By Anji Nolan, author of The Cormorant Club, Desperate Obsession, Love Will Find a Way, and Love is in the Air
How Many Freakin’ Frogs Do You Have to Kiss? are the bawdy tales of Sara Sullivan, an independent, modern woman who manages Warwick House, a boutique hotel in Salem, Massachusetts. Like most of us she’s looking for that perfect man. And like most of us, she is kissing frogs in search of her prince. Here’s what she’s up to now:
CHAPTER 12 – Better to be alone than in bad company…
There isn’t much a bottle of bubbly and Tad’s triple chocolate raspberry swirl cheesecake can’t cure. And by ten, when I answered the hellish ring of an inordinately persistent phone, I was feeling no pain. “Warwick House, home of the lost and lovelorn.”
“Sara, that you?” came the reply. ”This is Jane.”
“Yeah Janey, Jane, Janey, flight attendant to the stars. What’s up—you landed or floating in the ozone?”
“Well, sweetie, I’m landed. It sounds like you’re the one doing the floating.”
“I know, was feeling a bit down,” I slurred. “Had a little shampoodle and cheesecake, and now I’m good. Real good, not hurtin’ at all. Havin’ a good time.”
“Right, here’s the deal, I flew in with a colleague today—”
“And you want to bring him home. No probs. I’ll probably be sleeping like a baby by the time you get here. You can get up to all the shenanigans you like.”
“It’s not like that. Sara…Sara…you still there?”
“Um,” I mumbled. “Course I am, what’s up?”
“I want to bring him to stay as a guest in one of the spare rooms, is that okay?”
“Sure, pick one, I trust you”
“By the way, he says he knows you,” said Jane.
“His name is Sam Dexter.”
“Don’t remember him.”
“In your present state, I’m not sure you’ll remember me.”
“I resemble that.”
“Sara, go to bed, we’ll be home in a couple of hours.”
“You want to eat something?”
“We’ll help ourselves. Go to bed, girlfriend, that’s an order.”
“Aye, aye Cappin. Fading fast. Going now—see you at breakfast.”
Jane laughed. “I doubt that, sleep tight.”
Surprisingly, I made it down to breakfast. I staggered into the kitchen clutching a bottle of aspirin to find a strange man brewing coffee.
“They won’t work,” he said.
“Aspirin. Trust me; they’re not fast enough for a hangover. You got any Alka Seltzer?”
“I think so,” I said, looking puzzled.
“Take two, and then set a bag of frozen peas on your head.”
I smiled and wagged a finger at him. “Nu-uh, Candid Camera right—you’re that John guy? I make a fool of myself and everybody jumps out of the larder screaming ‘gotcha’. ”
“No really, I promise, the peas work wonders. You can ixnay the vedg if you have one of those ice bag things specially made for the job.”
“I have one.”
“Well go find it. I’ll get the ice and pour you coffee.”
“Thought you said I should take Alka Seltzer?”
“That first, ice on head, then coffee,” he said matter-of-factly.
“Won’t the seltzer react with the coffee?”
“What’s worse? A splitting headache and an afternoon of brain numbing fuzziness or a monumental belch?”
“Point taken. Who was it you said you were…?”
“Jane’s friend,” he said, smiling. “You know, to make it really quick, you should be standing in the shower with a jet of cold water hitting you right between the eyes.”
“Well Jane’s friend, it sounds like you’re somewhat of an expert on this?’
“Wait ‘til you hear my cure for hiccups.”
Within minutes of chugging the effervescent curative, placing the natty ice hat on my head, and swilling half a large mug of coffee, I was feeling surprisingly good. I still wasn’t sure exactly who’d taken over my kitchen, but he was all right. When I got up to make a piece of toast, he spoke again.
“Wanting to eat—that’s a good sign.”
“Did you eat already or do you want something?”
“Wasn’t sure what I got with the room deal, so I didn’t touch anything. Wouldn’t mind toast if you have marmalade.”
“I do. Now, brain is a bit foggy, who are you again?”
“Oh sorry, our meeting last night is probably a blur for you.”
I swallowed hard. “We spent the night together?”
He near choked on his coffee. “No, nothing like that.” He stood and extended his hand. “Dexter, Sam Dexter, we met years ago when you were in college.”
“Right, you flew in with Jane. So Mr. Sam Dexter, I’m afraid I don’t remember you. Give me some clues; maybe something will gel. You want butter with the marmalade?”
I opened the fridge. “So marmalade it is. I’ve got regular American orange, thin cut Seville, Robertson’s tangerine, or you could go hog wild and have Rose’s lime from England.”
“Wow, this place really does cater to its guests, I’ll take the lime.”
“Excellent choice, my favorite; you talk, I’ll spread.”
“Name’s Sam Dexter, you got that. I’m an engineer with Granola Aviation, normally stationed in Atlanta. I’m in Boston to replace an engine part.”
“That going to take long?” I placed the limed toast in front of him.
“It was supposed to turn around today, but I got a call first thing; somebody goofed and forgot to load the part.” He bit into the toast. “This is good…the pressure sensor won’t be here until the day after tomorrow. Is it okay if I stay another couple of days?”
“No problem, Jane’s an excellent tour guide, I’m sure she’ll enjoy showing you around.”
“She was in on the same call,” he said. “She’ll be leaving on a tour this afternoon.”
“She just got here.”
“That’s the downside of charter work. You never quite know what you’re in for; you just climb on the gravy train when it rolls by.”
At that moment, Jane joined us. “Hi Sara, how’re you feeling? What gravy train Sam?”
“I told Sara about you leaving this afternoon.”
“For five thousand bucks you better believe it,” said Jane.
“How long will you be away?” I asked.
“Three weeks, maybe four; depends on the client’s progress.”
“Well, I have to say, I couldn’t wish for a lower maintenance guest. But how’s Sam going to cope without you?”
Jane stopped pouring coffee mid cup. “We’re not a couple, you realize that?”
“Er no,” I blushed. “I assumed you were together but didn’t want to advertise it.”
They looked at each other and grinned.
“We never set eyes on each other until the flight,” said Sam. “And it was only after we got talking about where Jane lived, and she said you were her landlady, that I wanted to come here.”
“Oh, well that puts a different spin on things. Where’d you say we met?”
“The Parker House in Boston.”
“You’re going to have to be a bit more specific, I’ve been to several do’s there.”
“You were with someone called V. She was having a party, invited the entire Granola crew, and from what I gathered via the concierge, fed and watered half the hotel.”
“Sounds about right,” I agreed. “V does have a way of drawing people in. She was my college roommate, and while she always had something going on, I was usually too busy to go to her soirees.”
“Well you were front and center at this one.”
“So why would you remember me after all this time? Did I do something inappropriate?”
“The red hair and sassy attitude are pretty hard to forget.”
“Oops, did I offend?”
“Not then, not now. Besides, I like to be near the fire.”
It was clear Sam was flirting with me, and given my dry circumstances, I liked it. Jane however, looked uncomfortable.
“Well guys,” she said. “My work here is done. I have to re-pack, and quick. If I keep Charlie waiting again, I’ll owe ‘the missus’ big time. Sara,” she hugged me. “Take care; see you in a few weeks. Sam,” she held out her hand. “Nice to meet you, enjoy Salem.”
With that, she was gone.
“So?” said Sam.
“So,” I responded. “Here we are.”
“Look Sara,” he fidgeted with his remaining piece of toast. “I know you don’t remember me, and I’m a guest in the house.”
“A paying guest.”
“Of course, bill Granola and they’ll pay whatever…er…stop pushing me off the subject—”
“You have a subject?”
“Yes I do, but you’re making it difficult—”
“Why, is the memory of my sassy attitude that intimidating?”
“Yes…happy now?” He grinned. “Look at you…you’re gorgeous.”
“Runway model tall, great body, perfect skin, hair like a Titian Goddess.”
Oh brother. My eyebrow shot up as he took my hand. It seemed a bit forward, but his hand felt strong and well-worked; I liked it.
“As I’ve lost Jane as my guide, would you be available to show me Salem?” Detecting my hesitation, he gave me the hurt puppy dog look. “Pretty please?”
His thumb brushed my skin, sending tingles to deliciously inappropriate places. Sam Dexter might be a perfect counter to my dry spell, so I caved. “Well fortunately for you, I’m not busy today. So yes, I’ll be delighted to show you around town.”
“Now can I have my hand back?”
We spent hours wandering Salem’s many points of interest, and Sam turned out to be an extremely nice guy. Attentive, charming, and a mine of useless, but for the most part amusing, information. In fact, he was so personable, I agreed to extend our tour into the evening. I was already committed to a member’s only, catered affair at Salem’s Peabody museum, so I invited him there. I didn’t know how much an airline engineer earns, but at least I saved him from springing for dinner.
As we walked towards the exhibition of Chinese textiles and jewelry, I’d warned Sam it wasn’t exactly what a red-blooded all American male might be interested in. However, to my surprise, he was not only extremely knowledgeable about Chinese history, but also spoke Mandarin with the visiting curator.
Things seemed to be swimming along until the lecture ended. At that point, despite the lavish catering, Sam made a beeline for the bar. There he rapidly dispatched two large samples of Merlot, followed by an assortment of other vineyards offerings. Ergo, by nine, without benefit of even a finger sandwich, Mr. Dexter was so well lubricated I saw no alternative but to take him home.
As we left the museum for the short walk home, Sam draped his arm around me. Though barely as tall as me, it felt right, and as we walked, he didn’t exhibit any unsteadiness. We fell into a comfortable silence until we arrived at one of the many benches on the wharf across from the house.
“You want to sit a while?” I asked. “Seems the fresh air has cleared your head.” I sat, and he scooched in very close.
“This is a magical place,” he said. “I had no idea the moon off the water could be so intoxicating.”
“Think that’s the Merlot.”
“You always this cynical?”
I smiled. “I’m told after a while you get used to it.”
“Do you think there could be a while for us?”
“Don’t know. I’d have to get to know you better.”
“I’ve an idea how we can accomplish that.”
Pulling me close, Sam set his lips on mine, and boy, did he know how to kiss. We dallied on the bench for a time, and frankly, I’d have been happy to linger because unlike other men I’d been with, he didn’t attempt any groping. It was strangely disconcerting to be melting on kiss-power alone. I felt like I was sixteen again, breathless and brimming with excitement. Sam’s chaste behavior ignited the same feelings as my high-school days. However, while then it had been frustrating because I didn’t know exactly what came next; now, the anticipation of what might come almost overwhelmed me.
I don’t know how long we stayed on the bench necking, but I cracked first. I guess once you go beyond the kissing stage, a part of you, a tiny significantly demonstrative part says, “okay quit shillyshallying about, it’s my turn”. And of course, being a slave to my baser desires, I listened. I suggested we return to Warwick House to get to know each other better, took Sam’s hand, and led him across the road.
Once inside, Sam invited me to his suite, and to eliminate the possibility of disturbance by my phone ringing, I accepted. However, as he joined me on the sofa, eyes glazed, and moving a lot more erratically than I expected; I feared coming in from the fresh air had reactivated the intoxication he’d exhibited at the museum. He winked lasciviously when I asked for coffee, and when he skipped toward the kitchen, like a character in a Billy Wilder movie; I had the distinct feeling a “Murphy” zinger was coming.
If ever I’d needed someone to slap me upside the head and say get a freakin’ grip, the time would have be now, and after several minutes with neither sound from him nor coffee pot; I had to go find out what was up.
I found Sam sprawled stark naked on the suite’s king-sized bed nursing a bottle of vodka from the guest drinks tray. And it was immediately apparent what was up.
“Been waiting for you,” he slurred. “What took you so long?”
“You were supposed to be making coffee.”
“Coffee, schmoffee,” he said, hoisting the vodka. “Needed something to relax me. Go get a glass and join me.”
He patted the bed beside him, took a slug of vodka, and licked his lips like a naughty schoolboy. He wasn’t nearly so attractive playing the boozed Lothario.
“Look Sam, I think you’ve had a smidge too much, let’s call it a night. I had a lovely time; I’ll see you in the morning.”
“No,” he said, jumping up beside me. “Don’t go. I thought we were building to something special.”
Oh brother. “Maybe some other time. Now give me the vodka, get back into bed, and sleep it off.”
He gave me the bottle, but when I attempted to leave, he bounced in front of me.
“Oh come on, Sara,” he whined, rubbing up against me. “Don’t tell me this is a surprise to you.”
Oh jeez, what the hell? “Let’s discuss this when you haven’t drunk quite so much.” As I brushed past him, he grabbed my hand.
“Don’t go. I’ll be good—promise.”
Despite being worse for the vodka, he kissed me again, and I have to tell you, this boy knew how to fire up a gal. “Okay, I’ll stay a while, but no more alcohol.”
“Scouts honor ma’am,” he grinned, fingers to temple. He took the bottle to the bathroom, and returned with a towel slung around his hips, hands in the air. “See, sans booze and decent, as requested. Let’s go into the lounge, sit quietly,” he grinned, “and talk.”
You will not be surprised to learn that as he sat closer than was good for me; his intoxication and my resolve disappeared. Oh please cut the criticism. I was desperate for affection, and who among you wouldn’t trade cold spinster loneliness, for the warm arms of a sexy man. I was in the mood for a small flirtation, and right or wrong; Sam Dexter was it.
Sooooo, with his mouth on mine, lips and tongue working their magic; I had no objection when his hands caressed my body. His fingers were as gentle and probing as his mouth and I quickly warmed to the idea of spending the night with him. However, when I reached down to reciprocate his caress, I felt nothing there. Well, not absolutely nothing. He had equipment, I’d seen it. However, it wasn’t doing what I expected for a man with his tongue down my throat, and hand up my shirt. And the next few seconds were odd to say the least. I’d never been with a naked man who wasn’t at least part way to an erection by the time I laid on hands. I was most definitely puzzled. Nothing like this had happened before, so I quickly bypassed hands and bowing low, alternatively attempted to persuade life into his sad little sausage. Despite moving to stage two, which I’ve been told I’m particularly good at, nothing happened.
With my mind working overtime, the sexual egotist in me realized that now I didn’t want, but needed to get him going. Reputations were at stake, self-esteem was involved; and dammit, swallowing enough vodka to deflate an elephant was immaterial. This was about my being a self-assured, sexy woman. A woman in control of the situation. A woman who knows what she wants and goes for it. A woman who will feel like crap if she can’t get a rise from this guy.
I was now a woman on a mission.
In the time it took me to work out my next move, Sam had snatched back the towel, and leapt from the couch. “Wait there,” he demanded, and bolted from the room.
I waited a couple of minutes and then, again, went to find him. He was in the kitchen, pouring a glass of scotch with one hand, rooting through drawers with the other. Throwing out a wooden spoon here, and a spatula there, when he couldn’t find what he wanted, he knocked back more scotch.
“Sam, I told you—I’m leaving.”
Seemingly oblivious to my presence, he sprinted back to the living room. I followed, in time to see him shuck the towel, and haul his naked butt out of the suite. I gave chase.
“Sam,” I whispered theatrically—like nobody could hear us thumping down the corridor. “Get your boney ass back here, you’ll disturb my guests.”
Turning momentarily, he grinned. “Catch me if you can,” he squealed.
Oh for crying out loud. “Come back in here you lunatic.”
“Yeeee-haaa, cowboy,” he yelled, slapping his butt and cantering forward.
Jesus H. Christ, where do I find these losers? “Sam Dexter, you stop right now!”
He ignored me and bounded down the corridor to the second floor stairway. He was too quick to disturb the guys, but by the time I stepped onto the girls landing, Marie had her door open, and was peering out. Seeing a naked butt streak past, she gave me a what-the-heck look.
I simply replied, “don’t ask,” and continued after Sam.
I caught up with him in the lounge, where he was downing another drink. “Sam, please, no more. Put the glass down, and come back upstairs.”
“Or what,” he answered, whirling like a Dervish. “You’re not the boss of me.”
Now, we all know I’m not good with kids, but dang it, after five minutes of hooting and hollering, and a rendition of something, which sounded vaguely like “I’m Too Sexy for my Shirt,” I realized though I’d started the night with a man, I’d ended it with a seven year old. Moreover, while singularly unenthused that my formerly orderly establishment now had a singer to go along with a cowboy re-enacting Lord of the Dance, my patience was wearing thin.
“Stop this nonsense, right now!” I snapped. “You’ll disturb everybody, and in the morning you’ll hate yourself.” I saw a moment of clarity cross his face. “Come on, I’ll help you back upstairs.” And, as I turned to get him a knee blanket draped over a recliner, he pulled Jane’s golf umbrella from the hallstand and opened it to cover himself. “No need for that,” I said, summoning patience from God knows where. “Use this.”
Sam ignored the proffered blanket, grabbed my outstretched hand to pull me close and kissed me. “You lie,” he whispered calmly as you please. “You try to be so cool, so hot-shot landlady at the big house, but you want me badly.”
Jesus, Mary and Joseph. “Maybe some other time Sam. Come back upstairs.”
“Only if you stay with me.”
And that’s when that little thread of control snapped. “You total dumb-ass. It’s not going to happen, no how, no way. Stop screwing about, get back upstairs and sleep this off.”
It might have been an amusing memory recalling this handsome, extremely well-muscled satyr romping down my corridors. But when he jumped back, snapped shut the umbrella and set off running; all I wanted was to steer him back to his suite, retrieve Jane’s umbrella, and quietly retreat to the serenity of my own bed. As I followed him, he’d headed upstairs in the right direction. However, as he rounded the corner on the third floor corridor, I lost sight of him. I panicked. I was sure I’d locked the vacant rooms, and guests usually did too, but did I lock my own? I headed straight for his suite, and as I entered saw no-one. Crap. Then a noise came from behind. Sam was blocking the door, pointing the umbrella at me.
“Sara, my darling,” he said, with a crestfallen look. “I have offended you. I have disturbed your house, and been a naughty, naughty boy; I deserve a good spanking.”
Thrusting at me with the umbrella, I could do little more than giggle. “That’s all right, no harm done, I’ll see you tomorrow.” I grabbed the outstretched brolly, but he held it fast.
“No, I’m serious, stay awhile. I have a lovely surprise for you.” Sam yanked back the umbrella and swatted his butt. “But you have to pay me for it, comme ca?” He thwacked himself again.
Close to laughing, I set to shove the twerp aside, and leave. But something I’ve never seen before happened. In the aftermath of his flagellation, the aforementioned sad little sausage gave a jerk, and stood to attention. I laughed, what could I do, it was mind-blowing. More self-inflicted thrashing followed, producing a result I certainly couldn’t.
“See,” he giggled. “He just needed the right encouragement.”
I swiped my knuckles across my lips to stop from laughing aloud. “I can see that, very clever. Now put him to bed, I’m done for tonight.”
“You can’t leave now.” Sam whacked himself again and up he popped. “Look Sara, he’s ready to play.”
Oh dear God, kill me, kill me now. It was now clear there was only one way I was going to get past him, and it involved violence. Taking the umbrella, I soundly rapped his thigh. “There, you asked for it. Now move.” I attempted to pass.
“No, no, my dear,” he said, still blocking my way. “I need more…harder…like this.” His open hand swatted me soundly on the butt.
Oh no you didn’t. Now I don’t know about you, but violence of any kind is not my bag, and if used in an effort to turn me on, it’s a monumental mistake. It will result in one thing. I will retaliate, and I won’t be ladylike about it. “Sam, quit it,” I warned. “That’s not funny.”
“But it is, my dear.” He snatched back the umbrella and tapped me on the arm. “See, doesn’t hurt, just tickles.’’ He then soundly rapped me on both sides of my hips, and rounded off the abuse with another of his bouncy dances.
Carnally motivated and way beyond rampant, Sam was fired way up, and cavorting about like a freakin’ lunatic. I watched in silence, but frankly, the whole scene was way more theatrical than I’d bargained for. Nevertheless, I was now beyond annoyed at his nonsense. I tried to shove my way by him before I did something I’d regret. However he simply grinned stupidly and offered me the umbrella. So here we were at an impasse. And being one who likes to oblige a gentleman, I took the umbrella and swung it at his butt for all I’m worth.
Only one part of his body moved, and it was nothing I could shimmy past. So I let him have it again, and again, and again. With the words ‘spank me like you’ve never spanked anyone before,’ reverberating in my head, I did just that, and the more I flailed, the more engorged the beast became.
I quickly learned Sam Dexter’s tolerance for pain far exceeded my ability to inflict it, and I had to ease off. And as I stand back, breathing heavy from my exertions, I get to thinking about what was happening. We’d kissed passionately, I’d practiced my best penile massage, exhibited tenderness and loving concern, and he remained a wiener. I beat him senseless; abused him within an inch of his life, and he’s a post. What is wrong with this picture? Nothing if you’re into S&M. As a general rule I’m not. And his complete lack of being into me about did it. I don’t know whether it was jealousy, annoyance, or plain ornery-ness, but such obvious need for violent gratification, made me mad. Mad at him for not needing me, mad at me for not seeing something odd in him, and mad at this damned umbrella, which didn’t seem to be inflicting any real pain on the freakin’ donkey before me.
When I’d stopped to get my breath, Sam’s impressive erection shrunk like a deflated balloon. I wailed on him again. Post up. Then I stopped. Appendage down. I laid into him with a couple of hearty swipes. Back up. I took a well-earned rest. It flopped down. And while this penile jack-in-box might be comical to watch, I realized that no matter what, to get anywhere near to sex with him, we’d need a third person to stand there thrashing his useless ass. I, for one, wasn’t about to wait until Jane got back, and ask her what she thought. So what’s a gal to do? I’d beaten him until I thought he’d explode, and now with his butt raw, and me near to exhaustion, I did the only thing I could. I summoned strength from deep down and thrashed him some more. And know this; if I had to beat him senseless in order to have sex with me, then he and his lovely surprise can go to hell, comme ca!
“That’s it, Sam,” I said, throwing the umbrella to the ground. “No more.”
“No, no, no,” he wailed. “You’re so good. You can’t leave me in limbo.”
“Can and will, goodnight.”
With hulk-like strength from who knows where, I was able to shove him aside. He simply picked up the brolly and began beating on himself. Seeing him blossom anew my dears pushed me so far over the line, all ladylike notions were so much smoke. I squished by him back into the bedroom. There, I gathered the bulk of his belongings, and staggered back to the living room. “Oh, Sammy,” I cooed. “Pay attention. Mama said we’re done for the night.” Then I opened the living room window, and threw his stuff out.
His shocked expression lasted about five seconds, and he stopped beating himself. But this time he didn’t deflate. “Sara is a naughty, naughty girl,” he shouted, brandishing the umbrella in my direction. “And naughty girls must be punished.”
Shit, I don’t think so. That’s when I ran.
Sam chased me into the suite’s kitchen, and we twice rounded the dining room table. Then, realizing I was faster, he hurled the umbrella at me. I picked it up, and bolted for the door. I thought once I got out into the main corridor I’d be safe. I was wrong—he gave chase.
And after fleeing down two flights of stairs, he was still flopping behind me, as I hit the living room. Seeing but one escape, I headed for the front door. He lunged at me as I wrestled it open, and sidestepping, like Zorro on steroids, I caught him upside the head with the umbrella. He flew past me sprawling face first in the garden. As he lay prostrate, I couldn’t help noticing Warwick House’s floodlights had spectacularly accentuated his bright red butt. He looked like a mandrill baboon. “Take that you freakin’ pervert,” I yelled, the time for compassion past. “Get away from my house or I’ll call the cops.” And I slammed and locked the front door.
By the time I got back to the guest suite, and threw the remainder of Sam’s belongings out the window, my tenant Steve Riley, a Sergeant in the Salem Police Department had joined the garden party. His six feet eight was being put to good use as Sam was too short to get his pants from my tree. And while the whole scene could now turn assault-with-a-deadly-weapon serious, with me being the assaulter, I don’t think I‘ve ever been so glad to see his uniform outside the house. “Oh, hi Steve,” I said, waving timidly.
“Need any help?” he yelled.
“Er, no, I believe Mr. Dexter has decided to leave.” I hurled shoes at Sam’s naked body. “I am now expediting the delivery of his luggage.”
“I can see that,” said Steve, laughing.
“If you wouldn’t mind handing him his shoes, I would hate to be responsible for the medical bills associated with frostbite.”
“I think he needs more than shoes. Lucky for him it’s dark, or we could be looking at some criminal action here.”
As I pitched out Sam’s case, and closed the window, he was trying to hide his privates with one hand, while pulling on his pants. And as Sam righted himself, the policeman’s gestures were clearly directing my unwelcome guest to the hotel down the road.
As I unlocked Warwick’s front door, Steve had ensured Sam’s complete departure, and after he stepped inside, he grinned. “That Jane’s friend?” he asked.
“Gonna tell her about this?”
“Have to,” I giggled. “I completely trashed her umbrella.”