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Introduction:

Author's Notes: 'To Walk a Mile' is the third book of a one off story that inexplicably became a trilogy. The first stories are read in the following order: 1 One Who Understands, 2 The Most Valuable Gift, 3 To Walk a Mile. All characters engaging in sexual relationships or activities are 18 years old or older.
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Chapter 1

Ed liked his new truck. It was shiny and big and had a heater that worked. It had lots of other toys too but he hadn’t really played with them yet. He’d discovered the air conditioner though.

The truck was a present from some of the ladies he loved. When his previous F-150 was destroyed in an accident he’d insisted that he could take the bus to work but they wouldn’t have it. Rachel, Angie, and Zoe had all pitched in to buy him a brand new Ford F-150 XLT. It was black with chrome accents in a sports package look, whatever that was. All he knew was that it drove really well and he liked it.

While the heater worked and he’d made good use of it over the winter months, he certainly didn’t need it these days. Spring had arrived early and it seemed like summer was in an even bigger hurry. Even though in two days it would only be the first of May the temperatures were higher than normal and he’d been able to go without a jacket for the past week. His work coverall was plenty warm enough on its own.

He rolled his shoulders, enjoying the lack of tightness the new coverall he’d just been given this morning now afforded him. Over the winter months he’d gotten back into his workout routine and discovered he’d increased his muscle mass to the point where his already form fitting coverall had become constrictive. Gwyneth was the new office’s dispatch / receptionist / human resources officer at Drakos Heating and Cooling. She’d ordered the new coverall to give his new larger, harder muscles some space to breathe.

While Gwyneth was a bubbly, smart, and plump bundle of energy who was fun to talk to, he missed Lydia. After a whirlwind romance she’d married a lawyer named Julian and no longer worked for her Dad. Ed had attended the wedding and Julian seemed like a really nice guy. Ed wished them both a long and happy marriage.

Ed pulled his mind back to the task at hand. Gwyneth had dispatched him to a job in his own neighborhood. Zoe’s new construction in fact. Her new house was coming along nicely. It was unlike any house Ed had ever seen before and had some rather challenging heating and cooling requirements. Ed enjoyed the challenge and had offered some innovated solutions for the unique build. Zoe had sworn him to secrecy so he couldn’t reveal any of the details to his family and friends. She wanted it to be a surprise when it was ready for ‘the big reveal’ as Zoe called it.

He pulled up to the gate and pressed the buzzer.

“Hi Ed, come on in!”

That was Zoe’s voice so she must be in the construction office trailer. The gate opened and Ed drove in and parked next to it. He walked inside and she rushed over to get a hug and a kiss.

At 5’ 3”, Zoe Sandoval may have been petite in stature but her curves were breathtaking. More the result of medical science than nature perhaps but eye catching in the extreme. Her breasts were large and round, larger than her small frame normally supported. She was diligent with her exercises to maintain the muscles required to prevent excess strain on her back so her core was hard and tight. He’d experienced first-hand how strong the petite powerhouse was.

Her ass was also plump and round though Ed was sure that was more nature than anything else. With her caramel skin, abundance of gold bangles, earrings, and necklaces, some of which were disappearing into her deep cleavage, she was pure sexiness in a compact package. It was all Ed could do to keep his hands out of her long ebony locks and off those curves as he greeted her with a kiss on her sensual mouth.

She purred as she pulled her lips back from his and took in his new coverall. “Dios! You’re looking good in that new uniform! I could eat you up!” Ed’s face blushed as they weren’t alone.

“Isn’t that sexual harassment?” came a voice from behind them.

Ed looked over Zoe’s head at the grinning man leaning back in his chair. Clint Masterson was the site foreman and had been difficult for Ed to deal with since day one. “I don’t think so. She’s my girlfriend so I think it’s… legal,” Ed replied with a note of concern in his voice. Clint’s grin got wider seeing Ed’s worry.

Zoe spun to glare at the man. “That’s right! He’s mine so I can say all kinds of nice things about him!” she growled. She didn’t like how the man was always picking on Ed’s naiveté. Ed was an innocent and didn’t understand when someone was just teasing or being sarcastic or worse, lying.

She looked back at Ed. “Why are you here today?”

“Final inspections of the systems we installed,” Ed replied.

“Well, get to it boy! Don’t waste my time standing around here all day swapping spit with your girlfriend!” Clint barked.

Ed jumped and quickly made his way out of the trailer. He heard Zoe’s raised voice as the door closed behind him. He put on his hard hat as he entered the construction zone and got to it as Clint had requested.

Several hours later Ed exited from the site. His new coverall was now covered in drywall dust, sawdust, mud, and he had a few grease smears on a sleeve from accidentally brushing it against… something, he couldn’t recall specifically when it happened. He’d been all over the building from the roof to the cellar and everything had passed his inspection with flying colors. Considering how meticulous he was during the installation and how critical he was of the work done during his inspections he was pleased with the result. He took a deep breath and entered the trailer one last time.

He was surprised to see Mr. Drakos leaning across Clint’s desk barking at the man. Clint did not look happy.

“Oh, sorry! Should I wait outside?” Ed said with a surprised expression.

“No Ed, why don’t you stay and see what crying to your boss resulted in,” Clint growled.

“Clint, you’re an idiot. Do you know that? He didn’t call in the complaint.” Mr. Drakos growled and turned. “Ed, what did you come in here to say?”

“Uh… I came in to say I finished the inspection. It took a long time as it’s such a complex installation but everything passed. I- I came in to do the sign off.” Ed said blinking at the two men. He had no idea why they were so angry with each other.

Drakos locked his eyes on Clint’s. “Ed was working since he arrived today because he’s a professional. He does his work and it’s second to none. Ed doesn’t call in complaints. The client did.”

Clint stood facing Mr. Drakos with a clenched jaw.

Mr. Drakos looked at the foreman and sighed. He’d never hire or recommend the man again. He was a bully and had a cruel streak. Ed wasn’t the only one Clint had given a hard time. “Sign the paperwork Ed. Then you’re done here.”

Ed moved forward and Clint stiffly slid the paperwork across the desk at him. Ed added his signature to the appropriate places and stood back. Clint picked up the document and added it to the docket.

“Bye Mr. Masterson,” Ed said with a cautious nod. The man nodded stiffly in return and turned away.

Mr. Drakos followed Ed out of the trailer. “Sorry you had to deal with that jerk,” the older man said.

Ed shrugged. “He wasn’t too bad. I know some of the other guys didn’t like him but I didn’t have to like him to work with him. I just ignored the other stuff.”

Drakos smiled self-consciously. “I guess I’ve just become a little over protective of you.”

Ed smiled at the man. “Then I should thank you for looking out for me.”

“You going back to the office now?” the older man asked.

Ed looked at the time. “I should check on Victoria’s place while I’m here, then I’ll head back.”

“You’re still doing that?” the man asked.

“Yes. She’s still away. I’m still not sure when she’ll be back. Or if she’ll be back at all,” Ed replied with a little shrug but his face looked sad.

Mr. Drakos just patted his shoulder and made his way to his car to drive back to the office.

Ed drove his truck up the hill to the top, not much of a distance from Zoe’s really, and let himself into the mansion with the key Victoria left him with. The large house was silent, accentuating its museum like ambiance. Ed made his way through his routine of inspecting the home for any sign of damage from water damage to broken glass. Once he was done he was in the master bedroom and his mind returned to the last time he’d been with the woman. He remembered her lovely blonde hair spread out over the mattress under her, the flush in her cheeks from their lovema- he struggled to push the memories away as he began to stiffen in his tight clothes. The coverall could use just a little more room in the groin region he realized.

Victoria Rutledge was the widow of Judge Nelson Rutledge, who Ed discovered was an evil little troll of a man. While Victoria was tall, svelte, and with her allure and class reminded Ed of a Hollywood actress of the 1940’s like Veronica Lake, the judge was small in stature and low in character. He was both physically and mentally abusive, controlling, and deeply corrupt. He’d killed a man Victoria had had an affair with and was going to kill Ed when he believed she’d bedded him as well. Ultimately Victoria had killed the judge with his own gun and spent some time in prison before her lawyer found evidence to prove her battered wife syndrome.

Now she was in England with her parents but more importantly with her two girls, reunited after their tumultuously emotional separation. Victoria was getting the psychiatric treatment she needed from years of abuse from her husband. The girls were seeing a counsellor. They were learning the truth about their family and how much they needed each other after the ordeal.

Ed recalled how desperate Victoria had been when he came to visit her two weeks after the Christmas Party. His leg had taken longer to heal than expected and she was upset that he’d postponed the previous week’s appointment. She’d had some harsh words for him.

“Is that the kind of man you are? Lead a woman on and leave her hanging?” she gasped, tears beginning to pool in her thick lashes.

“What? No! My leg hadn’t healed and I was restricted to office work. I did try calling you but you didn’t answer.

“I was angry!”

Ed blinked at her. He wasn’t following this conversation at all. “I’m sorry. How could I know if you wouldn’t speak with me?”

Suddenly she was crushed up against his chest, clinging to him with all her strength. Her hair was under his nose and the scent of melon and something tropical tickled his sense of smell. He felt her trembling so he wrapped his arms around her. He felt her relaxing within his embrace.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“For what?” he asked.

She pressed her face against his neck under his chin, taking comfort from his solidity. “For being so emotional. So… needy. The others… they don’t behave this way, do they?”

Ed tilted his head back and she looked up at him timidly.

“One of the things you can depend on me to be is discreet. This means I won’t tell anyone about our time together. That also means I won’t speak about theirs with you,” he said gently.

She searched his eyes but saw only honesty. She nodded and smiled faintly.

Ed was delighted she’d relaxed her need to have her make-up airbrushed on to perfection. She really was beautiful but now she looked human, not like a perfect porcelain doll. Lovely hazel eyes, a strong but slim nose above eminently kissable lips with her trademark bold red lipstick. Her yellow gold hair fell in relaxed waves around her face and over her shoulders. He couldn’t resist the impulse to finally slide his fingers into her hair. Victoria’s eyes closed in happiness at the feel of his touch and her gently smiling lips parted. Ed found his mouth on hers and he was kissing her deeply and sensually. She gasped and clung tighter as her tongue plunged into his mouth. He sucked on her tongue aggressively and moved one of his hands down her back to her ass as the other gripped her hair.

Victoria was gasping for breath as Ed’s hands and kiss made her so excited. She hadn’t felt this way since she’d taken a secret lover. Miguel. A pain went through her heart as she remembered how Nelson had him killed and disposed of. Then Ed’s hand squeezed her ass and she forgot all about Miguel and Nelson.

She pushed at Ed’s chest to break the kiss and he blinked at her in a lustful daze. She smiled at his need for her. “Could- could we go upstairs?” she asked. He was only able to nod. She took his hand and led him up the long curved staircase to the second floor and down the hall to the master bedroom. The huge bed, cold every night now that she was alone, stood waiting for them. She walked them over to the end of the bed and turned to face him.

Ed caressed her lips with his and she felt tingles rush down her spine. When his large hands slid under her sweater over her stomach she gasped aloud and her eyes flew open. He smiled at her as he gently moved his fingertips over her blouse from front to back gradually working her sweater up her torso. When his fingers passed over her breasts she moaned with need and looked deeply into his eyes. Before she could surge forward he lifted her sweater up and pulled her arms above her head.

He got the sweater off but held her wrists together above her head with one hand while his other hand explored her breasts through her blouse and bra. She squirmed, cooed, and panted as his touch triggered wave after wave of pleasure to course through her body. She felt helpless in his grip yet safe as well for he was only doing what she’d wanted him to do all along.

Ed’s clever fingers found the buttons on her blouse and quickly popped them open one at a time from the top. She was seriously aching for his touch against her bare skin. Once he had the top open his hand slid inside and caressed her stomach, her side and moved around to her back. Her breath was coming in gulps now and she pressed her knees together to calm the maddening tingle between her thighs as her juices ran down the tender skin there.

A quick flick of his fingers and the clasp on her bra parted. She squeaked in surprise then cooed as his large hand slid under the lace to cup a breast.

“Oh my god! Oooohh!” she breathed as his fingers found her stiff nipple and gently squeezed and tugged on it. Her knees wobbled and she might have fallen except for Ed’s undeniable grip on her wrists. His hand left her breast and moved to the zipper on her slacks. His fingers were just too nimble as he had the pants sliding down her legs in seconds and his hand sliding over the thin panties on her ass before she was aware he had her undressed.

Ed released her wrists and used both hands to push her blouse back over her shoulders. Before she could work her arms free he laid her back on the bed, effectively trapping her arms at her sides. He moved over her and kissed her hard. She mewled into his mouth as she couldn’t get enough of his kiss. While she was distracted he pushed her loose bra upwards and took her tits in his hands. He gave them both a firm squeeze.

“MMMMMmmmnnn!” she gasped into his kiss.

He moved his mouth to her neck and ran his lips down the creamy skin of her throat.

“Edward! Oh yes!”

When his lips met her nipples she cried out in bliss. He circled the stiff peak with the tip of his tongue making her arch her back then he sucked it into his mouth and strummed it with his tongue. He repeated the treatment to her other nipple and she cried out with the intensity of the pleasure.

Ed continued to kiss and caress his way down her torso and he felt her stomach muscles jump and twitch as he passed her belly button. He dipped his tongue into the small indent and she burst into giggles. He smiled up at her as she raised her head to look down her body at him.

When the tip of his tongue left her belly to draw a straight line downwards her eyes grew large as she realized what he was about to do. No one had ever done this for her, not her Latin lover Miguel and certainly Nelson hadn’t. But Ed was looking up at her with hunger in his eyes and her body shook with the surprise of her realization of what was about to happen. That’s when she noticed he’d tugged her slacks the rest of the way off her legs and was now sliding her panties past her knees. How? She’d been so dazed she hadn’t noticed his hands at work.

Victoria took a sudden deep breath as she’d been holding it. Ed began to press his lips against the tender flesh of her lower abdomen in slow sensual kisses.

“Oh Edward! Oh! Oh! Oh my god! I’ve never- OH!”

Ed ran his tongue over her glistening pussy lips and her body went into convulsions. She dropped her head back on the bed and made cute little mewling sounds as her body went through a gentle orgasm as he licked and sucked at her tender flesh.

She became too sensitive to touch so he stood up at the end of the bed and began to take his coverall off. He was stepping out of it when Victoria’s eyes focused once more. She looked down the bed towards him and watched him slowly lifting his white undershirt up his hard, muscular torso. As the muscles were exposed to her eyes she bit her lip and felt a throbbing begin between her legs. The shirt lifted up and over his head and she sighed as she saw his powerful pectoral muscles and thick arms hanging from his broad shoulders. Miguel had been slim and graceful like a heron. Nelson was thick and short like a fireplug. She pushed herself up on her elbows to be able to see him better and tugged herself free of the blouse and bra.

To Victoria, Ed was built like a god from Olympus!

She watched him run his hands down over his tight stomach muscles to hook his thumbs into the waistband of his boxers. The black silky material hid his dimensions from her eyes but she never looked away as he slowly worked the underwear down his hips. She realized he was teasing her and growled in frustration making him smile.

Ed wasn’t delaying just to tease her. He was genuinely nervous of her reaction to seeing him naked. He took a deep breath and pushed his boxers down as he watched her cautiously. He hoped she wouldn’t scream.

Victoria’s eyes got bigger and bigger as she watched Ed’s thick and long cock emerge from his boxers. When it finally bounced free from its confinement she sucked in her breath. She’d never seen one so… dauntingly big! She looked up at Ed with an expression that warred between nervous and awestruck.

He relaxed a little when she didn’t shriek in fear but he noticed she wasn’t looking exactly pleased with the result of his unveiling.

“Should- should I get dressed again?” he asked carefully.

“NO! I- I mean, no. I’m just… surprised. I wasn’t expecting… so much… of you,” Victoria stumbled through her words.

Ed smiled. “Yeah. I’ve heard that before and I’ve certainly heard worse.”

“Worse?” Victoria asked looking at him curiously.

Ed nodded and a pained look passed over his face. “I’ve been called monstrous. A freak. Mutant… and some other bad words.”

“No… how could they say that about you?!? They didn’t know you!” she gasped in shock as she looked in his eyes with compassion in hers. As if drawn there her eyes moved back to the thick appendage hanging down between his legs. She realized it wasn’t erect yet and her eyes widened once more with the shock.

“May- may I touch it?” she asked, her eyes never leaving the gently swaying flesh.

“Yes.”

Victoria pushed herself up onto her knees and made her way to the end of the bed. She sat on the end of the mattress and felt a tingle shoot through her pussy which was still coming down from her previous fun.

She was closer to Ed’s cock now and it looked even more intimidating. She reached out slowly and touched it with the fingertips of her right hand. She couldn’t stop herself from moaning as she felt the hot skin’s silky smooth texture. For just a second her mind flashed to an image of a powerful, dangerous snake and shivers ran down her spine. She wrapped her graceful fingers around his girth and was shocked to discover her fingers barely met. She felt him throbbing in her hand and soon she realized she couldn’t close her hand around it.

“Oh god Edward! You’re so big! How? How could this possibly fit?” she said breathlessly as she brought her left hand into play and stroked his length. She was mesmerized by what she was holding and fondling in her hands.

“Victoria, that feels very nice!” he sighed.

She looked up at his face in surprise and saw he really seemed to be enjoying her touch. Emboldened by his obvious approval she stroked him from the head to his heavy balls which she cupped in the fingers of her left hand.

“Oh, that’s good!” Ed groaned.

Victoria was beginning to tingle in her special place once more and feeling his heavy cock in her hands was making her feel so very wicked! She’d never handled a man like this before! She suddenly needed to have him inside her, but his size!

“Edward… I- I want you to make love to me… but I’m afraid.”

“We don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. We can stop at any time,” Ed assured her. She nodded. “Do you have any personal lube?” he asked.

From the shocked look on her face Ed saw the answer was no.

“What- why would I need that?” she gasped then looked once more at what she was still holding. “Oh!”

“We’ll take it really slow. You can say stop at any time and I will,” he said gently and she smiled at him. He took her hands which released his member reluctantly and he pulled her to her feet.

They were standing before each other, naked. Ed pulled Victoria’s body against his and his cock slid between her thighs, pressing hard against her wet pussy. He felt her heat against him and from her gasp she felt his. He kneaded her ass in his hands and she moaned as she clung to him and shivered from the sparks shooting through her.

Ed moved his mouth to hers and she kissed him hungrily, her arms wrapping around his neck as she rubbed her pussy up and down his hard shaft.

Victoria’s mind felt like it was whirling away as she acted on instinct. She’d never been so bold before but Edward’s strength and calm freed her from her inhibitions. His hunger for her matched hers and she knew she had to have him, he would be hers and hers alone! She knew it would be difficult to separate him from the other women but she couldn’t share him! She needed him to be hers. She would find a way!

Passions overwhelming her, she thrust her tongue into his mouth and he sucked on it strongly.

He suddenly pulled back and laid her back against the mattress and knelt on the bed to pull her further up. Then he pushed her knees up to her chest which raised her ass off of the bed. She gasped as he ran his hot flesh up and down across her wetness.

“Oh! Oh! Edward! Yes! Take me! Oh yes!” she gasped.

Then she felt it.

The thick head pushed into her body and she stopped breathing. He was- he was so- big. He seemed to be waiting then he pushed in another inch. The breath she’d been holding rushed out and the intruder slid in another two. She bit her lip to keep from crying out. She was coming apart. She was turning inside out. She wanted to scream and push him away as he’d promised to take it slow. Then she needed him deep now as he was going too slow!

When he pulled his fat cock from her body she could no longer contain her cries.

“NO! NO! IN! DON’T TAKE IT OUT!” she wailed and wrapped her legs around him to pull him deeper.

She was able to get half of his cock buried inside her before he managed to grab her hips to stop himself from driving in deeper. Her legs tugged but his strength would not be denied. She shook and trembled under him as he struggled to keep from crushing her under his large body.

Ed gasped for breath as he balanced on his head and knees arching his body over hers. When Victoria had yanked him deeper with her legs he felt himself going too deep too fast and knew she’d be hurt so he had to quickly move his hands from bracing himself against the mattress to her hips to stop his descent. This meant balancing on his head next to her neck.

He pulled his hips back against her straining legs and she began to whine with need. He eased his pushing against her hips and his cock sunk an inch further inside. He stopped her once more.

“Edward! So big! You’re splitting me apart! Too full!” she muttered even as she tried to pull him deeper.

He pushed and drew himself out to the head.

“NO! NO! FUCK ME!” Victoria howled as she strained to pull him deeper. He drove forward once more and went an additional two inches deep as she wiggled her hips roughly and one of his hands slipped.

Victoria’s eyes flew wide as the sensation of fullness and the ache of him spreading her walls wide overwhelmed her. She knew she still didn’t have it all yet but she was sure she would tear in two if she tried to take more. She was panting shallowly as that seemed to ease the deep ache she was beginning to feel.

How did the other women take him? It wasn’t fair! She wanted him! She needed him! She would have all of him! She felt him bracing his hands on her hips to push himself free once more and she relaxed her legs to let him do it. God! The emptiness of her body when he pulled himself out made her want to cry but she bit her tongue to distract herself.

Once he was out to the head once more she trembled as it felt like such a tease. The vacuum he’d left behind needed to be filled and this time he was going all the way inside. She slid her hands down his powerful arms and caressed his hands. The skin on her hips was slick with a thin layer of perspiration. She waited until he relaxed then she tugged his hands outwards as she squeezed her heels against his ass with all her might.

Ed was caught off guard by her move and his pelvis dropped to slam against her rising one.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAIIIEEEEEEE!” Victoria screamed and clung to Ed to keep him from moving. It was too much! She was in heaven! His body was rocking against her clit as the head of his cock was pushing against her cervix. That wasn’t the most comfortable of sensations but her clit was doing its own screams of joy. She felt her body flush with heat and tremors began rushing through her. Something was building very rapidly and it was all she could do to hold still as her hips automatically began to roll and rock against Ed’s body, grinding her clit against him.

Ed was surprised by her move but there was little he could do as she held on to him so tight. He moved his hands up to lift himself up a bit to reduce the pressure on her chest. She clung tighter and rubbed her tits against his chest as her pelvis ground against his. Ed was getting close and the velvety smooth heat gripping his entire cock felt too good! Her gyrations were adding to his pleasure and he took her mouth in a fierce kiss.

“MMMMMmmmfffff!” she moaned into his mouth as her pleasure spiked.

His hips began to rock as well and soon he had a shallow thrust happening with a bump against her clit with every down stroke.

“Uhhh! Oh! Uhhh! Fahhh! Oh! Guhh!” She blurted sounds with every impact and her trembling grew stronger.

Ed’s hips sped up as his release reached the apex and the sound of wet skin slapping together filled the room.

“There! I’m there! Oh! EEEEEEEEEDDDDDDDDDD!!!” Victoria squealed as her body spasmed and shook through an almost violent orgasm.

Ed slammed his hips home one final time and he fired his cum deep inside in surge after surge.

The heat filling her up made her eyes roll back as her body was wracked with too much sensation.

The waves of bliss washed over her for what seemed like an eternity. When Victoria’s mind drifted back to her body she felt such a glow of inner peace tears came to her eyes and rolled slowly down her cheeks. A large finger gently caught one of the tears.

“Hey? Why are you crying? Did I make you unhappy? Did I hurt you?” Ed asked with concern.

She turned her face to look at him. Her beautiful yellow hair spread out in a halo around her head and her cheeks were pink with a flush. She smiled and shook her head.

“No Edward. I’m… so very happy! I can’t contain it so it leaks out. You’ve made me so happy,” she sighed and a smile came to his face. This was quickly replaced with another concerned look.

“You went too quickly. I’m too big to take that fast. You need to work your way up slowly. I didn’t want to hurt you!”

Beneath the incredible tingles she was floating in she noticed a deep, deep ache and realized this would probably be very uncomfortable later. So be it. She wouldn’t have changed anything. “I know. It was my fault, Edward. I was too impatient to have it all. It was… amazing!”

“It was pretty amazing for me too!” he said, his smile returning. “I-”

The phone next to the bed began to ring. Ed looked at the surprised look on Victoria’s blissed out face. He reached over and picked up the handset for her and she moved it to her ear. Ed was too close not to hear both sides of the conversation.

“Hello?”

“Victoria?” It was a man’s voice with a British accent.

“Daddy?” she gasped in surprise, reverting to her childhood responses instantly.

“Yes, darling. We- we spoke with your barrister today. She informed us of what that man did to you. Is it- is it true?”

A sob leaked out and Victoria held her hand over her mouth. When she could she spoke again. “Yes.”

There was a muffled gasp at the other end as emotions overflowed. Ed picked up the sound of a woman crying in the background. He was embarrassed to be listening in on this very personal call so he made to leave. Victoria quickly reached out and grabbed his arm to stop him.

“Daddy?”

The man’s voice came back but it was deeper now and trembling. “Darling, I’m booking a flight for you. It leaves at 9PM your time tonight. Pack your things and be on that flight. You’re coming home. We’ll take care of this. We’ll take care of you. Your daughters need their mother. We’re so sorry we treated you that way. We were bloody idiots! Please forgive us and come home!”

Victoria burst into tears and clung to Ed as her emotions imploded. It was all too much. She dropped the handset.

“Hello? Victoria dear?” came from the speaker.

Ed picked up the phone and held it to his ear as he looked at the weeping woman. She nodded to him and put her hands over her face as she cried.

“Hello?” he said.

“Who is this?” was the terse reply.

“My name is Ed Walters, sir. I’m a friend of Victoria’s. She’s crying too hard to speak right now but I’ll make sure she’s on that plane tonight.”

“You were listening?” the voice sounded indignant.

“Yes, I’m terribly sorry for my intrusion but Victoria went through some pretty awful treatment from Judge Rutledge. He hurt her pretty bad. She needs her mom and dad and she needs her daughters so I’ll get her packed and on that plane.”

“You- you know what that man did to her?” the voice was calmer now but shaky.

“Not the details, but I saw some pictures and I can see how hurt she is inside. It must have been awful for her,” Ed replied and Victoria clung to him tighter as her gasps got louder.

“Thank you for looking out for her. I- we were under the impression that she was alone,” the man said, his voice continuing to wobble.

“Yes, everyone she knew here abandoned her but the ladies in this neighborhood and I welcomed her into our family. Victoria’s good people. She didn’t deserve that,” Ed said with a frown.

He heard a choking sound from the other end of the phone and the sound was muffled. Ed looked at Victoria whose tears were finally slowing.

The speaker cleared and a woman’s voice came on. “Hello?”

“Hello. Is this Victoria’s mom?”

“Yes, who are you?” she returned.

“Ed Walters. A friend of Victoria.”

“Thank you for being there for our little girl. You will send her home to us?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Victoria desperately pulled the phone from Ed’s hand and held it to her ear. “Mommy?”

The two women burst into tears again and tried to speak but it was no good. Ed heard her father get back on the phone. “Edward?”

He took the phone from Victoria’s limp fingers. “Yes, sir.”

“Flight BA #356 departing at 9PM. Please make sure she’s on that flight.”

“I will, sir.”

“Good lad. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye.”

Ed’s cell buzzed, yanking him back from his memories of that day. He glanced at the screen and saw a text from Gwyneth asking him to get back to the office ASAP. He frowned. It was Friday afternoon. He was worried that she might tell him he had a big job to do which would threaten his weekend off. He tapped out he was on his way.

Ed looked at the tidy room. Like all of the other rooms in the house it was too neat. You’d never know someone actually lived in the house. But then, these days no one did.

Once he’d taken Victoria to the airport that night she’d left him with a key to her house and he promised to watch over the place until her return. That had been months ago and when last they’d spoken on the phone she’d told him that she was seeing a psychiatrist to get over her trauma. The family was knitting back together and she was healing. She had no idea when she would return but at least she sounded happy. The tension and desperation in her voice was fading.

Ed locked up the house and made his way back to the office. He sighed. Life goes on it seems.



Chapter 2

Sunday night found Ed at the top of a short ladder with the sound of laughing kids playing in the backyard behind him. He’d enjoyed his two days off, there hadn’t been a crisis at the office after all, and this was the only work he’d been faced with. He was at Stephanie’s home installing a new motion sensor spot light by the rear patio door. The old one had given up the ghost and installing a new one was a job of only a few minutes. With dusk approaching Ed just had enough light to get the job done without having to wear a headlight.

When Stephanie called to ask him if he could help her with it he’d gladly agreed. He’d picked up two of the units as Carolyn’s home was built at the same time Stephanie’s was and the two buildings were identical in all aspects, aside from décor.

Both homes were a reflection of the women who lived in them. Stephanie’s choice in furnishings was clean lines and contemporary design with playful accents. Delightful on the eyes, soothing to the soul plus the gift of laughter. Much like the woman, Ed thought.

Carolyn’s anthropologist background made her choice of décor lean towards a more Bohemian style. The artifacts and textiles she’d collected in her field days accented her more traditional and maybe a little ornate furniture. Always something interesting to look at to stimulate your mind no matter where you cast your eyes in her home. Which made sense to Ed because the woman was so smart!

Ed heard a loud crashing noise in the kitchen and he leapt down from the ladder to rush inside. He found Stephanie sitting on the floor of the kitchen with her back against the island and her face in her hands. She was crying hard in deep sobs. Scattered next to her on the floor was a tray and the sandwiches and salad she’d prepared for a light dinner on a hot night. The handset for the kitchen phone was also on the floor.

He knelt beside her as the kids gathered in the doorway.

“Stephanie? What happened? What’s wrong?” he asked with concern.

“They’re dead!” she managed to gasp through her tears.

Ed’s eyes widened. “Who’s dead?”

“M-m-momma and P-p-papa.” Her cries got louder. He glanced at the phone handset. She must have taken the call while preparing dinner.

Ed turned his face to her kids but they weren’t crying. Did they not know their grandparents? “Could you guys clean this up? I’ll order pizza in a minute,” he said to them. William, her oldest, nodded and got the three others to help him collect the spilled food and put it in the trash. They glanced at their mother as they worked.

While they took care of the mess, Ed lifted Stephanie in his arms and carried her to the living room. He set her down on the sofa and sat next to her. Her second oldest child brought her a box of tissues.

“Thank you Katey. Could you give us a minute alone?” Ed asked gently and the girl nodded. She collected her siblings and led them back into the kitchen.

Ed took Stephanie’s hands and gently pulled them away from her face leaving them clasped in her lap. He wasn’t able to read all the expressions on her face but sadness was definitely involved. He dabbed away her tears with a tissue as she looked at him. She had the loveliest blue eyes which were now glassy with tears.

“Can you tell me what happened?”

She nodded and took his hands in hers.

“I- I got a call. M-muh-my parent’s lawyer. He found me… to tell me they died. House fire,” she gasped out.

Ed looked into her eyes with compassion. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”

She nodded jerkily and clung tighter to his hands. “He- he said I needed to come back. To hear the will. The reading of the will.” Her sniffles were starting up again.

“What do you need Stephanie? Tell me,” he said.

“Could- could you go with me?” she asked in a little girl voice as she looked at him, her eyes pleading.

“Of course,” he said without hesitation. He would speak with Mr. Drakos and arrange a few days off. “When do we leave? How much time will you need?”

“T-tomorrow.” She struggled to swallow. “No more than three, four days,” she sighed and he could see she was already beginning to relax, now that she knew she wouldn’t have to face this alone.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“Kansas.”

-=-

Ed sat back in the passenger seat of the rental car and tried to distract himself from the seemingly endless flat expanse surrounding him.

“Are you ok Ed?” Stephanie asked as she drove. She’d insisted on driving as it calmed her nerves.

His head jerked over to look at her and he realized how wound up he was becoming.

“Sorry. It’s just… so empty,” he smiled weakly.

“Your stomach?” she asked misinterpreting him.

“No, out there. The land… it’s so empty and flat!” Ed struggled to keep his eyes off the window. He’d tried focusing on the horizon, the lines on the road ahead, and the surprisingly few other cars but the landscape changed so slowly he was finding it disorientating. He knew they were driving fast but the scenery seemed to be moving by in slow motion. It hadn’t been bad at all when they’d driven out of Kansas City then through Topeka and Junction City but with over two hours into the drive Ed’s hungry mind was starving for input.

Stephanie grinned at her passenger but her smile faded as she finally picked up on his distress. She’d heard of people with a phobia of open spaces and Kansas was certainly a good example of that. She looked at him again. He didn’t seem frightened.

“What is it? What can I do?” she asked. She had no idea what was wrong with the big man.

“I need something to distract me.”

She thought for a moment and squeaked when she got an idea. “OH! In the backseat, the bag. There’s a jumbo book of word puzzles. Word search, word jumbles, crosswords. I got it for the flight here but I fell asleep against your arm instead.” Stephanie explained and recalled how warm and comforting he’d felt as she leaned against him.

Ed leaned over the seat and grabbed the thick book of puzzles. He flipped through the pages and saw a series of different games.

“There’s a pencil in the bag as well,” she said.

Ed got the pencil and looked at the first page. It was a square box containing rows of letters. Next to this was a list of words. “It’s a search word. I’ve never done one of these. What do I do?”

Stephanie glanced at him. He’d never done a word search puzzle? “Inside the grid of letters are all of the words in the list. You have to circle them.”

“Oh! That’s it?” he asked, surprised.

She smiled. “Yes, that’s the challenge.”

Ed looked at the list of words to be found then looked at the rows. In a moment the words rose from the grid and he saw some of them were diagonal and some were backwards. He quickly circled all of the matches.

“What do you do with the leftover letters?” he asked.

Stephanie looked over and saw he’d finished the first one already. She glanced in surprise at his curious expression and shook her head. Those damned puzzles took her forever. “Uh, sometimes the letters are used to answer a question. The puzzle will tell you if that’s the case.”

Ed looked and this one didn’t have a question. He moved on to the next page.

It took another hour and a bit to finally reach the exit for her home town. Stephanie had a sudden desperate thought. Keep driving. Don’t stop until you reach the ocean. She gripped the wheel and gave her head a shake. No. She had to face this. She’d already run once. It was time to stop running.

She glanced at Ed and saw the look of concentration on his face as he worked on one of the crossword puzzles. He only had four of the words in place. She smiled. He found them a struggle too.

She set the turn signal and moved onto the exit ramp and Ed looked up with interest to see where they were.

“Are we here?”

“Yup. We are nowhere.”

Ed looked at her in confusion. She caught the expression and sighed.

“Sorry Ed. I used to think of this place as nowhere. As in there was nothing to do, no future for me here, no reason to stay, and plenty of reason to leave. Nowhere. I couldn’t escape fast enough.”

Ed looked back out the window at the inevitable signs of civilization you find at every interstate offramp. Gas station, a cluster of fast food restaurants, and maybe if you were lucky a local restaurant trying to squeeze in as well. A gift shop or two and a row of motels for weary travellers. This interchange was no different.

“What do we do first?” Ed asked.

“We get a room for the night. If you don’t mind Ed, we’ll share one. I don’t think I’m going to sleep well here otherwise,” she said, pleading with her eyes.

“Oh, sure that’s fine,” he said with a nod.

He looked up the road. “Which one?”

Stephanie’s expression was bleak as she took in their choices. She’d worked in a number of these motels as a chambermaid, changing sheets, cleaning other people’s messes, envious of those who were just passing through. She spotted a newer building, a two story motel which looked relatively… well cared for. It hadn’t existed when she was here so she aimed the car in that direction.

They parked, Ed collected their bags from the trunk, and he followed her inside. The lobby was clean and had a nice display of flowers on a table across from the reception desk by the window. Ed stopped to smell one of the orchids and smiled at Stephanie as she watched him.

She walked up to the counter and a young woman approached her with a smile.

“Welcome to Daystar Motel. How may I help you?” the girl said with a practiced smile.

Stephanie smiled at her recalling her own limited experience working the reception desk. “Hello, we’d like a room for the next two nights. Do you have a room with a king size bed?”

The girl nodded, her eyes going wide as she glanced between Stephanie and Ed, and handed her a form to fill in. Stephanie gave her a credit card and began filling out the form. The girl was repeatedly glancing at Ed from the corner of her eye.

He finally noticed her eyes on him and smiled at her. “I like your flowers! They’re very pretty and they smell lovely!” Ed said with a smile. Now the girl turned to him and her face lit up with a smile.

“Thank you!” she replied and there was definitely some pride involved.

“I’ve heard orchids are difficult to grow. These are really beautiful!” Ed remarked gesturing back towards the table.

“Thank you very much! Yes, they do require a delicate touch and a lot of care,” she said, glowing under his praise and appreciation.

Stephanie handed her the complete form and she jumped as she was drawn back to her job. The girl blushed at Ed and moved to program two keys for the room.

“Room 212. Second floor, North side of the building. Enjoy your stay,” she said but she was looking at Ed.

Stephanie smiled and headed outside and up the stairs, Ed following.

The room was pretty standard fare but it looked clean and better yet, smelled clean. Stephanie did a walk through. The shower was in a smallish tub so no shower play for them on this trip! The bed wasn’t too firm and the sheets were clean so she looked around and pronounced it acceptable.

It was almost dinner hour and Stephanie couldn’t stomach the idea of fast food. There was a Chinese food place in town or the local restaurant just across the street. She looked at Ed who was sitting in the room’s chair working on the crossword puzzle.

“Hungry?” she asked.

He grimaced and dropped the book on the table with a smack. “I don’t like crossword puzzles.”

She smiled at his frustration. “When we get back you can do another word search.”

He looked at her. “I did them all. The word jumbles too.”

Stephanie blinked at him. The book had one hundred and fifty pages. Three kinds of puzzles with two puzzles per page. Even if he didn’t do the crosswords that was, what, two hundred puzzles? “You did them all?”

He looked concerned. “I’m sorry. I should have left some for you! It just occupied my mind so well I got on a roll and we were here before I knew it.”

“No, it’s ok Ed. I- I’m just amazed you did so many so quickly,” she explained.

“Oh! Well the word search wasn’t hard at all. The jumbles were a little trickier but there are only so many combinations for the letters shown. Crosswords though, I don’t get some of these clues at all! Do you think there’s a place in town where I could pick up another book of puzzles for the drive back?”

She nodded and smiled at Ed. “We’ll keep our eyes open for one. For now though why don’t we go get some dinner.”

He nodded so they went back to the car and Stephanie drove them across the four lane road to the parking lot on the other side.

As they got out of the car Ed looked back across the street at their motel. “Couldn’t we have walked?”

She grinned as she saw his flustered look. “We’ll drive in town after dinner to look for the puzzle book. This will save us a little time.”

He held the door for her and she walked in. This restaurant was ‘new’ as well. It was by no means a new building but it wasn’t part of her memories so she felt safe for the moment. As they looked for a table she saw no familiar faces and allowed herself to relax. A harried waitress pointed them to the back and they made their way to the last empty table in the back corner. They took their seats and Ed looked around.

There was a long bar along the south wall with tall chairs arranged before the brass foot rail running along its length. The chairs were currently occupied by older men wearing denim, leather riding chaps, and worn black t-shirts advertising their favorite brand of motorcycle. Leather jackets hanging from the backs of their chairs had some kind of riding club emblem on them. These must be the gents who owned the choppers Ed spotted in the parking lot.

Five booths were arranged along the north wall across from the bar and were occupied by families and couples. Between booths and bar was a scattering of tables for four all occupied by people enjoying their meals and talking. There were just two tables for two on the back wall. Up front by the window there was a small stage for live entertainment. There was a dart board and a community bulletin board by the door. There was no cohesive design to the place but it looked comfortable enough and from the capacity crowd it was obviously popular.

The busy waitress dropped off menus, glasses of water and cutlery on her way to the kitchen. Ed had spotted someone eating a big steak so he was going to have one of those.

A group of three people entered the restaurant carrying large cases and immediately went to the small stage. The night’s live entertainment had arrived. They began to set up.

“What can I getcha?” the waitress said as she stopped by the table on her whirlwind tour of the place.

Stephanie glanced up then put her nose in the menu. “The quarter chicken dinner please with salad,” she said stiffly.

The woman nodded and looked to Ed. “The t-bone please. Medium with a baked potato. Just butter.”

With another nod the woman collected the menus and scurried on her way.

“What’s wrong?” Ed asked as Stephanie’s face was a little red.

She shook her head as the waitress was only one table away. Ed looked to see who Stephanie was discreetly watching.

“Do you know her?” Ed asked quietly and Stephanie nodded.

Two pretty young women rushed into the restaurant and apologized to the waitress who stared daggers at them. They rushed into the back looking very contrite. Moments later they came out wearing aprons identical to the waitress and delivered food to a couple of the tables.

Stephanie’s eyes were wide as she noted how similar the young ladies looked to the older waitress. Her kids? She’d had them young then.

“Do you want to say hello?” Ed asked.

Stephanie’s eyes shot to Ed’s and she shook her head. She wouldn’t know what to say to her friend from so long ago.

Ed saw the headshake and nodded in return. He wasn’t going to push. “What’s the plan for tomorrow?” he asked instead.

“We go to the lawyer’s office tomorrow at 11AM to hear the reading.” She frowned staring at the table surface. “I should let you know, I have a brother. He’s going to be there and it may get ugly. He- he didn’t like me very much before I left and his opinion has probably just gotten worse.”

“Younger or older brother?” Ed asked.

“Older. Two years older. Always the dependable one. Always pointing out my failings and ready to give me a good wallop when my parents weren’t looking. Beating some sense into me, he’d say.” Her eyes focused on nothing as her mind took her back.

Ed’s big hand enveloped her smaller one and she looked up into his compassionate eyes. “No one will be beating you on this visit,” he said firmly.

Stephanie flashed a brilliant smile at Ed.

There was a sudden clatter of dishes and the older waitress rushed into the kitchen clutching the tub of dirty dishes.

Ed noticed a nervous look on Stephanie’s face. “Do you want to make a break for it?” he said in his best gangster impression which, honestly, was poor at best. It was enough however to break through Stephanie’s flee response and she shook her head with a grin.

“Oh that was terrible!” she grinned across the table at him. He sat there smiling back at her. Solid, dependable Ed, who never ran from anything. She steeled herself and pulled her shoulders back. “No. I’m done running from this place and my past.”

One of the young waitresses arrived with their meals and set the plates down on the table in front of them. Ed smiled at her but she was staring at Stephanie. Finally she left and they began to eat.

“This is very good!” Ed gushed as he chewed the piece of steak.

Stephanie did her best to enjoy her meal as well. They ate and watched the band set up.

They were pushing back from their plates and the band had just begun to play their first tune when the second young waitress approached them tentatively. “Excuse me?”

Stephanie looked up into a face she hadn’t seen in twenty years. The girl bore a striking resemblance to someone she once called her best friend.

“Are you by any chance Stephanie Norris?” she asked quietly.

“This is Stephanie Matthews,” Ed offered helpfully before he felt a hand on his.

Stephanie nodded to the young woman. “I was Stephanie Norris a long time ago.” Ed blinked at her. “Norris is my maiden name.”

“I- I think you know my mama-”

“Nancy Dulane.”

“She’s Nancy McAllister now.” She looked over her shoulder at her sister who nodded. “Could you come talk to mama? She’s pretty shook up from seeing you.”

“Where is she?” Stephanie asked.

“Out back at the picnic table,” she replied then left to serve another customer.

“Ed, give me a minute?”

“Sure. I’ll be here,” he said and gave her hand a quick squeeze.

Stephanie left Ed listening to the band and followed one of Nancy’s daughters through the kitchen to the back door. She went through and walked across a gravel parking lot to a small grassy area with a picnic table on it. She could see Nancy sitting at the table smoking with her back to the restaurant. The woman’s head twitched as she heard Stephanie get closer.

“You promised me.”

Stephanie stopped walking and looked at the woman’s back.

“You promised me if you ever made it out you’d never come back.” There was a tremor in Nancy’s voice.

“They died. I had to come back-”

“YOU PROMISED!” Nancy yelled.

“It wasn’t a promise I could keep. I’m sorry.” Stephanie said quietly.

“Fuck.” As fast as it spiked the rage was gone. Stephanie felt it was safe to approach the table. That said, she moved to the other side and didn’t tuck her legs under the table when she sat down upwind from the cigarette smoke. She knew Nancy was a woman of strong emotions.

Nancy Dulane, now McAllister, was the same age as Stephanie but on her being close to forty looked more like being close to fifty. She was carrying an extra twenty pounds and her skin showed a weathering Stephanie’s had avoided. Aside from the defeated look in her eye she was a nice enough looking woman. Sandy blonde hair to her shoulders, now tied up in a loose bun, pale green eyes, freckles across a small nose with just a hint of an upturn. Naturally smiling lips with just a slight overbite on her otherwise healthy looking teeth. Some of that extra weight was being stored in her tits and ass so her figure definitely had curves under that apron.

She noticed Stephanie avoiding her cigarette smoke so with a scowl she stubbed it out.

“I heard about the fire. Hell of a thing. I’m sorry they went that way,” Nancy said gruffly.

Stephanie couldn’t put words to the emotions she was feeling yet so she just nodded.

“Did you- did you keep in touch with anyone?” the woman asked cautiously.

“No, I completely broke away. Began a fresh new life.” Stephanie said with a small smile as she remembered the fear and thrill she’d held in her heart as she boarded that Greyhound bus twenty years ago.

“Then how did-”

“My parent’s lawyer found me when he ran a search for references to ‘Stephanie Norris’ and found it on my divorce papers that went through the system recently. He tracked me down from that.”

“Huh. Fucking lawyers. So you were married?”

“Yes. Stephanie Matthews. He cheated on me. Multiple times so I divorced him. I have four kids. William’s eleven, Katie’s ten, and eight year old twins, Franklin and Gina.”

“Fuck off you have four kids! No one who looks as good as you has four kids!” Nancy growled.

“I have pictures,” she said and flashed a brilliant smile.

Nancy closed her eyes and turned away as she shivered. “Geezus.”

Stephanie looked at her friend from the past in concern. “How- how did you recognize me?”

“It was that smile.” She shook her head. “You were smiling at the big fella in the restaurant and it went through me like a knife. You used to smile at me that way,” Nancy said with pain in her eyes. “I’d finally forgotten it. Put all of that life behind me and built a new life for myself. Found a man from town I could tolerate. Got married. Had two kids. I’m still carrying the weight from that, damn your skinny bones. Kenneth is handy in the kitchen. We started up this restaurant and it’s a family affair. We do well enough. I thought I was happy enough.” She bounced the pack of smokes against her hand thinking about giving in but held firm and put the pack down.

“Then you come back with that smile of yours and I realize enough isn’t enough.”

Stephanie stared at Nancy in dismay. “What- what are you talking about? It sounds like you have a great life here!”

“Yes, from outside it does sound like that doesn’t it? The only ingredient that’s missing is love! I mean I love my daughters but my relationship with Kenneth? He’s a friend with benefits. I don’t love Kenneth. There’s no spark or passion. Deep down, he knows. He’s willing to settle as it’s enough for him.” She frowned at her cigarettes and pitched them across the parking lot. She turned that glare at Stephanie. “I want more.”

“Don’t throw away-”

“NO! You don’t get to tell me that! You followed your dream! You didn’t settle! Why should I?”

“Your kids-”

“Are adults now. It’s time their mother was honest with them. I’m gay. There I said it. It’s time they knew it as well.”

“You know I’m straight. We had our time when we were young and lonely but even then you knew I wasn’t gay. We talked about it. I thought you were just experimenting and searching for a little human compassion like I was. You never told me otherwise!” Stephanie said desperately.

“I knew you were straight the first night we were together. I also knew that maybe I wasn’t but I didn’t understand what that meant. It wasn’t until I heard you’d left on that bus that it hit me that I’d fallen in love with you and what it meant to be in love. Those were hard times for me. NO! I don’t hold you responsible for that. Like you said, you were honest with me. Just bad timing is all.”

Nancy took in the distraught look on Stephanie’s face and her expression softened. “Aww honey, please don’t look like that. This isn’t your doing. I’ve been restless for as long as I can remember. Seeing you again… it was just the wakeup call I needed. The kick in the ass to finally realize I’ve been denying who I really am for too long. I’m grateful, I really am. I should have been honest with myself a long time ago. I don’t think it’s too late to start. This may be the best time to do it.”

“What- what are you going to do?” Stephanie asked nervously.

“I’m going to go visit my cousin who lives in New York City. She’s been after me to visit for a long time. I’m going to go see what it means to live as a gay woman.”

“Mama?”

Nancy looked over her shoulder and saw her daughters standing by the back door. The big man stepped out the door and began walking towards them with a pleasant smile on his face.

“What’s his story?” Nancy asked.

“Ed? He’s a wonderful, gentle soul who loves me,” Stephanie said quietly with a smile. Nancy looked at her closely. “Yes, I love him too.”

“He’s young… not that I’m judging,” Nancy said with a twisted smile.

Ed walked up to them. “Sorry to intrude but your daughters are worried about you and asked me to see if everything was alright,” he finished looking at Nancy. “Ed Walters.” He held out his hand and Nancy shook it.

“Nancy McAllister. Take good care of this one. She’s very special to me.”

“I will,” Ed assured the woman.

Nancy and Stephanie stood and once she came around the table Stephanie gave Nancy a tight hug.

“Good luck Nancy.” She pulled a card and a pen from her purse and jotted down her phone number and address. “Please keep in touch.”

“I can’t make any promises,” Nancy said tucking the paper into her apron. “After all it’s my turn to begin a fresh new life.” She gave Stephanie a crooked grin and headed for the back door of the restaurant to presumably speak with her daughters.

“I settled the bill.” Ed said.

“Thanks. If you don’t mind I’d like to just go back to our room and relax,” she asked.

“Oh, sure,” Ed said seeing the troubled look on Stephanie’s face. He walked with her around the building back to their car. She drove them back across the road to the motel and they parked outside their room. They made their way upstairs and inside and Stephanie just stood in the middle of the room not looking at anything in particular.

“Is everything alright?” Ed asked.

“Maybe it was a mistake to come back. Maybe I just ruined the lives of four people.” She was trembling so Ed pulled her against his chest and she clung to him.

“Nancy didn’t look like you’d ruined her life. She seemed pretty happy.” Ed responded as he rubbed Stephanie’s back, feeling her begin to relax in his arms.

“Her husband and daughter’s lives then. Nancy is going to tell them she’s gay and she’s leaving.”

Ed didn’t know how to respond to that. “I… I’m not an expert but I’m pretty certain you can’t make someone gay. How is this supposed to be your fault?” he asked in confusion.

Stephanie chuckled against his warm chest and felt herself relaxing further. She really loved being in his arms.

“You’re right, of course. It isn’t my fault. Just bad timing is all,” she said using her friend’s words. She suddenly felt exhausted by the stresses of the day, the long drive and the brief reunion with Nancy. “Could we just go to bed and snuggle?”

“Sure!”

They got ready and slipped under the covers of the big bed. Stephanie cuddled up against Ed and purred at the feel of his thicker muscles. But before she could act on her impulse to jump his bones she nodded off.



Chapter 3

Ed sat next to Stephanie in the law office conference room listening to the ticking clock on the wall. There was no other sound in the room even though Stephanie’s brother Jeff, his wife Jenny and their five kids were sitting in the room with them.

He and Stephanie had arrived first and were brought to the room to wait on the arrival of the lawyer. Maybe ten minutes passed before the door opened and a tall older man walked in with a sturdy and pretty blond woman at his heel. The big man froze two steps into the room when he saw his sister.

“Hello Jeff,” Stephanie said with a quiet voice.

“What- what are you doing here?” he replied with incredulity.

“Mr. Carson found me and told me I needed to be here,” she replied.

Ed looked closer at Jeff and saw some family resemblance to Stephanie. They had the same eyes and chin but Jeff’s face was deeply tanned and weathered from working outside. He was almost as tall as Ed though his body seemed to be lean and hard, especially his hands which looked rough and scarred. The only softness seemed to be the small bulge at his tummy.

The woman behind him was only a few inches shorter though she was carrying more weight than her husband. She had sunny yellow hair going grey and a naturally open and friendly expression which contrasted with her husband’s more closed off glare.

Ed saw the curious faces of his kids peer into the room around their mother’s back. He smiled at them and the tallest, a blonde girl who was probably eighteen, smiled in return.

“Well, he didn’t tell me you were going to be here!” Jeff barked.

“Jeff, who are they?” the woman at his elbow asked.

“I don’t know who the kid is but this is Steph,” he grunted angrily.

“Stephanie? Your sister?” the woman asked with wide eyes.

“Yes, I’m his sister.”

“You’ve got no right to use that term since you abandoned your family!” Jeff growled.

Stephanie’s temper flashed as memories of how he treated her resurfaced. “Abandoned? Jeff, you did your best to drive me out! Every day you found an excuse to hit me! You made my life at home a living hell and did your best to destroy any life I had away from home! Then I heard you plotting with Mama and Papa to marry me off to one of your buddies! Don’t talk to me about family as if you cared for me at all!” Ed had his arm around her stomach to keep her from rounding the table to tear into her brother. He was wide eyed himself at the words coming out of Stephanie’s mouth.

Jeff scowled at his sister but he didn’t deny her words. The woman at his elbow looked between the siblings in surprise. “Jeff? Is what she said true?”

The big man came back to the moment and realized his wife was there and heard his sister’s words. His face scrunched up in distaste. “You have to realize how tough times were for the family back then and how disruptive she was. A regular trouble maker taking our parents through one crisis after another. Mama and Papa were too busy to keep her in check so I had to. Besides Duncan would have made a fine husband and we could have merged the two farms into one-”

“Duncan?” the woman gasped. “Duncan Nettleson? You were going to marry your sister to that creep?!? As a business deal?!?”

Jeff’s scowl got deeper. “Duncan wasn’t always like he is today. Maybe with the right woman he wouldn’t have done… those things he did.”

The woman shook her head angrily and walked around the table to Stephanie. She held out her hand. “I’m Jenny Norris. I married your brother about six months after you left and we had our first child, Jillian, a year and a bit later.” She gestured for the tall blond to come meet her aunt. The other kids scurried after her. Jillian shook Stephanie’s hand with a big smile on her face. The young woman was taller than her mom, almost as tall as her dad and had her mother’s long blond hair and curves though her younger body was carrying much less weight.

Ed saw the next tallest was a boy who was probably sixteen or seventeen. He had his father’s build and the lean muscles hard work had earned him.

“Jack is our second child who arrived a year later. He’s almost all grown up now. Getting big and strong like his Papa.” Stephanie smiled and shook the boy’s hand as he smiled at her shyly.

“Jamie was next to arrive just eleven months later. She’s becoming quite the beauty,” Jenny said drawing an embarrassed groan from the girl.

“This is Josie. She’s two years younger than Jamie, such a sweetie! And finally we have our youngest, Joseph, who is two years younger than Josie. That’s the brood.” Jenny smiled happily at her kids then she looked to Ed.

He was looking at the family in surprise. He’d never met a family whose initials all matched. So many ‘J’ names! He wondered what that would be like. He looked over at Stephanie but she appeared to be a little shell shocked from meeting so many new nieces and nephews. Ed took it upon himself to make his own introduction.

“Hi, I’m Ed Walters. Stephanie’s boyfriend.”

Jenny’s face froze as she looked up at the young man she’d assumed to be Stephanie’s son. She turned her eyes to the woman and saw the blush on her cheeks and the smile on her lips. “Boyfriend?” Jenny managed to squeak out.

Jeff made a loud snort of disgust and walked over to a chair in the corner of the room to wait.

Ed blinked at Jeff’s response and took in Jenny’s unease. He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong but stopped when Stephanie placed her hand on his arm.

“Yes, Ed is my boyfriend. I got married a few years after I left home and had four beautiful children. William, who’s eleven, Katey who’s ten, and the twins, Franklin and Gina, both eight. When I discovered my husband had multiple affairs and wouldn’t stop I divorced him. The paperwork went through not too long ago. It was how Mr. Carson found me. I met Ed around the time the divorce was finalizing.”

Jenny nodded and smiled weakly then made her way to sit down next to her husband. She gestured for the kids to take the remaining chairs next to her. Jillian was looking at Ed with an expression he couldn’t identify so he just allowed Stephanie to guide him down into the chair next to her.

So here they sat, in silence, waiting for the lawyer.

Ed needed to use the washroom so he whispered to Stephanie to let her know. He might as well have shouted as the silence made his words sound too loud anyway. She nodded and he made his way into the hall. He spotted the room in question down the hall and made quick use of the facilities. He washed and dried his hands and stepped out to come to an abrupt halt as Jillian was standing just outside the door.

“You’re my aunt’s boyfriend?” the young woman blurted.

Ed blinked at her. “Yes. I think we were both pretty clear on that point.”

“What do you want from her? Is she paying you?” Jillian pushed as she scowled at him.

Ed was struggling to understand where her animosity was coming from. He didn’t even know her and until a few minutes ago she didn’t know Stephanie.

“I don’t want anything from Stephanie. She doesn’t pay me. I have my own job.”

“Let me guess, as a gigolo?”

“No, I work for Drakos Heating and Cooling. I’m certified to do installations, inspections and maintenance on all sizes of heating and cooling system. What’s a gigolo?” Ed asked curiously.

Jillian was looking at him funny again and Ed didn’t know what to do.

“Jilly! Mom wants you back in the room.” Jack called out from down the hall as he approached.

The young woman gave him a frustrated look. “Don’t you hurt Stephanie!” she growled quietly then turned and rushed back to the conference room.

Jack continued to approach and stopped at the washroom. He turned to look at Ed. “I think you’d better go back too.” He stepped inside the washroom.

Nervous, Ed hustled back to the conference room and when he opened the door he heard shouting.

Stephanie was standing toe to toe with Jeff who was red faced. The man’s hand was up and he looked like he was going to hit Stephanie. Jillian was screaming at her father and Jenny was calling out to him as well.

“STOP!” Ed roared and everyone froze. “Mr. Norris, please sit down before you do something you will regret very much.”

Jeff lowered his hand and glared at Ed but the big man didn’t blink. With a final snort he returned to his chair. Ed made his way around the table to Stephanie’s side and saw she was trembling with unspent adrenalin. She’d been very brave to face her tormentor from all those years ago.

“I’m very proud of you,” he said quietly.

Her eyes shot to his and a rush of love spread through her body as she saw he understood. She nodded, unable to speak at the moment.

Jack returned to the conference room but this time Mr. Carson’s secretary was with him. She addressed the group.

“I’m terribly sorry for the delay but Mr. Carson was called to the bedside of an old friend and client. Mr. Patterson is dying, probably won’t see sunset the poor dear. He’s called on Mr. Carson to do some last minute adjustments to his will so Mr. Carson will not be able to do the will reading today. He’s asked if you could come back tomorrow at 4PM?” the older woman asked.

“This is bullshit! Jerking us around and ambushing me with her!” Jeff bellowed.

“Mr. Norris, no one is being ‘jerked around’ and I know nothing about any ambush. The situation is not in my control. Are you available to come back tomorrow or not?” the secretary said calmly.

Jeff just scowled then nodded reluctantly. The woman turned to Stephanie who just nodded.

“Again, my apologies for the delay. Thank you for your patience and we will see you tomorrow at 4PM,” the woman said and left the room.

Jeff turned his scowl on his sister then stormed out of the room with his youngest kids following. Jack looked back at his mother.

“We’ll be right out,” she said to him and he rushed out after his father.

Jenny turned her face towards Stephanie and her conflict was plain to see. She wanted to follow her husband but his behavior had left her confused.

“It’s ok.” Stephanie said to her. “What Jeff put me through is between him and I… unless he’s been abusive to you as well?”

She shook her head vehemently and Stephanie visibly relaxed. “Good.”

“We’re so sorry! I’ve never seen him behave this way!” Jenny said.

“See you tomorrow,” Stephanie said sinking back into her chair as her adrenalin ran out.

Jenny gathered her daughter who looked like she wanted to protest and moved them out the door.

“I’m so sorry I left the room. I didn’t think he’d do that with his whole family watching!” Ed apologized.

“It’s fine Ed. You’re not responsible for his behavior. That’s my parent’s doing. They pit us against each other. Made it impossible for us to behave as brother and sister. Always competing for their love.” Stephanie shuddered as she remembered. “I finally clued in when I reached my teens and hung out with a few of my friends at their houses. I saw how normal families interacted and realized how broken our home life was. I tried to convince Jeff we didn’t have to compete but he was too far gone. That’s when he increased his hitting. I took years of that abuse. I think Jenny is keeping that from happening in their home. Maybe the cycle ends with Jeff.”

Ed took her hand and gently kissed her knuckles in sympathy. Stephanie smiled at him. “What do we do now?” he asked.

She looked out the window and contemplated the endless blue sky of the hot spring morning for a moment. A mischievous smile appeared on her face. “Did you bring a swim suit?”

Ed blinked in surprise. “Uh, no.”

“That’s ok. We’ll pick one up at the dollar store.” She stood up and pulled on Ed’s hand. “Let’s go swimmin’ in the ol’ swimmin’ hole,” she said with a grin.

Ed was glad to see her spirit bounce back but her grin made him a little nervous.

They stepped out of the building and spotted Jenny and Jillian standing in the shade next to the parking lot. They walked over to the two women. There was no sign of Jeff or the kids. Jenny’s face was red with suppressed anger.

“What happened?” Stephanie asked.

“He left without us!” Jenny snipped. Jillian looked at Stephanie with an embarrassed expression.

“We’ll give you a lift home.” Stephanie said.

“No, it’s fine. He’ll come around-” she began.

“That would be very kind of you. Thank you!” Jillian interrupted and glared at her mother.

Jenny looked at her daughter sharply then seemed to collapse a little. “I’m sorry. I’m just upset. It’s been a trying day.”

“Not a problem. Let’s go.” Stephanie led them to the rental car and they piled in. She was driving once more and Jillian sat behind her with her mother behind Ed. Stephanie got directions from Jenny and they made their way out of town along a back road. Jenny continued to explain that Jeff got a deal on a house a few miles out of town in the direction of his parent’s farm.

“What are your plans today now that the reading was postponed?” Jillian asked and received another sharp look from her mother.

“I’m taking Ed to the lake I used to swim in when I was just a little younger than you.” Stephanie said glancing in the rear view mirror with a smile.

“That sounds wonderful!” Jillian said wistfully.

“If it’s ok with your mother, you could join us.”

“I don’t know-” Jenny began.

“Please mama!” Jillian begged.

Jenny pointed to the next lane and Stephanie pulled into the driveway of a large two story farmhouse.

“Please!”

The mother saw her son waiting on the front steps and saw his relief as he spotted her. Such a dependable young man. She turned to Stephanie. “Would it be ok if you took Jack as well?”

“Sure,” Stephanie agreed.

Jillian glanced at her mother to protest but held her tongue and hopped out of the car. She leaned against the driver door. “I’ll get my swimming stuff and be right out. Don’t leave without me!” She received a nod and dashed back to the house collecting her brother on the way.

“I’m sorry it turned out like this.” Jenny said as she reached Stephanie’s door.

“It’s not your fault. This was a long time coming. Jeff is right about one thing. I ran away. What he refuses to acknowledge is his part in the reason I did.” Stephanie said sadly.

Jillian rushed back out of the house carrying a small backpack and a beach towel. She was also crying.

“Where’s Jack? What happened?” Jenny asked as Jillian just stormed past to get into the back seat of the car.

The front door of the house opened and Jeff walked out to glare down on them.

As Jillian wasn’t talking, Jenny looked up at her husband. “Where’s Jack?”

“He’s not going but the bitch can leave if she wants. She can stay away for all I care. Now tell that whore and her boy toy to get off my property,” Jeff yelled back.

Jenny looked at Stephanie. “Maybe you should go.” She looked in the window at her daughter. “Call the house later and I’ll let you know when he’s calmed down.”

Stephanie nodded grimly and backed out of the driveway. They got maybe fifty yards down the road when Jillian spun in her seat.

“STOP THE CAR!” she cried.

Stephanie pulled over and they looked back to see Jack climb up out of the field behind them to run after the car. He was carrying a backpack and a towel as well and was breathing hard by the time he reached them. He got in and rested back against the seat as his sister smiled at him. Jillian gave his shoulder a little punch as Jack smiled back at her.

They got back underway and Stephanie glanced in the mirror. “Where is the best spot we can go to pick up swimsuits, towels, and lotion?”

Jillian looked at Stephanie in surprise. “Oh, well, there’s a department store in town that has that stuff but they don’t have a very good selection.”

“We’re not picky. Just something to wear when we swim and lie out in the sun. Right, Ed?”

“Sure,” he replied, worried that they wouldn’t have his size.

They followed Jillian’s directions and made their way into the department store. The young woman was right. The selection was terrible but Ed was delighted to find a suit that looked like it had plenty of room in the areas he wished to hide. Stephanie pouted at the apparent looseness of the suit but couldn’t argue with him. She found a bikini that wasn’t too bad even if it was kind of plain.

The towels and lotion were easier finds. Ed picked up an insulated duffle bag cooler, a twelve pack of spring water, a six pack of cola, and three bags of ice. Jillian and Jack were in charge of getting the snacks. Stephanie paid for the swimsuits, snacks, towels, and lotion and Ed paid for the cooler, ice and the drinks.

They got back in the car after Ed arranged the drinks in the cooler with the ice poured on top.

The lake was about a twenty five minute drive away.

After they’d traveled half the distance Ed turned to look at Stephanie. “How did you get to this swimming hole when you were a kid?” Ed asked her and she smiled at the memory.

“We rode our bicycles. It’s only twenty miles from town. I went everywhere on that bicycle.” She glanced over the seat at Jillian and grinned. “I used to get home late and catch hell from your dad. I had to hide the bicycle but he eventually found it and drove over it with the tractor. He told our parents it was because I’d left it behind the wheels. Do you guys cycle?”

“No. Papa won’t let us have bicycles,” Jack said.

“Aww, I’m sorry. That’s probably because of me. He saw how much freedom it gave me and he didn’t like it. How do you get around then?” Stephanie asked.

“School bus during the week. On the weekends I walk into town if Mama isn’t driving in.” Jillian answered and Jack nodded.

“I’m getting a driver’s license but we only have one car so I don’t know when I’ll get to drive,” Jack explained.

“What about you Jillian? Are you getting your license too?” Stephanie asked.

“He won’t let me take the test.”

Stephanie glanced in the mirror once more. The young woman was scowling out the side window and just for a second Stephanie saw herself.

They drove on in silence until they reached the park. As they were just using the beach they paid a small fee and parked near the boat launch. There was a relatively sandy beach running beside the launch area.

Grabbing the cooler from the trunk Ed followed the group down to the sand. He looked around and realized they had the place to themselves. The only sign of other people was a sail boat quite a distance across the lake.

He laid out his towel and headed over to the washroom facilities with his new swimsuit in hand to get changed. Jillian walked with him carrying her bikini. He glanced at her uneasily as the bikini looked too small to contain her… gifts.

They ducked into their respective washrooms and emerged shortly afterwards dressed to swim. Ed tried not to stare but Jillian’s bikini was struggling to contain her bounty, upstairs and down. Ed thought perhaps the suit was a few sizes too small. His face flushed and he looked away but not before he saw the smile on her face.

As they walked back to the towels he thought back on their first interrupted conversation. “You never did tell me what a gigolo is.”

“It’s a male prostitute.”

Ed’s head whipped around to face Jillian. “NO! I’m NOT one of those!”

“A gold digger then?” she asked tilting her head to look at him quizzically.

Ed blinked at her again. “What’s a gold digger? I assume it’s not someone who digs for gold in a mine.”

She smiled and shook her head. “It’s someone who pretends to care about someone else to be rewarded with money and gifts.”

“No! I could never do that!” Ed said in shock.

“Well, you’re awfully young to be having an affair with my aunt,” Jillian said with a frown.

Ed smiled as he finally understood her confusion. “Ah, I’m not having an affair. I love Stephanie and she loves me!”

She looked at Ed in confusion as Jack approached on his way to the washroom to get changed.

“Jilly! What are you doing wearing Jamie’s swimsuit! It’s too small for you! You’re gonna wreck it!” Jack complained.

“Hush you! I- I couldn’t find mine,” Jillian said as her face flushed a little.

Jack shook his head and rushed off to get his swimsuit on.

When they got back to the towels they saw Stephanie was finishing tying her bikini straps.

“You got changed out in the open?” Jillian gasped and Stephanie snorted.

The lovely brunette gestured to the wide open spaces around them. “Do you see anyone who could be spying on us? When Jack headed off I had enough time to change with all the privacy I needed. Besides, that’s how we did it when I was here the last time.” She smiled at Ed’s blush. “That’s quite the revealing swimsuit you have on there.”

“It’s her sisters. She couldn’t find her own,” Ed provided helpfully and it was Jillian’s turn to blush at Stephanie’s knowing smile.

Ed pulled his shirt up and off and Stephanie’s smile turned into a grin as Jillian’s eyes widened in awe when she saw his muscular torso.

“I think I’d better help you with your lotion Ed.” Stephanie said and he smiled happily and nodded to her.

Ed started with his face and ears as Stephanie worked on his back starting at his neck and moving over his broad shoulders. She worked the lotion into his thick muscles and felt herself begin to tingle in an intimate place. When she glanced over at her niece the young woman jumped as she’d been a little mesmerized. Jillian moved to put her own lotion on but Stephanie saw she couldn’t stop herself from looking over at Ed from time to time.

While Ed moved to putting lotion on his arms Stephanie finished his back so she ran her hands around his torso to rub the lotion over his hard stomach muscles. A tremor went through her body and she pulled her hands back reluctantly. She added more lotion to her hands and ran them down his legs as she knelt on the towel behind him. She bit her lips as his ass looked good, even in the relatively loose swim trunks. She pulled her hands back and began adding lotion to her own body.

“Can I return the favor?” Ed asked with a smile as he finished rubbing the lotion into his lower abdomen.

Stephanie nodded and stretched out on her towel on her stomach. Ed knelt on his towel at her feet and began rubbing the lotion in deeply as he made his way up her legs. She was biting her tongue to keep from moaning as his hands felt so good on her body. So strong! He spent much too little time rubbing lotion on her ass but Stephanie forgave him because of their audience.

She spared another glance over at Jillian who was struggling to put on her own lotion with the distraction of Ed’s muscles flexing and bunching only a few feet away. Stephanie turned her face away as she smiled in amusement. Her smile turned into a yelp as she felt Ed tug loose the knot in her bikini top.

“Ed! What are you doing?” she gasped, looking over her shoulder as she pressed herself flat against the towel.

“You don’t want tan lines do you?” he asked with a cheeky smile as he plucked the knot loose at the back of her neck, evoking another squeak. Before she could protest he began kneading her back muscles, working the lotion into her skin.

“Oh god Ed, that’s goooood,” she groaned as she felt her body relaxing under his ministrations.

Jack returned and watched Ed massaging the lotion into Stephanie’s back. He saw the blissful smile on her face and shared a smile with Ed. He was beginning to like the big man.

“How did you get so big?” Jack asked.

“I started to grow fast when I hit puberty and the gym teacher and my football coach pushed me toward body building to get bigger.”

“You played football? What position?” Jack asked curiously.

“Guard. I protected the quarterback,” Ed replied as he worked the knots out of Stephanie’s shoulder and neck muscles. He leaned down and kissed her cheek as she purred into a doze. He took another look and saw he hadn’t missed any spots. He looked back at Jack.

“Do you play football?” Ed asked him.

“Before you answer that, Ed could you put lotion on my back too?” Jillian asked timidly.

“Uh, sure,” he said and accepted the bottle from her.

Jillian laid down on her towel and reached back to undo her own ties. “I don’t want the tan lines either.”

Jack rolled his eyes and looked to Ed who was beginning at her feet. He looked like he was just doing a massage and not groping his sister so Jack felt a little more comfortable about it. “I’m a wide receiver.”

Ed grinned at him. “Considering how quickly you caught up to the car I can see how that position would work well for you.” Jack smiled in return.

Jillian was in heaven. Ed’s big hands were touching her all over and her body was tingling like mad! This was the first time a man had touched her so intimately. If she could just ignore the sound of her brother’s voice she could really begin to enjoy herself.

“Don’t forget to put on lotion,” Ed reminded Jack who picked up the bottle and began to apply it.

Ed concentrated on rubbing the lotion over Jillian’s body and did his best to not think about how nice her body felt under his hands. It helped that he remembered the therapeutic massage techniques he’d learned for Shirley.

He was rubbing the lotion along the sides of her torso when his fingertips stroked across the sides of her rather squished yet exposed breasts.

He yanked his hands back as she moaned aloud. “Oh! I’m terribly sorry!”

She shook her head as she couldn’t speak. She’d felt that touch in every cell of her body! “It’s ok!” she finally managed to say with a tight smile.

Stephanie cracked her eyes open to look over at Jillian who caught her gaze. A worried expression passed over the young woman’s face but Stephanie just smiled gently at her.

Ed finished up quickly and decided he’d go for a swim. It was easier to hide his erection under water. His discount bathing suit was turning out to be less baggy than he’d hoped. He stood and walked towards the shore. “I’ve never swum in a lake before. Just municipal pools when I was younger and recently in the ocean in Barbados,” he remarked to Jack who had joined him at the edge of the lake. Ed looked at the sandy bottom and the lack of waves. “It’s like a mix of both. The stillness of a pool but the sandy bottom of the ocean.”

“I’ve never been anywhere other than here. No one I know has a pool,” Jack remarked.

Ed nodded knowing that feeling. “It’s only recently that I’ve gone anywhere. I’ve now been to Barbados which is a beautiful island and New York City which is…” Ed was momentarily at a loss for words. “…huge!” he finally blurted.

Jack grinned at Ed’s expression of wonder. “Maybe one day I’ll visit those places too.”

Ed waded in and noticed another difference. The water was cold. He pushed himself to go further in and dove forward to get under the water in one sudden move. When he came up he was gasping and wide eyed. He looked at Jack who’d matched his moves and was wiping the water from his eyes with a smile.

“It’s COLD!” Ed gasped in shock.

“Yes it is,” Jack agreed with a nod.

They swam for a bit just trying to get used to the water temperature. Then Ed got curious about what Jack intended to do once he graduated in such a small town. There didn’t appear to be many places to find work. Maybe on a farm?

“You graduate next year?” he asked and Jack nodded. “What then?”

Jack frowned as he thought about it. “Papa wants me to work with him on the farm but… I don’t see myself being a farmer. I- I have something else I’m interested in doing.” He looked cautiously at Ed but the big man just looked back at him with an open expression.

Ed waited for Jack to continue as the young man seemed to be struggling with something.

Back on the sand Jillian was having no trouble expressing herself.

“I’m not allowed to date. I’m not allowed to get a driver’s license. I have to come home directly after school so I can’t join any clubs or hang with my friends. He has so many rules and most of them only apply to me! He’s a tyrant!” she growled.

Stephanie watched the young woman and realized how much they were alike. It was obvious Jeff was repeating how he treated his sister with his oldest child. She jolted. “He hasn’t hit you, has he?”

Jillian scowled and shook her head. “If he lays a hand on me he’s going to prison. I told him as much the one time he raised his hand to me.”

“You’ve talked with Jenny about this?”

“Yes, Mom knows and she tries to get him to be more flexible but the older and more independent I get the harsher he becomes. You heard him, he called me a bitch!” Jillian exclaimed and tears were coming to her eyes.

Stephanie saw the young woman’s lower lip was trembling. She hated her brother at that moment. She reigned in that rage and gave Jillian a sympathetic smile. “Your grandparents did a real number on us when we were growing up. They pitted us against each other. As a young teen I rebelled from their treatment but Jeff went the other way. It sounds like he’s treating you like he treated me.”

Jillian struggled to keep her tears at bay. It was such a relief to speak with someone who understood. “I can’t take much more! I have to get away from him! How did you do it?”

“I got a job in town. Then I got a second one and a third. I worked as much as I could to stay away from the house and to earn enough money to buy a ticket out and to get myself established someplace else. When he began his campaign to get me married off I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. I took all my money, packed the few things I had, hitched a ride in town and bought a ticket for the first bus to New York City.” Stephanie shook her head with a smile. “Thinking back on it now I realize how incredibly reckless my gamble was. The money I had was nowhere near what was needed to survive in that city. It was only by the sheerest luck I met someone I could rely on in those early years. If I hadn’t met Victor on that bus I would have ended up homeless and starving within the first few weeks. We were both surprised by how expensive it was compared to our hometowns and he was going there for a new job and had income. I had no job and little training for anything that paid well. Without Victor’s help I would have failed and probably would have returned home to suffer whatever fate Jeff had in mind. It’s sad my husband became so unreliable at the end of our marriage. I love him for those early days.”

Jillian was listening intently and her face was red with frustration.

“There are no jobs in town. I have no money. If it wasn’t for Mom I wouldn’t be able to afford clothes. She’s not going to pay for a ticket to New York and I’m sure it’s even more expensive to live there now.”

“Heading to such an expensive place the live isn’t the best option when you’re just starting off. You should target someplace smaller but large enough to actually have available jobs. You should be going to college and taking a part time job or two to pay your own way. Take courses to learn some skills you can put towards a higher paying job. How good are your grades?” she asked.

“Mostly A’s. Two B’s,” Jillian replied.

Sighing with relief Stephanie nodded. “Do you know what you’d want to do?”

Jillian sniffed as she considered her aunt’s words. “I wanted to get into nursing.”

“Have you spoken with your mother about this?” Stephanie asked.

The young woman shook her head.

“You should. Find a moment to speak to her alone. Let her know you need to take control of your life. Tell her you have a goal and you need their help to get it started.” Stephanie reached out and took the young woman’s hand and gave it a squeeze.

Jillian seemed to be pulling herself together as she contemplated her next moves. She looked out at her brother and Ed who were making their way back to shore. When Ed’s broad shoulders and big arms emerged from the water a tremble went through her body. She looked back at her aunt who was watching Ed with a satisfied smile.

Stephanie caught her niece’s look and shared her smile with her. “Yes, he’s easy on the eyes, isn’t he?”

Jillian blushed but nodded.

“He’s very strong but he has a gentle heart and his kisses…” Stephanie trailed off with a dreamy smile as she watched Ed approach.

“I’ve never been kissed,” the young woman sighed quietly as she looked at Ed’s mouth.

Stephanie’s eyes snapped back to the sad face of her niece. Once more her rage against her brother almost got the better of her. She realized she was holding onto the past too hard. She forced herself to breathe slowly. She watched Ed leave the water to distract herself from her angry thoughts.

Jack was smiling at Ed. “Thanks!”

“For what?” Ed asked in surprise.

“For being so easy to talk to. For not judging me or freaking out,” Jack replied.

Ed shook his head. “I wouldn’t do that. I had a hard time in school. I wasn’t school smart. I struggled with almost every class and the teachers didn’t like me much. The other kids weren’t much better. If I hadn’t been so big I think it would have been much worse for me. If I learned anything from that experience it’s to be true to yourself. Live to your own expectations. If you don’t want to work on the farm then don’t. If you want to be a fashion designer, if that’s what makes you truly happy, then put all your energy into that and don’t give up on your dream.”

Jack’s smile brought one to Jillian’s face as her brother dropped down on his towel. When he shook the water from his head she squawked as the chilly drops splashed her. “You little twerp!”

He grinned back at her then flopped back to warm his chilled body in the sun.

Jillian hadn’t seen her brother so happy and at ease for… a long time, she realized. She looked curiously at Ed but he just smiled back at her. He sat down on his own towel and laid back to bask in the hot sun. She looked more closely at his features. While they were closed now, he had beautiful pale blue eyes. His nose had a bump on it. Had it been broken? His mouth was what drew her attention the most. She imagined what it might be like being kissed by them like Stephanie hinted at. She wanted to experience that. Very badly. She rested back on her own towel and let her mind wander.

Ed woke some time later with the feeling of lips on his. His eyes opened to see Stephanie’s smiling eyes looking lovingly into his. She pulled back from the kiss to grin down at him.

“Your stomach’s groaning woke me up!” Stephanie said, poking him in the tummy.

His offended stomach took that opportunity to grumble in response. The rest of the group chuckled and Jack lifted the bag of snacks over to the towels. He looked inside.

“We have some small assorted subs and some chips.” He handed out the food and soon they all agreed the subs were inedible. They finished off the chips and opened the drinks.

“Is there still a Chinese food place in town?” Stephanie asked.

Jillian’s eyes lit up as she nodded.

“Why don’t we go there for dinner tonight? My treat!”

“Yes, please!” Jillian and Jack said in unison.

Stephanie laughed and basked in the happy smiles from her niece and nephew. Family she didn’t even know she had. If it hadn’t been for Jeff she would love to get to know them better. As it was she and Jeff couldn’t be in the same room together without heated words at the very least.

Speaking of heat Stephanie needed to cool off from the intense sun. She climbed to her feet and Ed followed her up. They walked to the edge of the water and she dipped her toe in.

“Oh my god! That’s cold!” she gasped.

“It’s not too bad once you’re in. You get used to it fast,” Ed replied.

“I’ll take too long to get in! It’s too cold,” she moaned.

“There’s no help for it then,” Ed sighed before he scooped Stephanie into his arms and began walking into the water. She shrieked and clung to him as he strode out into the lake.

Jillian and Jack grinned at each other as they watched Ed carry their aunt into the cold water. She looked over at her brother.

“You seem happier, more relaxed today. Since you talked with Ed specifically,” she probed.

He looked over at her suspiciously.

“I’m happy to see it. You’re too serious all the time,” Jillian said with a compassionate look.

“You’re not the only one Papa has expectations for.” He held up his hands to hold off her outburst. “I know he’s way harder on you. I don’t understand why he’s like that. It’s not fair. I keep trying to talk to him about it but he shuts me down every time.”

Jillian didn’t know Jack had been doing that. She looked at him in surprise and tears came to her eyes. Her brother was on her side!

Jack continued, oblivious to her tears as he was looking down at the sand. “He wants me to work on the farm after I graduate. I don’t want to be a farmer.”

“What- what do you want to be?” Jillian said, trying to get control over her emotions.

Jack heard the wobble in her voice and looked over, noticing the pooling tears at last. “Why are you crying?”

She shook her head but at his insistent look she sighed. “I’m just so happy you’re on my side.”

“Of course I am! You’re my sister! I love you!” he said sternly and her happy tears could no longer be denied.

Jillian threw her arms around her brother and hugged him.

He hugged her in return then gently pushed her back. When she looked at him curiously she saw his face was red with embarrassment and he was looking away. “What’s wrong?”

“I told you that swim suit was too small for you!” he said, his eyes locked on the horizon.

She looked down and one of her large breasts was no longer covered by the small triangle of fabric.

“Sorry Jack!” she said with a smile as she adjusted the fabric and he just nodded stiffly. She wiped her eyes and tried her question again. “What do you want to be?”

“I want to be a fashion designer!” he blurted.

Her eyebrows rose up and she stared at her brother. “You’re-”

He looked back with annoyance. “No, I’m not gay. I just like drawing designs for women’s clothes!”

“When did this start?” she asked in surprise.

“Last year. I was doing homework and I heard you talking with Mom about how there was nothing pretty to wear in the shops in town. I started doodling and I found myself drawing some dresses I thought would look nice on you. I really enjoyed it.”

“Do you still have the drawings?” she asked.

He looked a little defensive but at his sister’s eager look he just nodded.

“I want to see them!” she gushed.

“The early ones were very rough! I’ve done better work since those,” he insisted.

“I want to see them all!” Jillian said with glee.

Jack couldn’t stop a smile from slipping onto his lips. He felt elated to have someone at home who was supportive of his passion.

“You need to sign up for a course on making clothes! They do that in Home Ec don’t they?” she gasped.

“I can’t sign up for Home Ec!” he exclaimed.

“Why not?”

“I’m on the football team! They’d eat me alive!” Jack barked.

They heard a shriek and turned to see the huge splash as Stephanie went under. They watched Ed dive under the surface and come back up with her in his arms again. He turned and carried her back to the beach.

Jillian turned to her brother. Her mind made the intuitive leap. “You’ve spoken to Ed about what you want to do?” He nodded.

Ed was setting Stephanie down on her feet and she swatted him but she didn’t look too upset.

“Ed, don’t you think Jack should take Home Ec to learn how to make the clothes he designs?” Jillian blurted and heard Jack’s protest die on his lips as the young man watched his aunt’s delighted smile.

“His team mates would eat him alive,” Ed replied. “That shouldn’t stop you if you want to do it. You can always tell them it’s just to get closer to the ladies.”

Jack’s expression turned thoughtful as he considered that ploy.

“They’ll still give you a hard time but if you treat their teasing as a joke you can survive it.” Ed suggested.

“They do things other than sewing. You’ll learn how to cook as well,” Stephanie said. She saw Jack’s expression twist into distaste. “Ed is an amazing chef! He makes the most delicious marinade for steaks! A friend of ours has a restaurant which specializes in steak and she now uses his marinade exclusively and is working on getting it sold commercially!”

Jillian and Jack were looking at Ed with wide eyes. “Did you take Home Ec?” Jack asked.

“No, I learned how to cook by watching my adoptive mom Shirley. She was an amazing cook! Then I just experimented on my own. We didn’t have much money so I learned how to make cheaper cuts of meat tenderer and tastier by marinating them,” he said with a shrug. He always felt a little sad when he talked about Shirley.

Stephanie saw the look in his eye and gave him a hug to pull him back from the funk. She tilted her face up and he kissed her tenderly. She felt something waking up and press against her before he pulled away with a nervous glance at the others. She sat back on her towel with a smile and watched Ed stretch out on his towel on his stomach to hide the beginnings of the bulge. She rested back and let the soft breeze dry her skin as she soaked in the sun.

They spent the afternoon alternating between baking in the sun and jumping in the frigid water. They also talked and got to know each other.

It was late afternoon when they’d finally had enough of the beach and packed up. They were ready for an early dinner.

They used the washrooms to change back into their clothes then made their way back to the car. This time Ed drove and got directions from Jillian to the Chinese food restaurant. They got a table for four.

Jack made a quick call home and got the all clear from his mom. Jeff had taken some headache medication and went to bed early. He informed his sister when he got back to the table.

Jillian and Jack ordered their favorites and Ed added to that as he was really hungry. The food arrived quickly and they dug in. Jillian mentioned the kids in the family all loved the chicken balls with sweet and sour sauce and the chicken fried rice. Stephanie flagged down the waitress and ordered two containers of each to go for Jillian to take home.

“If he asks tell your Dad you two paid for it,” Stephanie suggested as she placed the bag on the edge of the table beside Jillian.

Jack nodded.

Feeling pleasantly full Ed drove them back to the farmhouse but stopped at the end of the driveway as he remembered the lack of welcome the last time they were there. Jillian and Jack slid out carrying their backpacks, towels, and the take-out food.

“Thank you so much for taking us to the beach and out to dinner tonight!” Jillian said at Stephanie’s window.

“You’re most welcome!” Stephanie replied. “We’ll see you tomorrow at 4PM?”

“Yes!”

“Don’t forget what I said about talking to your Mom. Maybe tonight would be a good opportunity since Jeff went to bed.

Jillian smiled and nodded.

Ed leaned over to look at the two through the window. “Have a good night!”

“You too Ed!” they called. They stood back as he backed out onto the road and headed back to town.

“It’s still early. Would you like to go bowling?” Stephanie asked Ed with a grin.

He looked at her with a smile. “I’ve never bowled before.”

“I worked at the alley when I was younger. It’s probably a lot different from when I was last there.”

They drove to the bowling alley and went inside. The lighting was subdued and colorful. “I was right, it looks nothing like it did when I worked here,” Stephanie said with a smile. She was actually pretty happy about that as she hated the florescent lighting they used back then.

The far six lanes appeared to be busy with some kind of tournament. Teams wearing colorful shirts commanded those lanes and had a large audience behind them. There was a fair amount of noise coming from the group who were cheering and jeering in equal amounts.

Stephanie led them to the shoe rental desk and smiled at the young man behind the counter.

“Can I help you?” the man asked.

“We’d like a lane and to rent some shoes, please.”

He looked over and saw most of the lanes on the left side were empty. “I’ll put you in lane three. What size shoes?”

Stephanie looked back at Ed. “Size twelve,” he said.

“Size twelve for him and seven and a half for me.”

Ed looked at the odd red and blue shoes and tried one on but it was too tight.

“Uh, it doesn’t fit.”

He gave the shoes back and the clerk brought him a pair of thirteens. He slipped one on and nodded. “Are bowling shoes normally one size larger than regular shoes?” he asked.

The clerk stared at Ed. “No, they use the same sizes.”

Ed looked at his boots and sure they were looking pretty rough but they didn’t pinch.

“Maybe your feet got bigger too,” Stephanie smiled poking him in the chest.

His eyebrows went up. “I thought I was finished growing!” he replied.

“I think feet continue to grow as needed to support the rest,” she said with a smile, continuing to run her fingers over his muscular chest before pulling them away and biting her lower lip.

They made their way over to the lane and stood before a rack of bowling balls. “You’ll need to find one that fits your fingers. The holes are drilled in different sizes. Find one that your fingers fit into easily when you hold it like this.” Stephanie picked up a sparkling purple ball with her thumb and two middle fingers, showing Ed where her hand gripped the ball. He nodded and made his way down the rack trying ball after ball. He finally found one at the end of the rack. It had bright orange stripes like a tiger and Stephanie grinned with delight thinking the tiger theme suited him as he returned with it.

“You’ve never bowled before?” she asked and he shook his head. “Ok, I’ve only done this casually with the kids but here is how you play in its simplest terms. You roll the ball down the lane to knock down all the pins. You get two tries unless you knock them all down on your first roll. Try not to put your ball in the gutters which run along beside the lane. I’ll bowl first so you can watch how I move and release the ball. Alright?” He nodded once more.

Stephanie entered her name then Ed’s in the computer on the little desk and her name popped up on the TV screen above the lane. She got up and Ed followed her. “See how I’m holding it? I’m going to take three steps, not going past the line drawn on the floor there, swinging the ball back then forward, releasing it only when it’s moving towards the pins. I’m aiming just to the right side of the first pin. Got it? OK, here I go.”

Ed watched Stephanie’s moves and saw the smooth release. The ball rushed down the lane to crash through the pins but two were left standing.

“I get one more try to knock these two down. If I do it’s called a spare and I get extra points with my first bowl in my next turn. If I don’t I only get the points for the pins I did knock down.” She looked at Ed and saw he was beginning to look confused. “You know what? Let’s leave the scoring to the machines and just have fun.”

Ed sighed with relief and smiled at her.

Stephanie managed to get the remaining pins and squeaked with glee as she danced back to the desk. He clapped for her and watched the pins being reset.

The TV showed Ed’s name and he positioned himself as he’d seen Stephanie do and he took the steps and released the ball on the forward swing. The ball sailed down the lane and didn’t land for eight feet. It hit with a heavy thump and Ed knew he’d done something wrong. The ball was moving towards the right side gutter but he did get the ten pin at least. He walked back with an embarrassed look on his face. He looked over at the scowling clerk and pantomimed an apology. The man turned away.

“That’s ok Ed. You just released the ball a little late. You get another try.”

Ed’s ball popped up in the ball return and he positioned himself again. As his throw went right last time he angled his body a little to the left. He made his approach and release and this time the ball landed just two feet out and rolled quickly down the lane to pick off the seven pin. He got two pins. He turned back to Stephanie and shrugged with a smile.

Stephanie was left with a split on the next frame with just the seven and ten pins left.

“Hey! Those are the pins I can hit! I can get them for you if you like,” Ed joked then raised his hands in defeat as the machine reset the pins.

His next attempt was better and he thought he might be getting the hang of it. Stephanie was still beating him but he gradually started to catch up.

Aside from the tournament at the other end of the building their lane was the only one in use. Stephanie noticed they’d drawn some attention as she saw heads turned in their direction when she looked in theirs. She put it down to small town curiosity and concentrated on her own game.

Then she got a strike followed by a second one while Ed got five pins then seven. She was all grins as she returned to the chairs to give Ed a kiss. When she pulled back he smiled at her and saw her expression stiffen as she looked over his head. He turned and saw a group of people walking by. The tournament was obviously over. Then he noticed they were frowning in their direction.

“Do you know these people?” Ed asked as he watched them leave.

“No, I don’t recognize any of them.”

Two men in bowling shirts were following the others past their lane. They also had scowls on their faces. One worked up the nerve to speak. “Isn’t it bad enough you broke up Kenneth’s marriage, now you’re going after kids?”

Ed stood up to face the man. “Excuse me, what are you talking about?”

“She made Nancy go queer and leave her husband!” the man barked.

Ed blinked at the man’s statement. “It doesn’t work that way sir. People can’t make other people become gay. Either you’re gay or you’re not. Stephanie’s friend Nancy is gay but was trying to live like she wasn’t. She wasn’t happy so she decided to stop lying to herself.”

The man was pouting belligerently. “Nancy didn’t decide to do it until she showed up!”

Ed looked at him with wide eyes. “I’m sorry, I don’t understand why you’re mad. Stephanie had nothing to do with Nancy’s being gay or her decision to leave. Nancy could have made the decision tomorrow or the day after that for any number of reasons. I think the fact that she made it so quickly meant it was just a matter of time. The why of it doesn’t matter.”

“It does matter because Kenneth’s now on his own with the restaurant and two daughters to raise!” the second man growled.

Stephanie had had enough. “We’re both sad Kenneth and Nancy’s marriage failed but it’s sadder that Nancy married him in the first place for the wrong reasons. It’s too bad she couldn’t have been honest with herself from the beginning.” Both of the men looked uncomfortable about that. “We met their daughters last night. Lovely young women. They’re both adults. The raising part of their lives is done. Now it’s their turn to help their dad until he can hire someone to help out in the restaurant.”

Unhappy about how they seemed to be losing the argument, the first man focused a sneer on Stephanie. “That doesn’t excuse you from robbing the cradle!”

Ed felt Stephanie bristling so he put his arm around her shoulders and addressed the men once more.

“I don’t understand why you’re angry about something that can’t affect you in any way,” he said.

“Come on, Burt. It’s clear they have no sense of propriety.”

“Oh, but judging us makes you morally superior somehow?” Stephanie barked.

The two men frowned and left. Stephanie was breathing hard and trembling.

Feeling her tremble he gave her a hug and decided they’d probably had enough bowling for the night. He kicked off the funny shoes and put on his boots once more. Stephanie saw what he was doing and nodded as she struggled to compose herself. She changed her own shoes, dropped off the rentals with the clerk, and headed outside.

Ed drove them back to the motel. Stephanie stopped by reception to arrange for an extra night. When they got back to the room she used her tablet to connect to the airline and adjusted their flight home as well.

Ed called home to let them know he would be away an extra day. When he hung up he turned and saw Stephanie sitting on the edge of the bed with a sad expression on her face.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” he asked.

Blue eyes looked up at him and he saw her lower lip begin to tremble. He sat on the bed next to her and put his arm around her, resting her head against him. “Please talk to me,” he asked gently.

“Are they right?” she asked faintly.

Ed didn’t follow. “Are who right?”

“Those men at the bowling alley. Am I being ridiculous for trying to have a relationship with a man so much younger than me?”

“Hey! We’re in a relationship! There is no try!” he teased but he saw from her frown she was really upset. He took her chin in his fingers and tilted her face up so he could look into her beautiful eyes.

“In my heart I have so much love for you. You are my Stephanie. The woman who is mischievous, playful, and makes me happy. You are beautiful and dazzle me with your smile. You are unique and it may be completely selfish of me but I want you in my life. Grace and the others have welcomed you so as long as you will have me I’m yours as well. I seriously don’t care what some ignorant strangers think. Yours is the only opinion that matters… on that… matter,” he finished awkwardly but it didn’t seem to matter as Stephanie no longer looked sad.

She pushed him back onto the bed and climbed on top. Then her lips were on his, hungry for his kiss and he gave himself over to her passion. Their tongues stroked across each other and Ed’s hands slid down her back to squeeze her ass.

Stephanie moaned into Ed’s mouth as the feel of his big hands on her ass sent waves of pleasure through her. She kissed him more aggressively and began frantically pulling at his clothes to get him naked.

Ed moved his hands up and pulled her top up and over her head. He looked at her sexy black bra and the delightfully perky tits it contained. She reached back and undid the clasp, yanking the garment off and tossing it aside. His hands went immediately to her breasts and held the modest orbs in his palms.

Stephanie sighed in bliss as he gently squeezed her tits and felt the tingles rush from her nipples to between her legs.

“I need you naked!” she gasped and he smiled. As she was on top of him getting undressed would be a challenge.

He released her tits and arched his back with his head pressing back against the mattress so he could pull his shirt up. He got his arms free and relaxed his back so he could get the shirt up and over his head. He felt Stephanie’s hands on his chest caressing, squeezing, and kneading his thick chest muscles. When the shirt came free of his head he looked at the lovely brunette and saw the joy and lust in her eyes. He reached up and pulled her face to his so he could caress her lower lip with his and feel the softness of her mouth. They both felt the charge from that and soon they were kissing deeply, her tongue in his mouth as he sucked on it.

He loved the feel of her stiff nipples rubbing across his chest and he pulled her tighter against his body, feeling her breasts squeeze flat against his chest.

Stephanie cooed, enjoying the power of his arms around her. Her coo turned into a squeak as he suddenly rolled over putting her beneath his large body. Her pelvis was trapped beneath his, pressed down into the mattress and she felt his cock becoming harder against her. She moaned in primal bliss feeling it pulse and move against her.

“I want you Stephanie,” he growled quietly against her cheek as he rocked his pelvis side to side. She moaned and shook as her body spasmed with the strong sensations.

“Oh fuck! That feels so good! Take me Ed! Take me… like you take Zoe!” Ed pulled his face back to look at Stephanie in surprise. She was looking up at him timidly.

“Are you sure?” he asked hesitantly. He wasn’t sure if he could… do that with Stephanie as she was so different from Zoe.

“I- I just want to know what it feels like. Just this once.”

“It… can get rough,” he warned her.

She bit her lip nervously but didn’t give in. “Please,” she begged, her blue eyes looking deeply into his pale ones.

He couldn’t speak so he just nodded. He slid the fingers of his left hand into the hair on the back of her head. Her pixie cut hair was so much shorter than Zoe’s long locks but he was still able to get a grip. Her eyes widened and she gasped before he kissed her hard. She squeaked then moaned into the kiss as he sucked on her tongue and caressed her mouth with his. He controlled the kiss with his grip and she began to pant.

He released her, pushing himself up to stand at the end of the bed. He shoved his pants and boxers down and kicked them off. Stephanie lifted her head and her eyes widened as she saw his thickness bobbing between his legs. He undid her pants and lifted her legs to pull them off. Off came her panties as well as she gasped at his rough tugs.

Ed flipped Stephanie over onto her stomach and ran his hands up the back of her legs until he reached her ass.

“Oh yes!” Stephanie gasped as she looked over her shoulder at him.

He squeezed her cheeks and parted them with his thumbs as he lifted her hips. He dipped his face down to stroke his tongue strongly across her pussy.

“AAAAAAHHHH! FUCK! OH GOD!” she cried.

Ed fucked her with his tongue and sucked on her pussy as she clung to the sheets and thrashed from the strong sensations.

Stephanie was dazed by how fierce Ed was being with her. When his tongue stroked across her puckered ass she squealed and jolted. He returned to tease it and she tried twisting out of his grip but his hands were too strong.

“WHAT! WHA- ED! MMMMFUCK! MMMMMNNAAHHH! NONONONO!” Her cries took on a desperate tone but her juices were running down her legs.

With a final flick of the tip of his tongue across her rosebud he knelt behind her and rubbed his hard shaft against her slick pussy then pushed the fat head of his cock between the swollen lips.

“OH ED! FUCK!”

He dipped the head in a few inches and pumped himself rapidly but shallowly in and out until the head of his cock was well lubricated.

Then he drove himself deep.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHNNNNN!” Stephanie howled as she felt his cock stretch her wide open, so deep. Ed pulled out slowly the drove himself in again, slapping her ass with his pelvis. He set up a steady rhythm of thrusting.

“UUUHHHH! UUUHHHH! UUUHHHH!” Stephanie grunted with each thrust as her ass took slap after slap. She felt like some wild animal rutting with her mate. His need driving him to take her hard and fast. She accepted his thrusts and even forced herself back to meet them. He filled her so deliciously. Her ass was on fire from the spanking his hips were giving it. His heavy balls were swinging up to slap against her clit and these impacts were causing her to lose her mind. The explosions of sparks that arrived with each strike destroyed her ability to think. She was racing up on her release and it was going to be huge.

Ed suddenly pulled her upright on her knees in front of himself and wrapped his right arm around her, his hand moving to her pussy. His left arm went around her chest taking one tit into his big hand and pressing the other under a thick forearm. Her arms were pinned to her sides and he tilted back slightly forcing his cock deeper into her and slightly lifting her from her knees.

Now she was completely at his mercy. He growled quietly into her ear and felt her tremble. “You’re mine Stephanie. Body and soul. Say it.”

She felt herself whiting out from the incredible heat of his cock buried so deep and the glow of her ass cheeks pressed so hard against his body. Her head was thrown back, resting against his chest. She was on the precipice of her orgasm, balancing on the razor’s edge of bliss. “I’m- I’m yours. Body… and soul.”

“That’s my girl.”

She felt herself tipping over into heaven when he began bouncing her up and down against his body, his fingers rubbing against her clit and her nipple.

“FFFFFFAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!”Stephanie wailed as she went into convulsions when her orgasm exploded. The bouncing became more and more rapid as his cock made quick but shallow thrusts deep inside. Suddenly he was growling and shaking as well as his cock fired his hot cum up inside her body. She was dimly aware of this additional blissful feeling as she rode the waves of pleasure. Peak after peak rolled over her in a seemingly endless series. Ed’s jolts and trembles kept her own release rolling along. It was a feedback loop between them.

When she became too sensitive she whimpered and he gently lowered them to the bed. He slipped his semi-rigid cock from her tingling and aching pussy and she whimpered once more. She felt empty without him inside her forcing her open. She knew the sensation would subside but for now she wanted him back. He lowered himself the rest of the way down to the mattress behind her and kissed her ear.

Shivers shot through her body from his gentle kiss and she gasped.

“GOD! Stop! I’m too sensitive!” she pleaded.

“Your ears?” he said with a smile.

“My whole body,” she gasped.

“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” he asked.

“No… well, I’m a little sore but I’m glad we did it. I can definitely see the thrill. It’s a little too much for me but I’m so glad we did it!” She gave him a brilliant smile which made her eyes sparkle.

Ed saw she was truly happy which made him happy. He didn’t tell her that for him it had felt different than when he was with Zoe. Not worse or less in any way, just different. He… really couldn’t explain it.

So he didn’t.

She purred as she rolled over and tucked herself against his chest. He kissed the top of her head and she tilted her face back for a real kiss. He caressed her mouth with his and she sighed. Then yawned. He grinned at her.

“Ok, maybe I’m a little wiped out after that,” she said with a blush.

“I’m going to get ready for bed,” Ed said and climbed out of bed.

“Ed?”

“Yes,” he said looking back.

“Could… could you help me get to the washroom? I’m in a little more pain than I thought,” she asked with an embarrassed smile.

“Oh Stephanie! I’m so sorry!” he gushed but she held up her hand.

“No, you don’t have to apologize. You warned me and I was aware there were risks. It’s just a small cramp. It will go away. But I really need to use the washroom.”

Ed scooped her up and carried her into the bathroom. He set her gently on the toilet and stepped outside for her to do her thing.

When she called him back in he helped her stand and they brushed their teeth together. He quickly cleaned himself off then he carried her to the bed and got her under the covers to snuggle in behind her.

Stephanie could feel his flaccid but still dauntingly heavy cock resting against her ass cheek and she flashed back to the moment when he was teasing her bum with his tongue. She was convinced he was preparing her ass for his cock and the thought terrified her. She was confused by how wet he’d made her when he’d done that. A shiver went through her body as she recalled the illicit thrill. She gasped when Ed wrapped an arm around her to pull her closer, his cock now resting between her cheeks. She held her breath but soon she heard Ed’s soft breathing as he slipped into sleep.

It took Stephanie much longer to find relief from her spinning thoughts.



Chapter 4

For the second time in two days Ed found himself sitting next to Stephanie in the law office conference room listening to the ticking clock on the wall. Once more Jeff and his family were sitting in the room with them but this time Jillian and Jack were sharing smiles with their aunt and her boyfriend. Jenny also looked happier than the day before.

Ed noticed the three younger kids were also smiling at their aunt. He wondered where that was coming from not that it was unwelcome. The only one who wasn’t smiling was Jeff and to Ed he looked even angrier than the day before.

He glanced over at Stephanie who was smiling back at the kids and he sighed with relief. He’d had to drive in town earlier that day to pick up some pain killers as she’d woken in some discomfort from their ‘playtime’ the evening before. She seemed to be fine now though she’d walked slower than normal on their way in, taking careful steps. Luckily they’d been first to arrive so that spared Stephanie from having to explain.

They’d spent the first part of the day in the room so she could recuperate before the meeting at 4PM. She’d told Ed not to feel bad but he couldn’t stop himself from fretting over her until she sent him on an excursion to locate another puzzle book. He’d found two which would occupy him on the drive back to Kansas City.

He was interrupted from his thoughts by the arrival of the lawyer who rushed into the room to sit at the head of the table. Ed took in the shock of white hair brushed back over his head and the thick white eyebrows and horse shoe mustache. The man was probably in his sixties, maybe 5’ 8” and carrying some extra weight but his eyes were sharp and smiling as he took in the occupants of the room. He saw Ed and Stephanie sitting on one side of the table but Jeff and his family were in the chairs along the far wall of the room.

“Mr. Norris, would you be so kind as to join us at the table and bring your family along?” he said.

Jeff grimaced and moved to the chair across from Stephanie. His family members found chairs around the table. Jillian chose the one next to Ed which earned her a scowl from her father but she ignored him.

“I’m Daniel Carson, the legal representative of Oliver and Kathleen Norris. First off I’d like to apologize for the delay incurred by yesterday’s events. Second, my condolences for your loss.”

“Could we get on with it?” Jeff said curtly.

Angry eyes turned in Jeff’s direction from Jenny, Jillian, and Stephanie. The lawyer simply sighed and moved on.

“It is my understanding that Ms. Matthews has been estranged from the family for the better part of two decades. You’ve had no contact with your brother or your parents in that time?” he said looking at Stephanie.

She cleared her throat then answered. “Yes, that’s right.”

The man nodded ignoring the quiet snort from Jeff. “I was contacted by Oliver and Kathleen two years ago to prepare a will for them. They wished to keep it simple but left me instructions to locate their daughter upon their death if she hadn’t reached out to them in the interim.” He glanced at Stephanie and saw her eyes were beginning to look a little glassy. A glance over at her brother saw a look of contempt on the man’s face. The lawyer knew what was coming so he took a deep breath.

He opened the docket and pulled out the single sheet of paper the Norris’ had written as their will. It was simple and straight to the point but legally binding for all its brevity. He read the brief paragraph of legalese he managed to convince them to allow him to prefix the document with and saw the he had his audience’s attention. Now for the hard part.

“Normally I just send copies of the will to the people named in it but your parents left explicit instructions due to the circumstances that led to the estrangement. They asked that we follow the outdated method of a reading.” He nodded to Jeff and Stephanie who were looking back at him in confusion. “The assets Oliver and Kathleen accumulated in their years include the home they lived in and the farm they worked with their son Jeff Norris, their life savings in the form of various investments listed in the addendum and a bank account also listed in the addendum, and the life and home insurance policy they dutifully maintained payments for.” He looked up from the document at Jeff and Stephanie and saw they were still watching him closely. “The family home is too badly burned to salvage but I understand the insurance company has agreed to a full payment of the policy as the cause of the fire was determined by the Fire Marshal to be a faulty electrical outlet.” Jeff nodded stiffly and Stephanie’s eyelashes pooled with unshed tears. She dabbed at them absently with a tissue Ed handed to her.

“The will stipulates that all of the assets listed above be divided equally between the two heirs, Jeff and Steph-”

“WHAT?” Jeff bellowed as he surged to his feet. “THAT’S NOT WHAT THEY PROMISED! THIS IS BULLSHIT! THIS BITCH GAVE UP ANY GOD DAMNED CLAIM SHE HAD TO ANYTHING FROM THIS FAMILY THE DAY SHE ABANDONED IT!” he yelled as he jabbed his finger at Stephanie who stared back in surprise at his violent reaction.

Ed took Stephanie’s hand in his and gave it a gentle squeeze to let her know he was there for her. She shot him a brief but grateful smile.

“Mr. Norris! Lower your voice and sit down please. Screaming will not change the fact that the wishes of your parents were recorded in a legal will to be enacted upon their passing.”

“I’ll contest the will!” Jeff barked as he allowed himself to be pulled back into his chair by Jenny.

Mr. Carson looked at Jeff with a tired expression. “The will was witnessed by your parent’s family doctor who vouched for their mental state at the time of its creation. They created the will at their own request without outside influence or duress. Additionally, there is no vague wording in it. What I read to you was the wording they used. Furthermore, your parents had the forethought to include a no-contest provision which I was about to read. I suspect they were aware of your feelings in this matter and included the clause to negate the option. If you proceed with contesting the will let me assure you that you will lose. You cannot prove you have grounds for contesting it and in doing so you will lose your share.”

Jeff leaned back and stared at the lawyer in stunned silence. Then he looked at Stephanie and his expression darkened. “After everything I did for them they fucked me over for you,” he growled quietly.

Stephanie scowled at her brother. “What are you talking about? They didn’t cut you from the will!”

“But they should have cut you from the will! I told them to! They told me they had!” Jeff snarled.

“And in their original will they did. The new will they created two years ago altered that key clause. I suppose they had a change of heart and chose not to tell you.” Mr. Carson said.

Stephanie was doubtful her parents were capable of having a change of heart. This ambush felt much closer to one final attempt to pit the siblings against each other. But unlike Jeff she kept her opinion to herself. She couldn’t fathom her parent’s thought process. She never could. She’d just promised herself she would be vigilant to watch for the same behavior from herself towards her own children. So far so good.

“What does it mean that ownership of the farm is split between Jeff and Stephanie?” Jenny asked and the lawyer smiled at her.

“It simply means the deed for the property transfers to their names. The estate is in probate so there will be no actual transference of ownership of the assets until the court has approved. This doesn’t change the day to day activities until then and it would only change afterwards if one of the heirs wishes to liquidate their share,” the lawyer explained.

“How long will this probate period be,” Jeff said tersely.

Mr. Carson looked to Jeff. “The estate is relatively simple. They had no significant debts so there won’t be any challenges from creditors. The insurance claim will come through in a few months. If all goes well the probate period could be over in six to eight months, twelve at most.”

Jeff’s expression soured considerably hearing how long it would take. “God damn it! A year of waiting for the bitch to cut our throats. We’re done here.” He stood and looked at his wife.

“I’m not done. I still have questions,” Jenny said.

“Fine, give me the keys to the van,” he said with his hand out.

“So you can strand me in town again? I don’t think so,” she replied with a scowl. He scowled back then just walked out, slamming the door behind himself.

Jenny looked to Stephanie and the lawyer with an apologetic look. “He’s being uncharacteristically rude and pigheaded about this. My apologies.”

“No need for you to apologize to me Jenny. I’ve been dealing with his abuse for years. As I’ve said, it was one of the main reasons I fled when I did,” Stephanie said with a weary voice.

“Are you going to sell your half of the farm?” Jamie asked.

Stephanie looked at the concerned expression on the face of the young teenager. She looked seriously worried.

“No dear. I have no intention of doing anything that might jeopardize your family.” She turned to face Mr. Carson. “Could I sign my fifty percent of the farm over to Jenny?” The man smiled and nodded to her.

The woman in question’s eyes widened in surprise so Stephanie addressed her. “You are an equal partner in Jeff’s life. You should be an equal partner in the future of the farm as well.” She looked to Jamie who was smiling broadly at her aunt.

“When it becomes available I’ll gladly accept my fifty percent share of the remaining liquid assets meaning the insurance money, the investment income and the bank account assets. I have four children of my own to ensure the future for and my parent’s contribution to that would be welcome,” Stephanie explained to the lawyer who gave her another nod.

“I’ll have the document for the farm ownership transfer prepared by my assistant. It won’t take long. Could you both come by in the morning to sign it?” he asked.

“We’re driving back to Kansas City first thing tomorrow morning to catch our flight home. We could stop by on the way out if the document could be ready by no later than 9am?”

“That’s fine,” he indicated.

“I can come by in the afternoon.” Jenny said, slightly dazed. Her remaining questions were moot with the transfer of Stephanie’s share of the farm to her.

He nodded to Jenny then smiled at the remaining people in the room. “Having met the requirement of a ‘reading’ I’ll proceed with the process following more current practices. You’ll receive a copy of the will and any other documentation regarding the progress of the probate and final distribution of the estate. Feel free to contact the office if you have questions or concerns. It was nice meeting you.” The man shook their hands and left the room.

“You’re leaving tomorrow morning? We didn’t get time to get to know you better!” Jenny lamented.

“Do you hate Papa?” Jamie asked, causing her mother to look crossly at her.

“No it’s alright. I’ll answer that. It’s an honest question,” Stephanie said to stop Jenny from chastising her daughter. She looked at the girl and saw she had the attention of all of the kids.

“For years I tried to love Jeff as a sister should love her brother but he’s pushed me from his heart. My parents made us compete for their love and attention. I don’t know why they did that but it ruined my relationship with them and my brother. I don’t hate Jeff. I do hate how he treated me during our childhood. He was really mean to me and I had to leave to survive. We’ll never be friends and I’ve learned to accept that. It still makes me sad though.” She looked at Jenny. She was going to keep it to herself but the woman deserved to know as she’d have to deal with Jeff. “I think changing the will was my parent’s last attempt to pit us against each other. I don’t believe they had a change of heart at all.”

“That’s awful!” Jenny said, wide eyed.

“Yes, it is and it was like that my entire life until I left home.”

There didn’t seem to be anything else to say.

Jillian caught Stephanie’s attention. “I took your advice last night and I had a long talk with Mama. I’m going to get a job in town for the next year. I called my friend Diane McAllister and she said with her mama gone she said I could get a job at the restaurant. When Jack graduates next year he and I are going to sign up for college and find a place we can share the rent on while we study.”

“That’s wonderful!” Stephanie said and Ed nodded with a smile of his own.

Jenny stood up and her kids stood with her. Stephanie and Ed got up and walked around the table.

Jillian immediately went to her aunt and gave her a warm hug which Stephanie returned. They kissed cheeks as well. Jack was next as Jillian moved to Ed. The young woman thrilled to feel Ed’s strong arms wrapped around her. He made to kiss her cheek but Jillian turned her face boldly and his lips landed on hers. He blinked in surprise as she seemed to melt in his arms. He finally pulled back and she came back to herself, dazzled by the sensations flooding through her. When her eyes opened she smiled up at him impishly and Ed couldn’t help but return the smile as she looked so much like her aunt at that moment.

Unaware of Jenny’s cheeky move, Jenny was giving Stephanie a hug. “I’m sorry Jeff treats you so poorly and I’m sorry your parent’s did this to you both.”

“Thank you. Take care and if you ever need to talk please feel free to give me a call at this number,” Stephanie replied as she handed the woman her number on a slip of paper.

Jamie hugged her aunt and shook Ed’s hand giving him a shy smile.

Then the family headed out. Stephanie sat once more and Ed massaged her shoulders as she seemed tense.

“Oooh Ed, that hits the spot,” she sighed.

“What would you like to do now?” Ed asked.

Lovely blue eyes looked up at him. “Have I told you how much I love you for coming here with me? You’ve been so supportive. I don’t think I could have faced Jeff without you by my side.”

Ed smiled and dipped down to kiss her sweet lips tenderly.

“I think you’ve been very strong and very brave in a very difficult time. You didn’t need me to face him. I’m so proud of you!” he replied.

She stood and hugged him for a time then they made their way outside. “Could we just go back to the room and cuddle. I’m still a little emotionally drained.”

“Sure.”

Ed got her into the car and drove them back to the motel. They rested for a couple of hours then grumbling stomachs demanded to be fed. They decided to drive to the next town to a restaurant Stephanie knew of and was delighted to find still existed. They had a lovely dinner then made their way back. As they passed through the town Stephanie spotted a bar that also had line dancing. She looked at Ed and pointed.

“Line dancing? What’s that?” he said hesitantly.

“It’s a lot of fun and it’s our last night here!” she gushed.

He just looked at her and saw she needed to unwind so he turned into the parking lot as she squealed with glee. They parked and made their way inside. There was a long bar and lots of tables and a huge dance floor which was currently occupied by a large number of people all dancing in synchronized step in rows. Stephanie clapped her hands together happily and pulled Ed out onto the floor. He grinned at her as the playful Stephanie he knew and loved was resurfacing.

They watched the other dancers and did their best to follow the steps. Stephanie quickly mastered the sequence but Ed was having trouble getting his muscles to follow the pattern he’d observed. He knew the order and timing of each step but putting it into practice with his body was where his difficulty was. The closest he could get was one or two beats off the mark. This clumsiness made the other dancers around him grin as his look of concentration was fierce.

Finally the line dance ended and they made their way to the bar. They ordered some drinks, Ed opting to stick with water while Stephanie had a beer. The atmosphere in the bar was lively and the crowd was friendly. Ed nodded to a few people he’d been dancing next to and they grinned and nodded back to him.

Once they finished their drinks Stephanie pulled Ed out onto the floor as a slow tune was starting and he was much happier dancing to this song. They swayed in each other’s arms as they moved along with the other dancers. A few people gave them odd looks but at least there wasn’t any open hostility as there had been at the bowling alley.

They danced to a few more slow songs interspersed with faster numbers and Stephanie’s smile was wide and relaxed. They returned to the bar for another drink. Before they reached it their way was blocked by a grim looking drunk.

“If it isn’t the bitch and her boy toy,” he slurred.

“You’re drunk Jeff. Go home.” Stephanie said loudly and heads turned in their direction. The bartender took notice as well. That man gestured to a big guy standing by the front door. The bouncer was incoming.

“Why does he keep calling me a ‘boy toy’?” Ed asked Stephanie.

“Christ! Izzhe kidding?” Jeff barked in laughter. “What a retard!”

Ed scowled at the rude names he and Stephanie were being called. He didn’t like Jeff very much. He wondered how such a bad man could be father to such nice kids. Could it have been all Jenny’s doing? With his own pending fatherhood he really wanted to know. Ed needed to observe some examples of how to be a good father but all Jeff seemed to be was a great example of the opposite.

The bouncer arrived and saw one man with bleary eyes and a flushed face. The couple on the other hand just looked offended by the drunk. So the drunk had to go. He reached out and took the drunk’s arm.

Jeff suddenly spun and flailed one of his arms back, catching the bouncer across the face with a clumsy but heavy slap. The man staggered back and bumped into a waitress who shrieked. Trying not to fall on her the bouncer twisted and slammed his temple into one of the wooden posts next to the bar. The thock noise was clearly heard above the music and the big man went down hard. While Ed was distracted watching the bouncer fall Jeff swung his fist back and connected with Ed’s chin.

Ed’s head snapped back and he fell down between the tables. Stephanie screamed.

Then Jeff turned his rage on his sister.

“You stupid bitch! Why didn’t you stay away? Didn’t you get that we didn’t want you back? They didn’t try to find you all those years. I didn’t either!” he bellowed in her face.

“I didn’t want to come back but they were my parents and they died. I needed to say one final goodbye,” Stephanie raged back.

Jeff blinked at her. “Goodbye? You didn’t say goodbye twenty years ago! Why the fuck would you say it now?” His confusion turned into rage once more.

Stephanie’s eyes widened as his right hand pulled back to hit her. Her breath caught painfully in her chest as she stood frozen. All her childhood memories flashed through her mind, all the terrifying and painful moments when Jeff had beaten her, driving her to the ground again and again.

But this time the blow never arrived.

Her own rage from all those years of abuse suddenly exploded and she screamed as she drove her foot up into his testicles lifting him up onto his toes.

Jeff squealed and his eyes rolled back as he slowly collapsed with his right hand in the air, still poised to punish his little sister. Stephanie watched the hand slowly drop and saw Ed was holding the wrist tight in his big fist. She took in his surprised expression as he lowered the whimpering man to the floor.

“What happened?” he asked. “I just grabbed his wrist and he fell down!” He released the wrist and Jeff slumped to the floor to curl into a fetal position as he moaned.

Stephanie stepped over her brother to take Ed into her arms. She felt like an enormous weight had been lifted from her chest.

They looked down and the bouncer was sitting on the ground holding his head.

A tall state trooper with broad shoulders made his way over to them, likely called in by the bartender. He looked at the big man with the bruised chin and the two men on the floor. “Did you do this?” he asked tersely.

“No sir. Jeff there is drunk and hit this man who accidentally bumped his head and fell down. Then Jeff punched me in the chin and I fell down. He was going to hit Stephanie so I grabbed his wrist. Then he fell down!” he said with surprise.

The skeptical trooper looked at Stephanie. “I kicked him in the groin because he was going to hit me.” That got a nod from the officer.

Ed grimaced as he looked at Jeff and nodded as he now understood why Jeff fell down.

The trooper suddenly froze as he stared wide eyed. “Stephanie?”

She paused to look back at him. Then recognition flared in her eyes. “Gary Barnes?”

The man nodded with a smile as he bent down to cuff Jeff who was just beginning to uncurl on the floor. That done he stood and faced her with a broader smile.

“Ed, this is Gary Barnes. I attended high school with him. Gary, this is Ed Walters, my boyfriend,” she said in introduction.

Gary considered the younger man and smiled as they shook hands. “Boyfriend? You’re a lucky man!”

“Yes sir, I am,” Ed responded with a smile.

“I mooned over Stephanie all through high school and through elementary school as well, though she probably never knew. I’d finally worked up the nerve to ask her out when she disappeared.” Gary explained.

“That’s sad!” Ed exclaimed and Gary saw he was being genuine. The man sighed and faced Stephanie once more.

“Yes it was but I see life has treated you very well! You’re as stunningly beautiful as you were the day you left.” Gary said.

“If you’d been this charming back then I might not have left.” Stephanie replied with a grin.

“Could have, should have. It’s all in the past now. No sense in moping about what might have been.” Gary said with a sigh. “So your brother here got drunk and started swinging?”

“He’s had a bad few days. He wasn’t happy that I came back and we were at the lawyer’s office hearing our parent’s will read to us today. Jeff got an unpleasant surprise and this is how he responded. The bouncer there tried to intervene but Jeff hit him then Ed got a punch for no reason other than just being here. He was going to hit me as well but Ed stopped him and I… put him down,” she explained.

“Why was he going to hit you?” Gary asked.

Stephanie looked down at her brother who was on his stomach and… had thrown up. His face was now resting in his sick. She took a step away, wrinkling her nose in disgust.

“Jeff used to hit me. Every day when we grew up. He never broke himself of the habit though he doesn’t do it to his wife and kids which is a relief to know.”

“Well, he can spend the night in the drunk tank tonight. He’s still in the bar so I can’t charge him with public drunkenness. If you want to charge him with assault I could do that,” he said looking at Ed whose chin was now a lovely shade of purple.

“No, we are leaving for home tomorrow. If we charge him we’d have to stick around, right?” Ed asked.

“That’s right. That would give me a chance to woo Stephanie away from you!” Gary said, bouncing his eyebrows at Stephanie.

She caught the wedding band on his finger. “Gary, what would your wife say?”

He glanced at his hand and winced. “Yeah, I should probably stop wearing this.” At Stephanie’s shocked look he continued. “I’m a widower. We had fifteen good years but… cancer.”

Stephanie felt awful. “Oh, I’m so sorry.”

“No! It’s my fault for giving the wrong impression. I just haven’t been able to break the habit of wearing the ring.”

“It’s a sweet gesture.” Stephanie said and patted his arm.

Gary smiled awkwardly. “I’d better take him in. I’ll call his wife to let her know she can pick him up in the morning. It was really nice seeing you again!” he said to Stephanie and she blushed with a nod.

The bouncer finally managed to get to his feet. “How about you fella? You want to press assault charges against this man?” Gary asked pointing to Jeff. The bouncer shook his head, but gently. “You should probably go to the hospital to confirm you don’t have a concussion.” Gary suggested which got him a slow nod in response. Gary looked closely at Ed’s chin and smiled. “You’ll live.”

He hoisted Jeff to his feet and, with a final lingering look at Stephanie, led him from the building.

Ed was looking at Stephanie who was still watching the door.

“Do- do you want to be with him?” Ed asked tentatively.

Her head snapped around to stare at Ed who was watching her nervously. “What?!? No! Oh Ed, no! I was just lost in the ‘what might have been’ memories. I do remember Gary and he didn’t catch my eye back then. Now? I can’t see myself being involved with someone in his dangerous line of work. It takes a much stronger person than me to survive that.”

“I think you’re amazingly strong!” Ed replied.

She smiled at his honest appreciation. Just then she heard one of her favorite songs begin. She clapped her hands together in excitement. “Ooo! Can we dance?”

He just grinned at her happiness. “Of course we can.”



Chapter 5

Their flight was beginning its decent and Ed was looking forward to getting home to Grace and the others. He’d learned a lot about Stephanie on his visit to Kansas and he felt even closer to her now as a result. Feeling a little warm and fuzzy he smiled over at her and she returned it. She tipped her chin up and he leaned in for a tender kiss. Then they relaxed back against their seats.

Ed thought she looked calmer than he’d ever seen her. There had always been a little hint of hesitance or nervousness to her behavior but since this morning when she woke him with some delightful oral play, the timid Stephanie was gone. She was every bit as playful as she’d always been but now she was more willing to leap in with both feet.

She hadn’t let him do anything but lie back and enjoy himself and as he’d sprawled out on the bed enjoying the afterglow Stephanie said that she’d slept better that night than she could ever remember. He smiled at the memory.

After they’d checked out of the motel they’d visited the lawyer’s office and signed the papers on the way out of town. They’d made a quick stop at Stephanie’s parent’s farm first. She’d wanted to say goodbye. They parked on the shoulder of the road in front of the property and looked at what was left of the home which wasn’t much. The fire damage was extensive and her parents had pretty much been cremated in their own home due to the intensity of the blaze. Ed and Stephanie had a moment of silence while they stood looking at the cold charred remains of what had once been her home.

Ed was never very good at reading expressions but Stephanie’s face seemed to be swinging between grief and anger. She finally sighed and settled on just looking sad. He recognized that one.

Having resolved her inner turmoil she turned back to the car and Ed followed. They got in and headed for Kansas City. Ed once more occupied his mind with the word puzzles until they reached some of the larger cities along the way.

The flight home was uneventful and as the plane touched down smoothly Ed released the breath he’d been holding. They shuffled off the plane, got their bags and headed for the exit to catch a cab home.

Ed blinked when he saw the smiling faces of Rachel and Angie waiting for them. Their expressions went from delight to dismay when they saw the bruise on his chin.

“What happened to you?” Rachel gasped. Angie gingerly turned his face so she could get a better look.

“Ed’s chin met my stupid drunk brother’s fist last night,” Stephanie said contritely.

“It’s ok though because Jeff’s balls met Stephanie’s foot then practically met his own chin.” Ed teased.

Angie gave Stephanie a high five as Rachel fretted over Ed.

“Enough about my little bruise, what are you two doing here?” he said with a smile as he pulled Rachel in for a hug and kissed her. He hugged and kissed Angie next and they were back to smiling.

Rachel patted his arm to get his full attention. “As you know Carolyn is beginning a world tour of museums with her exhibition on the lost tribe of New Guinea and their language. She was called by the Director of the Louvre in Paris, France who informed her of a special presentation for her on Saturday evening. She was told she could bring a date. She came by the house yesterday as she thought you’d be home by then. She was going to ask you to join her in Paris as many of her peers are going to be there and she really wanted to share the moment with you. She flew to France last night.”

“I’m sorry I missed her. It would have been nice to see Paris with her,” Ed said with a frown.

Rachel and Angie just grinned at him and Stephanie began to smile as well as she saw what was happening.

Ed cautiously looked at the three smiling faces. “What?”

-=-

Friday morning found Ed blinking the sleep from his eyes as the flight attendants came through the cabin waking the sleeping passengers and getting them to raise their seatbacks in preparation for landing in Paris.

He was still stunned by how quickly he’d been turned around and sent back into the airport for his flight to France. The ladies got him a first class ticket on a red eye flight and they’d even brought him a suitcase of clean clothes for the trip. He just transferred his toiletry kit from one suitcase to the other and he already had his passport. Angie stuffed some Euros into his wallet for incidentals she said. They had enough time to grab a quick bite at a restaurant in the airport then he was sent on his way through security to his gate.

During dinner he heard from Rachel that Grace was well and would have liked to join them at the airport but carrying the triplets was wearing her out. She was looking forward to seeing him when he got back on Monday.

Rachel also told him that she’d spoken with Mr. Drakos to let him know he’d be back to work on Tuesday. Ed fretted a bit about that but Rachel assured him the man understood the reason and was onboard with the plan.

He also learned that Isabelle was watching Stephanie’s and Carolyn’s kids at Angie’s place which had become something of a summer camp for them. Apparently they were in the pool all day. Ed grinned thinking about that. He’d never been to camp when he was a kid but it sounded like fun.

“Monsieur Ed, is there anything I can get you before we land?”

He sighed hearing that name again and looked up into the smiling brown eyes of the first class flight attendant. She’d made it her personal goal to see to his every need during the flight. While getting him a blanket at the beginning of the flight she’d gotten a little ‘handsy’ when she’d insisted on tucking his blanket in. She’d copped a feel and had been overly attentive ever since. He didn’t want to make a scene in the tight quarters of the cabin so he’d played it cool. This just seemed to make her try harder.

“No, thank you. I’m good.”

She nodded and slipped away to speak with her fellow attendant up by the front of the plane. The two ladies glanced back at him as they spoke quietly to each other with mischievous smiles. Ed turned his face away to look out the window at the countryside below. He couldn’t get over the fact that he was in France! Or would be when they landed.

It wasn’t long before they were on the ground and preparing to exit the plane. He stood in the aisle waiting to leave the plane when the brown eyed flight attendant squeezed herself between him and the seat and reached up to open the overhead compartment across from him. While she did this her ass was grinding against Ed’s pelvis. As he was pinned against the seat Ed couldn’t move away. Ed looked to his immediate right and saw an older man staring wide eyed at the action happening right in front of him. He blurted something in a sharp tone but Ed had no idea what he said. The attendant stopped grinding against Ed to face the older man. She barked something back at the man who just frowned and looked away. She turned to look up at Ed and pressed herself against his chest briefly before she moved back to the front of the plane to join her grinning co-worker.

Ed looked in the overhead compartment to see what she was looking for but it was empty and she’d carried nothing away with her. Unfortunately her grinding had left him in a state of full erection. His pants were exceptionally tight and he felt too exposed to adjust himself.

The doors opened and he moved forward to leave. The flight attendants moved closer as he passed and the co-worker copped a feel of his erection as he passed. Ed was blushing as he practically leapt off the plane and quick walked away, leaving behind the excited giggles.

He went through customs then found his suitcase. He was supposed to look for Carolyn who would meet him here.

His erection was slowly subsiding in his tight jeans. He’d tried to convince Rachel and Grace that loose pants would let him relax down there more quickly but they insisted loose pants were ugly. Finally he couldn’t take the discomfort any longer. He saw there were people rushing here and there and no one appeared to be paying attention so he discreetly made an adjustment through the front of his pants.

Of course that was the moment Carolyn stepped out of the crowd to call out his name happily. She got an eyeful and grinned widely. The man standing at her elbow was also staring at Ed but his expression looked closer to… dismay? Ed wasn’t sure.

“ED!” Carolyn cried happily and leapt into his arms.

He hugged her tight and kissed her deeply. She’d wrapped her legs around him and did her own rubbing against him but Ed had no problem with that. Finally he lowered her to her feet and she smiled up at him.

“I’m so happy you could join me in France on such short notice!” she gushed.

“I’m glad I could make it,” he responded.

“What happened to your chin?” she gasped suddenly seeing the lurid colors on his jawline. The bruise was migrating.

“Oh, Stephanie’s brother was drunk and punched me. She kicked him in the balls and put him on the ground so it evened out,” he explained with a smile. “It doesn’t really hurt.”

There was a noise behind them and Carolyn jumped. “Oh! I’m sorry Clark! Ed, this is Clark Reddington, a world renowned anthropologist and an ex-boyfriend from my University years. Clark, this is Ed Walters, my boyfriend.”

Ed smiled at Clark and enveloped the man’s hand in his larger one to give it a shake. “You’re an anthropologist too? Cool!”

Clark was probably an inch taller than Carolyn so 5’ 9” and had a reasonably fit body with just a hint of softness at his tummy. His thick black hair was sprinkled with grey with silver patches at his temples. He wore a circle beard which he kept trimmed. The beard had a silver streak down the center of his chin. He also had a scar across his left cheekbone which looked like it must have been a close call for his left eye. There was a lot of character on his face so with his anthropologist background Ed was sure he must have some interesting stories! He gave the man a broad smile.

Carolyn was beaming at Ed, enjoying his excitement. She had an arm around his back and her other hand on his hard stomach so she felt it rumble with hunger. She looked up at him in surprise. “Didn’t you eat breakfast on the plane?”

He winced and shrugged. “I slept through the service.”

“Let’s get him back to the hotel and get him some breakfast!” Carolyn said smiling at Clark who was looking a little stiff.

Clark was scrambling to think of a way to salvage his plan to get Carolyn back. They’d been a fairly serious couple in their last year of University but had broken up just after graduation because they chose assignments in different countries. He went off to central Africa while she’d headed off to Indonesia and New Guinea. He’d made a few important discoveries and was able to turn that into a lucrative touring circuit. It also solidified his tenure at a University here in France but he’d always wanted Carolyn back.

He’d been outraged when that imbecile Rick had the audacity to marry her. When news of Rick’s demise spread through the community he was first to send his condolences to Carolyn but secretly he was delighted by the news. Carolyn was truly brilliant, maybe as brilliant as he considered himself. They would make a formidable team. Now that she had her own discovery he wanted her twice as much.

She’d mentioned having a boyfriend the night before after he picked her up at the airport and they’d spent a few hours reminiscing at a romantic bar he’d selected. To see the boyfriend in question seriously knocked him from his game. He was a huge brute and what was he hiding in his pants? A kielbasa? Clark had to get back on track. He’d prepared for this.

“Actually I have an alternate plan you might really like. I have a very good friend who has offered to host us and a few friends at her chateau overnight. The place is very posh and there is a huge pool. Her kitchen staff are amazing so the meals will be second to none and the grounds are beautiful!”

Carolyn smiled excitedly. “That sounds wonderful!”

Ed nodded happily and Clark smiled. “We’ll swing by the hotel to collect your suitcase,” he said and they headed out.

As they drove back to the hotel in Clark’s big Range Rover Carolyn asked who would be coming. He rattled off a few names of his friends and glanced over to see an odd look on her face. Thinking he was losing her interest in going he scrambled once more. “Of course we could invite some others if you like!” He smiled in relief as her face brightened.

“Could we ask Aisha Zelalem, Rana Kassar, and Meara Keating? They are all staying at the same hotel. I met them in the bar when you dropped me off last night.”

Clark looked at Carolyn in surprise. She’d gone for a drink after he’d taken her out to a bar? He pushed that aside and quickly examined what ramifications inviting these ladies might have on his plan. They were fellow anthropologists and none were men so no competition for him. As they were all women a big jock like Ed wouldn’t be able to resist showing off to them and that would make Carolyn jealous. He smiled and nodded to Carolyn. “Sure!”

“Excellent! I’ll contact them when we get there!” She grinned at Clark and touched his arm in thanks.

Clark drove on feeling pretty clever and tingling from her touch.

They pulled up on a side street beside the hotel and Carolyn said she’d be right back. She slipped out of the truck and dashed for the side door.

Clark turned in his seat and smiled at Ed who smiled happily back. “First trip to France?” he asked.

“It’s only my second time out of the states! I’ve been to Barbados and now France! It’s so beautiful here!” he gushed.

Clark made a show of glancing out the window and looking at their scenery, all the while smiling and nodding like he agreed. Inside he was giggling with glee. Ed sounded like a bumpkin. From the bruise on his chin Clark assumed he was more at ease using his fists than his brain. He was just a simple minded… meat stick. He snorted in surprise at his own joke and saw Ed looking at him curiously.

“Sorry, something funny Carolyn said last night just popped into my head just now.”

Ed nodded. “How long have you lived in France?”

Clark thought about that. “Almost ten years now. Before that I was in Africa.”

Ed’s eyes went wide as he imagined the stories Clark had about Africa.

Clark felt himself relax. It was almost a struggle to keep from laughing out loud. Taking Carolyn from Ed would be a piece of cake.

“When did you go to Africa?” Ed said with anticipation.

“Right out of University. I couldn’t have been more than a year or two older than you. Completely wet behind the ears, unprepared for what lay before me…” He watched Ed lean forward and smiled. So easy.

-=-

Carolyn got her suitcase and threw some items she’d need for the overnight into it and rushed back to the reception desk. She had them call each of her friend’s rooms and she told each to pack a swimsuit, a nice dress for a fancy dinner and their PJ’s as they were overnighting in a fancy chateau. She also told them to hurry as their ride was parked illegally.

Five minutes later Rana arrived looking a little disheveled, her long black hair loose and catching on the strap of her duffle. The dark skinned woman was originally from Pakistan but her parents moved to the states and she’d attended University there, meeting Carolyn in her last year. She was as tall as Carolyn, a little plump and had a permanent smile on her face. Prone to giggling, Carolyn found her a delight to hang out with.

Aisha was next to arrive. She looked neat and tidy as she always did. Standing at a mere 4’ 10” she was often mistaken for a young teenager much to her irritation. She was 38 years old but often found herself talked down to or dismissed. Petite with smooth, unblemished ebony skin and hair cut tight against her scalp, she was proud of her Ethiopian heritage and treated her tiny body as a temple, keeping it fit and healthy. She overcompensated for her youthful appearance by being overly flirtatious and bold to the point of embarrassing her friends. She was also a scream at parties as the woman had no shame.

Meara stumbled out of the elevator and dropped her suitcase. She was 6’ 1”, long limbed and slim with a huge head of long red hair which was currently hanging down over her face as she tried to get her suitcase in order. Carolyn rushed over and picked it up for her. Meara pushed her hair back and grinned at the group. Her lovely, large blue eyes twinkled at them playfully from behind the black rimmed glasses perched on her prominent nose. “What? Not enough fun last night you have to drag us out of bed at this ungodly hour to whisk us away on some adventure?” the woman scolded Carolyn in her lovely Irish accent.

“Come on! We’ve made them wait long enough as it is!” Carolyn chastised her friends as she dragged her suitcase towards the side door. They rushed to catch up and Meara was first to ask.

“What do you mean them?”

Carolyn flashed a smile over her shoulder. “Ed made it!”

Suddenly Rana and Meara froze and took in each other’s disheveled state. They quickly diverted and rushed off to the washroom as Carolyn gasped in exasperation. Aisha grinned at her. Five minutes later they rushed back out and Carolyn noted the brushed hair, eye makeup, and that lipstick had been applied. She snorted and the two friends scowled at her. Then she noticed Aisha applying a coat of shiny black lipstick to her full lips.

“What? You spend the night telling us about this beautiful man we were never going to meet then spring him on us like a Christmas morning surprise when the two of us looked as appealing as cold porridge? Shame! Shame on you!” Meara growled.

They stepped outside and made their way towards the big SUV.

“Is that Clark Reddington behind the wheel?” Aisha asked.

“Yes, it’s his friend who owns the chateau,” Carolyn explained.

Meara was trying to see in the tinted windows to see the mystery man they’d heard so much about. As they got closer Clark got out and walked around to the sidewalk. The three women greeted him with the traditional cheek kisses and he said his good morning’s to them as well.

The rear door opened and Ed stepped outside. Aisha grinned as she saw the tight t-shirt stretching across his big chest. Rana began to giggle as she was trapped by his light blue eyes.

Meara’s jaw dropped. “I thought you were exaggerating. Having a wee bit of fun. He is a big fella! Pretty too!” she whispered to Carolyn then saw the bruise on his chin. “Oh. Is he a scrapper?” Carolyn shook her head with an amused snort.

“Ed, this is Aisha Zelalem, Rana Kassar, and Meara Keating. They’re all colleagues of mine, working in the anthropology field. This is Ed Walters.”

Ed smiled and nodded shyly at the three women who were drinking him in with their eyes. Each of them stepped forward and Ed was treated to a double cheek kiss though for Aisha he had to bend down quite a bit. He was blushing fiercely afterwards and this just made their smiles grow wider.

Clark was beginning to get a little impatient with their fawning over the ‘meat stick’ as he’d taken to calling Ed. “We’d better get on our way. Let’s get the luggage in the back.”

Stepping forward Ed collected the luggage from the four women and Clark got the back door open where all the bags went. Ed got back into the truck but moved to the back seat. He filled the whole area.

The middle row sat three so Aisha took the first seat behind the driver, Rana got in next with Meara in the third seat. Carolyn sat in the passenger seat next to Clark who was delighted to have her there and to have Ed so far away from her. He got them underway.

Clark opened his window and the gust of wind caught Rana’s hair and blew it back into Ed’s face.

Aisha looked over the seat and laughed at Ed’s look of surprise. Rana apologized for her flyaway hair.

“It’s fine. May I braid it for you?” Ed asked as he brushed the strands from his face.

“Oh! Uh, okay!” Rana said and tried to control her giggles.

He reached over the seat and gathered her hair in his hands, pulling it over the seat. Rana’s eyes fluttered as she tingled from his strong grip. There was something primal about a man running his fingers through her hair and taking a grip that made her nipple stiffen. She bit her lip and tried to keep her moan to herself.

Ed remembered all the times he braided Grace’s hair which was also straight and black. As he went through the patterns and designs in his mind he ran his fingers through the hair seeing the length of the strands in different zones until he determined the braid that best suited the cut.

Rana would have sagged in her chair from the pure hedonistic bliss of the scalp massage but Aisha and Meara were pinning her in place on both sides. There was a brief tug which made her open her eyes and Ed began to braid. His hands moved quickly and efficiently and she felt his deft touch over her scalp as the braiding made its way back. Too soon it was over.

“Does anyone have an elastic band?” he asked as he held the end of the braid.

After a minute of the ladies doing some purse spelunking Clark came to the rescue. “Check the glovebox.”

“Clark, should I ask what you are doing with such a girlie hair tie in your glovebox?” Carolyn said with a smirk and a raised eyebrow. The hair tie in question was pink with a sparkly pink and white bow on it. Carolyn handed it back to Rana who passed it to Ed. He smiled and tied up the braid nice and tight.

“I think it belongs to the daughter of a friend of mine. I found it the last time I cleaned out the car. You’re welcome to it,” Clark said, just a little stiffly.

“My, you do lovely braid work Edward.” Meara said in surprise.

“Let me see!” Aisha chirped and gasped when Rana turned her head and she saw the intricate weave Ed had added. She pouted over the chair at Ed. “Now I wish I had long hair!” Ed smiled and shrugged. “I’ll settle with a scalp massage.”

“That I can do,” Ed said and put his hands to work over the seat.

Aisha’s face muscles immediately relaxed as Ed’s strong fingers kneaded her scalp and moved down the sides of her head. She moaned. “Oh god, Carolyn! I’m going to steal your man away! If he can make me feel this good with just his fingertips on my scalp I can only imagine what-”

“If you want him to keep massaging you’ll stop right there,” Carolyn warned as she looked back at Ed with a smile. He nodded his thanks to her as his cheeks heated up.

Aisha tried to pout but her face was too relaxed.

Rana was admiring her braid and looked at Meara. “Can you imagine what he could do with your hair?” she sighed looking at the red mane of relaxed curls cascading down Meara’s shoulders.

“Ed, do you think you could braid my hair when we get to the chateau?” Meara asked.

Ed looked at the vast amount of hair and tried to think of a style that might suit it best. He could certainly do a simple straight braid but her hair needed more control. It might need several separate braids in each section to maintain some control over it. His brain was overlaying different patterns and he thought he saw an intricate weave that would look very nice. He inventoried the pins and ties he would need.

“Ed?” Meara asked again as she saw his look of intense concentration. He blinked and his expression cleared. “Hmmm? Uh, yes. I could. I’d need six hair pins and two hair ties but I could do it.”

“Does he do this professionally?” Clark asked Carolyn quietly when he couldn’t contain his curiosity any longer.

“No. Ed, tell them what you do,” she called out.

“I work at Drakos Heating and Cooling. I’m certified to install, inspect, and maintain all levels of heating and cooling systems,” he said proudly as he pulled his hands back from Aisha’s head. She was sound asleep.

Rana grinned at her sleeping friend and poked Meara to get her to look as well. Meara shared a smile with Rana.

“So he’s an air conditioning repair man?” Clark asked quietly.

“As much as you’re a man who talks to people,” she replied with a challenging smile.

He knew when to back off so he nodded, conceding the point to her.

Pretty soon they were driving through the country side between tall groves of trees. They spent another twenty minutes on the rolling roads before they rounded a bend and Clark pulled into a driveway between two large stone gate supports. The gate was long gone but the walls remained.

They drove down a long tree lined lane before emerging from the forest to see a huge four story chateau in the distance surrounded by gardens, fountains, and ponds.

Ed’s eyes were wide with wonder. He’d never seen such a beautiful home. He couldn’t get over the fact that it wasn’t a hotel or palace for royalty.

Rana nudged Aisha to wake her as they’d arrived. Clark parked the car next to three sedans and got out, the rest following him. Aisha blinked her sleepy eyes as she took in their surroundings.

Ed unfolded himself from the back seat and stretched the creaks out of his spine. Clark was taking the bags out of the back when a woman stepped out of the large front door of the building and began to stride towards them. She was dressed with a casual elegance that spoke highly of her wealth as well as her taste.

She might have been in her mid-fifties but it was difficult for Ed to tell as she looked so fit and vibrant. Her gauzy white blouse hinted at her modest breasts while her khaki shorts showed off her long legs. She carried herself with an almost regal bearing and she had a confidence about her that immediately put Ed at ease. Her wide brimmed white hat hid most of her hair but the strands which did show were a lovely auburn color and seemed to reach mid-neck. High cheekbones and dark eyes quickly assessed the group as she approached. She finally locked her gaze on their driver.

“Clark, darling! I wasn’t expecting you this soon! The staff are still preparing the rooms!” she said with a lovely French accent Ed could have listened to all day. Especially if it was a conversation between her, Aisha, Meara, and Rana. He loved their accents!

“I’ve brought three more guests, I hope you don’t mind.” Clark said as he kissed the woman’s cheeks. Ed was coming to the realization that the double cheek kiss was a France thing.

“Not at all! Now introduce me, you beastly man!” she said with a smile.

Clark smiled and turned to Carolyn. “Karina Gauthier, may I introduce Carolyn Patterson.”

“Ah! You are our special guest for the presentation tomorrow night!” the woman said in delight and gave her the double cheek kiss as well.

“Yes, it’s very nice to meet you Ms. Gauthier! I’ve heard wonderful things about you and your support of the programs running at the Louvre!”

“Please, call me Karina!” She made a slight hand waving gesture. “I do my little part to try to expand the minds of those that visit the museum. It’s the work of you and your colleagues that make the biggest difference.” She’d included Carolyn’s friends in her ‘colleague’ gesture.

“Then allow me to introduce you to Meara Keating, Aisha Zelalem, and Rana Kassar.” Karina pressed cheeks with the ladies then turned to the big man standing behind them.

“And this is Ed Walters,” Carolyn said proudly.

Karina held out her hand but she was a little dazed to see someone this big.

With the mansion behind her and the woman’s regal bearing, the moment took on a surreal quality for Ed and a memory kicked in to guide him through it. Ed took her hand gently in his and leaned over it. He caressed her knuckles briefly with his lips, looking over his sunglasses to hold her eyes with his. “Enchanté,” he said in a deep rumble.

Karina’s breath caught in her chest as she looked into his icy blue eyes. Sparks leapt from her hand to special places as her face flushed and her heart sped up. “Oh my.”

Ed finally broke the moment when he gave Carolyn a concerned look. “I saw that in a movie. Did I do it right? Was it too much? It seemed appropriate.”

Carolyn closed her mouth and swallowed before she patted Ed’s arm to assure him.

Karina seemed to snap out of her daze. She smiled at Ed. “You did that very well!

“You have a lovely home and your garden is breathtaking!” he gushed.

Karina’s smile grew wider as she saw his honest delight. “Thank you very much Edward!” she replied. “Maybe I could give you a tour of the grounds.”

He smiled and looked to Carolyn and she just nodded with a smile. “That would be lovely,” he said.

Karina smiled at Clark who grinned back at her. “You know the way around. Please bring our guests inside and speak to Philip regarding their accommodations. We won’t be too long,” she said with a sly smile.

Ed grinned happily at Carolyn who couldn’t really protest at this point considering Karina was hosting them at her beautiful chateau. She watched the woman take Ed’s arm and walk with him towards the stairs leading to the garden.

“You heard the lady, let’s make our way inside and get settled in,” Clark said with a cheerful energy.

He was more delighted than he was showing. He’d confided in Karina the night before after he’d dropped Carolyn off at her hotel. The woman was not only fabulously rich, she was hungry to rub elbows with the intellectual elites in French society. She had no degrees of her own but she was responsible for sponsoring a number of scientific and socially significant projects. Not only did she fund them she did her best to actively participate where she could so her name would be associated with the ventures. So far she was mostly just known for her financial aid.

Clark had been nurturing their relationship as her connections, and wealth of course, were significantly useful to him. When he’d explained that Carolyn, the woman he was destined to be with, was currently being distracted by a fame jumper, she was only too eager to assist him with separating Carolyn from this ‘distraction’. So far it was working better than expected.

Carolyn took one final look at Ed and Karina as they disappeared down the stairs. She grabbed her bag and Ed’s and followed the others inside.



Chapter 6

Karina was enjoying her walk with the big man. Clark hadn’t said he was going to be so young and so strong! He also had a strong chin, beautiful blue eyes and a peaceful smile on his sensual lips. She recalled when those lips had caressed her knuckles and she tingled again.

She pointed out some features of the garden and he absorbed the information like a sponge. He asked questions as they walked through the beautifully groomed grounds so she knew he was actually listening to her and retaining it. He seemed fascinated by the size of her chateau. She recalled Clark telling her the man was a fame jumper, ready to latch himself to anyone who showed a promise of getting him ahead or claiming the fame for himself.

She wondered if Ed was going to try to ingratiate himself with her to try to get to her wealth. She’d faced that kind of man too many times to recount. She sighed as the thought always made her a little sad.

“Is something wrong?” he asked hearing her sigh.

She caught herself slipping and put some steel into her spine. She looked up at Ed with a smile. “No, I’m fine. So… I understand you’re in a relationship with Carolyn.”

Ed glanced over at her but the question seemed safe enough. “Yes, she’s my girlfriend.”

“How did you meet?” Karina asked looking up into his blue eyes which were beginning to show just a little anxiety. So he wasn’t comfortable with questions about his relationship with her. She filed that information away.

“I worked on her home’s furnace and air conditioner,” he said.

She paused in surprise. “Is this what you do?”

Ed’s face became much more animated. “Yes, I really like working for Mr. Drakos. He sent me to night school and I got my certification for working on heating and cooling systems of all sizes.” He suddenly turned and looked back at the large building. “How old is your chateau?”

She smiled. “My family home is young in comparison to some. It is only two hundred and sixty two years old.”

Ed’s eyes widened at the number. “I don’t think there are any buildings in the states that old!”

Karina looked at Ed’s face and saw he seemed to be measuring the building with his eyes. She smiled. “Are you imagining how to add one of your air conditioning systems to my home?”

Ed came out of his fugue and blushed. “Sorry. Occupational hazard.”

“These historical homes are protected from being subjected to the tortures of renovations. While we managed to get permission to discreetly add electricity and some plumbing to most of the rooms there haven’t been any large scale disturbances to the structure. We must get permission from the Historical Society for any change we do. Right down to painting the interior walls,” she explained.

Ed’s eyes went wide. “You aren’t allowed to repaint?!?”

“No, you can but it must be the same color, same tone and brightness.”

He looked at her and thought about having to live in a home built so long ago. “So… it’s cold in the winter-”

“And hot in the summer,” she finished. “I don’t live here in the winter though. During those months I escape to my lovely apartment in Cartagena, Spain.”

Ed shook his head in wonder. This was living at a scale he couldn’t even imagine.

They continued walking through the gardens and began moving around the side of the home. Ed’s jaw dropped open when he saw the building extended back and there was… there was a circular tower at the back corner of the house! He hadn’t seen it from the front. “You live in a castle?!?” he gasped.

She smiled in delight at his exuberance. He had the wonder of a child! Her defences immediately went on high alert. She told herself his boyish charm was likely just a ploy to weaken her resolve. Time to go on the offensive.

“Not a castle but we do have a tower prison to lock away naughty young men who try to take advantage of their hosts,” she said slyly as she held his eyes with hers.

“A tower prison? With bars and straw on the floor and a wooden bucket for-” he trailed off as his mind painted a picture for him from some movie Grace and he had watched a while back. He turned his face to look back at the tower.

Karina blinked at the big man. He believed her, completely! She almost felt bad popping the bubble for him but he seemed as genuine a person as she’d ever encountered. There didn’t seem to be any guile in him at all. She needed to speak with Carolyn. He seemed too innocent. She had to let him down easy.

“Actually there is no prison. I was just teasing,” she said gently and saw him deflate, just a little. He grinned self-consciously.

“Oh. I guess that would be silly. The police probably wouldn’t like anyone having their own prison,” he said quietly. He looked back at the tower. “Still, it’s pretty amazing that you have a tower as part of your home.”

They walked on in silence for a bit as Ed soaked in the grandeur of the estate and Karina discreetly observed him. When he stopped from time to time to ask about the flowers they were passing and paused to smell them she realized for all his size and strength he had a gentle heart. She began to doubt Clark’s assessment of the man and that put her in a very uncomfortable spot.

They reached the back of the house and Ed saw an enormous pool and patio with umbrellas beyond the footprint of the main building. Ed supposed the Historical Society had less say about what people did with their outdoor space. This space looked much more modern with a huge gazebo with couches and chairs around a glass fire pit, and a row of change rooms in front of what was probably the equipment room. There was also a massage table on a raised podium under a white gauzy curtain overlooking the pool. Looking back at the building Ed saw it was an enormous ‘C’ shape with a courtyard between the two wings. His eyes widened in glee as he saw a second tower and glanced at Karina with a small smile.

Walking through the courtyard towards them was Carolyn, Aisha, Meara, and Rana. Clark and four other people Ed didn’t recognize, two men and two women, followed. All were dressed in their swimwear and wraps. He saw Carolyn was carrying his grey striped swimsuit, thankfully not the jammer. Rachel must have packed it for him.

His stomach took that opportunity to growl loudly and Karina blinked at him with a surprised smile.

“You have a tiger in your tummy!” she exclaimed.

“I missed breakfast,” he explained with an embarrassed wince.

“Then we will feed you and tame that beast!” she insisted.

Carolyn approached and looked to Ed to see how he was doing but he seemed happy enough. She caught Karina’s eyes on her and smiled at her host. “Your home is absolutely beautiful!” she said.

“So Edward tells me.” Karina said with an indulgent smile as she looked at him fondly. She caught Carolyn’s subtle stiffening of her posture. Jealousy? Defensiveness? “But I need to get this man fed! His stomach is going to claw itself free otherwise.

Clark approached with his entourage. “Karina, this is Ernst Koertig, my documentarian. I believe you know Adeline Morel, my publicist. This is Odette Duval, my research assistant. Finally, Lucas Brown my personal trainer.” Karina greeted each with the two cheek kiss then she returned to Ed’s side, taking his arm again, and presented him to them.

“This is Edward Walters, Carolyn’s boyfriend.” Karina said with just the slightest pout as if she was jealous. As she hadn’t released his arm he just bowed slightly to the others and missed Karina’s pout. Carolyn caught it and gave the woman a small smile. “I’m going to arrange for an early lunch. Please enjoy the pool and lounges. I will return.” She released his arm and turned to face Ed. “Thank you for the lovely walk.” She held out her hand once more and Ed knew what she wanted. He held her eyes with his once more as he gently kissed her knuckles. Her cheeks pinked up as she tried to suppress her moan. With a final smile at Ed she turned and walked back to the building with an extra spring in her step.

Ed smiled at Carolyn who was grinning at him.

“You enjoyed your tour?” she asked.

“Yes! This place is amazing and I haven’t even been inside yet!” he gushed.

Meara approached Ed with something in her hands. She opened them and there were six hair pins and two hair ties. “The staff here are very accommodating,” Meara stated as she looked hopefully at Ed.

He nodded and walked with the group over to the gazebo. Meara sat in a chair and Ed stood behind her and began to separate the mass of hair into zones. He used the hair pins to temporarily move sections out of his way. He concentrated and saw the pattern he’d envisioned earlier and saw where he had to begin.

“What is Edward doing?” Ernst asked.

Carolyn smiled at him. “He’s creating. What, we’ll just have to wait and see.”

Ed’s hands began to move and he used the pins to hold the ends of the smaller braids as he created the overall design. He paused a few times while he was working to reassess if he was going to be able to complete it. Then he’d continue.

When he was finished there were five small three-strand braids running from the front of her head over the top then woven into a thick French braid running down her back. Two additional braids ran from behind her ears and swept down and through the French braid. The whole thing moved her hair off of her neck and lifted the heavy mass upwards.

“Oh my god Meara! You look beautiful!” Aisha gushed.

“Very lovely!” Rana agreed.

Ernst and Lucas looked at Ed in surprise.

Meara stood up carefully as if the braiding might unravel at any second.

“You don’t have to be so cautious. It’s a tight braid. As long as the hair ties are on securely and nobody tugs on your hair, the braid will stay put. Give it a shake.”

Meara looked at him from behind her glasses with wide eyes but followed his suggestion and shook her head. True to his word, the braid remained in place. Grinning she rushed away to one of the change rooms which she assumed would have a mirror inside.

They heard her squeal with delight when she saw her hair. She burst out of the change room and rushed up to Ed to give him a hug. He blushed as she squeezed her body against his.

“Thank you! I love it!” she gushed. When she released him she handed her friend her phone. “Aisha! Get some pictures of it! Get it from all sides!”

Carolyn walked over to give Ed a hug as well and he gave her a sweet kiss. She handed him his bathing suit and pointed to the change rooms. “Your turn.”

While Ed ducked inside to get changed the rest were making their way over to the lounge chairs on the opposite side of the pool. They began rubbing lotion onto their skin and settling back to soak in a few rays before lunch.

Adeline was sitting next to Carolyn. The pleasant looking woman with tousled pixie cut black hair had been introduced in the house to her when the second group had arrived. The publicist had been brought up to speed on Clark’s pursuit of Carolyn so she decided she’d fish a little information from the woman to see if there was anything she could learn that might help her client.

“Carolyn? Is Edward a stylist?”

“A stylist? Oh! You mean the hair? No. It’s just a skill he picked up during his childhood I guess,” she replied with a smile.

“From braiding his mama’s hair?” Adeline asked, picturing a small boy lovingly braiding his mother’s hair.

“No, Ed was an orphan. He grew up with… a distant relative who had a daughter with long hair.” Grace’s description of how her mother treated Ed made the ‘distant’ descriptor more accurate than intended.

The change room door opened and Ed leaned his head and shoulders out the door. She noticed he wasn’t smiling and he was gesturing for her to come to him.

“Excuse me,” she said to Adeline but the woman only had eyes for Ed so she walked around the pool to see what was up with him. As she got closer she could see he was blushing and looked upset. Then she saw why. His classic grey striped swim trunks were no longer loose.

“They shrank!” Ed whispered harshly.

“Actually, I think it’s because you got bigger.” Carolyn reasoned. The muscles in his upper thighs looked a little more defined than they’d been. Not much but there hadn’t been that much room to spare in his swim suit before. She put a smile on her face for him. “You look very nice! It’s a very classy swim suit. Please just enjoy the pool and don’t let the suit’s tightness bother you. When Karina returns I will discreetly ask if she has another larger suit. Alright?”

Ed nodded and did his best to remove his frown. “I’m sorry for being a nuisance.”

“Don’t be silly.” She popped up on her tip toes and he gave her a quick kiss on the lips.

With a happy smile Carolyn made her way back to her seat as Ed ducked back into the change room to get his underwear, pants, socks and shoes.

He folded them carefully and carried them with him back to the pool. He looked for an open lounge chair on the far side but they were all taken. He stopped and went to the closest lounge on this side of the pool and placed his clothes on the small table next to the chair.

“Ed, come over here so I can put your lotion on,” Carolyn called out.

She looked to her left and saw her friends were all watching Ed like he was a piece of delicious chocolate. She grinned. This was what she’d been secretly hoping for when she’d invited them.

All through their university years she’d felt like the ugly duckling in their group and had been subjected to a virtual parade of gorgeous boyfriends from each of the ladies. While she’d finally ended up dating Clark in her last year she suspected that was more out of desperation and loneliness than desire and her friends all knew and disliked him. He’d had an atrocious ego back then and… She looked to her left and saw Clark rubbing lotion on his arms as he flexed his muscles. His ‘personal trainer’ was obviously doing him some good as he’d certainly lost the pudgy body he used to have.

Clark perked up as he saw Carolyn admiring his new physique. He flexed his bicep a little harder as he slowed his application of the lotion. He casually nodded at Carolyn and she started as she realized she was staring. She smiled and looked away. Clark added a point to his mental scorecard.

Across the pool Ed got a grip on the bottom hem of his t-shirt and carefully lifted it. With his extra width across his chest he’d destroyed a shirt by pulling it off too quickly recently and he didn’t know how many shirts had been packed for him. He had to find some looser t-shirts.

“Ooooo Carolyn. You lucky bitch!” Aisha moaned aloud as she watched the t-shirt slide up the hard muscles of Ed’s torso.

Rana was biting her lip as she imagined running her fingers over those rippling stomach muscles.

Clark glanced across the pool and froze when he saw the strip tease Ed was performing for the ladies. He throttled his sudden jealous rage as didn’t this work towards his plan of showing Ed for the braggart meat stick he was? The more he flirted and carried on with the other woman the more jealous Carolyn would become and the less appealing Ed would seem. Clark let his smile return to his lips as if he was sharing in a joke.

The t-shirt was stuck on his pecs so Ed carefully wiggled his torso to pop the fabric over the muscles and it continued up his body.

“Fuck me if that isn’t the hottest thing I’ve ever seen!” Meara sighed. “He’s doing that on purpose isn’t he,” she growled quietly as she glanced at Carolyn and saw she was grinning ear to ear but shaking her head no.

Meara’s eyes went back to the show automatically. “I second Aisha’s comment. Lucky bitch!” she sighed.

“Is- is he a professional bodybuilder? Does he model?” Adeline asked, her mouth a little dry from being left open.

“No, he works with air conditioning and heating systems,” she replied and the publicist’s eyebrows went up. Adeline glanced over at Clark and saw he was giving her an annoyed look. She mouthed an apology for her momentary lapse.

“Nah, that body has seen some serious training!” Lucas replied to Carolyn’s denial as his trainer instincts kicked in. “That’s the result of years of long sessions with free weights,” he growled, his Australian accent flaring.

Carolyn looked over at the man. “He said he played football in high school.”

“Last year?” Clark snorted then immediately regretted his outburst.

“Over two years ago actually,” Carolyn said tersely and turned back to her friends.

“Yeah, I call bullshit,” the Aussie continued, ignoring his boss’ warning glance.

Odette began to chuckle. The petite and plump young woman with the shockingly pink hair was smirking at her co-worker Ernst.

“Ernst, tu sont rut?” she teased. He glared at her. She pushed on. “Is the big man giving you a boner?”

Carolyn thought the word boner sounded more than a little comical when spoken in a French accent but she smiled at the two while the man in question looked back at her apologetically. She just nodded to him.

“My body simply chooses to be more honest than my brain.” Ernst said haughtily.

Ed finally extracted his head from his shirt and checked the garment carefully. He sighed with relief as he hadn’t even stretched the seams. He folded the shirt and padded around the pool to Carolyn’s lounge.

“Ed, Lucas here would like to know how you got your muscles,” Carolyn said.

He looked over at the man. “They just started growing when I hit puberty. My gym teacher had me do strength training during gym classes then I played football when I got to high school. We’d work out in the gym between games,” he explained to the man.

Lucas was looking at him in frustration. “You did long sessions with free weights though.”

Ed nodded. “Sometimes the gym teacher would have me lifting for up to 45 minutes!” he exclaimed.

The trainer looked at him blankly. “Yeah, I call bullshit again.” Ed blinked at the man in surprise.

“Lucas, let it go. He says he trained casually and got big. We believe him,” Clark said, pinning his trainer with his eyes to tell him to shut up.

“Watch out for Ernst, Edward. He finds you most sexy!” Odette called out.

Ernst glared at her again then looked over at Ed nervously. The man looked strong enough to give him some serious injuries if he was homophobic. Instead he saw a surprised look on the big man’s face.

“Oh, uh… thanks?”

The group laughed at Ed’s gentle response and seeing the relieved smile on Ernst’s face.

“See, I told you he was a sweetie!” Odette said, teasing her co-worker once more.

“You play a dangerous game Odette!” Ernst growled. He knew she was gay as well but she liked to push the issue in people’s faces. He was far more private.

Carolyn patted the end of her lounge chair and Ed sat. She’d begun rubbing lotion on his back as he worked on his face when Karina called out for her from the courtyard. She rubbed the excess lotion onto his arms as she stood and moved towards the courtyard oblivious to the stampede to take over rubbing lotion on Ed’s back.

Karina waited for her then gestured for her to follow. They made their way inside where she saw some staff preparing some trays to bring out to the pool area. Karina went to one and lifted the lid. Inside was a large steak and three eggs, toast, and fruit salad.

“Ed indicated he missed breakfast and I believe this serves as both breakfast and lunch. Is it enough for the big man?” Karina asked Carolyn.

“Yes! This is wonderful! Thank you!”

“Lunch for the rest of us is wraps, salad, and fruit. I thought Ed might need something more substantial,” the woman explained.

Carolyn nodded and gave the woman a delighted smile. Karina gestured and the staff began filing outside with the trays.

Karina touched Carolyn’s arm as she collected her thoughts. She looked at the younger woman.

“Edward is a wonderful young man. He seems… innocent?” She looked the other woman in the eye to gauge her reaction.

Carolyn relaxed. She sensed no real threat from the woman. Her gut was telling her she was ok. “Yes, he is. He’s brilliant in some ways and very insightful in others but when it comes to human interaction his reactions are those of a true innocent. We do our best to protect him from being abused but we can’t be with him all the time.”

“We?”

“The women who love him.”

-=-

Back at the pool Meara was smugly grinning as she’d gotten to Ed first, being the closest. She stuck her tongue out at her friends and proceeded to rub lotion over his neck, over his broad shoulders and down his back. She ran her hands over his dense muscles and ensured the lotion was evenly applied. She thrilled at the power contained in his body and felt herself getting excited.

Once she had completed his back she wrapped her arms around his torso and rubbed her slick hands across the hard ridges of his stomach.

“Uh, I can do my stomach thanks!” Ed said uneasily.

“Nonsense! It’s the least I can do for your giving me such lovely braids. Besides your stomach feels amazing! How did you get your stomach muscles so hard!” she gasped.

“Ooo! I want to feel them!” Aisha exclaimed and jumped up to come over and touch his abs. “My god! You’re right! They feel like steel!”

Rana and Adeline were right behind her waiting for their turn to feel his abs. When Aisha moved aside to let them touch Ed’s stomach she looked at Lucas. “What does it take to get such strong stomach muscles?”

The trainer was reaching the end of his patience and got up to see for himself just how hard these abs were. He was rather proud of his own stomach as he put a tremendous amount of time into firming up those muscles. For a forty year old trainer he was in better shape than most twenty somethings in the gym. He pulled off his own shirt and he did have a respectable six pack.

Meara nodded appreciatively at the man’s stomach and reached up from the lounge chair to prod his muscles. “Very nice… but Ed’s feel harder.” Aisha prodded him too and agreed with a nod to her friend.

“Ed, stand up a minute.” Lucas said tersely. Ed blinked at the man’s tone and stood to face him. Lucas looked at the shape and definition of the muscle groups and begrudgingly agreed he had excellent symmetry. He looked up into Ed’s eyes and saw the man was looking at him nervously. “What’s wrong?”

“You seemed angry,” Ed responded and Lucas’ annoyance drained away in embarrassment. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to upset you. Getting people into shape is my business. It’s really hard work and most people don’t have the stomach for it, pardon the pun. How long have you been doing strength training?” he asked.

Ed felt a lot better now that Lucas didn’t look so upset. He thought back. “I guess since I was ten. I just started growing and the gym teacher noticed it and immediately put me to work on the machines every gym class. Even if the other kids were doing something else.”

Lucas frowned. “That seems like a shitty thing to do to a young kid, separating them out.”

Ed frowned. He guessed it was so he nodded. He hadn’t really noticed at the time as he’d been so busy with the routine the teacher had assigned him.

“May I?” Lucas said pointing to Ed’s stomach. Ed nodded.

He pressed and prodded and his eyebrows went up. Aisha was right. They were very hard. He looked up at Ed. “Are you flexing? Making them harder?” Ed shook his head. “Flex.”

Ed put his hands up behind his head and tightened his stomach.

“Oooo!” Aisha moaned as the separate muscles popped up.

Lucas leaned back and sighed. “Your gym teacher was a brilliant man. Starting you early, giving proper instruction, and keeping you motivated to keep it up. You obviously have the genes for it. You could consider doing some bodybuilding shows but your muscles aren’t huge enough to compete in the Olympia competitions and you’re likely too big for the Men’s Physique category. If you wanted to compete you’d likely have to up your regiment to get bigger.”

There was a chorus of no’s from the ladies and Ed smiled shyly. “I don’t want to get bigger. I just want to keep the muscles I have healthy and strong. I don’t think I want to compete either. I don’t need or want that much attention,” he said honestly.

Lucas shrugged and made his way back to his lounge chair.

Ed smelled something good and a trim older gentleman stepped up to the group. “Lunch is served. Monsieur Walters, your meal is under the dome near the head of the table. Bon appétit.”

Ed grabbed his t-shirt and eased it on as they followed the man around the small building with the change rooms to see a long table under a pergola covered with the gauzy white cloth. It allowed the lighting to be bright but greatly reduced the heat of the sun on the people at the table. Ed sat in the chair at the position with the large dome over the place setting. The others looked for their names on the little cards and took their spots. Carolyn’s name was on the card across from Ed and Clark was next to her. Karina was going to be sitting at the head of the table.

Speaking of the host, she and Carolyn approached the table and Ed stood up as they took their seats. Once everyone was seated the staff began serving. The gentleman lifted the dome from Ed’s place setting and Ed’s mouth immediately began to water when he saw the steak and eggs. He looked at Karina and smiled broadly as his stomach growled once more.

“Eat! Before that hungry beast tears its way out of your stomach.” Karina teased.

Aisha, sitting to Ed’s immediate left snorted. “No beast would be strong enough to get through those muscles!”

Ed wasted no more time and began eating. He paused to smile in bliss after his first mouthful and once he swallowed he turned to Karina. “Thank you so much for this delicious meal!”

“You’re quite welcome Edward,” Karina replied with a fond smile. She shared a smile with Carolyn and caught Clark looking curiously at her. When Carolyn looked in his direction Clark changed his expression to casual interest. “Has the director of the Louvre contacted you yet?”

“No, will he?” she asked.

“It’s pretty standard practise. You’ll be expected to go speak with him to get the details of the presentation and what you’ll need to say, and not say, during your acceptance speech,” Clark explained. “You’ll probably talk to him tomorrow. I have to tell you I’m extremely proud of you and thrilled that you are finally receiving the recognition you deserve. I’ve always felt you were the brightest and most talented one in your marriage. I’m not going to speak ill of the recently passed but I’m glad you are in the spotlight now where you deserve to be.” He raised his glass. “To Carolyn!”

A cheer went down the table and Carolyn’s eyes welled up with happy tears. She really was feeling a little overwhelmed by the level of attention she was now receiving.

“I also want you to know I called in a few favors, put a bug in a few ears-” he stopped when Ed’s face froze in horror. “It’s a figure of speech Ed. I didn’t literally put a bug in someone’s ear,” he shook his head and moved on. “Anyway I wanted to let you know there will be reporters from every publication of significance in our field present at tomorrow’s presentation and award ceremony.”

“Oh my god, Clark! Thank you so much!” Carolyn gasped and her tears of happiness would no longer be denied. She pulled the man into a hug and he hugged her in return. He played it cool, knowing it was too soon to make any moves but he’d played his hand well. She now saw what he could offer that Ed could not match.

Of course, this was just the initial salvo in his war. Maybe he should launch the second one while she was in this vulnerable state.

“Do you have any plans to release a new book? I’m well aware that the previous books your husband published were actually products of your brilliance. I definitely believe once you’ve delivered this exhibit to enough key establishments a book would solidify your position as one of our brightest stars.”

His instincts had been right. She absolutely blossomed from his praise like… the Atacama Desert exploded with blooms after the rare spring rains. He liked that analogy and smiled at his own cleverness. Of course Carolyn didn’t know what his smile was for, she thought it was for her.

Her smile was priceless and she stammered something about a book she had planned but Clark was already thinking about the next phase of his plan. He kept eye contact and smiled at her but he only gave her a portion of his attention. Just enough to let her think he was listening.

Ed was amazed by the awesome news Clark just gave Carolyn. He saw how happy she was and he couldn’t stop smiling himself. Clark was awesome!

Karina was having difficulty maintaining her appetite. She saw the smiles on Carolyn and Ed’s faces and she knew what Clark had done for the woman truly was a wonderful and helpful thing. However, now that she understood the relationship Ed was in with Carolyn and the other women in his life she wasn’t sure Clark was Carolyn’s best option.

Then there were her own ambitions. Clark and his connections within the anthropological society were key to her admittance to their inner circle. She’d wanted to be part of their world ever since she was a young girl but her parents had had other plans for her. She was so close.

The inner turmoil turned her stomach and she pushed her plate away.

Ed caught the motion and saw a pained expression pass across Karina’s face. His smile faded as he turned to face her. “Are you ok?” he asked.

She looked to him and forced a smile on her face. “Yes, just a little indigestion. I- I think I’ll go take something for it. I may lie down afterwards so please enjoy your afternoon!” She looked in Ed’s concerned eyes and pushed herself to her feet before her guilty mouth said something she couldn’t take back.

She faced the group whose attention she now had. “I must leave but please enjoy yourself. I may see you at dinner but if not I’ll definitely see you all at the presentation tomorrow.” With a final nod she turned and briskly walked away.

Clark thought it was curious that Karina was exiting from the plan but he really didn’t need her direct support at this point as it was going so well. He smiled at Carolyn and her eyes sparkled with glee. Let Ed try to bring her this kind of success! Stupid meat stick.

They finished their meals and made their way back to the pool. Ed was feeling groggy from the flight and the big meal so he flopped down on his lounge chair and was soon sound asleep.

The others reclined on their chairs but Clark peppered Carolyn with questions about her presentation the following day. He seemed genuinely interested. Ernst and Odette asked her questions about the tribe she lived with. This led to a discussion of their ultimate demise at the hands of the guides leading her late husband through the jungle.

Aisha came over and sat at the end of Carolyn’s lounge chair. “Carolyn, if this is too personal or painful please don’t feel obliged to answer but there are rumors flying around the community about how Rick died. When one of us dies in the field we all wonder if we’ll be next. Can you tell us what really happened?”

Carolyn sighed. She didn’t really want to speak ill of her late husband but she had dedicated her life to speaking the truth about the lives of the people she studied. How could she treat her own life any less honestly? She took a deep breath and nodded. Meara sat up and faced her friend as Rana joined her on the edge of Meara’s chair. Odette moved to sit on Ernst’s lounge to hear as well. Only Ed and Lucas weren’t listening to her as both were asleep.

Where to begin. Carolyn decided the truth began when Rick went back out into the field.

“Years ago I warned him that his methods of immersion in other cultures would get him killed. He was reckless, missed critical nuances, and didn’t understand relationships beyond the top levels.” She frowned. Even she wasn’t satisfied with that answer. It may go towards explaining the root cause of his death but not the critical why. They needed the truth as much as it hurt. She looked around and saw she had their attention. “Rick was a serial adulterer but he couldn’t do that at home. The only reason he went back out into the field was to stick his dick into other people. He was looking for the next thrill.” She felt the pain slowly fade and took a deep breath. It had been surprisingly difficult to share that with her friends and peers but now that it was out in the open she was glad she’d done it. She paused to collect her thoughts and Aisha touched her hand in support.

“He said he wanted an open marriage but he meant only for himself. He knew I wouldn’t stray. Then he began video calling me from the bedrooms of his lovers. It was a little extra thrill for him. He destroyed our marriage and our love,” she sighed and heard sounds of sympathy from Meara, Rana, Aisha, and even Adeline. Clark had a sympathetic look on his face as well.

“When I was ready to let Rick go I chose a man to begin my own affair with.” She smiled and looked across the pool. Eyes followed hers and her friends grinned. They leaned closer hoping for details.

“Ed was… very passionate as I asked him to be. I hadn’t had any passion in my life for years so I was starving for it. I timed this to coincide with Rick’s nightly call. He was in Thailand having sex with lady boys. Researching ‘happiness’ apparently. When he saw what I was doing he… wasn’t happy to see me so… deliriously happy.”

Meara and Aisha squealed excitedly as Rana giggled. She had everyone’s complete attention now.

“Rick was with two beautiful lady boys that night and they apparently took a liking to Ed after he fucked me unconscious.” Another squeal erupted from the ladies. “Rick took offense to their getting chummy with Ed and got into a very physical fight with them. They left the apartment very angry. I’d woken during the fight and told Rick our marriage was over and hung up on him. The next I heard was that he was in the hospital in Phuket. He’d been beaten very badly by the friends of the two lady boys. He succumbed to his injuries.”

“I’m sorry your marriage ended that way.” Clark said sympathetically.

“Our marriage ended the moment he had his first affair after going back out into the field. I just wasn’t ready to admit it. It feels good to take my life back under my control.” She smiled at Clark and he returned it.

Aisha wasn’t quite ready to move on from certain details of the story. “So Ed’s a passionate lover?”

Carolyn gave her a raised eyebrow and a grin. “Ed is very discreet. He never kisses and tells so I should respect his wishes as well.” Her friends looked very disappointed so she gave them just a little. “I will say that Ed is a very giving lover.” She caught the eyes of the three ladies and moved her hands apart to hint his size. Eyes went wide as did their grins.

Clark turned away as he felt his gut clench. Hearing about another man’s sexual prowess, especially one he was planning on replacing, was more than a little disturbing. He caught Adeline looking at him and sent her a quick glare. She looked away.

Adeline’s eyes were drawn to look across the pool to the subject of their conversation. She realized he was almost directly across from her chair. Her eyes widened when she realized she could see up the pant leg of Ed’s shorts and ‘something’ was pointing back at her. What Caroline’s hand gesture didn’t indicate was how thick it appeared to be.

She glanced to her right and saw Ernst was also aware of Ed’s unconscious display. He gave her a hesitant smile. Her smile must have looked as awkward as his became a self-conscious grin.

The group went back to their lounge chairs to soak up the hot sun and relax. When the heat became too much they slipped into the pool.

Meara decided to stay out of the pool and just cooled her body in the shower, keeping her braided hair dry. She took off her glasses and rested back against the chair’s pillow.

While Clark kept Carolyn occupied discussing her next book, Rana, Odette, Aisha and Adeline splashed each other in the pool. They somehow managed to wake Ed with a couple of well-aimed splashes.

Ed jolted awake when cold water droplets splashed across his chest and face. He sat up and looked at the grinning ladies in the pool. He gave them a fake scowl and pulled his shirt up hearing the tell-tale ripping sound as it passed his wide shoulders. He sagged in frustration as he looked at the tear in the fabric. Sighing, he tossed it aside then eyed the giggling women in the water. He spotted his target then leapt to his feet and launched himself into the center of their group hitting the water in a cannonball tuck. The huge wave swamped the four until they came up sputtering and gasping.

He surfaced, wiped the water from his eyes and smiled at his victims. He immediately ducked under the surface and swam between them to the deep end of the pool. He began to do laps from end to end to give his muscles a little workout. He finally stopped after his sixth lap and leaned back against the side of the pool in the shallow end waiting to catch his breath.

Aisha swam closer and he kept an eye on her in case she decided to retaliate for his cannonball. He saw Odette and Adeline climbing out and making their way to their lounges. Which meant Rana was… he quickly looked left and right and missed the shadow sailing over his head until the splash smacked him right in the face.

It was Ed’s turn to cough and sputter as he wiped the water from his face and nose. Rana and Aisha shared a high five as he grinned at them.

“I surrender!” he said holding up his hands in defeat. The two ladies cheered for their victory.

“What shall we demand as our reward for winning?” Aisha said boldly to Rana whose eyes flew wide and she began giggling uncontrollably. “What naughty thoughts are passing through your mind Rana? I was merely thinking of having him give us massages on the table over there!” she said with a mischievous smile.

Rana’s giggles continued as the idea of Ed’s hands on her body did nothing to calm her.

“As you insist, I’ll go first,” Aisha shrugged to her friend. “Come Ed, my victory massage awaits.” She took his hand and led him from the pool as he cast an anxious look back towards Carolyn. She was in deep conversation with Clark and didn’t notice. He felt odd following the tiny woman, being led by the hand. He wasn’t so sure this was a good idea but she was being so insistent.

The massage table was just a little tall for Aisha to climb onto easily so she stopped and faced Ed. “Would you be so kind as to help me up onto the table?” she asked.

She felt so tiny in Ed’s hands but he took a grip on her torso and lifted her onto the edge.

“My, but you are strong!” she purred.

“You’re very light,” he responded.

She pouted. “Yes, being this small has many disadvantages.” She looked into his eyes. “How old do you think I am?”

“I heard you went to university with the others so I know you are in your thirties,” Ed reasoned.

“Maybe I should have said how old do you think I look?”

“I’m not good at that kind of estimating,” he said hesitantly.

“Many people see me as a child. I’m a grown woman! With grown woman needs and desires!” she complained.

Ed began to get really uncomfortable. He didn’t know where this conversation was going. Time to redirect. “Maybe this isn’t such a good idea-”

“Ed! You’re not going to renege on your promise-”

“I- I didn’t-”

“It’s just a massage, Ed. I’m surprised at you.” She pouted and looked up into his eyes.

Ed was thoroughly confused and saw no way out of the circumstance. He nodded. “You should probably lie down so I can begin.”

Wearing a wide victorious grin she nodded and stretched out on the bed with her face resting in the open ring at the head of the table. She reached back and undid the ties on her bikini top.

“You have lovely skin,” Ed said as he began.

“Thank you. You have wonderfully sensitive hands!”

He smiled as he heard her sigh. “Thank you.”

He concentrated on the therapeutic massage techniques he’d learned for working on Shirley’s back and heard Aisha ooof and ohhh and ahhh her way through the session. He could feel the muscles in her back relaxing and the little misalignments sorting themselves out. When he was done the ‘mechanical’ portion of the treatment he paused and dipped his face down next to hers.

“How are you doing?” he asked quietly.

“Oh Ed, what did you do? My back feels so much more relaxed!” she sighed.

“I learned how to fix my adoptive mom’s back after she got injured. Now I’m going to do a relaxation routine on the rest of your body.

The only response Aisha could make was a purr.

He began with her fingers on her left hand and worked his way up her arm. Then the same on the other side. Then the left foot up to her ass and her right foot up to her ass again. He wasn’t aware that while she was definitely relaxing, each time his big hands got close to her ass her body set off fireworks. He ran his fingers firmly down the sides of her torso ending with a tug on her hips, his hands just on the cusp of grabbing her ass cheeks. She was almost grinding her teeth with frustration as his hands brought her closer and closer to a release only to pull away.

It had been months since she’d been on a date with an actual live man that showed any interest in her. Too often the men who asked her out on dates turned out to be more than a little turned on by how young she looked. She might even say they were obsessively turned on by that. Creeps! Here was a nice young man with incredible hands doing incredible things to her. She desperately wanted him to do even nicer things.

“Ed?” she whispered.

He dipped his face down to hers again. “Yes?”

“My ass.”

He blinked. “What- what about it?”

“I- I need you to touch it. Firmly. Deeply. Ed, I’m so close! Please!” she begged.

Ed’s face flushed red as he realized she wanted a much more intimate touch than he intended.

“I can’t- I- I’m with Carolyn!” he stuttered.

“I know! I don’t want a boyfriend, I just need some relief! You’ve taken me to the brink! Are you really going to tease me like this and leave me hanging? Please, Ed!”

Ed glanced towards the pool but no one seemed to be paying any attention to them. He tentatively massaged the back of her thighs and worked his hands upwards. She began to make little mewling noises. He glanced up once more and moved his hands directly to her tight little ass cheeks. He squeezed and kneaded the flesh and muscles there and her breath whooshed out. He pushed down on her tailbone with his thumbs but in reality he was rocking her pelvis against the table.

“Oh fuck Ed! Yes!” she hissed between her teeth.

One final look and his right hand slid deep between her ass cheeks, fingers under her bikini bottom and sliding smoothly into the hot, wet depths of her pussy. Combined with the pressure he was exerting on her tailbone it was too much for the woman and she went into convulsions as her release exploded over her.

Ed moved back to rubbing her back with his left forearm as if he was smoothing out her muscles when he was actually just holding her flat as her body flopped around like a fish out of water. He slid his right hand free and she gasped and trembled.

He turned to pick up a towel to dry his hand and froze as Rana was standing behind him.

“Is it my turn next?” she asked quietly and Aisha squeaked in surprise on the table.

The ebony beauty lifted her head from the table and turned it to look at her friend. “Were you watching?!?”

Rana nodded. “Ed didn’t look back. Was it good?”

Aisha rested her cheek on the table as she grinned at Rana. “The massage was incredible! Ed has the hands of a god! The happy ending was especially nice! My body hasn’t felt this good… ever!” She suddenly pushed herself up to sit on the edge of the table facing them and her bikini top fell away from her humble tits.

Ed’s eyes were immediately drawn to her stiff perky nipples and he felt his erection becoming even harder in his swim trunks.

“You don’t see me as a child, do you Ed,” she purred.

He wasn’t able to speak so he just shook his head.

Aisha gave him a slow satisfied smile. “This is what makes you most attractive of all.”

“I- I should go-”

“Ed! You owe Rana here a massage. You’re not going to be a tease are you?” she gently scolded him and once more he felt trapped. He shook his head. Her sensual smile came back then she pretended to fall off the table.

He moved to catch her against his body and slowly lowered her to her feet. Her stiff nipples dragged down his hard muscles and her eyes went wide as she felt something very hard and hot pressing against her down below. He stepped back immediately once she was on her feet, his face blushing. Aisha shared a look with Rana who immediately moved to the table and lay on her stomach.

Ed wanted to get the massage over with so he could go back to his chair. He looked over at Carolyn but she was still speaking with Clark. Meara was looking in his direction but he quickly looked away, worried that she might insist on getting a massage as well.

He returned his thoughts to the process of giving a therapeutic massage and began on Rana. She began to giggle when his hands touched her but her sounds quickly became moans as he found and eliminated the knots in her muscles.

She had much more flesh on her body than Aisha so Ed needed to press harder to get through to the underlying muscle tissue. Rana was also much more vocal than Aisha about her pleasure. This was making Ed very uncomfortable as her moans sounded very sexual and his erection felt like it might tear through his swim suit any minute. Still he followed the pattern of the massage and soon he was done with the realignments. Rana was panting heavily on the table, her body trembling and Ed wasn’t sure why she was reacting like this. The massage was supposed to just relax the body. Rana felt tenser than before like her body was humming with electricity.

He was about to move on to the second phase when he felt breasts pressing against his back. He froze.

“Don’t mind me Ed.” Aisha purred and slid her hands down his powerful thighs. He looked towards Carolyn once more but it was no use.

-=-

Meara spotted Ed standing by the massage table and slipped her glasses on to see it was Aisha on the table. She wondered how she’d convinced the big man to give her a massage. “Lucky bitch!” she thought with a grin.

The next time she looked up Rana was on the table and Ed seemed to be looking this way. He wasn’t smiling. If anything he looked a little tense. She glanced over at Carolyn but the woman was facing the other way still chattering away to Clark. Meara looked back at Ed but he looked away. She kept an eye on him from that point as he seemed a little stiff.

Meara listened carefully and swore she could hear the sound of a woman moaning. The pool was making its burbling noises, Lucas was snoring like a buzz saw down the row of chairs, and Carolyn and Clark were blathering back and forth about something but she knew that sound. She slipped from her lounge chair and looked towards the massage table. She couldn’t see Aisha any longer. She walked around the pool and was approaching the massage area from the side when she spotted her petite friend rubbing herself against Ed’s back as he squeezed Rana’s ass. She definitely heard Rana’s gasp before she turned her head to muffle her orgasmic cries with a wad of towel she bit down on.

“Aisha! What the hell are you doing?" Meara hissed as she approached. Ed immediately released his grip on Rana’s fleshy ass and looked over his shoulder at her. She saw his face was hot with a blush.

The petite woman languidly turned her face to look at her friend through half lidded eyes. “Ed’s hard body feels soooo good!”

“I’m sure it feels like heaven itself but it’s not yours to be rubbing against like some stray cat! Get off!” Meara hissed again and made shooing motions.

Aisha pouted and slid her hands around to the front of his swim trunks before she released him. Her eyes flew wide as she felt how big he was under his suit. “Oh God, Meara! He’s huge and so hard!”

“Let. Him. Go. NOW!” the redhead growled angrily.

Aisha’s temper flared from her frustration. “With your height you have no idea what it’s like to be treated like a child by every man you’re attracted to.”

Meara’s temper spiked. “NO! I’m just the giant who scares men away! Did you not think I’d find Ed attractive too? Do you see me pawing at his willy?”

Rana finally managed to get her wits about her and pushed herself up to sit on the edge of the table. “Meara, there’s been no harm. Ed just gave us a massage. That’s all.”

Taking one look at the flush on her face Meara snorted angrily. “That’s all she says. Woman, you’re dripping down your legs!” Meara barked back. Rana looked down and saw it was true. She squeaked and pulled a towel over her legs.

Meara turned her attention to Ed who’d remained quiet through the entire exchange. “And what do you have to say for yourself mister? Having some fun with these two while your woman is just steps away!”

Ed’s mouth worked but he looked between the angry faces and didn’t know what to say. He grabbed a towel and wrapped it around his waist to disguise his condition. Then he quickly moved to his lounge chair where he gathered his clothes and headed towards the main building. He was done with the pool today.

Meara watched the big man walk away. She wasn’t sure if he’d been a willing participant or if there had been some coercion from Aisha. She knew the small woman had a big appetite for sex. She recalled the number of boyfriends Aisha had gone through in University and she’d had some professors as well. The fact that Ed hadn’t immediately gone to speak with Carolyn, did that mean something? Guilt? Shame? What was she supposed to say to Carolyn? With a final scowl at the two ladies she turned and walked back to her lounge chair. She dropped herself onto it with a little too much force and it squealed as it rolled back a few inches.

Carolyn squeaked in fright from the sudden noise. She looked behind herself and blinked at Meara who was struggling to wipe the frown from her face. Aisha was approaching with a grim look on her face and Rana’s guilt was plain to see.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” Carolyn asked Meara who glanced at Aisha then shook her head. Carolyn moved her gaze to Aisha but she saw the woman’s defenses going up so she knew she’d get nothing from her.

Rana, though, she was a soft touch. Carolyn locked eyes with her and guilt and panic swept through the woman’s features. “What did you do?” She picked up a scent… it smelled like… sex? “Oh my god- WHERE’S ED?” Carolyn blurted as she scanned the pool area for the big man.

“He went back to the house,” Meara said quietly.

Carolyn leapt to her feet to run to the house then spun back to glare at the three, no two, as Meara clearly wasn’t looking guilty enough to have participated in whatever happened. Aisha still had her wall up but Rana was quickly crumbling. “We’ll talk after I’ve spoken with Ed.” She ran back to the house and let herself inside. Philip was walking in the hall with a decanter of what looked like sangria.

“Excuse me, Philip? Have you seen Ed?”

“Monsieur Walters came through a couple of minutes ago and I directed him to your room,” the man replied.

“Thank you!” she blurted and began to run up the stairs.

“But he’s gone.”

She jerked to a halt. “What?!?”

“When he returned from upstairs he looked most upset and asked if there was a place he could go for a run. He had on his shorts and running shoes so I pointed him in the direction of the running trail that leads through the woods. I’m afraid he’s already left the house.”

Carolyn had relaxed a little after her mind had taken her to bad places when Philip said Ed was ‘gone’. Her nerves flared again when she heard Ed was upset. “He’s gone for a run. OK, I see. Hopefully he will feel better when he returns.” She nodded to herself. She needed to get a handle on what happened as she’d been off in a dream world all day. Ed was upset… on her watch. Her eyes hardened. Time to go speak to some guilty ‘friends’.

Clark was already fishing the information from the ladies by pretending to be surprised by Ed’s behavior. Aisha was buying into his false sympathy and had offered a juicy little nugget already. She’d said that Ed had been sexually excited by touching their bodies when he ‘massaged’ them.

Meara was scowling at her friend and Clark could see he’d have to be very careful about what he said around that one.

He turned his attention to the glassy eyes of Rana. “Did he get excited with you as well?” Rana nodded and her lower lip began to tremble. Clark leaned back wide eyed as if thinking about the wanton behavior of the big man. In reality he was wondering how he could use this information to drive doubt into Carolyn’s heart.

He’d really enjoyed his conversation with Carolyn and could see them being a really powerful couple in their field. Their intellectual compatibility was thrilling!

He caught a stiffening in the postures of both Aisha and Rana as they looked towards the house. He turned and saw Carolyn marching back. He could almost see the looming storm clouds rolling towards them. He wisely stayed quiet as the storm’s first strike must not be against him. He put a sympathetic expression on his face.

Meara leaned forward in surprise. “What happened? Where’s Ed?”

Carolyn was momentarily derailed by the concerned tone in Meara’s voice. Her own throat suddenly threatened to close with a burst of emotion. She throttled it down and looked over to Meara. “He’s gone…” her throat closed again.

“GONE?!?” erupted simultaneously from multiple mouths including Aisha, Meara, Rana, Adeline, and Clark’s.

Carolyn shook her head aggressively and glared at Aisha. “He’s gone for a run because he was upset. He was gone before I got inside.”

Aisha bristled at the implied accusation. “Then how do you know he was upset?”

“Because Philip said he looked ‘most upset’ and wanted to go for a run. Running isn’t something Ed normally does. He’s too big! He lifts weights-”

“See! I told you he does long sessions with free weights!” Lucas blurted.

“Shut up Lucas,” Clark growled and received a grateful nod from Carolyn. Clark made a mental note to fire the trainer.

“What did you do?” Carolyn said point blank to Aisha.

The woman huffed and looked away. Rana looked at her beseechingly until she sighed. “It was nothing! We were playing in the pool and we won so Ed said he would give us massages.”

“Ed suggested he’d give you massages,” Carolyn asked, her voice clearly indicating she did not believe that for a second.

“No, I suggested the massages but he agreed,” Aisha conceded.

Carolyn still doubted that Ed would go along with this.

“I suppose it isn’t inconceivable that a young man like Ed might enjoy the idea of massaging two lovely women,” Clark gently suggested.

Carolyn frowned and shook her head. “It would be except Ed isn’t your typical young man. There are… things about him that don’t… let him react… in expected ways.” She glared at Aisha. “Ed’s not promiscuous!”

Aisha stared blankly at her in response.

“Did Ed say ‘yes, I’ll give you a massage?’ or did you tell him he was going to give you a massage?” Carolyn pushed.

The ebony beauty huffed once more. “He is a big man and I’m a tiny woman. How am I going to force him to do anything?”

“Did he say yes?”

Aisha glared back at her. “No, okay? He just followed like a good little puppy.” Carolyn opened her mouth but Aisha wasn’t finished. “You said nothing about our having to treat him any differently! Up until this moment we had every expectation to think he was a fully functional adult. Are you telling us he is mentally disabled? Is this what your new boyfriend is?”

Carolyn leaned back, feeling the pain of the verbal slap. It was true. She’d been so excited to show off her new hunky boyfriend to her friends that she’d failed to take Ed’s needs into account. Then she’d gotten so tied up in her own world with Clark that she’d left Ed to fare for himself with a man-eater like Aisha. Her expression darkened.

“Ed isn’t mentally incompetent. He isn’t mentally disabled. He’s savant smart in many ways. What he has difficulty with are some forms of interpersonal communication. Don’t lie to the man. Don’t be sarcastic. Don’t tease. Don’t bully. He’s an innocent so don’t abuse him.” Carolyn’s voice was calm but very cold. “You say I never told you to treat him any differently? That’s true, I’m guilty of that. I should have. But what should I have said to keep you from trying to HAVE SEX WITH MY BOYFRIEND?” she finished in a shout. Rana burst into tears and Aisha looked like she was struggling to maintain her indignant expression.

“Did you touch him… sexually?” Carolyn pushed.

Aisha’s reserve cracked and she took a deep gulp of air. Her entire life people had looked at her and expected her to be sweet and innocent and she’d resented it so much. She was a woman with hot passions, hidden beneath her child sized body. Yet in her lust for Ed she’d failed to recognize the true innocence in the large man. She began to cry. “I’m sorry! He’s just so big and masculine! I didn’t know!”

Carolyn stepped forward and pulled the petite woman into a firm hug then gathered Rana in as well. Soon Meara was clinging to them all and everyone was crying.

Clark blinked in surprise then struggled to keep the scowl from his face. This wasn’t going as he’d hoped at all. Where was the jealous rage? He glanced over at his group and everyone but Lucas had tears in their eyes. Great! They were all useless to him.

He thought about what Carolyn said about Ed’s innocence. That was definitely something he could work with.



Chapter 7

Ed let himself back into the building and climbed the stairs to the upper floor where their room was. He managed to avoid bumping into anyone which he was grateful for. The run had helped burn off a lot of the pent up energy he’d built up but his mind was still spinning about how he’d somehow messed up with Carolyn’s friends. He wasn’t sure what he was going to say to her. His stomach was still in knots about that.

Their room was empty as well so he stripped off the shorts and socks he still had on. He’d left his runners by the back door as they had mud on them. The idea of tracking mud into this gorgeous mansion was too much to contemplate! He noticed Carolyn had set out some clothes for him for dinner. He slipped into the bathroom and stepped into the claw foot tub, pulling the curtain closed. There was a shower in the tub which he didn’t fit under but he did his best to get clean. He supposed people were shorter back when this kind of tub was used. He didn’t really know too much about French history or history in general.

Clean, he dried himself off, put on the clothes Carolyn selected and made his way back downstairs. He followed the sound of voices and stepped into a large room set up with couches and chairs. Everyone was so elegantly dressed he felt underdressed in his black slacks, white dress shirt, black socks and loafers. His shirt was open at the collar and he’d rolled the sleeves back a little to be more comfortable. His hand went to his sleeve to unroll it when Carolyn rushed up to him and touched his arm to make him stop.

He looked at her lovely blue cocktail dress and how much cleavage was on display and gave her a happy smile. She thrilled at his look but gave her head a shake to pull herself back to what she had to do.

“You look fine. Leave the sleeve,” she said gently. Hazel eyes looked up into his blue ones. “I want to apologize for not being there for you this afternoon. I had no idea what Aisha and Rana were up to and I got so caught up in my own concerns that I didn’t pay attention. I’ve spoken with Aisha, Rana, and Meara and they have something they would like to say to you as well.” When he nodded she gestured behind her.

Meara approached and Ed’s eyes widened in delight. She looked beautiful in her emerald colored dress which hugged her slim body and stopped above her knees. It showed off her long svelte legs and toned arms. With her lovely braids and deep red lipstick she was stunning.

She smiled shyly at his appreciative look. “You look very handsome tonight Ed.”

“You look stunning! You both do,” he gushed, his eyes being trapped once more by Carolyn’s breasts.

Meara stepped a little closer drawing Ed’s attention back to her. “I want to apologize for what I said to you earlier. I wasn’t aware of what had really happened and made some bad assumptions. I’m truly sorry,” Meara said sincerely.

He smiled and nodded to her as he didn’t know what to say. He was still confused by what had happened. He suddenly stiffened when he saw Aisha and Rana approaching. Meara caught his motion and turned to look. She stepped back to give her friends some room.

The white sheath dress Aisha wore clung to her trim body like a second skin and looked incredible against her dark complexion. It left her shoulders uncovered and ended scandalously high on her upper thigh. A lot of her smooth skin was showing.

Rana was in a pink, silk sari with gold accents and trim. She was also showing a startling amount of cleavage but Ed was too tense to appreciate it.

Aisha looked miserable and Rana’s eyes were glassy with unshed tears.

Clearing her throat Aisha spoke first. “I’m very sorry for how I treated you this afternoon. I got lost in my own need and assumed you would be equally happy to participate so I gave you no real option. I judged you by appearance alone, something I despise others doing to me. I completely misread you. I’m sorry for abusing your good nature and using you for my own selfish needs. I meant no disrespect to you or Carolyn. Please forgive me!”

Ed watched her confession with wide eyes. It clicked in his head and he understood that he hadn’t done anything wrong. He felt relief and smiled at the woman. “You’re forgiven,” he rumbled. Aisha gulped in a breath as her emotions threatened to overwhelm her.

“I’m sorry too!” Rana blurted as her tears began to run down her cheeks.

Ed smiled at her as well. “Please don’t cry! You’ll get your lovely dress wet.”

“It’s a sari,” the woman mumbled around the smile that was surfacing through her tears.

Ed nodded to her. “It’s a lovely sari and I forgive you too. I’d like to put it behind us and move on.”

He got four bright smiles and nods for that. Carolyn hugged him and gave him a kiss which he enjoyed very much.

They joined the others in the seating area and aside from some curious glances they made no mention of the afternoon’s activities. Ed sighed in relief.

The group found seats on the beautiful antique furniture. Ed was fascinated by how ornate the woodwork was on the couches and chairs and even the small tables.

“Feeling better Ed?” Clark asked and Ed smiled and nodded at the man. “Have you not seen Louis the 15th furniture before?” he continued.

“Louis the 15th? Did he make this furniture? He’s quite good! It’s beautiful,” Ed said with a smile.

Clark smiled at him indulgently. “No, ‘Louis the 15th’ is a style of furniture and means it was designed and built during the reign of the French monarch, Louis the 15th between the years 1723 to 1774.”

Ed’s eyes widened. “This furniture was built that long ago?” He cautiously got back to his feet, afraid to rest his weight on the antiques.

“It’s ok, I believe it’s strong enough to support even a big man like you,” Clark said. Ed looked at Carolyn who nodded with a smile of her own.

He sat but he was overly conscious of the value of the furniture he was resting on.

Philip entered the room and got their attention. “Madam Gauthier sends her regards but regrets she has been called away to the city so will not be joining you for dinner this evening. Dinner will be served in the dining room in ten minutes.” With a small bow the man exited.

“I hope everything is alright with Karina,” Carolyn said, concerned.

“She said that she’d see us tomorrow. She’s a very busy woman. I’m sure she’s fine.” Clark said reassuringly.

Odette entertained them with some bawdy tales of working in the field when she was younger then they were called to dinner.

Ed continued to feel like a bull in a china shop as everything looked ancient and correspondingly very expensive. He enjoyed the food very much but handled the cutlery and delicate plates and serving dishes with extra care. He was so nervous he would break something.

They shared stories of their days in the field and the issues they had with getting their expeditions equipped and funded. Ed found this fascinating and listened with rapt attention. Meara’s stories were the best in Ed’s opinion as she added a comedic flare to them and her accent was so lovely. He found himself mesmerized on a couple of occasions.

Meara enjoyed his attention and shared smiles with Carolyn when they’d notice him watching her with a fork halfway to his mouth.

After dinner they moved to the ‘drawing room’ for after dinner conversation and drinks. They had a selection of liqueurs and brandy. Clark handed Ed a brandy and showed him how to drink it. He thought it was ok but not is favorite. Carolyn and Adeline were in deep conversation so Ed gravitated to Meara once more. He saw she was drinking a liqueur called Grand Marnier Cordon Rouge. He asked for one too and found it to be very interesting.

Meara and Aisha began trading stories with Odette and Ernst about their experiences at university and Ed listened happily sipping at his liqueur. The staff brought him another when he finished the first.

Odette was a master story teller though her tales usually ended up with someone running naked through the university quad to get back to their dorm before sunup.

Ernst stories were more serious but he did have a few scandalous tales and had the ladies shrieking in delight. Ed grinned as he soaked in the high spirits and yet another liqueur. All the sexy stories were making Ed feel funny.

Carolyn rejoined them and noticed Ed’s mellow smile when he turned his head in her direction.

“Oh Ed, how many of these did you have?” she asked with a smile as he polished off the one in his hand.

He blinked and tried to recall. He finally shook his head.

“Time to get you in my bed,” Carolyn said.

Ed’s eyes flashed with interest as he caught her words. Something stirred behind his blue eyes.

She realized she’d said that incorrectly and saw a strange heat in Ed’s eyes which were beginning to undress her. She’d never seen him behave like this before and realized she’d never seen him so deeply under the influence of alcohol. She wondered how someone with his unique mental makeup would deal with it. It was fascinating!

“Come on Ed, on your feet!” she said and pulled on his hands. He allowed himself to be drawn up to his feet but the room began to slide sideways. Suddenly Meara was bracing the right side of his body with hers as the room continued to tug him to the right.

Carolyn tucked herself under his left arm and they proceeded to move the big man towards the doorway. Meara kept pace and the two women walked him from the room towards the stairs.

The liqueur was really kicking in by this point and Ed began to growl quietly to himself as he hugged the two women to his body. A particular part of his anatomy began to wake up.

Carolyn kept up her instructions to Ed to climb the steps and he did. Step after step, rumbling quietly all the way.

Meara felt her own body responding to his arm wrapped around her and his wandering hand. She glanced over at Carolyn but she was too intent on guiding him to notice what Ed was doing. Then she noticed his other hand was wandering over Carolyn and the woman’s face was as flushed as hers must look.

They got him to the top and down the hall to stand before their door. Ed pulled them to his chest and purred happily.

Carolyn gasped as she felt Ed’s cock grinding against her. She glanced over at Meara who was looking nervously over at her though her face was showing her excitement.

“Do you remember Tony?” Carolyn asked tentatively.

Meara’s face lit up with relief and joy. “Oh thank god! I was hoping you’d remember that night,” she gasped as her body flared with delicious pleasure.

“At least Ed isn’t a big jerk like Tony turned out to be, bragging to his buddies about us,” Carolyn said as she rubbed herself against the big man whose rumble deepened. His big hands slid down to their asses and he squeezed them as he pulled them against his body.

“Fuck! Ed’s body feels so deliciously hard!” Meara whispered to Carolyn.

“Let’s get him inside the room before he takes us here in the hall!” Carolyn gasped. She was surprised by how aggressive Ed was being.

She’d been fascinated by Ed’s distinct and unique perception of the world around him ever since he’d found the music in her tattoo. She’d grilled Zoe about how his behavior changed the night they went to the penitentiary and Ed faced off against that predator, Luis Ramos. Alcohol played a major role in his change that night. According to Rachel, Ed was more than a little energetic in their lovemaking while they were in Barbados and again alcohol played a part. Ed hadn’t been violent with Rachel but definitely aggressive. She was a little concerned about what condition she might be in in the morning if Ed lost control tonight. Having Meara there to help might be a wiser move than she’d originally thought.

The two women managed to get Ed moving again and pulled him into the bedroom. The lighting was subdued but they could see. Meara let go of Ed and closed the door. She squealed when his arm suddenly wrapped around her waist and pulled her away from the door to squeeze her against his body once more. Fuck, he was strong!

Carolyn was unbuttoning his shirt and Meara undid his belt and pants and pushed them down with his underwear as Carolyn slid his shirt back over his shoulders. He stepped out of his pants and socks and stumbled a little as the room continued to spin for him. The two women moved to hold him upright.

Meara looked down and her eyes flew wide. He was huge! She looked over at Carolyn in shock. The woman noticed her expression and glanced down then back up with a grin.

“It’s so… I- I’ve never…” Meara whispered. Then her words were lost as Ed took her mouth with his. He was just a little taller than she was so he fit her so well. She was more familiar with bending slightly to kiss the men she dated. Ed knew how to kiss! She felt her body flood with tingles as he sucked on her lower lip then ran the tip of his tongue gently along her upper lip. Fuck that was hot! He pulled back and plucked her glasses off. She grabbed them from his fingers before his mouth landed on hers again and she was swept away by his passion.

Carolyn was trying to contain her gasps and moans as Ed had spun her around to lean back against him. His hand was under her dress deep between her legs. He had her pinned to his body under his arm but his hand was driving her pleasure hard and she was having trouble catching her breath. His fingers were plunging deep into her pussy and his palm was grinding against her clit and all she could do was cling to his arm as he moved his hand faster and faster.

“FUCK! Fuckfuck- OhFUCK! Oh! OhOhFUCK ED! FUCKFUCKFUCK! AH- Ah- FFFFUUUUUUUCCCKKK!” she cried as Ed brought her to a sudden climax.

He moved them to the bed and let Carolyn slump to the mattress. She rolled onto her back to look up at him and watched him slip his wet fingers into his mouth and sucked them clean. Shocks were coursing through her body as she gasped for breath on the bed.

Meara was looking at Ed with half lidded eyes as her face flushed with her excitement. Ed’s clever fingers found the zipper on her dress then he was sliding it off her body to pool at her feet. He growled in appreciation as he took in the sexy, lacy lingerie she was wearing. She felt a little self-conscious of her small tits, especially with Carolyn’s larger ones so close by but Ed’s expression of hunger made her feel better. He reached behind her back and popped the clasp and pulled the straps forward and down her arms. His lips followed his hands down and he slowly knelt before her, trailing kisses down her torso. His tongue and lips teased her stiff nipples then he sucked first one then the other tit into his mouth. She cried out and grabbed his head to pull him tighter against her and he drove her mad with his tongue.

Then he moved lower and her eyes widened as his lips found her pussy. He wasted little time in teasing her before his mouth was pressed firmly against her pussy, his tongue dipping deeply into her. His hands squeezed her ass cheeks and he began to suck and lick her until she was clinging to his hair in her fists, shouting with her eyes closed. The release was so sudden and intense her legs were shaking.

Ed stood and lifted Meara to lay her on the bed. He moved to Carolyn to flip her onto her stomach and undid the zipper on her dress. His hands went to her torso just under her breasts to lift her to her feet in one sudden surge. She went up and he pulled her dress down. He knelt down and ran his tongue roughly between her ass cheeks and she cried out. He lifted her back onto the bed on her knees and pressed the head of his cock against her wet pussy.

Carolyn’s eyes flew wide as he drove himself deep in one thrust.

“OHHHH! OH FUCK!” she gasped as he opened her wide. When he began pounding her ass with his hips thrusting his thick cock into her depths she was reduced to grunts “UHHH! UHHH! UHHH!” Her mind blanked as he felt so fucking good inside her! His balls slapped her clit again and again, each strike shooting bolts of delicious pleasure through her body, driving her release closer. She found herself pushing back against his thrusts and her ass turned red from the spanking. When he reached under and rubbed her clit her grunts became squeals. Her legs were trembling and she couldn’t stop jerking under his body.

“CUH- CUH- I’M- FUCK! CCCUUUUUUMMMMMIIIINNNGGGGG!!!!!” she wailed through her clenched teeth as her legs shook uncontrollably. Ed’s pounding continued until she managed to drop from under him onto the bed. She rolled aside but Ed followed her down. He kissed her deeply, sucking at her tongue and squeezed her tit in his hand. She was much too sensitive and while one part of her wanted him to fuck her until she passed out her rational mind was telling her that was a really bad idea as she needed to be functional tomorrow. Desperately she reached out for Meara’s hand and pulled it down to touch Ed’s hard cock.

Meara had been dozing, listening to the sexy sounds of Ed and Carolyn fucking with great energy. Her eyes flew open when her hand was grabbed and dragged to feel a hot cock throbbing in her grip.

She felt/heard Ed’s sexy growl turn in her direction and suddenly he was over her, his large body pressing her against the mattress. He rubbed his heavy cock up and down against her pussy which immediately began to tingle and moisten. He kissed her, caressing her mouth with his, drawing coos from the woman. Ed rested on his elbows and took her head between his hands as they kissed. When he moved the slick head of his cock slowly down to position himself she pulled back from his mouth to gasp at him.

“Wait! Wait! I- I’ve never been with someone so big!” she panted frantically.

Ed looked into her eyes and she froze. The raw hunger in his pale blue eyes pinned her like a deer in the headlights.

Then she felt it. The fat head of his cock was parting her lips and sinking inside ever so slowly.

“Oh… oh… oh… god… so… my… Mmmmm!” she whimpered, still trapped by his gaze. She was almost holding her breath as Ed eased his cock deeper and deeper inside her with only brief withdrawals. She felt herself opening to accept his hot flesh but taking more seemed impossible… until she did.

Her heart was beating so hard and the feeling of being full was too much.

“Uhhhnnn… oh fuck Ed… it’s too… oh god… so big… I can’t-”

Ed’s pelvis gently came to rest on hers and her eyes went wide as she realized she had all of him! His heavy, long, fat cock was all the way up inside her! Her eyes were threatening to roll back from the pressure of him holding himself inside.

“Oh god Ed, you’ve filled me!” she sighed and searched his eyes for the gentle young man that she’d met only this morning. The man looking back at her grinned wickedly and drew his cock out to the head and pushed it back in. He sighed in bliss while she clung to his body as lightning, fire and ice chased each other through her limbs.

“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHH!!!” she wailed.

Ed growled as he drew himself out and drove it in once more.

“FFFFUUUCCKKK! OH ED! OH GOD! MOTHER-” she continued as her legs hooked around his and her fingers dug into the hard muscles of his ass pulling at him.

Ed’s thrusts sped up until he was hammering Meara against the mattress.

“FookYesFookYesFookYesFookYesYesYes… YES! YES! YES!” she bellowed louder and louder as Ed’s pumping went faster and faster.

“OMIGOD! OMIGOD! OH ED! IT’S THERE! OH GEEZ! I’M CUMMING! ED! I’M CUMMING! OOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!” Meara began to howl as Ed continued to hammer her against the bed.

Carolyn was watching, wide eyed, both envious and grateful Meara was the recipient of this almost brutal fucking. Meara looked like she was about to faint but Ed was still thrusting and hadn’t slowed. She heard a creak and looked towards the door. In the dim light of the room she saw Aisha’s white dress. Carolyn waved at her to come in quickly.

Aisha quick stepped over to the bed when she saw Carolyn’s frantic waving. She leaned in and saw Meara begin to slump. She glanced at Carolyn who was trying to tell her something in hand signals.

Ed came out of his trance and stopped as he looked at the woman under him. She was worn out and beginning to pass out. He pulled himself free and looked over at Carolyn. She was awake and looked like she had plenty of energy. He smiled hungrily and began moving towards her.

“No! No! Ed, I’m done! Please!” she gasped when she suddenly noticed the big man prowling back to her side of the bed. She gestured towards the end of the bed and his eyes followed.

The light was dim in the room but there was someone standing at the end of the bed. It was a small woman but she was darker than the shadows that filled the room. His fuzzy mind struggled to put a name to the shape. Aisha? The shadowy woman held out her hand and Ed reached for her. He let her pull him from the bed. He noticed the bedspread was on the floor. She guided him down onto his back. Immediately she straddled his head and lowered her pussy to his face as she took a grip on his cock with both hands.

Ed grunted as that felt good. He immediately stroked his tongue across the pussy hovering over his mouth. He took a grip on her ass cheeks and let his tongue sink deeply into the wetness. He gasped as he felt his cock sliding into a hot mouth. He sucked on her swelling lips and felt the woman twitch and tremble.

Aisha managed to get a third of him into her mouth but that was it. He was so fucking hard! She bobbed her head up and down over the amount she could take. She wanted all of him! She struggled to concentrate as his tongue made her so freaking wet. Suddenly Ed pulled her up and slid her body under his. He seemed huge above her. He ran his thick cock across her pussy and pushed her legs up to her chest. This raised her pussy and he guided himself in.

“Ooof! Ed! Oh goddess, you’re big!” she squeaked. When he began to thrust a little deeper each time Aisha had second thoughts about taking all of him. He was able to get about half of his length into her before it became painful and she pushed him back. He seemed to catch on as he sped up but never went deeper. Aisha rubbed her clit in tight little circles as the thick shaft pumped in and out of her stretched pussy.

“Are you close Ed?” Aisha sighed as her own release rolled up quickly. It was going to be a colossal one!

His answering growl let her know she was in trouble. Something was keeping him from reaching his climax. She couldn’t stop her own as her fingers flew over her clit.

“Rana! Get in here! Oh fuck! That’s it!” Her eyes rolled back as her orgasm struck.

Ed had to pull free as she was shaking too much. He looked down at the trembling woman flopping on the floor. He pushed himself to his feet and felt a deep ache from his suppressed release. He was so close! He growled his frustration and looked back at the bed. They appeared to be asleep. He heard a squeak and looked towards the exit. Standing next to the door, her dress pooled at her feet, Rana watched him fearfully as if he were a wild beast. He looked at her plump tits and her curvy hips. Her long black hair was hanging over her shoulder and something clicked for him. He stalked toward her and she pushed herself back against the door trying to reach the handle without letting her eyes leave his. He stopped just before her and his bobbing cock tapped against her dripping pussy.

“oh” she whispered as her legs became weak.

He reached out a hand and gathered up her thick hair. It felt silky smooth in his fingers. It felt like… hers. His cock slapped up against her wetness once more.

“Mmmph!” she whimpered as she stared at his hungry expression.

Ed’s mind was still floating on the heady mix of too much liqueur and the rush of intense sex so his thoughts were jumbled. Somehow Grace was standing before him. Looking lovely and so sexy. His cock surged.

“Oh… oh… oh geezus!” Rana whined as Ed’s cock pressed against her tightly. The heat of him was soaking into her flesh.

Ed leaned forward and kissed her, pressing her against the door. His hands found her tits and he gave them a squeeze, gently tugging on the nipples. When the woman began sliding down the door he got his hands under her and lifted her in the air only to force her back against the door. His cock found its mark and he drove it all the way home in one thrust.

Rana screamed soundlessly. He was so deep and it felt better than she imagined! She’d had a few boyfriends and one had been almost as big as Ed but it hadn’t felt anything like this! He kissed her again and sunk his fingers into her hair and he pinned her to the door. He moved his hands to her ass to support her.

Then he began to fuck her.

It was raw and wild with both of them grunting, kissing deeply, and grabbing at each other. He took her hard with nothing held back and the door took a beating from their slamming together.

His growls and her cries grew louder and louder as they both rushed up on their release. She shook her head and her soft hair flew into Ed’s face setting him off. He roared as he finally crested and she screamed in response, her body pulsing and squeezing him as waves of bliss rolled over her. He slammed her against the door a few more times as the last surges crashed through his body.

Ed was leaning against the door her pinned between. She was gasping for breath and he was quickly running out of energy. He lifted her from his shrinking cock and gently carried her to the bedspread laid out on the floor. He set her down beside Aisha then stumbled into the washroom.

He was suddenly confused about where he was. Nothing looked familiar. He looked down at his cock which was wet. He rinsed himself off in the sink then he thought maybe he should be taking a shower. He stepped into the tub and he wondered where he was and what he was doing. His head swam so he sat down before he fell down. He thought maybe he could just rest for a bit and leaned forward to rest his head and arms on his knees. Soon his eyes closed and that’s where he fell asleep.



Chapter 8

Breakfast was served late the following morning as some of Karina’s guests couldn’t free themselves from the room they seemed to have all shared. It seems the door was jammed in its frame.

Clark left his room after a poor night’s sleep. The noises that animal Ed made the night before kept him from sleeping as all he could imagine was Carolyn with the stupid meat stick.

He blinked when he saw the workmen trying to remove the door to Carolyn’s room. Clark’s group exited from their rooms to wander over to stand next to him.

“Did you hear all the noise they were making last night?” Odette said with a grin. She looked at the workers. “What happened here?”

“What does it look like? They’re fixing a jammed door!” Clark snapped.

Adeline looked around. “Where are the others? Meara, Aisha and Rana?”

“They must have slept in because the noise kept them up last night too.” Clark growled quietly.

The two workers nodded in satisfaction and moved back as the door finally opened.

Aisha walked out wearing her dress from the previous night. She was walking a little tenderly. She stopped to look at the group standing in the hall.

“Good morning,” she said and made her way to her bedroom and closed the door behind herself.

Rana hobbled out of the room and squeaked as she saw everyone looking back at her. She gave them a nervous smile and rushed to her room… as quickly as she could hobble.

Adeline looked at Odette who was stifling her laughter with great difficulty. Clark looked visibly upset and confused.

Meara stepped out and looked up when she saw the group watching. She scowled. “Go on then, there’s nothing to see here. Go about your business.” She made her way to her own bedroom with as much dignity as she could muster but she was moving very stiffly.

Snapping out of his daze Clark turned to the others and glared at Odette who had tears in her eyes. “You heard the lady, let’s go get some breakfast.

Inside the washroom of Carolyn’s room she was gently waking the big man she’d found sleeping in the tub.

“Ed? It’s time to wake up,” she said softly.

Before he moved a low groan emanated from his curled up form.

“Where does it hurt?” she asked.

“Head. Neck. Back… and… my penis is sore.”

Carolyn stifled her snort and kept her grin from her face. The night before had been sexy as hell and completely fascinating! A drunk Ed was a totally different Ed! After he’d fucked her and Meara silly, she’d watched him take Aisha and expected him to finish. When he got to his feet, his cock hard as before and looking around for relief she’d pretended to be asleep. Thank god Rana worked up the nerve to enter the room! Watching Ed and Rana rut had been incredibly sexy and she sighed in relief when Ed finally climaxed. When he wandered off into the washroom Carolyn nodded off waiting for him to return.

It was Aisha who woke them in the morning. She got up first, slipped her dress on and tried to leave. The door wouldn’t open. Frustrated she woke Carolyn. Meara whimpered as she woke on the bed next to Carolyn. The redhead was pretty sore from her time with Ed. Aisha admitted to being sore and Rana added her ‘me too’. Rana’s small smile let Carolyn know the woman wouldn’t have changed anything.

Carolyn opened a window and called down to a couple of workers below to let them know the door was jammed. Then she went into the washroom to get some painkillers from her kit. She spotted Ed asleep in the tub. She went back out into the room and distributed the pills. They shared the bottle of water next to the bed to wash them down.

The workers eventually got the door unjammed and the ladies cleared out. Carolyn went to wake Ed. She knew he was going to be in a bad way so she brought the bottle of water with her.

“Ed, take these and drink the entire bottle.”

He lifted his head slowly and peered at her. “Did… did I drink too much last night? I feel really bad.”

She nodded. “What do you remember?”

He took the pills and drank some of the water. Then he held the cool bottle against his temple as he struggled to put his jumbled memories in place.

“We were downstairs talking and I was drinking… liqueurs. I lost track of how many. I- I have flashes.” His eyes flew wide and then winced closed. “Oh my god,” he whispered. “Did I- did I have sex with someone other than you?” He jolted in the tub then hissed. “Is Grace here?!?”

It was Carolyn’s turn to look surprised. “Grace? No, why would you think that?”

Ed sagged back against the tub. His brain hurt so much and the disjointed images flashing through it didn’t help. “Her hair. I remember her hair. Long. Black. Soft. Ohhhh… god. Rana.” Ed looked over at Carolyn with a stricken expression. “I think I had sex with Rana! I’m so sorry-”

“Ed, listen to me. Everything that happened last night is fine. There is no need to apologize for having sex with anyone. We’re all adults here.”

His eyes widened in worry. “Anyone? Who- Who else did I-” Suddenly his stomach was trying to climb up his throat. He lurched up and fell out of the tub trying to get to the toilet. Carolyn leapt back to give him room as he crawled on his hands and knees the last few feet to hurl into the commode. His body heaved and heaved until he felt wrung out.

“No more liqueur for you,” Carolyn said gently as she wiped his face with a cool, damp facecloth. Ed’s stomach cramped at the thought but he had nothing left. He sagged against the wall of the washroom.

“What happened last night?” he asked faintly.

She knelt down in front of him and took his hands in hers. “Nothing bad, Ed. You were very drunk and very… amorous. Meara and I helped you upstairs and into the room. You were very passionate and it was very good. You needed more and we were worn out. Aisha and Rana came to your rescue. I think you broke the door when you took Rana against it.”

Ed’s expression was frozen. He was making sounds but nothing intelligible. Finally he managed to squeak out some words. “I broke Karina’s home?”

“Replacing the door is a minor repair,” she shrugged.

“No, you don’t understand! She’s going to have to call the Historical French Department or something like that just to repaint it. I broke a door in a historical building!” His body shook. “I had sex with three strangers too! What’s wrong with me?!?”

“Easy, Ed. Nothing is wrong with you. You were just a little drunk. It’s nothing to get worked up about.” Carolyn was beginning to feel guilty about how much she’d enjoyed watching his change of behavior the night before. That behavior was obviously frightening to him. The fact that he couldn’t recall making those decisions or taking those actions must make him feel like someone else was taking over. “We will speak to Karina today and explain the circumstances. She really likes you so I’m sure she won’t be upset about the door.”

That seemed to ease some of his concerns so she helped him to his feet. “Take your shower so we can get the day started.”

Ed was naked so he just stepped into the tub and she heard the water start up.

When he was done he stepped out as she stepped in and she paused to get a kiss from the big man. That brought a smile to his face. “I love you Ed.”

His eyes lit up. “I love you too Carolyn!”

Once they were dressed they went down to the main floor and were directed to a lovely table set up in the courtyard. Staff took their orders, toast and water for Ed, and they settled back in their chairs. Clark was reading a paper, trying not to look upset.

“Good morning, Clark. Sleep well?” she asked.

“Actually no. The house was pretty noisy last night and I had flash backs to being in a firefight in Uganda.” He said it with a smile but there was tension in the corners of his eyes.

Ed’s eyes widened and his face blanched. “Oh my god! I’m so sorry! I don’t remember anything… clearly from last night, but please accept my sincerest apologies for putting you through that!”

Clark was taken aback by the strength of Ed’s response. The man really was mortified. Clark just nodded to him and Ed went back to staring at his empty plate.

Carolyn gave Clark an annoyed look and reached over to touch Ed’s hand. He visibly relaxed at her touch.

Aisha and Rana joined them and sat across the table from Carolyn and Ed. They both sat down slowly. His face flushed red.

“I- I want to apologize-”

“Why?”

Ed blinked at Aisha.

“Nothing you did last night requires an apology. We are friends. I hope we can say that we are good friends. What we did last night was an expression of intimacy between good friends. I enjoyed myself very much. I’m sorry you are not as comfortable with the experience as we are,” Aisha concluded.

Ed looked over at Rana who was smiling at him as she bit her lip. He saw her long hair pulled forward over one shoulder and his mind flashed to a scene of him slamming her against the door as her head was thrown back in bliss. He jolted from the memory and his face felt like it was going to burst into flames.

Soft lips brushed against his hot cheek and he turned to see Meara smiling at him. She took the seat next to his and grabbed an extra cushion to sit on.

Odette could no longer contain her delight. “Vous êtes très généreux avec vos plaisirs, Ed!”

Ed gave the woman a confused smile as Clark glared at her.

Carolyn patted his hand. “She just said you are very generous to share your pleasure with my friends.”

Ed nodded hesitantly to Odette with an awkward smile.

Aisha looked down the table. “What is the plan for today? We must be back at the hotel by midafternoon to prepare for the presentation tonight but that leaves the morning open.”

“Karina had arranged for us to do a little horseback riding-” five faces showed their negative opinion of that idea and Odette opened her mouth to make a smart ass comment but got a slap on her leg from Ernst instead.

“Or we could relax by the pool once more. We’ll have lunch here then we head back to Paris.” Clark finished.

“The pool idea sounds lovely, Clark,” Meara agreed.

After looking around he saw everyone nodding. “The pool it is!” he said with a smile. He hoped he could draw Carolyn into another discussion. He’d enjoyed their talk the day before immensely.

Ed was feeling a little better after his toast. Everyone went to put on their bathing suits and met out by the pool again. Ed immediately slipped into the water and did a few laps, nothing strenuous as his head was still a little sore. He climbed out of the pool and saw this time Carolyn reserved him a lounge between hers and Meara’s. He stood beside it and pulled out the bottle of lotion. Carolyn plucked it from his fingers and she and Meara applied the lotion, she his front and Meara his back. He grumbled he could do his own lotion but truthfully considering how he was feeling he appreciated the pampering. Carolyn saw this and pinched his butt when they were done. He grinned and thanked them. He said he would return the favor but Carolyn told him to just lie down so he did.

“May I apply lotion to your back?” Clark asked and Carolyn nodded. He kept his hands from straying and felt her relaxing under his touch. Time to engage her brain.

“Did you hear the Smithsonian’s Anthropology department is talking about scaling back their work in Indonesia?” he said, setting the hook.

“WHAT? That would be a mistake!” Carolyn said in protest.

He affected a look of regret though truthfully he couldn’t care less for the region. “Yes, I’ve heard they want to concentrate on cultures closer to home.”

Carolyn’s brows drew down as she prepared her argument. Clark repressed his smile of joy at having successfully caught her full attention once more. He glanced over at Ed to see if he was upset at having lost her once more but Ed was just looking at Carolyn’s back with a gentle smile. Ed’s eyes flicked up to his and Clark was startled to see gratitude and joy in them. Ed nodded to him and Clark was forced to nod back. Handing the bottle of lotion back to Carolyn Clark sat back to listen to her argument on the importance of all cultures. He nodded at the appropriate spots and slipped in a comment or two to guide her towards a topic she was happier to discuss and he had views on he wanted to share as well. He had her.

Meara listened to the couple across Ed with half an ear. She’d picked up on the fact that Clark wanted Carolyn’s attention but saw Ed was not threatened in the least by it so she relaxed. She looked at Ed and watched the big man relaxing back against his lounge chair. He must have felt her gaze as he turned his eyes in her direction and smiled at her hesitantly. She reached out and he took her hand. She felt a thrill rush through her body once more to feel the strength in just his hand. She grinned self-consciously and Ed’s smile relaxed. She pulled back her hand, closed her eyes and settled herself against the cushions more comfortably as her mind went back to the night before. While she was aching this morning her time with Ed was one of the most profound sexual experiences of her life and she regretted not a second of it.

They spent the morning relaxing and swimming and by noon they were ready for the meal the staff prepared for them. Everyone was in a great mood and enjoyed the food very much. They gave Philip a round of applause and he promised to pass it along to the others.

Soon it was time to head back so they returned to their rooms and quickly got dressed. They said their goodbyes to the staff and once they were in the parking lot Ed and the ladies said their goodbyes to Clark’s entourage who would not be attending the ceremony at the Louvre. Odette was left a giggling mess when she saw the blush on Ernst’s face after Ed gave him a full body hug and a kiss on both cheeks. Ernst did his best to ignore her but the man had a very pleased smile on his face as he got into his car.

Clark drove them back to the hotel in Paris and everyone promised to meet up at the Louvre later. Ed got hugs from the three ladies before they parted.

Ed and Carolyn had a nice long shower together in the big shower in their room with no hanky-panky as Carolyn needed to be sharp for the presentation. They dressed in their finest and took a cab over to the Louvre.

The museum was like nothing Ed had ever seen before. Mostly because it was so big! Carolyn got him a map and pointed to the place he had to be for the presentation at 8pm. She also gave him the invitation that would allow him to be in the museum after hours. He had a couple of hours to wander around and see the place as Carolyn needed to go speak with the museum administrator. She straightened the bow tie on his tuxedo and with a kiss she headed off to her meeting. Ed examined the map and oriented himself in the three dimensional space in his mind. He thought he could probably see the whole place if he organized his time right. He set off for his first destination.

A little over an hour later he found himself wandering through a large room staring at the paintings in awe. He’d long since given up on the idea of seeing the entire museum. He stood before a large painting of a battle scene. Men in fancy uniforms, beautiful horses, slain soldiers gasping out their last breaths.

“It’s breathtaking, isn’t it?”

Ed turned and saw Clark standing next to him.

“Hi Clark! Yes it is,” Ed agreed with a smile.

“It’s pretty amazing that Carolyn is going on this tour,” Clark said looking up at the big man.

Ed nodded enthusiastically. “She’s pretty amazing herself!”

Clark nodded thinking about how to shape his attack. He’d come to the conclusion that Carolyn wasn’t the weak point in the relationship. She was too enamored with the meat stick to be easily swayed. No, he had to convince Ed the relationship was doomed and to be the one to leave it. He’d spent an hour following Ed from room to room looking for a weakness and he thought he might have found the man’s Achilles heel. Ed spent more time in front of paintings from the masters and walked right past pieces which were more abstract.

“So you also think Carolyn is brilliant?”

“Yes! She’s so smart. I just can’t get over how lucky I am that she’d spend time with someone like me!”

There! Clark felt the thrill of discovery shoot through him. He knew how to defeat Ed now! Collecting himself he put a pitying look on his face and looked at Ed but made it look like he was trying to hide the expression.

Ed looked at him cautiously. He caught something on Clark’s face for a moment. Pity? Or maybe he was just sad about something? “What’s wrong?”

Clark shook his head and sighed. He looked back into Ed’s eyes and did his best to appear sympathetic. “You’re a really great guy Ed. I really like you. I- I just don’t want you to get hurt.”

Ed’s nervousness increased. “Hurt? How am I going to be hurt?”

Clark pretended to hesitate then he nodded decisively. He looked around and saw they were very close to the special exhibition of some art that would work very nicely for his needs. “Please come with me.” Clark led Ed down the hall to a room with some large canvases hanging on the wall. He positioned them in front of a piece that was painted blue on the left and red on the right. He turned to Ed and gestured to the painting. “What do you see?”

Ed looked at the large canvas then back to Clark. Was this a trick question? He wasn’t sure how to answer.

Clark could see his confusion and placed his hand on Ed’s arm. “It’s a simple question. What do you perceive when you look at this painting?” he said gently.

Ed looked back at the painting and it remained as he first saw it. “It’s red and blue.”

Clark allowed the pitying look to resurface and nodded just a little.

“What?” Ed asked, his nerves humming.

“We both agree that Carolyn is brilliant, yes?” Clark asked and Ed nodded.

“When people like Carolyn… and me for that matter, look at this painting we perceive a deeper world because of our intellect. The red is passion, the journey of the heart, the glory of life’s physicality. The blue represents the expansion of consciousness, the keen edge of intellectual discovery, the cool and calm realm of pure thought. The painting represents the balance of each but their inherent separation. Their unity through division.” He looked back at Ed and saw the man’s eyes were wide as he stared hard at the painting. Once more he allowed his pity to show but just briefly.

Ed caught the expression and knew now that it was pity. He felt numbed by Clark’s confession. He tried to see what the man saw but it was still just red and blue to him.

Smelling blood in the water Clark went for the kill. Ed was an innocent? He believed what he was told? Then here was something to take him down. “Intellectual compatibility is critical for any successful long term relationship. For true happiness to exist and for Carolyn to reach her full potential she must be surrounded by equally powerful minds. I’m sorry to be the one to break this to you Ed. I really like you! You seem like a really great guy.”

Now Clark’s pitying look was genuine. Ed looked like he’d had his world knocked out from under him. Of course Clark’s pity, like his compassion for the man, went no deeper than the surface. He had a woman to win. Ed had to be crushed.

Ed felt ill. He heard the conviction in Clark’s words and knew the man was smart like Carolyn. Clark knew what Carolyn needed and Ed knew if she needed an equal beside her he could never help her reach her true potential. He cleared his throat as he felt it closing up. “Could- could you let Carolyn know I wasn’t feeling well? I’m going to head back to the hotel. Maybe… I’ll catch an early flight home.” He paused for a moment. “Tell her I’m proud of her and I think she’ll be amazing on the tour.”

Clark nodded sympathetically while inside he cheered. He watched Ed wander away and brace himself on the doorway as he left the room. He looked like a big gorilla in a suit. Smiling at last Clark headed off in the direction of the special exhibit presentation hall. He wanted to be the one to let Carolyn know her man had just bailed on her. He chuckled to himself. He had to get the glee out of his system before he met her and expressed his disappointment in the big man.

Three halls later Ed realized he was wandering aimlessly. He wasn’t sure what he should do. He didn’t know the way back to the hotel. He’d left his euros back at the hotel in his other pants. His tuxedo might look nice but his wallet didn’t fit in the jacket pocket now that his muscles had grown. He stopped as the realization slapped him. He was dressed like Clark but he’d never be as smart as the man. He’d never be able to help her as much as someone smart like Clark could.

Ed looked around and spotted someone who might be able to help. He walked closer and saw she was looking at a small painting behind glass.

The woman turned and smiled. “Edward! Hello!”

“Hi Karina.”

She immediately heard his pain and her heart jumped in her chest. “Edward, what’s wrong!”

Ed wasn’t sure what to say. He barely knew this woman and while Carolyn said she liked him he felt awful thinking about asking her for cab fare to the hotel. Instead he just sighed and looked at the painting she was looking at. He recognized the Mona Lisa. He smiled crookedly to himself. “What do you perceive when you look at this painting?” he asked her quietly using Clark’s words.

Shaken by the despair radiating from Ed she looked back at the painting and examined it. Looking at it always made her feel better. When she felt her life was being taken over by her wants and desires she always came to stand before the Mona Lisa. The woman’s smile always brought her back to earth.

“I see a woman who is happy and content,” she said with a smile.

Ed’s smile lost a little bit of its fragility. “Yes, I see the same thing.”

“What happened Edward?” Karina asked but her nerves were screaming at her that she already knew.

“Do- do you think it’s possible for a truly brilliant woman to ever be happy with someone who will never, ever be close to as smart as she is?” Ed asked, his voice cracking, just a little. “Even if intellectual compatibility is critical for relationships?”

There! There was the weapon Clark used. Karina could see the hilt of the dagger sticking out of Ed’s back. Still she wanted to give Clark the benefit of the doubt.

“Where did you hear that?” she asked casually.

“Clark showed me how our perception of the world around us helps define how compatible we are.” He swallowed as his throat threatened to close up on him. “I understood how incompatible I am with Carolyn. I’ll never be able to meet her intellectual needs.” Ed looked at Karina and she saw the pain in his blue eyes until he looked away. “Clark let me know so I wouldn’t be hurt… but it does hurt. A lot.”

Rage flared across Karina’s face. How could Clark do this to someone as innocent as Ed? She couldn’t be a part of it. She wouldn’t allow his evil to stain her soul! She knew she was burning her bridges but the injustice was too much for her to stomach.

She composed herself as showing her anger to Ed would be counter-productive. Instead she reached deep and borrowed the calm and tranquility from the woman in the painting. She smiled her thanks to Mona Lisa.

“I agree that people have different perceptions of the world around them but this perception not only works outwards but inwards as well. It also applies to their beliefs. Intellectual compatibility is only one of many elements that make up a relationship and certainly it’s not the most important. If someone perceives intellectual compatibility as the most critical factor then perhaps that person only has intellectualism to offer. It is highly probable they are unable to share their emotions, their love, freely. If that was the case then the only way they’d achieve a satisfying relationship would be to find a partner equally unable to share their emotions. Otherwise the relationship would be ultimately unsatisfying, leaving their partner sad and lonely.”

Ed looked at her with wide eyes. She was intentionally simplifying her message and she saw he understood her.

“Do you believe Carolyn is a cold, emotionless person?”

“NO!” Ed vehemently denied. Lights went on in his brain. He might be more compatible with her than Clark!

Ed’s eyes widened. “I’d never wish that on anyone, especially Carolyn.” He thought about Clark “I feel so bad for Clark as he does believe that!”

Karina’s heart swelled. Ed was feeling sorry for the man who had done him a great injury.

Ed frowned. “But what about helping Carolyn reach her full potential?” he said, troubled.

“The most powerful way to help someone reach their true potential is to believe in them and show them that confidence and your love for them. Do you think you can do that for Carolyn?”

“YES!” Ed exclaimed.

“Then you should go speak with Carolyn. Let her know how you truly feel.”

Ed surprised her by scooping her into his arms right off the ground to give her a full body hug. He even kissed her before he set her back on her feet and rushed off to find Carolyn.

Karina smiled to herself as tingles rushed through her body. Better than any physical thrill Ed gave her, her spirit was soaring. She’d never felt this way before and it took her breath away. She’d done something truly selfless and virtuous and it set her free. She saw a few people smiling in her direction, misunderstanding the joy in her eyes. She looked towards the content lady in the painting one last time and realized she finally knew how the woman felt.

-=-

Clark stood before Carolyn presenting a very convincing expression of sympathy laced with bewilderment.

“It makes no sense! Ed wouldn’t just leave and go home! He knows how important this is to me!” Carolyn gasped.

“I’m sorry, I’m just the messenger and I really wish I wasn’t in this instance,” he said softly.

Pain and doubt flashed through Carolyn’s face. She looked once more into Clark’s eyes. “What did Ed say again? His exact words? Where was he when he told you?”

“I stumbled upon him in the gallery displaying abstracts. He was staring at the paintings with a look I can only describe as…” he pretended to search for the word. “…frustration. He saw me and told me ‘Tell Carolyn I went back to the hotel. I’m catching an early flight home.’” Carolyn made a sound of anguish and Clark went on. “I asked him what happened and he made a broad sweeping gesture which I think meant the museum and said ‘I can’t do it’ and walked away. Do you know what that means?” he asked to put Carolyn off her game.

Right on cue she shook her head and scowled to herself.

“Your presentation begins in just a few minutes. This is terrible timing. I’m so sorry he sprung this on you. Now, you can do this! I know you can! The press is waiting and you are going to impress the hell out of them. You just put all this behind you for the moment and deal with the most important thing right now.”

Carolyn seemed to be getting control of her shock and dismay and was steeling herself for her presentation. Then her eyes widened in surprise. Clark began to turn.

A wide blur stepped past Clark and swept Carolyn up into a hug and kissed her fiercely. Clark stared at Ed’s back in confusion and deep worry. He’d played his strongest card and Ed could seriously fuck up his plans.

Ed felt Carolyn tremble in his arms and her kiss was a little needy but he gave her what she wanted until he felt her relax. He set her back down on her feet and looked into her concerned eyes. He smiled and turned to Clark.

“I understand now. I understand what you were saying about perception. How it affects how people see the world around them, like the painting I saw as only a red and blue square but you saw as so much more. I also now understand that a person’s perception affects how their personal beliefs are formed.”

Clark nodded with a confused look on his face as he couldn’t really argue about this in front of Carolyn.

Ed sighed as he looked at Clark sympathetically. “Intellectual compatibility isn’t the only factor that makes a relationship work. I’m really sorry you feel it’s critical. I hope one day you discover there are other factors that all blend together to make relationships work. You need to be able to share your emotions with your partner. A purely intellectual relationship is cold and lonely.”

Carolyn’s eyes flared with rage and her breath froze in her chest at the scope of Clark’s manipulation as she suddenly realized what he’d almost done. With a shriek of pure rage she surged towards the man but Ed held her tight.

“Uh, as you can see Carolyn is very capable of sharing her emotions and for some reason she’s currently really, really angry with you. Perhaps you should leave,” Ed said in surprise.

Red faced with humiliation Clark walked away stiffly.

Ed sighed sadly as he watched the man disappear into the crowd. Carolyn began to relax and turned to look up at him. She was surprised to see the sympathy on Ed’s face.

“Karina was right. Clark is going to have a sad life trying to find someone compatible with his idea of an ideal relationship.”

Carolyn gasped as she realized it was Karina who saved Ed and her from Clark’s manipulations. She hugged Ed and pulled his face down for a passionate kiss. Ed’s mind spun with delight. When she pulled back he saw a man gesturing for Carolyn to join him in the presentation hall. Ed pointed out the man to her. It was time. He remembered what Karina said about potential.

“I’m so very proud of you! You are doing such an amazing thing for the tribe. You are amazing! I’m looking forward to your presentation!” he said with a wide smile.

She grinned back at him and went inside the room. Ed followed to take his seat.

He spotted Meara sitting in the seat next to his. The redhead looked beautiful in a lovely blue dress which matched her eyes. She gave his hand a squeeze and when he turned to ask her how she was she surprised him with a kiss on the lips. He blushed and smiled back at her. He felt a tap on his other leg and turned into a kiss from Aisha. His face was heating up but he gave her a smile as well. She was wearing a bold yellow dress tonight.

Ed saw Rana on Aisha’s other side in a green and gold sari looking at him shyly. He leaned in her direction and she smiled happily as she leaned in front of Aisha to claim a kiss from Ed’s mouth as well. Ed settled back in his chair and adjusted his pants which had suddenly become tighter. That earned him happy and wicked grins from the ladies.

His face burned.

-=-

Carolyn’s presentation was brilliant. Informative and deeply emotive, she spun the tribe’s tale eloquently and shared visuals and the few audio recordings she managed to salvage from her time with them. She began with their initial meeting, moved on to her gradual acceptance, and finished with her full integration in the tribe. She sang a little section of one of the songs they taught her and explained to her audience they now knew how to say ‘This food makes me fart’. That got chuckles.

Then she played a piece she’d hired some talented singers to reproduce and while the tune was mesmerizing the audience, she faded in an image of her tattoo and highlighted the markings which related to the music as it played. Then she faded in a 3D overlay of the actual scarring in the tattoo which corresponded exactly to the music. It made the audience feel like they were discovering the link between the music, the patterns, and the scarring in the tattoo. You could hear the audible gasp from her peers in the audience.

Once she was done and the lights came up there wasn’t a dry eye in the hall. The applause was thunderous and she grinned widely with grateful tears in her eyes at her gathered colleagues as well as the large number of press.

The director of the Louvre made his way on stage and got another round of applause for his guest speaker. He presented her with their foremost award for achievement in her field and she absolutely glowed with happiness. He asked her to say a few words.

Carolyn did her best to clear her throat and smiled out at the audience. She thanked the museum Director for the honor and her peers for being so supportive. Then she looked down at the podium and gathered herself.

“There is someone I should thank tonight beyond all others. I would like, no, I need to thank Karina Gauthier for her amazing insight, her profound compassion, and most importantly her brilliant perception of the strength of love. Karina, thank you from the very bottom of my heart.”

A spotlight suddenly lit up the woman in question who was sitting in the audience with a broad but surprised smile on her face. Carolyn gestured for her the stand. Once the woman did Carolyn clapped very loudly and the audience joined in the applause. Karina blew kisses to Carolyn who returned them.

Soon Carolyn was standing with Ed, her friends and Karina who couldn’t seem to get the smile off her lips. The press had gathered around the group and were peppering Carolyn with questions. Several reporters connected to very important publications in the industry had approached her for exclusive interviews and Carolyn had taken their business cards and had informed them that she would let them know her decision soon.

A slightly slurred voice called out a question to Ed. “Mr. Walterz, whatz your perception of the significance of Carolyn’s find. In your own wordz of course.”

Carolyn immediately recognized Clark’s voice and bristled until Ed placed his hand on her shoulder. “I can answer that.” Carolyn looked up at him in surprise.

Ed looked at the gathered reporters and smiled self-consciously. He glanced at Carolyn then back to their audience.

“Hi, I’m Ed, Carolyn’s boyfriend. I have no scientific training or education beyond high school but what I can tell you is that I see this as a love story.” His brows furrowed as he concentrated on keeping his thoughts understandable. “Not between a man and a woman but between a woman and a tribe. They rescued her when she was lost in the jungle. Even though she was a stranger they made her a part of their family and took her into their hearts. They shared their day to day lives, their laughter and music, and taught her how to survive in that dangerous place. When they saw she was ready they took her through a deeply meaningful ritual to share a precious treasure with her. She emerged changed forever and not just physically. Even though they’d inflicted tremendous and terrible pain, she had the strength to understand and love them in return. She’d become one of them. Then tragically they were taken from her in a senseless act of violence. She almost died too. Now she has to carry on without them but she’ll never forget them or stop expressing her undying love for them.”

There was silence from the gathering and more than a few tears. Meara was openly weeping and Aisha had silent tears running down her cheeks.

Carolyn threw herself against Ed to cling to him and cried at how clearly he understood. Her dress was open on her back to expose the tattoo and flashes went off to capture the moment. The spell was broken and the press began calling out questions.

Overcome with emotion, unable to speak or answer Carolyn looked desperately to Karina who stepped forward and announced that there would be no further questions answered this evening. She thanked them all for attending.

She handed Carolyn her handkerchief to dab her tears away.

Once they were alone Carolyn found her voice again. “Karina? Would you consider joining me on the tour to act as my tour manager?”

Karina’s eyes lit up with joy. She hadn’t expected this at all but here Carolyn was offering her what she’d always wanted. To be directly involved. To be a part of the team. “I- I would be honored!” she said with a huge smile and Carolyn pulled her into a hug.

When Carolyn pulled back Ed gathered Karina in his arms once more and hugged her. “Thank you again for saving me from my confusion. I’m really not that good at understanding people things.” Carolyn made a brief noise of outraged protest but Meara stifled it against herself as she hugged her friend tight. They giggled and separated with grins on their faces.

To celebrate the group went out to a bar but Carolyn and Ed slipped away after one drink promising to meet for breakfast in the hotel and visited the Eiffel tower before it shut down for the night.

They stood in each other’s arms looking out at the lights of Paris and Carolyn felt truly, deeply happy. She had an amazing tour ahead of herself and now she had Karina along to help her cope with the heavy demands it would bring. She really had a good feeling about the woman.

Tonight’s presentation went better than she expected and now she understood how to deliver it for maximum impact. Everyone craved a good love story.

She looked up at Ed and wondered what she’d done to deserve a second chance at love with a man who, for all his denial’s, was more in tune with his emotions and open to love than anyone she knew. She trembled a little when she realized how close she’d been to losing him. Ed pulled her a little closer, mistaking her tremble for a chill. She sighed and listened to his powerful heartbeat and her body relaxed.

“Ed?”

“Hmmm?”

“Can we go back to the hotel now?”

“Sure. Tired?”

“No, I just want to hug you without all these annoying clothes getting in our way.”

“Oh! Mmmmm!” he rumbled a purr at her as he squeezed her to his body once more. She needed to get him back to the hotel right now!

The cab ride was quick and Ed carried her over his shoulder as he rushed down the hallway to their room. Carolyn struggled to quiet her laughter in the silent corridor. He set her down at the door and she got them inside.

Clothes fell as they made their way to the bed and finally they were skin to skin as they stood at its foot.

The room was only lit by the lights of the city yet they could see each other perfectly. Ed gazed down in wonder at Carolyn’s smiling face and took it between his hands as he tenderly kissed her soft lips. She sighed as they kissed. He didn’t rush or force his passion upon her but lingered to feel every soft tingle and buzz. Their tongues gently caressed and playfully touched making them both smile. He moved his lips to her cheek, her jawline, the soft skin of her neck as her breath came in gulps. His hands moved down her body in advance of his lips, touching, caressing and squeezing her flesh until she thought she might faint from the dual assault. His hands charged her skin and his mouth brought the ignition.

When he sucked her stiff nipples into his mouth Carolyn cried out and arched her back as she squirmed and rubbed her thighs together in a futile attempt to appease the needs of her most sensitive bits.

Ed knelt before her and gently pushed her to sit on the edge of the bed. He pressed her to lie back and proceeded to kiss his way up the inside of her legs, alternating sides until she moaned in need. His lips were reaching her most demanding spot when she suddenly stopped him.

“Wait! Wait! Oh god!” she gasped and pushed herself further up the bed. “Come up here and lay over me. I need to get reacquainted with a special part of you!”

Ed smiled at her and positioned his large body above her smaller one. He resumed his kissing journey and she gasped once more. Then she lovingly wrapped the fingers of both hands around Ed’s stiff erection. He sighed happily and moved his mouth to her pussy.

“OH! GEEZUS! Oh fuck!” Carolyn cried out. When she returned to her body she ran her tongue down the length of his cock and it was Ed’s turn to gasp.

She pressed her lips to the fat head of his cock and smiled as Ed’s hips twitched. She took the head into her mouth and ran her tongue around it then sucked him deep into her mouth until it struck the back of her throat.

Ed’s mouth left her pussy as he sucked in a deep breath. “Oh god Carolyn!” That felt so good! He was seeing stars. He returned his mouth to her pussy and sucked her stiff clit into his mouth gently. Her hips came up off the mattress as she squealed around her mouthful of cock.

She pulled free. She was getting close and she only had the energy for one tonight so she pushed at his body until he got the idea and spun himself around on the bed.

He kissed her tenderly and she smiled. The previous night Ed had been drunk and the sex had been about raw passion and lust. Tonight Ed was back to himself and the night was about tenderness and love. She sucked on his tongue and felt his cock resting against her pussy. She wiggled her hips and the head aligned with her opening. Ed pressed forward and slowly slid his cock deep into her body.

“That feels wonderful!” Carolyn sighed as he filled her up. There was only a small amount of residual ache from the night before as he was being so gentle.

“I love you Carolyn,” he whispered into her ear.

Love welled up in her heart and she wrapped her arms and legs around his large body, pulling him deeper inside.

“I love you so much Ed!” she gasped and took his mouth with hers.

He kissed her deeply as he withdrew and drove himself inside once more. Her legs pulled at his ass to go faster so he began to accelerate his thrusts. She felt so amazing around his cock and her kisses were making him crazy!

“Carolyn! I’m getting close!”

“Yes! Me too! Oh fuck, Ed!”

Their hips fell into a rhythm and they clung to each other as their releases rushed up on them.

“I’m gonna cum!” he gasped.

“DO IT! OH GOD! I- I’M RIGHT THERE! OOOHHHHH!” she cried as the waves began cresting over her senses.

The pulses rippling along his shaft pushed him over the top and he moaned as he fired stream after stream of hot cum deep inside her body.

Carolyn sucked in a deep breath as she felt his heat filling her. She held him close and they gently rocked their bodies against each other to extend their pleasure for as long as they could.

Finally they relaxed and she smiled as a tear ran down her cheek. He caught the tear with a finger. Her eyes opened and she saw him looking at her in concern.

“Happiness, Ed. Happiness.”

He relaxed and tenderly caressed her lips with his.

“This was a perfect night Ed. I treasure these moments with you,” she said with a gentle smile after he pulled back to look down at her with love shining in his eyes.

He settled on the bed next to her and tucked her in against his body.

“How long are you going to be on this tour?” he asked.

“I’ll be traveling from country to country, visiting major museums for the next six weeks then I’ll be setting up the exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, DC for a six month showing. I’ll only be in Washington for a few days to ensure the exhibit is presented properly,” she explained.

“Seven weeks then.”

She looked up at him curiously.

“Maybe not the first night you get back but shortly after, your kids should sleep over at Stephanie’s.”

Carolyn grinned happily. That could be arranged.



Chapter 9

Ed couldn’t get over how hot it was! As he drove his pickup truck to work Tuesday morning the temperatures were climbing into the sweltering zone. He heard there was supposed to be a major storm in the next day or so which should bring the temperatures back down into a more reasonable level for this time of year.

He was so glad Grace was relaxing in the comfort of his air conditioned bedroom. He’s spent the night cuddled up to her as he’d missed her so much and his bed had more room.

When he’d arrived at the airport the previous day Rachel was there to meet him. On the drive home she warned him that Grace was very uncomfortable and had been very short tempered and moody with everyone in the past week. She told him Grace might say some things she didn’t mean but Ed just smiled at Rachel. He’d grown up with Grace and had years of experience dealing with her rage issues.

When they got home they heard yelling then crying from the back of the house. Rachel looked at Ed in worry but he gave her a kiss and went into the kitchen to confront the raging woman. She glared at him when he first stepped in but within minutes she was cuddled on his lap crying on his shoulder. He wiped her tears and calmed her, kissed her tenderly, whispered how much he loved her, had missed her, and was so happy to be back with her. Her tears tapered off and she looked at him with large sad eyes.

“I look like a cow,” she sighed.

“You do not.”

“A houseboat then.”

Ed cracked a smile. “You are gorgeous beyond belief and you make my heart soar.”

She shifted uncomfortably. “I’m so sore.”

“Have you been doing your swimming exercises?” he asked and from her sour look he knew she hadn’t been following the doctor’s orders.

Ed emptied his pockets and pulled off his shirt making Grace’s eyes widen and ogle his chest. “No time like the present,” he said, scooping her up in his arms. She squeaked in protest but he wasn’t listening.

Rachel was right there by the patio doors ready to open them. He smiled at her as he stepped outside with the squirming woman in his arms.

“Wait! I’m not in a bathing suit!”

“No, you are in a sweat suit that needs washing. It comes off when we get out,” he responded.

“Ed! Don’t you dare throw me in the pool!” she yelled and he stared back into her dark eyes.

“I’d never do that!” he exclaimed as he walked down the stairs into the cool water. He kept walking until her butt touched the water making her squeak again. They were just on the edge of the deep end. “Ready? Great!” he said and bent his knees to take them both down into the water. More shrieking ensued and Grace clung to him. He kept her there until she got used to it. She finally released her stranglehold on his neck and let herself float in the water.

“Let’s do your exercises,” Ed said. She frowned at him but he raised his eyebrow at her and they began.

Once they were done she begrudgingly admitted to feeling better. She looked more relaxed as well.

He held her face in his hands and kissed her until she was panting. God, he loved her lips!

“Oh Ed, I missed you so much!” she moaned.

“I’m not going anywhere now. That was my last trip until you’re all recuperated from having the babies. Then we’re going on a vacation. Just the two of us. Rachel, Angie and Zoe will babysit the babies.

Grace looked at the house and bit her lip.

“What?” he asked.

“I’ve been so bitchy this past week. I think I said some nasty things to Rachel… and Angie… and… Zoe.”

“Then you can just apologize to them. I know Rachel hasn’t taken anything you’ve said personally but an apology is needed. Come on. Let’s do that now.”

“But I want to hide in the pool,” she pouted.

Ed scooped her up once again and carried her out. “Nope. Apology time.”

“When did you become so bossy!” she pouted again.

“Since you’re having my babies and started to behave like one,” he said with a mischievous smile and she squeaked in false outrage.

They got as far as the patio doors where Rachel was standing with towels in her hands. Ed set Grace down on her feet and faced her towards Rachel who was looking at him curiously. Ed peered into Grace’s eyes and she sighed.

“I’m sorry for being such a bitch to you during the past week. It was inexcusable and I’m very sorry,” Grace said contritely.

Rachel’s eyes widened and she smiled broadly. “Edward is the best medicine!”

Grace snorted and smiled at the woman. “I really am sorry.”

“Apology accepted. Now get out of that wet sweat suit so I can toss it into the washing machine. Or the fireplace. I haven’t decided yet.”

Grace was able to make her face to face apologies to both Angie and Zoe that night at dinner but shortly after Ed’s batteries ran out and he headed to bed, after running the gauntlet of kisses. He carried Grace upstairs with him and brought her to his bed. He slept soundly with her beside him.

Now, as he pulled into the parking lot at work he smiled to himself thinking about how much his life had changed.

He locked his truck and headed for the back door to the building.

“ED! What are you doing man? You were supposed to come in early so we could do the final inspections at the Community Center!” Big Jimmy called out to him on the way to his truck. The man earned his nickname from being so big in size, personality, but mostly for having a big mouth.

Ed stared at the man with a surprised expression on his face. “Nobody told me anything about that! Give me a second to sign in and I’ll be right with you!” he called back in exasperation.

“Shit man! I’m just kidding! You ain’t with us today!” the big man laughed at Ed’s confused expression. “Fucker falls for that shit every time!” he chuckled to his partner Doug as they walked around the van and got in.

Ed was still looking at the van as they left. He shook his head and walked inside. He walked up to the dispatcher’s desk and signed in.

“Ed! Welcome back!” Gwyneth said with a big grin. “How was your week off?”

“Well, it was nice but it wasn’t really a vacation. I did get to go to Paris for the weekend though.”

The blonde’s eyes went wide behind her glasses. “Paris? Paris, France?”

Ed looked back in confusion. “Is there another Paris?”

“There are nine towns in the US alone named Paris such as Paris, Texas and Paris, Missouri. There are two places in Canada named Paris too,” she responded, her bubbly smile returning.

“You know a lot about geography!” Ed exclaimed.

“I know a little about a lot of things. How was Paris- wait, did you say you were only there for the weekend?” she asked in confusion.

“Yeah. I spent most of last week in a small town in Kansas for a friend of mine whose parents recently died. When we got back I flew to France to attend a presentation at the Louvre for a friend of mine.” Grace had advised him to refer to the women in his life as his friends to eliminate the confusion most people faced when he called them girlfriends.

“Kansas then France! Wow! You’re becoming a real world traveller, Ed!” she smirked.

“Thanks!” he grinned, missing her joke entirely. “What do you have for me today? Big Jimmy said I had to come in early to help him out but then said he was only kidding. I wish he wouldn’t do that. Now I don’t know if I’m supposed to be working with him or not.”

“Big Jimmy is a big jerk. You’re not going with them. I have you booked for three service calls today. All air conditioners because of the heat. Tomorrow you’ll be with Mr. Drakos at the Klein Group offices.” She slid a clipboard across the counter with the work orders on it. A set of truck keys lay on top.

Ed smiled. He liked service calls. The stuff he did for Mr. Drakos and the Klein Group was interesting but he preferred working with his hands. With a final smile at Gwyneth he wished her a good day and headed out to the truck. He had service calls to do!

It was 6:30PM when Ed returned home and pulled his truck into the garage. He’d made a quick stop at Victoria’s house but everything was as he’d left it. Now that he was home he was feeling very pleased with how the day went. His service calls had all gone smoothly and he’d actually returned to the office early. Gwyneth had looked very relieved when he walked in as she needed to send him out on two calls that Big Jimmy and Doug wouldn’t be able to do. The men had run into trouble doing the inspection at the Community Center. Apparently it was a big mess. Mr. Drakos was not happy but he was glad Ed was available to pick up the extra calls.

Ed walked into the house and smelled the delicious scent of chicken casserole and his mouth began to water.

“To what do I owe this wonderful welcome?” Ed said dramatically to the ladies sitting at the kitchen table. Rachel, Grace, Angie and Isabelle were all deep in conversation and turned to look back at him in surprise.

“What are you talking about you silly man?” Rachel asked with a grin.

Ed waved his hands towards his nose as he took a deep sniff.

“Oh! Dinner! Yes, we thought you might like a favorite of yours tonight.” Rachel nodded towards Grace.

He rushed across the room to wrap his arms around Grace and gave her cheek a good smooch.

“Ed! What’s got into you?” Grace laughed as she caught her breath.

“I just had a good day. I did five service calls!” he boasted.

“You have five new ladies Ed?” Isabelle teased and Ed’s eyes went wide in surprise as the other women scowled at Isabelle. “What!?! I was kidding!”

“I didn’t- they were just service calls…” Ed mumbled to Grace.

“I know Ed. It was just a bad joke.” Grace said and patted Ed’s hand.

“Sorry, Ed,” Isabelle said, thoroughly chastised.

The telephone rang and Rachel got up to answer. Grace pulled Ed down into a chair and held his hand. He smiled back at her.

Angie grinned at Ed. “Guess who’s coming to visit this weekend?”

Ed just shook his head and smiled. He wasn’t good at guessing games.

“Reg, Taj, Thierry, and Lakshmi! They’re coming over Friday night and heading home Monday morning! I want to throw a barbeque pool party on Saturday if the weather permits.”

“It will be great to see them again!” Ed grinned.

Rachel walked back to the table with a troubled look on her face. Angie saw it first. “What’s wrong? Who was that?”

“It was Victoria Rutledge,” she said looking at Ed. He smiled and began to stand to go speak with her.

“Edward, she hung up after speaking with me.” Rachel said placing her hand on his arm to get him to settle back into the chair.

He looked up into the redhead’s beautiful but sad eyes. He was confused. Maybe she didn’t have time to talk with him. “What did she say?”

Rachel looked him in the eye and sighed. No point in sugar coating it.

“She’s not coming back.”

Ed’s smile drained away. “Oh.”

“She wanted you to know she is getting better and her family is back together. She’s moving permanently to the village her parents live in. She’s going to sell her house here. Could you give me her key? The realtor is coming over in the morning to collect it.”

Ed nodded and pulled the key from his keyring. He handed it to her.

Rachel ran her fingers through his hair and he closed his eyes in pleasure.

“She wanted me to tell you she’s really happy she met you and wishes you all the best in your future.”

“Couldn’t she have told him herself,” Grace snapped, angry with the woman’s cowardice.

“I got the impression that the decision wasn’t an easy one for her. Perhaps she didn’t feel strong enough to make it while speaking with him. She has no feelings for me so I was easier to speak with.” Rachel surmised.

“If she really had feelings for Ed she should have sp-” Ed touched Grace’s lips gently and stopped her words. Grace looked into his eyes.

“It’s ok. She’s happy now. That’s all that matters,” he said softly. He looked to Rachel. “Is dinner ready?”

Rachel smiled at the gentle man. “It should be. Hungry?”

Ed nodded and smiled at her.

“Coming right up.”

-=-

The following morning when Ed arrived Gwyneth directed him to Mr. Drakos’ office. He walked down the hall, looked in the door and knocked on the door jamb.

“Ah, Ed! Please come in and have a seat,” the older man said.

Ed sat down and looked at the frown on his boss’ face. “What’s wrong?”

“That ass Jimmy messed up big time at the Community Center. I’ve fired him so he no longer works for us. I need you to do some damage control for us.”

Ed eyes widened. “I’ve never done that before. How do you do it?”

The man smiled at him. “You do it by being the good and honest fellow you are. I need you to complete the inspection at the Community Center. When you get there you may encounter some very angry women. You may apologize on our behalf and let them know Jimmy no longer works for us. The company will be making a $10,000 donation to the center as compensation for the distress the man caused. The jerk said some rude things and upset the administrator and some other people. He was asked to leave and he never finished the inspection.”

“Oh! I can do that,” Ed said with a smile.

“Good boy!” Drakos said and Ed saw the talk was over.

With a nod Ed went back out to Gwyneth’s station and got the clipboard and keys to the van.

The Community Center was on the other side of town, close to the neighborhood Ed and Grace grew up in. He passed the street where Shirley’s house used to be but all the buildings on that side of the street were gone and there was just a large wooden fence there now. Some warehouses were being built on the land. This made Ed a little sad as he had good memories of growing up with Grace and Shirley there.

He pulled into the parking lot of the Community Center and grabbed his kit from the back of the van and made his way inside. He went to the reception area and was directed to the administrator’s office.

When he got there the secretary stared at him and looked at the emblem on his coverall. She picked up her phone.

“Wanda, you should come out here. Now,” she said into the phone.

Moments later the office door opened and a woman stepped out and looked at Ed. She also saw the emblem on his coverall.

She was around 5’ 5”, with a thick body and her prodigious bosom stretched out her blouse as her ass did her skirt. She had a dark complexion but she seemed to be more Hispanic than Black. Ed saw the woman’s brows come down in a scowl.

“Are you kidding me? They sent another white privileged male to insult us some more!?!”

Ed’s eyes flew wide. “I’m not here to insult anyone! My name’s Ed Walters and I’m here to apologize for the rude things Big Jimmy said yesterday. He no longer works for Drakos Heating and Cooling. Mr. Drakos also said the company will be making a donation to the Community Center as compensation for the distress Big Jimmy caused.”

“Big Jimmy, huh? Do you admire him? Do you think he was a big man?” the woman growled, standing too close for Ed’s comfort and looking up belligerently at him.

Ed blinked at the woman. “Well, no I didn’t like him much. As for being big he had a big stomach and people said he had a big mouth. I just call him that because that’s how he was introduced to me and I don’t know his real last name,” he said honestly.

The woman snorted and looked him up and down. “This Community Center is very important to this neighborhood. Lots of young kids come through here and several were here yesterday when that evil man said his vulgar words to me and several of the center’s female staff members. We had to sit down with those kids and explain how wrong that man was to say those things. You have no idea what it’s like for these kids in this neighborhood!” she growled.

“I’m really sorry those kids had to hear that. They were lucky to have you here to counsel them. But you’re wrong about me not knowing what it’s like here. I grew up on Gramby Road near Corporate Drive. I lived with my adoptive mother Shirley and her daughter Grace from the age of 6 to 18 in that small two bedroom house. We didn’t have much but we were happy, mostly. I worked in this Community Center as a lifeguard and did maintenance on the pool.”

The woman stared at Ed in surprise.

“This Community Center was important to me too. I learned a lot here and it helped me when I left school,” Ed said, thinking about how he helped Rachel with her pool.

“Oh…” the woman said, the steam having left her argument. “Well… the donation is certainly welcome. So is hearing that foul mouthed man is out of a job!” Ed smiled at her and she couldn’t stop herself from smiling back.

“I should complete the inspection to make sure the heating and cooling equipment was properly installed and is functioning as it should,” he said.

“Yes, that would be good,” she agreed. She gestured for him to follow her and he did.

As they made their way down the hall they met two women who stepped from their offices when they saw Ed approaching. One was a heavyset Asian woman wearing an apron over her dress and the other was a solid looking black woman wearing a track suit. Like the Administrator they had an abundance of flesh. They also had scowls on their faces.

“What the hell is he doing here?” the black woman barked.

“Taylor, it’s alright. He’s here to apologize and set things right.”

The Asian woman frowned. “How is he supposed to take back those hurtful things that creep said to us?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t take them back but I can apologize for what he said and assure you he is no longer employed by our company. We in no way condone his behavior. I’m sincerely sorry he said those nasty words.”

“Olivia, they’re making a donation to the center…” She suddenly frowned. “You never said how much.”

Ed looked at her in surprise. “Oh, sorry. My boss told me it was $10,000.”

The three ladies smiled hearing that. They’d been expecting to hear a number less than $1000.

“Ed, here, grew up in the neighborhood and worked at the Community Center. He was a lifeguard and did maintenance on the pool.”

Taylor perked up. “Could you take a look at the filter? It doesn’t appear to be working and the maintenance crew keeps rescheduling their appointment. If we can’t get it fixed soon we’ll have to close the pool!”

“I- I could take a look. It’s not really my field but I’ve done work on pool filters before. But I need to complete the heating and cooling inspection first.”

Olivia was still looking at Ed suspiciously. “Do you even know what he said to us?”

Ed stopped and looked at the angry woman. “No. I don’t know.”

The woman looked around and saw they were alone. “He said to his friend that he wanted ‘to feel his head squeezed from all sides between the chink’s, nigger’s and spic’s big fat titties’!” she said boldly to Ed. All three women watched Ed closely.

His face flushed red in embarrassment. “Oh… my. That- that was a truly offensive thing to say! I absolutely understand why you’re upset. No one should ever have said that to you. Once more, I’m terribly sorry.” Unfortunately the image of these three women topless popped into his head and he… reacted… just a little. Eyes dropped and widened.

Olivia seemed strangely satisfied by Ed’s reaction to the words and smiled at the others who were also smiling now.

The Administrator showed him to the roof access and he went up to the machinery. He settled his nerves when he looked at the familiar equipment. He set his tools down and got to work. Three hours later he signed off on the work sheet. The heating and cooling systems were functioning to spec and he confirmed all was well with the installation. He packed up his tools and made his way back down to the main floor.

He was surprised to find Taylor waiting for him. “Can you look at the pool now?”

“OK, sure,” he replied as he fell into step behind her. She led him to the equipment shed beside the pool and he flashed back to his early days when he’d learned on this very equipment. He smiled.

“What?” she asked, seeing his smile.

“It hasn’t changed since I was here as a kid,” he said as he moved directly to the pump. He shut it down then grabbed the lever on the filter and by rote he moved it through the sequence he knew would clear the filter. There was the thump sound he was expecting. When he set the lever back to its starting position and turned the pump on again it sounded smooth once more.

Taylor was staring at him in surprise. He smiled at her.

“This is a temperamental pool filter. When it acts up we’d always run that sequence and it would go back online. I’ll write down the sequence for you. They were supposed to replace this the year after I left,” he explained as he shook his head. He frowned. “I think I know someone who can get you a replacement pretty cheap.”

“Let’s go speak to Wanda!” Taylor said with a grin.

Ed followed her back to the Administration office. Wanda’s door was open this time and Taylor walked in gesturing for Ed to follow.

First he handed her the center’s copy of the inspection form. “You’re all set for cooling and heating. It’s working perfectly.”

The woman smiled.

“He also fixed the pool filter!” Taylor exclaimed.

“Well, fix is a strong word. I just got it working again. It should be replaced. It should have been replaced years ago. I know someone that can get you a wholesale price on the filter assembly. He owes me a favor. I’ll give him a call and let him know you’ll give him a call,” he explained.

Ed wrote out the sequence he’d used to reset the existing filter and handed it to Taylor. “This is until you replace it. If it acts up again just follow those steps.”

The woman read the simple steps and grinned at Ed. She pulled him into a hug and he blushed when she let go. Then he wrote down the pool supply telephone number and the man’s name.

“I have to get back to the office but once more I apologize for the rude words Jimmy said to you,” Ed said sincerely. He received smiles from the women and a hug from the administrator then made his way out to the van and put his tools away.

He drove through his old neighborhood on the way home and parked across the street from where Shirley’s home used to be. The street number was still painted on the curb but that was the only evidence of the life he’d had here. Behind the number was only the memory of the home. He shook his head and headed back to the office.

On the way his phone ran so he put it on speaker. “Ed speaking.”

“Hi Ed! It’s Angie. Could you swing by the house on your way home tonight? I have a question for you,” she said.

“You can’t ask me now?” he asked.

“Sorry, I need to show you what I’m talking about when you get here,” she explained.

“Ok, sure. I’ll probably be there about 5:15PM.”

“Thanks, Ed!

He checked in with Mr. Drakos when he got back to the office. The man was very grateful to Ed and pleased to hear the issue had been resolved peacefully. He indicated he’d deliver the check personally the next day. Ed filled out the paperwork for the job and it was time to head home.

He drove his pickup truck into Angie’s driveway and she came out the front door with a happy smile as he stepped out.

After getting a hug and kiss from her she smiled up at him. “Do you have your toolbox?”

Raising his eyebrows he went into the storage box in the back of his truck and pulled out the heavy toolbox.

She took his other hand and led him around the house to the backyard and all the way to the cabana. A large cardboard box was sitting on the floor under the covered deck.

“What’s this?” he asked curiously.

“We have the barbeque party this weekend and my friends are coming but I saw the temperatures may be high. I picked up this misting system today to provide relief from the heat but I need someone big and strong to install it for me?” she said biting her thumb sexily. Ed grinned and shook his head.

“Fine,” he said. He was feeling a little hot in his coverall for working outside as the heat and humidity this evening was pretty high too. “Did I leave a swimsuit here?”

Angie squeaked happily and rushed into the cabana to return with his jammer swim suit.

He sighed when he saw what she had in her hands but took it when she handed it to him.

“I’ll get you some lemonade!” Angie said as she rushed back to the house.

Ed went into the cabana and changed into the jammer suit. He admitted to himself that aside from how it looked it was much cooler than his coverall and it was very comfortable and flexible.

He went back out to the box and opened it up. The instructions were fairly simple so he got to work. He grabbed some tools from his toolbox and began.

The pump assembly went into the cabana next to the shower room and he connected it to the plumbing. He needed the ladder from the tool shed but someone had stacked a bunch of chairs and miscellaneous items in front of it so Ed had to reorganize the shed.

He wiped the sweat from his face once he carried the ladder back to the cabana.

“There you are!” Angie said as she stood next to a table. She’d brought out a tray with a pitcher of lemonade and a glass on it. He saw a plate of cookies as well. She poured him a tall glass. He was feeling the heat so he drank half a glass right away, sighing happily as he set it back down. Angie was admiring his glistening muscles.

“How did you get so sweaty already?” she purred.

“The ladder was behind a bunch of old chairs in the shed. I had to shift everything around to get to it,” he explained.

“Oh! Sorry about that. I’ve been meaning to get rid of that old patio furniture. I’d forgotten it was there. I’ll call someone to pick it up tomorrow!” she exclaimed.

“Well, it’s neatly stacked now so it should be pretty easy for them to take,” he responded.

“I’m sorry I made you do that and I’m sorry to ask you to do all this work after your long business day but the party is this weekend and I didn’t know who else to call I could trust to get it right!” She ran her finger tips across his slick chest muscles. God, she was getting so excited!

Ed looked down into Angie’s eyes and felt his cock swelling, stretching the jammer. When her fingers slid down the front of his swimsuit stroking his thickness through the fabric her eyes closed partially and she trembled. He was mesmerized by how lovely she looked and he wanted her so badly.

His lips were on hers and her tongue thrust boldly into his mouth. He sucked on it and she clung to him as she moaned.

Somehow they’d made their way into the cabana and down onto the cushions in the corner.

Angie pushed her yoga pants and panties down and Ed pulled them the rest of the way down as he kissed his way down her body. Once they were off she pulled him back up and she had to have him now!

She tugged down his swim suit and his heavy cock swung free to slap against her.

“Oh FUCK! God, I love your cock!” she moaned.

He stroked it hard, up and down against her wetness as she gasped and clung to him.

“Fuck! Put it inside me! Please Ed! Fuck me!” she cried.

He lined himself up and pushed forward slowly.

“AAAAAHHHH!!! OH YES! Fuck, such a tease!” she moaned as he continued to slowly push inside.

It felt so good to Ed he didn’t want to rush. He drew it out equally slow then reversed to push further inside.

“OH! OH! OH! MMM! FUCK! So good!” she cried.

When Ed’s pelvis finally pressed tight against Angie’s he sighed with pleasure. She was taking it all and she felt so amazingly hot and soft around him. He kissed her and she squeaked as he rocked against her.

She was so close! Fuck, he’d gotten her so excited so quickly. “Ed! I’m close! Oh my god! I’m right there!”

Ed pulled his face back to look at her in surprise. He wasn’t close to his release at all but he could see the desperate look in her eyes. He smiled and aggressively rocked his hips against hers with his cock buried deep inside.

“AAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!” she cried as an intense orgasm rocked through her body. Her eyes rolled back and her body went through convulsions as the pleasure spiked and exploded through her. She clung to him as the waves rolled over her again and again.

Finally she sagged back to the cushions, completely spent. Ed drew himself from her body and relaxed on the cushions next to her.

“EEP!”

Ed looked up and saw Isabelle standing in the doorway staring at them wide eyed. Ed rolled to his feet and pulled his swimsuit up as best he could. His cock wouldn’t fit into it when he was erect like this but he put his arm in front of it.

“Isabelle, what’s wrong?” Angie said from the cushions. In her daze she’d missed the fact that Ed hadn’t come.

“Lakshmi- she’s on the phone. She- said it was urgent.” Isabelle mumbled unable to take her eyes off Ed’s sweaty muscles.

Angie’s body was floating in the wake of a most lovely orgasm and her friends were demanding her attention. She sighed and pulled on her panties and yoga pants. She kissed Ed, still blissfully riding her high and unaware of the raging hard on behind his arm. She smiled and hustled away to get the phone. She really had to remember to bring the wireless phone back to the cabana.

Isabelle stood in the doorway looking at Ed as he looked nervously back.

“I want to see it again, Ed.”

“Isabelle, you know that’s not a good idea. Just like it wasn’t a good idea the first two times,” he insisted.

She pouted. She knew he was right but it didn’t matter. She undid the button on her short shorts and dropped them to her feet. The panties went next.

Ed’s eyes widened when he saw she’d shaved her pubic hair into a small heart above her clit. He felt himself throb in reaction.

“You can see mine, I want to see yours,” she insisted.

Ed reluctantly pulled his hand away and she could see the top half of his cock sticking up out of the stretchy swimsuit.

Fuck that looked so hot! Isabelle licked her lips and saw Ed’s cock twitch as he watched her.

“I’ve been practising with a very big dildo. I know I can take you now. I have to try. I can tell you need it.” Isabelle said eagerly as she moved closer, her eyes never leaving the thick flesh rising above his waistband. She pulled off her t-shirt and Ed’s cock throbbed again when her tits came into view and he saw the heart shaped nipple piercings. That was new.

Dropping her shirt to the floor she looked at the elastic of his suit stretching tight against the flesh of his hard cock. “That looks uncomfortable. Let me adjust this for you.”

Ed stood watching her with mixed emotions. He liked Isabelle and didn’t want to hurt her again. Then she said she’d practiced and could take his size now. She’d done some unexpected things to her body and he couldn’t deny he thought she was sexy. When her fingers began to stroke him his eyes closed in bliss.

“Fuck Ed, your cock feels so amazing in my hand!” she muttered as she stared at the hot flesh she was holding. It wasn’t bigger than her dildo. It couldn’t be. She was sure she’d practiced with something this size. Of course Ed’s cock was harder and hotter than her dildo but that shouldn’t matter.

“Being on top didn’t work. It was the wrong position. I want you to take me from behind, Ed,” she sighed as she tugged him back to the pillows by his cock.

She got down on her hands and knees and Ed knelt down behind her. He could see her pussy was wet and her thighs showed signs of her juices there. He placed his hands on her hips and she sucked in a breath in her excitement.

Ed dipped his face down and stroked his tongue across her pussy and she gasped out loud.

“Fuck yes!”

He worked her pussy with his lips and tongue until she was moaning constantly.

Isabelle was going out of her mind. He’d already given her a small orgasm with just his tongue. She wanted his cock! She looked over her shoulder as she tugged on her nipple, gasping for breath. “Ed, please!”

He looked at her and felt himself throb once more. He nodded and lined up his cock with her wet opening. “If it doesn’t fit or if it hurts you have to tell me and we’ll stop immediately. Is that understood?” he growled and she nodded frantically, trying to force her hips back but he held her hips tightly to keep her in place.

When the hot tip touched her Isabelle gasped and dropped her face to the cushions. Now her ass was up in the air and Ed was feeding his hard flesh into her slowly. She was shocked to discover this felt NOTHING like her dildo! His heat felt like it was scorching her insides but she couldn’t scream. The girth of him was stretching her unbearably wide and the hardness was bending her insides to fit its huge shape. She thought she’d prepared for this with her big dildo but now she realized she’d just been fooling herself once more. She bit down on the pillow, paralyzed by the sensations ripping through her. Oh god, it was too much!

Ed was surprised that he was able to get much more of his cock into Isabelle this time. She was incredibly tight and so wonderfully hot as she took more and more of him. He kept his eye on her and listened for her to say stop but she just passively accepted him. He had to reverse direction a few times but he eventually pressed his hips against her ass. He was stunned! She’d actually taken all of him!

She had to tell him to stop, to take it out, to let her breathe, but he slowly moved deeper then mercifully out only to slide deeper still. She was filled beyond capacity and her mind began to recede as her body stretched wide to take him. When his pelvis came to a gentle rest against her ass she gasped in a deep breath. She had it! She’d taken it all! Sweet Baby Geezus! It was over! Tears of joy dripped from her eyes and she felt her body beginning to relax a little.

Then he began to thrust with energy.

Her mouth dropped open to scream but again she couldn’t make a sound as he slowly increased the speed and strength of his thrusting. Soon he was pounding her ass with his pelvis and his balls were slapping her clit unmercifully.

Her orgasm caught her completely by surprise. She made a quiet croaking noise as the sharp bliss tore through her nerves and left her gasping. From the overwhelming pressure of his stretching her too wide to the sensation of every pleasure nerve in her body flaring at once, the orgasm obliterated her mind.

Ed wasn’t finished. He continued to drive his cock into Isabelle as her juices eased his thrusting and he picked up his efforts. She was still incredibly tight and that felt so good!

Isabelle gurgled as her mind began to come back to her. Ed had changed his motion and was adding a little twist to his hips with every stroke. This made his hard cock stir up her insides and his balls drag against her overcharged clit. Incredibly, she felt a second wave building. She wanted to yell, tell him to stop, she’d had enough but her body was no longer listening to her demands. Her abused pussy somehow wanted more and she gasped with a combination of lust and frustration as her hips began to drive back against his.

Ed smiled when he felt Isabelle grinding back against him. It must feel as good for her as it felt for him. He redoubled his efforts and yanked her hips back to slap her ass against him.

Sharp, spikes of pleasure crashed through Isabelle’s body and she drooled uncontrollably on the pillow under her face as her second orgasm took her. Her ability to speak was long gone and all the sounds she made now were just mewling noises. She clung to the pillows under her as she shook and quaked through the release. She felt her mind slipping away again but clung tenaciously to consciousness. It would be over soon.

“Oh Isabelle, you feel incredible! I’m so close!” Ed sighed.

CLOSE!?! Isabelle’s muscles spasmed at the thought of Ed continuing to pound her so roughly.

Ed grunted as he felt his cock being squeezed tighter. He had to change to long slow strokes which felt so incredible! He reached under her body with one hand and cupped her tit to tug on her nipple. She squeaked and the squeezing became a pulsing. It was too much for Ed and he slammed himself deep a few more times before he felt his cum surging into the woman.

His slow strokes were turning Isabelle inside out. She could feel everything! The smooth texture of his cock against the velvety softness of her pussy, the ridge of the head caressing the inner walls and the heat, god the heat! When he squeezed her tit and tugged on her nipple the jolt of pleasure shot straight to her clit and she was lost. Her body betrayed her for a third time and pleasure washed over her. She no longer had the strength to fight it and it took her into oblivion.

Ed pulled his softening cock from Isabelle and leaned back, releasing her hip. With his support gone she slumped forward onto the cushions.

“Isabelle?”

When she didn’t respond he touched her throat and felt her pulse strong and fast.

Unconscious again. Damn.

He took a quick shower and checked on her again. She was sleeping it off. He sighed and went back to the installation of the misting system.

Angie finished her call with her excitable friend, there was no crisis, and made her way back to the cabana to check on Ed’s progress. She smiled when she saw him on the ladder. He looked so sexy! She was still a little tingly from their fun earlier.

“How’s it going?” she asked. He looked down from the ladder then climbed down.

“Almost finished.”

She noted his unease. “What’s wrong?”

“Isabelle-” he began.

“AGAIN?” she gasped, interrupting him.

He nodded and led her inside the cabana. Angie knelt down beside her daughter and once more noted the lack of blood which was a good sign.

“How much did she take this time?” Angie asked looking up at him.

He shifted uneasily as he didn’t like divulging such details but this was Angie’s daughter. “All of it.”

Angie’s eyes widened. Isabelle took all of Ed?

“She said she’d practiced with a large dildo and could take it all. I told her to let me know if it was too much and we’d stop. She never said stop or gestured for us to stop or gave me any indication-”

“It’s ok Ed. I get the picture,” Angie could hear the worry in Ed’s voice. Well, Isabelle got what she wanted after all. Hopefully it was worth it because she was going to be one sore young lady in the coming days. “She’ll be fine. Finish up and I’ll get you to carry her into the house to her bedroom when you are done?”

He nodded and went back out to finish adding the nozzles to the hose. All that was left after that was testing it.

Ten minutes later he packed up his tools and went back inside the cabana to change back into his clothes. Angie enjoyed watching him dress. She helped him get Isabelle up to her bedroom so she could ‘sleep it off’. He put his tools back in his truck then gave Angie a kiss at her front door before heading home.

-=-

The rest of the week flew by for Ed. The Klein Group were happy to see Mr. Drakos and Ed the following day and rolled out a new project they’d won the bid on. It was a new corporate head office for a software development house who didn’t want a cold tower of steel and glass but something more nature oriented and eco-friendly. They had a huge piece of property on the northern edge of the city which was currently densely forested. They wanted to incorporate the forest into the design as much as they could which would entail some construction headaches of its own. The plans they had which had won them the bid showed a low rise building, 2-3 floors in height which stayed below the height of the mature trees. It reminded Ed of Zoe’s new home a little so he suggested they do a walkthrough of that construction project. Mr. Drakos was very pleased with the suggestion as his company was so heavily involved in it. They made the tour the following day. The designer from the Klein Group was very excited by the possibilities and set up a meeting with Zoe’s designer in San Francisco.

Ed managed to do some more installation work on Friday with a team from work including Big Jimmy’s partner Doug who was on probation. Doug apologized to Ed for ‘all the shit’ Big Jimmy put him through but Ed just smiled and waved it off. It felt good to be on a site getting his hands dirty once more. The other installers watched him make the final connections and run through his triple check. Then they were done for the day.

They had gotten a major storm during the week which had at least temporarily broken the heat wave. As Saturday afternoon rolled around the thermometers were back to climbing skyward as clouds disappeared and the sun shone down on Angie’s backyard.

Ed drove Grace and Rachel to Angie’s in his truck. Grace had already changed into her swimsuit and had a lovely wrap to wear as well. She was trying to keep a smile on her face but the heat was making her a little cranky.

They pulled into the driveway and Ed got out and walked around to Grace’s door to scoop her out in his arms. Rachel closed the truck’s door and they walked around the side of the house to enter the backyard through the unlocked gate.

Angie was standing on the large back deck and greeted them with a broad smile. “Grace! I’m so glad you could come! Feeling better?”

Earlier Grace had indicated that she might not attend as she wasn’t feeling up to it but Ed had convinced her getting outside to get some fresh air would help her and the babies. Besides, everyone doted on pregnant ladies, right? Grace hadn’t been able to resist his enthusiasm.

“Thanks Angie. Yes, I’m feeling better,” she said with just the slightest blush, as she rested in Ed’s arms. “Will Isabelle be joining us today?” she asked. Ed had filled her in on what had happened.

“No, she’s still recuperating. I’ll let her know you were asking for her though,” Angie said with a smirk.

“Should I take Grace to the cabana?” Ed asked, his face burning.

“Yes! There is a lovely lounge chair set up under the awning. Could you turn on the misting system as well?” Angie replied.

Ed nodded and headed towards the large structure on the other end of the huge in-ground pool. Rachel followed with the beach bag containing Ed’s new swim trunks, lotion, and a hat for Grace if she got too much sun.

He set Grace down gently on the large lounge and made sure she was comfortable. She scolded him gently saying she wasn’t an invalid but truthfully she loved his attention. She caught Rachel’s knowing smile and smiled back.

Ed hopped up and darted into the cabana. Moments later there was a slight hiss sound and the pipes running along the canopy began to emit a fine mist. It brought immediate relief from the heat. Ed walked out and inspected his handy work to ensure it was working.

“I wonder where Angie’s friends are.” Grace said.

Rachel looked back towards the house. “I’m not sure. I’ll go check.” She opened the bag and pulled out the lotion. “Make sure she’s properly protected,” she said and handed him the bottle.

Ed felt a warm rush pass through his heart hearing the genuine love in Rachel’s voice. He took the lotion from Rachel’s hand. His eyes drank in her thick and shining red hair, the big Hollywood sunglasses hiding her lovely blue eyes, her luscious smiling lips, and that… blue bikini top, straining to contain her big tits. He… he was sure they looked… bigger than usual? He got a little lost in her cleavage then looked back to her lips. Her smile was now showing her brilliant white teeth as she knew what effect she had on him and loved it! She tilted her face up and he immediately dipped down to kiss her. Her kiss was so sensuous he began to stiffen in his shorts.

Rachel patted his chest and pushed away gently. Her nipples were stiff and she was tingling like mad but this wasn’t the time or place. “I’ll be right back. Lotion her. Now,” she said with a mock scowl.

Ed nodded and knelt beside Grace’s chair. She was watching his face and he looked at her curiously. She just grinned and shook her head. Then her grin turned into a sigh as Ed began applying her lotion from her feet upwards. Her head went back against the cushion as she moaned in bliss at his hands on her body.

He diligently followed Rachel’s instructions and ensured Grace was protected with sunblock. Every exposed surface was going to get lotion rubbed into it. He also loved feeling Grace’s body under his hands and felt himself stiffen further. He glanced up at her but her eyes were closed in relaxation. So they were both enjoying this. He smiled to himself.

Rachel made her way into the kitchen from the patio doors and saw Angie mixing a large pitcher of Sangria. On the counter beside her was a smaller pitcher on a second tray with glasses. Angie looked over her shoulder at her friend. “Ah, good! Could you take that tray out to the table next to Grace? It’s non-alcoholic Sangria for her and Tristan.”

Rachel smiled. “You heard back from Tristan and Dale?”

“Yes, they will be here,” she glanced at the clock, “any time now. They said they were going to see Victoria’s home with the realtor.”

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they could move into the neighborhood?” Rachel gushed as she moved to the counter.

“Yes! This neighborhood needs more children!” Angie grinned in agreement.

“Where are your guests?” Rachel asked.

Angie looked a little sheepish. “I kept them up talking almost all night! It felt so good to reconnect with them. The visit we had on our New York trip was too short. They’ll be out shortly.”

Rachel nodded and carried the tray with the pitcher out to the cabana. She smiled when she saw the look of utter contentment on Grace’s face. The young woman had been having such a hard time carrying the triplets in this heat. She wasn’t someone who could stay still for long and being immobilized by the load was wearing her patience thin. She tried not to take it out on the people around her but truthfully, she did have anger management issues and Ed seemed to be the only one able to defuse her.

She set the tray down next to Grace whose eyes opened to the sound of the ice moving in the glass pitcher. She looked at the Sangria and immediately began to pout.

“It’s non-alcoholic. For you and Tristan. Would you like a glass?” Rachel asked and got a smile and nod. She poured.

“So they’re coming?” Grace asked.

“Yes- Ah! There they are!”

Ed looked towards the back gate and smiled when he saw their friends coming in. Dale and Tristan were both tall people with Dale standing an inch taller than Ed’s 6’ 2” and Tristan matching Ed’s height. She was also half her husband’s age at 30. He might be the oldest of the group but he kept himself in excellent health and the couple were deeply in love which made Ed very happy to see.

The couple smiled when they saw their group and headed towards them. Tristan’s pronounced baby bump was leading the way.

“Do you remember when I was that small?” Grace joked.

Ed felt motion under his hand and looked back at Grace’s belly. “The babies are moving!” he said in awe.

Grace and Rachel looked at him fondly and smiled at each other. Rachel went to greet her friends.

“So good to see you two!” she said as she kissed Dale’s cheek and gave Tristan a hug. “How are you feeling?” she asked the expectant mother.

“Like I need to lie down.” Tristan said looking at the empty lounge next to Grace longingly.

“By all means take a load off.” Rachel said gesturing to the chair. Dale helped her down on to it and she smiled up at him.

“Getting a little activity in there?” Dale asked Ed seeing the young man with his hands pressed gently against Grace’s tummy.

Ed gave him a wide smile and nodded. “They really move around a lot!” he said enthusiastically.

“Leaning on all the wrong things,” Grace moaned. “Bathroom, Ed. I need to go.”

Ed scooped her up and carried her into the cabana. He set her down on her feet just outside the bathroom door and she went inside. When she returned he made to pick her up but she just took his arm and he walked her back out to the lounge chair. He eased her down into it and she sighed with relief. Ed looked over at Tristan’s tummy with a smile. “Are you feeling a lot of movement too?” he asked.

Tristan looked at her belly happily and ran her hands over it. “Just the occasional kick now and then.”

“When’s your due date?” Grace asked.

“Mid-September,” Dale offered.

Grace worked the math backwards and gave Tristan a knowing smile. The woman looked back at her curiously. “So you brought back more than souvenirs from Barbados,” Grace said with a smile.

Tristan froze looking at Grace then a sharp burst of laughter exploded from the woman. Dale took his wife’s hand and calmed her. She blushed and clung to his hand.

Grace was a little surprised by the outburst but she understood having manic swings of emotion from time to time. Of course, she never seemed nervous about it afterwards.

“Here comes Angie and her friends,” Rachel said, grateful for the distraction.

Ed looked towards the house and his eyes widened. Angie was wearing her shimmery silver bikini which, like Rachel’s, struggled to contain her… Ed, blinked. Were her breasts larger too? She’d let her straight white blond hair grow a bit and it now reached past her shoulders. She had a matching shimmery wrap encircling her hips and flowing down to almost her ankles.

Lakshmi was walking just behind her and was wearing her favorite color, red. In this case a red bikini with gold accents and as usual she was wearing her dangling gold earrings and multiple gold bangles. Her wrap was a gauzy black cloud floating around her hips.

Taj wore a simple white bikini which stood out in high contrast against her coffee colored skin. Her large head of curly hair was currently controlled by a white kerchief and a white wrap hugged her curvy hips.

When Ed managed to look past the three stunning women he saw Thierry and Reg. The former, tall and slimly built, was wearing his long grey hair in a ponytail, a white sleeveless t-shirt with a large red circle on the chest, and red board shorts. Reg, walking next to Thierry looked… lighter? He was still wide and thick but his muscles were more defined? He’d definitely lost weight. He also had a sleeveless t-shirt but his was black with a large yellow stylized lightning bolt on the chest. His board shorts were black.

Ed stood as they arrived and Angie made the introductions. Once everyone knew everyone’s name, Ed stepped forward and Lakshmi kissed his cheeks and gave him a hug. He got a chaste kiss on the cheek from Taj which relieved him but her hug was another full body squeeze. Ed blushed as she released him.

Reg was grinning at his embarrassment and gave him another too firm handshake so he put his extra muscles to work as well. Reg was delighted that he hadn’t been able to overpower his grip. Thierry’s handshake was much gentler.

Over Thierry’s shoulder Ed saw another guest arrive. Zoe was closing the gate behind herself. He couldn’t stop himself from tracking her movements as she walked over to join them. Reg and Thierry looked behind themselves and saw the beauty approaching. Reg was a little annoyed at first that Ed was ogling the woman when he was supposed to be Angie’s boyfriend but after a moment’s reflection he understood Ed’s inability to look away. She was a stunner!

Zoe had just returned from inspecting the progress on her new place and she was so happy! Seeing Ed surrounded by people she didn’t know she refrained from jumping into his arms to kiss him silly. She did give him a nod and a smile. Angie came to her side and gave her a hug.

“Let me introduce you to my oldest friends,” Angie said with a grin, drawing protests from Lakshmi and Taj at the ‘old’ comment.

Once the intros were done Zoe pointed to the cabana where she was going to get changed.

When Zoe left Ed turned back and saw the ladies were all gathered around the two mothers-to-be.

“So you’re carrying one and Grace has triplets?” Lakshmi was saying in delight.

Tristan nodded happily. “One is plenty for me.”

“I didn’t exactly ask for triplets,” Grace sighed.

“Do multiple babies run in your family?” Lakshmi asked.

“According to my Mom her mom was a twin.” She glanced over at Ed and saw his stricken expression. “Ed, what’s wrong? Come here.” He knelt down beside her.

“I just realized Shirley won’t know she’s a grandmother and the babies won’t know their grandmother!” he exclaimed.

Grace looked into Ed’s sad eyes and sighed. She had planned on sparing him this but he had a right to know. “When I discovered I was pregnant… I tried to reach out to her. I looked up the address for Jerry, her boyfriend, and drove over there. I spoke with some of his neighbors who said they’d gotten married and moved away but hadn’t left a forwarding address with anyone. They thought maybe they’d either moved to Florida or Southern California. No one was really sure because no one spoke to him very much.”

Ed just looked at her, the sad expression remaining.

“Ed, listen to me. It’s time to put Shirley out of your mind and take in all the joy and happiness you are surrounded with. You shouldn’t let the past ruin the bright future you have,” Grace said and he nodded slowly with a smile.

He realized she was right. While he’d never forget her, he had to put his memories of Shirley away so they wouldn’t distract him from the wonderful things happening right now. He smiled at Grace. She always knew the right things to say to him.

Just then Zoe came back out of the cabana and Ed’s eyes were drawn to the petite beauty. Her shimmering gold bikini was… eye trapping. Which… was probably the intent.

Grace saw his focus shift and looked over to see the reason for it. She snorted and tapped Ed on the arm. “Go put your swimsuit on and cool off in the pool,” she said with a grin. Ed smiled at her and kissed her hand before pulling his swim trunks from the beach bag and walking into the cabana to get changed.

Eyebrows went up on a few faces as they saw the kiss. Taj glanced at Reg to see if he caught it but she saw him watching Zoe putting lotion on. She gave him a poke in the arm and he jumped. He looked back at Taj’s raised eyebrow. He apologized and Taj forgave him as she could see Zoe’s appeal.

“A dip in the pool sounds like an excellent idea,” Dale said as he gave Tristan a quick kiss on the lips and headed into the cabana to get changed too. Reg and Thierry were already dressed for the pool and headed for the water. The non-pregnant ladies moved to lounges in the sun by the pool just a short distance from the cabana to soak in some rays. Grace and Tristan remained under the cabana’s canopy.

Back in the change room Ed was staring down at his new swim suit in annoyance. This one was a little snug too. He liked the design with its dark blue and black swirls but it didn’t really have much extra room in the pant leg for… stuff. He sighed then exited from the change room. He put his clothes in an empty cubby slot in the cabana and headed out.

Grace was the first to spot him on his way by and smiled in delight at how sexy the suit looked on him. She gave him a grin and he nodded shyly.

“Too small,” he mouthed to her and she shook her head in disagreement. He noticed Tristan looking at him so he smiled at her too.

“Nice swim suit, Ed!” Angie growled happily in her gravelly voice as she saw him approach. He blushed and nodded and stumbled slightly when he caught the pink tip of Rachel’s tongue running along her lips.

He hustled towards the pool. He could almost feel the eyes on him as he walked past the ladies. He joined the men in the pool and quickly did a couple of laps to get his muscles warmed up. At least the swim suit didn’t bind when he moved in it. He surfaced next to the group of men enjoying the cool water. Dale had just arrived as well and was wiping the water from his face.

“So Ed told us you indoctrinated him in the fine art of scotch appreciation,” Thierry said to Dale.

“It’s true. When I met the lad he knew nothing of man’s finest beverage. He learned quickly,” Dale replied.

Ed grinned at him. “I like scotch but only in small amounts. I get drunk pretty quickly.”

“You’ll have one with us after dinner, won’t you? I brought a really good bottle,” Dale asked Ed. Thierry and Reg’s eyes lit up as well.

“Oh sure! I can have one. That should be fine,” Ed assured him. That earned smiles from the other men.

Reg took a discreet look around the pool. From Zoe with her gleaming gold bikini squeezing all that caramel skinned goodness, Angie’s golden tanned flesh behind her shimmering silver bikini, and Rachel’s creamy skin stuffed into those small blue triangles, how did Ed survive all this beauty? Just then two more tall stunners entered the back yard and walked around the pool. Reg struggled to keep a cool smile on his face when all he wanted to do was stare slack jawed.

“Mishka! Heather! Welcome!” Angie called out and waved them over.

Ed waved at the two ladies and they waved back. Mishka had on a relatively conservative black bikini while the men discovered Heather’s tiny yellow bikini top was paired with a thong when the new arrivals walking past took off their wraps. Heather shook her bum at Ed and grinned at his stunned look. She hustled after Mishka.

With a final glance around the pool Reg turned to Ed. “How do you survive this?”

Ed blinked, pulling his attention back to the men. “Survive? Survive what?”

“All this beauty around you all the time! A man would go mad being around so many beautiful women. Like those last two! How do you do it?”

“Mishka and Heather are engaged to be married this summer. I get to be best man!” he said with a smile.

“Ok, those two may be off limits but…” Reg’s voice tapered off as he considered the overwhelming temptation.

Dale smiled at Reg. “Ed survives by being in love with them and they’re in love with him in return.” He turned to Ed. “Where Stephanie and Carolyn?”

“Stephanie is taking her kids and Carolyn’s kids camping this weekend. Carolyn’s on tour with her exhibit. She’s in… Cairo now, I think?” Ed explained. Dale nodded as he recalled Carolyn’s tour.

Thierry and Reg were exchanging looks. Then the slim man faced Ed. “We thought you were Angie’s boyfriend.”

Ed nodded.

“Are you having relations with all of these other women too?” Thierry asked incredulously and Reg scowled, feeling protective of Angie.

Ed just clammed up and looked distinctly uncomfortable.

Dale saw this and spoke for the young man once more. “A gentleman never kisses and tells.”

Ed looked relieved and nodded to Dale.

“Hang on one minute! One of those ladies is a dear friend of mine-” Reg began to growl.

“Who is fully aware of the other women in Ed’s life. They have an agreement with Grace who is Ed’s first love and who is carrying his children.” Dale interrupted. He sighed as he looked into the confused eyes of the other two men. “Listen, I was surprised at first too but Ed’s not just fooling around. He’s in love with them. They love him. You don’t have to take my word. Ask them.”

Reg looked back at Angie and saw her watching Ed with a smile on her lips. Rachel was saying something to her while she was also watching Ed. The two laughed and Reg saw Taj and Lakshmi looking at Angie in surprise. “Excuse me,” he said to the men as he caught his wife’s eye and made his way to the side of the pool near her.

Taj moved to sit down on the edge of the pool as Reg moved closer. “Dale tells me Angie isn’t the only one Ed is with,” he said.

“It’s true! She was just telling us! She knows about them too!” Taj confirmed.

“This is a new one, even for our ‘adventurous’ Angie!” Reg said with concern. Taj nodded with an equally worried expression.

“She seems happy,” Taj offered. They gave each other a look then turned back to join their groups.

Taj returned to her lounge chair as Zoe walked over to speak to Grace and Tristan. Taj usually felt like the one in the group with an over-abundance of tits and ass but Zoe was giving her a run for her money. She tried not to ogle the woman as her husband had.

Zoe gave both woman a kiss on the cheek and sat on the edge of Grace’s chair. “I’ve only been blessed to be pregnant once and with only the one child but I recall every moment. Even the uncomfortable times feel special to me now,” Zoe smiled in recollection. Hearing a splash she glanced over and looked at Ed fondly.

Tristan caught the wistful look in the brunette’s eye. “Would you consider having another child?”

Zoe smiled faintly as she turned back to look at the blonde. “I can’t have any more because of what Luis did to me but I’m so looking forward to being ‘Auntie Zoe’ for Grace’s children.” She took Grace’s hand in hers and smiled.

Tristan looked over to the men and saw Ed’s eyes were watching Zoe. Suddenly her mind returned her to Barbados, when she was with him, her body trapped under his powerful body as he thrust his heavy cock deep inside her again and again, driven by a deep primitive need. She felt her nipples stiffen against the thin fabric of her bikini as she trembled in reaction. Slightly dazed by her body’s response to her memories she looked at Zoe.

“Is Ed always so aggressive in bed with you?” she asked, her voice wobbling slightly.

The words took Zoe’s mind into her own memories of the big man and she nodded absently as she turned her head to lock eyes with Ed across the pool. She was lost to her own recollection and her nipples pressed against the tight fabric of the gold bikini.

Grace looked at Tristan in confusion, seeing her physical reactions, hearing the choice of words, and wondered when Zoe told Tristan Ed was aggressive in bed. To her knowledge this was only the second time Tristan had met Zoe. She recalled the event at the Christmas party but it didn’t feel like that. She leaned back to puzzle it out in her head.

“Excuse me please,” Zoe said distractedly and walked back down the side of the pool.

As Zoe made her way back Ed’s eyes tracked her the entire way. She felt them like his hands were on her body and she trembled with anticipation. She reclined on the chair and felt the heat of the sun soaking into her tingling skin. She needed to be with him and soon!

Ed was finally able to look away from Zoe once she was lying down. He gave his head a shake to clear the daze he’d been in and sunk under the surface. When he came up he began to do laps. He needed to burn off the energy and to move the blood back into his muscles from where it was currently pooling.

Rachel was grinning at Zoe for her effect on Ed. “Shame on you for getting Edward all charged up! He’ll have to do laps until he wrinkles up!”

Zoe just turned her head to Rachel and stuck out her tongue. Angie and Rachel chuckled. They could see Ed wasn’t the only one charged up.

Angie watched Ed’s muscles ripple as he surged through the water. “Mmmm, swimming isn’t the only way to burn off energy.”

Taj looked at her friend in shock as she saw Rachel and Zoe smile in approval. “Is Ed some kind of sex toy to you three?”

Rachel saw the woman’s concern and shook her head. “Not at all. We all respect and love Ed deeply as he loves us. That doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate his physical attributes. He appreciates ours… maybe not so vocally,” she admitted with a grin.

“But what about Grace? Is she really on board with this? She’s having his children!” Lakshmi exclaimed, bangles chiming on her wrists as her hands fluttered.

Angie sat up to address her friends. “Without Grace’s explicit approval none of us would be in a relationship with Ed. When Grace discovered we were having sex with him and we’d all fallen for the man she laid out the ground rules. Respect, truth, and no drama as Ed doesn’t understand it.” She saw doubt in their eyes so she stood up. “Come on, you need to hear it from Grace herself.”

Rachel stood to join them but Zoe just shook her head at her friend. Mishka and Heather stood to follow as they were fascinated by this relationship. The ladies made their way back to the cabana.

Grace and Tristan sipped at their virgin Sangrias as they watched the women approach. Chairs were arranged under the awning near the two lounge chairs but still able to see the pool.

“Oh my god! That mist feels so good!” Heather gushed. She hadn’t realized how hot she was getting in the sun.

Angie smiled. “Ed installed the misting system for me a few days ago.”

“He’s very handy,” Rachel agreed as she smiled at Grace who chuckled.

Seeing the confusion still on Lakshmi and Taj’s faces Angie turned to Grace. “Would you please explain to my friends the relationship we have with you and Ed?”

Grace looked to the worried eyes of the two women in question and grasped the situation. She nodded to Angie and saw the relief on her face. These women meant a great deal to Angie and she needed to ease their minds.

“Well, let’s start at the beginning. Ed met Rachel at a party at her home for the football team he was on. Rachel was the first to begin a relationship with him after high school once he was working at Drakos Heating and Cooling and came to service her home. Then Angie and the others-”

“Others?” Lakshmi gasped, looking over at Zoe in confusion.

“Yes, Stephanie and Carolyn aren’t here today but they’re also with Ed,” Grace said and saw the confusion on their faces.

“Don’t get me wrong. I’m as possessive as the next woman and will protect my man with tooth and nail if I have to but Ed is special. When I learned of the relationship Ed was having with these ladies I was upset at first. My mother had been sexually abusing Ed-” Taj gasped and Lakshmi covered her mouth with her hands in shock when they heard this. “When I confronted her about it, I slapped her face and told her I wasn’t going to let her or anyone abuse Ed again. Instead of taking responsibility for her actions she took steps to put us out on the street.”

“Oh my god!” Lakshmi uttered. She was almost in tears and Angie took her hand. Tristan looked… distressed.

“That same day Ed was kidnapped by Zoe’s daughter. When he didn’t come home I panicked and went looking for him. This led me to Angie’s-”

“But Mishka’s place first!” Heather piped in, earning her a grin from Grace.

“Yes, but eventually to Angie’s where I met all of the women Ed was… with. I knew he was potentially having sex with Rachel but when I saw it was with so many women I was stunned. I was worried they were abusing his innocence for a quick thrill. But during that crisis I saw their genuine feelings for Ed, their equal terror that something awful had happened to him, and their emotional bond to the man I loved. At that time I hadn’t told Ed I loved him and he hadn’t yet confessed his love for me. I couldn’t expect him to be faithful.”

She looked over at Ed in the pool and saw him finally ending his exercise. He wiped the water from his face and grinned at her. She smiled back.

“We were all with Ed in his hospital room when he resurfaced from the terrible drugs he’d been given. He wasn’t completely lucid but he was able to tell me he loved me and I confessed to him as well. He saw all the women there and he confessed he’d been…” she smiled fondly at the memory. “…intimate with them.”

Grace looked into the eyes of Taj then Lakshmi to make sure she had their attention. “I won’t let anyone abuse Ed but I won’t deny him genuine love either. He loves me and I love him. He also loves Rachel, Angie, Zoe, Stephanie, and Carolyn. They love him in return so I’m fine with their relationships with him. They won’t hurt him.” Her eyes went to Tristan and saw it once more. She was sure now. It was guilt.

As she’d described the abuse Shirley had done to Ed and how she wouldn’t let anyone abuse Ed again, out of the corner of her eye she caught Tristan’s stricken expression. This started something bubbling in the back of her brain. She’d kept an eye on the blonde’s reactions from that point and saw her glancing over at Rachel frequently. Rachel’s face looked… tense.

Dale walked up with a curious look for his wife as he’d caught the look of distress on her face. He shared a look with Rachel.

Grace caught the interplay between Dale, Tristan and Rachel and the bubbling in her mind finally crystalized. “What happened in Barbados?” Grace growled.

Tristan squeaked but Dale’s expression became strangely… relieved.

“If I may, I’d like to speak on this. Before I do, this concerns Ed so he should be here as well,” Dale suggested.

Grace was scowling and trembling slightly so she nodded. The group turned to see Zoe sitting on the side of the pool talking with Ed who was treading water in front of her, his head just above the surface.

“Ed! Could you come here for a moment?” Dale called out.

Thierry and Reg were both headed back to the cabana and looked back to see Ed begin to swim to the ladder.

Ed saw everyone was looking in his direction and he had to get out of the water. Unfortunately he was tenting his trunks badly. Zoe had been telling him the things she wanted to do with him and he was seriously hard as iron.

Zoe sent him an apologetic look as she knew what she’d done to him. It was all she could do to keep from touching herself. “Don’t worry Ed I’ll wait for you and you can walk behind me.”

He looked at her in exasperation. “That’s not going to make it go away! Seeing you from behind is just going to make it stiffer!”

She couldn’t stop the smile that spread across her lips at his compliment. “No, I meant you could hide it behind me as we walked to the cabana.

“Oh. Alright,” Ed blinked. He hadn’t thought of that.

He climbed the ladder and ducked in behind her as casually as he could as they made their way to the others. He looked at Dale and the man tossed him a rolled up towel like a football. He caught it and wrapped it around himself gratefully.

Then he saw Grace’s expression and his smile dropped. “What’s wrong? What happened?”

“Have a seat next to Grace, Ed. I’m going to explain something you need to hear,” Dale said and Ed settled himself down next to Grace and held her hand to stop her trembling.

Thierry and Reg pulled up chairs next to their spouses and Dale saw he had everyone’s attention. He dipped down and kissed his wife who looked panic stricken.

“Normally, I would prefer to have a private conversation about something like this with only the direct parties involved but this group is closer than any I’ve encountered so it’s best we get this out in the open with everyone.” He looked around and aside from Grace’s scowl he saw open expressions of interest. He nodded.

“I’ve only shared this with a few select people and I’m hoping you will keep this to yourselves as well. It may not make sense at first but stick with me. I’m sterile.”

Confusion flashed across a number of the gathered faces. Realization dawned on a few and eyes shot to Ed then away as they saw him blink in confusion.

Ed felt Grace’s tension flare up and he automatically squeezed her hand calming her. He was looking at Dale in confusion. What he said couldn’t be true. The proof was plain to see on the lounge next to him.

“When we got married Tristan and I tried to have children but all our attempts failed. We went to a fertility clinic and discovered I’m sterile.” He looked at his wife and she looked up at him lovingly. “Tristan told me it didn’t matter. She was happy with just the two of us but that was a lie. She worried I was dwelling on the fact that I couldn’t give her a child. I told her I was fine but that was a lie. Our lies festered between us for a very long time. Neither of us were strong enough to face them as we were terrified they would destroy our marriage.” He took a deep breath and the others watching remembered to breathe themselves.

“When we were in Barbados we went on a party boat and Ed and Tristan had a lot to drink. Ed was drunk beyond the capacity to think. When we returned to shore we were waiting for a taxi and there was a group of mothers nursing their babies nearby. The scene affected Tristan strongly though she pretended it didn’t. When we got back to the hotel Rachel and I went to dinner and Tristan took Ed back to his room. Again, he was very drunk. When she got him to his room she noticed he was semi-conscious and… erect. She was in her fertile stage, desperate for a child so… she had sex with him.”

Tristan looked at Ed in despair but he just blinked at her. It hadn’t sunk in yet. Her eyes moved to Grace and she had to look away from the fury in the woman’s eyes.

“But… I- I would never have sex with a happily married woman! I just wouldn’t!” Ed exclaimed, looking into Dale’s eyes.

“You- you were too drunk to know who I was… you thought… you thought I was Zoe,” Tristan croaked out painfully.

Zoe and Angie gasped as they knew what that meant for Tristan. They looked to Rachel and she nodded.

“I- I don’t… no, I couldn’t… I’ve no memory…” Ed mumbled as he scoured the empty places where the memories should have been.

Rachel saw Dale was done so she picked up the story from where he left off. “Dale and I had dinner, drinks and even did a little dancing before he walked me back to my room. That’s when we found Tristan trapped under Ed’s body. He was asleep and she was… in a state. We got her free and took her back to her room. She immediately confessed to what happened, distraught at the enormity of the betrayal to both her husband and Ed.”

She looked Grace right in the eye and faced the rage there. “They are deeply sorry at what happened. Pain, desperation, and impaired judgement led to the impulsive and reckless behavior. Dale and Tristan are good people whose love for each other made them both make mistakes of communication which led to the desperate act. I hope you are able to find it in your heart to forgive them.”

Grace tried to speak but her throat was so tight she had to clear it twice before she could. “Why- why did you keep this a secret?” she eventually ground out.

“When I spoke with Dale and Tristan the morning after they wanted to confess to Ed but I told them no. Firstly, I felt the odds of Tristan conceiving were low but on the off chance she actually managed to get pregnant I asked them not to ruin your joy of having your first child by stealing that relationship milestone from you. Your first should be yours. I had no idea at the time that you were already pregnant.”

Rachel looked in Ed’s confused eyes and felt pain for the young man. “I’m deeply sorry if I’ve hurt you.”

Ed couldn’t think straight. He looked to Grace for her to help it all make sense.

Grace saw his desperation and her righteous fury immediately dissipated. He needed her. She looked into his eyes and took his shaking hands in hers.

“It’s ok Ed. Everything is fine. Tristan just wanted so very much to have a baby of her own but Dale couldn’t give her one. That made them both unbearably sad so when you were drunk Tristan tricked you into having sex with her. She got pregnant and now she’s having your baby too. You’re the dad of her baby.”

“OH! Oh my.” Ed blinked as the pieces suddenly snapped into place. He turned to stare at the other couple. He looked at Dale, horrified that he’d had sex with the man’s wife. “I’m so deeply sorry! I shouldn’t have had sex with Tristan!”

“Ed! There is no need for you to apologize! You bear no responsibility for the events of that night. It’s our fault. We need to apologize to you!” Dale exclaimed in stunned surprise.

Tristan couldn’t bear the guilt any longer and broke down in tears, gasping for breath and making deep sobs.

Ed immediately knelt next to her chair and took her hands in his. “Please don’t cry Tristan! Please! I’m not mad. I forgive you! I would have preferred it if you’d just asked nicely so I could have spoken with Grace first. I need her for big decisions like this.” He looked over at Grace who was looking back at him with love and tears in her eyes. “What should I do Grace?” he asked.

“There is nothing left to do Ed. It’s done,” she replied.

Dale cleared his throat to be able to speak around the lump his overwhelmed emotions were causing. “Ed, you have the right to claim this child as your own.” Tristan’s eyes flew wide as she looked at her husband but she realized he was right. She turned her eyes to Ed.

He was shaking his head. “No, I think you’ll make an awesome father and I’ll be looking to you for advice on how to be a good father to my own. You should raise the child as yours. Surround the child with the love you share with Tristan.”

Tristan threw her arms around Ed and hugged him tight. She was crying again but now the tears were of joy. Once she released him he got to his feet and shook Dale’s hand.

Grace turned her scowl on Rachel who knew this moment had been coming. Her gut felt like a cold pit of despair as she was sure she was going to be cut off from Ed. Grace had vowed once before that she’d rather live on the street than have Ed subjected to someone’s abuse. Grace probably saw her keeping the secret as abuse.

“No!”

Grace and Rachel both jumped at the stern voice coming from Ed. They looked at him in surprise but he was looking at Grace. “What Rachel did she did out of love for both of us. Even I figured that one out. There was no harm done, just some confusion and surprise.” He looked deeply into Grace’s eyes like she did to him when she helped him understand. “Rachel should not be punished for this act of love. We both love Rachel and we both forgive her!”

Grace blinked at Ed’s assertiveness and a surprised smile appeared on her lips. She gave him a nod as she looked up at him through her lashes. He knelt down and kissed her. He looked to Rachel and gestured for her to join them. Rachel immediately knelt down on the opposite side of the lounge chair and Ed pulled her into a group hug. Pretty soon Rachel and Grace were crying and hugging each other.

Angie looked at her stunned friends with a very satisfied and proud expression on her face. “That’s why we all love him!” Zoe’s smile was equally broad.

Lakshmi, smiling widely, clapped her hands together once in happiness and Taj wiped a tear from her eye as she smiled back at Angie. Reg’s concerns about Angie’s new relationship faded and Thierry nodded in agreement.

Mishka was visibly moved by what she’d just seen and Heather was clinging to her arm sniffling. Mishka kissed the blonde’s temple and Heather smiled lovingly at her.

Ed pulled himself away from the women to stand. He looked at the others who were all smiling at him. He smiled back. “Who’s hungry?” he asked.

Hands went up and there was a burst of relieved chuckles as the tension of the moment broke. He headed over to the barbeque to get it started. After giving Tristan a kiss Dale followed Ed so Reg and Thierry joined them.

Zoe made her way to the chair next to Tristan’s lounge chair and the blond smiled shyly at her, her confession still on her mind.

“I’m truly sorry Ed treated you like that,” Zoe said.

Tristan’s eyes widened in surprise. “You don’t have anything to apologize for! The alcohol was more to blame for his roughness than anything else.” Her words opened up the floodgates and she felt a compulsion to confess the events of the night like a purging of her conscience. Her eyes were focused on nothing as the memories swept over her.

“His eyes were closed but his movements were aggressive and demanding. Once he’d rolled on top of me he had complete control over how fast his hips drove forward and how hard he pounded me against the mattress. He was like a machine, unstoppable, overpoweringly strong and intense. When he finished the first time I tried to push him away but he wasn’t finished.” She came out of her fugue momentarily to look at Zoe. “That’s when he called me Zoe. He took a grip on my hair and grabbed- grabbed my ass and took me so… hard. I came again and again and still he drove himself into me like some wild beast. When he finally came he- he- he touched me… down there… and I passed out.” She gasped in relief as she finally got it all out. She came back to the present and saw she had all eyes on her. Just the ladies as the men were too far away to hear. She glanced at Grace who looked troubled which was better than her rage.

Rachel moved to sit on her lounge chair and took her hand. “I have to admit that my time with Edward in Barbados was more than I could handle when he got a little tipsy. He was a little more aggressive and intense with me as well but afterwards he’d be so sweet and remorseful when he’d realize how rough he’d been.

Zoe picked up the conversation. “I believe it would be in Ed’s best interest if he only drank in moderation. The one time I saw him truly drunk was the night he pulled Luis’ arms off.”

Lakshmi and Taj shrieked in surprise. “Who is Luis?” Lakshmi gasped. “Details!” Taj insisted.

Mishka leaned forward in interest as well. Heather’s eyes were practically shining which Mishka knew to be a sign of intense concentration and stimulation. Their sex would be off the charts later.

With a nod from Grace, Zoe continued. “Ed was tired, had a nasty headache and he was hungry. We were in a restaurant and he was drinking bad scotch, a lot of it, to ease his pain. His personality changed. He became darker… a dangerous version of himself. He wanted me and almost took me right there in the dining room. That’s when Luis Ramos appeared.” She glanced at Taj and Lakshmi who hadn’t heard the story. “Back when my ex-husband was running his drug trafficking empire Luis was his second in command. This was also the man who raped and almost beat me to death twice. He’d come on my ex-husband’s request to contact my daughter in the penitentiary. When Luis found us he said he was going to kill Ed and rape and beat me again but finish me off this time. Ed faced him down and grabbed his wrists under the table. He squeezed so hard he shattered Luis’ wrists. He put his boot on Luis’ chest and pulled so hard on his arms he ripped all the vital blood vessels and nerves, dislocating both the elbows and shoulders. Ed crushed his ribs and sternum under his boot. Once it was done Ed’s darkness immediately submerged and his sweet personality came forward once more. I believe the dark version of Ed is still there. I get hints of it when we make love and that’s the safest way to let it out.”

Lakshmi was staring at Zoe with her mouth open. She couldn’t connect the image of this dark presence to the man she knew as Ed. The idea of someone that violent just under the surface was frightening… and terribly sexy considering how he saved Zoe!

Taj turned to look at Ed who was working on prepping the barbeque and talking with the men. He was smiling and laughing but underneath that… she shivered and smiled just a little.

Mishka gently pried loose Heather’s grip on her arm and the blonde was immediately contrite for squeezing so hard.

“I think everyone has a dark side but for most people it’s part of your personality which makes both sides far more moderate. Maybe with Edward the two sides are almost completely separate, his sweet innocence is exposed to the world and his dark side is submerged into his subconscious,” Rachel suggested.

Grace nodded. “Ed is often confused and frightened by this ‘other self’. He’s aware of it but he doesn’t understand it. I think Zoe’s approach is the safest outlet and I’m grateful you are willing to… deal with it.”

Zoe grinned playfully at the young woman. “It’s my pleasure!”

Rachel and Angie chuckled at that then Angie caught Ed’s gesture that the grill was ready.

“If you will excuse me I have to go inside to do some prep for dinner. Ed needs the meat for the grill.” Angie said as she stood.

“I’ll bring him the meat!” Rachel volunteered, beating out Zoe who pouted.

“Zoe, you can help me inside,” Angie said with a grin.

The three made their way inside.

Heather had been fidgeting and saw her opportunity to speak to her friend. “Grace, did Ed mention to you what we spoke to him about at the Christmas party?” Grace shook her head. “Oh, well, we were saying that when we decided we’d like to have a child perhaps he would help us have one.” The blonde bit her lip as she waited for the answer.

Grace looked at her friend with raised eyebrows. She knew Heather had the hots for Ed way before she fell in love with Mishka. She’d thought that was a thing of the past. Of course it could be as she said, just assistance in having a child. “As a sperm donor?”

Heather nodded as she smiled. “You know how much I dislike hospitals. I was thinking the impregnating part would be… more traditional.”

Taj snorted at that but apologized as she fought to suppress her grin. Lakshmi didn’t even try to hide her wicked smile.

Grace looked over at Tristan who was returning her gaze. The expectant blonde winced and Grace had to admit, she couldn’t really protest the method now that Ed had forgiven Tristan. He’d even outlined exactly this method for getting permission. She sighed.

“You will need to ask Ed if he is ok with the idea. If he is, I am as well. I’ll speak with him about it.” Heather squealed with happiness and leapt over to hug her friend. Mishka was less excitable but came over to give Grace a hug as well.

“Thank you so much!” the doctor said.

Grace looked the woman in the eye. “Which one of you will be carrying the child?” Heather raised her hand with a smile. Grace looked to Mishka once more and raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure you’re ok with this?”

Mishka smiled gently. “Only with Ed.” Grace nodded in agreement.

Tristan leaned towards her. “Grace, once more I’m very sorry for what I did-”

Grace interrupted by holding her hand up. “I’ve been looking out for Ed since our childhood and I’m very protective of him. When I caught my mother sexually abusing and emotionally manipulating Ed just before she kicked us both out on the street, I vowed to protect him from being put in such an abusive relationship again.”

Taj spoke next. “You mentioned earlier that your mother sexually abused him. As a child?” she asked with a worried look.

“No! Thank god! It was when he was 18, finishing up his last year of high school. She had no regard for him until then.”

“Can- can you explain what you meant by her abuse?” Lakshmi asked, embarrassed but curious.

Grace sighed as she recalled the time. “Ed doesn’t recognize some emotional cues and can be easily confused and manipulated because of this. Sarcasm is lost on him. He takes people at face value so fake a sad expression and he thinks you’re sad.” Grace took a deep breath as she prepared herself. “Shirley was milking him for his sperm to use as a skin treatment and made him fear my reaction to finding out to keep him quiet about it.” It was no use. Her rage resurfaced as she recalled the selfishness of her mother.

Ed trotted over from the barbeque with a concerned look on his face. He kissed her forehead to calm her and she immediately did.

“Thank you Ed,” she said. He took another kiss and gave her a smile before he trotted back to the barbeque. Grace smiled at his retreating back. She looked over at Tristan and the others. “He’s worth protecting.” They smiled in return.

“My apologies for the awkward questions but you said you’ve been protecting Ed since you were both children? Are you… related?” Lakshmi’s face was showing her acute embarrassment quite well.

Grace grinned. “Not closely. Shirley was Ed’s mother’s cousin. When his mother died in an accident Shirley adopted him, for the inheritance. He was six and I was ten when we first met. He was my new little brother until puberty hit and he grew so big. We were raised as brother and sister but we’re only distantly related by blood.”

“Ed doesn’t have the same last name as you but you said Shirley adopted him,” Heather asked.

Grace frowned and pushed back her anger again. “Yeah, like I said, she wanted access to the small inheritance Ed received. In the adoption papers she left his last name as Walters. She didn’t want to be his mother and she went out of her way to prove it.” She rubbed her forehead until she felt another kiss. She looked up in surprise.

“What’s wrong? You keep looking upset,” Ed was by her chair again and she couldn’t stop herself from grinning up at him. He was just too sweet, keeping an eye on her to make sure she was happy.

“Sorry Ed. We were just talking about Shirley,” she replied.

“Hey! You told me to stop thinking about her. You have to follow your own rules!” Ed looked at the gathered ladies. “No more talking about the past. Look forward!” he insisted and they chuckled. Ed caught Grace’s face between his big hands and kissed her. Then he rushed back to the barbeque as the platter of steaks was arriving.

Grace was coming down from the high that kiss had given her and appeared dazed.

Taj chuckled. “You heard the man! Future! Let’s talk about babies!”

Ed got back to the barbeque just as Rachel arrived with a heavily loaded platter of steaks.

“They look great!” Dale said as he took the platter and got to work. He’d convinced Ed to let him do the barbequing as he had skills to pass along. Ed watched with rapt attention as Dale set the burners just so, organized the meat based on how people wanted it cooked, and how he turned the meat.

Reg and Thierry were watching the two with amused smiles on their faces. Teacher and student. It was Thierry who saw a closer parallel. “Father and son, passing knowledge to the next generation,” he said.

Reg snorted and Dale looked at Thierry in surprise. Ed did as well then they looked at each other and grinned. Neither was offended by the idea but Dale was a little embarrassed to admit it. He decided to change the subject.

“So, Tristan and I went to take a look at the Rutledge home up on top of the hill before we arrived today,” he said as he turned back to the grill.

“Are you thinking of buying it?” Ed asked in surprise.

Dale shook his head. “While we’d love to move into the neighborhood, the house is just too large. It’s not a good match for the kind of home Tristan and I could see ourselves raising a family in.”

“It is big,” Ed agreed.

“How big?” Reg asked.

Dale scanned his memory for what the realtor said. “I believe the realtor mentioned it was 5,000 square feet.

Reg’s eyebrows went up and Thierry nodded sharing a look with his friend. “How many bedrooms?”

Dale looked at Thierry when he heard interest in his voice. “Five. Are you in the market?”

Thierry looked a little embarrassed. “We’ve- I mean Reg, our wives and I have been talking about finding a place closer to Angie. Get the gang back together again. Where we live now is no great shakes and we could use a change of scenery. If the place is big enough maybe we could split the cost and buy it together.”

“You’d all live in the same house?” Dale asked curiously. “Wouldn’t that put an awful strain on your friendship?”

“We all lived together in very poor conditions with Angie and Danny as well for years when we were in the band. We got over all the little shit that kills friendships years ago.” Reg looked at Thierry and grinned self-consciously. “We’ve recently gotten over a blowout we had years ago that we let fester and we agreed that we miss the days when we all lived together.”

“You’re in luck then as it’s a buyer’s market. Of course, a 5,000 square foot mansion in the most expensive neighborhood in town isn’t cheap. They’re asking $4,250,000.”

Reg’s eyes lit up. “That’s just the start point for the haggling.” He rubbed his hands together gleefully.

Dale nodded. “He seemed more than a little eager to make a deal but it was just too large for us. I have the realtor’s business card if you want to give him a call. You might be able to check it out after dinner if he’s available.”

Reg nodded with a smile so Dale turned to Ed. “It’s time for you to show me what you’ve learned,” he said with fake solemnity as he dramatically passed Ed the barbeque tongs and fork. Ed smiled at him and nodded deeply. Dale watched for a second as Ed mirrored his movements flawlessly. He nodded with a wide smile on his face and clapped Ed on the shoulder. He led Reg back to the cabana to get the business card for the man. Thierry followed as he needed to be part of the conversation.

Ed concentrated on the meat in front of him so he missed Zoe’s approach until she pressed her tits against his back and wrapped her arms around his waist.

“Geezus! Zoe!” he gasped as tingles shot up and down his spine. He recognized her arms and the feel of her tits was unmistakable.

“Sorry Ed. You just look so delicious I had to have a little lick,” she purred. He felt the tip of her tongue delicately flick across the skin between his shoulder blades and the tingles went straight to his cock.

“As I thought, you have no lotion on at all! Bad boy! I should give you a real tongue lashing and you know where I’d start!” she growled sexily.

Ed moaned and squirmed. He looked over at the group by the cabana. There was a lot of excited talking and Tristan was passing around a tablet PC to Taj and Lakshmi but no one was looking in their direction.

Zoe’s hand found its way into his swim suit and his knees almost gave way. “Oh fuck! Zoe! What- what’s gotten into you?”

She moaned and shook as she ran her fingers up and down his hard shaft. “Mmmm Ed. It isn’t what’s gotten into me, it’s what hasn’t been inside me for too long!” She began to pant. “I need it Ed! I need it hard and fast! Please!”

Ed looked back at the group again and caught Dale’s eye. The man looked at him curiously then noticed his desperation and Zoe’s petite form against his back. He nodded to Ed, excused himself, and began to make his way back to the barbeque.

“Zoe! You need to let go! Dale is coming back to take over,” Ed hissed.

That seemed to get through to Zoe as she pulled back slightly and tugged her hand out of his shorts.

“Go to your room. I’ll be right there.” Ed growled quietly.

Zoe’s eyes lit up and she rushed away.

Ed turned just as Dale arrived. “Go!” was all the older man said and Ed was striding quickly towards the patio door which Zoe had just entered.

As he stepped inside he saw Rachel and Angie setting the long dining room table for dinner. The two ladies just pointed down the hall towards the guest room. Both had knowing smiles on their faces.

Cheeks burning Ed marched down the hall and opened Zoe’s door and closed it, locking it behind his back. Zoe was leaning back against the bed, gloriously naked, dark eyes inviting him to ravish her. God, why did she affect him like this? His cock felt like a bar of iron and he wanted her so much. His muscles twitched. He slid is swim trunks to the floor and locked eyes with her.

Her eyes flared with need as she saw his naked cock rising skyward. When he began to prowl towards her she started to tremble. He was growling quietly! He stopped moving just before his skin touched hers and she could feel the heat radiating from his body. She watched him lift his hands to slide his fingers into her hair. Her eyes closed in the hedonistic pleasure of his touch.

When his cock finally touched her belly she gasped at the heat of it. She knew it was just her imagination but it felt like she was being branded.

Then his mouth caressed hers and all thoughts fled from her mind. She opened her mouth as he kissed her until she couldn’t think straight. She suddenly found herself lying back across the bed which had been behind her. She couldn’t recall lying down. Then nothing else mattered in the world as Ed’s mouth brushed against her pussy. Her body jolted as his tongue thrust into her and his lips nibbled and tugged at her swollen lower lips.

“AAAAHHHHH! FFFFUUUUUUCK! Oh Geezus, Ed- AAAAAAAHHHHHH!” she screamed as he thrashed her with his strong tongue.

Once her pussy was sufficiently wet Ed pulled his mouth away, climbed on the bed, pushed her legs back to her chest and drove his cock deep into her pussy.

“UUUUHHHHNNNN! OHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCK ,“ she chanted as he began to increase the pace of his thrusting. He slapped his pelvis against hers again and again, each impact driving her pleasure higher. Fuck, he was taking her hard!

As her mind spun out of control she recalled Tristan’s description of Ed’s absolute control over her and smiled as she realized he was doing the same thing to her. He was so dominant! Fuck! That got her juices flowing!

As his pounding strokes went faster Ed began to growl deep in his chest. It was almost more of a sensation than a sound and Zoe’s body was responding to it. Her nipples stiffened and her scalp tingled.

“Ed! That’s it! Fucking take me! Take my pretty little pussy! Fuck it hard! Make it cream!” she panted back to him as she held his eyes with hers, her vulgar words fuelling his aggression. Heat flared behind his eyes and he suddenly pulled himself from her and flipped her onto her side. He moved between her legs, pulling one up against his chest as he drove his cock as deep as it would go.

Zoe screamed soundlessly as his cock reached a depth he’d never been before. He was smashing his pelvis against hers. Then she cried out again as Ed’s hand slid down to her pussy to rub her clit as his other hand squeezed and tugged on a stiff nipple. Her eyes rolled back as Ed settled into a pattern of long, fast strokes that stimulated them both. When he was twitching like he was about to cum, he slid a slick finger into her ass and her pleasure went to a whole new level.

“I’m there!” he said through gritted teeth.

She felt herself floating over her body on a cloud of purest bliss. His finger slid deeper into her ass and she began to shake uncontrollably as her orgasm overwhelmed her.

Ed drove himself deep into Zoe three more times then roared out his orgasm as he held Zoe’s body tight against his own, filling her with his heat.

Once they were both spent, Ed drew his softening cock from her slowly and lowered her leg. She bit her lip and sighed when he was finally free. Zoe smiled up at Ed with sleepy eyes, satiated… for now.

Ed’s mind was finally his again. He’d fed his lust so now he felt more like himself again. He suddenly dropped his body over Zoe’s catching himself just above her as her eyes flew wide. “Just because you can drive me into a crazed sexual state doesn’t mean you should when the timing is wrong. We have company. This should have waited.”

Zoe blinked at Ed. He’d never talked to her like this before. He was right too but she pouted at being scolded.

“I’d spank you for acting like a brat but that would just get you started again, wouldn’t it,” Ed growled.

Her beautiful long lashed dark eyes looked up into his light blue ones and she nodded with just a hint of an impish smile.

He sighed and kissed her gently before pushing himself up and off the bed. He collected his swim trunks and rinsed off quickly in the shower, stepping out as she stepped in. Once he was dry he let himself out of the room and walked down the hall to the dining room. He spotted Rachel and Angie fidgeting and red faced. He froze. “You heard us?” he asked quietly as he winced.

“Oh yeah,” Angie responded. “Go get the others. Dinner should be ready.”

His face burning once more Ed headed outside to see the group was already on their way to the patio door and wraps were back in place hiding bikini bottoms and leg in various quantities. Reg and Taj were helping Grace walk back. Mishka and Heather were helping Tristan and Thierry and Lakshmi were between. Dale was leading the way with the tray of cooked meat. Ed went around the pool to the cabana, got his shirt and put it on. He shut off the misting system and followed everyone inside.

The seating was random and Ed sat between Heather and Grace. Zoe was up at the other end of the table on the opposite side. Isabelle had made a surprise appearance and was sitting on a pillow next to Zoe.

The steaks were passed out to the appropriate people and the salads made the rounds too.

Reg got their attention. “After dinner the four of us will be making a quick visit up the hill to look at the home for sale. The realtor has agreed to meet us there in ninety minutes.”

Angie’s face froze in shock as she stared at him.

Thierry picked up the thread. “It’s not a done deal. We’re taking a look and we’d have to haggle with the owner to bring the price down to a more reasonable price but yes, we’re looking to move to your town to be closer to you. We want the gang back together again.”

“Our kids are all grown up and have left the nest. There’s nothing to keep us from moving closer.” Taj agreed and Lakshmi was smiling widely at Angie’s reaction.

Tears in her eyes, Angie leapt from her chair to hug and kiss her friends while everyone else cheered.

“Now all we have to do is find a place for these two and the neighborhood will be complete!” Rachel said gesturing to Dale and Tristan. Dale nodded with a smile and Tristan beamed at Rachel.

Ed looked up the table towards Zoe but she didn’t look up from her plate. He caught Isabelle looking at him strangely but she looked away before he could react. He turned back to his own meal.

Before he could raise his fork to his mouth he noticed Heather smiling at him. He smiled in return but she just kept smiling. His fork hovered before his mouth as he looked at her expectant expression.

“Yes?” he finally asked.

“We’ll be seeing you this week when you come over to do the service work,” she said with that strange smile fixed in place.

“Oh! I haven’t looked at my schedule yet. When do I go to your place?” he asked. Mishka was listening in as well.

“Wednesday at 10AM. Don’t be late and don’t forget! It has to be Wednesday!” Heather insisted.

“I won’t forget and I won’t be late. As it’s so early I’ll arrange to keep the shop van overnight and I’ll drive straight to your place first thing from home. Would it be ok if I was early?”

“Now you’re talking! But don’t show up before 9AM. A girl needs her beauty sleep,” she insisted with a grin.

Ed blinked at her. “Beauty sleep? You and Mishka must get a lot of sleep.”

Mishka’s and Heather’s faces froze in surprise and smiles slowly spread across their faces as they knew he wasn’t just feeding them a line. His praise was genuine.

Grace took his hand. “Ed, remind me later that I need to speak to you… about something Mishka and Heather asked about.”

He nodded then finally managed to get the piece of steak into his mouth. He closed his eyes in bliss as it was so good. He’d built up an appetite! Ed glanced at Zoe once more but she was eating with a small satisfied smile on her lips so she must like her meal as well. He saw smiles on all of the faces of his friends so he turned his attention back to his meal.

Ed understood there was pie for dessert. Who doesn’t love pie?

Once everyone had eaten their fill and pushed back from the table they made their way into the family room for coffee, tea, and scotch as Dale had promised. He poured for Reg, Thierry, Ed and himself and they raised a toast to Grace and Tristan much to the delight of the ladies. Ed savored the scotch and smiled happily once he’d swallowed.

“That is really good scotch!” he sighed.

Dale looked around but the ladies were in deep conversation with Angie’s daughter who looked a little upset about something so he stealthily poured the men another round. Reg and Thierry were delighted.

Ed looked at his glass a little nervously. Dale had been a little more generous this time. He promised himself to stop at two.

“What shall we toast to this time?” Thierry asked.

“How about to your success in tonight’s viewing of the house? When do you go?” Dale asked.

Reg looked at the clock. “In about fifteen minutes. We have time.”

They raised their glasses again and drank.

Ed swallowed, enjoying the flavors with his eyes closed and missed seeing Reg pour a little more into his glass. When he opened his eyes he stared at his glass in surprise. Its level had barely dropped! He sipped at it as the men talked but soon enough it was gone and he was feeling… pleasantly relaxed. So he was worried about nothing! The others were busy talking so he poured himself another generous amount and sipped at it as the conversation went on around him. He smiled and got up with the others when Reg and his group headed off to see the house. He didn’t know why Reg kept grinning at him but he grinned back.

“Are you ok Ed?”

He turned to look into Rachel’s concerned eyes. She had such lovely blue eyes.

“Yes, I’m good,” he said smiling and dropped his eyes to her amazing tits. God, he wanted to kiss them.

“What’s wrong?” Angie asked coming over to Rachel’s side.

Ed’s eyes moved to her cleavage and he smiled happily at the display of soft, creamy flesh.

“How much did you drink, Ed?” Rachel asked.

“Hmmm?” he asked pulling his eyes back up to hers but he looked at her mouth instead. Such kissable lips. His eyes got a hungry look in them.

“I think he’s had more than one.” Angie said as Dale approached.

“How much did you give him?” Rachel asked the man.

Dale looked a little guilty. “I poured him two, the second was a little generous. I think Reg might have slipped him some more when he wasn’t looking.”

“HA! That’s why he was grinning at me! That sneak!” Ed blurted with a grin, thinking it was so funny.

The ladies shared looks. Dale watched them in concern. “What’s wrong? He’s just a little tipsy… oh.” He glanced over at Tristan.

“Yes, oh.” Rachel said to Dale as she and Angie turned to fill him in on their discussion from the afternoon.

Ed wandered over to the couches. He smiled at Mishka and Heather then sat beside Grace. She was so lovely and he loved her so much. He sat with her and took her hand. She smiled at him and watched him raised her hand to his lips and gently kiss each knuckle tenderly until she was squirming. Heather and Mishka were watching with big smiles on their faces.

“Ed! Oh my god stop! You’re going to make me cum in my panties!” she hissed quietly to him. Her eyes darted to Tristan who was watching Ed nervously. Dale appeared at his wife’s elbow.

“I believe it’s time to take you home,” he said gently.

He helped her stand and Ed caught the motion. He surged to his feet.

“Going already?” he asked as the room spun a little. “Ooh, I’ve had a little too much to drink.”

Dale smiled at him. “Yes, we have to go. Sorry the scotch was so strong!”

Ed shook his head. “I don’t feel drunk, just a little wobbly. Besides, it was very good scotch. Maybe the best I’ve tasted.” He stepped forward to pull the man into a hug. Dale blinked in surprise then hugged him back with a grin on his face.

Pulling back from the man Ed gently hugged Tristan and gave her a peck on the temple. “You’re going to make such an awesome mom!” He looked at Dale as he stood back to take in the couple. “You’re both going to make awesome parents!”

“Thank you, Ed.” Tristan said with a smile and happy tears in her eyes. With smiles for the others the couple walked with Angie to the front door and left.

Angie returned and Ed watched her hips sway. He loved the way she moved.

“Where’s Zoe?” Angie asked, keeping an eye on Ed.

“She helped Isabelle upstairs to put her to bed.” Rachel answered.

“What’s wrong with Isabelle? She looked sad earlier,” Ed asked.

“She’ll be alright, Ed. Don’t worry,” Angie said but suddenly Ed was worried and he had to know.

He turned and charged upstairs ignoring the voices calling for him to come back. He knocked on Isabelle’s door and walked in. Zoe was sitting on the edge of the bed holding Isabelle’s hand as the young woman cried.

“Isabelle! What’s wrong?” he asked.

She looked up at him in tears. “You’re what’s wrong! You’ve ruined me!” she yelled.

Ed rocked back from her words. “Did I hurt you when we had sex? You didn’t tell me to stop! You joined in at one point!” Ed’s mind took him to that sexy moment and he felt himself swell in his swim suit.

“I couldn’t tell you to stop! It was too much but it felt too good! Now I’m ruined for sex with other men!” she cried harder.

Ed stared at her in confusion. Did he injure her or not?

Zoe saw the puzzled look on his face and saw him swaying on his feet. Her face fell. He was drunk. She saw Angie and Rachel appear in the doorway with worried looks on their faces. This was not a good time for this. “Ed, Isabelle is just upset because the sex you two had was very intense and she’s worried it won’t ever feel as good with someone else.”

“Oh! I- oh. Uh, I’m not sure how to respond to that,” he said, stumbling over his words.

“I was just telling her that she will find someone who thrills her as much as you do,” Zoe said then winced as she instantly wished she’d chosen her words differently.

In three steps Ed was perched on the edge of the bed between Zoe and Isabelle. His big hand was cupping her cheek and he looked deeply into her teary eyes. “Of course you will! You’re so pretty and sexy! Men are going to be falling all over themselves to make love to you with your pretty hearts!”

Her eyes glowed. “Did- did you like them? The hearts?”

Ed’s swelling cock twitched with life once more. His eyes took on a hungry look and his voice dropped an octave. “Yes, they were really… really nice.”

“Ed, maybe we should talk downstairs-” Zoe began. Angie looked like she wanted to charge into the room but Rachel was holding her back to let Zoe deal with Ed.

“Would you like to see them again? I got them for you!” Isabelle interrupted as she held Ed’s eyes with hers. She was starting to feel a little dizzy from the intensity of his look.

“You did?” he said in surprise then he was devouring her with his eyes. “Yes, I want to see them,” he said, his voice deep and full of need.

Isabelle gasped and felt her heart thumping in her chest. “I want you to see them.”

“Isabelle, don’t forget your pain. Let yourself heal first. Ed will be here!” Zoe barked at the young woman who looked at her in annoyance.

Ed looked over his shoulder at Zoe and blinked. “She’s in pain? She’s hurt?”

“Yes, Ed. She needs time to heal. You can see her hearts when she’s better.” Zoe wasn’t sure what these ‘hearts’ were but it seemed safer to deal with them this way.

He looked back at Isabelle who was looking at him desperately. His hand went from her cheek to slide into the hair on the back of her head where he took a gentle grip. Her eyes went wide and her mouth dropped open in surprise. “I’ll be back to see those hearts you made for me,” he growled. Then he kissed her, deeply. She whimpered into his kiss and clung to him. When he finally pulled away he was breathing hard and his heart was beating fast.

Isabelle’s head was spinning from the passion of his kiss. “I’ll hold you… to that promise!” she panted.

Ed let Zoe pull him from the room and he leaned against the wall between Rachel and Angie to catch his breath as she closed the door.

Zoe looked at him and saw Ed blinking his eyes and shaking his head to clear it. “Are you ok, Ed?” she asked gently.

“I- I don’t know. I feel weird,” he said.

“Is Mishka still here?” Rachel asked and Angie nodded.

“I think I need to lie down.” Ed said.

“Go get Mishka and we’ll take care of Ed,” Angie said to Rachel. The redhead nodded and headed downstairs as Angie and Zoe guided Ed into the master bedroom. They helped him lie down. He felt the room spinning and his heart was beating hard.

Mishka appeared with Rachel and sat on the edge of the bed next to Ed.

“Hi Ed, how are you doing?” she said calmly as she touched his wrist.

“I feel weird. My head feels clear but the room is spinning and my heart is beating so fast,” he sighed.

Mishka turned to face the women. “Was Ed being sexually active?” she asked quietly.

Zoe leaned forward. “He just kissed Isabelle but it was a really hot kiss.”

Mishka smiled at the concerned ladies. “Ed will be fine. He’s had too much to drink then he’s gotten sexually excited and his adrenaline is pumping. Alcohol is a depressant and adrenaline is a stimulant. It’s just unbalanced his metabolism a little. He just needs to rest. You may want to put a trash can next to the bed in case his body rejects the alcohol. He definitely shouldn’t drive home tonight.”

Rachel looked at Angie. “I can’t get Grace up the stairs to her bedroom at home. Ed always carries her up.”

“She can sleep on the fold out in the family room so Ed can take her home in the morning.” Angie suggested.

“I’ll go suggest it to her. I’ll take Ed’s truck home and come back with it in the morning to pick them up.” She leaned over Ed.

“Ed where are your car keys?” she asked.

He blinked then the lights came on behind his eyes. “In the pocket of my shorts in the cubby of the cabana,” he said to Rachel. She leaned down and kissed him but his arm came around her head and the kiss went on and on. Mishka tapped Ed on the chest to break his concentration on the woman’s mouth.

Rachel stood up in the daze and blinked at the others. “Sorry,” she said and headed downstairs.

Zoe traded looks with Angie but the blond just smiled. “Thank you Mishka!” Angie said and slipped off to the bathroom to bring the trash can to put it next to the bed, just in case.

Ed’s eyes were closed so the women left the room and closed the door. They went downstairs and met Angie’s friends coming back from inspecting Victoria’s house. Reg and Thierry were laughing about something when they stepped inside and their wives were grinning at their silliness. Rachel joined them at the front door carrying Ed’s keys.

“Heading out so soon?” Taj asked. She looked around. “Where’s Ed and Grace?”

“Ed will be sleeping off the alcohol in his system upstairs tonight and Grace will be sleeping in the family room as I can’t carry her upstairs at home. Ed does this but tonight he was given a little too much to drink,” she said looking at Reg whose face showed his guilt.

Taj smacked his arm as she remembered the talk the ladies had earlier in the day. “What did you do to that young man?”

His guilty look got bigger. “Geezus, I’m sorry. I just filled his glass when he wasn’t looking. Just the once… after he’d already had two.”

“You can’t do that to Ed! He gets-” Taj froze and looked at Zoe who shook her head. Taj’s eyes shot to Angie who also shook her head. Lakshmi was looking at Rachel.

Rachel was recalling the kiss and smiled dreamily. “No, Ed has been a little over amorous but it’s been contained to some kissing.” She looked over at Angie. “Are you going to be alright?”

“Yes, he’s already asleep. I’ll be fine.”

“Well, I’m exhausted from all this excitement so I’m going home. It was lovely to see you all,” Rachel said.

“You’ll come for breakfast tomorrow?” Angie asked.

“10AM?” Rachel asked.

Angie looked at her friends who all nodded. “Perfect.” She gave Rachel a hug and the redhead hugged the others as she left.

They made their way into the family room and Grace looked to Mishka.

“He’s fine. Just a simple case of alcohol and adrenaline mixing badly. He’ll sleep it off.” Mishka assured her. She turned to Heather. “With that we should call it a night as well.”

“Will you join us for breakfast tomorrow?” Angie asked.

“We’d be delighted to, thanks!” she replied as Heather gave Grace a kiss good night on the cheek. Grace whispered something to her friend and Heather grinned. She helped Grace to her feet and walked her to the washroom.

Angie and Zoe opened the sofa bed and set it up for Grace.

Heather walked her back and got her settled before she joined Mishka and left.

“I had no idea my little prank on Ed was going to backfire this much! I’m so sorry,” Reg apologized to Grace. She smiled and nodded.

“We’ll see you in the morning. If you need anything, just call out. My door will be open and I’ll hear you.” Zoe said. The guest bedroom she was using was just a short distance down the hall from the family room. Reg and Taj were staying in the extra bedroom upstairs and Thierry and Lakshmi had the extra bedroom in the basement which had its own ensuite bathroom.

“We’ll talk about the house on top of the hill tomorrow at breakfast, alright?” Angie said to her friends and received nods from everyone.

Lakshmi and Thierry said their good nights, hugged and kissed their friends then headed downstairs.

Zoe sat to speak with Grace about Isabelle and Angie headed upstairs with Taj and Reg.

“So the big guy’s in there?” Reg asked, pointing to Angie’s bedroom. She raised her eyebrow at him and Taj slapped his arm again. “Sorry, didn’t mean it that way,” he apologized.

“Good night!” Angie said and kissed and hugged her friends. She slipped inside her bedroom and listened. She could hear Ed’s soft breathing. He was asleep. Good.

She got ready for bed and slipped under the covers with the big man. She resisted the urge to snuggle with him as she wanted him to sleep off the booze undisturbed. She smiled to herself. She’d have to speak with Isabelle in the morning. The girl was perhaps being a little overdramatic about Ed ruining her for other men. She felt herself slipping under with a smile on her face.



Chapter 10

Angie felt so tingly it was all she could do to stop herself from touching herself in the concert hall. She was in the front row and the band was in top form tonight playing all the fan favorites and the crowd was eating it up. The energy was incredible!

Normally she’d be backstage but tonight she was right there in front with Lakshmi to her left and Taj to her right with the crowd at their back. She felt their roar soaking into her body and her tingling increased.

She looked up on stage and Danny smiled down at her as he sang to the audience but she knew he was singing for her. He had that twinkle in his eye that told her he was singing his love for her. She was so happy!

Thierry was grinning as he played his keyboards and Lakshmi was grinning happily at him. The beat was driving and Reg was watching Taj as he played. To the right side of the stage a base guitar was being played by a shadow which was difficult to see so she looked away, back to the grin on Danny’s face.

Her nipples were so stiff and sensitive tonight so she pulled off her shirt and Danny’s eyes widened in delight. Taj and Lakshmi squealed and laughed and soon they were both topless too.

The music got louder and more powerful and she felt it sinking into her bones. She closed her eyes and sighed happily.

When she opened them the concert was over and they were back in their old flat, huge cushions thrown all over the floor. She remembered this place. It was when they were happiest. She could hear the chimes of Lakshmi’s wrist bangles and her little giggles and squeals as Thierry made love to her on the cushions in the corner and the deeper groans from Taj as Reg kept up a steady beat, driving himself into his wife to their mutual delight in the opposite corner. She was laying back on the cushions and Danny was leaning over her, smiling at her. His fingers were busy and her body was responding beautifully.

“I like him,” he said gently.

“Hmmm?” She tried to pull her mind back from the bliss he was giving her.

“He’s a nice fella and he loves you. I like him.”

“I love you, Danny,” she said as a tear escaped from her eye.

“I’ll always love you back,” he smiled and kissed her.

She awoke with the fingers of her left hand touching her lips. She could still feel Danny’s lips there. His love surrounded her and she glowed with happiness.

She was glowing for another reason too. Her right hand was between her thighs touching other lips and she shivered with the tingles that was sending through her body. Fuck, she was so horny!

She froze when she heard a sound. It was the roar of the audience she’d heard earlier. Looking over her shoulder she saw Ed sleeping on his side and his breathing sounded like a deep but quiet roar. That roar had a strong scotch smell to it. She smiled.

Then she realized she was rubbing her naked ass against him and his heavy cock was erect and sliding between her ass cheeks. His hips were twitching as well. The panties she’d gone to bed wearing were down around her ankles and Ed’s swimsuit had somehow dropped to his thighs as well.

She didn’t want to wake him so she carefully pulled her ass away from him. This freed his cock from its entrapment between her slick ass cheeks. Slick from both of their juices she guessed.

Ed grunted in his sleep and she felt him shift behind her. Suddenly she felt the head of his cock pressing between her cheeks. She quickly reached down to pull it forward when his hips thrust forward and the head slipped into her wet pussy. She gasped and slapped a hand over her mouth as his thrust went so deep on the first movement. He pulled back slowly until just the head was inside and drove it deep on the next thrust.

Angie couldn’t stop her groan from escaping this time. Fuck, he felt so good! So fucking thick and hot!

Ed pulled back again and she shook with the sensation of his long cock sliding out of her body. Then deep again, only this time his body slapped against her ass, his cock fully inside her and she cried out in bliss. She looked over her shoulder at Ed, convinced she’d woken him with her cries but the eyes that looked back at her were half lidded and… hungry. A shiver ran through her body. This wasn’t the sweet Ed she’d made love to only days before.

Suddenly he rolled them over, trapping her beneath his heavy body. His cock pressed deep inside her and she moaned with the incredible sensation of him filling her so completely. He pulled back and drove forward spanking her ass with his pelvis. The sting sent delicious tingles shooting through her pussy as the pressure increased. He pulled back again and slap! His thrusts were almost brutal but it felt so good! She slid her right hand under her body to resume rubbing her clit in little circles as best she could and her pleasure spiked again.

He began to hammer her into the mattress, slapping her ass with his pelvis again and again. She couldn’t stop her cries now. She was delirious with the pleasure he was giving her and her ass stung with the rough treatment. The sting confused her as it made her pleasure sharper.

Ed dropped his head down next to hers and growled as his hips began to drive faster and faster. Her ass was on fire but lightning was shooting through her pussy and jumping through her limbs.

“FUCK! GEEZUS! OH FUCK! ED! ED! AAAH! FFFFFFUUUUUCCCCKKKK!!!! OHFUCKOHFUCKOHFUCK ED! ED! AAAAAAAIIIIIIIEEEEEEEE!!!” she screamed as her orgasm struck.

Ed’s growl got deeper and he ground himself against her hot ass as he came in surges deep inside her. It went on and on and he finally slumped down on top of her, his softening cock still buried deep inside her.

Her ass was on fire and she needed relief so she pushed against the mattress with her left arm and leg and managed to get Ed to roll off onto the mattress, his cock pulling free with a wet pop.

She lay there gasping for breath feeling thoroughly and completely fucked. She wondered if this was what Zoe experienced every time. She trembled at the thought. It was too much!

There was a gentle knock on the door. “Are you ok in there?” That was Zoe’s voice. She heard the deeper rumble of Reg’s voice in the background so he was in the hall as well. She must have been louder than she thought.

“Yes… I’m… good,” she croaked.

“You sure?” Taj’s voice now and she heard the chime of Lakshmi’s bangles. What, were they having a party in the hall?

“I- I’m good! Good… night,” she managed to force out.

She moved slightly away from Ed’s sleeping form and sighed. Her ass glowed with heat and tingled with little pinpricks of pain but the glow it added to her pleasure was intense and… just a little confusing.

She drifted off with that on her mind.

-=-

Sunday morning breakfast started off slow as the hostess was having some trouble moving around. She also couldn’t sit for very long but she tried to help out in the kitchen.

Isabelle was sitting on a thick cushion at the kitchen table watching Ed with concern.

He was sitting across the table from her with his head in his hands moaning quietly as the noises Angie and Zoe made preparing breakfast grated across his raw nerves. He was waiting for the painkillers to kick in and had a large bottle of water in front of him. He’s sip from it whenever he was reminded to.

Zoe looked at Angie tenderly making her way to the fridge and glanced back at Ed.

Lakshmi pranced into the kitchen and waved to Isabelle as she danced up to Angie and kissed her cheek.

Angie looked at the smile beaming from her friend’s face and raised an eyebrow. “Where did all this happiness come from?”

Thierry took that opportunity to bound into the room, scoop up his wife in his arms from behind and pretend to chew on her neck growling while spinning her around. She shrieked in excitement and giggled madly.

Taj and Reg walked in with huge grins on their faces as well. “Looks like someone else got lucky last night too!” Reg said with a bark of laughter as he gave his wife’s ass a pat and got his arm slapped in return. Taj didn’t slap him very hard as her face was glowing happily.

The four guests heard a moan and turned to see Ed suffering at the table.

“Ooo! Ed doesn’t look so good.” Thierry exclaimed. Lakshmi skipped over to the table and touched Ed’s head gently. Ed reached up to take her hand gently. He then threaded a fabric napkin between her arm and her bangles. Then he tied the napkin in a knot, silencing the gold hoops. He went back to holding his head as Lakshmi blinked at her now silent jewellery.

“He’s badly hungover,” Zoe explained.

“Ed, go lie down with Grace. She’s still in the family room. Take your water with you and drink it!” Angie said as the man climbed to his feet and shuffled away with the bottle. Isabelle made to follow but Angie growled at her. “Not you. You stay.”

Once Ed was out of the room Reg smiled at Angie. “How are you feeling, love?”

Angie smiled and waggled her hand to indicate so-so.

His eyebrows rose. “It was that bad?”

“Reg! She’s not going to tell you any details! That’s for her girlfriends only!” Taj scolded then grinned at Angie. “How are you doing?”

“Better than Ed and better than Isabelle but I’m feeling a little rough. What time was it when you all gathered in the hall last night?”

Grins showed up on faces and they conferred.

“One something. You two were pretty loud!” Reg said.

“I heard you as my door was open. I thought it was Grace but she was asleep. I rushed upstairs and Thierry and Lakshmi, who were in the kitchen, followed me up. These two were already by your door,” Zoe said pointing to Reg and Taj.

“You screamed.” Taj said.

“It was… it was intense.” Angie said looking at nothing. She glanced at Zoe. “He wasn’t himself.” Zoe took her hand and nodded, understanding perfectly.

The doorbell rang and Reg went to answer it. He returned with Rachel, Mishka, and Heather. There was the usual round of hugs and kisses. Mishka and Heather were grinning happily to be included in their new family.

“Sorry, breakfast is late. I’m not moving too fast today,” Angie said apologetically.

“What happened?” Rachel asked then noticed Ed was missing. “Oh!” Angie nodded. “Are you ok?”

“I’m fine. Just moving a little slow. Ed on the other hand is in miserable pain. I think he might have had more than we heard. He was still under the influence at 1 in the morning,” Angie explained.

“Where is he?” Rachel asked.

“I sent him to go lie down with Grace in the family room.” Angie said. Rachel headed off to check in on him and Zoe went with her, Mishka and Heather tagging along.

“Angie, you sit down with Isabelle and we’ll take care of breakfast!” Taj insisted and Lakshmi nodded enthusiastically. Angie hugged her friends then gingerly sat on a cushion next to Isabelle and her friends began moving around her kitchen whipping up breakfast.

Thierry took his traditional position before the stove and Taj prepared the ingredients with Lakshmi supporting both to keep the flow going. Reg began setting the table.

Angie looked over at her daughter and sighed. She recalled her outburst from the evening before.

“I don’t want to hear it,” Isabelle said before her mother could speak.

Angie glared at her daughter. “Too bad. Do you see the discomfort I’m in now? Normally, I can take Ed’s size without issue. He and I aren’t anatomically incompatible but last night, in his drunken state, his… enthusiasm was almost more than I could endure. I shudder to think what he might have done to you!”

“He wouldn’t hurt me!” she barked.

Angie looked at her in frustration.

“But you could hurt him,” Grace said walking into the room with Heather’s assistance.

Isabelle looked at her in shock.

Grace sighed in relief as Heather helped her sit in the chair across from Isabelle. She smiled up at her friend. Once settled Grace continued. “We are going to do our best to restrict Ed’s alcohol consumption to one per social event.” She eyed Reg specifically as he was setting the table next to her and he nodded apologetically before moving off.

“Ed is upset he hurt Angie-” she held up her hand to prevent Angie from going to him. “Rachel is easing his mind.” She looked at Isabelle. “You’ve been with him three times and by now you must realize he’s too big for you. Not your fault. Not his. It’s just a fact. Ed’s a gentle man. He wouldn’t hurt a fly but he hurts you when you have sex with him and that upsets him. If you have any feelings for him you’ll want to avoid hurting him.”

“If Ed wants to be with me then I can be with him. He told me last night-” Isabelle began but Grace shut her down.

“That wasn’t Ed. That was Ed under the influence. You were speaking to the part of him that frightens and confuses him. Zoe’s the only one who deals with that part of Ed’s mind safely.” She took in Isabelle’s defiant look and sighed glancing to Angie who nodded to her. “OK, as of this moment Ed is off limits to you.”

“What?” Isabelle barked in outrage.

“You’re letting your own desires cloud your judgement without taking Ed’s needs into consideration. I can’t allow that.” Grace said sternly.

“That’s not your decision-”

Grace slammed her hand on the table and the other woman jumped. The kitchen went quiet. “Ed’s health and happiness is everything to me,” she growled quietly. “There is nothing I wouldn’t do for that man. He trusts me with his heart. I’ll protect it at all costs. Am I making myself clear?”

Isabelle was pouting but she saw the conviction in Grace’s eye and it broke her nerve. She nodded. Then she pushed back from the table and left with what dignity she had left.

Grace sagged as the room began to move again.

Angie took Grace’s hand in hers. “I’m sorry about Isabelle. She’s never been one to deny her own desires. I thought she’d get it when she got hurt this time but… after my own experience with Ed last night I understand why she might be a little obsessed by the… intensity.” She grinned at Grace. “I can see how it could become addictive. Not that I want a repeat performance.” She shifted gingerly on her cushion.

Grace smiled at Angie but worried about something she’d said. Isabelle wouldn’t deny her desires and could be obsessive? She frowned then looked to Heather. “Could I ask you to bring Ed here for a moment?”

“Sure!” Heather bounced up to her feet and rushed from the room.

Grace looked back at Angie with a wry grin. “I remember when I was able to move that quickly.”

“Me too,” Angie chuckled.

A minute later Heather led the shuffling man back into the kitchen and sat him next to Grace. Rachel and Mishka followed and took seats as well.

“I’m sorry Ed but I have something important to tell you,” Grace said gently.

He just nodded carefully and watched her with bloodshot eyes.

“I just spoke with Isabelle and explained to her that because you and she aren’t physically compatible I no longer want her to have sex with you. She’s small internally and you’re big so she got hurt the last time and it’s taking her a long time to heal. I know you don’t want to hurt her.” Ed shook his head strongly then stopped and held it. When his eyes refocussed on her she continued. “She wasn’t happy with my answer but the answer remains no. She’s not allowed to have sex with you. Do you understand?”

“Yes, I won’t have sex with Isabelle again,” he said.

“Thank you Ed. I love you,” Grace said.

Ed took her hand and held it against his cheek. “I love you too, Grace. Thank you.”

Taj and Lakshmi were indicating breakfast was ready and the smells of the cooking wafted over to the table. Ed looked a little green. “Maybe you should go lie down again,” Grace suggested. He nodded and Heather guided him back to the family room.

The food was served and Reg made some dry toast for Ed and a glass of water. He took it to him as the rest of the group settled in to enjoy their breakfast.

Angie asked for details on their viewing the house up on the hill and Thierry let her know they were definitely interested but they’d have to do some negotiating. Angie’s grin was wide and happiness shone in her eyes.

Lakshmi’s bangles were free once more and chimed as she wagged her hand at Angie to get her attention. “That reminds me! After our little get together in the hallway last night Thierry and I went back to bed and had the best dream! We were back in the flat we all owned, remember the bohemian one with all the pillows in the great room? It felt like we’d come home! We haven’t shared a dream in years! After that we both woke and made love with an energy we haven’t had in years!” she gushed then froze as she realized she’d just overshared. The room burst into laughter.

“Oh my god! Reg and I had the same dream!” Taj exclaimed as she laughed with joy.

“And the same energetic sex afterwards!” Reg blurted, getting a smack on the arm and more laughter.

Eyes turned to Angie whose expression moved from shock to wonder, then joy as her eyes filled with tears.

“What is it?” Rachel asked.

“It was Danny,” Angie said quietly.

Lakshmi gasped. “You had the dream too?”

Angie nodded. “Before your hall party…” She told them what she’d dreamt and the room went quiet.

“You all had the same dream?” Grace asked in shock.

Thierry cleared his throat. “Back in the day when we were riding the crest of our fame, young and incredibly stupid, we used to experiment with some pretty strong drugs. Every once in a while we’d seem to sync up and share a dream. It was pretty exciting stuff at the time. We haven’t had once since.”

Angie was looking around the room, remembering. She knew of any place on Earth Danny’s presence was strongest in this home. They’d shared so much joy and happiness here and he’d been here with her and Isabelle when he passed on. She felt his warmth all around her and she closed her eyes to bask in it. She thanked him in her mind. When she opened her eyes she saw Zoe watching her with an oddly sad expression which quickly became a smile and she could see her friend’s love for her.

Rachel eased them past the moment. “What are people’s plans this afternoon?”

The sun was shining and it looked like it was going to be a wonderful day.

“Hang out by the pool? Tonight we can watch the old movies of the world tour the band did. We can order pizza and beer for dinner. Only one for Ed.” Angie suggested and a cheer went up.

A groan returned from the family room.

The group chuckled quietly.

“Ok, no beer for Ed.”



Chapter 11

Ed was at Gwyneth’s desk looking over his schedule for the upcoming week. He was feeling much better this morning. He’d rested all day Sunday on a lounge chair next to Grace’s under the cabana awning at Angie’s. He had some disturbing flashes of memory from Saturday night and did his best to put it aside as Grace suggested. He pulled his mind back to the screen Gwyneth was pointing to.

Mr. Drakos had him heavily scheduled with the Klein Group for three of the five days and he noticed his appointment at Mishka’s home had been rescheduled for Friday so Ed would be available to be with Mr. Drakos and the developers on Wednesday.

“Uh, I don’t think that’s going to work. I was told specifically that this service appointment had to be Wednesday,” Ed said when he noticed the change.

“Oh! You’ll need to speak to Mr. Drakos. He’s the one who made the change,” she replied.

He nodded and made his way to the man’s office. He knocked on the door jamb as he saw him hunting and pecking away at his keyboard. Mr. Drakos looked up and smiled. “Good morning, Ed! What can I do for you?”

“Good morning, Mr. Drakos. I was just looking over my schedule and I saw a conflict.”

The man gestured for him to sit then tapped a few keys and brought up the schedule on his screen. He looked rather proud of himself, having just learned how to do that on the cursed device. “Where is it?”

“The appointment you moved from Wednesday to Friday? It has to be Wednesday, sir.”

The older man blinked at Ed. “It’s just a service call. It surely can’t take precedence over a meeting with our biggest customer!”

Ed shrugged. “The customer insisted that the appointment had to be on Wednesday.”

“Why?”

Ed blinked. “I- I don’t know. She was just insistent. It seemed important.”

Mr. Drakos scowled. He could call and postpone the meeting but he’d already done that the previous week due to that Community Center crisis. He was hesitant to do it again, so soon. He looked at the appointment. 10AM. “Maybe they could schedule it earlier, say 8AM so you could get to the office by… oh, this is a Silverton Heights customer which means a two to three hour appointment,” he finished with a growl. Ed looked at him nervously as the man thumped back into his chair.

“It’s strange that I used to see Silverton Heights as the pinnacle of achievement. If we could only get their business we’d be set. It would lead to getting contracts from Judge Rutledge and his circle which would set us all up for life. Now we have the majority of homes in that neighborhood, Judge Rutledge is dead and buried, may the devil take his soul, and because of my investment in you and your introducing us to the Klein Group a whole new area of growth has opened up to us. Now we’re being sought after by the developers Rutledge worked with and the home maintenance contracts in the Silverton Heights neighborhood are beginning to interfere. Having you offline for so long isn’t cost effective anymore.”

Ed’s eyes were wide and worried. He enjoyed working on the homes in his neighborhood. If Mr. Drakos was going to cut them loose or worse, subcontract them… Ed shuddered, thinking of the damage that might be done to the heating and cooling systems of those homes.

Mr. Drakos returned from his thoughts and saw the distraught expression on Ed’s face. He’d never seen the boy this upset. That wouldn’t do. He had to keep Ed happy! Truthfully, his business was now dependent on the young man’s unique skills to keep those new opportunities coming in the door and his professionalism to maintain their growing reputation as the best in the city.

“I’m sorry, Ed. I’m just grumbling over nothing. If you think it’s important to keep that appointment with…” he looked at the schedule, “Ms. Shyamalan on Wednesday I’ll let the Klein Group know we’ll see them Thursday and Friday instead.”

“Thank you, Mr. Drakos! I’ll do what I can to reduce the time spent on those service calls!” Ed replied, relief flooding through his body. That had been a close call!

With a few awkward clicks of his mouse, Mr. Drakos made the calendar adjustments. “That would be much appreciated! Now, if you don’t mind, I have a call to make to the Klein Group.”

Ed nodded and left the office, closing the door behind himself. He made his way back to the dispatch desk.

“I see our star employee was able to change Mr. Drakos’ mind,” Gwyneth said pointing to the revised schedule on her screen. Ed didn’t know about being the ‘star employee’ but he just nodded. “Today we need you to head downtown to the Klein Group’s shopping complex to do the maintenance on their system.”

Ed took the clipboard and looked at the service record. No reported issues. So it should be a fairly routine call. He smiled and headed out to the van.

The drive downtown didn’t take long. He parked in the small lot behind the mall and checked in with the building’s security department. One of the agents led him up to the roof and left him there to do his work.

Two hours later he was finishing up the paperwork on his findings. Green lights across the board. The system was working optimally. This would be where the usual inspection would end but Ed would spot check the performance of the cooling in a number of the units in the building to ensure the cooling that was being properly created was getting to the businesses that needed it. He returned to the security office and asked for one of the agents to join him on his tour. They assigned him a small, grey haired gentleman who was probably only a month or two from retirement but he seemed friendly enough and cheerfully guided Ed where he wanted to go.

Carrying his anemometer for measuring wind flow and a digital thermometer he checked the security office first and they made their way through the office levels and down into the retail levels. Ed was dazzled by how fancy the mall had become since they finished the construction on it. The stores had higher end merchandise and the customers wandering through the mall had the look of wealth as well.

Ed and Barney, his security escort, entered a clothing shop and Ed immediately noticed an increase in the heat. Most stores were kept just a little too cool for his tastes but this shop was warm. Maybe a little stuffy at that.

A tall and svelte blonde with her hair pulled back tightly into a pony tail stormed up to them. “Are you here about my report on the heat issue?” she blurted. She was frowning angrily.

Ed’s eyebrows went up. “What report?”

“You didn’t see my report on how terrible the air in the shop is?” the woman growled.

“I came in to do an inspection on the heating and cooling system. It’s working fine. I’m just spot checking a few stores to make sure the cooling is getting to the stores.” He extended the pole on his anemometer and took a reading from the ceiling vent. He frowned. “There’s almost no airflow.”

“I’ve reported it three times in the past two weeks!” she argued.

Ed looked at her. “I’m sorry but those reports aren’t making it back to us. The property manager either isn’t getting them or they aren’t sending them to us. Let me track the blockage.”

He checked each of the vents and while some were getting a little more than others the overall volume was way down. The main intake for the shop was in the ceiling of the small stockroom at the back of the store. Barney let him in and Ed used the ladder he found in the room to open the inspection plate. Chilly air spilled out of the opening. Ed stuck his head into the opening and shone his flashlight around.

“HEY! What are you doing? Get down!” yelled an angry female voice.

Ed poked his head out of the ceiling and looked down towards the voice. Barney was keeping the agitated woman away from the ladder. Ed looked closer. Tall, slim, modest chest but svelte curves, lovely brown eyes (now nervous and angry), and long wavy brown hair which went to her mid-back.

“Melanie? Melanie Stanwell?” Ed blinked. He hadn’t spoken with her since the night of the football victory party.

“Ed?” she squeaked when she saw who it was.

“You two know each other?” the first woman sneered looking down her nose at Melanie.

“High school,” Melanie snapped back with tension in her voice.

Ed picked up that this wasn’t a good time to talk about old times so he got back to the matter at hand.

“I discovered the issue with the air conditioning.” He reached into the duct work and pulled out a plastic wrapped bundle. He handed it down to Barney and saw the saleswoman with the ponytail looking at the package in confusion while Melanie’s nervousness was… now panic. Ed looked in the air duct and pulled out four more bundles until he got them all. Now the air would flow unobstructed. When he pulled his head out of the duct and sealed it up once more he looked down and saw Melanie crying. The other woman was looking at her with a cruel smile on her thin lips.

“What happened?” Ed asked.

Melanie looked up at Ed with tears in her eyes and an expression of rage. “As if you don’t know, you fucking freak!” she screamed as she cried.

Ed stared at her with wide eyes. He winced at her insult and looked at her co-worker who gleefully explained.

“She’s been stealing from the company. She’s in charge of our shipments and she’s been reporting missing items. Head office sends more. You found her stash! You’re going to jail for this, bitch!” the woman gloated.

Obviously Melanie and this other woman were not friends.

Ed felt bad for Melanie but if she had been stealing from the company that was her mistake.

“Are you done with me?” Barney asked him with a grim expression on his lined face.

Ed nodded and the security guard led Melanie away.

“Your cooling should be back to normal now,” Ed said quietly to the woman who was still watching Melanie being led away by security with a deeply satisfied expression. She nodded without paying any real attention so Ed just left. He checked one more shop then headed back to his truck.

He’d started the day feeling good but after the issue with Melanie he felt so bad. He’d had to fix the cooling system as her ‘stash’ had been interfering with it. Now she was in trouble, maybe a lot of trouble. He shook his head, disturbed. He drove back to the office, dropped off the van keys and clipboard with Gwyneth and filled out the site report disclosing all his findings including the details on the clothing shop discovery. They needed it on record in case the building management got those missing reports on the cooling issues. He looked at the clock and for once it looked like he was going to be able to leave on time. He jumped in his truck and headed home.

When he got there he immediately found Grace reclining on the couch in the family room watching TV. She smiled when she saw him but her smile slipped away when she saw the sad expression on his face.

“What happened?” she asked as he settled on the couch next to her and snuggled in against her for the pure comfort it gave him. He outlined the events of the day as she held him tight.

“Isn’t she the one who you liked in high school?” Grace asked.

“Yeah until she pulled my pants down in front of everyone at the victory party. Then I didn’t like her anymore,” Ed sighed and shivered at the memory.

A wave of shock went through Grace as she recalled the night so long ago. She’d vowed to punish the people who hurt him so badly that night. Finally, she knew who one of them was! She was horrified by what this girl had done to Ed and wanted to scratch her eyes out! Grace suddenly wondered if Rachel knew any of the others. Was she at the party that night? Grace put that thought aside, for now as Ed needed her.

She looked at Ed snuggled up against her side, taking comfort in her touch. For such a big man he was such a softie. “Tell me what you’re thinking Ed.”

“Am I a bad person?” he blurted.

“What? Of course not!” she gasped.

“Melanie is going to jail because-”

“Because she was a thief!” Grace said interrupting him. She knew he was going to take the blame but she wouldn’t let that happen. “Ed there is such a thing as cause and effect but you have to properly link the true cause to the effect. You drop an egg. It makes a mess on the floor. That’s a simple case. Melanie broke the law. Now she’s going to be punished. That’s the proper pairing. You doing your job isn’t the cause you would pair with her being punished. She isn’t being punished because you did your job. She’s being punished because she stole the items from the company she worked for. Do you understand?”

“I think she blamed me because she called me a freak.” Ed said quietly.

Grace took Ed’s face between her hands and gently lifted it, with his assistance, until she could look into his troubled eyes.

“Ed, you are not a freak. You are not to blame for anything that evil bitch did. You are a sweet man who cares too much sometimes.” She pulled him to her lips and kissed him tenderly. She felt a thrill when he purred deep in his chest at the feel of her lips. There was a feeling of becoming complete when she kissed him, especially now that she was carrying his children. She pulled back and looked into his loving eyes and felt her heart swell.

“I love you Grace,” he whispered to her.

“I love you too Ed.”

He placed his hand on her bulging tummy and smiled as he felt movement. Then his worried look came back. His eyes flicked to Grace’s then away.

“How am I going to be a good dad to my children when sometimes I feel like a child myself? Besides, I have no idea how to be a dad! I never met my own dad and Shirley wasn’t married or even have a steady boyfriend.” he said quietly.

Grace pulled him against her and felt the big man tremble. What could she say? She was worried about being a mom. All she had was the truth.

“I’m worried about what kind of mom I’ll be too!” she replied just as quietly.

“I think you’ll be an awesome mom!” he said pulling back to look her in the eye.

“Why? I haven’t had any good examples to follow!” she sighed.

“You’re going to love our babies and I know babies need lots of love. When they’re growing up you’re still going to love them and growing kids need lots of love too!”

Grace looked at Ed. “How do you know that?”

Ed looked away and struggled to swallow. “Because… because I remember what it was like to be a kid… who lost his mom. I remember not being loved… and fearing I’d never be loved again. Your love saved me Grace. You saved me.”

Grace’s mouth was open but she couldn’t speak. Her heart was breaking for that six year old child she met so long ago and tears pooled in her dark lashes. She pulled him to her and kissed his face again and again as they both shed a few tears.

Once they got control of themselves they pulled back to look into each other’s eyes.

“Ed, I want you to stop worrying about not knowing how to be a dad! You know how to behave like a good, honest, and caring adult. You’ll set a great example for our children. I think what’s more important is your memories of being a kid. So you don’t know what it’s like to be a dad! It doesn’t matter because you know what it’s like for a kid! That means you’ll be able to relate to our kids and be closer to them because of it! I think that’s much more helpful than trying to act like some other dad who probably got it wrong!”

He hadn’t thought about it like that! Suddenly he felt much lighter and more excited to meet his babies. He looked at Grace in wonder. She was so incredibly smart and wise and he felt like he couldn’t contain his love for her. “This is why you’re going to be the best mom!”

They snuggled together on the couch until Rachel came home from Angie’s and found them asleep. She nudged Ed gently and his eyes opened to see her happy smiling face looking down at him. He smiled up at her and had a flash to the time when Shirley came home to find him and Grace cuddling. Her reaction was far less pleasant.

Ed eased himself off the couch and stretched his back. Once he was limber again he carefully lifted Grace in his arms and followed Rachel upstairs. He gently placed Grace on her bed and Rachel pulled the sheets back up to cover her. They made their way out into the hall and closed the door.

He pulled Rachel into his arms and kissed her wonderful lips. Then he was sure.

“Your breasts are larger!” he said quietly.

Rachel grinned at him. “I was wondering when you’d notice.”

He blinked at her. “How?”

“Angie and I spoke with Grace about it then we went to our doctor and explained that we will be assisting a mother having triplets. We asked if it would be possible for us to nurse the babies as well. She started us on a regimen of hormones to trigger our milk production. Angie is getting there but for me it worked better and faster than expected. The problem is my breasts are heavy and aching because they’re full.”

Ed was still amazed that this could be done without the woman being pregnant.

She looked up at him through her lashes. “Would you help me relieve the pressure?”

“Uh, yes… how?”

Rachel took Ed’s hand and led him into her bedroom. She began taking off her blouse and gestured for Ed to take off his shirt.

Ed watched Rachel’s tits come into view and saw her sexy satin bra was barely containing her swollen breasts.

“Ooo, they’re so heavy!” Rachel cooed and Ed was frozen in place. Once more she took his hand and led him to the side of the bed, sitting him down on the edge. She pulled a device from the end table and plugged it in.

“I use this electric pump to express the milk but I always have a hard time getting the milk flowing. If you could help get it started I’ll switch to the pump to get the rest,” she explained.

“Sure but how do I do that?” he asked with raised eyebrows.

“The most natural way, suckle,” she explained as she gently pulled his face towards her tit.

Ed caught on quickly and took Rachel’s nipple into his mouth. He recalled seeing a baby feed so he tried to emulate that.

“Careful with your teeth Edward, my nipples are much more sensitive now,” she warned.

“Sorry,” he said then moved back to her nipple and began a rhythmic sucking and squeezing of the nipple and surrounding areole.

Rachel sighed. “That’s it. I can feel it begin.”

Ed increased his pressure and suddenly he felt a warm liquid entering his mouth. It didn’t taste bad but it was unexpected.

“Yesssss,” Rachel gasped as the pressure began to ease. She felt the flow and it felt so good.

Ed was looking up at Rachel wondering when she was going to move to the pump. Her eyes were closed and her fingers were tangled in his hair. As she showed no sign of releasing her grip on the back of his head he had to swallow what he’d collected in his mouth. Again, it wasn’t bad but he felt a little odd drinking mother’s milk. He kept up his suckling as he watched the relief on Rachel’s face.

When the pressure had eased her eyes opened and looked down into Ed’s. She came back to herself.

“Oh my god! I’m so sorry! I was supposed to switch wasn’t I. It- it just felt so good! Much better than the pump.” Rachel said apologetically.

Ed released her nipple and watched a droplet bead and begin to run down her reddened flesh. He caught it with the tip of his tongue and Rachel gasped and pulled away. “Oh Geezus! I’m so much more sensitive than before!”

“Sorry,” Ed said sheepishly.

Rachel looked at Ed with a hopeful expression and bit her lush lower lip.

Ed nodded and moved his lips to her other nipple. He repeated his sucking and squeezing and soon Rachel sighed as the flow began into his mouth once more. Her fingers were entangled in his hair once again so he just began swallowing as Rachel obviously wanted him to.

When she indicated he could stop Rachel was breathing hard and had an odd look in her eyes. She pushed him onto his back on the bed and crawled over his body.

“Edward, I want to return the favor.”

His eyebrows went up. “But I don’t have brea-”

“Not there! Here!” she said, rubbing her palm over his cock which immediately took notice and began to swell.

“Oh! Yes!” he said returning her smile.

She moved down his body and undid his pants. He lifted his ass off the bed as she tugged his clothing off. When he was naked she admired his hardening cock and took it in her hand enjoying its heat.

“Mmmm, I’ve missed you.” Rachel purred confusing Ed until he realized she was talking to his cock. He snorted in amusement then gasped as she stroked it with her tongue. Her smile turned sultry.

“You like that Edward?” she asked as she ran her tongue up the side again and again. He couldn’t speak as it felt so good so he just nodded. She had a grip at the base and her mouth was driving him mad as she licked and kissed her way up his shaft. When she finally took him into her mouth he couldn’t hold back his exclamation of pleasure.

“Oh fuck, yesssssss!”

Rachel’s eyes twinkled with delight at hearing his cries. She began to pump the top half of his cock in and out of her mouth, making it slick and wet.

Ed flopped back on the bed as the wonderful sensations filled his mind. It felt so good! When she drew him from her mouth at last he looked down and saw she was fully naked as well and was climbing on top of him. She pinned his cock to his stomach with her pussy and rubbed herself up and down against it until she was shaking with need. He took her ass in his hands and she gasped. He pressed the head of his slick cock against her wet pussy lips which parted to accept him inside. Ed grabbed her hips and pushed down to force more of himself inside.

“Ahhhh! Oh Edward, yes! Fuck, you feel so wonderfully big inside me!” Rachel exclaimed as her eyes fluttered.

Not wanting to hurt her Ed struggled to slow his pace. He drew himself out to the head then pushed her hips down to slowly sink deeper inside.

“Mmmmm, so good! You fill me up so well!” Rachel purred.

He kept his strokes slow and long and soon she was taking all of him.

“OOohhhhhh fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Rachel muttered to herself as she adjusted to the thick intruder stretching her open so deeply. She clung to him and ground her pussy against his pelvis as he kneaded her ass cheeks. “Oh fuck! That feels so good but you’re going to make me cum!”

Ed thought that was good as the slow tease was driving him mad and his own orgasm wasn’t far off!

She kissed him, her tongue desperately seeking out his. He sucked on it and began to speed up his thrusts. That broke their kiss and she pulled away to gasp.

“Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh fuck! Oh! Oh! Geezus! Oh Edward! You’re- I’m- GEEZUS! FUCK!” Her cries got louder as his hips began to move on their own, driving upwards to slap against her roughly.

“Rachel! It’s too good! I’m going to cum!” he rumbled.

“Yes! Cum! I’m right there! Cum for me baby!” she mumbled as her eyes closed tight. She began to bounce up and down on Ed’s rapidly thrusting hips.

“AAAAAHHHH!!! FFFFUUUUUUCCCCKKKK!!!!” she cried as he finally pulled her tight against his body, grinding her clit against him as his cock fired his heat deep inside her.

“RACHEL, Oh fuck!” he cried as he pressed his lips against her neck.

They clung to each other as the aftershocks rolled through their bodies and they caught their breath. Once they calmed Ed lifted Rachel’s face gently with his hands. His eyes drank in her beauty, her face showing the flush of their love making. Her lovely blue eyes looked down into his curiously.

“I love you Rachel,” he said simply and her eyes showed her love for him as well. She kissed him tenderly.

“I love you too!” she sighed and slipped off his body to tuck herself in against his side. Both feeling a deep sense of satisfaction they fell asleep in each other’s arms.



Chapter 12

As Ed drove to his service call just down the hill from Rachel’s he told himself he had to ensure this call was brief and kept to the essentials only. He had the van from work as he’d told Heather he would and he would arrive at 9AM. He expected to be out no later than 10:30AM if all went well. He didn’t want Mr. Drakos to eliminate the Silverton Heights service calls entirely so he had to prove they could be done time effectively.

He pulled into Mishka’s driveway and parked right up next to the garage door as he knew Mishka would have already headed off to the hospital. He’d heard from Grace that Heather was taking an online course so she’d be at home and would let him in. He carried his tools and clipboard to the front door and pressed the doorbell.

When the door opened Ed was surprised to see Mishka standing there smiling nervously at him. She was still in her nightgown.

“Hi Mishka. Are you feeling ok?”

“Do I look sick?” she blurted.

“No!” he said quickly as he took a closer look. She had make-up on so maybe she was still getting ready for work? “No, you look very beautiful! Uh, should I move the van?”

“Why would you do that?” she asked suddenly hostile. Ed looked back at her in surprise.

“Mishka! Please! Calm down!” Heather said gently as she appeared at her fiancé’s elbow and wrapped her arm around the woman. Heather turned her attention to him. “Come on in Ed.”

He stepped into the house and kicked off his boots. “I’m just going to get started on the inspection if you don’t mind,” he said, conscious of the time.

“Ah, Grace didn’t speak to you did she?” Heather said and Mishka suddenly looked completely embarrassed. When Ed shook his head the woman put her face in her hands.

“What was she supposed to tell me?” Ed asked, nervously.

“Never mind that for now Ed. Go on ahead downstairs. We can talk when you’re done.” Heather said leaning her head against Mishka’s.

He nodded and made his way to the furnace room to begin his work.

A little over an hour later he was finishing up with the air conditioning equipment outside. He made his final notes on the work order and put his tools back in the van. He rang the doorbell and Heather answered this time.

“Come in,” she said.

He noticed Heather was also wearing a nightgown and wondered if the two ladies had decided to just have a pajama day at home. Playing hooky from school and work? Maybe that was why Mishka was so on edge? She felt guilty?

After he kicked off his boots he followed Heather into the living room. Mishka was there sitting on the couch.

“I’m sorry if I said or did anything to upset you earlier.” Ed said to her.

“No Ed, the fault was all mine. I’m afraid I’m a bit nervous about what we’re asking you to do,” she replied. “I wasn’t as ready as I thought I was.”

“Ready for what?” he asked.

“Do you remember the Christmas party at Angie’s?” Heather asked and he nodded. “Do you remember I asked if you’d help us make a baby?” Once more Ed nodded. “At Angie’s barbeque we spoke about it with Grace and she gave us her blessing as long as you were ok with the idea. As you helped out Tristan and Dale.”

Ed’s eyes went wide. “Oh… OH! But I don’t remember… helping Tristan.”

Mishka snorted gently and smiled at Ed. She finally seemed to be getting a little more comfortable. “We know. The hope was that you would help us have a baby. Heather… has a strong aversion to hospitals so she would prefer to try… the natural method first. Only if that fails would we try the in vitro fertilization method.”

“Natural method?” Ed asked.

“Sex, Ed. You and I have sex.” Heather said bluntly to clear up his confusion

“But- but you’re engaged to be married!” he blurted.

Heather grinned. “Ed, I just want your baby making stuff. I don’t want to marry you or even be your girlfriend! I’m head over heels in love with this babe here. We just want a family. Will you help us?”

Ed looked at Mishka who still looked a little nervous about the idea of him having sex with her fiancé. He glanced at a little clock sitting on the mantle above the cozy fireplace. It was almost 10:30AM, the time he’d promised himself he would head back to the office. Maybe he could work out a deal.

“I wasn’t really prepared to do… that this morning and maybe you’d like a little more time to talk about it with each other. How about I stop by on the way home after work, say 5:15PM and we can talk again.

Mishka was nodding with a smile. Obviously she thought waiting was a good idea. Heather on the other hand pouted and slipped her dressing gown off her shoulders to fall down her back. Ed discovered she wasn’t wearing anything underneath it. His eyes widened in surprise and he felt his cock twitch as it woke. Her slim torso and modest breasts were quite exposed and her skin was creamy smooth and unblemished.

Ed swallowed and Heather pulled her gown back up and over her shoulders to once more hide her lovely breasts. Mishka was looking at her in annoyance.

“What? I needed to see if he just wasn’t into me.” Then she grinned wickedly as she saw Ed shift on the seat to relieve the pressure in his pants. “Glad to see that’s not the case. We’ll see you after work! Thanks Ed!”

He nodded and Mishka walked him to the door.

“Sorry she’s such a tease,” she said to him.

“She’s Heather. She wouldn’t be herself if she didn’t do that from time to time.” Ed said with a shy nod.

Smiling fondly at Ed, Mishka leaned forward and kissed his cheek. His face pinked up and he ducked his head as he headed out to his truck.

He got to the office by 10:45AM and dropped off the van key and clipboard to Gwyneth. Mr. Drakos stepped out of his office and was delighted to see him early. He was headed over to see the Klein Group and asked Ed to tag along. Ed mentioned he had to leave promptly at 5PM today as he’d promised his neighbor to… help her… with something. Mr. Drakos just nodded and made a call to inform them that Ed was coming along. From the smile on the man’s face the news was well received.

The afternoon dragged for Ed as the plans they wanted him to review turned out to be incomplete. They’d received the initial draft drawings instead so after a minute of looking at those the Klein designer had to run off to call for updated plans from the architect. Ed felt useless just sitting there but they asked him to join their meeting until the updated plans came through. Ed answered the occasional question but soon the bland décor of the meeting room had his ravenous mind wandering.

Ed found himself thinking about Heather. He remembered how she and Grace used to hang out after work and the time he took them to that party at Angie’s. They’d both been slipped some drug and he’d taken them home. He remembered how good Heather’s mouth felt on his when she’d kissed him. Different than Grace but still nice. The image of her dressing gown resting on her lap and her bare-

“What do you think, Ed?”

“Boobs!”

The room was shocked into silence then everyone exploded into laughter.

Ed’s face was crimson with embarrassment as he tried to shrink into his chair. He had no idea what they’d asked him and he didn’t know why he’d blurted that so loudly.

“It seems Ed has more entertaining things on his mind than raw materials estimations,” Louis Klein, the head of the company, said with a grin as he saw Ed’s eyes flick to him. “It’s ok, Ed. I know these meetings are dull for you.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Klein,” Ed said contritely.

“Louis, please. And I’d rather be thinking about… that too,” he smiled at the young man.

Truthfully, when Louis had realized how incredibly useful Ed was he’d tried to scoop him away from Drakos Heating and Cooling but the man was devoted to the company and more importantly its owner. Ed’s savant level abilities at analysing construction blue prints took his breath away. The man had saved the Klein Group hundreds of thousands of dollars on the few jobs they had worked together on. Ed had been the one to discover the issue with the shopping complex’s central utility shaft and his solution not only saved them money but it ensured the project kept moving. They’d not only avoided a delay but by the time Ed finished with them he’d cut the time to complete the project by 30 days.

Today’s fun was just another example of why Ed’s brain was special. It had to be kept busy or it… found something to keep it entertained. He smiled at Ed’s boss who nodded at him in return. Drakos was a lucky man and a canny businessman. Louis enjoyed working with him though he had to keep a sharp eye on the man during contract negotiations.

There was a knock on the door and their designer stepped in. “We have the complete blueprints now.”

“Put them up on the screen,” Louis said glancing at Ed whose interest had immediately peaked.

The room’s lights dimmed and the large screen lit up. “Mark, take us through the floor plan slowly. Ed let Mark know if you need him to slow down or focus on anything specific,” Louis instructed.

Ed nodded to Mark, who was only a little older than Ed and came from the Philippines. He looked nothing like the only other people Ed had spoken with from that country. Mark zoomed in and centred on the entranceway. He began describing the features they intended to implement and instead of interrupting Mark Ed just made notes of the issues he saw in the blueprint that might interfere or prevent those intended features from being realized. The building was going to be amazing but very tricky to manage in terms of the building’s mechanicals unless they implemented some of the suggestions Ed was writing down.

When Mark concluded his walkthrough Louis looked over at Ed in surprise. “Nothing? You found no issues?” the older man asked in surprise.

“No, there are issues you will need to address. I made a list and defined some alternatives which will address the heating, cooling, lighting, plumbing, and electrical issues these new features have created,” Ed explained.

Louis slumped back. “That list sounds rather daunting. Are there any aspects of this project not affected by its novel design?” he said sarcastically.

Ed blinked at him trying to think of an answer for the man. “Uh, the paint colors?”

That drew another burst of laughter from the people gathered around the table and Louis looked at Ed in surprise. He’d never heard Ed tell a joke before and… wasn’t really sure the young man was telling one now.

“Let’s go through Ed’s suggestions before we pronounce the project an albatross,” Mr. Drakos suggested reasonably.

Ed had no idea what Mr. Drakos meant by that but he glanced at the wall clock and saw he had to leave if he was going to make his… appointment. He leaned over to speak quietly to his boss.

“Mr. Drakos, could we do this in the morning? I need to leave if I’m going to make that appointment.”

An impatient expression passed over the man’s face but he sighed and nodded. He turned to Louis. “We’ll have to pick this up in the morning as Ed has another commitment tonight.”

Louis pushed his chair back and smiled at Ed who was sliding back himself. “You’re leaving us pregnant with anticipation!”

Ed’s chair tipped over and he hit the floor with a bang.

Mr. Drakos was first to reach him. “Ed, are you alright? Did you bump your head?”

“I- I’m ok. I just- never mind,” Ed replied as he struggled to his feet.

“I think that’s enough excitement for one night, don’t you?” Louis said as he shook Ed’s hand.

Ed looked the man in the eye, struggling to determine if he knew what he was going to be doing later. He finally just nodded as the man grinned at him.

Louis looked at Mr. Drakos. “I think Ed needs to get to bed.”

“Come on, Ed. Let’s get you home.” Drakos said, keeping an eye on the confused young man.

When they got into Mr. Drakos’ truck Ed took a deep breath to settle his nerves.

“Are you sure you didn’t bump your head back there?”

“No, I’m fine. Thank you,” Ed replied and they made their way back to the office where Ed said his goodbyes and hopped into his own truck to go home.

When he pulled into his neighborhood he turned into Mishka’s driveway. He glanced at the dash clock and saw it was 5:30PM so he was a little late. He went to the door and rang the bell.

The door opened quickly and Heather’s face showed her relief. “I thought you’d changed your mind,” she said.

She stood back and Ed entered, taking his boots off. When he turned to face Heather she pulled him into a hug. He froze for just a second then wrapped his arms around the woman and hugged her too.

“Thank you Ed. I can’t begin to tell you how much I appreciate this.”

“Where’s Mishka?” he asked gently.

“She’s preparing the room.” He noticed Heather had applied a dark, smoky eyeshadow which, on her pale skin, made her eyes very dramatic. She was also wearing her favorite glossy black lipstick and when she flashed him a nervous smile her teeth were a dazzling white. When she took his hand in hers, he also saw she’d painted her nails a glossy black. She led him down the hallway towards a partially closed door at the end. He could see the flickering warm light of candles and he smelled… incense?

Before they reached the door there was a small table in the hall with some folded white clothes on it. Heather turned to Ed.

“I’m going in. You change into these and come in when you are ready, ok?”

Ed nodded and began undoing his coverall. When he was alone he took off the coverall and his socks. He picked up the top item and saw it was a thin jacket. He held it up against his chest and realized it wasn’t going to fit. He set it down on the table and lifted the pants. They were white, very thin, baggy, and had a drawstring around the waist. He tugged his underwear off and pulled on the pants.

That done he walked the remaining few feet to the doorway. Inside he saw the candles arranged around the room throwing lovely light over the pillows covering the mats on the floor. Resting back on these pillows was Mishka and curled up against her was Heather. Mishka had also applied make-up and nail polish but her choices were more subtle. The women had done a little bonding during the day. They looked so lovely Ed’s breath caught in his throat. They were both wearing the gauzy white clothes as well but theirs were dresses.

“I’m sorry. The jacket doesn’t fit,” he said.

“It’s ok, Ed. Please have a seat,” Mishka said, gesturing to the floor.

Ed knelt on the cushions and placed his hands on his thighs. He looked around at the lovely art and the glass sculptures catching the candle light. He spotted the incense burning on a shelf. Everywhere he looked he saw beauty and tranquility. He turned back to the ladies watching him with smiles on their faces.

“It’s a beautiful room!” he sighed.

“Creating new life should begin in a sanctuary of peace and love,” Mishka said and Ed nodded with a smile. “Would you mind if I asked you some personal questions?” she said.

Ed looked her in the eye and shook his head.

“When was the last time you made love? I ask as this tells me if you might have a decreased or increased sperm count.”

Ed’s cheeks burned. He looked away. “Two days ago.”

Mishka nodded. “Do you recall, when you were in Barbados, how many days had passed between your making love and the night you were with Tristan?”

He thought his face might ignite spontaneously but he concentrated and cast his mind back to the vacation. “Two days, I believe.”

“To make sure Heather has a good chance at becoming pregnant we’d like to make at least three attempts over the next four days. She is showing all the signs of entering her ovulation period so she is at her most fertile right now.”

“This talk is less than romantic,” Heather complained and Mishka snorted.

“How, uh, how would you like to start?” he asked.

Heather sat up with a smile. “Do you remember that night you took Grace and I to a party and someone slipped us the date rape drug?”

Ed shivered at the mention of the purpose of the drugs. He was only able to nod.

“You took us home to keep us safe and carried us inside the house. We felt so safe in your arms and your kiss was so hot!” she said with a dreamy look in her eyes as she remembered the night.

Ed remembered all of these things but he wasn’t sure where she was going with the story as nothing had happened that night.

“I often fantasize what might have happened if you hadn’t been such a gentleman that night,” Heather said with a wicked smile on her lips.

“I’d never take advantage of a woman who was drunk… or drugged.” Ed exclaimed.

Heather looked up at Mishka. “Maybe if he has a few drinks?” she suggested recalling the events of the weekend with a strange gleam in her eye. Mishka frowned and shook her head as she didn’t want her talking about that in front of Ed.

The blonde looked back at Ed kneeling on the pillows and saw the dark shape between his legs through the sheer material of the pants. “I seem to recall that I felt something… hard that night but I never got to see it.”

“You might change your mind about this plan of yours when you do,” Ed said nervously.

“Let us see for ourselves,” Heather insisted.

Ed sighed and undid the tie on the waistband. He went up onto his knees and slowly dropped the pants.

“Oh my god!” Heather blurted and Ed looked at her sharply expecting some harsh words.

Mishka noted his unease. “She’s just surprised.”

“You’re not… revolted?” Ed asked hesitantly.

“FUCK NO! It’s incredible!” Heather gushed, wide eyed.

Mishka rolled her eyes at her lover’s enthusiasm then saw Ed was waiting for her answer. “No Ed, I’ve seen you naked. Remember, I treated you after your abduction,” she explained gently.

He nodded and seemed to relax a little.

“Shit you’re big!” Heather muttered as Ed’s warning began to sink in. She realized he wasn’t hard yet. “Lube! We’re going to need lube!” She pushed herself to her feet.

“In the top drawer of the bureau there,” Mishka said and Heather moved over to pull the tube out of the drawer.

While she was up Ed tugged the pants off and sat back on his heels. He was comfortable being naked in front of Mishka as she was a doctor and had already seen him naked. Besides she was attracted to women not men. He looked up at Heather’s nervous smile as she stood before him in the shear gown. He wondered if she was attracted to men now that she was with Mishka. He looked over at the dark haired beauty.

“I don’t know how to behave. I’ve never been in this… situation.” Ed said to her.

“I want this to be a natural expression of love, pleasure, and joy. Do what comes natural to you. I know you’ll be gentle with her,” Mishka explained.

Ed nodded and smiled up at Heather. Do what comes natural. He could do that.

He placed his hands on Heather’s legs and slid them upwards along her smooth skin and toned muscles until he was sliding the hem of her dress upwards as well. She was trembling under his hands. He paused to look into her eyes and she nodded briefly for him to continue.

He ran his hands over her ass and gave the cheeks a squeeze.

“Ohhhhhh,” she sighed, her eyes closing as she felt the strength in his big hands. When she felt his lips caress the skin of her upper thigh she dropped the tube of lube and her fingers went immediately to his head. She pulled him closer to her pussy but he trailed kisses across her thighs, teasing her and charging her up. He finally pressed his mouth where she desperately wanted him to be and she threw her head back in relief as his tongue began to work its magic.

“FUCK YES! SUCK ME!” Heather growled in her lust.

Ed did as instructed and she clung to his hair and ground her wet pussy against his mouth. “OH FUCK! GEEZUS! FUCK! AHHH! FUCK! MMMmmmaaahhh!” Heather blurted as his tongue and lips drew her closer to her release.

Ed jolted when he felt the shock of lube being rubbed onto his now hard cock. The hand movements were precise with no lingering touches. He glanced to the side and saw the top of Mishka’s head as she concentrated on making his cock slippery for her mate.

Heather’s pussy juices were dripping down Ed’s chin so he knew she was ready. He pulled his mouth from her and she moaned in protest.

“Fuck you’re good at that!” Heather gasped as he helped her down onto the pillows. She looked over at her fiancé when she was on her back. “Love, come up here. Let me taste you while Ed gives us a baby!”

“I- I don’t-” Mishka began to protest.

Heather interrupted her. “I want you to feel the pleasure I’m experiencing at the same time.”

Glancing at Ed, Mishka moved up the cushions and carefully lifted her leg over Heather’s torso. The blonde lifted the hem up to Mishka’s stomach exposing her ass to Ed.

His eyes widened slightly and he tried not to stare at her perfect ass but when Heather’s light skinned fingers gripped the dark brown flesh and she squeezed Ed couldn’t stop a moan from slipping out.

“I know, right! She’s got the most amazing ass!” Heather gushed as she jiggled the cheeks a little. She looked up to see Mishka biting her lip sexily, her eyes half lidded with bliss. Heather grinned as she suspected Mishka was more than a little turned on by the exhibitionism. Having Ed watch was turning her on! She had to know. Heather swept her hands upwards tugging the white gown up to expose Mishka’s smooth back. The brunette made only the smallest effort to stop her yet her body trembled.

“Her skin is perfect! She’s absolutely beautiful!” Heather breathed and kissed the inside of Mishka’s thigh causing the woman to throw her head back and gasp.

Mishka tugged her gown off and dropped it to the side. She looked down at the beauty between her thighs and moved forward to bring her pussy within reach of the blonde’s mouth.

While Heather had spent quite a bit of time between Mishka’s legs she recalled what Ed had done for her and copied his moves. Soon Mishka was crying out and clinging to her head as she raced up on her orgasm.

That’s when Heather felt Ed’s cock rubbing across her opening. She sucked in a breath involuntarily and Mishka jumped at the gust of cool air against her clit.

The head of Ed’s cock stopped at the entrance of her pussy, slick with lube and Heather’s juices, and pressed inside.

Heather pulled her mouth back from Mishka’s pussy to gasp as the thick head forced her open as it slipped deeper. “Oh FUCK! He’s big!”

The forward momentum stopped and Ed began to pull out. Heather’s eyes rolled back and she reached for him, hidden behind Mishka’s body. She grabbed his arms and pulled, indicating he should continue. She felt the thick head just inside her opening then it was moving deeper and deeper. Heather grabbed Mishka’s ass and pulled her pussy tight against her mouth as she moaned loudly.

“HEATHER! OH Fuck Heather!” Mishka cried out from the deep vibrations against her sensitive bits.

Ed pulled out to the head again and drove it deep. Once more Heather muffled her cries against Mishka’s pussy sending the woman into tremors of ecstasy.

His thrusts evened out into a steady long stroke until he was slapping his body against hers and Heather was starting to white out. She could no longer concentrate on Mishka’s pleasure as she raced up on her release with the steady pounding she was receiving from Ed. She opened her eyes and looked up into Mishka’s loving eyes and smiled. She mouthed ‘I love you’ and Mishka said it back. Then Ed’s pace increased and Heather’s eyes closed tight as she tripped over the top of her climax.

“FFFFFFFFFFFCCCCCCKKKKKK!!!!” Heather growled between her teeth as her body felt like it might explode from the sparks and bolts of electricity shooting through her nerves.

She felt Ed rocking his pelvis against hers and the hot jets of cum shooting deep inside her body. She tried to count how many surges he made but her mind was swept away with all the sensations. When she opened her eyes Ed was slowly drawing his thick cock from inside her and moving back as Mishka slid down her body until they were face to face. Heather took her head between her hands and kissed her woman passionately. Mishka squeaked into the kiss but was soon kissing her deeply in return.

Heather had a wicked idea. She knew Mishka hadn’t cum yet so she was going to take care of that. She hooked her feet behind Ed’s legs and tugged him closer as she used her knees to spread Mishka’s legs. She pulled back from the kiss and looked deep in Mishka’s curious eyes.

“I’m going to fuck you now!” Heather said as she moved her hands down to Mishka’s ass and squeezed the lovely orbs there. She spread the cheeks to show Ed Mishka’s dripping wet pussy lips as she used her feet to nudge him closer.

Ed looked up at Heather in confusion. She wanted him to fuck Mishka? His cock was already reawakening as he watched Heather’s lovely fingers working Mishka’s ass. The two women were rubbing their bodies together and he could see the brunette’s juices flowing.

Mishka’s mind was in turmoil. She was horny as hell and Heather’s body felt so incredibly good. Her hands on her ass were especially sexy. When she said she was going to fuck her Mishka almost came right then. They had some toys they used sometimes but she suddenly realized she was talking about Ed’s cock! She felt his eyes on her ass as Heather spread her apart and her body felt hot as her mind began to float.

“Tell me you want it! Tell me you want me inside you!” Heather insisted as she moved one hand into the long black locks to take a grip.

Mishka was almost delirious with lust. “Uhhh! Yes! I want it! Please!”

Heather looked over Mishka’s shoulder at Ed and nodded as she parted Mishka’s pussy lips with her fingers.

Ed moved forward and pushed the head of his cock inside the heat.

Mishka’s mouth dropped open as she felt the hot flesh entering her body. This felt nothing like the toys they’d used.

Then Heather’s mouth was on hers, tongue boldly thrusting into her mouth. She sucked on Heather’s pink tongue as a much larger intruder filled her down below. Heather moaned and rubbed her pelvis against hers. Considering how close Mishka had been earlier this was quickly becoming too much.

Ed watched his cock slide between Mishka’s perfect ass cheeks and felt his second climax approaching. It caused his hips to twitch and he struggled to keep himself from rushing. He could feel Mishka’s hips begin to signal her own imminent release when she suddenly began. Her body clamped down on his cock and it was too much for Ed.

“Gonna- Fuck! I’m cumming!” Ed grunted.

“In Heather!” Mishka called over her shoulder desperately as she felt his first two surges warm her insides.

Ed pulled out and pushed his cock back into Heather, going right to the base in one thrust.

“FUCK!” Heather cried out. She wasn’t ready for that. Between his heat filling her up and Mishka’s continued grinding Heather pleasure tipped over into another orgasm, albeit a small one. She clung to Mishka and panted.

Finally Ed slid himself free and rested back on the pillows.

“If you’d like to freshen up there’s a towel in the guest bathroom for your use,” Mishka offered.

“Thanks!” he said and made his way out into the hall. He took a quick shower and put his clothes back on. Mishka met him in the hall when he came out. She had the white dress back on. She walked him to the front door where he slipped his boots on.

Ed glanced back to the hallway with a concerned expression.

“Heather is resting. She’s fine,” Mishka answered his unasked question.

He nodded and smiled at her. Then he winced. “I’m sorry I came in you. It was so sudden and I hadn’t expected to do that at all. Are you on the pill?”

She chuckled and blushed a little. “It’s ok, Ed. I’m not at my fertile time yet and you only did a little.”

Ed’s face flushed red but he nodded to her.

“Do you think you could stop by tomorrow on your way home? I’ll be working but Heather will be home,” she asked.

Ed recalled his boss’ annoyance at leaving right at 5PM. “Maybe closer to 6PM. I’ll be in meetings all day tomorrow with the Klein Group and they sometimes go late,” Ed replied.

She smiled up at him. “That would be fine. Thank you again for this Ed. It means a lot to us.”

Ed smiled and dipped his head in a shy nod. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Ed.”

He got into his truck and made it home. Looking at the clock it was almost 6:30PM. He winced. He hadn’t told Grace or Rachel he’d be late. He made it inside and Rachel was there in the hall waiting.

“Is that tyrant making you work late again?” she immediately started.

“No, I stopped at Mishka and Heather’s place after work,” he explained.

Immediately Rachel’s annoyed expression turned to surprise. “Oh! Is everything ok with them?”

He didn’t really want to talk about what he’d been doing so he just nodded. “How’s Grace?”

“Worried about you. Come see her. That will make her feel better,” Rachel said as she pulled his arm.

Ed put his arm around Rachel and spun her to bring her face to face. Then he kissed her tenderly and she melted in his arms. When he pulled back she looked up at him dreamily. “That’s the ‘welcome home’ I was looking for,” Ed said.

“Mmmm, sorry. That’s pretty nice!” the redhead said breathily.

He led her into the kitchen where Grace was watching him cross the room with a concerned look on her face.

“He was at Mishka’s and Heather’s place,” Rachel said as she moved to the oven to take their dinner out.

“I thought that was supposed to be this morning?” Grace said in surprise.

“Except nobody told me that they were expecting me to do something above and beyond servicing the furnace and air conditioner.”

Grace’s face changed into a guilty expression.

“Yeah, oops. I told them I couldn’t spend the time during the service call but would come back after work to talk to them about it.”

Grace screwed up her courage. “So… did you… talk?” she squeaked.

Ed looked at Grace leaning back against the cushions on her chair and how nervous she was. He didn’t know why she felt that way. He knelt next to her chair and took her hand in his and kissed it. She smiled at his tender gesture. “If you don’t want me to do this you just have to say the word. I thought you wanted me to help them.”

Grace looked embarrassed and shook her head. “Oh Ed, I do want you to help them. I’m just being silly and maybe a little hormonal. It- it just felt like I was farming you out for stud services.”

“They’ve asked me to return two more times in the next four days to make sure it takes. If you’d rather I didn’t, I’ll let them know. Or we can say I can be a donor but no more natural method. Only in the hospital using the… science… way of doing it.”

She chuckled and pulled his hand to her lips. Her eyes twinkled with her love for him. “No. This is good and this is right. I love Heather and Mishka and they deserve a family. We will do what we can to help them.”

Ed’s heart felt like it might burst as he looked at Grace in awe. She was not only the wisest person he knew, her love had no bounds and it amazed him beyond words. He stood up and leaned over her to kiss her passionately. Her mouth fit his perfectly and the kiss went on and on. Finally she pushed him back and caught her breath.

“Well… that was really nice!” she panted as she looked up at him. “I’m really hungry though so can we pick this up after dinner?”

Ed grinned at her.

“She is eating for four after all,” Rachel teased.

Ed ran upstairs to slip into his comfy clothes then joined the ladies at the table as Rachel served the meal. Once they were all done Ed cleaned up then carried Grace into the family room where they all settled in to watch a movie. Grace and Rachel were tucked up against Ed’s sides under his arms and both fell asleep halfway through the movie. Ed made it to the end and gently woke the ladies. Rachel kissed Ed then headed up to bed. Ed carried Grace up to her bedroom and laid her on her bed.

“Could I stay with you tonight?” he asked.

“Yes!” she said and he stripped down to his boxers and slipped under the covers. He set the alarm, on low, to wake him for work and snuggled up against Grace. He was never more at ease than when he was in her arms. Sleep came quickly.



Chapter 13

June was quickly approaching and if May had been any indicator the summer months were going to be the hottest on record.

Ed had visited Heather two more times and she and Mishka were just waiting now to see if it took. Heather told him she was looking forward to missing her monthly visit from Aunt Flo. Ed wasn’t sure who that was but he wondered why Heather, who no longer saw her mother, wanted to avoid this relative. Especially one who seemed to like her enough to visit so often.

The Saxons and the Dumas’ managed to work out a price for Victoria’s home. Her father flew from England to collect a few personal items from the house for his daughter but the home sold with all furnishings. Lakshmi and Taj were threatening to have a yard sale to get rid of the antiques until Thierry found an auction house. They managed to make a pretty penny on the old stuff. The money went toward new furnishings of course. Lots of big cushions! Angie was over the moon happy that her friends were moving in.

No houses opened up for the Grants yet but Rachel was hopeful. They visited a lot and Tristan and Grace were becoming very good friends.

The project for the Klein Group would break ground in July and the expectation was that it would be ready for occupancy in eighteen months. They were following the suggestions Ed made and Louis was delighted to learn they would be saving an additional ten percent in material costs because of that.

Zoe’s home was in the final stages of construction and she would be able to move in by the end of the next month. Ed was going to visit the site once more as one of the apprentice electricians had drilled into an air conditioning duct to run a line through it. The apprentice was no longer working on the site.

Ed pulled up to the gate and noticed it was open. He frowned. Zoe would be upset about that. She wanted the site secured even if that made the workers have to buzz in. He drove up to the foreman’s trailer and saw Zoe’s car parked next to it. He got out and went into the trailer. No one was inside so maybe Zoe was doing a tour with the foreman.

He signed in on the worksheet, put his hardhat on and made his way inside the building. The site was pretty quiet though he heard the buzz of the carpenter’s saw as they worked on the trim work for rooms which had been completed. The occasional hammer could also be heard.

Ed made his way to the damaged duct. Sure enough there was the ragged hole the apprentice had made when he removed the power line he’d installed. Ed took some measurements and went looking for the exit point.

Three hours later Ed carried the damaged sections of the duct out to the recycling bins. He’d found multiple areas where the workers had damaged the integrity of the ducts. Each section had been replaced after he documented the location and damage done. It was going to be tricky enough controlling the climate of the building without compromising the system from the start.

He hadn’t seen or heard Zoe and he saw her car was still there as he made his way into the trailer. Two other workers were there signing out in the worksheet. One turned to Ed.

“Hey man, have you seen Clint? He was here when I arrived but I can’t find him anywhere. I need him to sign off on my work,” the man complained.

Ed shook his head. “He wasn’t here when I arrived a little over three hours ago.”

“Call him,” the second man suggested to his partner. The man took out his phone and dialed the number.

They heard a faint ringing and looked around. Maybe he left his phone in a drawer? Ed moved in the direction of the sound. He stopped at the middle of the trailer near the back wall. There was nothing there but the ringing was definitely louder here.

“Maybe he dropped it outside. I’m going to go look. Keep it ringing,” Ed said and made his way outside and around to the back of the trailer. There was a bunch of junk piled up against the trailer which Ed knew wasn’t allowed. The ringing was coming from under the sheets of drywall. Ed pulled them away from the trailer and looked behind it. He yelled as he jumped back and the drywall fell back against the trailer with a bang. Ed was on his butt when the two workers came outside to see what made the loud noise.

“Hey, you alright?” the man with the phone asked. Ed looked at him in a daze. “Call the police. Someone killed Mr. Masterson.”

“What?”

“He’s under the stack of damaged drywall. It looks like someone slit his throat.” Ed began to shake in reaction.

“Holy fuck! Ok. Let me call,” the man with the phone said as his partner peeked behind the sheets.

“Geezus! I ain’t never seen nothing like that in real life!” he said as he leaned the sheets back against the trailer.

“Hey! Don’t be disturbing the scene of the crime- Yeah! Hello! Hey we need the cops!”

Ed’s phone took that moment to ring and he jumped. The worker not speaking to 911 looked over at Ed who fished his phone from his pocket. His call display said it was Zoe. Ed immediately got to his feet and answered.

“Zoe? Where are you?”

“Am I speaking to Edward Walters?” a deep voice asked.

Ed blinked. This wasn’t Zoe. It was a male voice with an accent much like Zoe’s. “Yes, this is Ed. Who are you? Where’s Zoe?”

“Do you want to see Zoe alive and in one piece?”

The question shocked Ed who saw the tortured body of Clint Masterson flash before his eyes. “Yes! Please don’t hurt her!”

“Get in your car and drive south on the highway. Don’t speed. I’ll call you again in twenty minutes. Speak with the police and I’ll peel Zoe’s skin from her body in little strips. Go now.” The line went dead.

Ed immediately ran for his truck. He was in a panicked state. The trauma of discovering the dead body and now facing a similar fate for Zoe scrambled his ability to reason.

With the other men yelling at him to stop Ed jumped in his truck and headed for the highway. He followed the instructions to not speed and when his phone rang again he pulled over onto the shoulder to answer.

It was Zoe’s phone again. “Hello?” he said.

“Take exit 314 and turn right. Travel five miles on that road. Stop at the T intersection and wait for my next call. Again, speak to the police and she dies but it will be a long and painful experience.” The phone went dead.

Ed pulled back out into traffic and watched for exit signs. The look of terror on Masterson’s face kept resurfacing in Ed’s mind.

In his addled state he almost missed his exit and swung off the road at the last minute. He didn’t see the trucker he cut off. The driver slammed on his brakes and blew out two of his worn tires. Tire debris went everywhere and two cars lost chunks of their undercarriage to the heavy rubber they drove over.

Ed continued down the ramp unaware of the mess he’d left just past the exit ramp. He made the right turn as directed and kept an eye on the mileage. When he reached the T intersection he pulled over and shut off the engine. While it was getting dark he looked around he saw nothing but dense forest in all directions. No lights from homes or businesses out this far from town. The road was very infrequently used. He’d only seen one car go past. Now that he was getting a little quiet time Ed began to get nervous about what he was doing. Ten minutes later the phone rang just as a car drove past him again. It could have been the same car he saw before. Ed dropped the phone and scrambled to pick it up.

“HELLO!” he gasped when he finally got it.

“Take the road on the right and drive three miles until you see the motel on the left side. Room 6. Drop your phone out the window before you start driving. We’re watching. I don’t need to warn you about the police, do I?” The voice was so smooth and calm, Ed trembled at the thought of Zoe being in this man’s control.

“No, please don’t hurt Zoe!”

“That depends on how well you’ve followed my instructions, doesn’t it?” The phone went dead again.

This was it. He stared at his phone as his fingers moved on their own. He had to get to Zoe. He took some long deep breathes.

“He has Zoe. He killed Mr. Masterson. I have to get to the motel to save her,” he said, psyching himself up. He opened his door and dropped the phone gently to the road. Then he started up the truck and took the right hand turn.

This section of country road was pitch dark and Ed wondered who would build a motel way out here. It was completely secluded.

It wasn’t long until he saw a light up ahead. He saw it was a single florescent light illuminating a hand painted motel sign. No neon signs for this business. Three Pines Motel. Considering the small ten unit motel was surrounded by pine trees Ed wondered which three they meant. He parked his truck near the road and got out. He listened but all he could hear were crickets and other nature sounds. No traffic noises, voices, or the sound from televisions. Everything was swallowed up by the dense woods around them and blanketed by the sound of nature.

There was only one vehicle parked in front of the motel. It was the dark sedan he saw passing him on the road twice. So he had been under surveillance. It was parked in front of room 7. Ed swallowed and made his way closer to room 6. The curtained window by the door showed a little bit of light leaking out. None of the other rooms looked occupied. Ed took a deep breath and knocked on the door.

“Come in.”

It was the same voice as before. He turned the nob and pushed it open slowly. He scanned the room quickly with his eyes.

A man was standing in the middle of the room facing him. He was maybe 5’ 8” with a lean build. He was wearing a sleeveless undershirt over khaki pants and loafers and Ed saw his arms were muscular and tattooed.

Behind him to the left Zoe was sitting in a chair. She’d been crying. She had tape over her mouth. Her arms and legs were taped to the chair. She was trying to say something but the tape prevented her. Her eyes were another story. She was wide eyed and looking behind the… door?

Ed threw his weight against the door and the man hiding behind it was slammed up against the wall. Ed took one step into the room then stars exploded through his head as he was clubbed from behind.

As he collapsed to the floor he could hear Zoe’s muffled scream then darkness took him.



Chapter 14

Pain. So much pain. He couldn’t stop a moan from leaking out.

“Ah, our Mr. Walters has rejoined us.”

It was the smooth voice again but this time it seemed a little out of breath.

Water splashed onto Ed’s face and the cuts he had there all screamed at the shock. Ed almost passed out but held onto consciousness tenaciously. He couldn’t breathe through his nose, it was badly broken this time, so he sucked in air through split and bleeding lips. When he finally managed to open one eye, the other one was swollen shut, he looked around. He saw he was taped to a chair as Zoe was. He carefully tried to move his arms and legs but they were firmly secured by the tape. He saw blood on his coverall and assumed it was his.

FUCK! His face was in agony. He carefully ran his tongue around the inside of his mouth and was surprised and grateful to discover he still had all of his teeth but the inside of his mouth had some tender spots and tasted like blood.

He lifted his head a little and saw Zoe first. Her mouth was still covered by tape and she was crying as she looked at him. Standing behind her was the man in the white undershirt which was now covered with splashes of what must be his blood.

Ed didn’t understand. Why was this man hurting him? Why had he killed Mr. Masterson? Why was he hurting Zoe?

The man had his fingers in Zoe’s hair and was pulling her hair back. “Do you see what your betrayal has done?” the man yelled at her.

“Betrayal?” Ed thought.

A man Ed hadn’t seen before, maybe the one who hit him from behind, entered the room carrying a bag of ice. He recognized it as one of the bulk ice bags you get at gas stations. He dropped some in a small bucket and handed it to the man pulling Zoe’s hair. He released the hair and gently lowered his bruised knuckles into the ice.

He looked at Ed. “You have a surprisingly hard face. I’ll give you that.”

Zoe was trying to say something to the man who looked at her in annoyance. Finally he reached out and tore the tape from her mouth. Zoe screamed in pain and the man smiled.

When she recovered she looked at the man. “Matias please! Don’t you see? He doesn’t understand why you are doing this! He’s innocent!” she cried.

“Matias?” Ed thought. Zoe’s ex-husband? But… wasn’t he supposed to be in jail? Ed turned his face to look at the man in confusion.

“INNOCENT!?! After what he did to Luis how can you say this monster is innocent?” Matias screamed back at Zoe and lashed out to punch Ed one more time.

Ed’s head rocked back and stars filled his mind as waves of pain crashed over him. His head dropped but he didn’t go out. Ed could see new blood dripping onto his legs. He struggled to lift his head to see Zoe who was crying harder.

“STOP! YES! He’s an innocent! The man you are beating is not the man who hurt Luis!” Zoe screamed.

Matias looked at Zoe. “Do you think I’m a fool? This is Edward Walters. His driver’s license confirms it. He is the man who crippled Luis!”

Zoe was nodding and Matias looked at her in confusion. “Yes, this is the same man but the Ed you are beating would not hurt a fly. The Ed that night was… not this one.”

“What the fuck are you talking about puta!” Matias growled.

“Ed… Ed has a split personality, the sweet and wonderful man you are beating for no reason and the dark, violent man hidden deep inside,” Zoe said. “But even that Ed would never have hurt Luis if he hadn’t intended on killing me.”

Matias looked at his ex in confusion. “I believe you are lying to protect your young lover. You know I do not like to be lied to.” His hand shot out and slapped Zoe’s cheek, hard. She cried out.

“Please! Don’t… hurt… her,” Ed pleaded.

Matias looked into Ed’s open eye and doubt crossed his features. He’d expected to see rage or fear in Ed’s eye. Not compassion. He turned to his ex and pulled her hair to turn her head to face him.

“This ‘other’ Ed. If he exists, I will speak to him. How?”

Zoe’s eyes showed her fear. She knew what Matias intended for Ed and her only way to save him was to convince him of his innocent nature. “No, Matias! He is innocent! Please!” She cried out as he backhanded her across the face.

“Please… no…” Ed mumbled, the pain making it so hard to speak. Matias turned to him.

“How do I speak with the man who hurt Luis?” Matias yelled in his face.

Ed looked at Zoe and saw she was looking at him in fear.

“No Ed-” she began and got another slap for speaking. Matias put a new strip of tape over her mouth and she began to cry hard.

“I’m going to begin hitting the bitch with my closed fist unless you tell me what I want to know.” Matias said right in Ed’s face as the young man flinched back. The man was now convinced that Zoe was telling the truth about Ed’s innocence. He saw absolutely nothing but confusion and worry in his eye. Not even fear for his own life. Matias wanted, no, needed to punish the man who crippled his childhood friend.

Luis had stood by him through everything since they were just children standing up to the bullies in the schoolyard. He’d been there at his side and helped him rise from the gutter to the heights he’d achieved before this bitch stabbed him in the back.

He would rebuild his empire once more… after he’d closed the book on a few loose ends.

“How do I speak with him?” Matias said slowly to Ed.

The night in question surfaced from Ed’s memory and he remembered the pain, hunger, and fatigue. He was feeling all of that now. What else? He wracked his mind until it came to him. “Drunk.”

Matias frowned. Did Ed just say he was drunk? No, he had been drunk! He turned to the man by the door. “Get me the bottle of rum from the trunk!” The man looked at him in confusion. “DO IT!” Matias yelled angrily and the man left with a scowl on his face.

Zoe was crying hard behind her tape and trying to talk to Matias but he just smiled at her.

Ed suddenly saw the slim man who’d been behind the door when Ed entered. Until now, he’d been hidden from Ed’s sight by the man Matias just sent outside. The man behind the door was dead, eyes open, mouth open in a silent scream, his head impaled on a hook on the wall behind the door. A look of horror passed over Ed’s face as he saw what he’d done.

Matias watched Ed’s face and heard the grunt of fear leave the split lips. He turned and saw what Ed was looking at. He smiled grimly.

“Yes, you killed Samuel. I guess you aren’t as innocent as you thought,” Matias said, twisting a knife of guilt into Ed’s heart.

“I’m sorry…” Ed mumbled as a tear rolled down his bloody face. Matias scowled and walked away from Ed. He didn’t want to speak to this man. He didn’t want to know he existed. No one this weak could have hurt Luis. Where the fuck was the rum?

The door opened and the man came in with a clear bottle. “There was only this bottle of tequila in the trunk.”

Matias scowled at him and took the bottle, opening the screw top. He turned back to Ed but spoke to the other man. “Hold his head.”

Ed cried out as the man yanked his head back. The bottle’s lip went between his teeth and Ed had to swallow as fast as he could to keep from drowning. It burned so badly and he needed to stop but he couldn’t. He finally had to take a breath and coughed up a mouthful of the burning liquid. Matias and the other man jumped back to avoid the spray. Ed coughed and gagged for some time as Matias laughed.

“Hugo, you couldn’t have brought a smoother drink for our friend here?” Matias said with a grin. He looked at the large bottle and saw Ed had probably swallowed half of it. That would be plenty for what he wanted.

“We should just slit their throats and leave! We don’t have time for this!” Hugo spat.

Matias glared at the heavyset, bearded man. He was the last man left from his original group. Samuel, Hugo and Luis who was now a cripple in prison and wanted to die. New rage flared in Matias at the thought. He looked at his partner though he hated the very idea of calling him that.

Hugo was a cold blooded killer who preferred working with knives so he could see death pass through the eyes of his victims. He’d never be more than a killer. He had no vision. He was still a useful tool for Matias’ purposes.

“Promises were made Hugo. A man must live up to the promises he makes. Patience. We will be done shortly.”

The man huffed and made his way back to the window to keep watch. Matias turned to Zoe who was watching Ed struggle to breathe.

“I will speak to the man who ruined my friend. I will see that he understands that his actions have led to this. Then I’ll slowly take him apart as he did to Luis. I will fulfill my promise to Luis. Then you will die.” He saw the fear in her eyes. He wanted to hear her plead for her life so he ripped the tape off once more. Zoe cried out and new tears rolled down her face.

“Don’t do this Matias. Kill me if you must but spare Ed. He’s truly an innocent,” she begged.

“NO!” he yelled, standing up to glower down at her. He stomped away to ice his hand again.

Ed’s mind was beginning to whirl. The tequila was hitting him like a truck. He vowed never to drink it again.

He struggled to get control of his mind and looked for patterns to settle his thoughts. The motel room was bland and bare of interest. Ed’s eye latched onto the tattoos on Hugo and Matias. Hugo’s were mostly vulgar images of naked women and were poorly drawn.

Matias though, he had some interesting tattoos. Numbers and letters began floating around in his memory and he poked at them. Something about them. Repeating. Seen on two occasions, separated by time.

Luis Ramos. In the bar, he was lifting the hood of Zoe’s coat up to his nose to smell her perfume. The back of his hand had a tattoo on it. Three strings of numbers surrounded by a lovely and ornate mandala. The mandala flared and Ed recalled Matias slowly lowering his right hand into a bucket of ice. The back of his hand had the same mandala. They were almost identical.

Three sets of numbers. The first two were dates but the last row… there was a letter at the end. His mind tumbled that last set over and over as it was familiar. Matias, 36 13 479424 N. Luis 116 45 430452 W. Something was missing… What he took for freckles were the symbols and decimals. It snapped into place.

GPS coordinates!

He heard Zoe crying and lifted his eye up to see her in the chair ahead of him. His vision was swimming and the room was trying to throw him from the chair but something good was happening. The pain. It was going away! He wasn’t getting better but at least he wasn’t feeling the pain. His body was beginning to numb.

His mind dragged him back to the puzzle.

There was a difference in the dates between the two tattoos as well. They meant nothing to Ed but one date was common to both tattoos.

The GPS coordinates though, they were a set. Matias had one and Luis had the other. The pair would lead to… something. Why would they do that? Some kind of machismo male bonding bullshit?

Ed felt his body relaxing now that the pain was dulled. He tried his bindings once more and while the tape was tight and wouldn’t budge, the old wooden chair he was in was less than structurally sound.

He looked at Zoe once more and saw she was looking at him. Her eyes were troubled and her sensual lips were split and swollen. Instantly his rage surged up to fill his being. Someone hurt his Zoe. He heard her suck in a sharp breath as she watched his eyes. He was going to punish that man. He was going to destroy him for hurting his Zoe. He looked at his bindings and began to chuckle deep in his chest. Oh, he was going to enjoy this.

Zoe’s eyes flicked to Ed then Matias as she heard Ed begin to laugh quietly. It was unsettling.

Matias noticed as well and put the ice bucket down to wander closer. He looked closer at Ed and the man’s very body language had changed. It was as if another man had been taped to the chair! A chill went up his spine to see such a thing. Matias wasn’t a superstitious man but the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. This man in the chair, he was dangerous. Matias would get his answers, take his revenge and leave. He moved to where Ed could see him. He put a false smile on his lips.

“Tell me, what is so funny my friend?”

Ed’s eye tracked the voice and locked onto Matias. He smiled. “You are.” Speaking was so much easier now that the pain had receded.

Matias scowled and backhanded Ed across the face. When the beaten and bloody man opened his good eye again he spat the blood out and smiled at Matias with red smeared teeth.

“I had no idea the second set of coordinates would be lost when I ripped Luis’ arms off.”

“What coordinates?” Hugo growled from the window, his interest peaked.

“Shut the fuck up!” Matias barked over his shoulder.

“You and Luis have some buried treasure there?” Ed asked in a stage whisper.

“What the fuck is he talking about?” Hugo asked belligerently and Matias just glared at him.

“November 22, 1998. That date seems to be significant. You and Luis both have it tattooed on your hands next to the GPS coordinates.” Ed said with a wicked smile made all the more unnerving by the dried blood on his face and teeth.

Hugo was looking at Ed in confusion. The date was tickling a memory. Matias glanced cautiously at his partner who was beginning to frown.

“The fifteen million dollar casino heist!” Zoe gasped.

Matias slapped her and put a strip of tape over her mouth again.

“You- you and Luis said there was no money! You said the casino exaggerated the heist to get the insurance money!” Hugo growled.

“Yes! That’s true!” Matias barked back.

“Then why get tattoos of the date and the GPS location numbers!” Hugo growled louder.

Ed saw Zoe slumping in her chair, slowly regaining her strength after the slap and he growled deep in his chest. He wanted to kill Matias now but he saw the guns the two men were carrying. It wasn’t time yet. He refocused on Matias.

“Only you and Luis knew where the money is and now his half of the coordinates is gone?” he said and caught a furious warning glance from Matias. “I’m not very smart but I do recognize patterns and numbers and… I remember them. 116° 45' 43.0452'' W. The coordinates on Luis’ tattoo.”

Matias stared at him incredulously.

“That’s the missing piece for your tattoo, 36° 13' 47.9424'' N. The location of the fifteen million dollars?” Ed asked with a sly grin.

“Fuck! You’ve been sitting on 15 million dollars while Samuel and I have been rotting in a slum for years?” Hugo growled menacingly. He moved suddenly but Matias already had his gun out and shot Hugo in the neck. The heavy man fell to the floor where he only had time to squeeze off one shot.

Matias screamed as the large caliber bullet struck and shattered his hip. He fell to the floor and his gun bounced away.

Ed roared as he surged up and forward. The arms of the chair ripped away from the seat and backrest but remained taped to Ed’s forearms. His legs also remained secured to the chair legs so he couldn’t move his legs and fell forward… on top of Matias. The jagged end of the armrest landed on the back of Matias’ right hand, tearing the skin and flesh from it as he screamed and yanked it loose. Ed began pulling himself up Matias’ body, slamming the wooden chair arms against the man again and again as he climbed. He could hear Zoe’s muffled cries behind him but he didn’t have time for her. It was time to kill this man.

Matias was screaming in agony and fear. At least one of his fingers on his right hand was broken and his left forearm was broken from one of Ed’s blows. The huge brute was clumsily climbing up his prone body dragging his taped legs behind himself. The chair arms were taped so tightly to his big forearms they made him move awkwardly like some kind of crippled praying mantis.

But it was the look of rage on Ed’s bloody and beaten face that was most terrifying. It was as if the rage powered him. Matias looked around frantically for his gun and saw it on the floor above his head. He strained to reach it and felt his fractured hip bones grind together. He screamed louder.

Then he couldn’t breathe. Ed had crossed the two wooden chair arms over his neck and was pressing them down on his throat, cutting off his air.

He punched at Ed’s arms and tried to reach his face but Ed had his arms blocked. He grew weaker as he looked into the bruised eye and saw his own death reflected there. Ed grinned.

Behind the tape Zoe screamed at Ed to stop. She didn’t want him to be a killer like Matias. She began to sob.

The sound of Zoe’s cries finally sunk into Ed’s consciousness. He looked over his shoulder and she immediately began pleading to him to stop. She shook her head and held his eye with hers.

Ed was confused. He needed to kill this man. The tequila was quickly draining his strength and he looked at Zoe once more as he felt his rage slowly ebb.

Zoe was so relieved she began to cry tears once more.

Ed released Matias’ throat and rolled off of the man. He sat up to reach down to tear the tape on his leg but his head swam and the room began to spin.

Matias slumped and gasped for breath. He couldn’t believe Zoe had saved him. He glanced above his head and his gun was still there. He would have to flip over and push himself forward to get it. His hip was screaming in agony. He prepared himself for the move. Ed looked like he was going to fall down.

As he rolled and pushed himself forward with his one good arm Matias heard Zoe’s scream but his hand landed on the butt of his gun. He smiled in victory.

Ed spun and scrambled to catch Matias. He brought his outstretched arm down hard to grab his shirt but the spike of wood taped to it stabbed deep into Matias’ upper back with a wet crack. Matias went limp. Ed had to yank hard to get the jagged wood out of the man’s back. The room went sideways and Ed flopped down onto his back gasping for breath.

Matias sighed with relief as the agony in his hip, hand, and forearm just… stopped. He tried to move but realized he couldn’t feel… anything from his neck down. He still had the gun in his hand but he couldn’t feel his fingers. They wouldn’t move for him. He tried to scream but it only came out as a thin wheeze.

The room’s door crashed inwards as a Sheriff and his deputy rushed inside, guns ready. The hook Samuel hung from broke free at last and the body dropped out from behind the door. The deputy put two rounds into its chest before it hit the ground. The Sheriff kicked the gun away from Matias outstretched hand.

“Geezus! What the fuck happened in here?” the deputy asked, seeing the hook sticking out of the back of the corpse’s head.

Zoe sagged in her chair and cried with relief.

Ed blinked up at the concerned face of the Sheriff and smiled before he let the blackness take him. Everything would be alright now. He could rest.



Chapter 15

Ed heard the beep of a heart monitor and opened his eye. The other one was covered by something that seemed to be covering half of his face. His nose was bandaged as well and he felt air being forced up his nostrils. His shoulders hurt terribly, like he’d lifted weights well above his limit. It hurt to move his arms. He moaned. He heard an answering moan from the next bed and turned his head.

Grace!

Ed was on his feet standing next to her bed in a flash and had to hold its rail to keep himself from falling as the room spun. The machine next to his bed buzzed angrily as he’d pulled the sensor from his finger. His oxygen hose was still connected as it reached Grace’s bed.

He looked down at her peaceful face and reached out to touch her cheek. It was warm and soft and Grace smiled a little in her sleep.

“Sir! What are you doing out of bed?”

Ed glanced at the nurse standing next to him. She was pulling gently on his arm but that hurt so he pulled away and winced.

“Sir, you need to lie down,” the woman insisted.

“Grace, why is she here?” Ed said then noticed the blankets weren’t domed over her stomach. “The babies!”

“The babies are fine. Ms. Wilson was brought in for her C section because she was in distress. She’s fine now as the operation was successful. She’s sleeping off the anaesthetic. The babies are in the special care unit. They were close to full term so they are in very good health. We’re just keeping an eye on them.”

“What did she have?” he asked quietly.

The woman smiled at him. “Three beautiful baby girls.”

A man in hospital scrubs walked into the room with a cross look on his face. “Why is this patient on his feet?”

“I was trying to get him to get back in bed but he was concerned about his partner and wouldn’t move,” the nurse explained.

“She’s fine. Now get back in your bed,” the doctor said gruffly. He and the nurse both had to help Ed as his legs were very wobbly.

Once he was tucked in and reconnected to the machines the nurse left. The doctor checked Ed’s bandages.

“Why do my arms hurt so much?” Ed asked.

“You strained them very badly. You’ll have some very vibrant bruising for a while and you need to take it easy for a few weeks. No lifting anything heavier than a spoon,” the doctor explained. “No operating heavy machinery or driving.”

Ed frowned. Mr. Drakos wasn’t going to be happy about this.

“There’s a police detective waiting to speak to you. May I let him in?”

Ed nodded and the doctor left. Ed discovered the controls on his bed and tilted the back up until he was sitting. He smiled to himself.

A man in a grey suit walked into the room and came over to stand next to Ed’s bed. He was tall and had greying hair. His mustache was also greying and he had pale green eyes and thin lips.

“Mr. Walters? I’m Detective Palmero. I’d like to ask you a few questions regarding the events of Matias Escobar’s escape from prison, the abduction of his ex-wife Zoe Sandoval, and your part in the motel capture.”

The room’s door pushed open and Zoe, Rachel, and Angie walked in to take up positions on the opposite side of the bed from the detective. Ed grinned happily to see them.

“Excuse me, you can’t be in here. I’m taking a statement from this witness,” the detective growled.

“Ed would feel more comfortable giving his statement with us in the room,” Zoe asserted.

“If you aren’t his lawyers you have to leave-”

“I’m sorry Detective, I’m not feeling so well anymore.” Ed pushed the button and the bed began to recline back to its fully flat position.

Zoe smiled. “We’ll bring him in to the station when Ed is released from the hospital.”

The detective scowled at the women then Ed before turning and striding angrily from the room.

With a whirring sound the bed began to tilt upwards again and Rachel smiled at the delighted look on Ed’s face. When he’d reached a comfortable position he looked to Zoe.

“Why did we shoo the detective away?”

“I contacted the law firm for the casino Matias and Luis robbed to let them know a friend of mine discovered the location of their stolen money. The reward for its return has grown over the years to fifteen percent. The lawyer told me to tell you not to discuss the location to anyone but their representative, a Ms. Koslow, who is coming with some documents to sign. Keep the coordinates to yourself until we speak to the woman in person and have the signed documents in hand. You do remember the coordinates, don’t you?”

“Yes, they’re 116-” he began.

“That’s fine Ed! Don’t say them out loud until we speak to the woman,” Zoe said to stop him.

Ed blinked at Zoe then he did the math for the reward in his head. “Wait… that’s $2.25 million dollars!”

Zoe grinned widely as she enjoyed his surprise. “I want no part of the money those men stole. The reward is yours.” She moved closer and gently touched his bruised and swollen face. “You’ve earned it.”

Ed looked into her eyes and took her hand in his to kiss her palm tenderly. Then he dropped his arm to the bed. The three women looked at him in concern. “What’s wrong?” Rachel asked.

Ed was wincing as his arm ached from lifting it. “The doctor said I strained my arms badly and shouldn’t lift anything heavier than a spoon for a few weeks. I’m also not allowed to drive. Mr. Drakos is going to be really upset.”

Rachel scowled at the name. “Mr. Drakos can wait until you are better! Until then we get to pamper you!” Angie and Zoe grinned at that.

“Have you seen the babies?” Ed asked and all three faces lit up with smiles.

“They’re so beautiful!” Angie sighed.

“Of course they are! Grace is their mom!” Ed said looking over at the sleeping woman in the next bed. He frowned. “The nurse said she was in distress. What happened?”

Rachel took his hand on the mattress. “When the police rushed up to Zoe’s place with their sirens blaring Grace started having terrible pains so we called an ambulance and got her to the hospital. Everything went smoothly after that. We weren’t aware of what happened until you and Zoe were brought into the hospital.

Ed looked at Zoe. “How did you’re ex get out of prison?”

“They don’t know. They’re investigating but he had to have had help on the inside.” Zoe frowned.

“Is he back in jail?” Ed asked.

Zoe sent a worried glance to Rachel who nodded. He had to know.

“Matias won’t be going back to jail. He’s paralyzed from the neck down. He’ll be in a hospital until he dies,” Zoe said gently.

“Did… did I do that?” Ed said quietly in dread.

“He was going to kill us Ed. You had no choice,” she replied equally quiet.

Ed nodded but he still looked sad. “I killed another man in the room.”

Angie’s and Rachel’s eyes locked on Zoe but she was still looking at Ed. “That was an accident Ed. He was going to hit you when you stepped into the room. You couldn’t have known hitting him with the door would kill him. That was pure chance!” Zoe exclaimed.

“Ed, you are a good man pushed into bad situations. Sometimes the bad guy dies. Sometimes they just wish they had.” Rachel said. “None of that is your responsibility. They took that on when they chose to do the bad things.”

“If Matias hadn’t kidnapped Zoe and lured you to that secluded motel, none of this would have happened.” Angie said.

Ed frowned. “I don’t remember how we got away.”

“You don’t remember calling 911 before you got to the motel?” Zoe asked with a frown. Ed shook his head. “Apparently you called them and left the phone on when you dropped it out of your truck. They triangulated the location of your phone and contacted the closest police. A local Sheriff and his deputy were at an accident you might have caused on the highway. You took the exit which leads to a road with only three properties on it. Two farm houses and the motel. They spotted your truck and heard the gunshots. They busted the door down but it was all over by then.”

Ed blinked at Zoe. He had no memory of any of that. What he did remember was the beating and the pain. He remembered Matais’ smooth voice and his rage. And Zoe’s tears. He looked at her.

“Are you ok?”

She smiled with tears pooling in her eyelashes. “Yes, Ed. I’m very ok.”

He smiled and nodded. Then he yawned mightily.

“That’s our queue to let you rest. We will see you soon.” Rachel said and gave him a gentle kiss. Angie and Zoe did as well then the three left the room.

Ed looked over at Grace as his eyelids began to drop. “I love you Grace!” he said then drifted off.



Chapter 16

July was turning out to be as hot as June had been. They got the occasional downpour but most days were sunny and hot which meant spending time out under the canopy of the cabana in Angie’s backyard.

Ed was on a ‘modified medical leave’ which meant he did light duties at work three days a week, driven to and from work by one of the ladies. He hadn’t done any installations or service calls since the motel incident though he had spent a lot of time with Mr. Drakos and the Klein Group working on two additional projects they had taken on. They’d developed a reputation for excellence and meeting budgets which was apparently unheard of in this day and age so clients were beginning to seek them out.

His arms were getting better every day and the bruising was long gone. Grace said that his shoulders and upper arms had looked like they’d been tattooed. She didn’t like the look on him so they agreed, no tattoos for him.

Ed relaxed back on the lounge chair surrounded by lovely women. Three of them were nursing the triplets. It had become impossible to not look when so many beautiful breasts were exposed.

Grace was nursing Caelyn whose hair was as dark as her mothers. Rachel was nursing Brooklyn, the strawberry blonde in the family and Angie held Evelyn to her full breast, gently stroking her blonde hair which was closer to her father’s color.

“Do I have to take my bikini top off to get equal attention?” Zoe said to tease Ed. He blushed deeply, though he did glance over to see if she’d done it.

He turned his eyes back out towards the activity in the pool. Taj and Lakshmi were riding the shoulders of their husbands while trying to push the others over in the pool. Stephanie’s and Carolyn’s kids were laughing at the antics of the ‘adults’ and squirting them with squirt guns to make their battle that much more difficult. Reg and Thierry were holding their wives legs with one arm and firing their own squirt guns back at the kids with the other. Stephanie grinned at the horseplay in the pool as she carried the tray of drinks from the house back to the cabana.

Ed watched her walk all the way back to the shade and she knew he was watching as her hips had a little extra wiggle in them which… did things to him. Her smile for him was brilliant as she handed him a cold bottle of water.

The babies were done their meals so breasts went back into bikini tops, burps were produced, and the infants fell quickly asleep in the arms of the three women who shared a smile.

“When are Dale and Tristan coming over?” Zoe asked.

“It won’t be until after lunch. Tristan has a doctor’s appointment,” Rachel explained.

“On the weekend? Is everything ok?” Grace asked with concern.

“Yes, it’s just a routine exam,” Rachel smiled.

“Here’s Heather and Mishka!” Stephanie said as she spotted the couple walking around the house.

Ed noticed that Heather had a broad smile on her face but Mishka looked nervous. He wondered if it was because she was wearing a new bikini under her wrap.

They waved to the ‘kids’ in the pool and when they got back to the cabana they did the rounds with hugs and kisses. Everyone was extra excited with Heather as the couple had announced the previous week that she was pregnant.

Ed stood up to hug the two ladies and Mishka clung to him a little before she finally let go.

“What’s wrong?” he asked but she shook her head.

“Love? We talked about this.” Heather said gently placing her arm around her lover’s back. Mishka looked into Heather’s eyes and nodded. She faced the group of curious woman and Ed.

“I’m having a baby.”

Ed’s jaw dropped as Mishka looked at him. “But- but you said- you said it couldn’t happen because you weren’t in your fertile time!”

“I thought you only liked women!” Grace blurted and Heather began to laugh. She hugged her friend. “Yes that’s true but the human body was designed to feel pleasure from a very specific connection. Keep the mind occupied and the body does what it wants to do!”

“Heather!” Mishka shrieked in embarrassment.

Ed blushed as well. He looked to Grace who mouthed to him ‘Mishka too?’ and he held up a finger to indicate ‘once’. She snorted and smiled at him.

There was another round of hugs, this time accompanied by squeals of joy centered on Mishka who had happy tears in her eyes as she looked a little overwhelmed with happiness. She truly felt accepted and wanted by these wonderful people.

Zoe waved to the adults in the pool to get them to join the group at the cabana. Once they’d arrived they heard the wonderful news about Mishka and more hugs were given to the woman. Finally Zoe called for everyone’s attention and looked around. “Where is Carolyn again?”

“I spoke with her last night. She’ll be returning from her extended stay in Washington tomorrow night,” Stephanie explained.

“Ah ok, thanks. I have an announcement for everyone,” Zoe began.

“Did you want to wait for Dale and Tristan?” Rachel asked.

“No and I’ll explain later,” Zoe smiled. She reached behind her lounge chair and pulled out a long plastic capped tube. Ed recognized it immediately. He looked at Zoe and grinned with anticipation.

She unscrewed the top and slid out a large rolled up blueprint. “I’ve had this laminated so don’t worry about getting it wet.”

“Oh my god! Is this the plan for your new house?” Angie gasped and Zoe nodded with a wide grin.

“The biggest secret in the neighborhood! Next to Mishka’s pregnancy,” Rachel teased and got a shy smile from the woman.

“I keep the secret no longer!” Zoe flattened it out on the small table between the chairs and people gathered around it to hold the edges. Eyes widened and mouths dropped open when they saw the scale of the construction.

“It’s a ranch style home. No stairs. There is currently a huge unfinished basement with plumbing rough-ins. This is accessed by two long ramps or the elevator.” She pointed that out on the drawing. “The design is a ring around a central open courtyard with a playground and a shaded seating area, outdoor kitchen with barbeque and a dining area. There are ten spacious bedrooms, ten and a half baths, a spectacular modern kitchen, a huge family room, a spacious living room, and a dining room with seating for twenty. Off the kitchen is a six car attached garage with parking for six more on a covered pad outside.”

Everyone stared at the home in shock. Rachel was the first to find her voice.

“Why is the home so large?”

Zoe turned her eyes on Ed, Grace, and then Rachel. “I want you to move in with me.”

Rachel blinked in surprise “But… we have a home.”

“Soon that home is going to feel very tight with the triplets and the stairs are going to be an issue sooner or later.” She took Rachel’s hand and looked deeply into her eyes. “I want this home to be yours and Ed’s and Grace’s as well, not just mine. You’ll get an equal say in decorating and furnishing it. Besides, wouldn’t it be nice to have Dale and Tristan move into the neighborhood too since a home they admire so much just became available?”

Rachel looked back at the blueprint and suddenly she could see herself living in the amazing home with the family. It really was a much better space to raise a family in. She smiled and looked to Ed and Grace who were just smiling at her. She knew they were leaving the decision up to her. She couldn’t speak so she nodded. Zoe cried for joy and hugged Rachel, careful of the sleeping baby in her arms. She kissed her cheek then went to Grace to hug and kiss her as well. Ed squeezed her in his arms and kissed her until they pulled back a little out of breath.

Zoe went to her friend Angie next and gave her a hug around Evelyn. “You’re also welcome to live with us but I know you have a close bond to your home because of Danny.” Angie nodded. “The footprint of the home takes up so much of the property there’s no room for a pool or a back yard for that matter. But your place has such an amazing pool and backyard there didn’t seem to be a need.” Angie nodded with a wide smile envisioning all the pool parties she would be hosting and the kids running around in the backyard.

“There will be plenty of guest bedrooms if it gets late and you feel making the long trek next door is too daunting,” Zoe said, smiling at Stephanie who lived one door down and her new neighbors just up the hill.

“Now I understand why you didn’t want to wait for Dale and Tristan,” Rachel said.

Zoe nodded and looked over at Ed’s eager face. “Ed has been working on this project for a long time though I never filled him in on why I was building it this large. I swore him to secrecy so he has a few things he’d like to share now.”

Ed grinned and began to gush about the features they built into the home like the in-floor radiant heating system in the poured concrete slab floors, the innovative air circulation system, the extensive solar panels, wind turbines, and the eco-roof gardens to reduce the costs of powering and cooling such a large home. It felt so good to release the secret.

Later when Dale and Tristan arrived Zoe let Rachel fill them in on the plan. Much squealing, hugging and kissing ensued and Dale had to calm his wife down so she didn’t have her baby right then and there.

Zoe brought out the blue print once more and Dale was deeply impressed. Ed got to describe all of the innovations they included in the construction once more.

It was one of the best secrets Ed had ever kept.

Mishka got everyone’s attention. “Now that the family’s all here and I’ll speak with Carolyn tomorrow, due to recent developments,” she touched her tummy, “Heather and I need to ask you if you are available to attend our rescheduled wedding. It’s going to be next weekend.”

The group cheered a loud ‘Yes!’ and Heather hugged her fiancé excitedly.

Ed was most excited of all as he remembered he was going to be Mishka’s Best Man! He suddenly frowned.

“What is it Ed?” Grace asked.

“What does a Best Man do?” he asked.

“You have to organize the bachelor party and hire the strippers!” Heather laughed.

Ed’s face fell. “Strippers? I can’t do that!”

Mishka came up beside Ed and wrapped her arm around his back. She bumped her hip against his as she grinned. “I like them tall, blonde, and gorgeous!” she teased. Then she started laughing and Ed relaxed as he finally got that they were just teasing. He grinned and shook his finger at them making them grin at him.

He moved over to Grace and gently wrapped his arms around her as she’d handed Caelyn off to Zoe.

“You’ll help me be the Best Man?” he asked

“Every step of the way,” she said.



Chapter 17

“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”

Ed grinned as three little girls came charging down the hall towards the front door. He immediately dropped to his knees and threw his arms out to pull the triplets into a big hug. They squealed in glee, hugged him, kissed his cheeks and he kissed each of them in return.

“Were you good girls today?” he asked, looking them all in the eye.

Little heads nodded in unison and pigtails bounced, black, strawberry blond (bordering on red), and blond. He couldn’t get over how lovely his daughters were. Most important to him though was they were going to be smart like their mother. Rachel, Zoe, and Angie all assured him they showed every sign of being clever and happy young girls.

They were five today and Angie was throwing a big backyard birthday party for them. He’d stopped by her place with a few things she’d asked him to get on his way home from work. The girls were going to be so happy when they saw the decorations! Angie and her friends had outdone themselves again!

Rachel and Zoe arrived at the front door to collect the girls to get them dressed for the party.

Ed stood and kissed each of them, feeling his heart race a little as they pressed their soft and curvy bodies against his.

“Go get cleaned up and changed. We’re heading over to Angie’s as soon as Grace gets home from work.” Rachel said with a grin as she felt his reaction to her body against her leg.

She and Zoe took hold of the little hands and marched them off to their room to get their party dresses on. Ed couldn’t keep the grin off his face as he saw how happy they all were. He made his way into the room he and Grace shared and closed the door to keep the little ones from barging in while he dressed. He carefully took off his business suit and hung the jacket and pants in his closet, the shirt, underwear and socks went into the laundry bag. As much as they were hot and too tight in certain locations, he missed the coveralls he used to wear when he worked for Mr. Drakos.

Four years ago, the Klein Group finally discovered how to pry Ed away from Drakos Heating and Cooling. They bought the old man out. Truthfully, by that time the two companies were working so closely together on all projects that the merger just made sense. Now Mr. Drakos was living like a king in his retirement years in the fishing village of his childhood back in Greece.

Louis Klein then discovered that Ed had a more than savvy business manager who knew exactly how much value Ed brought to the table. Rachel negotiated him a very good contract which gave him plenty of time off to maintain an excellent work/life balance. She also ensured he would continue to maintain his existing certifications and get certifications in a few other fields at their cost. As he was being asked to review the electrical and plumbing schematics all the time Ed wanted to be able to say he had the certifications to be an authority on them. Considering how much this benefited his company, Louis had no qualms agreeing to it. Ed studied hard with his home support group and passed all of his exams with top marks. He’d had so much practical experience the courses felt like more review than anything else.

So these days Ed spent most of his time in meetings, reviewing project plans, blueprints, running estimations, and sometimes doing site inspections and training personnel on his methods. The quality of the work they did was top notch and their reputation was growing.

Ed had flown to a few states and a few different countries to see work sites for prospective projects and he’d been able to bring a companion along to enjoy the non-working hours.

As Grace hadn’t been available to go he’d brought Stephanie with him to France and enjoyed a weekend in Paris with her. She and Carolyn could now compare notes about their favorite places in the ‘city of love’. The Klein Group got the job for designing and building an eco-friendly low rise office tower for a digital media house so Ed would likely get to revisit France and would take Grace if she was available to go next time.

Grace was able to spend a fun three-day weekend with him in New Orleans and they had so much fun! The Klein Group turned down that job offer as the site didn’t turn out to be viable but the trip was fun none-the-less.

Entering the bathroom Ed quickly brushed his teeth and shaved. As he removed the stubble he habitually looked for the bump his nose no longer had. After the beating he took at the hands of Zoe’s ex, Ed had to have his nose rebuilt and it was now smooth and straight. He frowned slightly as he missed the character the bump had given his face. Now he thought he looked… too pretty.

Ed stepped into the shower and quickly washed away the day’s funk. He heard the bathroom door click open and glanced over his shoulder. Grace smiled back at him as she locked the door and slipped off her dress.

With the help of the other ladies in the house and Ed for an exercise routine Grace had shed the baby weight and more. Her job as a forensic accountant at a downtown law firm kept her clever mind occupied so she was able to maintain her new healthier lifestyle and her rage issues seemed to be a thing of the past. She’d never be slim but in Ed’s eyes she was perfect and that was all she needed.

Ed saw her full breasts almost spilling out of her silky black bra and his eyes dropped down to watch her black panties slip down her legs. He began to smile as she reached back to pop the clasp on the bra.

Her breast feeding days were well past but she still had amazing tits! Ed’s eyes widened in appreciation and Grace grinned as she stepped into the shower to press them against his chest as she wrapped him in her arms.

“Oh that feels good,” Ed sighed. Then he kissed her and her tongue caressed his.

She felt his thick cock rise up between her legs to press against her pussy and a thrill shot through her. He excited her so much and she was thrilled that he found her equally exciting.

He reached down and lifted her in his arms, his big hands grabbing and squeezing her ass cheeks as he positioned her against the head of his cock.

“Oh fuck yes, Ed! Take me!” she cried and felt the wide head forcing her lower lips apart. His heat slipped slowly into her and she gasped as he slowly bounced her up and down on the head. She was going out of her mind with his teasing!

Then he lowered her down on his shaft and Grace’s eyes rolled back. He was so fucking big and she loved the sensation of him filling her so completely! It took her brain on a holiday and all she could do was feel. Squeezing her ass in his hands he lifted and dropped her on his cock and she grunted and moaned as her pleasure grew.

“Oh god Grace, I’m gonna cum if you keep squeezing like that!” Ed exclaimed as he thrust faster.

“Yes! Ed! Fuck me harder! Fuck me!” she whimpered, her own bliss getting away from her. She clung to his shoulders as he pounded up into her and her body began to squeeze in pulses as her orgasm took her.

“Fuck! Fuck! Oh Grace! I’m cumming!” he cried as his cum exploded up into her body.

They crested together and held each other close as their bond grew deeper still.

Finally, he lifted her free from his softening cock and her legs wobbled as he set her on her feet. He held her against himself until she smiled and nodded. He gently kissed her amazing mouth once more and sighed as he pulled back to smile down at her happy expression. He was truly happiest when she was in his arms and she was as well.

They weren’t going to have any more kids. The doctors said that Grace had been a real trouper for carrying the triplets like she had but that was all she was going to have. She was alright with that and Ed loved her regardless so all was right in the world.

Besides, her beautiful daughters were all she really wanted. They were getting awesome lessons on being great kids from their three extra moms as well. Grace was still struggling with her impression that she wasn’t a good mom but Rachel, Angie, Zoe, Stephanie, and Carolyn were all so supportive of her. Not to mention Heather and Mishka, Dale and Tristan, Reg and Taj, and Thierry and Lakshmi. They all said she was a natural and to stop worrying so much! The evidence was right there in front of her. The triplets were not spoiled or selfish. They were just great kids!

Speaking of which they had a birthday party to go to!

“Ok, big man! Let’s go get dressed and take our kids to their party!

“Not until I wash your hair!” Ed insisted. She sighed happily as he massaged the shampoo through her thick hair, rinsed then conditioner with a final rinse.

He toweled her dry and dried her hair before he dried himself. Then they slipped on some nice party clothes.

Their wardrobes were a little more extensive than they had been when Shirley kicked them out on the street. With their combined income from their jobs, the royalties Ed received from his steak seasonings, and the two and a quarter million the casino’s insurance company finally paid him after three years of needless delays they were very comfortable.

Ed grinned widely as he saw his daughters in their party dresses and the huge smiles on Rachel and Zoe’s faces as well.

Zoe’s daughter Sophia came out of her room in a pretty and flowery summer dress and the triplets squealed happily and ran over to give her a hug as well. The previous year she’d been released on parole for good behavior and was now under her mother’s care. She was getting back on her feet and undergoing treatment with a counsellor to deal with what she’d been through. Zoe said the best medicine was being surrounded by love and Ed could definitely see the improvement in her state of mind over the last year. She smiled a lot more and seemed far more relaxed.

The weather was perfect for a walk so they all made their way down the road to Angie’s, meeting up with Stephanie and her kids and Carolyn and hers before they got there. Mishka and Heather were already there with their son Shaan and daughter Sahana. Shaan had his mother’s coloration, lovely brown skin and ebony hair while Sahana was light skinned and fair haired like Heather. Ed grinned as he saw Shaan teasing his sister. He was a handful!

Dale and Tristan were also there with their boy Max. He was blond like his mother and had pale blue eyes. Tristan assured Ed that Max was healthy, happy, and doing just fine. The couple was thrilled to be living in the neighborhood and part of their extended family.

As they entered the back yard they released the triplets who shrieked with joy when they saw the bouncy castle set up out on the grassy area. They made a bee line for it and Rachel looked back at Ed with such a look of joy on her face that Ed got a little choked up. He mouthed ‘I love you’ to her and her smile widened. She mouthed it back to him and rushed off after the girls. Shaan and Sahana were pointing at the bouncy castle too so their mothers followed with Tristan and Max close behind.

Ed greeted Angie with a hug and a kiss and Grace did as well. She let them know Isabelle and her husband Rick called to say they couldn’t make it as their son wasn’t feeling well. Ed asked Angie to send his regards and wishes for the boy’s speedy recovery. Grace felt relieved and a little guilty about that. She knew Isabelle hadn’t forgiven her for keeping her from what she wanted most. Grace liked Rick and hoped he never found out about that.

They made the rounds of handshakes, hugs, and kisses with the rest of their friends.

Finally Ed was settled on a loveseat under the cabana awning with Grace sipping cool and sweet sangrias while they watched the kids play, supervised by Rachel, Zoe, and Sophia. They were surrounded by their extended family. He thought back to the days when it was just Shirley, Grace, and him and realized how much happier he and Grace were now.

Back then he’d been excited about graduating and starting his new job with Mr. Drakos, hoping he’d make enough to support Grace going back to school. He had never expected all this!

Most of all he hadn’t dared believe Grace would ever love him as much as he loved her. He certainly never expected to fall in love with Rachel and the others. He realized just how far he’d come. From the lonely boy who lost the love of the one person who meant the most to him to the man, loved so much by so many. A tear escaped and ran down his cheek and Grace caught the motion.

“What’s wrong?” she asked in concern as she gently wiped it away.

He looked to her and smiled. “Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier! How did all this happen?”

Grace snuggled in against him and smiled up at his look of wonder. “Because you’re a good man Ed, a generous and exciting lover, and a great father. And you didn’t need an example of how to be a good dad. You set the standard. Other dads need to walk a mile in your shoes.”

Ed heard her words and saw her conviction but he still didn’t really understand.

But that was ok. He knew Grace would help him understand and as long as he had her love everything else was a bonus.
55 comments

Petronicus8Report

2017-12-06 06:22:12
Words simply fail me. I do not recall reading something so compelling, erotic or otherwise, for a very long time. I read the trilogy end to end and felt a sense of loss when it finished. You have an empathy with the positive side of the autism spectrum which you maintained throughout in Ed. I hope to find more of you work soon. One comment indicates that some stories have disappeared.

thejmanltReport

2017-04-23 03:30:18
What happened to your other stories

TruthinmemoriesReport

2017-02-11 01:02:37
I have truly enjoyed this trilogy. I found it riveting for both the sexual encounters and the plot for Ed's development. It was rewarding to see the nice guy finish first; with help from supportive friends.

Anonymous readerReport

2017-01-30 22:28:59
this was a great trilogy but can you continue the story of ed and his escapades

Anonymous readerReport

2017-01-24 09:25:30
You should plan writing a lot more and as main stream

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