Things are often not as they first appear…
What's a woman to do when faced with yet another in a never-ending cycle of anniversaries guaranteed to ruin her day?
Step one, respond when contacted on-line by a friendly couple. Step two, accept the wife's claim of the husband's empathic sensitivities as fact. Step three, go along quietly when the husband miraculously comes to the rescue just when he's needed most. Step four, have the courage to put complete control in his more than capable hands. Step five, don't think. Go with the flow. Be open to all possibilities. Relax and enjoy. Step six, repeat frequently.
General Release Date: 8th October 2007
I drove around the city for maybe an hour. I don’t really know. It could have been longer. I didn’t check when I left, nor did I know what time it was when I pulled up in front of that bar located in the less-than-respectable neighbourhood. I had on a jersey-knit, form-fitting sundress with a gazillion buttons down the front. Lucky for me, it was quality and had side-seam pockets to hold my money, keys and ID. I didn’t think twice about where I was when I strolled inside and claimed a stool at the bar. .If I’d bothered to look around I probably would have found everyone watching me but I didn’t even glance. I was totally focused on the drink I’d ordered. Getting it was all that mattered at the moment.
When the slower-than-molasses bartender finally brought my scotch, he announced it was on some guy I didn’t even bother to look at. I said ‘no’ loudly as I forked over my payment, assuming that would be enough to make it clear that I was out on my own and intended to remain that way. Wrong. It soon became obvious that subtly did not work with this bunch. There was a constant stream of hopefuls who temporarily occupied the revolving stool next to mine. They perched just long enough for me to shoot them down before they scurried off with their tails between their legs.
By my third drink, I was beyond annoyed with their persistence and my rejections showed it. When the bartender leaned across the bar and suggested that it might be time for me to go and that it really wasn’t the place for me, I finally became aware of my surroundings. He was correct. I shouldn’t be there. I definitely didn’t fit in, even less than usual and more obvious than ever. I almost laughed, that’s how out of my element I was. I was in a rough section of town, wearing a pastel pink, low cut, designer sun-dress, drinking top shelf scotch from a bottle so rarely touched it had been coated with a thick layer of dust, alone, shooing away the regulars one after the other with dismissals that were so rude even this bunch had to be offended.
True, I had set out to do something different this time, but I’d gone overboard to the extreme. I put myself in a position that had already hit the danger zone with no foreseeable way out. I had absolutely no idea what to do. I’d offended just about everyone in the place so I knew no one would be jumping to my rescue, the need for which was becoming imminent. The bartender, concerned though he may be, certainly wasn’t going to abandon his post in order to escort me out to my car safely. What a stupid fool I was! Yes, I’d really done it this time. What on earth had I been thinking, going in there in the first place? Wait, that was the whole problem in a nutshell. I wasn’t thinking. I’d been too busy brooding to pay any attention to the surroundings and I feared I was about to pay for it in spades.
I was sitting there, so absorbed in my internal debate over which of the slim-to-none options was my less-than-good chance of escaping unmolested, that I didn’t notice someone else approaching until I felt a presence beside me. There was now a very fierce-looking man towering over me menacingly, crowding me against the bar.
I’d been wrong to assume the situation couldn’t be more frightening.
“What the hell are you doing here?” he asked sharply.
“Excuse me?” I snapped, instantly on the defensive out of force of habit.
“Do you have any idea what you put me through?”
I stared blankly, doubting his sanity.
“I’ve been going out of my mind trying to find you,” he stated, attempting to snake his arms around me.
That’s when I panicked. I slapped his hands away. I might even have hit him if he hadn’t captured my flailing arms. “Get your hands off me!”
His grip lessened but he didn’t release me. The entire room’s attention was riveted on us, but no one budged. “Calm down, honey. It’s me.” His thumbs caressed my skin lightly. “I found you. I’m here now and everything’s going to be okay.”
“Huh?” I was thoroughly confused. This powerful man seemed to know me, how I had absolutely no clue, though clearly he thought I should. “Let me go. Who are you?
Whatever the hell is going on in your mind is wrong, so just back off already.”
He laughed. He actually laughed. Long and hard, without any restraint, no attempt to contain it, laughed. That was when it hit me. Which I instantly rejected of course, because no way could he be who I thought he was. Could he? No, absolutely, positively not. Impossible.
I guess something showed in my expression because he said, “Yep, you got it. It really is me. Damn, I’m glad I got here before anything happened to you.”
“I don’t believe it. How?”
“How doesn’t really matter, does it? I did, and that’s what’s most important right now. It might, however, be better to finish this discussion elsewhere,” he said when he noticed the bartender hovering nervously. “Ready to go?”
“Huh? What? You aren’t really suggesting that I leave with you, just like that, are you? I don’t even know you,” I argued stupidly, again out of habit and not actual concern since I knew instinctively I was much safer with him than I would be remaining in the bar alone.
“You’re right. Asking was wrong. What I should have done is to tell you that you are leaving. Now. With me.”
“No,” I balked. “I don’t know who the hell you think you are but I don’t take orders from anyone, especially not men I barely know, so just go away and leave me alone. Bye-bye,” I chirped sarcastically, mustering all my bravado to wave him off before chugging the rest of my drink.
His response was to stare. Or glare, to be more precise—for so long I blushed. And fidgeted. Eventually, he said evenly, “Get off that stool. Now. We are leaving. Do not make me repeat myself because I am angry enough with you already. I will drag you out of here if I have to. Trust me, you won’t like the consequences.”
I gulped nervously, totally intimidated by his sudden fierceness. He meant it. I could tell he really, really did. And he wouldn’t hesitate to do what he’d said if I refused to cooperate. Part of me wanted to resist. He didn’t have any right to order me around like some rebellious kid. He didn’t own me. I was a grown woman, and I didn’t have to do anything I didn’t want to do. But the rest of me readily accepted his authority. I was on my feet and moving to the door without him needing to say another word. He had issued a command and I obeyed. I had the fleeting thought of how unlike me it was to do so but it evaporated as soon as he slammed the door shut behind us.
“Not so fast,” he snarled, snagging my arm and pinning me to the wall. “I have something to say before we go.”
He paused but I didn’t even consider protesting.
“One, you will not do that to me again—ever. Two, what the hell were you thinking, going in a place like that alone, dressed like you are? Obviously, you weren’t thinking or you wouldn’t have, since I know you have more sense than that. Three, since you do have more sense than that, you have a lot of explaining to do for not calling us as we asked you to several times. Four, do you have any idea how lucky you are that I found you when I did? Do you know what could have happened if I hadn’t?”
I was sobbing. He was so furious, though I sensed it was not entirely for the mess I’d let myself get into. No, some of his anger was from his genuine concern for me. “I’m sorry,” I managed. It was lame but all I could think of to say at the moment.
“I know you are,” he said, softening somewhat and pulling me into his arms. He held me until I was cried out, whispering soothing nothings that I couldn’t really hear. It was more the sound of his voice rumbling in his chest, the warmth radiating from him and the strength of his embrace that calmed me than the actual words. He dried my cheeks with his palms and kissed me gently before separating himself from me. “You’re safe now. You definitely deserve to be punished but I’m still too pissed to make any decisions on that now.” I blinked, accepting without understanding his meaning. “Give me your keys.”