!" Much? Why did say 'much'?

"Then let's do it some more," he said, sounding quite serious. "Can you give me a hand up?"

I put my hands into his and pulled, forgetting as I did the difference in our weights and strengths, and all the principles of mechanical physics. When we both pulled, I nearly fell on top of him, and recovered enough to end up sitting astride his thighs, with my breasts softly pushed against his face. He let out a drunken "ohhh" of contentment. The warmth of his appreciative sigh penetrated the front of my dress, and I felt his breath all the way through to the valley between my breasts. I got back to my feet, clumsily, blushing.

On our second attempt, I leaned back nearly forty-five degrees as we pulled, and Max rose to his feet. He seemed able to stand on his own, but we held each other close, just in case, just to be sure.

Max slid his face close to mine, cheek against cheek, until his mouth was next to my ear. When he spoke, I could feel his warm, moist breath soft upon my ear and neck. It was something from a dream; an unexpectedly sensual, erotic sensation. I could have dropped to the floor and melted into a puddle.

"Do you know where this would work better?" he whispered. "Much, much, better?" His body rocked dangerously against mine. Our arms were tight around each other, our hips and thighs pressed close, as close as two clothed people can be. He swayed too far, then corrected his balance. I tried to plan the safest way to fall. Certainly the best outcome would be for him to fall on the couch, hopefully without whacking his head for a third time, and then for me to fall on top of him, hopefully like a autumn leaf drifting to earth. That would be a win-win, I thought, and about as romantic as the situation could permit.

"Where?" I whispered back, "where would this work better?" I guessed, from his sudden intake of air and the arching of his spine, that my whispered breath on his ear and neck aroused him as strongly as his did me.

"In my bed, upstairs," he whispered.

I pulled my head back so I could look him in the face. "No, Max, no," I said. "We can't."

"Why can't we?" We tried to charm me. He put on a beguiling smile. "We're both consentuating adults."

"Consensual," I corrected.

"Me too," he nodded.

"No, Max, no. You're drunk. I can't be sure you really want this."

"Are you kidding?" he shot back. "You can't feel how much I want you? I know you want me. Look me in the eye and tell me that you don't."

"I *do* want you, Max, but I need to know that you're making a sober decision."

"Come on!" he protested. "In vino vidi vinci, right?"

"You know that's wrong," I chided. "In vino veritas."

"My point exactly."

"Maybe that's so," I admitted. "Or let's say okay, it's true. But words are one thing, and actions are another. I know that you mean what you say, but there's a 50/50 chance that you might do something while drunk that you wouldn't do sober."

He scoffed, a breath rendolent with Bacanora. "Hmmph," he said, in a tone that made me feel I'd made my point and gotten through to him. And yet, we were still in each other's arms, in a tight embrace. I didn't want to let go, and not only because he'd fall. I liked having him and holding him. As if reading my mind, Max lifted his head and smiled his open, glad smile. I couldn't help but smile back at him.

In a quiet, magical voice, he said, "You don't want to let go, do you." It wasn't a question; it was an observation.

"No, I don't."

"Neither do I," he said, and he began moving his body against mine, as if we were dancing. His thighs made gentle, subtle movements against mine. His chest moved gently over my breasts as he held me so only our hips and abs were still, tight against each other.

"Max, Max, Max, Max — stop," I told him.

"I can't stop," he laughed.

"Look, look — lie down on the couch—"

"—with you—"

"No, you get comfortable. Go to sleep. We can talk in the morning."

He stopped moving, stopped swaying and caressing my body with his. Max pulled his head back so he could study my face. I felt like he was looking for something in my expression. I gave him a few seconds, and then I moved my hands to his shoulders, ready to push him down onto the couch. Once he was there, I'd cover him with a blanket and quickly and quietly make my exit.

"Okay," Max said gently. I smiled. "One last kiss?" he asked. I nodded. "That would be nice."

His face drew close to mine. Then...

Max kissed me. Full on the mouth. Our breaths mingled. His tongue glided over mine like a kiss inside a kiss.

I didn't resist. I didn't hold back. I released myself, I let myself go, into the warm darkness of that kiss. I closed my eyes and the kiss become my world. My mind emptied of all thoughts and all desires, except one: to be there, kissing Max.

Maybe you're reading this and thinking, I've *never* had a kiss like that. There *are* no kisses like that. But believe me, please believe me, there are such kisses, kisses that seem to last forever, kisses that annihilate all existence apart from that kiss.

Yes, I know, most kisses are perfunctory. Two sets of lips touch. Sometimes it's nice, sometimes it's sloppy, sometimes it's happy, sometimes it's unwelcome and horrible. But... it can happen: falling into a abyss... one's mind a blank... a nearly mystical communion, or at least, the intersection of two all-consuming longings... Trust me: there really are kisses like this. Kisses of a cosmic order, where this world disappears and a new world is born.

It was wonderful and warm and everything I ever wanted. That's how it felt at the time.

I don't know how long it went on, but it felt like a long time, an endless time. Nothing in me wanted to stop.

Max slid his left hand down my back, sliding slowly down down down, until his fingertips rested on my rear. I took a breath and squeezed him. Yes. Then his other hand slid down, until both his palms were resting on my cheeks.

A lot of thoughts ran through my head. One was that I haven't been a girl for very long, and wasn't sure if this was the proper protocol. Then his hands slid lower, so they cupped my derriere, as though I was sitting in his hands. He lifted slightly, and the effect was electric. I let out a mmmmmmm that passed from my mouth into his. Then I moaned, still kissing, and my back arched slightly, pushing my breasts up. I couldn't help it: I moaned again, louder.

Then I a voice echoed in my memory. It was Vivianne's voice, saying If you really and truly want to turn back to your old self after the wedding, you must NOT get pregnant. Remember that.

Aw, fuck, I said to myself, and felt a deep, disappointed, inner sigh. Clearly, though, that was a clear and present danger here. I had to stop. But did I have to stop now?

Yes, probably! The situation was growing more dangerous by the moment. At some point I wouldn't be able to say no. I was getting too turned on, too excited. Soon I would be nothing but an quivering, electric YES, and then it would be too late to even pretend I could stop. My entire body was tingling with desire. My skin was red hot all over, and — was it my imagination, or was Max radiating in the same way? Was he feeling my heat, the way I was feeling his?

If he was feeling any of that, though, he was feeling something else as well. Something strong and overriding.

Max suddenly broke off, saying, "Whoa, hey, oh..." He face looked wild, lost.

"Are you getting dizzy?" I asked him. That's what I read from his confused, distressed expression.

"Oh, babe, I've been dizzy since I stood up. But I needed to kiss you. Now everything is spinning. It's out of all control. It feels like the floor is flying up at my face—" his knees buckled. I held onto him, tight, hard. I took a step back to gain some stability. We struggled. It was difficult, but with a modicum of help on his part, I managed to guide his fall in such a way that he landed on his back on the couch without banging his head.

Inevitably, I ended up lying on top of him, a classic rom-com pose, the way I'd pictured earlier, but he was so dizzy that there was nothing romantic about it. Nothing at all. He let go of me and moved both hands to his head.

The romance had pretty much evaporated by that point, but if there was any atom of enchantment left in the room, Max blew it away with a loud and fragrant belch.

"Oh, my God!" exclaimed. I jumped to my feet and waved my hand frantically in front of my nose.

"Sorry," he grunted, and let out a series of smaller burps.

"You're not going to throw up, are you?"

"No, no, I'm fine. It's just—" and then he brought up a blast of wind strong enough to echo throughout the house. If anyone were hiding upstairs, they would have died of a heart attack. Max's boom would have registered as the epicenter of a quake if any seismic machines were in the neighborhood.

"I feel better now," he said. He sniffled. "That was the last one."

"If you say so." I held my nose and pulled his shoes off with one hand. Then I picked up a blanket and, holding my breath, covered him with it.

"Oh, no!" he exclaimed. "You're not leaving, are you? I promise, I swear, I'm not going to burp any more!"

"It isn't that, Max. I want us both to be sober and awake when we have sex for the first time."

He nodded, looking a little guilty. He didn't try to get up. His eyes closed, and in an instant, he was asleep.

I resisted the urge to kiss him goodnight.

Instead, I took off my shoes and quietly made my way downstairs, to the mother-in-law suite. It was weird. It didn't feel like home, now that all my stuff was gone. It felt like a hotel room. I took off my dress and jewelry and then I used the bathroom.

Studying my face in the mirror, I was surprised at how quickly I'd gotten used to wearing cosmetics. I needed to remove my makeup before going to bed. Would soap and water work? Melissa had drummed into me the maxim of never using soap on my face. But also, sleeping in your makeup is a no-no. So I took my phone and googled how to remove cosmetics without makeup remover. There were a number of possibilities, but the simplest, given the circumstances, was olive oil.

Still in my underwear, I tiptoed up to the kitchen. A quick peek into the living room told me that Max was still out like a light. I could hear his deep, rough, rhythmic breathing. The sound was reassuring; I stayed to listen for a few moments.

Then the doorbell rang. I nearly jumped out of my skin! But Max lay there, inert. The loud bing-bong couldn't penetrate his alcohol-aided slumber.

The doorbell rang again. Then came a series of knocks. Max slept on.

In the kitchen, Max had a tablet, a screen, that displayed the doorbell's camera. I swiped with my fingertips and the screen lit up.

It was Amber at the door. Of course. Who else could it be, at such an inappropriate hour?

While I poured into a little bowl a small amount of olive oil (to use on my face), I studied my nemesis on the little screen.

Amber was dressed to kill.

Her hair was pulled back from her face, exploding at the back of her head in a mass of curls. It was a striking look. She wore a filmy, near transparent black top that enhanced the sexy presence of her lacy black brassiere. Amber had a pretty spectacular pair of breasts, I had to admit, and a remarkably narrow waist. Her face — I was surprised, very surprised to see that Amber actually looked attractive, very attractive, now that she'd lost the scowl she used on me. Her makeup was well done. Very well done. In fact, I snapped a a couple of pictures of her face on my phone. So far, I had a daytime look, and an evening look, but not a nighttime look — and Amber's was definitely worth copying.

The entire time, she knocked and rang endlessly, while Max slept on, blissfully unaware.

I spread the oil on my face, working it around my eyes and over my lips. I took an old kitchen towel that was a little ugly but fairly soft, and gently wiped my face with it. The technique worked pretty well. My face was clear of makeup, but was now pretty oily. In spite of Melissa's prohibition, I bent over the kitchen sink and washed my face with soap and water. I figured the oil and the soap would cancel each other out.

Amber still hadn't given up, though she was dancing with impatience. Or did she simply need the bathroom? I chuckled to myself.

Then came the moment I was waiting for: Amber ran down the steps, and around the house, to the North side. She wasn't gone long; once she tried the now-locked doorknob, there was nothing left for her to do. When she returned to my screen, she looked so disappointed that I almost felt sorry for her. I said almost.

Finally, after heaving a heavy sigh of resignation, she left.

I went downstairs and climbed into bed. It took a long time before I could fall asleep. I had a lot to process. After lying there, wide awake, for an hour and a half, I got up and took a shower. It relaxed me enough that I could finally fall asleep.



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