Don’t Start What You Can’t Finish Ch. 03

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“So . . . how was it?” Jeannette was smirking as she asked, and I was pretty sure she already had a good idea.

“To be honest, it was pretty fucking spectacular,” I said, figuring in this instance the most honest answer was also the best.

She laughed, her bell of dark blonde hair moving. “Yeah, I kinda figured you two would be amazing together. Rachel clued me in to some of it – I might have to get her drunk to get her to spill the rest of the beans, though.”

My turn to laugh. “Yep. Because, you know, a gentleman never tells.” I grinned as I said it. Truth to tell, I was relieved at Jeannette’s reaction – I’d been a little worried she’d be jealous, pissed, whatever. But none of that – she seemed glad one of her best friends and I had hooked up. Why was I worried about her reaction? Because Jeannette and I had hooked up the Saturday before Rachel and I had – and Jeannette lived one floor down from me in the same apartment building.

This was now the Tuesday after Rachel and I had hooked up, and I was still slightly stiff and sore. As passionate as Jeannette and I had been, Rachel and I had been almost animalistic – she’d dug furrows in my back and ass that bled, and I’d spanked her hard enough that she’d had trouble sitting when we went to brunch. It had been a wild night. And to top it all off, before we’d left the club I’d connected with another woman, Carol, who I was supposed to meet Friday night.

Jeannette laughed. “Oh, I’m so sure you haven’t blabbed about it to all your guy friends.”

“Well, usually guys just say we went out and had a good time. The men who talk the most are never the ones who are actually doing anything.”

She laughed again. “That’s for damn sure! I went out with one guy who talked about how good he was, and I went along. He was terrible – he had no idea what he was doing. Ick.” She made the face to go along with the statement.

I smiled back. “Yep, I think we’ve all had an experience like that. Or two, but hopefully not more. I went out with one woman, and after the third date she asked if it was OK that she ‘needed’ me. Oi vey! Nope!”

It was Jeannette’s turn to smile. “Holy shit – really? She ‘needed’ you after three dates?”

“Yep. Three one-night stands would be more accurate, though.” Time to change the subject. “Are we on for this weekend?”

“I know I am, and Tracy is in. Waiting to hear from Rachel if she can – might be a kid challenge. Have you not heard from her?”

“Oh, we’ve texted, and we’re going to try to do lunch on Wednesday. She probably won’t know if she can go until Saturday.”

“She really likes you. I don’t know everything you guys did, but if it’s anything like what we did, I can see why. And you know who is tearing her hair out? Tracy. She had plans for getting you alone last Saturday and having her way with you.”

I was thrilled to hear that on one hand, and on the other I realized how complicated this could all get. If you’re following, Jeannette and I are neighbors – she’s on the first floor, I’m on the second. We’ve been friends for a few months, and I went out with her and two of her friends – Rachel and Tracy – two Saturdays ago. One thing led to another, and before you knew it Jeannette and I had spent the night together having mind-blowing sex. Then, the following Saturday – or this past Saturday – the four of us had gone out again. This time, Tracy had to leave to take Jeannette home, because Jeannette’s son, Brandon, had gotten sick. That had left me and Rachel, and we wound up in my apartment having mind-blowing sex.

Tracy was the one woman I hadn’t spent the night with, and it seemed as if that was, if not actively being pushed, at least being set up that way. I certainly wouldn’t mind – Tracy was hothothot, just as Jeannette and Rachel are – but I also did not want to get into a soap opera. And then, to add to the mix, I’d met Carol, the doctor who was Chinese, at the club and we’d agreed to go out Friday night.

“She looked amazing! And ordinarily I’d let her any time she wanted. But . . . “

Jeannette knew the unspoken question, and must have decided it was time to answer it. “None of us are going to be jealous if you’re with one of us and not the others. So Saturday, when you and Rachel hooked up, that’s how the universe decided it should go. If you and Tracy hook up Saturday, and you should, neither me or Rachel are going to be upset, mad, whatever. We’re all adults, we all love sex, and we all like you – you’re a good guy with a great dirty streak.”

“That sounds great – but I seriously don’t want to create drama, or, more importantly, lose you as a friend.” I was a little surprised to hear her say I ‘should.’ That sounded like an imperative.

“You won’t. Look, if I’m supposed to be with you, that’ll happen. Ditto Rachel, and ditto Tracy. We all know that. You do too. We’re all adults. We’ve all been married, we all have kids, been there, done that. So we’ve all decided to have as much fun as we can. Right?” I think it was the most serious I’d seen her.

“Right. OK. bağdat caddesi escort Up for drinks Thursday?” I was relieved. While I knew all of us were consenting adults, in our late 30s or early 40s no less, I’d had some experiences that made me a little cautious.

Jeannette smiled. “You bet.” She seemed a little relieved as well, as if she’d wanted to deliver that speech but wasn’t sure of the timing – or, maybe, what my reaction would be.

Thursday seemed a long way away, even if I wasn’t sure we were just doing drinks or if we were going for more. My son wouldn’t be with me, and her son would be with her parents, who lived about 15 minutes away, because he had a basketball camp to go to early Friday morning. Then again, Friday was a regular workday for her, though I had enough flexibility that I could work pretty much any time – one of the advantages of working for myself.

As luck would have it, Rachel was able to meet for lunch on Wednesday. We met at a popular lunch spot near her office, which meant it was crowded. I’d put on a pair of cotton slacks and a polo shirt, not wanting to show up in my usual summer garb of shorts and t-shirt with Teva sandals. Good thing, because Rachel was dressed for a board meeting. She looked absolutely beautiful, and I kicked myself for not dressing up more.

“Mark! Hey! God is it good to see you.” She gave me a big hug and quick kiss on the cheek, which I returned. “You look great!”

“You too! Thanks, but I feel a little underdressed next to you.”

“Oh, gotta dress the part for work, right?”

“Yep, every now and then I have to wear a suit to either argue or present something. Nice to not have to do it every day.”

“Oooh, now that I’d pay to see! Do you own a tux?”

“Duh! Of course. It even fits. So there!” I was having a good time bantering, and she was too.

I’d have recognized her anywhere – she had the kind of look that for me is just unforgettable – slim without being too thin, drop-dead figure – for any age, let alone 41 – beautiful long dark hair, and a beautiful, symmetric face. I could feel my loins stirring at both the sight of her and memories of Saturday night and Sunday morning, and I think she felt the same, because I saw her flush slightly as we chatted.

We were seated before too long and ordered. We both stuck to water and soft drinks, given the heat. It was a nice, if frustrating, lunch – I was thrilled to see her in a more normal setting, and to be able to talk without having to yell through a club. Thankfully, she was very bright and up to date on the world – something a lot of the women I’d met and dated couldn’t say.

Lunch was over in a flash, and as we left we agreed we’d all be going out Saturday night. She kissed me as we left, and it was no peck on the cheek – it was the much more intimate kiss to the lips that only lovers can manage – intimate, sexy, and sensual without being forceful. As she left, I was weak in the knees. Wow. That hadn’t happened to me in a long time, and I also felt my heart fluttering along with my loins.

I’d learned quite a bit about her over lunch, and vice-versa. She was 41, which I knew. Divorced, one daughter who was a year younger than my son. She had both an MBA – de rigueur for her field – and, interestingly, a MFA in theatre. I wouldn’t have guessed. We liked some of the same music, though I probably took it a little more seriously. She hiked, camped when she could, read, cycled (yeah!), and liked to travel, though not by herself. If it were possible, I left lunch even more dazzled by her than I was before.

For her part, she was fascinated by the time I’d spent in the military, and asked quite a bit about my time in Iraq, where I’d been the head of a special warfare group tasked with finding and catching high value intelligence targets. That meant people that different government agencies wanted to “interview,” and it had put me and my team in some crazy situations. She was also curious about how someone with a JD and PhD had been re-activated for such a dangerous role.

The balance of the day was kind of a blur, and it was a bit of a shock to see a text pop up from Carol, the doctor I’d met and danced with while out with Rachel after Jeannette and Tracy had left. “Friday at 8?”

I surprised myself somewhat by thinking about putting off going out with her – for about a micro-second – before texting back “Duh!” And did a double-take of sorts at myself that I had even thought about saying no. Rachel was a powerful influence, apparently! Then again, Rachel knew Carol and I were supposed to go out Friday, and we had swapped dance partners at the club, and even teased each other about which of us got the better kisser (I did – Carol was quite good, while Rachel said Carol’s date was kinda ‘meh’).

Whew – second time in a row I’d felt like something was building after what was, so far, a one night stand. What the hell was going on with me? I was wrestling with that question as I pulled in to my garage, which was bahçelievler escort piled high with boxes as I got ready to move to a townhouse I was closing on in about a month. I went inside and cranked up my stereo, and realized that nothing was wrong with me – Jeannette and Rachel were just both fantastic, and I’d be an idiot to not consider building something with them. Well, with one of them, anyway . . .

We were all supposed to go out for happy hour on Thursday, but one by one we all fell out. My son wanted to stay with me, Tracy’s son wanted to stay with her, and Rachel’s daughter was fighting off a cold. We all agreed that there’d be no way we’d miss Saturday, and I think all of us leaned on our respective ex-spouses just a little bit to make sure. My son and I wound up grilling steak for dinner and then baking brownies (of all things), during which we watched a couple of movies. It was a good night – grounding in the way that only kids can pull off. We went for a bike ride the next morning, and then he was back to his mom’s for the weekend.

Friday also meant my date with Carol, and I was looking forward to it. Beautiful woman (yeah, if you’re keeping score at home, I was on a DEFINITE hot streak!), brilliant, decisive – all qualities I loved, wanted, and appreciated. We had texted a little bit over the week, and she’d sent me her address so I could pick her up. I spent the day working, and managed to get out on my bike for a little over an hour as a workout.

Usually, I’m not one to worry about what to wear, but with Carol I put some thought into it. Not out of paranoia, or worry about being judged, but because I wanted to. Of course, with my wardrobe, my choices were somewhat limited, and I settled on a dark red polo shirt with a pair of dressy jeans and a pair of black Ecco dress shoes. We were going to my favorite Italian restaurant, and as it turned out it was her favorite also – so yay, me, for suggesting it.

As I was headed out the door to pick her up, my phone pinged and a text from her popped up: “Don’t be tardy! Tardiness is frowned upon . . . ;)”

All I could do was chuckle – of course a doctor would be on time, and be worried that a PhD lawyer might not be. I drove to her house, and arrived about 3 minutes early. I pulled in to her driveway, as she’d said, parked, and walked up to the door, my senses all on alert, my body tingling. As she’d said in a text, and then had to explain, “with bells on!”

The doorbell was typical, though placed lower than I would have expected. I pushed it, heard the gong go off, and a moment later the door opened and Carol was motioning me to come in, her phone in her hand. I walked in and she held the phone away from herself, pointed at it, and mouthed “mom” to me.

She was speaking Mandarin, so I have no clue what she was saying until she was able to cover the microphone to translate.

“Yes, Mom, I’m sure I’ll be safe . . . I’ll text you tomorrow. He’s here – bye!”

She made a show of hanging up, and then looked up at the ceiling. “Mothers! And Chinese mothers are the worst! Good thing I’m only half-Chinese, right? Sorry about that – I just couldn’t get her off the damn phone!”

She made me laugh. “Oh, no problem. You might try a WASP mom sometime – they can be a complete piece of work themselves.”

Her turn to laugh. “Probably more the ‘mother’ part than the Chinese or WASP part, right? Anyway, let’s go – I’m famished! And yay for not being tardy! Bonus points!”

“I didn’t know I was being awarded points. What can they be redeemed for?” I asked it with a bit of a smirk, because both of us had an idea of where the night was headed, as long as neither of us committed a serious faux-pas, which seemed unlikely.

She just gave me a little smirk back. “Oh, we’ll see . . . I’m sure we’ll think of something. You look great – how was your week?”

“Thanks! You look completely spectacular, but of course you knew that already, right?” She did, too. She was wearing a snug-fitting red silk dress that was snug in all the right places, with a pair of stylish short heels that stayed on the side of practicality. Which meant she could walk easily and probably even dance, though probably not TOO energetically. She’d just pinned her hair back enough so it wouldn’t fall in her face, and it fell to below her shoulder blades, looking almost blue-black and very soft. Unbidden, the memory of her hair on my cheek and her lips on mine sprang back, and I had to almost consciously shake it off.

“Thank you! You think so? It’s not too much?”

“I think it’s perfect – you look amazing.”

She flashed a smile that lit up her eyes. “I even believe you. Thanks. Shall we?”

And we were off to a nice Italian dinner, complete with wine, espresso with dessert, and a lot of talking. Real talk, not the usual first date nonsense. Part of me was surprised that she was only 34. Not based on appearance, but on maturity level. Then again, as I learned over dinner, she’d had a lot of experiences – Stanford bahçeşehir escort for undergrad, UC-San Francisco for medical school, residence at Pritzker in Chicago (long after I’d finished my PhD at Chicago), marrying another doctor who was going in to psychiatry before switching to internal medicine, miscarrying, then having her daughter, and so on.

“Do you dive at all?” she wanted to know. “It’s one of my all-time favorite things to do.”

“Only diving I’ve done was with the military – requirement for special warfare. I’d be interested in trying it again without worrying about 10 other people.”

“Oh yes – we have to get you in to the water! And, what, exactly, is ‘special warfare?’ Is that like Navy SEALS?” That, at least, was promising – she’d seen enough to want to go diving sometime, and wasn’t overly put off by my military background.

“You’re on!” It’d be fun, especially when not carrying all the military equipment I’d had to lug along. I paused, always a little uncertain how to answer the special warfare question. What the hell – directly.

“Special warfare covers a lot of different areas. I was the team leader for what’s called a high value target team in Iraq, so we’d go try to capture people our government wanted to ‘interview.’ We were lucky – didn’t lose anyone on my team, and picked up a number of the people we went looking for. Scary as hell sometimes, though.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “I researched it.” Of course she had. “Rendition is the term?”

“That’s one word for it. When you’re living it, you treat it less formally. I’m sure you have different terms for patients – and that as a profession you’d prefer most people to not know them.”

She chuckled. “True. So the next question is obvious, right?”

“Yes. And the answer is yes. Not something I like to dwell on.”

She gave me a very intense look. It wasn’t critical, or warm, just . . . intense. It was clear that she understood exactly what I meant. “You do think on it?”

“Sometimes. As I said, it’s not something I like to dwell on. It happened, and I took no pleasure in it. But given a choice between them or my team, I vote my team. And there’s an element of complete . . . entropy in it all – had the universe been just a little different, I could have been on the other side.”

She nodded thoughtfully. “I only did the typical rotation in emergency medicine in med school. I only saw a few GSWs (gunshot wounds) and only a couple of them were significant trauma. I can’t quite imagine what it would be like to see it happen.”

“It’s not what I would call fun. As I said, scary as hell sometimes, even though we trained for it relentlessly.”

“That I can imagine. Hope you don’t mind my asking? I abhor small talk most of the time – I want to get to the good stuff – the things that make a person who they are. And I’ve never met someone who has actually fought in war. You just don’t seem like that type.”

I’d heard that before. “So what type do I seem like?”

She paused. “I’m not entirely sure. You’re obviously brilliant – I read your papers. You’re also extremely attractive (I blushed slightly at this), in great shape, and even polite. But I can’t reconcile all that with you actually having been in real combat.”

“You’re very kind. I’d like my tombstone to read “Father. Soldier. Teacher. This man died from living too much.” I sat back to see how she’d process that.

She smiled. “I like that! I haven’t even thought of what I’d like on my tombstone. Too much living to do!”

I smiled back. “Touche!”

And with that, we moved away from the deadly serious (literally) tone of our conversation and drifted to happier topics. But it seemed as if I’d passed a test of sorts.

As the night went on, we decided to head downtown to a well-known bar called the Cruise Room. It was one of those classic old and cramped hotel bars, and we lucked into a booth, sliding in just as a group vacated it. We ordered drinks, and had a great time continuing our conversation. It didn’t take long before I moved to sit next to her, our legs touching, and she smiled as I sat down. I felt her hand on my thigh and she said, “That’s better!”

My hand found hers and covered it, just brushing against her silk covered leg, and we turned to each other and locked eyes. We stayed like that for what seemed like forever on one hand and an instant on the other. She had beautiful eyes – a rich dark brown – and they were intense. And being half-Chinese, the classic almond eye shape was softened, not as pronounced as it typically is. I could feel her looking deeply into me, and I felt like she was laid bare, letting me peer deeply into her being. Cliché? Perhaps. Spiritual and deeply moving? Yes. It was the kind of moment where both instantly know that whatever might happen in the future we’d always share a rare connection.

Later, we’d never remember who moved first, but as we looked into each others’ eyes we were moving toward each other, closer, closer, closer, until our noses grazed and then our lips met again, our eyes still wide open. I’ll never forget that – well, unless Alzheimers erases the memory – that instant where our lips met and closed on each other gently, our eyes then slowly closing, our lips slowly exploring, parting, letting our tongues gently emerge, find each other, and start to play with each other.

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