Children of Doubt

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Valentine’s Day, 2001

A slight ping of doubt coursed through me as I saw the back of the car valet—a very nice-looking back—move around the hood of my Triumph Spitfire. He was touching it lovingly—almost caressingly—as he moved around the vehicle to climb in and drive it into the garage of the Hotel del Coronado on the San Diego oceanfront. That’s just the same worshipful attitude my fiancé, William, accorded the two-seater sports car he’d cajoled me into buying. He had put up most of the money for it, so it didn’t require much cajoling.

In fact, the car valet could have been a younger variation of my fiancé, which both made me notice him and gave me a moment of guilt. William didn’t know I’d checked into this ritzy resort for a brief pity and doubt party for me, myself, and I. He didn’t know I wasn’t in Los Angeles. But then he wasn’t there either. He was in Las Vegas with his sister.

William was nearly ten years older than I was—and this valet had to be about that much younger than me. But they both were strawberry blonds with good builds—the car valet was more muscular, as would be natural with the age difference—nice smiles—very nice smiles; an almost suggestive one on the face of the car valet—and a similar walk. And both, apparently, worshipped Triumph Spitfires.

“I’ll have a tag for your keys for you before you’re finished checking in, Ms. Crane,” the valet said, with a white-toothed smile in a nicely tanned face. “I’ll be taking your bags up to the room for you too. My name’s Billy, by the way.”

Hotel del Coronado service, I thought, falling into the luxury of the place. It had been my family’s “go to” place when we wanted to splurge and pamper ourselves. We’d been coming here since my grandfather was billeted at the hotel with the Navy during World War II. It was an escape for me. And in my present state of doubt—my marriage scheduled for just two weeks from now—to an older man who has gone to Las Vegas with an older sister who draped herself over him on Valentine’s Day rather than spending it with me—I needed an escape to contemplate where I was going in life from here. Was the nearly acceptable and quite well heeled construction mogul worth the suspected disadvantages?

I was pleased that the car valet had discerned my name—the first-rate individual service was starting curbside. And I liked the subtle way he erased the quandary on whether I should tip him here, in the hotel’s porte cochere. If he was taking my bag up to my room, I could handle all of that there.

Billy—I made I point of remembering his name too—was there, at my room door, with my luggage, when I got there. I stood in the middle of what was a very nicely appointed room, the hotel having been redecorated since I last was there, somewhat self-conscious, as Billy went around the room, fluffing the bedspread, opening the curtains, pointing to both the closet and the bathroom door, the placement and functions of both the closet and bathroom being fairly obvious already. All the time he was giving me that great—almost suggestive—smile and attitude from that great face and body. I was feeling tingly in ways that William had yet to make me feel, even though we’d done the sex thing already—with variations I’d never done with another man before. The sensations that were flowing over me were not helping with the doubts that had sent me here.

It was Valentine’s Day, and William was in Las Vegas with his grasping sister, Kathy, rather than with me. It wasn’t lost on me that William seemed overly fond of his sister, Kathy.

“If you need anything else—anything else—Ms. Crane, just let me . . . or another member of the staff . . . know.”

“Um, thank you . . . Billy,” I murmured as I slipped him a rather larger tip than I originally had been planning to. I didn’t even want to think about what “anything else” he could do for me.

Fully professional, he somehow made the tip disappear without looking at it—or seemingly having received it.

“Whoosh,” I intoned after he’d gone and as I just flopped back on the bed. I’m not sure I had taken a breath the whole time Billy had been in the room. Suddenly, having come to San Diego on the spur of the moment with frustration, a bit of bitterness, and not just a bit of doubt in my mind didn’t seem to have been the best of moves. I was feeling so, so vulnerable and more “up yours” about the man I was marrying in two weeks than, I knew, was safe for me at this particular moment.

It appeared that, if I found I needed Billy, all I’d have to do is reach out and touch him. After a private pity party, lunch at the Sun Deck Bar and Grill, and a nap, I poured myself into a two-piece bathing suit, retrieved the Jodi Picoult “life situation dilemmas of a vulnerable heroine” book that matched my mood, and went down to the pool.

The waiter moving around the bathers and offering service was Billy.

“You seem to be everywhere,” I said as he approached me and spoke to me by name. As I saw him moving around the pool, I regretted the two-piece suit, sucked in my stomach as well as I could, and canlı bahis wished my sun glass lenses were several feet wider. I felt the total fool for caring—I was in great shape for a nearly thirty-one-year-old woman, I thought—but I did care. I was a good ten years older than he was, I was sure, and he was such a hunk that he could have any woman he wanted. There couldn’t be . . . but William was a good ten years older than I was and I had slept with him and was marrying him in two weeks.

“Double shift day,” Billy answered with a glorious smile. “I confess. I’m not usually a car valet or a bell boy. I’m just new enough to be filled in wherever I’m needed at the moment.” He then gave me a just-joking wink. “This morning was just an excuse to get into your room. My main job is bar service. They were shorthanded today and I wanted tomorrow afternoon off.”

I couldn’t help but both smile and blush at his “excuse” comment, but I wasn’t brave enough to follow up on it. “To catch the waves?” I asked, referring to his wish to have an afternoon off.

“Right the first time,” he said, shining his smile again. “How could you tell I live for the surf?”

How could I not tell? I thought . . . with a body and tan like that. And here in southern California on the coast. But what was I doing? Had he been flirting with me? The look he gave me when he mentioned my room. I was old enough to be . . . well, his older sister.

Bad thought. It made me think of Kathy and William in Las Vegas. She’d said she won the trip, that it was for two, and that no one else had been free to go . . . except William. He always seemed free enough to do what Kathy needed or wanted. I wondered if there really was room in William’s life for me and Kathy at the same time.

Somehow while I was daydreaming, I must have given Billy a drink order, because he was gone—and then came back with something of an impossible color for a drink, which, nonetheless, was refreshing.

No flirting when he’d done that. A matronly woman down the line of lounge beds was signaling him when he put the drink down and I signed for it, and his smile was divided between her and me. Equally so? I wondered. God, was I being jealous about the attentions of a drinks steward? Ms. Pathetic.

After growing tired of sitting by the pool, I returned to my room and put in a couple of hours of paperwork on the accounts for William’s construction company. He would really wonder what I’d done, if I let the accounts go unreconciled while he was gone. That’s how I’d met William. I worked for his accounting firm.

I wasn’t in the mood for dining formally, sitting there alone while three waiters stood around feeling sorry for me dining alone—and showing it by bugging the hell out of me with overattentive service while I tried to eat. So, although I dressed in a filmy shirt dress with a blue and white wave design on it and heels, I bypassed the hotel’s main dining room and went out on the patio overlooking the Pacific, where I could eat in the shadows under an umbrella and the stars at the Sheerwater restaurant.

Then it was back to my room to work on the accounts. At 10:00 p.m. it occurred to me how crazy this was, me sitting in an expensive resort hotel room because I was pouting about my fiancé running off to Las Vegas and doing his accounts while he and his sister were doing whatever they were doing. It really bugged me what they might be doing. I overexhausted my imagination on what they were now doing—and had to shake my head. Nothing could be that fucked up. Could it?

Why again was I marrying this man in two weeks? Oh, yes, he was easy on the eyes, even at his age, and was rich and generous with his gifts. And he’d asked me to marry him. I wasn’t getting any younger. I wanted children. Several of them.

“Screw it,” I muttered aloud. I shuffled the accounting papers back into my briefcase, went into the bathroom to check on my hair and apply lipstick, and then I was off to discover a bar with background music and drinks of impossible colors.

The reception desk directed me to the Babcock & Story bar, where there was piano music until 11:00. I found a booth back in the shadows and disappeared into the depths of it, determined to drink my woes away.

“Well, hello there, Ms. Crane.” It was Billy again, serving the drinks in this bar and looking as fresh as he had that morning when he driven away in my Triumph Spitfire.

“Hello again . . . Billy, isn’t it?”

“Same as this morning and afternoon, yes. You’re looking mighty pretty. Can I offer you a drink?”

“Yes, please. Something evil with Blue Curacao in it, perhaps.”

He came back with it, but without a bill. When I asked him how I could sign for the drink, he merely turned back to me, smiled, and said, “I offered you a drink. This one’s on me. Just because you’re looking so pretty tonight . . . and because you look like you need a drink and someone to do something nice for you.”

“Uh . . . thank you. I’ll have to return the favor.”

“We’ll have to think about something nice you can bahis siteleri do for me then.”

The brilliant, almost provocative smile again. Was he hitting on me? Was it my imagination? Was it because I wanted him to?

“I’m not on cleanup tonight,” he continued. “People will start leaving in another twenty minutes or so, after the piano music stops. Maybe I’ll pour us both one and you can tell me what has brought you to the Del Coronado all by yourself and looking a bit sad—but oh so lovely.”

What could I say. He’d bought me a drink and I’d agreed to stand him one when he was off duty. Or did he decide that himself? It didn’t matter, I indeed was lonely and tired of being so, and his had been the most friendly face I’d seen all day. And, I had to admit, the most pleasing on the eye as well.

“So, here we go. A drink for each of us, and I can sit and chat unless the bar gets busy again in the last hour, which isn’t likely.”

The music had stopped. I watched the piano player gather up his song sheets and depart. As he headed for the door, Billy was approaching, with two blue-colored drinks on a tray. He had loosened up. His vest was gone and the top two buttons of his shirt were undone. Just from that, I could see that he was in great shape—hard bodied—just as I had surmised. I felt the tingling go through my body. He obviously was finished with a two-shift day and ready to relax.

It relaxed much of the tension in me just to see him approaching. I hadn’t had anyone to talk to all day—other than the brief interludes with him. I wanted feel human again and not all alone in a world of doubt.

I couldn’t have been more vulnerable.

A second drink was followed by a third and a fourth. They didn’t appear on my bill when I checked out, so I have no idea who covered them—I certainly know we drank them.

“So, what’s a beautiful woman like you doing at the Del Coronado all by herself on Valentine’s Day?”

So, I told him all about it, egged on by my frustration and the three drinks. I alluded to the brother-sister thing, but I hoped not enough for him to have the doubts about it that I had. I certainly didn’t mention any names, though. As I talked, he drew closer, putting his arm around the top of the booth back behind me.

“You’re getting married in just two weeks, and you aren’t with your fiancé today?”

“No. His sister won a trip out of town and took him.”

“Bummer,” he said. Which, with a jolt, reminded me of the age difference.

“But these are my problems; they aren’t yours. You said you were taking off to surf. You boys must really be in seventh heaven with the waves you have down here in San Diego.”

“The surfings good, but I’m not a boy, Mary Ellen.” Somehow he’d learned my first name—that must have been from my babbling, or maybe he’d checked the registration card carefully—and we had reverted to that basis. “I’m twenty, and I like women a bit older than I am.”

I wondered, idiotically, whether ten years could constitute a “bit.” I was pushing thirty-one. Idiotically, because I had no basis other than bantering he may do with all older women to think he’d be interested in me—or that I should be interested in him. I shouldn’t even be here. I shouldn’t have come to San Diego at all. I should have stayed at home, in L.A., working William’s accounts and waiting for him to come home to me. Kathy would come directly back here. Kathy lived in San Diego. I wondered if that’s why I retreated here—because she wouldn’t be here. She’d be in Las Vegas with my fiancé.

Billy was still speaking. His arm had come down to where it was draped around my shoulders. He was stroking my shoulder lightly with his fingers under the loose, filmy sleeve of my shirt dress. I noticed for the first time that the lights had dimmed in the bar. For all I knew we were the only ones here. For all I knew we had talked and drank past the bar’s midnight closing.

“I have an invitation to a wedding myself in L.A. in two weeks. But I can’t go because I’ll be in Hawaii—surfing part of the time.”

“In Hawaii? This time of year? It will be high season. I didn’t think Californians went there in season. The crowds.”

“I like crowds. A lot of pretty women to ogle. But it’s when the woman who is taking me to Hawaii can get away. It’s when her husband will be in Europe on business.”

I should have been shocked. Maybe before the fourth drink I would have been shocked—or before the lights had dimmed, or before he’d been so understanding and sympathetic about my plight, or before he’d gotten his arm around me, or before his shirt had become unbuttoned all the way down to show his divinely muscled chest—or before he looked just so damn tasty.

One thing I did know: He was testing me out, to see if I was put off that he basically was a gigolo for what they call cougars. I had never thought of myself as a cougar. But then I never had gone hunting for a young hunk before. Could I be honest and acknowledge that I was doing that now? Why the hell not?—not with the mood I was in.

Not having bahis şirketleri given him the sense he’d lost me, Billy continued working on closing the deal—a deal we both probably now realized was attainable. “You see, I prefer somewhat older women. Beautiful women. Did I tell you how beautiful you were, Mary Ellen?”

I dumbly thought on that one, deciding he had mentioned something about that out at the pool earlier in the afternoon, not realizing that he didn’t really want an answer. Knowing he didn’t really want his question answered because he had fingers buried in the hair at the back of my head and was pulling my face into his for a tentative kiss, followed, when he was assured how hungry I was for it, with a deeper one, one I hungrily reciprocated.

I brushed at his hand, ineffectually, half-heartedly, as he unbuttoned my shirt dress all the way down while we kissed. I moaned for him when he put his hand on one of my breasts over my bra and squeezed. And then I moaned deeper, as a hand went up under the hem of my slip and he cupped my maidenhead over my panties and rhythmically squeezed and released.

“Billy. We shouldn’t. We can’t.” I wanted to say more—or, rather, I knew I should say and do more. That I should extract myself from this impossible situation. But what I did was relax with a sigh of resignation and separate my thighs to give him greater access—and permission. He snaked fingers in under the leg hole of my panties, and he was rubbing my clit and moving a finger between my folds, and inside me. I arched my back, and moaned, as his lips possessed mine again.

“Have you had a man before?” he whispered.

“Yes, yes, of course,” I answered, with a whimper.

All of my sensations rushed to those two points—to his lips bruising mine, his tongue working its way inside my mouth at one point; the thumb rubbing my clit and the finger moving in and out of my cunt.

“Billy. We can’t . . . not here.”

“I agree,” he whispered as he pulled away from me and extracted his fingers. “You go up to your room first. I’ll follow. I’ve made an extra key card.”

That wasn’t what I meant—I didn’t think. But, hell, this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment opportunity for Billy. He’d already set it up; he had a key card to my room. Not that I wanted to think that he might have a slew of key cards for the rooms of older women hotel guests he was cultivating. I wouldn’t think of that. I wanted him. I’d have him on any terms at this point.

My dress and his shirt were off and he was holding me close from behind at the foot of the bed. I was still wearing my slip and panties, though, so we weren’t beyond the point of no return yet, I unreasonably reasoned. I’d stop it soon, I told myself. I couldn’t be having sex with a young man. A young, hard-bodied, beautiful man. The similarities to William in appearance helping me to think of him as a more acceptable, desirable William than reality dictated.

But he wasn’t William. He was holding me close from behind, one hand on my belly and one squeezing a breast, as he kissed me on the neck and nibbled on my ear. Murmuring sweet nothings to me. I could feel the strength of him at the small of my back. But as long as he was still wearing trousers . . .

I turned my face to his and we kissed. The sounds of his lips sucking on my lips and tongue nearly covered the sound of his belt buckle opening, his zipper lowering, and his trousers cascading down to the floor. But I can’t say I didn’t know that was happening. The hand was still pressing on my belly, but the one at my breast was gone. His bare torso was pressing at my back, coaxing me to bend over the bed, to press the heels of my hands into the bedspread to hold me steady.

As long as I still had my slip and panties on.

I felt the silkiness of the panties move down my thighs, clear my knees, disappear to who knows where? The hem of the back of my slip was just pressed up onto the small of my back, and, with a little yelp, I involuntarily parted my thighs, widened the stance of my legs, as he entered me—not far, but enough for me to know he was thick and throbbing—and inside me.

Oh, God. He wasn’t a William in that respect! He was a horse!

The hand came around me, sliding below the hand palming my belly, fingers finding my folds. One pressing on my clit and rubbing. Two pressing on the sides of his shift. I cried out as the throbbing shift entered me deeply. Then I was jabbering. More encouragement than protest, I must admit, as he moved deep inside me and began to pump.

I had meant for it to stop, not to go this far. I had assumed there would be more foreplay and I could just stop it at will. But there was no getting past it. Young, beautiful, hard-bodied Billy was fucking me. And he was sending me higher and higher to an explosive release than William ever had done.

Only when I felt him tense, jerk, and release deep inside me did I realize he wasn’t wearing protection. It stood to reason that a child spirit like Billy would expect me to take care of safety—without having much of an idea what that entailed. If he enjoyed the feeling of barebacking over using a condom, he wouldn’t go out of his way to use a condom. Well I was in a “living dangerously” mode myself. And I luxuriated in feeling his cum flow inside me.

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