Sitting in an airport, waiting on a flight was not Phil's idea of a good time. It was so much not his idea of a good time he avoided it at almost any cost. Up until the housing bubble burst and splattered recession over most of the US, he'd been successful. As sales manager for Seawind Marine, he had three salesmen working for him. They took most of the flights to the East Coast marinas and small boat builders to sell the stainless steel rigging fittings, fasteners, and other parts manufactured by Seawind.
The housing bubble cost him Terry. He convinced the other two they should split Terry's accounts and make those sales calls in order to keep the orders coming in. The near collapse of the banking industry further cut back orders. The lack of orders resulted in lower income and profits, and the need to cut back even more.
Rick and Tom packed up their desks on a Friday, and the next Monday, the owner of the company, Jack Wilson, called Phil into his office. Phil figured his time was up too, and was sure of it when Jack gave him a weird smile and gestured toward the chair in front of his desk.
“Phil, have a seat. As I'm sure you know, things aren't going very well. Some would say it's the beginning of the end, but I believe we're at the apex of an opportunity here.”
Jack stood up and began to pace. Phil frowned. It always went this way. Jack was always getting some dumb idea about how to improve his profits. He always used “apex” or “acme” or “cusp” to indicate the situation was ripe for a major turn for the best. Phil was pretty sure Jack found those words in the crossword puzzles he did when he thought nobody was watching.
Jack paced over to the window, stared at the lawn for a few seconds, then walked slowly back to his desk. He pushed some papers to the side and sat on the corner.
“Like I said, Phil, we're poised on the apex of an opportunity, an opportunity to position Seawind as the premier marine hardware supplier on the East Coast. Our strongest competitor there, Juno, has to be doing as poorly as we are, and I know they don't have the financing to keep going while we do. I saw this coming and developed a plan...
Over the years, Phil had developed the ability to only half listen to a conversation, and as soon as Jack began explaining his grand strategy, Phil put his brain on auto and began thinking about something that had been eating away as him for months. That something was his wife, Rita.
It had been a while since he and Rita had been intimate. She'd lost interest in sex and even being touched since...he really couldn't put a date on when it happened. All he remembered is one night having her moaning and gasping as he plunged his stiff cock into her and then groaned as he came, and a couple of days later, having her push him away, roll over and go to sleep. Sex became once a week, then once a month, and finally ended. He'd asked her if it was him. She said it was her and not to worry about it, because it happened to some women when they reached her age. He still loved her, but he needed to be touched and touch, needed to feel a soft body against his chest as she shook out the last waves of an orgasm. If he knew a woman who was willing...
Phil's brain snapped from daydream back to Jack at the words he was speaking.
“...and I know you're the guy to do it, Phil.”
He handed Phil a thin file folder.
“I had Julie find all the boat builders and marine hardware wholesalers from northern Maine to Virginia. There's still a lot of money being spent there because of the fishing fleets and because some people have more damned money than they know what to do with. I want you to call on every one, tell them what we can do for them, show them the catalog, and make some sales. I had accounting put together break-even pricing for everything we make. I'm not interested in huge profit margins. What I want is Juno to go under and Seawind to get their accounts. Undercut Juno's pricing, offer them free shipping, whatever it takes without sending us under too.
“I bumped your card max to five thousand, so don't be afraid to buy some dinners once in a while. You know, you think you got some purchasing guy who just needs a little push before he writes a purchase order, take him and his wife out to dinner.”
Jack raised his eyebrows and grinned.
“There's also a list of escorts in that folder. I'm not saying you should make the offer, but if the guy hints he'd like a little strange...just list it as entertainment on your expense report.”
“What if the buyer is a woman?”
Phil grinned again.
“Julie found both, and a few that go both ways. Just wanted you to be prepared.”
Phil left Jack's office with a smile that hid his true feelings. It would take months of calls to reach every name on his list even once, and to really cinch continued sales, he'd have to do what Terry, Rick, and Tom had been doing for him, each over a much smaller territory, and he'd have to do it by himself.
The next afternoon and sitting in the airport, Phil looked at the clock on the schedule board. It was a little after five in the afternoon, the only flight he could book to Boston. He swore under his breath at Jack.
Since Seawind belonged to Jack, he figured any and all perks belonged to him too. In addition to making it policy that Seawind's office employees had to share any gifts received from suppliers at Christmas, he'd also decreed any employee who traveled for Seawind had to surrender his or her frequent flyer miles to Jack. He used them to take his family on vacation every year.
His quest for as many usable frequent flyer miles as possible also resulted in an executive decision that all employees would fly only one airline, no matter what. This late night flight was the only one available on Jack's approved airline.
They should start boarding in a couple of minutes, he thought. A minute later, a tall, slender woman in an airline uniform walked to the desk, picked up the microphone, then cleared her throat and smiled .
“Attention passengers on Flight 2546 to Memphis. We will begin boarding with first class. Will all first class passengers please have their boarding passes ready when you enter the door.”
Phil waited impatiently while the girl boarded first class, then the back of the plane, then the center section and then his. He walked down the boarding ramp only to wait again as the passengers in front of him searched for an empty overhead in which to stow their carry-on luggage. When he finally got into the cabin he saw what he knew he'd see.
A small woman about twenty-five was trying desperately to cram one of those rolling suitcases into the overhead. Phil couldn't believe it had made the dimension requirements by more than a quarter of an inch. It probably would have fit if she'd been one of the first on the plane, but since she was one of the last there was no room. Finally, one of the flight attendants made her way through the crammed aisle and suggested to the woman that perhaps she should check the bag. After a couple of minutes of the woman complaining about the room in the overheads, the flight attendant walked back with the suitcase.
Phil had learned to check his bags after experiencing the same thing. His carry-on consisted of a small briefcase that held his laptop, day planner, and a few Seawind catalogues. He took his seat and shoved the briefcase under the seat in front, then buckled his seatbelt.
Twenty minutes later, the wheels finally came off the runway. The pilot seemed to be trying to make up for the ground time and put the plane in a steep climb until they popped out above the clouds. A couple of minutes after that, the male flight attendant poured him a cup of coffee, then dropped a packet of creamer and another tiny package of pretzels on his fold-down table.
Memphis was another hour with nothing to do but sit and watch people go by. Phil was happy when they were finally off the ground again, almost on time, and heading to Boston. In a little less then three hours, he'd pick up his rental car, and by midnight, he'd be checked in to his hotel and trying to sleep.
The flight was pretty smooth until they got over Boston. Then, the plane seemed to have a life of it's own, bobbing this way and that, and speeding up and slowing down as the pilots fought the updraft of the city below. The landing was a solid bump followed by a softer one as the nose wheel touched down, and then the roar of the engines as the pilot reversed thrust to slow the big plane. They actually were a minute early when Phil walked onto the boarding ramp.
The baggage carousel was already running when he got there, and Phil began searching for the bright yellow name tag that marked his bag. A pink overnight case went by him, and then an Army duffel bag. The duffel bag was quickly retrieved by a kid in an Army dress uniform. The pink case went back inside the baggage area followed by an old style suitcase that had opened. The cup of a black bra peeked out of the lid..
That pink case and the bra had been around six times when the young girl walked up beside him.
“You see a pink bag yet?”
The unmistakable aroma of gin floated on her breath.
“I hate flying and had to settle my nerves a little after that landing. Hope it's still on the belt. Oh...there it is.”
She picked the pink bag off the conveyor, pulled the handle out and started for the parking exit. Phil didn't miss the little cheeks peeking out from under her tennis shorts. If he'd been younger, he thought...but he wasn't.
What he was, was missing his bag. That meant he was missing his razor and other stuff, his clean shirts and pants, and the book he always took in case he had the opportunity to do some reading. That also meant Phil was pissed and getting more pissed by the minute. He waited another ten minutes, then went to the airline's ticket counter. The guy standing behind the counter looked a little light in the loafers, but he smiled when Phil walked up.
“How may I help you tonight, Sir?”
“You could start by telling me what the hell happened to my bag.”
The guy smiled his best fake smile.
“Oh, that's not my department, Sir. I just take baggage and sell tickets. You'll have to go to our baggage office. It's down there, Sir, just past that last ticket counter.”
The agent was talking with a girl of about sixteen when he walked through the glass door and up to the counter. The girl seemed to be more than a little angry. He wasn't all the way through the door when he heard her trying to intimidate the agent.
“What the fuck do you mean, you don't know where my fucking bag is? I checked it in fucking Nassau. See, here's the fucking receipt they gave me. It was supposed be on the fucking plane with me. You call those dickheads who unloaded the fucking plane and tell 'em to break up the circle jerk and find my fucking bag. If I don't get my bag, my Dad'll sue your fucking ass off. Looks like it could use losing a few pounds anyway.”
Phil saw the agent's brow furrow at those words, but then she smiled.
“Ma'am, I promise you, the plane is empty. If your bag made it on the plane in Miami it would now be on the baggage carousel. Are you positive you didn't see it. Sometimes it takes them a while to get on the conveyor.”
The girl was fuming. Phil supposed it was because the agent was remaining calm instead of moving the earth to find the girl's luggage.
“Don't call me Ma'am. I'm not married, and I'm not old... like some people… and no, I didn't see my fucking bag and I stood there for a fucking half hour. The only shit left on that conveyor was a pair of white granny panties and a huge purple bra like you probably wear.”
The agent frowned at the remark about the panties and bra. Phil understood what the girl meant about the bra, though. The agent was very well endowed, and he could imagine her bras would look pretty huge to the girl since she had barely enough to push out the top of her T-shirt. He was beginning to imagine how the agent would look without a bra when the woman spoke again.
“Miss, if that's what you'd rather I call you, I can't find your bag until it gets scanned again. I checked the baggage scans when you first came in and told you that. I've checked three times since then and it hasn't been scanned yet. If you'll just calm down and finish filling out the lost baggage claim, I'll make sure you get your bag just as soon as we can get it to you.”
The girl grabbed the claim form, wrote a few things, and scribbled her name at the bottom. She tossed the form and pen at the agent, turned on her heel, and muttered as she walked past Phil.
“Fucking bitch couldn't find her fucking big ass with both fucking hands if it wasn't fucking fastened on.”
Phil was watching her stomp out of the office when the agent called him.
“Sir, what can I do for you tonight?”
Phil turned and saw her smile had returned, though maybe just a little forced.
“You get many like her in here?”
“Not many, but even one a night is still too many.”
“She had to be all of seventeen or eighteen, and she talked like an Army drill sergeant.”
The agent sighed.
“Her Daddy sent her to the Bahamas as a graduation present. I'm sure she checked her bag with one of the little airlines that fly between Nassau and Miami and expected it to get here when she did. Usually, they do, but sometimes, because there are bags going in a hundred directions coming out of the Caribbean, a bag gets on the wrong conveyor. It's probably sitting in Miami, but until it ends up in unclaimed baggage, I won't be able to find it. She just thinks because Daddy has money, she can snap her fingers and move the world.
“As for her language, you should hear the things young girls have yelled at me. My mother would have washed my mouth out with soap if I'd even said 'damn'.”
“At least she only thinks my butt is big, instead of big and fat like the guy last week.”
“It isn't either, if you ask me.”
She smiled again and this time the smile was real.
“Well, thank you for flirting. Now, what can I do for you?”
“Well, I uh...I have the same problem as she did. My bag seems to be missing in action.”
“Let me see your stub and I'll see if I can find it.”
She took the stub and scanned it with a hand scanner, then stared at her computer screen for a moment.
“You came through Memphis, didn't you?”
“Well, your bag didn't make the connecting flight for some reason. It got unloaded there, and it's sitting on the cart for the next plane to Boston. I'll have it for you a little after ten tomorrow morning.”
Her face looked genuinely apologetic.
“I'm sorry about the mistake. I know that doesn't help, but there's not much else I can do about it.”
Phil tried to be mad, but he couldn't. That smile and then the look that told him she really was sorry made that impossible.
Phil found himself wondering if the curves the agent's loose uniform hid from view were as nice as those it didn't. She wasn't slender like the girl who'd been in front of him, but what curves he could see were far more to his liking. Even the loose uniform couldn't hide the fact that her breasts were impressive, and to Phil, the ass the girl had called big was the rounded ass of a sensuous woman.
Her voice pulled him out of the daydream.
“Sir, can I get you to fill out my form so I'll know how to contact you when it gets here? We'll deliver it, of course, but I need an address for where.”
Phil stopped at an all-night pharmacy on his way to his hotel and bought enough stuff so he'd at least be clean-shaven and wouldn't stink when he made his calls the next day. His shirt and pants would have to do, but he could press out the wrinkles at the hotel. It was after midnight when he finally turned out the light and slid between the sheets.
The week had gone OK. His bag had been delivered sometime the next morning, so he'd had clean clothes except for that first day. He'd gotten a couple of orders that would have usually gone to Juno, so Jack would be happy. He probably wouldn’t be too happy with Phil's expense report. The owner of Blue Sky Boatyard drank like a fish when they'd gone to dinner, and his wife matched him drink for drink. The tab had been more than the profit Seawind would make on the first order, but the small boatyard did a nice business in retrofitting as well as in new boats. They'd be placing enough orders monthly to make it up within a couple of months.
Phil's trip the next week went according to plan. On his way to catch a bus to the rental car park, Phil had to walk past the ticket counter for his airline. She was there, helping an elderly woman lift her bag onto the platform so she could check it in. If he'd thought she'd remember him, he would have stopped to say hello.
The next week’s trip had disaster written all over it before Phil even started. Jack had been following up on the new orders and discovered Juno had been back to one of the boatyards from which Phil had negotiated a trial order. Juno had offered to maintain a stock of every cable fitting the owner could possibly ever need right in his shop, and he'd only have to pay for them as he used them. The owner was teetering on giving Juno the go, but he wanted to talk to Phil again first.
Phil had done this often enough to know how it was going to go. The guy was going to leverage Juno's offer against his to see how far Phil would go to keep the business. Just as soon as Phil lowered his price or made some other concession, the guy was going to call Juno back to see how much more he could get from them. All Phil could do was try, but he wasn't hopeful.
He was right, or at least partly right. He'd made the owner the same proposal as Juno, but offered a slightly better price and net 45 days to pay. His one stipulation was the guy sign a one-year contract to buy only from Seawind. After dinner with the owner and his wife, he went back to his hotel with the contract signed and safely in his briefcase.
Phil called on a few other marine hardware stores and boat shops over the next couple of days and landed some orders, but they wouldn't mean as much as that contract. He'd done what Jack wanted, and decided to head home early. A call to the airline moved his return flight up a day. It was the last flight until the next morning, but he'd at least be in bed with Rita for a little while, for all the good that would do.
A young boarding clerk, looking really fresh for this time of day, walked up to the desk and picked up the microphone.
“Attention passengers on Flight 4652 to Memphis. Our aircraft has experienced a slight mechanical problem. We should have it repaired in about an hour, and we'll begin boarding as soon as possible. Thank you for your patience.”
Well this is just fucking great, Phil thought. It was already going to be midnight before he could crawl into his own bed for the first time in a week, and now it was going to be at least an hour later. This is what he hated about flying, one of the things anyway. It was the feeling of being at the mercy of people he didn't know and couldn't even see.
He pictured the mechanics slowly finishing a cup of coffee and a smoke, then stretching and walking slowly to the plane. They'd be talking about what they were going to do that weekend, and of course that meant they'd stop working from time to time. It was going to be two hours, minimum, he figured. He hoped they'd at least double-check the repair when they were done.
Phil wasn't afraid of flying. He just hated the waiting and being in an aluminum cigar with no hope of escape if anything happened. If it had been a train or a bus or a car and anything happened, he'd have a chance of getting himself to safety. In a plane, he had to trust the pilots, and they seemed to be getting younger every year.
A half-hour later, the same young woman walked up to the desk and picked up the microphone. She didn't smile this time.
“Attention passengers on Flight 4652 to Memphis. We're sorry but it has become necessary to cancel tonight's flight. If you'll proceed to the ticket counter, we'll re-route you on another carrier.”
Phil swore at Jack. That airline had just told Phil he wouldn't be going home tonight, and he knew there was no way Jack would pay for the flight if he switched airlines. Phil picked up his briefcase and started for the ticket counter. Maybe they had a later flight that would get him home sometime before morning.
He was surprised to see her at the ticket counter. She was being polite, but firm with the guy ahead of him in line.
“Sir, I'm sorry, but I can't route you through Detroit until tomorrow morning. I can get you to St. Louis through Atlanta or Indianapolis, but not Detroit.”
The guy started to raise his voice.
“Damn it, if you're going to screw me over by canceling the flight, the least you could do is let me go see my son on the way. I'll bet the flight I want would just cost you more, and you're trying to earn some brownie points with the boss.”
“Sir, I am the boss, and I'm trying to tell you, there are no flights at this hour that go through Detroit.”
“Well, what the hell am I supposed to do then, sit here with my thumb up my ass all night?”
“Sir, I've already said I could get you St. Louis tonight. I just can't get you there through Detroit.”
“Yeah, and you probably couldn't even get laid in a frat house either.”
The woman smiled.
“Sir, I don't need to go to a frat house to get laid. You've already screwed with me enough I won't need any more for quite a while. Now, I have other customers waiting. Shall I book you through Atlanta? That flight will get you into St. Louis about six tomorrow morning. The other flights get there later.”
As he left with his new boarding pass, the guy muttered something about all brunettes being bitches.
When the woman waved at him, Phil picked up his briefcase and walked to the desk.
“Can I see your boarding pass please”, she smiled and asked.
Phil handed her the pass.
“You get many like that guy?”
The woman tapped away at her keyboard.
“That's what you asked me about that little snip in baggage a couple of weeks ago.”
She'd remembered him, how, he didn't know, but she had.
“Yes. That was me.”
“Well, the answer's the same. Too many, especially when a flight gets cancelled. Ah, there you are. On your way to Nashville, through Memphis, right?”
“That's me, but I don't think you're going to be able to get me there.”
“Oh, yes I can. I can usually get anybody anywhere. How about a non-stop that leaves in an hour?”
“On your airline?”
“No, but I hear they have nice planes and sexy flight attendants.”
“If it's not this airline, I can't take it.”
Phil gave her the short story about Jack and frequent flyer miles.
She tapped away at her keyboard again.
“Well...Phil is it?”
“Phil, I'm Marie. Well Phil, the best I'm gonna do then is the flight you just missed, tomorrow night. Should I book you?”
He gave her his driver's license and she booked the flight, then asked if he had any baggage checked.
“Just one case.”
“Give me a half hour and I'll have it for you.”
Phil checked into the Marriot adjoining the hotel and called Jack to explain what had happened.
He slept in, then wandered around the hotel for a while. After lunch, he checked out and went to the airport. His flight was still several hours away, but he didn't have time to do much else. The ticket counter wasn't busy when he walked past, and Marie was standing there with another agent. A perfectly insane idea popped into Phil's head and he walked to the counter. She saw him coming and smiled.
“Have a good night?'
“It was OK. I'd have been happier at home.”
“I'd be happy to be home now too, but I still have six hours to go.”
Phil tried not so sound like he was begging.
“Say, Marie, do you get a break, I mean sometime between now and my flight?”
“In an hour, yes. Why?”
“I just wondered if I could buy you a cup of coffee or something.”
Marie smiled and waved her left hand.
“I'm married, see.”
“I know. I saw your ring before but it’s just coffee. I'd just like to thank you for trying to help me last night. We could just go down to that place down the concourse.”
“Well...if it's just coffee, I suppose...three o'clock?”
Phil boarded his plane with a smile. Marie had been fun to talk with, and also a pleasure to look at. Phil hadn't really looked at any women for months, at least not with an eye for how they might be in bed. Doing so was a lost cause, or so he'd thought. Marie had changed that with her sparkling eyes, beautiful smile, and a way of looking at him that made Phil feel as if something really could happen between them.
Phil's trips to Boston changed too. As soon as Marie had told him her work hours, he'd started scheduling his flights so he'd have some time at the airport at the same time Marie took her break or ate lunch. If his flight got in late at night, he'd buy coffee during her break. He always made sure to get to the airport for his return flight a little before her lunch break. They'd find one of the little restaurants in the airport, and spend Marie's half-hour together.
Phil grew to like Marie a lot over the months, and he thought she liked him too. She always smiled when she saw him walking to the counter where she happened to be working that night. When they walked down the concourse for coffee or to eat, Marie often slipped her arm in his. The night Phil put his hand on the small of her back so she'd go into the coffee shop first, Marie just looked at him and smiled.
Fall flowed into early winter, but Phil was still making calls. They were repeat calls now, and were intended to keep Seawind Marine in front of his customers. He knew them all by name now, and liked most of them. The boatyard owners were all small businessmen doing what they loved to do and trying to make ends meet and put a little in the bank once in a while. Phil had had dinner with them and their wives or girlfriends at least once, and the business relationship had become personal.
He didn't like it when Jack announced he was increasing prices by ten percent. Jack's logic was that Phil had waved the bait, the customers had taken it, and now it was time to reel in the profits. Phil wasn't happy about going back to the men and women who'd become friends to tell them their prices were going up.
His calls that week had been a round of explanations about material cost going up, how the US needed to keep jobs from going off-shore and a host of other made-up excuses to justify the price change. Most of his customers grumbled a little, but said they'd stick with Seawind because Phil was the company rep. By Thursday night, he was tired of smiling while doing those explanations and tired of seeing the frowns on the men and women he'd grown to like. He was looking forward to seeing Marie again.
Marie smiled at him when he waved, but that was all she had time for. The line of people stretched through three turns of the ropes stretched between the poles in front of the counter. A little after she was supposed to take her break, Phil saw Marie turn to the guy next to her and say something. Then she walked to the end of the counter and started toward him.
Marie smiled again, but it was a worried smile.
“Phil, if I were you, I'd be booking a hotel room while there are still some left.”
“Why, my flight leaves in two hours.”
“Listen, they haven't announced it yet, but in about half an hour, all the flights in and out are going to stop. There's a blizzard heading this way. Didn't you hear it on the radio?”
“No, never turned it on. I was too tired and too pissed off.” He grinned. “I just wanted to think about having coffee with you.”
“I'm serious, Phil. I've seen this happen before. The Hilton's pretty high priced, but it's connected to the airport by a covered walkway, and once the snow starts, you won't be able to find a cab. Now, go get yourself a room. We'll eat instead of having coffee when you get back.”
The only rooms left were two suites and Jack was going to have a heart attack when Phil turned in his expense report, but it beat sleeping in the airport. He'd known that’s what he’d have been doing as he filled out the reservation form. A wave of men and women in business dress with briefcases and rolling bags burst through the door and rushed for the desk. There was jostling for position behind him as he picked up his key card and headed to the elevator.
The mob was still there when he came back down, most of them flicking the screens on their cell phones or tapping away at laptops. Judging from the frowns on the faces in front of those screens, Marie had been right. Phil shrugged, and took the walkway back to the airport.
The crowd had thinned out around the ticket counter because the flight displays all had “CANCELLED” beside each flight number. Since there was no way to reschedule a flight, most of the passengers had gone in search of something to eat and then a relatively comfortable place to spend the night.
Marie grinned when she walked up to him.
“Was I right, or was I right? You get a room?”
“Yes, you were right, and I got one of the last two available.”
“At least you have a place to sleep with a bed. I'm not gonna be that lucky. The city just closed the roads until the snow stops. I'm stuck here for the night.”
Phil's voice sounded almost like a whisper to him, but the look in Marie's eyes said she'd heard him.
“You don't have to stay here...I...the room has two beds.”
“I'm still married.”
“I know. So am I.”
Marie's eye had that look again, sort of a little wide open sparkle Phil had seen a few times before.
“And I suppose you'd promise to be a perfect gentleman?”
“Yes, I would.”
“You have a spare shirt I can sleep in? I don't bring my jammies to work.”
“If you like blue, I do.”
“Blue is fine. Let's go grab a sandwich if they have any left. Then I'll meet you here about midnight, OK?”
Marie was quiet when they crossed the walkway to the hotel and a little nervous about what she was doing. She was quiet and nervous in the elevator too, and unconsciously slipped her hand in his. When she realized what she'd just done, Marie started to move her hand, but then he closed his over hers. Marie couldn't very well pull her hand away, she thought, especially since she’d put it there in the first place.
Phil wondered what she was thinking. She'd been leery of coming at all, then seemed think to agree a bed in his room was better than the floor of the airport, and now she'd reached to touch his hand, and didn't resist when he held it.
If Marie had been able to muster the nerve to tell him, she'd have said she was both excited and afraid. She'd enjoyed their time together over coffee or a sandwich, and wondered why he never tried anything else. Then, out of the blue, he'd asked her to spend the night with him. True, she thought, it was only because of the snowstorm, and Phil had promised to be a gentleman, but still...
Sometimes, he'd say something that made her wonder if he felt more than just liking her, like the evening over coffee when he'd said he didn't have much to go home to. She'd tried to get him to say more, but he just changed the subject.
Yes, Marie thought, she was excited and afraid, excited because of what she hoped might happen, and afraid that he might not want her. Her husband would have told her what he always did when she tried to interest him in her – women her age shouldn't want sex so much. Marie thought that was because he just didn't want her anymore. If she hinted that she wanted more than a night's sleep, would Phil tell her the same thing?
The chime of the elevator brought her back to the present and Phil's hand on the small of her back. The room was at the end of the hall. Phi slid the keycard into the slot and the little arrow turned green. He opened the door and let Marie go in first.
“Well, Marie, here it is, such as it is.”
Marie looked around and then laughed.
“This isn't a room...it's a whole house.”
“This suite and another one were all they had left, and it has only two rooms, if you don't count the bath.”
Marie walked through the sitting room, looking at rich furnishings. She paused in front of the fireplace.
“I wonder if this really works.”
“Looks like the one I have a home. Let's find out.”
“Well, you find out. I have use your bathroom.”
Phil located the controls, turned on the gas and pressed the igniter button. Instantly, flames licked at the imitation logs in the hearth. He knelt in front of the fire, feeling the warmth, and thinking of another time and another fireplace. It had been on a night like this, cold and snowing outside. He had poured two flutes of champagne and brought them to the thick rug in front of the fire. The look in her eyes was sultry as she reached for the flute…
The lights went out, and the flames made the walls dance with flickers of yellow. Phil looked for Marie and found her standing by the light switch. The yellow tongues licked at her face and shining, brown hair, and came back to him as flickers from her eyes.
“Just wanted to see what it would look like in the dark. It’s really romantic, isn’t it?”
When Phil smiled at her, Marie turned the lights back on and tried to look stern.
“Don't go getting any ideas.”
Phil saw the look on Marie's face, the look that was supposed to keep him at bay, but he thought it was faked. He'd seen Marie holding her ground in front of an irate passenger, and though she was polite, her face left no doubt she wasn't moving from what she'd said. This face was softer and looked as if Marie had to work at looking as she did. Maybe it's just my imagination, Phil thought, or maybe I'm just hoping. What can I say back that won't drive her away if I'm not? Deciding to take a chance, he smiled at her.
“I'm not getting any ideas I haven't had before, but you don't have to worry. They're just ideas, not something I'd ever really do. I promised to be a gentleman, remember?”
Marie smiled at Phil, because he hadn't said he didn't want her. He hadn't said he did, either, but it was nice to know there might be something there. She realized he was staring at her and then realized she was returning the stare and giggled.
“So, is this what we're going to do tonight – stand and look at each other?”
Phil fumbled for an answer, and finally said, “There's a liquor cabinet and some mixers. We could have a nightcap if you'd like.”
“I'd love one. Since I don't get home until after midnight, I don't usually get to bed before two, and I'm not sleepy yet. Whatcha got in there.”
Marie was sitting on the rug in front of the fire when Phil finished making their drinks. He carried them over, handed Marie hers and sat down beside her. She sipped hers and smiled.
“You realize you could buy me two downstairs for what this one is costing you?''
“It's not costing me a penny. Since he saw fit to send me up here every week, my boss is picking up the tab. Besides, it's bound to be packed down there since nobody can get home tonight. I kinda like the quiet up here...and the company.”
“That sounds like a really weak pickup line.”
“Well, I'm a little out of practice, but since you're already in my room, it's not really a pickup line, is it? It's more like a... laydown line.”
Phil chuckled at his own joke, and Marie laughed.
“With a line like that, you must have women laying down all the time.”
“Nope, haven't tried, actually.”
“The sex is that good at home? I'm jealous.”
Marie cursed herself for talking before thinking. It had just slipped out, and now he'd asked her to explain. How could she tell him with seeming to be some slut just looking for a man to satisfy her needs.
“Oh, let's just say my husband isn't as romantic as he used to be.”
“Sounds like my wife.”
“You and your wife don't...I'm sorry Phil. I shouldn't have started this conversation at all.”
“No, it's OK. Really, it is. I don't mind telling you. No, we don't, haven't for months...almost a year in fact. She doesn't want me to touch her.”
“Has she seen her doctor? There might be something wrong.”
“No, she just says it normal for some women when they...well, when they get to be her age.”
“I must not be normal then.”
“Nothing much has changed since that time, except I don't...well, you know.”
“Your husband is a lucky guy then.”
“You'd think so, but he doesn't want me anymore.”
“Not to be blunt, Marie, but is he nuts or just rock dumb?”
Marie sighed again.
“I don't know. I gave up trying to figure him out a long time ago.”
She drained her glass.
“I think I'd like another one of these, if that's OK.”
Phil drained his and fixed them both a refill, then sat back down in front of the fire.
Marie smiled. “Thanks, Phil.”
“It's just a drink.”
“No, not for that...for letting me talk about...about that. I couldn't talk about it at work. Most of them know my husband.”
“Same here, Marie. I've never told anybody before, either.”
“This is like a bad movie. Two people whose spouses don't want them end up in a hotel room together and find out they both have the same problem.” She took a sip from her drink. “It's time for the romantic music and for me to fall in your arms. Then the camera pans to something that's supposed to let the audience know we're having sex.”
“Never really happens that way, though, does it?”
“Well, part of it has, but I don't hear any music.”
“Yeah. We're not having sex either.”
Phil sipped his drink and though about what Marie had just said. They weren't, but that didn't mean they couldn't. He could just put his hand on her thigh and see what she did. If she didn't want to do anything, he could make an excuse of some sort. No, that might make her afraid he was going to do it anyway and she'd leave. He hoped he wouldn't sound like some teen-age romeo trying to get his girl's bra off.
“We could...not that I'm suggesting we should, but we're both here, so it could happen, like in a movie, I guess.”
Marie giggled again.
“So it's time for me to fall into your arms? Do I trip myself, or what?”
“You can't trip yourself. You're sitting down. You'd have to fall over or something.”
Marie thought for a second, then gasped, “Phil, I'm getting dizzy. Oh...” and fell against him. Phil caught her in his arms and pushed her back until he could look at her face. Her eyes looked very open.
“Marie, are you OK?”
“You said I had to fall over. What'd you think?”
“I think I should get that shirt for you. If I don't...Marie, you're to close for me to ignore what I'm feeling.”
Phil kissed her then, just a soft, almost friendly kiss, and then pulled away. Marie opened her eyes a second later, smiled, turned and layed down beside Phil, and then patted the floor. He stretched out beside her and took her in his arms. Marie's eyes glittered in the flickering light of the flames when he asked, “Are you sure about this.” Marie didn't say anything; she just put her arms around Phil's neck and kissed him.
The kiss wasn't just a friendly kiss. It was a parted-lips, teasing tongue kiss that left Phil almost breathless and wanting Marie as he hadn't wanted a woman in years. When Marie gently eased away, she looked at him and smiled.
“That's how I feel about this.”
Phil pulled Marie to him and put all the feelings for Marie he'd discovered over the weeks into the kiss. He was amazed at the way she responded. A little purring moan slipped from Marie's lips into his mouth, and he felt her hand stroking the back of is head. He touched Marie's side, gingerly at first, then moved it to stroke the side of her breast. He felt her hand slowly caress his back, then down over his hip, then to the front of his slacks. Marie's hand slowly searched for his cock, and upon finding it, stroked her hand over the rising bulge.
When Marie pulled gently away, she looked at him and grinned.
“I don't think I'm going to need that shirt to sleep in.”
Phil grinned back.
“Then what are you going to sleep in?”
Marie stroked his cheek.
“That big bed over there...with you...if you don't mind.”
“I don't think that's going to be a problem.”
Marie smiled again.
“You turn out the lights and get in bed. I'm going to used the bathroom again, but I'll be right back.”
Phil caught a glimpse of Marie's naked body just before she closed the bathroom door half-way and was pleased with what he saw. Marie's body wasn't the slender, tight body of a young girl, but he didn't like bodies like that. What he liked in a woman was what he saw – mature curves that spoke of children carried and nursed and the ripe fullness that only came as a woman passed through the years.
When Marie slipped in bed beside him, she whispered, “I like to leave the bathroom light on so I can find it in the dark if I need to.”
“That's weird. I do the same thing.”
Marie snuggled closer and laughed quietly.
“You have any other weird things you do?”
“I guess that depends on what you think is weird.”
“Let's see...do you eat peanut butter and dill pickle sandwiches?”
“Only on very special occasions.”
“How about...do you put mirrors on your shoes so you can look up women's dresses?”
“Haven't done that in, let's see, must be three weeks now.”
“It sounds like you're pretty normal to me.”
Phil slipped his hand down Marie's side, then gently squeezed her full breast.
“You feel pretty normal too.”
“If you keep doing that, I'm going to feel a lot better than normal.”
Phil went slowly with Marie, partly because he wasn't sure how she would respond and partly because he wasn't sure if he would. After a few minutes of kissing her while he fondled her breasts, Phil stroked her right nipple. Marie's moan caused his hardening cock to twitch against her thigh. He felt her nipple stiffen and then swell when he stroked it again. Marie caught her breath when he lightly pinched the rigid, ridged nub. A second later, Phil felt her soft hand on his cock and his uncertainty evaporated.
Marie had been nervous at first. She had hoped Phil would realize that's why she'd asked if he did any other weird things. The tingle that shot through her body when Phil caressed her breast melted away everything except the pent-up desire she'd been holding inside without realizing it. The low moan that slipped from her throat when Phil touched her nipple caused her a moment of embarrassment. At his second touch, she felt the first sign of arousal deep in her tummy. The light pinch caught her by surprise and she gasped slightly, both at the sensation that tightened her tummy and at the realization she was quickly becoming wet.
Phil's cock was satin smooth and rigid, and Marie loved the feeling as she stroked his shaft. She circled the swollen head with a fingertip and then stroked all the way down to Phil's balls. Marie cradled them gently in her hand and felt the two orbs moving smoothly inside their soft sack. She sighed as Phil pushed her nipple to the side and then let it slip from under his fingertip to pop back up.
Her mind was on only one thing. She wanted Phil, wanted to feel his body pressed tightly against hers, wanted to feel his cock filling her, and wanted to feel the release she'd only achieved in months with her own hands. After Phil lightly pinched that same nipple, it wasn’t want that Marie felt. The feeling was of need, a need to feel the tension building in her body until it was nearly unbearable, and then the heaving of her body into Phil’s strokes as that tension exploded into mindless exhilaration.
Phil was a little surprised when Marie rolled onto her side and lifted one smooth, soft thigh over him. He’d assumed they’d do like he and his wife usually did – Marie would spread her legs, he’d kneel between them, and then find her entrance with his cock and push it in. Instead, Marie had sort of taken control of what they were doing. He felt her pull on his back to turn him to face her, and after he did, the warmth and slippery wetness of her pussy lips on his cock head.
Marie stroked his cock head between her lips a few times, then moved it down and rocked her hips toward him. He didn’t need her to tell him what to do next. As soon as Phil felt his cock entering Marie, he moved a little more to his side and slowly pushed in.
Marie caught her breath when his cock entered her, not because Phil was too large, but because she hadn’t had that feeling in so long she’d forgotten. He was stretching her, stretching her open and filling the void she’d been filling with two fingers, but instead of the partial sensation, she felt his cockhead stretching the entire snug ring just inside her lips. She moaned as Phil pushed his cock deeper, deep enough the swollen head slipped past that snug ring. The feeling changed from being just stretched open a little to being stretched open deeper and deeper as Phil’s cock entered her.
Marie held her breath until she felt her lips pressed into her thighs, and then moaned when Phil stroked back out. She moaned louder when he rolled her nipple and stroked back inside her again. It was the crashing of the two sensations that caused that involuntary moan, the stretching feeling deep inside her body and then tingling sensation of his fingertips rolling her stiff nipple. Those two feelings crashed into her core and tightened her passage around the cock filling her.
Phil felt that contraction and rolled her nipple again, then bent his head enough he could suck on the turgid nub. Marie gasped and then moaned again, and couldn’t stop her body from pushing into on his stroking cock. When that happened, she felt that same stretching, but this time it was a little deeper. Marie put her hand on the back of Phil’s head to hold him on her nipple, and then moaned loudly when he pinched it between his lips.
Phil was lost in Marie. He’d fantasized some nights while his wife lay sleeping beside him about how it would be with Marie. He thought it would be just sex – he’d enter her and stroke away and Marie would gradually become more excited until she had an orgasm. He’d cum right after that and it would feel like it used to feel. What was happening was something he’d never before experienced. He wasn’t exciting Marie as much as she was exciting them both. He’d never thought a woman could be so erotic, so arousing that he had to work at staying with her and not cumming before she did, but that’s what was happening.
Every touch, every nibbling kiss to her taut and wrinkled nipple beds, every gentle suck to her rigid nipples, seemed to make Marie moan and thrust her body into his cock. That was enough to make him try to hold back, but the way her hands pushed his face into her breast or pulled at his hips to force his cock deeper inside her - that was making it very difficult to not just give up and let his body jerk and fill Marie with his cum.
It was when Marie began to tense up Phil thought he was going to lose control. He felt Marie pushing her body down over his cock and staying like that while she held her breath. A second later, she’d gasp and relax a little, only to do it again on his next stroke into her warm, slippery/sticky depths.
With each stroke, that pushing and holding him deep got longer and longer until he felt the surge building and knew he couldn’t hold back much longer. He rammed his cock into Marie when she tensed again, and was pulling back out when she cried out and her hips began to rock her pussy over his cock. Phil was able to pull out a little and then ram his cock back inside Marie before she dug her nails into his back and lost control of everything. The first spurt of cum flew out of his cock just as Marie cried out again and almost climbed on top of him. She was still like that, tense and shaking when he shot the second and then third spurt inside her quaking, contracting passage.
Phil laid there while Marie relaxed a little and then moved her body to stroke his cock in and out a little. She was still almost panting then, and didn’t slow her breathing until his cock slipped out. When it did, Marie put her cheek on his shoulder and held him tight with the arm over his chest. He could feel her heart beating through the heavy breast she had pressed into his chest.
It was a few minutes later that Marie giggled.
“Well, that was different.”
Phil asked her if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Marie stroked his chest.
“Definitely good. I haven’t felt this way in…no, I’ve never felt this way before.”
Phil lightly stroked her breast and smiled when Marie caught her breath.
“It’s never been like this for me either.”
In the light coming from the partially open bathroom door, Phil saw Marie lift her head to look at him.
“I don’t want this to be the last time I feel this way, but I can’t leave my husband.”
Phil stroked her cheek.
“I know. I can’t leave my wife either. Where does that leave us?”
Marie stroked her hand down Phil’s belly until she touched his cock.
“Right now, I don’t care. I just want to feel this way again.”
When Phil handed his expense report for the week to Jack, Jack sat there and stared at it for almost a minute, and then looked up at Phil.
“What the hell did you do, rent a mansion for the night?”
“No. It was the only room the hotel had left. I didn’t want or need a suite, but every other hotel was full because of the blizzard. It was either that or sleep in the airport, and after what I put up with that week to keep our orders, I wasn’t going to sleep on the floor.”
“Nobody cancelled, did they?”
“No, but only because of me. That ten percent increase was a lot for some of them to swallow. They’re not major corporations. They’re small businesses trying to make ends meet and if they have to raise their prices, which they will, they’ll lose some customers. Juno hasn’t raised their prices, in case you didn’t know that.”
Jack looked up from the expense report.
“I thought Juno would have to raise their prices. They have to be bleeding money like a stuck hog.”
“Well, they haven’t and their products are just as good as ours. If you want to put Juno under, we’ll have to compete on their level.”
Jack shook his head.
“I’ll have to borrow money to do that and with no profit, I won’t be able to pay even the interest on the loan.”
Phil thought maybe, just this once, Jack might listen to him.
“Jack, here’s what our customers are telling me. Juno is keeping their prices the same and they guarantee their products for a year, no questions asked. When was the last time a customer returned anything to us because it broke or didn’t work?”
Jack scratched his head and then smiled.
“Never. Our stuff is designed to have at least four times the strength it needs, and I’ve told Quality Control nothing leaves this factory unless it’s perfect.”
“Right”, said Phil. “ Now, the last time I looked at the financials, we were still making about two percent margin. I know that’s not a lot, but part of that is fake accounting. Marge is socking away about ten percent of sales every month in a warranty reserve we’ve never used. She’s also putting twenty percent of sales into a reserve for taxes, but we never pay that much. What if I go back and tell our customers we’ve changed our mind, that our prices will stay the same, but we’ll up the guarantee from one year to five? There’s no way Juno can compete with that because unlike us, their products do fail sometimes.”
Jack frowned again.
“Those reserves are my retirement account and what I budget for investment. Every year when we close the books, I take those reserves and what I don’t spend in equipment, I add to my 401k.”
“I know that, and I understand because we’re a small business too, but which would be worse, not increasing your 401k by quite as much or losing half our business to Juno? I can tell you most of the customers I talked to have probably already called Juno to see if they can supply their needs as soon as our current contracts expire. You’d do exactly the same thing if our suppliers raised their prices.”
Phil felt good when he left Jack’s office. As soon as he got back to his desk, he started calling customers and telling them Seawind had negotiated new contracts with their suppliers and would not only be able to stop the ten percent increase, but would lower their cost by one percent. He also told them he’d be back to see them in a week or so to buy them dinner as an apology.
That one percent was Jack’s idea. Phil knew it wouldn’t have been necessary, but Jack was Jack and Jack always had to have the best idea. As he put it, “Phil, this has given me an idea, an idea that should make Seawind the acme of marine hardware suppliers. I can hold off on my 401k for a couple of years without hurting myself much, so I think we should lower our prices by a percent. We’ll still stay in the black a little, and that oughta put Juno on their last legs.”
When Phil stepped onto the walkway that led from the plane into the Boston airport, he was smiling. He’d made a call from Memphis to Marie’s cell phone to tell her which flight he was on. He’d also asked her if they’d have time. Marie chuckled.
“Phil, it’s clear as a bell outside, so I doubt we’re in for another blizzard.”
“I was just hoping…but if you can’t, you can’t.”
Marie’s voice got a little softer then.
“I didn’t say we couldn’t. I just said there wasn’t any chance of another blizzard.”
“Then how can we…how can we be together?”
“You just get here and then I’ll tell you. I’m working baggage claim again, so I’ll probably need to relax. I’m sure you can help me do that.”
Marie was busy with a customer when she saw Phil. The frown on her face changed to a smile, and then back to a frown as she tapped on her keyboard. Phil waited until the guy left and then walked up to the counter.
“Another person who lost their baggage?”
“Yes, but at least he was civil about it. I’m ready for a cup of coffee. How about you?”
Over coffee, Phil asked her if there was a way they could be together, and Marie grinned.
“From after I get off work until tomorrow morning. Think that’ll be enough time?”
“Well, sure, but how? Don’t you have to go home tonight?”
Marie swirled her coffee cup, and then smiled.
“After you left the last time, I sat down with my husband. I told him I couldn’t keep on with him ignoring me in bed, and if he continued to do that, I was going to find a friend who wouldn’t. It was the first time we’d really talked about sex, so I didn’t understand what had happened to him until he told me.
“I don’t get him aroused anymore, but it isn’t just me. He doesn’t get aroused by young girls either like I always thought men did. He’s happy living with me, but he doesn’t have an interest in sex with me at all. He said his doctor told him it’s just an effect of aging and affects some men sooner than others.
“I asked him if there wasn’t some way to fix that, and he said he could start taking testosterone, but heart problems run in his family and his doctor didn’t recommend it because testosterone often causes plaque build up in the man’s arteries and that results in a heart attack.
“I asked him where that left me, and he said he didn’t know, but he still loved me and didn’t want me to leave him. I love him too, so I said I felt the same way but I was going crazy. We talked about it a little more before he said if it didn’t lead to anything except sex, he thought I should find that friend. He doesn’t want to know who it is or ever meet, but he’s willing to let me do what I need to do. So, do you want to be that friend?”
That night was the start of a relationship that most people would consider immoral, but it’s just a way to cope. Their spouses have no interest in intimacy anymore while Marie and Phil do. Phil’s trips to Boston always end up with him and Marie spending the evening and night together, and those nights tide them over for a couple of weeks.
That’s about how often Phil travels to the East Coast now even though the economy is better. It was another one of Jack’s ideas. Once the economy got better, he hired two more sales guys, but instead of giving them parts of the territory Phil had been covering by himself, Jack sent one to Florida and the other to California. He said since Seawind had captured the market on the East Coast, they were on the cusp of Seawind becoming the premier marine hardware supplier in the US, and he wanted to break into the market in Florida and California.
Phil spends a week visiting all the customers in the North East, and then, because he’s still the sales manager, he spends a week at his desk working on sales strategy with the two new guys. After that, it’s back to Boston for another week. He and Marie have Sunday night together when he gets there, and Saturday night and most of the Sunday before he leaves for home.
They’d both be lying if they said they didn’t have an emotional attachment as well as just enjoying having sex together. It’s probably not possible for one man and one woman to be intimate without that attachment forming. Neither would call that attachment love, but they would say it’s close. Phil is always happy to be coming home to his wife and Marie likes being at home with her husband, but on those Sundays, they’re not Phil, the husband, and Marie, the wife. They’re just two people who have found in each other what each lacked with their spouse, and they’re happy that happened.