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Ch. 3.1 A Margarita and Too Many Mojitos

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The party was at the Tequila Steak House down the street. Drinks, dinner, loud Mexican brass band music; everything a girl needed for a good time, but Beth was completely miserable. She was stuck in the corner with Susan, Mike and two others she didn't know from the Porch Decorating group and for some reason, they wouldn't stop talking about dealing with grown children.

Surrounded by this chatter, her thoughts returned continuously to the papers on her kitchen counter. The only personal touch to them was the hand written post-it from Brian: 'Fill out, do not sign and return promptly.' A post-it with eight words from a man who had promised until death do them part.

As an additional insult, if the injury of receiving a petition for divorce wasn't enough, Brian had sent a young intern from his girlfriend's office to service her. Service, as in give her the papers. She had been awestruck by the young man's unnaturally round pink cheeks and plethora of nasal hair. The sight had left her unable to come up with any biting messages for him to deliver back to her so-called husband.

Beth chewed away at her food and nursed a margarita in silence for the most part, not that anyone next to her noticed. Dessert was brought out and Beth almost regretted not having ordered any. After dinner, she decided that infidelity was not just for her husband, so she finished the margarita and had a fling with a charming mojito.

Russell had ordered the double chocolate cake with bourbon vanilla icing. He was sitting three people down on the opposite side and he barely glanced at the cake when the waiter set it in front of him. Then he picked up his fork and slowly cut through the spongy, moist, dark chocolate point, lifted the bite with agonizing precision, and, drawing out the moment, opened his smooth lips to slide the cake inside. He closed and chewed gently, savoring the sweet sensations and pleasure.

And Beth wasn't sure if she wanted to be the cake or if she wanted to be eating the cake off of Russell's bare chest. Be lifted to his mouth for a slow, savoring taste or to spread the icing all over his shining skin so she could lick it off with wicked slowness and then suck it off of his-

"This is so good, Beth! Do you want a bite?" Susan asked her, bumping her with her elbow. She had a crème brulée that admittedly looked tasty, although it would have looked better on Russell's bare stomach.

"Thanks, I'm stuffed," Beth said, shaking her head no. "I'd love another mojito, though if you see the waiter!"

The music kept up its spicy hopping and the mojitos kept coming. Every once in a while, a few people would leave so the others would play musical chairs and crowd closer together until only a hand full of people were still at the restaurant.

When Beth woke up at five till noon on Saturday the next day (in her own bed and quite alone) she was certain that Russell had been one of the six people remaining at the end of the evening and that somehow, she had managed to sit next to him. She couldn't remember much more than that. Oh, yes, and there had been a taxi ride home with Donna, but Russell had given her address to the taxi driver. Interesting.

She sat up and her head felt like it had the whole Mexican brass band stuffed inside it. She swayed to her feet and picked her way delicately to the bathroom for some aspirin and a drink of water. Next, she had to make it to the kitchen for something to eat—something along the lines of dry toast and black coffee.

She had been staring at her blinking message button on the phone next to the coffee maker for at least ten minutes before it registered in her brain that someone had called. She picked up the phone, touched the screen and groaned.

It was Brian. She resisted her first urge to throw the phone in the garbage disposal and chop it to smithereens, and forced herself to listen to his message. "Bethany, I know you have received the papers to fill out by now. Do not sign them yet. I expect you to do this promptly and contact me so I can arrange a meeting with a notary. Please do not put this off, I thank you for your cooperation."

Cooperation? What was wrong with him? She dropped her aching head to the cool countertop, willing herself not to cry or start throwing dishes at the fireplace. Again.

There was a second message, and she almost erased it, thinking it was Brian hounding her. It wasn't his or his girlfriend's number, though. Nervous, she touched the symbol.

Russell's whiskey and smoke voice rolled into her ear and she shivered with pleasure. This was a voice she could strip her clothes off for and then wrap up in, letting it heat every inch of her exposed skin. His words were a different matter, though, and in another minute the screaming would start. But first:

"Hi, Beth, this is Russell. Listen, I know this is fast, but I stayed up all night thinking about what you said, about your idea. I think it's great. How could I refuse? I hope this isn't too pushy, but I called Jerry this morning and worked out the logistics, then I called the agency and booked our flights. Unfortunately, they only had seats for either right away or for in a couple of months' time, and it seemed like the better choice to go right away. Like you said, you need this vacation. Therefore, I will see you at the airport on Monday at 9:30; we are going with Explorer Express and the flight's at 11:30. Your half of the bargain is done, and don't worry, I'll do my half. Oh, and don't forget your sunscreen and swimsuit. See you Monday."

Sunscreen and swimsuit? Airport? His half of the bargain? What on earth had she gotten herself into? Oh, my God. The All Expenses Paid Vacation for Two in Paradise! She leapt for her purse and dumped it on the table and when it was empty, she shook it a few more times. The winning coupon was gone. At that point, the screaming began.

*** Chapter to be continued! ***

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