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eBook by Mickie B. Ashling
eBook Category: Erotica/Gay-Lesbian Erotica
eBook Description: On his way home from vacation, Scott Gregory, a closeted sub, hooks up with the gorgeous Red, a flamboyant dom, for a thrilling one-off at a BDSM bar. They part ways after a satisfying scene... but meet again when Robin Kennedy--Red--arrives at his new job as a dental hygienist and discovers one of his two bosses is Scott. Robin and Scott embark on a journey of exploration into their kinkier sides and discover they're more than compatible--they're a perfect match. But keeping employer/employee and Dom/sub separate at the office presents difficulties, and to make matters even more complicated, the owner of the dental practice is an acknowledged homophobe. They fall in love, but Robin chafes at all the secrecy, refusing to live in the shadows. Scott isn't as brave; he's desperate to protect his job and his future. Will they be able to find some middle ground... or will their entire relationship fall apart because of fear?
eBook Publisher: Dreamspinner Press/Dreamspinner Press, Published: 2009, 2009
Fictionwise Release Date: October 2009
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62 Reader Ratings:
Scott stood at the entrance of the club, waiting for his eyes to adjust to the dim lights, his body tightening with anticipation as music washed over him. Stopping in San Ramon had seemed like a good idea. He'd been browsing the Internet last night, searching for BDSM clubs, and this one had popped up with a three-star rating. He supposed that it was some kind of sign, since he'd have to drive right by it on his way home to San Francisco. He was on the last leg of a monthlong vacation, and right now he was looking for what he needed, hoping to end it with a bang.
So far nothing seemed any different. The music, the lights, and the men were nothing special. The dance floor was packed with hot guys gyrating against each other, shirtless or practically shirtless, in their wife-beaters and cutoffs, showing the bodies that were their only form of currency. The rippling muscles were so much a part of being an attractive gay man that one was almost compelled to appear naked to show off the merchandise.
On the surface, it looked like any other club, but he knew there was another area in the building where people could go to participate in a form of entertainment that was still considered deviant and perverse. This was the final frontier of sexual liberation, the dark side of loving that people hid away, considering it to be shameful and socially unacceptable. To Scott, it was as necessary as breathing.
He stood there in his faded jeans and simple black shirt scanning the room, hoping to see someone out of the ordinary. He didn't plan on settling tonight. He'd already spent the whole month tolerating mediocre hook-ups for the simple reason that nothing better was around. He knew that his expectations were impossibly high and that so far everyone had fallen short. But he was the eternal optimist, the glass-half-full guy who was convinced that the man of his dreams did, in fact, exist. He was looking for the impossible. He wanted romance within a D/s relationship; a love connection with a strong and dominant man.
He tried to picture what someone else would see, watching him standing at the door. He was slightly older than the rest of the men here tonight, carrying his thirty-three years very well. He had high cheekbones, a smooth forehead, and a mop of honey-colored hair that he wore longer than most men in his profession, which only added to the illusion of youth. He ran a hand through it, pushing the strands out of his eyes, a habit that was so much a part of him.
He licked his full lips, making them appear even more enticing. His eyes were his trump card, the pièce de résistance that always got him the prize. When he settled them on a man of his choice, he was pretty hard to ignore. They were a clear green, the color of wet leaves after a spring shower, fringed by dark blond eyelashes.
Five minutes at the door convinced him that his side trip seemed like a waste of time. There was no one who attracted him. He decided to have a drink before making the trip back to the city, and he moved over to the bar and waited for someone to take his order. His eyes scanned the dance floor again, hoping he'd missed something, but there was nothing that was remotely interesting.
"What can I get you?"
He turned at the sound of the voice and stared into the blue eyes of the twenty-something-year-old asking the question. Scott was pleasantly surprised at the sight of the man looking at him expectantly. He had a light dusting of freckles on his nose and a mass of unruly curls in a burnished copper color. His teeth shone straight and white, always a plus in Scott's eyes.
"I'll have a Corona with a twist."
"You got it."
The bartender turned and pulled a bottle out and popped the cap, stuck a twist of lime into the opening and handed it to Scott. "Is there anything else I can get you?"
"Are you on the menu?"
He laughed quickly, a blush licking his cheeks. Scott was charmed.
"Not while I'm on the job."
"What's your name?"
"What time do you get off?" Scott was intrigued and was hoping to see some sign of interest on the other man's part. He hadn't moved from his spot in front of him, which boded well.
"My shift ends in thirty minutes."
"I can wait, if you want me to?"
Scott saw the relief wash over Red's face. "I'd like that," he said, wiping up the counter and pocketing the change someone had left for him. "Let me know if I can get you anything else."
Red grinned and then winked at him before moving off to help another customer.
Scott spent the next thirty minutes alternately watching the dancers and turning back to observe Red. He seemed to have the art of bartending down pat, moving effortlessly from customer to customer. Scott took this opportunity to stare at him shamelessly, his eyes moving up and down Red's body unobserved. He was wearing loose cargo pants and a light blue sleeveless T-shirt that was probably two sizes too small. It stretched across a torso that was well formed, showing off arms that bulged in all the right places. They were well defined but not grotesque, covered with a light layer of reddish fuzz, landscaped with the light brown freckles that usually plagued natural redheads. He tried to imagine what Red looked like without clothes on and was surprised at how quickly his body reacted to the visual.
The man wasn't good looking in the true sense of the word. He was sharp contrasts with his bright red hair and milky white skin, but he had a natural grace and moved like a dancer. He was confident and quietly sexy, making jokes with the customers. The guys seemed to love him, as clearly evidenced by the overflowing tip jar. He was about six feet tall, which suited Scott just fine. He preferred men who were his height. Red's pants fit nicely around a perfectly shaped ass, and Scott's breath caught in his throat and the blood rushed to his groin when he saw the outline of what looked like handcuffs in Red's back pocket. He took another sip of his drink, hoping to still his excitement.
About five minutes to twelve, an older guy walked in and stepped behind the bar. He patted Red on the back and wished him a good night. He must have been the owner, because he seemed very proprietary and everyone knew him. Red looked over at Scott and raised an eyebrow. "Ready?"
"You bet." Scott drained his beer and stood to join him.
In the parking lot, he headed to his car, assuming Red would follow. He felt a hand grab his and pull him roughly against him, crushing him with an open-mouthed kiss that was anything but gentle.
"I've been dying to do this all night," Red moaned, crushing Scott's mouth with an aggressive kiss that left no room for argument. Scott's response was immediate, the groan coming from deep in his chest, inciting Red to pull him closer. They explored each other's mouths, wrestling for control with their tongues. Red won the battle, nibbling and sucking on Scott's lower lip before slipping his tongue into Scott's mouth, tracing the soft inner lip and then pushing against the tentative tongue that sought to explore his. "Your mouth was made for kissing," Red whispered, pulling away for a second to stare into Scott's eyes.
"Kiss me again," Scott urged, pulling Red back to resume the surprisingly delicious foreplay. Kissing a complete stranger wasn't one of Scott's favorite things, but Red was making him forget a few of his own rules. He ran his hands up and down Red's back, resting them lightly on his ass before slipping his hand into Red's back pocket and slowly pulling out the handcuffs.
"I want you to use these on me," Scott said, dangling the cuffs in front of Red's face.
Red grinned. "You like it rough, baby?"
Scott nodded, barely able to croak out the word yes.
"Are you going to let me have my way with you?" Red asked seductively, opening up the doors of Scott's vivid imagination.
"Make me scream."
"Where's your car?"
Scott pulled Red toward a dark gray BMW, breaking away from the lip-lock long enough to open the back door. They got into the vehicle and latched onto each other again, exchanging hot kisses while their hands tugged at their clothing.
"Please," Scott begged, watching as Red unzipped his pants and lowered them around his hips, exposing a surprisingly thick cock pulsing with need. Scott bent down and took him in his mouth, moaning his satisfaction while Red grabbed handfuls of Scott's hair and pulled tightly. "God, that feels so good," he said, thrusting slowly against Scott's throat.
Scott worked Red with every technique he knew, taking him deep and caressing him with practiced throat muscles.
"So good, baby...."
"You like that?" Scott asked, ridiculously pleased for some reason. He wanted to make an impression.
Scott twirled his tongue around the swollen head, now dotted with drops of moisture that he lapped up, enjoying the sweet, musky taste. He ran his tongue up and down the rigid shaft, nipping at the silky skin, taking a hairless ball into his mouth and rolling it around playfully. He pushed Red and made him lie down on the seat to get better access, yanking off his jeans and tossing them aside. He positioned one of Red's legs on the back of the car seat with the other spread wide to give him more room, and he started licking his perineum, moving his tongue in slow, torturous circles as he listened to the man moaning. He played with the puckered skin around his asshole, flicking his tongue in and out as Red clenched and unclenched, squeezing Scott's tongue with each push. He moved back to concentrate on Red's cock, swallowing him to the hilt, pressing his nose up against Red's pubic bone, working him again with throat muscles that could make a grown man weep.
"I'm close, dude."
Scott nodded, and he felt Red shoot. He swallowed easily, creating even more tension around the pulsating cock, and he reveled in the noises that were coming out of Red's mouth, the sounds of pleasure accompanying each spurt of hot liquid burning its way down his throat. Finally, when the noises stopped, he moved up to Red's face and kissed him, sharing the ejaculate that still coated his tongue.
"Outstanding blowjob." Red huffed, trying to catch a breath.
"My pleasure. Now, tie me up, and do your thing."
Red laughed, delighted by Scott's aggressiveness, and he switched places with him, pulling off the black T-shirt and undoing Scott's belt buckle. His breath caught in his throat when he saw that there was nothing between Scott and his jeans. "Shit, I love a guy that goes commando."
"Christ," Red replied, grabbing the waistband and tugging at Scott's jeans. He growled when he saw the erection that bobbed enticingly. "You ready to be my slut boy?"
His hands moved up Scott's torso and rested on his nipples, twisting them sharply, loving the sounds as Scott whimpered in pain.
"Like that, my beautiful pain slut?" Red looked up quickly and saw Scott's eyes were closed. He took the handcuffs and slipped them through the door handles before attaching them to Scott's wrists.
"Tell me what you want, baby."
"Hurt me," Scott begged, thrashing against Red, moaning loudly when he felt the first bite on the soft skin of his inner thigh even as the strong hands twisted nipples that were rock-hard and aching. "Please," he begged again, inciting Red to clench the thighs that were spread wantonly, digging in his nails as Scott rutted against him.
Red sat back on his heels and slapped Scott's ass, cherishing each moan that came out of the beautiful lips, following it up with a series of open-handed slaps on Scott's thighs and balls. He bent down and rubbed his cheek against hot and inflamed skin, every nerve ending alive with sensation.
"Fuck me," Scott pleaded, pushing Red into rooting around in his pants pocket for the condom that was always on stand-by. He tore at the packet with his teeth, rolled the lubricated sheath onto his distended cock, and pushed into Scott without preamble, into the sweetest vise that gripped him like a soft hand as the blond hissed and thrashed underneath him.
"Jesus, fuck," Red exclaimed, shutting his eyes, swept along by the powerful current of heat that was coursing through his veins as Scott pushed against him, digging his heels into the soft leather of the car seat to get better leverage. He pounded into Scott, thrusting roughly against him, grabbing onto the blond hair and pulling hard, wrenching a gasp out of Scott as he lay trapped underneath him.
"Like that, slut boy?"
"Yes," Scott acknowledged, twisting his lower body and moving against the hips that rolled around expertly, nudging his prostate.
Red bent down and kissed him savagely, biting his lower lip, drawing a few drops of blood, and Scott shuddered through his orgasm, spraying Red's torso and neck with ropes of hot semen that kept on coming and coming and coming as Scott screamed, bucking his hips and thrashing against the body that drilled him without letting up until finally, Red came as well, moaning with pleasure as he rode the tight body underneath him, the orgasm traveling with lightning speed all the way up from his groin to explode out his brain.
"Holy fucking shit," Red groaned, collapsing on Scott, listening as their combined heartbeats knocked against their chests.
Eventually, they had to move. Red pulled off the key that was hanging on a chain around his neck and unlocked the cuffs, rubbing each of Scott's wrists to make sure the blood was circulating properly.
"You okay?" he asked, looking down at the stranger who lay completely sated underneath him.
"More than okay," Scott replied dreamily. "Can I see you again?"
"I'd love to hook up again, baby. You were incredible, so fucking responsive."
"I'm leaving town tomorrow."
"I know," Red answered in a voice deep with regret. "I would have enjoyed getting to know you," he said, pulling on his pants and scrounging for his shirt.
"Are you going far?" Scott asked, picking up his clothes.
"You think you'll be back?"
"I doubt it."
Scott moved over and kissed Red soundly on the lips. "Story of my life." He laughed ruefully, moved away, and slipped his shirt on.
Scott ripped off his gloves and tossed them into the trash. He'd just finished placing six implants into his patient's lower jaw and was getting ready to dismiss her. Three hours of work that yielded twelve thousand six hundred dollars wasn't bad. He could get used to those numbers.
"Kim will give you all your post-op instructions and my pager number in case you need me later on. You shouldn't have too much discomfort, but if you feel any pain, take the Vicodin. Don't be a martyr, Mrs. Peterson."
"I won't, Dr. Gregory. Thank you so much."
"You're quite welcome. I'd like to see you in a week."
Scott made his way down the hall and into his small office. He glanced at the pink message slip on his desk and was surprised to see the name of the missed caller. He hadn't heard from Susie in at least a year, but he was thrilled she'd called. It would be nice to talk to someone who really knew him.
He picked up his cell phone and keyed in her number.
"Sue! What a shock!"
"Scotty, hey! Thanks for calling back."
"What's going on, girly? It's been a while."
"I know! I'd heard you moved out there, and I've been meaning to get in touch with you, but somehow things just got away from me."
"Are you still in Chicago?" Scott asked. He and Susie met at Northwestern University where he was taking his prerequisites before enrolling in dental school. She was getting her bachelor's degree in liberal arts. They met in a biology class and hit it off, sharing a passion for blood and guts, much to his delight. Finding a friend who didn't mind the sight of blood or discussing diseases of the mouth was always a challenge, but Susie seemed more than comfortable with all of it. So much so that she'd become a dental assistant.
"How did you end up in San Francisco?" she asked. "Last I heard, you were practicing in Raleigh?"
"I got lucky, Sue. I was offered a partnership in a damn good practice, and I jumped on it. You know how much I've wanted to move out here."
"The land of the rainbow flag."
"Hey, none of that."
"What? Don't tell me you're in the closet again?"
"For a while. The guy who owns this practice isn't exactly a free thinker."
"Scott, why do you do these things to yourself?"
"Listen, I haven't heard from you in over a year, and I don't need a lecture. I had enough of those when I was seeing you on a daily basis."
Susie laughed on her end, the same laugh he remembered so well, and it made him realize how lonely he'd been since his move. Other than the people here at the office, he'd hardly made any friends, choosing to stick close to home after work rather than risk being found out.
"Are you coming out to the Bay Area? I'd love to see you."
"I'm actually thinking of leaving Chicago, and I wondered if you might need an assistant?"
"No way! I'd love it! The girl who's helping me now is a temp and not really that great. It'll be nice working with someone who knows what she's doing."
"Are you serious?"
"Absolutely! When can you start?"
Susie laughed again, that rich laugh that always made him smile, it was so contagious. "Give me a few weeks, will you? I've got shit to do before I can leave."
"Like get rid of my apartment, quit my job, pack. You know. Stuff."
"Yeah. What about your mom?"
"She's in a nursing home. We had to transfer her about six months ago."
"I'm sorry to hear that."
"She doesn't even know who I am anymore."
"Shit," Scott said quietly, feeling instant empathy for Susie. He knew how devoted she was to her mother.
"Is this why you're moving?"
"I'm so bored, Scott. I feel like my life is going nowhere, not to mention that my love life sucks big time."
"What's the matter? Have they run out of Latinos in the Windy City?"
"Well, don't fret. I'm sure there's someone out here who you can devour in your usual style."
"You think so? Are there any straight men in that city?"
"Of course there are; I just don't know any," he said ruefully. He didn't know any gay men either, which wasn't surprising because he'd been living like a monk since he'd moved. He leaned his head on his high-backed chair and allowed himself to think about that guy in San Ramon. His cock twitched when he thought back to their short meeting. He'd give anything to see him again.
"I'm here, Susie."
"I thought I lost you."
"No, just zoned out for a sec. So, when can I expect you?"
"Give me three weeks."
"Okay. Do you want me to find you a place?"
"That would be great. Make sure they take pets."
"Are you bringing Simon?"
"I would sooner leave my left kidney."
"Christ! You and that cat are attached at the hip."
"He's family, Scott."
"All right, already. So you want an apartment that allows pets. How about a view? Is that important?"
"Only if it's nine inches with a fine set of balls to go with it."
"I see that you and I are going to be fighting over the same men again."
"Most likely, but at least I do something about it!"
"Hey! Is that the way to talk to your prospective boss?"
"Sorry, boss. Tell me you have a partner or at least a boyfriend?"
"Shh. Behave," Scott admonished, even though he secretly loved her bantering. She was more than just a good friend to him. She knew him inside and out.
"Listen," Susie said, "I'm so excited about this! I can hardly wait to see you."
"I am too, Suz. Get your pretty butt over here as soon as you can. I'll e-mail you the links to the apartments. What's your address?"
"Susiebrioni at Gmail."
"Got it. You should be hearing from me in a few days."
"Thank you, Scott. You have no idea how relieved I am."
"It'll be nice to have you around," he said gently, meaning every word. "Talk to you soon, okay?"
He hung up and looked at his schedule. There was time for a quick sandwich before starting the afternoon, so he threw on a jacket and made his way out of the office. He decided to run over to the basement at Macy's. The food court was surprisingly good, and there was usually a table available so he didn't have to eat standing up.
It took about fifteen minutes before he was actually seated and biting into his turkey and Swiss. The bag of jalapeno-flavored potato chips lay open, tempting him, and he threw one in his mouth and crunched down.
Susie Brioni. How lucky could be get? Having her assist would not only solve the problem of finding competent help, it might even assuage some of the isolation he was feeling since he'd moved out West. He missed having someone to talk to and go out with.
He's been out here for three months now and was just getting comfortable with his surroundings. San Francisco was everything he'd hoped it would be. The city was beautiful; the variety and quality of the food was unbelievable. He'd never really been a foodie, but since moving to California, he'd begun to appreciate fine food and wine. It also kept him away from the clubs and temptation.
He knew he was being paranoid, but his entire future was riding on this contract with Ron. It would be worth it in the end. In the meantime, he would endure his state of celibacy and suffer for a while.
Having Susie around might be a good way to circumvent Ron's curiosity about his nonexistent love life. She'd been a great beard for him in the past, so it would be a natural thing for them to pick up where they'd left off. In any case, other than that hot guy in San Ramon, he hadn't seen anything to tempt him, which was a good thing, he supposed.
* * * *
Susie said her goodbyes to Scott and put her phone away before she unlocked the door to her apartment. She felt the brush against her leg before she heard the purring. Simon was her ten-year-old Himalayan with a personality that reminded her constantly who was boss. He butted his head against her chin and purred like a small power tool as she nuzzled his warm neck; blowing on his face and giggling when he made the little hissing noises that let her know he wasn't amused. She left him on the kitchen table and went over to the pantry to dig out a can of Fancy Feast, and she scooped out half of the tuna in his glass dish and placed it in front of him so that he could eat his late dinner while she had hers.
She chewed on the deep-dish spinach and garlic pizza, barely tasting what would normally be one of her favorite meals. She was mentally exhausted, worn out from a life that seemed to be all about duty and not enough fun. The daily visits to the nursing home to look in on her mother were finally getting to her. It would have been worth it if she was recognized, but the sad lady in the wheelchair was not the woman Susie had grown up with. That vibrant, attractive blonde had disappeared, and the withered shell with the gray hair and the vacant blue eyes was no one she knew. Her visits were more for her own state of mind than her mother's, who had no idea who Susie was. Yet Susie continued to stop by every night on her way home from work to bring her a daisy, her favorite flower. The nurses thought her gesture made a difference; they seemed to think that a spark of life would flare in the old lady's eyes when they replaced the flower in her tiny bud vase, but Susie knew better. No one was home in that brain.
It was becoming more and more obvious that she needed to make a change. She was thirty years old and in her prime, but she had nothing to show for it. No husband or children to keep her in Chicago, no family to speak of other than her invalid mother and a stepfather she wasn't close to. The only time she remembered his existence was when she received his monthly check, a bonus from the trust fund her mother set up years before her mental breakdown. He was one in the long line of men who had littered her formative years, but he'd actually married her mother and stuck around, unlike all the other shadowy figures who had moved in and out of her mother's bedroom, usually leaving early in the morning before the kid would wake up. Or so her mother thought.
She didn't realize that her daughter heard everything at night as she lay in bed, clutching her pillow. Susie could never figure out what the fights were about, but the noises of passion, the drunken weeping, the repeated words of anger and abuse the men would hurl at her mother were a constant thing she had to endure.
It was around that time that Susie began to pleasure herself, discovering the joys of sexual release through masturbation. Nothing else seemed to calm her down or lull her into a state of forgetfulness. She had become so adept at it that when she finally reached the age of puberty and started dating, she found most of the boys to be lacking. They were inexperienced and inept, and when she told them what they needed to do to make her happy, they resented her and found her controlling. It was a pattern that kept repeating, like the hot dogs at a lousy Cubs game.
It seemed as if she'd had better choices a few years ago, but her selection was getting more and more limited. She had exhausted the gene pool at all the neighborhood bars, or maybe she was getting more discriminating with age. Who knew? What she did know was that she was bored and restless.
Marriage wasn't an option for her. She'd sworn it away years ago when she stopped believing in happy endings. Her biological father took off when she was only four, choosing freedom over the love of a little girl and her mother. Susie didn't believe in love and monogamy. Her family was living proof that it was an unattainable goal.
She opted for adventure instead, for a life filled with beautiful men and good sex. Susie craved that magical feeling of first encounters, that gut-wrenching attraction that one could only achieve with someone new. The thrill of finding a guy who'd let her be on top and tie him up once in a while was her constant goal. Elusive, but achieved on rare occasions.
She supposed that many people considered her opinions on sex and marriage to be a bit extreme. Men balked at her aggressiveness, turned off by her need to be in charge. She knew no other way. The few times she'd tried to act the gentle and submissive partner had been a disaster, and the men could tell it was all an act and not really who she was.
Susie believed in hard work tempered with hard play. She was well aware of all her responsibilities and had no problem taking them on, but she felt she'd earned her right to mess around whenever the need arose. She'd gone to college and was in the work force, even though no one could understand her interest in dentistry. She wasn't sure what attracted her about the profession, but she enjoyed every minute of it. She'd been a dental assistant for almost seven years and was damned good at her job.
Calling Scott was a brilliant move on her part. She'd forgotten what a good friend he could be since they'd parted ways, but hearing his voice tonight had reminded her of all the good times they'd had together.
Scott was a brilliant periodontist with hands of gold. She'd never assisted anyone else who was quite as good. He was easy to be around and low-key, not high-strung or egocentric like a lot of surgeons she'd worked with. He was gentle with his patients, yet always on the cutting edge of technique, more than capable of performing whatever was necessary to bring someone back to good periodontal health.
It would be an easy transition for her, now that she knew where she was going and who her employer would be. Even with her trust fund, she needed something to do and money to do it with. She couldn't get very far on two thousand dollars a month. Not the way she liked to live. Having this job would give her freedom of choice, something she was rabid about.
She got up and started stripping on her way to the bathroom, pausing at the full-length mirror to appraise her body ruthlessly. Her breasts were full and well-formed. They were also natural, not store bought. Her stomach was flat, her long legs firm and golden brown, thanks to the biweekly tanning sessions. Her chestnut-colored hair was the only legacy her Italian father left her. It fell in thick waves around her shoulders and had bronze and gold highlights. Her eyes were Romanesque as well, heavy-lidded and framed by perfectly arched eyebrows that looked painted on. Her hazel eyes were expressive and mirrored all her emotions, often times too easily. She had yet to master the talent of hiding her feelings.
After her shower, she grabbed a thick towel and wrapped it around herself, twisting her hair in another one. In the bedroom, she grabbed for her phone, speed dialing her stepfather, eager to be done with this conversation.
"Susie." The voice on the other line was terse, annoyed because she'd woken him. "Do you have any idea what time it is?"
"I'm sorry. I just thought you should know that I'm planning to leave Chicago."
"Where are you going?"
"San Francisco. You need to make alternative arrangements for Mom."
"Your mother will be just fine. She won't even know you're gone."
His words cut to the quick, reinforcing what she already knew. "I realize that, however, it would make me feel a lot better if you would visit her occasionally."
"I try and make time for her, Susie, but I'm a busy man."
"Why the sudden urge to move?"
"I'm bored out of my mind."
"Why don't you go on a trip? Boredom is no reason to leave town."
"Nah ... I'd just have to come back here. I need to get a life."
"Listen, you do what you have to do. Your mother's arrangement in the nursing home won't change with your departure. She has the best of care."
"I'm aware of that, Dad. I would just feel better if I knew she had some human contact if I were to leave."
"She'll be fine," he said again, shifting tone slightly. Susie could tell he was uncomfortable with the entire conversation and where it was heading.
"Will you visit her once in a while?"
"When do you plan to move?"
"As soon as I get rid of my apartment and pack my things,"
"Why don't you let me take care of that? I can have you packed and moved in a few weeks if it's what you really want."
"I do. In fact, I already have a job."
"Well, that's a plus. When did you do that?"
"I just spoke to my friend, Scott Gregory. He's in practice in San Francisco and needs an assistant."
"That's great! Let's talk about this in the morning, Susie. It's late."
"I know, Dad. I'm sorry I woke you." She hung up, relieved that she'd gotten that out of the way. Her stepfather was a stranger in many ways, yet she couldn't fault him for his financial support. His checkbook was always ready when she or her mother needed it. It was a different story when it came to feelings. They had never connected on an emotional level. He was the man her mother had married, and she had resented him from the beginning, shutting him out of her heart completely. Maybe if she'd let him into her world, they'd have been closer, but she'd been convinced he'd walk out, just like all the other men. He'd proven her wrong and had stuck it out, caring for a woman who he loved in his own fashion.
She continued to think of San Francisco as her potential new home. She'd been there several times, but it was years ago, when she was much younger and unable to explore the nightlife. It was a charming city, no doubt about that, with its hills and streetcars and fabulous food. The restaurants stood out in her brain since her stepfather owned so many of them. She recalled visits to North Beach and platters heaped with Dungeness crab.
She threw on a nightgown and turned off the lights before she slipped into bed. For the first time in months she relaxed, knowing her life was about to change direction. She realized that she was borderline depressive and this feeling of ennui was a symptom of her present situation. It would do her a world of good to get away and embark on this new adventure. Knowing she had a friend and a confidant waiting for her in a new city was the only thing that put a smile on her face just before she dozed off.