The Elusive California Dream, Part 1

(by AZ-Man, 23 April 1999)


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   The following story is fictional and is provided solely for the enjoyment
of its readers. While there are references to actual establishments such as
several major corporations, other smaller companies, restaurants and
locations, the characters within the story are entirely fictional. Any
resemblance to a real person either living or dead is completely coincidental.
This fictional account does contain adult language and themes. If such
language and themes offend you, please read no further. This story is
copyrighted by AZ-MAN, all rights reserved. Permission is granted to reproduce
it in any form and for any purpose as long as this notice is reproduced and no
financial remuneration is received, directly or indirectly, by the person
reproducing it.
   
   Also, the author would like to thank SSTORYMAN for all his help and words
of encouragement along the way. You're great, man.
   
   THE ELUSIVE CALIFORNIA DREAM - Part 1 of 9
   
   1. On the Road Again
   
   John Patterson was forty-two years old when his mid-life crisis finally
arrived. He was a successful vice president at a small electronics firm
nestled obscurely in the heart of Silicon Valley. Actually, his company, Ilex,
was teetering on the verge of greatness and quickly coming out of obscurity.
It was being pressured by both regional and national investment bankers to go
public. Ilex was doing approximately $100 million dollars of revenue annually
with a payroll of only 250 employees. Everything it touched in its seven-year
history had been golden but the company desperately needed additional outside
capital to keep its fast-paced growth on-track. John was one of the four
founding employees and would made a millionaire five times over when the stock
he owned entered the public domain. And that would be just the start.
   Yet, something seemed to trouble John as the big Boeing 767 commenced its
descent toward the ground six miles below. He stared out the window from his
wide first class seat in the second row. The Florida coastline stretched out
before him. The view was spectacular as the large jet became noticeably more
quiet during it's glide back to Earth. John had had trouble sleeping the last
few nights but it was not because of the big business deal he was working on
that had sent him to Fort Lauderdale on these recent trips. No, something
inside him, something deep within his psyche was changing. Things that had not
mattered in almost 20 years had suddenly become urgent and now occupied a
prominent place in his mind. And he couldn't shake it. It was everywhere - at
work, in his car during commute, at the shopping mall and even at church. From
the moment he awoke each morning until he finally dozed off each night (if he
could manage), John was being distracted by one thing -- women.
   Well, women were not the only things he thought about. John had a great
gift to multitask. In fact, his bandwidth, intelligent quotient or whatever
you wanted to call it, his ability to juggle about five complex problems at
once, impressed everyone that worked around him. Despite this gift of
multitasking, John couldn't get his new, re-born fascination with women out of
his head. Hell, he really didn't want to. It was nice to once again take in
the scenery that he had paid virtually no attention to since his marriage to
Jill eighteen years ago. The puzzling part was that he had no idea what had
caused it. He could trace it to no single key event. He and Jill were doing
fine, no change there. When he turned forty, he took plenty of ribbing about
the 'commencement' of his mid-life crisis. Jill even planned a surprise, adult
fortieth birthday party with 20 of their close friends complete with a female
striper that showed up before the cake was cut. John was amused, even a good
sport about it, but, he said later, truthfully, that despite her supple
breasts, spectacular figure and model-like facial features, she did little for
him. Yeah, sure, right, roared Mike and Conrad, his close business partners.
Just send her over to my place, they had each said.
   That was over two years ago. Now John tried to recall the memory. If that
had been today he would relish the contact, the sexual play, the delightful
male - female game of first attracting, and then bantering sexual innuendo
back and forth. John had spent the last several weeks actually fantasizing
about finally interacting with some of the women that he had only been
lustfully eyeing in parking lots, cars, around his office and in restaurants.

   Then last night, when he again had trouble sleeping, he went up to his den,
logged on to his company's network and began sorting through his myriad of
daily emails. For fun (it was now 2 AM), he opened up the Netscape browser to
check on a few of his competitor's websites. Ilex served several niche markets
and had no direct competitors however, being the ever-vigilant salesman that
he was, John was always on the prowl for potential interlopers into his
hard-earned territory. 
   After several clicks, he was on Netscape's home page when something caught
his eye. It was only one click away and sat right on top of the page. It said
"Classifieds". John couldn't resist. In a few more clicks he found the
Personals - Women Looking for Men. He'd never been here before but the format
was unbelievably simple to understand. He ran through all the categories,
checking off what he'd like in his 'dream' woman. He even narrowed his
criteria down to the San Jose and San Francisco areas in California. A few
seconds after clicking 'Search' he was confronted with a table announcing that
he had 16 matches. A small asterisk appeared next to 4 of the matches
indicating that this particular woman had an accompanying picture.
Unbelievable, he muttered. John had opened up his fifth or sixth ad when all
of a sudden Jill stumbled into the den looking half asleep and said, "Hey,
hon...what's goin' on?"
   Oh my God, I didn't even hear her! He quickly clicked the Netscape window
to the bottom of the screen and redisplayed his email. He thought Jill could
see the monitor and almost felt 'caught'. Caught doing what? he said defiantly
to himself. 
   Jill was too tired to notice. "Can't sleep again tonight?" she asked.
   "Uh uh. I've got a ton of these emails to finish, then I've got to get
ready for my trip back to Florida," he said, sounding bushed.
   "Florida? Again? I thought you said you had that deal about closed," she
stated in a monotone voice.
   John gave a quick laugh and shook his head. "About closed usually means at
least four or five more trips to the customer. Besides, this time Collins,
Ilex's customer, will be there too. Lots of their bigwigs, a real
schmoozefest." He gave another shake of his head like he was growing bored
from it all, which was definitely not the case. He did it for Jill's benefit
lest he look too eager to run off on yet another business trip.
   Jill laughed back. "You love it and you know it. Why else is Ilex so
successful? All FOUR of you are zealots." 
   Four, referred to the big four that started the company seven years ago,
John included. Al Ross and Conrad Anderson were the two owners that shared the
initial investment. Together, they lured Mike Smith and John to join them.
John was put in charge of Marketing and his responsibilities grew as the
business grew. His first task was to hire several disgruntled engineers and
technicians away from Apple Computer to work on Ilex's first product. He now
was the Vice President in charge of Marketing, Contracts and Product Support
and had just about one-third of the company, about 75 people, reporting to
him. It was true though. John did love the excitement and power that his job
provided but he didn't consider himself a 'zealot'.
   Now, a shiver of excitement passed through his body as the airliner softly
shuttered during its touchdown at the Fort Lauderdale - Hollywood
International Airport. However, the shiver was not due to his upcoming
business deal and series of meetings he had to attend to over the next few
days. No, John was on the road and that meant one thing -- that he could smoke
again.
   
   
   2. Contact at the Iguana 
   
   "What kind of place is this?" John shouted above the din of the music to no
one in particular. The sign outside said "The Cafe Iguana".
   "What kind of place you looking for?" asked a waitress near the bar as she
flashed him a soft but sexy grin.
   John stopped in his tracks and grinned back. "Oh, I don't know...a place
where the beer flows non-stop and a place that..." he gazed towards the dance
floor, "...a place that doesn't admit blueheads sporting those West Palm Beach
crash-helmet hairdos!"
   They both laughed loudly in unison as she touched him on the shoulder. She
knew exactly what John meant. A bluehead was of the over-sixty crowd and
accounted for almost half of South Florida's population. They were also known
as whiteheads, cue-tips or just plain Grandma. They always drove 20 miles an
hour under the speed limit and plodded along in middle lanes with their turn
signal forever blinking. 
   John and his pals tonight had had enough of the Fort Lauderdale senior
crowd. They had just left a place called the Elbo Room out on Atlantic Avenue
that came highly recommended as a trendy bar right on the water. John had
looked around once they got there and proclaimed, "What is this, night of the
living dead!?" Nonetheless, the three men ordered drinks since they had spent
the better part of an hour trying to find a place to park along the crowded
oceanfront. John had shown his distaste with his surroundings by ordering a
banana margarita. "And make sure you put one of those little umbrellas in the
glass," he reminded the waitress. His two engineer friends from Collins had
howled uncontrollably. 
   The Elbo Room was not the trendy place it was ten years ago. Well, maybe it
was still trendy but for the wrong crowd. When John's banana margarita
arrived, he swigged it down in two gulps and ordered another. A warm buzz
almost immediately pervaded his body. Well, the Elbo room may not be hip but
they sure don't water their liquor, he thought.
   The three men had been in meetings with Sikorsky Helicopter Company and the
US Navy up in West Palm Beach from 8 AM until seven this evening. Around 6:30,
someone suggested they order-in some pizza but Peter Gaylor, Sikorsky's VP of
Engineering said, "No, we don't want to keep our Navy guests much longer. This
meeting will end now." Oh, Peter was smooth, John had thought. The shore-duty
Navy was not interested in working much past 3 PM and you could see it when
the three lieutenant commanders dozed off at 4 in their plush seats in the
executive conference room.
   The US Navy was the end-customer and about ready to upgrade the avionics on
about 100 of their aging SH-60B Seahawks. Sikorsky was bidding for the job and
had their two main subcontractors in the room; Collins and Ilex. Ilex would
provide the secure communications suite that would interface with the
Collins-supplied radios. Each helicopter upgrade would cost about $2.5
million; of which, John's Ilex company would make $500,000 a copy or, $50
million over three years. And that was just on this program alone! This would
be John's biggest coop for Ilex in its seven-year history. He wanted this
program badly. However, badly was the operative word for the day. The
technical fact-finding that would lead to formal negotiation (and close the
deal) was bogging down. It turned out the Navy had sent the wrong people to
fact-find. These three lieutenant commanders were pilots, not engineers. As
the afternoon wore on, it became increasingly obvious to John, the two Collins
engineering directors and Peter Gaylor that their mission was going nowhere.
The pilots kept saying to press on. They just wanted out of the warm
conference room so they could hit the bar somewhere, John suspected.
   When the meeting wrapped up for the day and John and the Collins directors,
Randy Finch and Jack Borgman, were turning in their visitor badges at the
security gate, Jack put his arm around John and said, "You know, it's a wonder
we won a single goddamn war when it takes the Navy this much time just to buy
some fuckin' radios".
   John laughed and so did Randy but John had to remind himself that he'd also
think twice before buying a $2.5M radio (so to speak) for a helicopter.
Everyone left the building with the expectation of returning to West Palm
Beach for many more sessions before this thing was put to bed.
   
   "Welcome to the Iguana. What can I get you guys?" asked the cute waitress
that floated to their table as if on roller skates. Her nametag said
'Charlene'.
   The Cafe Iguana was a bar / dance establishment also located on Atlantic
Avenue but much farther down from the geriatric establishments like the Elbo
Room, Chart House, and so on. The Iguana had a large dance floor and blasted
out popular rock tunes from the '70s, '80s and '90s on their 5000-watt sound
system. There was a nice-sized crowd gathered for 10 PM on a Thursday night
and the dance floor was about half full.
   "Three Bass Ales for my friends and I," John roared as he handed the gal
his AMEX card.
   "Sixteen or twenty-four ounce mug?" asked Charlene, smiling.
   Just then Borgman spoke up. "Give my friend here the biggest goddamn mug
you've got in this place. He needs it! Hell, he deserves it." He then plucked
John's AMEX from Charlene's fingers and replaced it with a card of his own.
   "Jack, come on, you don't have to do that. You're the customer you know."
   "No, not on this program. Not tonight." Jack then lowered his voice. "You
know, our marketing department would still have its head up its ass if you
hadn't come along and dropped this one in our lap. No, we owe you, John. As
long as I'm traveling with you, Collins buys."
   John was flattered yet knew it was completely true. He did uncover the Navy
opportunity long before Sikorsky or Collins ever got wind of it. Then he
managed to keep the whole thing from going competitive for open bids by
ensuring that Sikorsky, with its strong Navy ties, take the lead. "Thanks
Jack. I didn't know you cared," John smiled as he spoke with mock sincerity.
   Just as Charlene was delivering the large beer mugs with the Bass Ale, John
reached into his pocket and set a newly purchased pack of Benson and Hedges
Menthol Lights on the table. The Collins men registered no surprise so John
continued by sliding out a cigarette. He lit up casually and blew his smoke
away from the table. Damn, this tastes good, he reminded himself.
   John had purchased this pack of cigarettes from the Sheraton gift shop last
evening when he checked in. He hadn't smoked in several weeks and had eagerly
looked forward to his first one when he got up to his hotel room. After
carefully unpacking his garment bag, he sat down in the chair near the bed and
thoughtfully smoked three cigarettes. The taste was good and the nicotine
relaxed him but it also enhanced his ability to think clearly. John wondered
why he was being drawn in to want to start smoking again. As he sat back in
the chair, he was reminded of Jill. What would she think? She had seen him
smoke occasionally since they'd been married but it was only when they were
out with friends or at parties. He had always bummed cigarettes from the
smoking guests and never purchased any of his own. It was the same with
cigars. He'd enjoy one or two in a group but only on rare occasion. He
suspected when Jill noticed him that she'd written it off as just 'bonding
with the boys'. She never said anything to him afterward, but somehow the
silence seemed awkward. Now he was getting a taste of what it was like to be a
regular smoker. Lately, the more he smoked, the more he wanted to smoke. He
vaguely understood the connection he was making with smoking as it seemed to
tie with his new found fascination with women, and more specifically, women
that smoked. Confusing as it appeared on the surface, this was nothing new to
John. Over the years, he had just suppressed this fetish for women who smoked.
He remembered smoking in college back in the '70s and getting very turned on
by watching the cute co-eds smoke in the Student Union, or at the frat
parties, or outside on the lawn, or just about anywhere for that matter. He
lamented that he never did have a girlfriend who smoked while he attended the
University of California at Berkeley. He briefly fantasized, sitting here
alone, about being married to a woman who smoked. Then he quickly laughed it
off. Jill smoke? Not very likely, although he knew she had tried it back
before he'd met her when she was in college herself. But then again, hadn't
everybody? No, Jill was not going to smoke for him, that was for sure.
   
   As the three men silently sipped their beers, John scanned the raucous bar
and looked at the nearby tables. There were plenty of women around but most
seemed to be with other guys. Lots of them were smoking. In fact, John noticed
that the air swirling around was laden with ambient smoke. A far cry from any
bar in California where smoking was outlawed except for outside on the
terrace, he sighed. It figures that I have to live in a state with the
toughest smoking laws in the free world just as this fetish is coming back to
life. It won't be long until all of this is a thing of the past, regardless of
which state, he mused. Suddenly, he had the urge to dump some of the beer he
had been collecting. He finished his cigarette, stood up and excused himself
to the restroom.
   When John emerged, Eric Clapton's original "Layla" was beginning to blast
from the speakers. It occurred to him that someone must've turned the volume
up another 20 decibels because it was LOUD! Clapton's familiar heavy guitar
introduction to the song was sending the dance floor into a frenzy. John stood
next to the bar and watched the house go wild. The music was sounding good to
him and he felt like he wanted to dance. He also felt pleasantly drunk.
   At first, the direction back to the table eluded him. The music was sending
his head spinning. He wasn't sure if he should go right or left. Just as he
moved right, he spotted Jack's balding head at the table over on the left
side. As John made a very unbalanced and awkward shift to his left, he
careened directly into a woman trying to thread the gap between him and a
large column near the bar. The girl bounced off John's hip and nearly lost her
balance and fell.
   "Whoa....are you all right?" John asked, then added, "Sorry," not really
sure who's fault it was. His instinct was to reach out to help her but he
could see she was just fine. He noticed she was keeping her distance.
   This woman, whoever she was, appeared only momentarily stunned. Quickly a
smile formed on her face and she moved closer to him. "What?!" she yelled,
indicating she couldn't hear him above the din of the music. She continued to
hold the smile.
   John also moved closer. She was beautiful. She stood about 5' 10", had a
very athletic figure accented by some perfectly fitting jeans and a sleeveless
black sweater. She wore some sort of gold pendant on a matching chain around
her neck. The pendant rested above her ample breasts. Her honey-blond hair
hung fully straight and danced across the top of her shoulders as she moved
her head. John suddenly elevated her status to goddess when he looked down and
noticed the long white cigarette in her right hand.
   She gave John the once-over. He was looking very good tonight too. He was
dressed casually in some well-fitted khaki Levi Dockers and sporting a
colorful Greg Norman Shark golf shirt. His full head of dark brown hair was
combed back and waved over his ears and down the top of his neck. He looked
closer to 32 than 42, and with the alcohol coursing through his veins, he felt
22. 
   "I'm sorry!" John yelled not quite six inches from her ear. "See those two
guys at that table over there?" He pointed. "It's their fault. They must've
dragged the table to a new spot while I was taking a...uh, while I was in the
restroom."
   She laughed while eyeing him somewhat suspiciously as they looked at Randy
and Jack.
   Then the woman reached around John's lower back with her left arm and spoke
with a husky voice in his ear, "Just don't let it happen again." Her smile had
turned into something a bit subtler, a bit more suggestive, perhaps.
   The feeling her touch had on John was electric. He wanted to touch her back
and put his arm around her, but before he could act, she started walking
towards the perimeter of the dance floor. He wasn't sure if he was supposed to
follow her or not. For a moment, he was paralyzed as he watched her walk away
holding her cigarette at a cocked angle in her right hand. 
   Something told him she was getting away...I must go after her! As he moved
forward to follow, she stopped at a table only 15 feet from where Jack and
Randy were seated. She pulled out a seat and spoke some words to the woman
that was already sitting down across from her. 
   Now John had a choice. He could either go up to her table or stop short and
sit in his old seat with Jack and Randy. As he moved forward, he found he was
on autopilot. He walked right past the two men and approached this blond woman
from behind. John lightly rested his hand on her shoulder and whispered in her
ear, "Would you care to dance?" 
   His new found friend moved rather quickly to accommodate him. In one smooth
motion she rose, handed her cigarette to the woman across from her and glided
in front of John to lead him to the dance floor. They moved in a standard
freestyle form to the beat of Clapton's last few measures of "Layla". When the
music faded, there was a brief interlude before the next song. Thank God, John
thought. He took his dance partner's hand in his and looked her right in the
eye. She looked younger than she did back at the bar. He guessed somewhere
between 25 and 29. "John," he said smiling confidently. That was all he said.
   She smiled back at him rather demurely before she spoke. Then she looked at
her feet for a moment then back into his eyes. "Jenni," she said as she cocked
her head a few degrees before resuming the bashful smile.
   He wanted to take her right there. This Jenni looked so good to him. And
she smokes! What a combination. He had no idea what Jenni was thinking as she
looked back at him. Finally, the music resumed and the song that came next
mildly surprised both of them. It was a slow one from Sarah McLachlan's new
album. The song was called "Angel", a sultry tune sung slowly by McLachlan's
incredibly sexy voice. John recognized it from a recent movie he'd seen. He
thought he'd walk Jenni back to the table but before he started to move she
said, "This is my favorite artist, I've got to dance to this!" She looked at
John almost pleadingly.
   Only three other couples remained on the dance floor and they were all
locked in a very close embrace as they swayed to the slow beat of this "Angel"
song. At first John thought it odd to be dancing a slow dance with a girl he
just met ten minutes ago. He reached both his arms around Jenni's lower back
almost resting them on her hips. They kept their bodies slightly apart and
looked at each other so they could talk. It wasn't nearly as intimate as the
other couples but it was incredibly wonderful to be touching this goddess (she
smokes!), thought John.
   "So..." John said, "What happened back there at the bar? Did I get lost or
what?" He grinned indicating that he was teasing.
   "Oh, no. I think it was a great pick-up move," Jenni answered, pretending
his nearly knocking her down was intentional.
   "Pick-up move? Is that what I did?" he said, grinning.
   "Yeah, you bet. You know a good thing when you see it." Jenni was being
more bold than usual and felt confident in doing so because of his cool
attitude of playing the victim.
   John drew her slightly closer and she responded. Now their bodies were
touching. Jenni delighted his senses. She was a combination of fragrant
perfume, sweet breath and mild perspiration. They continued to move to the
slow music.
   "So, John, are you a regular here? Do you live...in Fort Lauderdale, I
mean?"
   By asking the question this way, he suspected Jenni was not a local either.
"No, I live out west." He felt it best (for some reason) to be a bit elusive
on precisely where. "My first time to this place actually," he said looking
around the room. "Let me guess, you're not from around here either."
   Jenni smiled, indicating that maybe she too wasn't all that eager to
divulge details of her life just yet. John didn't press. As the music ended,
Jenni kept John's hand in hers and slowly led him back to her table. She
passed Jack and Randy at their table with John in tow. John just sort of
leered at them as if to say, 'See what I've got?' as he slipped by.
   "John, this is Kristina. Kristina, John." Jenni was introducing him to the
woman that she had handed her cigarette to less than five minutes ago.
   John reached out his hand to shake wanting to show some courtesy since it
looked like he was being asked to join them -- although it had not been
spoken. He noticed Kristina was not smoking but had a partially filled ashtray
in front of her as well as a glass of what looked like a blush white wine.
   "Please, call me Tina," she insisted to John, then smiled and took his
hand.
   John thought Tina looked very Mediterranean...maybe Italian or Greek or
some combination thereof. She was nice and trim with long, dark, wavy hair and
a slight olive complexion. Her smile was inviting yet mysterious.
   Just then, without saying anything, Tina reached down into her purse and
pulled out a pack of Marlboro Lights 100s and set them on the table. She
pulled one out and extended the pack to Jenni. Jenni shook her head indicating
no thanks. Then Tina held the pack towards John giving him an inquisitive
smile.
   John looked back into her eyes and said, "Uh, no thanks, I've got my own."
   Then, with a very quick move, he leaned two tables over and grabbed his
beer mug and pack of cigarettes from where he'd left them. Again, he shot a
funny glance at Randy and Jack.
   John watched Tina light her cigarette from what looked like an expensive
gold lighter, not the usual throw-away Bic. She looked wonderful doing this
smoking ritual. She inhaled her first puff after lighting her cigarette
without removing it from her mouth, then as she offered John her lighter, she
drew again and inhaled a second time. This was no novice smoker, John noted.
She held the smoke inside her chest for about 5 seconds before releasing it
slowly. She seemed to intentionally push it in Jenni's direction.
   John lit his cigarette and handed the lighter back to Tina. Tina then spoke
something very softly to Jenni that John could not understand. Jenni finally
smiled and said, "Oh, all right," as if she'd just been coerced into doing
something.
   Tina slid the pack in front of Jenni and again readied her lighter. Jenni
placed the long Marlboro Light between her lips as Tina extended the flame.
John was already getting excited. Despite Tina's good looks and experienced
smoking style, he really wanted to see Jenni smoke.
   Jenni pulled lightly on the cigarette and did not inhale this first puff.
This did not seem unusual to John. He expected her to follow with another puff
but she didn't. Instead she looked at John with perhaps a slightly embarrassed
expression. She looked so innocent to him and he felt immediately attracted to
her. To give Jenni confidence to start smoking her cigarette, John raised his
own and took a long puff. He inhaled and tried to make it look pleasurable as
if to say, 'this is what smokers do'. He sensed Jenni was getting the message,
for she raised her cigarette again and puffed for about two seconds. She then
withdrew the filter from her lips and opened her mouth and breathed in
shallowly. Almost as quickly as she breathed in, she breathed out again. A
loose stream of smoke rose from her chest and out her mouth. Despite being
very turned on by all that was happening around him, John almost felt
disappointed. It was obvious Jenni hadn't smoked very long and probably wasn't
enjoying it. In fact, she seemed very ill at ease about the whole thing.
   John took another long puff on his Benson and Hedges and decided to ask
Jenni about her smoking. He tried to do it discretely. "So Jenni, are you a
'weekend' smoker like I am?" he asked.
   Jenni was just beginning to exhale another shallow puff and smoke came out
of her mouth and nose as she laughed. "Yeah. Is it that obvious? Actually, I
just decided to try it for the first time on my last trip to Florida." She
shot a knowing glance at Tina.
   "Ah, so you're a tourist too...I knew it. Do you come down here often?"
   Jenni turned to Tina as if to ask, is it okay, can I tell him?
   Tina then spoke up after she exhaled a long stream of smoke. "We're flight
attendants. We come down here and R-O-1-N about three times a month."
   "R-O-1-N?" asked John.
   "Remain Over One Night...sorry, airline terminology," Tina spoke and
commenced another long puff.
   John turned back to Jenni. "Flight attendants, huh?" he said acting like he
was impressed. "So, you only smoke when you're away? I mean 'R-O-1-N'," he
corrected himself as he winked at Tina.
   "Yeah, so far," answered Jenni, as if to insinuate that at some point in
the future she might try smoking in other locations too.
   This excited John. "If you're just here for the night, where are you based
out of?" He hoped he wasn't getting to personal remembering Jenni's look to
Tina a few minutes earlier.
   "We fly out of Atlanta. Our crew is based out of there."
   "Ah...you with Delta?"
   Jenni hesitated. John quickly followed up. "Oh, sorry. If I'm asking too
many questions just, uh, just say so.
   Jenni shook her head and smiled. "No, it's okay. Tina and I just like to be
careful. You hear all kinds of stories about the weirdoes down here and we
only want..." Jenni stopped in mid-sentence and started laughing. John looked
back with slight indignation but was laughing too.
   "Oh God." Jenni continued to laugh softly and rest her hand on John's
forearm, "That didn't come out right. I'm sorry. I didn't mean...didn't mean
to imply..." She continued to laugh.
   John put his hand on Jenni's and laughed gently with her. The ice was
melting. Things were going to get better still. He could sense it. Just then,
John felt a hand on his shoulder. Someone was standing behind him. As he
turned in his seat still smiling from his flirtation with Jenni, he noticed it
was Jack and Randy.
   "John, we're going to be heading out. Remember, we've got an early start
tomorrow," stated Jack.
   "Nonsense," John retorted, standing up. "I'm sorry. Randy, Jack, no, stay.
Sit down and join us." He turned back to Jenni first. "Jenni, meet Jack. Jack,
Jenni." He turned back to Randy. "Randy, this is Jenni...and, uh, Tina."
   Jack spoke, "No, thanks, we've got to get back. Go ahead and stay though.
We'll just grab a cab."
   "No, really, join us. We'll all drive back together later." John really
wanted his two Collins guests to sit down.
   Jack put his arm around John to indicate there were no hard feelings.
"We'll get a cab. It's no big deal. We'll meet for breakfast tomorrow at the
hotel around 7:30. Keep the car for yourself." They had ridden in John's
rental car to get here. John shook both their hands and Randy interjected to
the women, "Nice to meet you," as they negotiated the crowd and made for the
door.
   
   John and Jenni danced several more times as midnight approached. Jenni
smoked only one more cigarette before Tina said they needed to think about
getting back to their hotel also. John thought he noticed Jenni was becoming
more comfortable while smoking. Her puffs didn't last any longer but she
seemed to be inhaling deeper and relaxing her exhales a bit more. This was
certainly a positive sign.
   When John learned the girls took a cab to get to Iguana's, he immediately
volunteered to drive them back. It turned out they were staying just across
the street from his hotel at the Airport Hilton on Griffin Road. He was
staying at the Sheraton. 
   Without comment, Jenni took the front seat next to John while Tina rode in
the back. He debated whether to smoke in the car but decided against it. He
didn't want to just let these two woman out at their hotel and never see them
again though, especially Jenni. He tried to formulate a plan. Finally, as he
pulled up to the front door of their hotel, he asked, "Would you guys like to
go into the bar for a nightcap? I'm buying."
   Tina politely declined, then Jenni turned around and looked at her. The car
was silent for about a second then Jenni spoke, "I'd love to."
   John and Jenni said goodnight to Tina at the elevator and walked together
into the bar called "Keys" just off the lobby. John wondered why Floridians
seemed to force this tropical ambiance just about everywhere you turn.
   Jenni reached out and took John's hand. All of a sudden, he felt a surreal
euphoria envelop him by the touch of this strange but beautiful women. He
couldn't believe this was happening to him. It was oh so pleasant but at the
same time had a very foreign feel to it. The only woman he'd held hands with
for the past twenty years had been his wife, Jill. Nonetheless, he loved this
contact. He felt young again, like he was dating some hot chick back in
college. 
   There were only two other couples and a single man sitting at the bar when
Jenni and John sat down at a table. A cocktail waitress asked for their order.
John told her, "Two Bailey's, on the rocks," then lit a cigarette and offered
his blue-green Benson and Hedges pack to Jenni. He was hoping she'd join in
and try one of his.
   Jenni smiled, reached out and took the pack. There was no resistance. She
smoothly and delicately placed the long white cigarette between her lips and
waited for John to flick his lighter. The image Jenni projected to him at this
moment was awe-inspiring. She was like a living fantasy, sitting right before
him. He thanked God as he took in this wonderful scene of Jenni drawing on her
cigarette and slowly inhaling. She looked much better sitting before him in
this light than she did back at Iguana's. She even tipped her head back as she
exhaled this time. John's crotch was getting harder by the minute and he
shifted in his seat to relieve the pressure.
   "These are pretty good. What are they?" asked Jenni as she looked at the
freshly lit cigarette between her fingers.
   "Benson and Hedges Menthol Lights," John eagerly replied back. "Do you like
them?"
   "Menthol? Is that this different, cool-like taste I'm noticing?" Jenni took
another puff, longer than before, as if to demonstrate.
   "Yeah, these have menthol added to them. It sort of smoothes out the flavor
by cooling it. I like it. Some people don't," John said rather
matter-of-factly.
   Jenni began her exhale and, for the first time, seemed to take pleasure in
watching the smoke leave her body. She immediately followed up with another
puff. "I really do like the menthol taste. I've only tried Tina's since I
started a couple of weeks ago. I could get used to these though." She smiled.
   John understood this to mean that Jenni had never owned a pack of
cigarettes since starting to smoke. "Here, you can have this pack. I have
another back in my room," he lied.
   Jenni smiled wickedly at the prospect of having her own pack of cigarettes.
"Really? I probably won't smoke that much but when I do, I know I'd prefer
these over Tina's." To prove the point, she took a long, slow drag and this
time looked right at John. When she inhaled, she made a soft whooshing sound
and held the smoke in her chest enjoying its sensations. This was mostly new
ground for her and she was finding it mildly pleasurable.
   "Jenni," John couldn't resist saying, "You look incredibly sexy sitting
there smoking." He then added, "If you don't mind my saying so..."
   She knew that there was something sensual about what she was doing. In
fact, she could feel it. She didn't have to touch herself, but she knew her
vagina was growing wetter by the minute. Still, John's comment puzzled her for
a moment. "I don't mind. You're not looking too bad tonight either, if you
don't mind my saying so..." Jenni smiled very alluringly and decided to begin
another puff.
   John couldn't believe what he was hearing. The light banter was turning
deadly serious yet he didn't want it to end. He was quickly becoming
infatuated with this girl and wanted to have sex with her at this very minute.
The scary part was, he knew she probably would accept if only he continued to
make the right advances.
   
   Back at his hotel room, John let out a sigh. Their lips had brushed only
slightly, then a passionate kiss had followed. He could still recall Jenni's
slightly sweet and mildly smoky breath. God, it was perfect. She purposely had
set him up with this not-so-subtle invitation. Now he was pacing back and
forth in his hotel room back at the Sheraton (alone) reliving this good-bye to
Jenni in her hotel lobby. It had to end this way, it HAD to he kept reminding
himself. He couldn't have made love to her despite his primal desires. Too
much was at stake, too much risk. John was momentarily proud of himself and
his willpower. No, no, no, fuck willpower. I wanted her...I needed her. This
desire was amplified now that he was safe in his own room.
   Suddenly, John was struck by the fact that he gave Jenni his only pack of
cigarettes and he wanted one now more than ever. It would help him cope with
this agonizing sexual dilemma. He wondered if the gift shop downstairs was
still open even though it was 1 AM. He wanted desperately to smoke. He needed
to.
   When he got to the shop off the lobby all he heard himself saying was,
"Shit, shit, shit!" The shop was closed but through the glass he could see the
packs of cigarettes lined up behind the register in the soft light. John
looked again at his watch and decided it was too late to go out to a
convenience store. He had to get up at 7 AM for his final day of meetings
before heading back to San Francisco.
   As he lay in bed, John allowed himself to relive the kiss with Jenni and
fantasize about her smoking HIS cigarettes. He climaxed rather quickly before
dozing off in the room's king-size bed.
   


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