Married by Mistake Chapter 53. Singapore

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Chapter 53. Singapore

After he left Hiroshima, Japan, Tom’s plane traveled over the expansive eastern Pacific Ocean, the early day was clear and broken clouds. The Pacific Wizard’s upgraded twin engines operated so smooth and so well-balanced, one would hardly know they pushed the big plan at hundreds of miles-per-hour as he wandered around the open expanse of the big jet alone.

Tom walked the length of the plane, using the restroom. At his designated altitude, he still flew slow compared to the commercial airliners.

Not meant for blistering speed, his craft and home was a yacht, after all, a flying boat. And even with the upgrades in the engines, it still traveled at a sedate speed of a little less than six-hundred kilometers-per-hour, about thirty-percent slower compared to commercial passenger jet.

But, it was his home.

He passed over the water, the autopilot followed the path programmed in the flight computer. The Japanese were sticklers about accuracy and with the unusual private jet, made good and sure that he had the proper data set logged into the computer.

He stood behind the pilot’s seat, he did not sit back down, just stood there and watched the machine fly on itself with the automatic guidance system engaged. He had spent a lot of time in the plane in recent weeks. Although his arm was no longer oozing blood, he kept applying new, clean dressings, if the air-pressure changes caused some unexpected problems. The last thing he wanted, to lose the use of his injured arm.

It would have a scar for some time that would be impressive to show off. But for now it was an angry line that crossed his forearm, as if someone hit him with an ax.

It was quite impressive to the unprepared, if he could show it off. But there was no one to show it to while being on the Pacific Wizard in mid-flight.

Tom took a deep breath and let it out in a controlled slow exhale, it felt so good, he stretched a second time before he went to his desk and picked up the tablet computer. It was the one he used so often to write on and sat back in the pilot seat, where he could keep an eye on the displays.

Radar indicated several aircraft above and below, a heavy jet was passing over him going the same direction. He read the display and looked the specs up on his computer and shook his head at the numbers it displayed on the size and speed of the larger plane.

Laughing, the engines on the passenger jet was larger by far than the two that powered the Wizard. Even with the engine upgrades when he purchased the big jet through his company, the specs made him a tiny bit envious.

If he could get another upgrade and put those on his yacht.

Laughing out loud again, he realized he would have to have the engines out on longer stalks or have divots pounded into the fuselage of the plane to fit the big fan-powered blowtorches.

A man could stand up inside the big airliner’s engines if he had a mind to.

He could spend all day in the air with Kaylee if he had the plane like those. Except for the cost, some twenty-five thousand US dollars per hour!

She would have to paint a lot to sell her creations to help offset the cost of flying a privately owned seven-eight-seven.

*Even if it is just a fantasy.* Tom shook his head. *There was no way to buy one of those wide-bodied birds.*

The memory of the woman echoed in his head.

His shoulders sagged. He had spent almost the last two hours not thinking of that raven-haired artist.

She had made him laugh, and even if she had not intended to do so, she had hurt him to the core of his heart.

More than he would ever admit to anyone except himself. It was important to him that she kept her promise to… He forgot the other man’s name except he was a congressional aide of some kind.

Shaking his head, he returned to his writing, trying to keep Leonard the Leafy Sea Dragon and his friend Weeds, on a child’s level of understanding. This story had become one about keeping promises.

“A promise kept, makes a person’s word valued.” He typed on the screen in the word bubble of Wendel, the Weedy Sea Dragon.

Still, as he wrote the adventures of Leonard and Weeds his mind drifted to the mote of loneliness in his mind.

The autopilot computer chimed, it was time to make radio contact with Singapore and begin his descent.

Checking his fuel, he was still had a third of his operational fuel left. Traveling the way he had of late, the service techs in San Francisco had fitted his yacht with fuel cells and turned the luxury jet into a virtual gas-can with wings.

Tom, hopped from one city to the next from book-con to comic-con for signing of books and traveled alone, he had flown the great circle route with no one to talk to in the big plane.

Still, he had the computers and could video chat with anyone he chose. But he had no one to call. So he followed his schedule, his eyes settling on a the event that he had attended after Dr. Manga’s installation, the event where the sponsor set him up with a date-for-hire.

He laughed sadly at his perception of the date, that woman came from a company the organizer hired at the Frankfurt comic-con to escort him so that he would look even better with the beautiful woman on his arm.

Tom laughed as the night had progressed and the escort was in fact, more than an escort. With a Master’s Degree in biology and organic chemistry. She was wonderful to talk with an ability to see both sides of an argument, a quick wit and the ability to shut down the probing questions on her relationship with Tom.

Even when one person tried to prove that she was some gold-digger with no brains.

‟I hoped you would slap down that SOB from the vomit-rag tabloid, but jeeze!” Tom commented when they were alone and he laughed. The sight of the tabloid reporter made to look like an imbecile tickled him. “That was beyond good!”

She called herself Krystal with a slight Saxony-German accent, and Tom immediately doubted that was her real name. As far as her education, he could not prove she lied about a Master’s Degree, and she could talk with anyone about nearly any subject. Even the most recent journals of learned circles of chemistry.

When Tom started to talk to her the next morning, she picked up the phone called someone, then told him to get dressed.

‟We are going to breakfast.” She smiled. Taking him by the hand and led him out the door of the hotel.

‟Sorry about last night, I have a lot of things…”

‟Shhh… Mister Harte. Things happen, sometimes they don’t. You are awesome and you did a lot of public interaction at that event. In total, I am very impressed with your work.”

‟You have read my books?”

‟I’ll read the rest tonight, but I read all the children’s books while you slept.” She tapped her phone.

‟Wow. That’s a lot of books, I’ve written for a quite a few years now.”

‟I can read two-thousand words per minute. That’s measured, sir.” She smiled. ‟I can type one-hundred words-a-minute, and I speak five languages, there is little that gets by me.”

‟Anything else? Why are you with me, why not at your own convention?”

‟I’m still in debt for school and a chance compete for a place on the Olympic Archery team.” She said as they stepped into the elevator, alone. “I need to purchase some equipment to keep up with the other competitors.”

Tom laughed, then she kissed him deeply.

‟That’s for being wonderful.” She said softly, coughing with a guilty sound.

‟You said you couldn’t kiss me last night.”

‟Yes, I broke the rule. Sue me.” She chuckled as the doors opened. No one was there to snap pictures or talk to them. She knew the way around the crowded hotel.

‟You are good.” Tom said, looking around. They had come out of an elevator facing away from the foyer and walked out a side door.

‟Logistics and protection. Part of the job.” Only then did Tom notice that Krystal’s eyes were quick to take in everything.

‟We can walk out now. We have reservations at the Meadow. It is where we will meet some of your cohorts in crime.”

‟My cohort… What?” Tom looked sideways at her.

‟The other authors. Each one has an escort to get them there and on time.”

‟So you are a babysitter?”

Krystal laughed. It was a musical sound.

‟I am an escort, but our company requires special skills that is beyond the typecast Hollywood version.” She said softly. As they got into a dark-windowed limousine. ‟I am here to make you look good and to keep you safe.”

Tom boggled.

‟And I thought you were just smart.”

‟Not bad for a call girl?” Crystal said. ‟Don’t worry about my emotional state. I am well compensated to keep you safe.”

‟Who would want to hurt me? I’m just a storyteller.”

‟You don’t know?” Her face became serious, no longer a tall, Nordic beauty that graced the floor, but a military-esque hard look of a bodyguard. ‟There was a threat to the convention. Because of your novel and movie, it is felt that you are a high-value target.”

‟Oh crap…” Tom boggled. “So you are a bodyguard? But just not armed.”

“Oh yes, sir I am.”

“Please for the thousandth time? Call me Tom.” He said.

“Yes, Tom, I’m armed. I carry devices always within reach.” She slid up her skirt, where he could see she carried four knives and two small pistols with silencers in thigh holsters. “Point two-two caliber with sound suppressors. Power is not as important as placement.”

Tom could not get his mind off what was under her skirt for the rest of the trip in .

That was over a week ago. Today he stood inside the Wizard far above the eastern edge of the Pacific Ocean descending into Singapore. Here, he was to meet with a local publisher and distributor for children’s books and he received an invitation to stay at a high-mountain villa. He would to try to get his stories published in the island country. A fresh market for him.

The autopilot chimed and returned control to the human pilot and Tom guided the big jet down into the approach lane.

Slow descent and a perfect touch down with mild weather, the Wizard rumbled down the taxiway to where the crews indicated with their long, bright-colored batons.

The engines powered down with the typical sound of jets and Tom stood out of his seat. Opening the door, and stepped out into the sunshine of the beautiful southeast Asia day.

A few hours later, Tom would wish to never see such a day again.

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Married by Mistake Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

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Chapter 51. Watching the Bay

*Homework!*

*Ugh!* She had cottonmouth from the awkward sleep position on her tablet. In a moment she laughed when she sat up. She left a face print on the smooth, high gloss finish of the computer’s screen. *So much homework! Not enough coffee!*

Every night. Kaylee had not taken time to smoke even one bowl in two days. She sketched every day and, after the first few days, it brought her no joy. A still-life of the bay from her balcony, then she went to the beach and painted there.

One late afternoon the memory of Glenn returned in a blast of fury, in a heated moment of inspiration she threw sand on the paint, before it dried, unable to rework the image, she displayed it in class.

She expected Doctor Fayse to reject the sand-textured painting out of hand, but he instead gave her extra points for the painted colors and strokes of the brush and sand effect, giving the feeling of emotion of anger and rage that she had created.

Rage?

Yeah. Oh yeah, she was angry. She kicked Tom out of her life in favor of Glenn.

And then Glenn screwed the pooch on that subject. Samantha, too for that matter, and his life.

That he could not see his way to keep his DNA in check, really did not hurt.

*It’s that he is, rather was, supposed to be my best friend, too. He should have talked to me, not just give a half-limp kiss and never say a word about a pregnant wife.*

*Yeah, he screwed his life up, all right.* She kicked an innocent stick of wood on the ground hard enough that the little driftwood twig skipped across the parking lot. *But so did I.*

Tom was overdue in the bay and she was unable to keep away from his website. It was no help, just an information page, no “Contact Me” information, there was no way for her to email him.

Georgia closed his email that she had in her phone, after he dealt with that agent, it looked like he signed with another company and there was no direct contact with him through that web-site either.

Never in the news and the events on his web page were out of date and ended with Doctor Manga’s installation at Cambridge University in the UK.

Still, everyday she went to the beach with an occasional drive past the airport, but the closed football-field sized hanger doors looked as if they had not been used and there was a noticeable lack of activity around the building.

Another week dragged past and the wet season was coming, she would go home for Christmas soon and Tom’s plane still had not returned.

Early Saturday, Kaylee was in a deep sleep and the sun had not yet come up. She had spent her Friday night in deep study and memorized her half-dozen assignments and typed her class reports on each with an original point of view as required by the professors.

Seven hours a day in classes, another four-hours at home on her computer, another shift at the beer and ribs cook-house. She felt overwhelmed, as so many college students do.

She had nightmare dreams of the reports when her phone rang, saving her from being attacked by a anthropomorphized, giant report on an artist that she could not recognize. She was thankful for that save.

It was Melanie. She loved her sister more than anyone in the world at that instant.

‟Mmph. Hel-” Kaylee yawned and dropped her phone on her face. ‟Lo? Melanie ?”

‟Tiny! I found him!” Melanie was wide awake. ‟I know where Tom is!”

‟Whath timeish ish it?” Kaylee was almost incoherent. She had not slept well, then it had hit her in last night’s studies and she slept like the dead without any sleep aid or to cook hash-brownies to assist in her stress. “Tom? Who’s you talkin’ ’bout?”

‟It’s quarter of three. Why are you sleeping? You are always up at this time.”

‟Not th’ last four days… Mel, I was asleep, issa ya drunk?” Kaylee slurred her words as if she had was drunk herself. “Wha’ di’ you say about who? Wha’ Tom?”

‟No! Noooo…I have been on the hunt for Tom.” She sounded like she found a gold nugget after a long search. ‟You know I had Steven check some things for me?”

‟Sheven? Ahem..Steven? Th’ Stalker?” Kaylee interrupted. “Wonder” *yawn* “Ful. C’n I g’back sleep now?”

‟Not a stalker.” A pause as her sister contemplated the conversation. ‟Okay, well, maybe I am. But it’s for a good cause!”

Kaylee laughed while she balanced the phone on her head and pulled her arm under the blanket while her younger sister babbled news about a guy named Tom and his travels.

‟Did you hear me? He is in Australia.” Mel said to her sister in a sad tone of voice. ‟Aw. Kaylee, I think he has moved there.”

‟Moovmmph… Moved there?” Kaylee ‘s brain did not register the conversation still.

Then she blinked and stared into the dark.

She was wide awake with a sudden rush of thoughts.

“You mean TOM? My Tom?” She said loud enough and had to grab at the phone. ‟Tom has children’s books published there. Southern Oz.” 

‟Where?” Melanie did not catch what her older sister said.

‟Australia, he called it Oz a lot.” She did not want to wake up this much, but now she was awake and not happy. ‟Can I sleep? I need to sleep. I’m too awake, I don’t wanna be awake.”

‟Well, you need to stop by that hanger and go ask. Not just drive by.”

‟I won’t stalk him.” Kaylee said, she struggled to dive back into sleep and try hard to forget that screwed up chapter of her life.

‟You’re not a stalker if you’re worried about him.” Melanie said in conspiratorial tones. ”I was worried. You remember the look on his face when you and he were here?”

‟I remember you squeaked like a mouse and fell off of the sofa.” She grumbled and snuggled back under the blankets.

‟That never happened. He startled me.” Her sister was defensive. ‟But he did have a big smile. Tiny, you made a happy man.”

‟You just want me to hook up with him again.” She mumbled. “Melly, I’m going back…”

‟If you don’t, I will.” Melanie interrupted.

“…to sleep.” Kaylee finished.

‟If you keep on that subject, I’m going to hang up on you.” Kaylee twisted the phone around so the light from the screen didn’t bother her.

‟Okay, I’ll let you go.” Melanie said.

‟Good.”

‟You need to get some sleep, you are a bitch at night.” Younger sisters, sometimes, annoy and Melanie was making it her number-one trait as far as Tom was concerned.

‟Good night, Mel.” And she broke the connection, laughing herself to sleep.

*When she gets older, she will be the most famous busy-body in our family.* Was Kaylee ’s last thought before sleep reclaimed her.

The morning after the phone call. Kaylee walked around in the apartment, off in her emotional bubble. It took two-hours for her to figure out what was bothering her.

That phone call at zero-dark-thirty by her over caffeinated sister who was more insane about Tom than cats were about laser-pointers.

She made coffee in an old-school way of heated up water in a pot, then she poured the scalding liquid over Kona coffee grounds in a single-cup filter.

Not for the first time, she drank her coffee on the balcony and looked towards the picturesque bay.

And not for the first time, she saw only beautiful blue water and boats.

And not for the first time…

She wept.

Married by Mistake Chapter 44. Something missing from your mouth

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Chapter 44. Something Missing from your mouth

Home! It made Kaylee happy. There! There at the memorial park where, one summer’s day, she discovered that if she wore her hair down, Glenn would run his fingers through her hair and enjoyed the texture of her curls.

Over there, he invited her to skinny-dip with him at the pond.  But she was still a victim of strep-throat and wouldn’t swim. Instead Glenn just suggested she lay naked on the rocks, which she did! After laughter of that day and she pointed out that her dad would hurt him if pops ever found out, it was good summer memory of that year, too.

The taxi ride was typical of the area, battered on snowy roads and potholes. The cab, strictly functional with a rough ride on studded tires, was normal for the suburban type of taxi.

Home was so close, she could walk it from here. Her excitement was oddly muted.

Her thoughts turned back time and again to the man she left in the rain where he stood alone.

She looked out the window and told herself to shake the fog of melancholy off, Tom would be on the plane by now and be above the clouds far away from her, he was now history. Maybe.

He did have that moment. A look that bothered her. He reminisced with her and it should have made him smile, but he had a look of unfathomable sadness for a brief moment. A deep look like someone who once before stood on the edge of the road to say good-bye and could not bear to do it again. Then he was his quirky self again with a wide smile. 

They had a great summer, but they were careful with each other and honest. Neither she or Tom expected it to last forever.

Kaylee was honest with Tom, she had a promise to keep. She and Tom, until that day at the start of summer, a lifetime ago it seemed. They did not know each other.

He was some random guy on a beach who wrote notes on a tablet computer.

She was a college student that had a really, really bad day.

He was the man that she would have not expected to wake up next to after a night of drink and smoke. *And married!*

It was so unexpected, she had gotten stoned many times and had never had even a hint that she and a date might get married.

*But there’s that sparkle about Tom. A color of soul that I could see even through my wine goggles and pharmaceuticals.* The heart of the matter was her heart, in the grand scheme of the universe, could the heart feel fondness about the strange man in the flying-yacht?

If not for two bits of information.

One: That Tom never asked. Was she with him for the simple reason of his money?

The answer was no, and that she even wondered about herself, it caused her to follow through with annulment of her marriage with Tom in a way that no one knew. Just to prove to herself the honesty of her heart.

And they did not have a pre-nup. His implicit trust her in her heart and soul. That there was no second thought, as if that was even needed. She left that life with her conscience clear, but with doubt in her heart.

And her heart did ache. Excited as for the question Glenn was about to ask, it ached for the quirky humor, adventurous spirit of Thomas Harte, the airship thief of hearts.

Still, she had Glenn, the boy that she first got stoned with, grew up with and had such a long history. Everyone knew that Glenn and Kaylee were best of friends and one day they would be married.

Every mile the taxi drove towards the home she grew up in, her smile widened. She wondered if everyone would be there, except Melanie who stayed behind for the start of early term classes.

The bump of the pothole that had been in the intersection for the last decade brought her out of her introspective moments.

She was home.

The cab driver got out and walked to the back of the taxi. For a moment, she expected the cabbie to open the door for her. Instead he opened the trunk and took her bags out.

Kaylee laughed at herself.

She’d been spoiled!

She pushed on the door and it opened with a rusty groan. A noise that cars get when the hinges exposed to the harsh elements are often stressed with constant open and shut, far beyond those of a normal car.

After he sat the bags on the sidewalk, the cabbie tipped his hat to Kaylee .

‟Thank you, miss.” He smiled as he looked at the bills she gave him and counted an extra twenty.

‟Keep the change and thank you.” Kaylee smiled.

The rain had stopped for a few minutes. By the looks of the clouds and the dark columns that obscured the hills and lowlands, it will rain again in a few minutes.

She gathered the bags up in her arms, she suddenly felt like an overloaded pack-mule — and she packed light!

The humor in the situation tickled her again. She was back home and happy. Soon she would get a big hug from mom’n’dad. Then to see Glenn, if he had not yet arrived at the house.

She had messed up everyone’s schedules, she knew, she took the private jet to an airport that was so much closer, it seemed a wise move.

Dad had emailed her, and he directed her on what was the best airline and the most on time. Her plane would land around dinner time and he would pick her up then. That made her shake her head it began to snow at the scheduled time of arrival on her smart phone if she followed the plans that the patriarch of the family had planned.

Dad’s office was fifteen minutes from the airport in Portland and he would pick her up on the way home. Except that Kaylee was eight-hours early and the airport she arrived at was an hour closer. She would surprise everyone when she walked through the door.

Up the steps, she stood at the doorbell for a moment. Oddly the small, pale mark on her finger where the jeweled band had been the last month stood out in her awareness. It was not very noticeable to the rest of the world, but to her it was a giant flag.

A leftover memory. A good memory, but one that she did not want exposed.

Not just yet, anyway. Mel, her sister, knew, she was the only one in the family aware of any of the events in the past summer.

It promised that an intense conversation with mom in the near future would happen after she unpacked and settled in.

The the first few notes of Westminster chimes sounded when she pushed the button, the sound made goosebumps on her skin that had little to do with the cold, moist air. The mission “Surprise!” was now active.

The door opened and her mom took a moment to register that her eldest daughter stood in front of her.

‟Kaylee!” The elder version of the daughter shrieked and jumped to hug Kaylee . ‟What? Where did you come from? How are you here so early? No one is here. Oh my God! We need to call your dad before he leaves early to pick you up.”

She walked into the house and was assailed by the smell of coffee, the primary drink in the house since before Kaylee could remember. The warm scent was pervasive and tickled her senses with chocolate notes. She was ready for a cup of coffee that her mother would make in a french press and then store the fragrant black liquid in the same kind of insulated pots she used at the cafe’s.

Mom often took the time off to make the coffee at home, too. As the owner of a chain of cafe’s, Linda Grant could take any time off she wished.

‟I only have to work half the day, and it doesn’t matter which twelve hours.” She would often joke. An accountant by her diploma, Mother Grant discovered that she had a strong business acumen and transformed a small, money-pit café into five salary-equivalent coffee and sandwich shops.

Mom’s recent history was a surprise for both of the Grant women as they talked.

Then a pause in the conversation.

“What have you been up to? You’ve arrived home late this summer. Any troubles with classes?” Mom asked.

‟It’s a long story, mom. But I promise I’ll tell you later. Glenn’s car just pulled up in front.” She stood up and hugged her mom and walked calmly to the door.

Then flew off the porch into the arms of what most of the girls in town agreed was the most handsome boy in town.

Glenn Greggory Schroder, president of the student body at Lincoln High School in his senior year. After graduation, he studied to become a congressional page then an assistant, he worked on his voter base so when he ran for an elected office life would be much easier while the he stumped for votes.

Six-foot-tall, blue-eyes of Danish extraction, Glenn, destined in his life to be elected to congress and, in breathless whispers by girls, a governor of the state, or even greater, office.

The friends that knew him, team members from the chess club and the debate team knew that he had a mind as dull as a hammer. But his talent for comeback was whip-quick. He never seemed to let that he was wrong or had the facts twisted ever stop his arguements, then if that did not work he would try to change the one subject to another that he had a handle on.

And he could drink! Only once did Glenn admit that he was even close to a DUI when the police wanted to pull him over after drank beer while home from school.

The officer that had tried to chase them, got hung up in a narrow lane and with a seven-point turn around, he had fallen so far behind that when he pulled into the driveway behind the parked station-wagon, everyone had already exited the car and sat around the pool with drinks in hand.

Unable to prove who was behind the wheel or violations of open beverage law occurred while they were in the car, the officer issued a weak threat that he would keep an eye on them.

In the small Oregon town, the officer always had his eye out.

Glenn admitted to the group, even when Kaylee sat in his lap that he was really too wasted to drive.

This set off a fight between Kaylee and himself.

Still and somehow, they stayed together. But with threats and argument, Glenn never admitted that he had ever did drink and drive again.

He never even admitted that he attended any party in school or on his internship in Washington.

Today, the only admission he had been his surprise at his girlfriends appearance.

‟Hi!”

‟Ohmygod! I have missed you!” Kaylee nearly screamed as they almost fell down into the wet grass of her parent’s house.

“You’re home! You weren’t supposed to arrive until after six o’clock tonight.”

‟I had a chance to catch an earlier flight and surprise everyone. ‟

‟You did that!” Glenn smiled a crooked smile, but there was wrongness about it.

‟Your mouth needs something.” Kaylee said with a sideways grin.

‟What?” The Nordic blue eyes almost crinkled in good humor.

‟My lips!” With that, she kissed him deeply.

The kiss was long and passionate of a couple that had not kissed in a long time.

But it was a troubled kiss. Kaylee pulled back.

‟I thought you would be happier to see me.”

‟I was not ready for you. I have one more stop to make, I need to shop before I come back.”

‟Ooh… Would it be… Oh, I don’t know. Important?” She got to her feet and almost danced in excitement.

‟Oh quite.” Glenn said. ‟I need to talk with you later, after you say hello to your mom and dad.”

‟I have gotten mom, already. Mom just texted Dad when I got in.” Kaylee bounced on the balls of her feet.

‟You have changed up my plans, I have a few stops to make, I was told to drop this server plate off to your mom. She said it is for a ham tonight and needed it.”

Glenn reached in his car and pulled out a silver tray with local names and places etched around the edges.

‟When I come back, you and I will go for a ride downtown.  I need to talk to you.” Glenn said. ‟It’s serious.”

‟Oh.” She smiled but he did not. She refused to let him dampen her spirits or change her course of thought. She took the platter and kissed him, again.

‟I look forward to our talk!”

She watched him drive off, her smile faded to a frown. He acted different. His smile was wrong and his eyes were in a far-away place.

Inside her heart, she worried that he might be in trouble with the law, or maybe he ran afoul of the law in the capital with possession of an illegal substance and was about to be charged or had gotten caught in a undercover operation.

She walked back to the house to give her mom the big platter. A pensive look crossed her face.

The more she thought, the more she worried.

Married by Mistake Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

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Chapter 41. Afterglow and Tables

Candles, perfumed smoke of a cedar-wick that crackled on the far table wafted through the room with two exhausted lovers relaxed in the soft light.

Tom still had his shirt half-on, he was too drunk to take it off with one arm when they got home, the white material stained from when he fell into a fountain. .

Kaylee kissed Tom’s chest as he slept. Six hours of dance and drink and then home to the penthouse pushed him over the edge of exhaustion more than once, he drank too many cups of coffee to keep going.

Now, with his shoes removed, he was in a deep sleep, despite where he lay his recovering arm.

Small marks on his chest would take a few days to heal where she had bitten him during a slow dance, but between the ice-cubes she dropped down his shirt and kissing, he was sleeping with his arms around her. The pain of his wounded arm forgotten as was the wound in both their hearts while their bodies recovered from the intense celebration.

They were friends and even if her promise had to take them each on a separate path in life, she knew in time that he would relax more.

‟You know,” Tom said quietly, little more than a whisper. ‟If this is what it is like getting  annulled from you, I want to do this once a week, at least.”

Kaylee laughed quietly, the sun was going down and they were about to wake up.

‟There is a private gaming table with our names on it?” She asked.

‟Now you mention it.” Tom snuffled. ‟We do.”

‟You said you like to play blackjack?” She asked and pressed her body against his, she was still in her silk party clothes, too tired the night before to undress. She wanted to remember what it felt like and she wanted to touch every inch of him for as long as she could.

All too soon, this journey of passion and party would be over and she would go back to the life that she had planned since before puberty.

Artist, student, possibly even the wife of a congressman. Elected officials had a more complex life while trying to do their jobs.

Glenn often said they had to make hard choices that might make them unpopular with the voters. So the right thing was the thing that would get them removed from office.

It was a wonderful, great time build a life.

If it wasn’t for Tom and this past few weeks of wonder and passion. An exciting summer of build-up to the wedding and the first years together with Glenn.

She lightly touched Tom’s chest. He twitched with a slightly hysterical giggle. His body was still tingled from the intense excitement of the impromptu party and dances she made him do while he drank expensive wines until his words slurred.

His smooth and, now, hairless chest. Her skill with argument, convincing him on this last night of the thrill and fun to have every hair on his body removed, every strand of stray hair. His control impressed her while the attendant wax his underarms and toes.

Even if he did squeak a couple of times.

*Well, maybe not fun for him, but I enjoyed watching it.* She smiled, on the knife-edge of laughing out loud.

The rewards of his clean-to-the-Nth-degree-body made for better dance-floor teases. She loved his bare, hair free chest.

*He will never forget any of this, I hope he still loves me for having his hair ripped out!*

She knew she would never forget.

Kissing his chest, his twitching making her smile. She stood up and pulled him to the edge of the bed.

‟Oh? What now?” She shut him up with a kiss.

‟Let’s not waste anymore time! Let’s go party gamble for our un-wedding.” She smiled and opened her bag and pulled out a small black dress.

‟What? Do you have a wardrobe in that thing?” He yawned, and made a quiet yelp of pain. “My armpits are sore! Woman, you said this was painless.”

She laughed.

‟Melanie ’s design. Whenever we travel, we keep nice clothes in a kit, I have another one for formal, it is slightly larger with a full length black dress and heels. It fits in a dresser drawer, and I can put it in a bag or purse in a second. She has wanted to market it, but some problems with one seam  or another not lining up and we keep getting creases in the wrong places.” She smiled while she pulled the dress up, pulled her hair out and tucked herself in. Buttoning up the up to the top of her cleavage. ‟We are going to try to roll dresses in the next design in special tubes made for packing. It takes less room and, in theory, does not cause creases.”

‟Quite the invention.” Tom smiled as he pulled on a red-silk shirt.

‟We had plans of being famous designers and do art-level clothing that could be inexpensive, and recyclable. We could keep it as haute couture, with a fraction of the price.”

‟What has stopped you?”

‟Lack of funding and time. Dad is an IT tech and mom teaches accounting. It’s just enough to help us go through college, even with scholarships.”

‟Yes,” Tom took a deep breath let it out slowly and shook his head. ‟This state charges more for education with a high cost of living that prevents many students from going to higher education. It is a weakness in this country. No investments in education on a higher level.”

‟Well, whatever, but I am going to finish what I have started and have my Master’s in fine arts.”

‟Okay, I’m ready. Do you want to go gamble?”

‟Yeah!” She cheered. “Woot!”

‟I don’t know if I want to take you downstairs, there won’t be any eyes not looking at you.” Tom said. ‟I may become jealous.”

‟Yeah, right. You have one quirk. You are the most laid-back man I know.”

‟The most laid on his back, anyway.” Tom laughed. ‟Okay, to the elevator.”

Kaylee walked carefully in her high-heels, wearing the shoes, she was as tall as Tom.

‟You are beautiful.” Tom whispered.

Kaylee felt her cheeks flush.

‟Thank you. I wanted you to enjoy this date.”

‟I have. I’m just sorry it has to end.”

‟Tom, I want to go home to Portland when we get back. Glenn is waiting for me there, he has asked the family about me. Melanie says that he is going to ask the question.”

‟The big question?”

Kaylee laughed.

‟I hope so, if he asks me to borrow my car, I’m going to punch him.” She raised her fist. “Hard.”

They both laughed awkwardly.

The door of the elevator opened and the couple entered.

A direct ride to down, over twenty floors, to the one room with limited access.

Tom handed over his room key,  scanned by a security guard who nodded and then they were in.

‟Let’s go here, you said you like the old-style dollar machines?”

‟Oh yeah, you have no idea.” Kaylee laughed and imitated the clinking of silver dollars falling.

‟Okay,” Tom smiled. ‟Let’s go over here.”

At a cage, Tom chatted a girl who knew him by sight.

‟Hi Tom!” She smiled, a brilliant grin that looked natural. Kaylee felt a pang of jealousy when she leaned in and kissed Tom on the cheek.

‟Five-thousand singles for this young woman here.” Tom said. ‟She wants to play the dollar slots.”

‟Yes, sir. Very good choice.” She smiled again and began to tap on a computer touch screen. ‟And your usual starting stake?”

‟Yes, please.” Tom nodded. ‟And if she comes back, fill her order at a thousand-chip increments, she can carry those without tipping over.”

‟Of course.”

The stack of chips were the size of silver dollars of the Eisenhower era.

‟If you go over there, you can play the giant machine and still watch me. I’ll be here on the table with blackjack.” Tom pointed to the empty table in the middle of a large room with very few people walking about.

‟Wow!” Kaylee boggled. ‟I never knew this place even existed.”

Tom smiled and sat on the stool. He was the only person there.

‟I don’t think this one is open, hun.” Kaylee kissed him. “Maybe we can raise our hands to attract attention?”

‟It’ll be open, give it a half-minute.” His eyes reflected the confident tone in his voice.

Kaylee laughed and went to the one-armed bandit and dropped in a few of the chips that clanged all the way in. Her first pull she won twenty back that clanged in the tray under the two images of cherries and a golden number seven.

An hour later, Kaylee dropped in her last dollar chip. Biting her fingernails she pulled the lever, then the jackpot hit on a minor score.

She won all but two-hundred dollars back in chips. The sound clinked nonstop while machine stayed in dispense mode for five minutes.

Gathering up her Casino treasure in a bucket, she went to see how Tom was doing and found him right where she left him, but now he sat with five other gamblers, plus the dealer. In front of him was a minor stack of chips, she noted, and it seemed smaller than when she had left him, and the chips were different colors.

*Lower denominations.* She tried to look over his shoulder.

‟Tom?” Caressing his shoulder. ‟I’m ready to go see the rest of the town.”

‟Hi, babe. Just a minute. I’ll finish this hand and we can go look at things.”

‟How much are you betting?” She was unfamiliar with the chip colors.

‟A hundred.” Tom did not take his eyes off the dealer’s hands.

‟That’s a lot of money to put down on a single bet.” She said while the dealer went down the line of players. ‟I could have a lot of fun with a hundred dollars than to blow it on a bet. I thought you would bet the regular amount.”

‟It’s not a hundred dollars.” Tom said with a crooked smile.

‟What is it?” She blinked. “Credits?”

‟A hundred-thousand.”

Kaylee felt like she had been hit with a snap-kick in the chest and lost her brain-power to speak, her mouth opened and her lips just twitched.

‟Oh my god?” Tom asked. While he nodded. With a jack and a duece showing, he drew a king and lost the bet. ‟Okay, thank you.”

He rolled a token towards the dealer.

‟Thank you.” The tuxedo clad dealer smiled at the five-hundred-dollar chip given to him.

‟Tom!” Kaylee was able to get the word out. ‟Tom, you lost a bet! That could have bought a nice car, even.”

‟It wasn’t one bet. That was my third loss in a row, that is why it was time to quit.”

‟Wut?” Kaylee got dizzy and grabbed at Tom’s sleeve and looked in his eyes.

‟I lost three bets in a row, it was time to leave.”

‟You lost a hundred-thousand dollars on one bet? You were betting… A. Hundred.” Kaylee couldn’t breathe. “Thousand. Dollars.”

‟Yes. I was there, I know it was a hundred-k bet.”

‟You lost three-hundred thousand?”

‟No, only one-seventy five.”

‟Oh. TOM!” She was about to blow a gasket. Suddenly, she was angry.

‟I’m still up two-hundred twenty thousand.” He shrugged and continued walking.

‟Holy crap!” Kaylee sat down on a stool.

“Well, are you hungry? Let’s go get food.” Tom smiled.

“Now I know why they want your money back.” She got up to follow Tom, her legs still a little shaky. Kaylee was not sure if it was from the shock, dancing or wine.

“They always do.” Tom laughed.

Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

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Married By Accident Chapter 33. I Smile Because You Are My Wife, I Laugh Because I Am Your Husband

‟Tom! This. I mean you… I am… We did… Unprotected!” Barbara paced the length of the jet, laughing hysterically holding her hands to her face. ‟I don’t know what I was thinking. I don’t want to bomb my body with a morning-after pill. But, one does not get knocked-up with one time unsafe sex.”

She tried to make herself relax.

‟It can happen,” Tom said with a smirk. “And if you can’t do that, if it happens, we could consider adoption or something.”

‟Tom, it is my decision. A deeply personal decision! No one gets to tell me what my choice will be.” Barbara stood for a moment. ‟I’m sorry. It is a frightening concept and, like you said, complicates matters.”

‟Well, I think you are jumping the gun a little. I have, and I always will, support your choices. First, you are my friend. I know I am not the first choice and we did do the deed and you had other plans. I accepted that fully, weeks ago.” Tom stood behind her and slid his arms around her nude body, holding her back against his chest.

‟I hoped you would stay, but I will help you find your own life. I am old and I have a life of stories.” He said as she turned around in his arms and buried her face into his chest. “You need to build your own story, chapter by chapter. Child by child when you get there. For now, you make me smile and you are my muse.”

Tom chuckled when he was struck by a thought.

“You make me smile, because you are a precious gem, and you are a treasure that anyone would crawl over broken glass to have in their life.” He smiled. “But I laugh because I am your husband and you cannot do much about it just now.”

This made the tears that were welling up in her eyes turn into laughter.

‟Tom. You are the funniest man I know. I wanted an engagement ring from Glenn, ever since we were kids and you help me do that.”

‟Keeping you happy is my mandate.” Tom smiled. “I cannot keep you here and have you in misery. If I help you go, maybe you will return with all I have to offer.”

Sliding her arms around him, she pressed her breasts against his chest and kissed him.

‟Do not make me love you. You’d make me feel bad for all that has happened. But I promised…” Barbara smiled softly.

‟Yes. The promise.” He smiled back, but it was a smile that did not reach in his eyes.

‟Don’t interrupt. That is rude and will make me mad. But yes. I would like to get married and remember it.”

‟I understand.”Tom said as he laughed softly. ‟And we have had a good time this last month.”

“It is the weirdest time I’ve ever had.” Barbara whispered.

It had been one summer to remember. She had seen both the good and bad sides of people. It was as if her life was some grand illusion written by someone with only a one-dimensional imagination. A perfect storm of adventures and perverts. Days with drugs…

A thought occurred.

What if this were all a dream? She was still in early June, after being attacked and then beat the crap out of the serial rapist, wanted on at least ten different crimes.

‟No.” She said it into the hollow of Tom’s neck.

‟No? No what?” Tom sounded worried. ‟You have not had a good time?”

‟Oh yes. I said a thought out-loud. There was a moment where I thought this might all be a drug dream from the first night, or someone was just writing my life on a word processor.” She shook her head. “Like I am in control, but he or she makes my words come out.”

‟Now you’re inspired by something. As a writer, I know how the thoughts might come. Maybe I have written about you and you are just…”

‟Tom, do not trivialize my moment of insanity. Please.” She bit his chest lightly. ‟You did not write me into existence like some Twilight Zone movie.

‟Funny that you know about that show.” Tom chided. “You are older than you look.”

‟I study all the time. I like to get to know my husbands.” She wiped her nose on his chest and laughed at his reaction.

‟How many husbands have you had?” He looked down. “Brat.”

‟Are we going to do pillow talk standing up or would you like to cuddle?”

Taking by the hand, she pulled him to their bed and pushed him down.

He smiled, she had opened up to him more in those few moments than she had in the weeks of his hospitalization.

‟Well, I don’t know about you,” Tom said quietly, laying on his back with Barbara laying on top of him, gazing into his eyes. ‟But I appreciate the author of your life putting you on my chest. This is nice.”

‟I don’t know. Maybe they would put this all into a book- a series even.” She laughed. “I could bang you until we made the coastal cities complain, we could be a porn movie.”

‟Naw, I couldn’t take that. I’m depressed enough that you want an annulment to go marry someone else. Keeping this going as a series? We’d have to roll the clock back and live an hour-by-hour book.”

‟That would be a long time.” She nodded.

‟Okay. So let’s put that fantastic fantasy away and live what life we have left together. To use the story-writer vernacular, when you leave, I’ll close this chapter and move on into the world.” Tom followed her thoughts and wrote the story in his mind, letting his mind think out loud. “I was only going to live on the west coast for the summer anyway, then the speech at Doctor Manga’s installation. I might stay there for a few months. I have a few book-signings to do there for the next installation of Steamland.”

‟Next? How many are there?” She smiled. The first time she heard of the sequels.

‟Five as of this summer. The movie is from book-three. ‟Steamland: Heat”. And it violates more Steam-punk rules than it follows.”

‟Yeah, I have wanted to ask you about that. No Victorian-Age, you used Rome as the base for your civilization.”

‟Well, book-one started with Heron of Alexandria improving on Ctesibius’ inventions, that were already two-hundred years in development.”

‟Heron and who?”

‟Read the books.” Tom laughed, the force of the humor bouncing her up on down on his chest where she used him as a body-pillow.

‟Human technology was so close to having steam-power thousands of years ago, it is not funny, really.” Tom winked.

“Missed the steam age by that much.” Tom held up his thumb and forefinger so that little more than a finger’s width showed. ‟No telling where we would be if someone built steam trains or such back then. Christ could have traveled the lands of Nazareth in an airliner.”

‟Tom, you’ve an imagination like no other.” Barbara said smiling widely. ‟You are my muse in your own way. When you were in the hospital, I did a lot of drawing. I have much more to do, I have the itch and you are all in me, making me need to draw.”

‟I enjoy being in you.” Came the lecherous remark.

‟What? OH! Tom, I’m being serious.”

He stroked her back with his good hand, the splinted and wrapped wounded-arm carefully placed on the pillow beside them.

‟I’m just being honest.” He smiled. ‟Besides, not to move too far off the subject, but, we have to do a paper-chase to get the filings done. You need to head home to go be with Glenn.”

‟I get the feeling you are pushing me away.” Barbara said.

Feeling suddenly unhappy, selfish, even a little unwanted. She sat back, dismounted Tom and started to get dressed.

‟I think I want to get dressed. You said you would be able to fly with your arm?”

‟Yes. I have feeling, the fingers are pink, I have a good pulse. I have taken my medications and we have redressed the injuries.” He ticked off the laundry list of things. “I have no numbness. I can type, slowly or hand write on the screens. I have multiple tablets I use for that. I cursive write on the screens all the time.”

‟Cursive?”

‟It is my form of entertainment. It tickles me to see the computer read and transfer it into text.”

‟So what are you saying?”

‟We can fly the Sea Dragon there. No waiting.”

‟Oh. Okay. I will have to think about that.”

‟Why?” Tom got serious as he pulled on black jeans and a black polo-shirt that had a sleeve removed to accept his bandaged arm. ‟We can leave now and you are suddenly pulling back on going?”

‟Well…”

‟Do you want to stay married to me or go be with Glenn?” Tom said gently and sat on the edge of the bed as Barbara pulled on her shoes.

‟Two things. I care a great deal for you, Glenn would have never tolerated my quirks.” She said. “He would have blamed me for the Professor. And Glenn likes to keep me stoned. Sex is great with him after we smoked a bowl full.”

‟When you can remember it.” Tom winked.  “Or according to him?” 

Barbara laughed.

‟I remember! Most of the time…” Blushing slightly, but Tom got closer to the truth than he knew. ‟Second thing is… I have really come to adore you. No. I don’t want to do it, but I made a promise and I don’t want to wake up in bed with you and keep saying ‟If only” every so often.”

‟Do you say that now?” Tom sounded hurt.

‟Well, no. You have not given me the chance.” Barbara held his hand. ‟Don’t be hurt. I would come back and marry you if my fantasy fails.”

‟So I am the consolation prize?”

Barbara face-palmed.

‟You weren’t any kind of prize. You are the kindest, bravest man I know to put up with me, my quirks and my promises.”

‟And the best friend you will ever have. I want to you go marry him. When you look out a window and see a jet fly by, think of me. When you have children, get them the Leonard Sea Dragon Series, and I’ll write about an artist in my Steamland books. I might even name her Barbara with a sister named… Oh damn…” Tom had the look of a man who forgot something important.

‟Sandy.”

‟Yes! Sandy.” Tom laughed. ‟Sandy would not be overlooked in the stories if I put your name in it.”

‟She would like that.”

‟But that would be your connection with me as you write your own story in life’s book.” Tom said, serious again. ‟I have my own explores to do in the world.”

‟Tell me you would find someone to love?” Barbara said. ‟Please?”

‟No. I cannot promise that. I won’t be untruthful to you. I have been alone a long time, you were a surprise.” Tom said.

‟A pleasant, exciting, twisted, funny and chocolate-flavored,”  He licked her lips. ‟Surprise.” 

‟You are not upset?”

‟I am a little hurt, but I am not a teenager and life-is-over crushed.” Tom smiled softly. ‟I knew you didn’t want to be married and you could have had a divorce that next day, but you wanted it annulled instead. So, I am well prepared.”

‟We can fly now?”

‟Let’s file a flight plan, check with the crews to prepare the Dragon and we can leave in an hour.”