"Ouch!" Claire Johnson clawed at her partner's bare back. "You're pinching me. Stop fucking me, this instant!"
Satisfied that Max Wilson at least had the grace to cease pounding her body, and pleased that his glistening bald head had turned dark red, Claire whipped her glare over to Melissa Hopkins-Gage--the mastermind behind this debacle. Claire ignored the surprised cameraman, and directed her venom at Melissa.
"This is not working." Her voice rose and then faltered. "I feel like I'm being fucked by a robot." She glowered at Max, propped above her on his hands and knees, gasping for air. She tried her best to ignore his hard cock still twitching inside her seeking release. "A robot that's missing some parts. Get your damn cock out of me."
Struggling for air, Max did as she demanded.
Claire scooted out from beneath him. She leaned against the headboard of the bed at the center of set two, bringing her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. She probably looked like she was protecting her virginity, which she could hardly remember yielding decades earlier.
"I always thought you were a bitch," Max said dryly, peeling off the shriveled condom before moving to sit beside her with his back against the headboard. His breathing still came in short bursts.
Maybe she'd saved his life by stopping him before he climaxed.
"And I wasn't pinching you," Max added. "You just didn't find the rhythm."
"That's a joke. You wouldn't know rhythm if it smacked you in the face."
Melissa's arms flailed as if she were flagging down a runaway train. Maybe she was. Claire winced at the pain on Melissa's young face. For a moment, that look reminded her of a former lover--Melissa's aunt. Claire blinked. The resemblance between Phoebe and Melissa was at the root of her current problem. The niece, like her former lover and professional partner, could wheedle more out of her than she liked.
Claire glanced quickly at Max. His cock lay shriveled almost to a nub between his legs. She smiled to herself. She did get a perverse sense of pleasure out of seeing men cringe before her fury. She looked up at his face. He wasn't cringing. If anything, he was laughing. Laughing at her? The bastard.
"Put these on," Melissa commanded, tossing a Center bathrobe to each of them. "We have to talk. Now!"
"I want that tape erased," Claire demanded, standing to punch an arm through one armhole. She reached for the other repeatedly without finding it. She felt Max hold the robe for her. Claire closed her eyes, muttered several Hail Marys under her breath, and pushed her arm through the sleeve.
With a tinge of remorse, she peered back at Melissa. For a diminutive woman, the dark-haired beauty could certainly look furious.
Melissa came to a standstill at the foot of the bed. She crossed her arms under her breasts. Claire thought she grew taller by at least three inches.
"I will not erase the tape."
Melissa's mouth turned into a twisted grin.
"Maybe later. If you two ever get it right. Or," she smiled brilliantly, "we might want to include this little scene in our instructional materials. It might help some of our viewers to see situations between a man and a woman that don't work out, that don't lead to orgasm."
Max ignored Claire. "If that's what you're looking for, you sure as hell got it."
Claire knotted the sash of her robe.
"This is not going to work, Melissa. All right," she sighed heavily, "I admit he's not a Neanderthal lout, but we can't get into sync." She scowled. "And I doubt we ever will."
She plopped back down on the bed hoping Melissa would give up on the entire idea of matching her with Max to demonstrate options for how older couples could maintain their sexuality. She didn't question the Center's mission in this area. She'd helped champion the cause with foundations and private donors.
Max was the problem. She winced as he sat back down on the side of the bed doing a good job of avoiding eye contact with her and Melissa.
"Nonsense." Melissa's features softened. "Maybe we expected too much out of the two of you too quickly. Claire, you haven't worked in front of a camera for years. And I know from personal experience," Melissa arched an eyebrow, "that Max is anything but a Neanderthal." She pursed her lips. "You remember, Max--the morning before we first worked on camera? We met for breakfast because you wanted us to get to know each other a little before meeting on set."
Claire saw Max nod cautiously.
"That was my idea," he said. "I didn't want you to think of me as some old guy conveniently attached to a cock."
"You succeeded. And I don't think of you as an old guy. And you, Claire." Melissa blew her a kiss. "It took time for us to be around each other before you mesmerized me with your tongue, and it took longer still, before I worked up the nerve to reciprocate."
Claire watched Melissa pause for breath, certain she wasn't going to like what was going to come out of the young woman's mouth next.
"You two simply need more time--time to be together off the set. You need to get to know each other before we can achieve what we want for our viewers."
"What?" Max looked shocked.
"Impossible!" Claire interjected quickly. "We don't have a single thing in common."
"You don't know that," Melissa insisted. "You don't know each other. Not really. Max only works occasionally for us. Surely you've seen him working with me? And I know you have a lot in common."
Claire's heart tripped. How much did Melissa know? She hadn't started working at the Center yet when Max's wife had come through the door like a lost waif looking for help with a nearly broken marriage. Melissa hadn't been there to offer a shoulder and share part of her heart with the redhead. Agnes had been insistent about what she required. She'd been the eager, able student. Claire had been the dedicated, capable teacher.
Agnes had become extremely devoted to the cause of educating others about the potential of human sexuality. She became an ardent advocate for the Center for Sexuality and Sex Practices. If the Center could save her marriage, then it could work its miracles for many others. Agnes had cajoled Max into working with her on camera to offer hope to aging couples who had suffered like they had from lack of knowledge and hope. Claire had never been present on set to watch them work together, and she'd only reviewed one of their tapes. That had been emotionally wrenching.
Claire realized Max shared his wife's passion, but he'd always resented the coach, the one who had taken on the responsibility for ushering Agnes into the varied arts of lovemaking. For her part, Claire had stayed away from Max. She'd supported his work with his wife, and after Agnes died, in time, his work with others--particularly with Melissa, with whom he'd developed a curious bond. The two of them had been glorious together along with Melissa's future husband and Center codirector, Harry Gage.
She'd known Harry since he had joined the Center staff. She was alarmed when he hired Melissa, a carbon-copy of Phoebe in her twenties. Neither he nor she had realized at the time that he'd just hired Phoebe's niece. Phoebe--Claire's lover since college days; Harry's lover until she left the Center to die.
Claire remembered well the day Melissa first worked with Max and Harry. The two men were so tender with Melissa and the girl responded so naturally, so genuinely. Claire shivered. The three of them had mesmerized even her and she'd thought she was far too jaded to experience that kind of voyeuristic glow again.
"Are you listening, Claire?"
Claire shook her head at Melissa.
"What? Sorry. Oh. I've seen him work. Just because he worked out well with you doesn't mean he will with me."
"I'm sure you share many things in common." Melissa pushed back strands of hair from her brow, then widened her stance. "You share a commitment to creating superb educational materials for older adults who may be in danger of losing touch with their sexual potential. You both are committed to making this Center thrive. Goodness, Claire, you're codirector of the Center. You've spent your entire professional career here. And you, Max, I know you. You wouldn't be doing this if you didn't share our passion for the Center's mission."
Melissa waited for each of them to nod their agreement.
"And you'll look great together on tape. You're both tall and slim. Claire, I nearly creamed when you wrapped your long legs around Max's tight butt as he suckled your boob. You looked sweet when you kissed his bald head and ran your fingers through his gray balding hair."
"I don't do sweet," Claire huffed, refusing to look at Max.
"And I love both of you, and I think you both love me." Melissa drew in a deep breath. She flashed an eyebrow. "You each owe me a lot. I'll take your lack of comment as agreement."
Claire was vaguely aware of Max shifting on the bed. He probably wanted to be somewhere else about as much as she did, but neither of them could avoid Melissa's withering schoolmarm glare. So why was Max so indebted to Melissa? Claire scowled. Like her aunt before her, Melissa didn't seem at all reluctant about calling in her debts.
"So this is what we are going to do," Melissa chirped happily.
Claire glowered at Max as they each responded in unison.
"The two of you," Melissa said, pointing at them, "will take some time to get to know each other. I," she added, pointing at herself, "will check in on your progress. When I or the two of you believe you are ready, we will do this scene over." She arched an eyebrow. "Until then, we're not erasing a thing," she said, pointing at the cameramen.
"You might want to take showers and set up your schedules." She turned away, then pivoted back around to face them. "Remember, I think you each have given me this advice at one time or another, be open to surprise. You don't have to love each other to be able to perform convincingly in front of the camera--but liking each other will help. Bye. Good luck with your homework."
"Now look what you've done," Max groused, sliding off the bed. "If you had cooperated, Melissa might've been satisfied and we could've gone on with our lives--alone and happy."
Claire tugged at her robe sash.
"It took two of us to screw this up." She scowled at the door Melissa had just exited and heaved a sigh. "Come to my office after you've showered. Maybe we can work something out. Melissa's not going to be satisfied until we do. She can be such a shrew."
"That's a good one, you calling her a shrew." Max held up his hand before she could retort. "All right. That wasn't helpful, I know." He frowned, looking somewhat sheepish. "I do owe Melissa a lot. I would've shriveled up into nothing if I hadn't renewed my sense of purpose. She encouraged me and helped me keep my confidence in my aging body. But now, I owe her."
Claire nodded knowingly.
"She does have a knack for doing that." A wisp of a smile split her lips. "Maybe if you and I can work out a truce of sorts--then we could team up to pay Melissa back for treating us like children."
Max chuckled as he headed toward the hall door and the Center bathrooms. "That could be fun." He turned and winked conspiratorially. "Aren't children supposed to have fun?"
"Someday those two are going to tire of your matchmaking efforts."
Melissa stuck her tongue out at her husband, then interlaced her fingers with his as they strolled down the hall to her office.
"Harry, you and I would probably not be married if it hadn't been for Claire's interference, if you recall."
"How could I ever forget?" Harry stood aside to let her enter the office. "She went too far on that shoot at the Catskill mansion. Dressing you in the same gown your aunt wore the last time she and I performed on camera. And then you had on the same jewel." He shook his head and shrugged. "Oh, hell. You may be right." He gave her a lecherous smile. "It would be a damn shame if we had missed out on each other."
She nodded. "So you see, I'm not doing anything Claire hasn't done."
"What about Max?" Harry continued. "Isn't he sort of an innocent bystander in all of this? Sort of the reluctant professor who only got involved because his wife twisted his arm?"
"Maybe at first, but he's committed to the cause, even if he only helps us out occasionally," she said, sitting on the couch. "But we can't let him slip away again. You even said he was in danger of fading away after his wife died. It was you who wanted to get him involved again with the Center. Wasn't that one of the reasons you sent me out to meet him not long after I joined the Center? I know you and Claire wanted to do a tape with an older man and a younger woman, but there must've been any number of men who would've been willing to help out."
"Particularly if they knew you were the young woman," he quipped. "No, you're right. The Center was Agnes' passion first, but she was able, in time, to draw Max into working with her on camera. They added a lot to our efforts to appeal to an older audience. But that doesn't really explain your penchant for getting Claire and Max together."
Melissa stared down at her hands lying in her lap as Harry sat down beside her. She gave him an impish grin.
"Maybe I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I've enjoyed Max since I first met him. He surpasses every fantasy I've ever had about English professors."
"You have a soft spot in your heart for everyone," Harry huffed. "So how many fantasies did you have about English professors? And have they all been fulfilled?"
"Max is a very considerate, tender man," Melissa said, ignoring his jibe. "You wouldn't have put us together on the set if you hadn't thought so yourself."
"That was before we were married."
"I have no desire to work with Max again," she interjected, in case her husband misunderstood.
"But you would if it was important for the work of the Center?"
Melissa scowled at Harry.
"Of course I would. That's different. But you're the only man I need."
"I know, I know. I'm not even sure why I'm pressing you, and I appreciate the fact that you're willing to work with Max. He is a dear friend of mine. I would trust him unquestionably."
"He holds a very special place for both of us," she said, squeezing Harry's fingers tight.
"He's the only other man I've allowed in my ass, and he's the only man we've worked with together, if you recall." She batted an eyelash at him.
"You do have a superb memory. I'll never forget that time either. I was afraid old Max was going to have a heart attack while pumping into your butt." Harry chuckled softly. "But then you clamped down so hard on my cock, I forgot about everything except fucking your vagina as rapidly as I could."
Melissa felt her nipples harden.
"Ah, you do have a memory for detail. Maybe someday we'll want to revise the Center's materials on three-ways."
"Maybe. But I thought we gave up working in front of the camera when we got married."
"Me, too," she replied.
"Then nothing is cast in stone?"
"I've noticed Simone has been sniffing around you from the moment we hired her."
Melissa ignored her husband's probing smile. "She's your research assistant."
"And a good one too. Even better than I'd hoped. She has quite a head on her shoulders, thinking through complex analysis, and she's an excellent interviewer."
"Her smile lights up a room," Melissa admitted. "You know she wants to work more on camera."
"She's talked to me about that. I think she's a natural performer. That may be a talent that helps her with going out and interviewing folks too." Harry squeezed Melissa's thigh. "Her dark skin would contrast very nicely with yours on camera. With Simone, you may have found your match for enthusiasm."
Melissa tried not to show too much interest.
"You know I'm okay with you working on set from time to time?" Harry asked.
"I know that. I just haven't decided yet." She gave him a half-smile. "Simone does seem eager--maybe too eager. Perhaps she can put that good head on her shoulders to other uses." Melissa placed her hand on Harry's inner thigh and nudged his semihard arousal. "I bet my favorite cock has wondered about that possibility more than once. She does dress to seduce."
Harry coughed, then returned her hand to her lap. "So, what else do you have in mind for Max and Claire?"
"I'm not sure, but I do think they need to spend time together outside the Center. Maybe we should send them on a trip."
"You are a devious woman. But you're right, certainly no more devious than Claire."
"And no more than my aunt was when she was alive."
"That's true. And your heart is usually in the right place."
"Usually?" Melissa smirked.
Harry looked down his long nose at her.
"I know." Melissa gave Harry a brilliant smile. "You and I were planning to represent the Center at that conference retreat on sexuality and aging at Monterey next week. We'll send Claire and Max instead."
"But...I was looking forward to us getting away." Harry shook his head. "Hell, you've got your mind made up. We'll send them. I doubt they'll be as happy about this change in plans as you are. But sure, Ms. Matchmaker, why not?"
Max sat with one leg over the other on Claire's office couch. He'd no sooner rapped on the door and entered when Melissa had followed, looking as if she'd won the lottery.
Melissa glanced back and forth between him and Claire, who remained safely sitting behind her desk with her mouth half-open and her eyes snapping.
"We know all we need to know about aging and sex." Max kept his voice soft and steady. "We're not strangers to either. We hardly need to attend a conference to learn more."
"I'm quite aware of that," Melissa puffed. "Not that either of you is old, but isn't that the point of the series we're trying to get off the ground? You're never too old for sex or intimacy. Who better to send to represent the Center? Harry and I can't speak from the same experience base. It's not that I expect you to learn more. I want the two of you to share what we are doing here at the Center. You will be advocates. And," Melissa glanced briefly at her feet, "you might find some time to get to know each other a bit more."
"That's what this is all about, young lady."
Claire's voice rose, but Max gave her credit for keeping her seat.
"Since when have you become a puppeteer?"
"You have more experience with that than I do," Melissa responded evenly. "But you both are committed to this project. If we can't get some decent work out of the two of you fairly soon, we'll have to either scrub the project or find replacements. People want more information on aging and sexuality. Melissa blew a strand of hair away from her lips, then raked her hands through her dark tresses. "When I go out to talk to community groups, that topic is right up there with safe sex practices and fighting AIDS. You might be surprised how many older women come up to me after a presentation at a church to quiz me about safe sex at their age. We know that in some states, with huge retirement populations, venereal disease and even AIDS is a significant problem, and perhaps even a greater fear." Looking more than a little frustrated, she folded her arms and shook her head. "Harry has often told me we wouldn't have a community education arm of the Center or an interest in aging and sexuality if it hadn't been for Agnes Wilson's strong advocacy and success at generating some necessary financial support."
Max gulped. He knew his cheeks were burning. His eyes misted. Melissa had no compunction about hitting below the belt. He tried to breathe. He knew how important this mission of the Center was for Melissa, and had been for Agnes. Hell, for him and Claire, too.
Melissa exhaled, almost closing her eyes.
"We've invested a lot of time and resources into this project--but maybe you two are ready to give up."
"Son of a bitch." Max looked at Claire and tried not to plead. "Agnes would never forgive us if we gave up."
Claire's shoulders slumped. She wet her lips and shook her head, then glared at Melissa and looked back at Max helplessly. They both knew they'd been trapped. Did Melissa have any idea how many buttons she'd just pushed? Max knew she saw Agnes as the glue that held them together. Did Melissa really think he'd been thrilled Claire had tutored his wife?
The two women hadn't worked often on camera together, but he knew the two scenes they'd done for a tape demonstrating the use of strap-ons were electric. Max swallowed. The ecstasy on Agnes' face had been wrenching as she toyed with Claire and then relentlessly pummeled her until Claire, laughing and thrashing, rode wave after wave of what seemed like an endless orgasm. He'd nearly worn out that tape and his arm. That tape had become his torture, his self-flagellation for letting another woman do for his wife what he hadn't been able to do.
Claire glanced at him and he nodded.
"We'll go," Claire said softly. "But don't get confused about the two of us, Missy. We are doing this for the Center. That's all." A small devilish smile crossed Claire's lips. "And just for the record, you have a long way to go before you match your aunt's and my skills at conniving."
Melissa shrugged her shoulders. Max gave her credit for keeping her mouth shut once she'd won.
"And," Claire said, pointing her fingers, "this little switch in plans will cost the Center some extra dollars."
"What do you mean?"
"Max and I will require separate rooms."
Max laughed, then nodded his agreement. "Absolutely, if you want me to come back a sane man, then separate rooms are a necessity."
"I'll see what I can arrange at such late notice." Melissa grinned, bowed from the waist and waved goodbye. The door shut quietly behind her.
Claire stretched her neck avoiding Max's gaze. He could get up and help her with her muscle tension, but he wasn't about to do that. She could stew in her own juices. She'd been a thorn in his side for years. And it didn't look like he was going to be getting rid of her anytime soon. He glanced at the door. Why couldn't Melissa stick to her own business? He loved that young woman a lot. Hell, she'd thrown him a lifeline. But she had no idea what she was asking of him.
He'd finally overcome his natural survival instincts to have sex with Claire on camera for the good of the Center and for the cause that he and Agnes had so vigorously shared. But Melissa wanted him and Claire to share intimacy like she shared with Harry. That was impossible. He and Claire had treaded far too much water over the years for that to happen.
"Well, are you going to say something?"
Max furrowed his brow at Claire who ran her fingers through her shoulder-length blond hair. He'd rarely seen Claire show any vulnerability. This was one of those rare moments. Perhaps he should treasure it by seeing how long it would last. But then he'd never been good at torturing insects when he was a kid. "Guess we'll go learn about aging and sexuality. Wonder if there'll be any other attendees our age. Maybe they'll be like Melissa--talking about something they don't know."
"There's a lot that girl doesn't know." Claire smiled sadly. "Some days she reminds me more and more of her aunt. So glib. So daring. So adventurous. And so completely convinced she knows what's best for others."
"Phoebe was all of that." Max drew in a deep breath, then let it out slowly. "So, did Phoebe approve of you volunteering to be Agnes' coach?"
Claire sat up straight and gave him a strange stare. "My, you are getting bolder with age. How many years have you wanted to ask that question?"
He shrugged. "Are you going to answer?"
"Why not?" Claire rubbed her arm. "No, Phoebe did not approve. And I didn't volunteer."
Max scowled, then turned his head to the side.
"Not really," Claire insisted. "Your wife could be very insistent."
He nodded. "I'll give you that much."
Claire exhaled and sighed. "You must know that Agnes believed the Center was the last resort for saving your marriage."
He grunted noncommittally. "Did that mean you had to take her on as lover?"
"Agnes didn't know what to do after your daughter left for college. You and she had drifted apart." She hesitated. "The bedroom, apparently, had never been at the center of your life together."
"I wish I knew half of what I know now when we first met. She was a delightful woman."
"Agnes was a fifty-year-old woman when she came to the Center, but determined. Innocent, but very determined to save her marriage. She assumed if she could bring excitement to you, and purpose to her life, then you both had a chance."
"And she found that in your arms?"
"Of course not." Claire pursed her lips. "You must know that's not true. Through her work here at the Center, she found her passion. She found a purpose beyond her family--even beyond herself. Is that so bad?"
Max shook his head. "At the time, I didn't realize she wanted more."
"But you did before she died." Claire glanced toward the door as if escape might be her desire.
Maybe he should leave. He started to rise from the couch.
Claire shook her head. "You asked. I'm not finished."
Max settled back down on the cushions.
"Agnes wanted to work for the Center. She was more than willing to volunteer. We found her some filing tasks, but that didn't satisfy her for long. I wanted her to learn how to run a camera, but she wasn't interested. She wanted to work in front of the camera because she wanted viewers to know that older folks wanted active sex lives too."
"But she didn't have one."
"That was a problem. She really didn't know enough to produce more than a ten or fifteen-minute tape." Claire crossed her arms and stared at him. "I wonder why?"
He tried not to blush.
"So I became her coach. She never tried to hide that fact from you or anyone else. She never was with another man. She didn't want to betray you."
"Another man seemed hardly necessary, given your wide array of sex toys and strap-ons."
"I won't deny it. We got along quite fine, and I enjoyed being with Agnes. I believe she enjoyed being with me, but there was still something missing for her."
Max refused to break the silence.
"You." She nodded. "So we worked on how she might entice you into sex play--be more open to exploring new ways of being together. You probably won't like hearing this, but I literally often role-played you, so Agnes could hone her sexual skills."
"So all of that was to do me a favor? Bullshit!"
"I said we enjoyed each other, but Agnes wanted you, too. It's ironic. Given that Melissa is trying to throw us together, that's also what Agnes wanted. She'd suggested a three-way with you several times. I resisted. And from what I heard, so did you."
"You better believe it. Agnes was enough woman for me, and I certainly didn't need her sex coach."
"Maybe I've said too much. I didn't intend to stir up the past."
"No," Max backpedaled. "I didn't mean to get huffy. I wanted to know. Melissa has no idea what she's brewing with her little intrigues."
"You're right about that." Claire paused. "So, do we go to Monterey?"
"I'll give you an answer, but I want you to answer another question first."
"Why did you complain about me pinching you when we were taping on the set earlier today?"
He saw Claire blush from her chin to her high cheekbones.
"I thought so. You were on the verge of climaxing," Max said sheepishly.
"No." Claire shook her head looking trapped. "Okay. I didn't want you to make me come."
"And I was?"
Claire stroked her throat and nodded.
Claire didn't avoid him, but her fingers trembled slightly. When she spoke, he had to lean close to make out her raspy whisper.
"I don't know."