Chapter One

Randi Hansen took a long pull on her beer and surveyed the scene in front of her. Women were moving on the dance floor to the beat of some great eighties music. She was in her element. She watched as couples moved together on the floor, then went off to separate tables. She sat back and admired all of the women. Randi felt each woman was beautiful in her own way. She was a lover of the female form and planned on doing some loving that night.

“Is this seat taken?” a voice said in her ear.

She turned to see a curvy brunette standing next to her.

“Help yourself,” Randi said. “I’m Randi.”

“I’m Melissa. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you. Can I buy you a drink?”

“Are you always this forward?”

“Only with beautiful women.”

Melissa blushed. Randi watched with great pleasure as the light pink worked its way up her neck to cover her face. She was quite attractive. And her low-cut top left little to the imagination. She had some bodacious breasts, and Randi decided she would be her bedmate that night.

“Would you like to dance?” Randi said.

“How about that drink first?”

“Oh, yeah. What would you like?”

“I’ll have a gin and tonic.

Randi motioned to the bartender and ordered a drink for Melissa and another beer for herself.

“Do you ever drink anything stronger than beer?” Melissa said.

“Not very often. Sometimes I’ll drink tequila, but I’m mostly a beer kinda woman.”

Melissa nodded as she took a sip of her drink.

“This is really good,” she said.

“Glad to hear it. Gin definitely isn’t my thing.”

“Why’s that?”

Because my mother used to drink it until she was a royal bitch, Randi thought. She shrugged.

“I guess I just never developed a taste for it.” 

“Fair enough. Now, about that dance?”

Randi stood and offered Melissa her hand. Melissa’s hand was soft and warm, and Randi was sure the rest of her would be as well. She made herself stop that line of thinking. One dance and a drink didn’t necessarily mean Melissa would go home with her. But Randi seldom struck out.

They danced a couple of fast songs, but when Randi tried to pull Melissa in for a slow song, Melissa pulled away. She took Randi’s hand and led her back to the bar. Too soon. Randi told herself to be patient.

Randi took a swig of beer.

“So, what do you do, Melissa?”

“I’m a clerk in the county office.”

“Oh.” It sounded boring to Randi, but she wouldn’t let on. “Do you like it?”

“It’s not bad. I’ve worked there since I graduated from college. It’s a good job. What do you do?”

“I work for Animal Rescue.”

“In what capacity?”

“If you see a wild animal or stray dog or cat, I’m the one you call to go get them.”

Melissa laughed. It was an easy laugh, and it made Randi smile.

“Which are you more likely to see? A wild animal or a stray dog or cat?” she said.

“You’d be surprised,” Randi said. “It’s not uncommon to get called out because someone has a raccoon or a possum in their yard. Or even in their house sometimes.”

“Wow. How do they get inside someone’s house?”

“Dog doors, mostly.”

“Excuse me?”

“People have those doggie doors for their dogs to go in and out. If the doors are big enough, critters of the night can get in looking for food.”

“Oh, my God. That would terrify me if I found one of them in my house.” Melissa laughed.

“No need to be terrified. You just call me. I come get them and release them back into the wild.”

“So you don’t kill them?”

“God, no. We take them back to the Everglades and let them loose.”

“Well, that’s decent.”

Randi ordered two more drinks and leaned back and looked at Melissa. She was shorter than Randi with broad hips and large breasts and plenty of meat in the middle. She made Randi’s mouth water. She wanted to run her hands and mouth all over her body.

“Oh, my,” Melissa said.

“What?” Randi snapped out of her reverie and realized she’d been busted.

“You were practically drooling. I take it you like what you see?”

“I do. Very much. Now, how about some more dances?”

They made their way to the center of the dance floor and moved to the music. They danced three more fast songs, and this time, when a slow song came on, Melissa moved into Randi’s arms.

She felt so good there. She fit so well. Randi fought every urge to kiss her right there in front of everybody. She’d rather wait until they had some privacy. They swayed together, and occasionally Randi would hear Melissa singing along with the song. She had a really nice voice. Just one more attribute to enjoy about her. Randi wondered how much longer they’d have to hang out before they could just go home.

When the song ended, Melissa took her hand again and led her back to the bar. This time, she grabbed her purse and kept walking toward the door. Randi’s stomach flip-flopped. It was time for the fun to begin.

Once in the parking lot, Melissa turned to Randi.

“Your place or mine?” she said.

“Yours, if you don’t mind.” Randi didn’t like to bring women home to her place. For one thing, she was a slob. For another, she couldn’t just leave if she was at her own place.

“Sounds good. I drive that green Prius over there.”

“That’s my Frontier. I’ll follow you.”

Randi kept her focus on the Prius as she drove. She did not want to lose sight of it. She hadn’t asked where Melissa lived. Melissa pulled up in front of a nondescript ranch house in a nice neighborhood. Randi parked against the curb out front.

“Nice house,” she said when she walked over to Melissa.

“Thanks. It’s not much, but it’s home.”

Melissa opened the door and invited Randi in. Randi stood with her hands in her pockets. She wanted to attack Melissa in a good way but was letting her set the pace.

“You want something to drink?” Melissa said. “I’m afraid all I have is wine.”

“Red or white?”

“Red.”

“I’d love a glass,” Randi lied. She didn’t want anything that delayed her from undressing Melissa and getting at that body.

Melissa served them and led Randi into the living room where she offered her a seat on the couch. Randi sat and Melissa sat next to her. Randi could feel the heat radiating from Melissa and knew she wanted this as badly as Randi did.

Randi looked around at the bold prints on the wall and the colorful carpet.

“You really like your colors, don’t you?” she said.

“I do. They make me happy.”

Randi thought of her own house, decorated in rustic style. She was happy, once again, that they’d agreed to go to Melissa’s place.

She took a sip of her wine. Not bad. Not beer, but not bad.

“This is really good,” she said.

“I’m glad you like it. It’s my favorite.”

Randi looked into Melissa’s eyes and saw a combination of desire and fear in them. Oh, no. Had she made a mistake?

“What’s wrong?” she said.

“What? Nothing. Why?”

“I don’t know. You just seem a little on edge.”

“I’ll admit I’m nervous,” Melissa said. “I’m not used to bringing home a stranger from a bar.”

“Really?” Randi laughed softly. “It’s not that hard.”

Melissa laughed then, too.

“I take it you do this all the time?”

“Let’s just say this isn’t my first rodeo.”

Melissa drew in a deep breath.

“Drink some more wine. You need to relax. Or you can tell me to leave if that’s what you want.”

“No. No. I don’t want you to leave. I know that. I’m sorry. I’m not exactly helping set the mood, am I?”

Randi reached out and took Melissa’s hand. She felt it relax in her own.

“See? That’s nice, isn’t it?”

“That’s really nice. But I don’t want to sit here holding hands with you all night.”

“Don’t worry. We won’t.

Randi leaned in and gently brushed her lips against Melissa’s. The touch sent shockwaves cascading over her body. She pulled back.

“Oh, that was nice,” Melissa said.

“Good.”

Randi set her glass on the coffee table and took Melissa’s from her. She set it down and leaned in for another kiss. This one was still close mouthed, but it said more and lasted longer.

This time, when Randi attempted to pull away, Melissa reached her hand behind her head and pulled her back. She opened her mouth and welcomed Randi’s tongue inside. Randi was quick to oblige. Her heart raced as their tongues danced together. She fought the urge to climb on top of Melissa right then and there.

When the kiss ended, they were both breathless.

“Come on.” Melissa stood and offered her hand to Randi, who took it gratefully.

Randi stood on wobbly legs and let herself be led down the hall to Melissa’s bedroom. Her gaze came to rest on the king-sized bed in the center of the room. Plenty of room for both of them. She smiled.

“What?” Melissa said.

“I like your bed.”

“That’s a good thing.”

“That’s a very good thing.” Randi laughed.

She held Melissa in her arms and kissed her again. She kissed down her cheek to nibble on an earlobe before kissing her neck. Melissa moaned in delight.

Randi brought a hand up and cupped one of Melissa’s full breasts through her dress.

“Get me out of this thing,” Melissa said. Randi was happy to oblige. She unzipped the dress and helped Melissa step out of it. She quickly unhooked her bra and watched her breasts fall freely.

“My God, you’re beautiful,” Randi said as she watched Melissa step out of her panties.

“Your turn,” Melissa said. “I want to see you in all your butch glory.”

Randi stripped quickly and moved to take Melissa in her arms again. The feel of flesh on flesh made her lightheaded with desire. She held up one of Melissa’s breasts and bent to lick the nipple. She felt it respond.

“I’m not going to make it on my feet,” Melissa said. “Let’s lie down.”

Randi walked her back to the bed and eased her down. She climbed on top of her. She brought her knee up to press against her center as she kissed her hard on her mouth. Melissa was wet and warm, and Randi couldn’t wait to get inside her.

She rolled off Melissa and bent to suck a nipple deep in her mouth. She took as much of her breast as she could with it. Her mouth full, she sucked hard and ran her tongue all over it. She skimmed her hand down the length of Melissa’s body, over her curves to where her legs met. She slid her hand between them and found everything coated with a juice that made it easy to play.

Melissa’s clit was hard and slick and Randi couldn’t resist rubbing it until Melissa cried out in ecstasy. But Randi wasn’t through. She moved her hand lower and dipped her fingers inside Melissa. She plunged them as deep as they would go before pulling them out again. She repeated this over and over. Melissa was arching off the bed, meeting every thrust. Finally, Melissa grabbed hold of Randi’s wrist with both hands and held tight. Randi felt her clutching her hand deep inside her and stayed still until the spasms stopped.

Randi slowly withdrew her hand.

“That was amazing,” Melissa said. “I don’t know how many times I came.”

“Good. You deserve to come as many times as you need to.”

“You’re a fantastic lover, Randi. You really are. I’m going to be hard-pressed to do you justice.”

“Baby, I want you so bad that you’re going to make me climax over and over again as well.”

Melissa grinned at her even as she blushed. 

“Then I’m ready to take my turn.”

She nibbled Randi’s neck and sucked on a nipple before she kissed her way down her taut belly. She spread her legs and climbed between them. She ran her tongue over Randi’s clit and down to her opening. She licked as deep as she could inside Randi, who was writhing on the bed. 

Randi felt like her clit was about to explode. She was all knotted up inside and needed relief. 

Melissa moved her mouth back to Randi’s clit and sucked it in her mouth. She rolled her tongue over it until Randi pressed her hand on the back of her head. Randi was so close. She needed just a little more, just a tiny bit more. And boom! Her world shattered into a million little pieces and floated to the ground.

Randi slowly opened her eyes and saw Melissa smiling down at her.

“That was fun,” Melissa said.

“Yeah, it was.”

“So now comes the awkward part.”

“What part is that?” Although she already knew.

“The part where I don’t know if you should stay over or not.”

“Well, how do you feel about that?”

“Look,” Melissa said. “I’m not kidding myself into thinking this was more than a one-night stand.”

“Okay.” Randi was relieved.

“So, I’m thinking it’s just as well if you leave now rather than in the morning. Is that okay? Or do I sound cold and unfeeling?”

“No.” Randi brushed a bit of hair off Melissa’s face. “Not at all. It makes perfect sense. I’ll get dressed and get out of here.”

She quickly donned her clothes and stood looking down at Melissa’s naked body. She’d been made to please, and Randi was glad she’d had the chance to do just that.

“So, I guess I’ll see you around?” Randi said.

“Sure thing.”

“Good night.”

“Good night.”

Randi let herself out into the night.

 

Chapter Two

Eleanor Bremer stood at the front of her classroom.

“Don’t forget, your papers are due Monday. Now put your homework on my desk and you’re free to go. Have a great weekend.”

She watched as her eighth grade class filed out. When the last student was gone, she sunk into the chair behind her desk. Thank God it was Friday. The kids were starting to accept her, but being a new teacher was never easy. Still, she was making progress and she had that to be thankful for.

She grabbed the homework the kids had put on her desk and began grading. She was on the last one when Ron Ferguson, a history teacher, popped his head in her room.

“Hey, Eleanor, a group of us are going to happy hour over at the Bull. You want to come with us?”

Every Friday since she’d been there, all four of them, she’d been invited to go out with the crew. Every Friday she’d declined. What was she so afraid of? She looked at Ron.

“Sure. I’d love to.”

“Huh? Wow. That’s great.” He laughed. She laughed, too.

“Sure, what the heck? I don’t know why it’s taken me this long.”

“Neither do I. Are you finished here? Do you want to ride with me?”

It was a simple question, but it made her gut churn. What did he mean? Did he assume she’d be going home with him? Or was it a simple offer? She chided herself to relax.

“I know where it is. I’m almost through here. I’ll meet you over there.”

“Great. See you then.”

She tried to concentrate and was finally able to grade the last assignment. She stood, straightened her skirt, grabbed her purse, and left the building. 

The Bull was a bit of a dive, but that’s probably why the teachers liked it, she thought. It was dimly lit with two pool tables in the middle and booths around the edges. She easily found her group and waved to them as she walked up to the bar. The place was almost empty so it was easy to get the bartender’s attention.

“Rum and Coke, please,” she said. She took her drink and walked over to the table.

“You know everyone here, right?” Ron said as she took her seat next to Martina Sernova, the science teacher.

“Sure I do.”

“I’m glad you finally came out with us,” Martina said.

Better to come out with them than to them, Eleanor thought wryly.

“Me, too. It’s just been so hectic. I’m glad you guys didn’t give up on me.”

“Never,” Ron said. “The more the merrier as far as we’re concerned. And we’ve been wanting to give you a proper welcome.”

“I really appreciate that.” Ron made her uncomfortable. He didn’t wear a wedding ring. So either he was single or a slimeball. Neither of which appealed to her. He had big brown puppy dog eyes so she couldn’t tell if it was just the way he was or if he was hitting on her.

“So, Eleanor,” Martina was saying. “Where did you move from again?”

“California.”

“All the way across country,” Ron said. “That’s a heck of a transplant. You’re too young for midlife crisis, so may I ask what prompted the move?”

Because I found my wife in bed with another woman, she thought.

“It was just time for a change. I’d been looking for a while, and when I saw this opportunity in Florida, I had to take it. It was like a dream come true. My own personal adventure.”

“Well, we’ve heard wonderful things about you,” Martina said. “We’re very happy to have you on staff.”

“Thank you. I’m very happy to be here.”

The afternoon turned into evening and Eleanor was actually relaxing. She shot a couple of games of pool. She lost both, but at least she tried. Finally, the gang started breaking up. Ron came over to her.

“Would you like to grab a bite to eat?” he said.

“No, thanks. I really need to get home and try to organize my things. I haven’t even finished unpacking yet. But thanks.”

“Sure. No problem.”

Eleanor got into her car and drove through a burger joint to get dinner and went home. Alone in her house, she looked around at everything she owned and started to cry. Damn it, she thought she was past the tears, but sometimes the level of her loneliness was overwhelming. This was one of those times. It wasn’t that she hated it here. Quite the contrary. Florida was beautiful. The people were nice. But why did she have to be alone? Didn’t she deserve to be loved?

She knew the answer to that. She also knew she wasn’t about to let anyone get close enough to love her. She’d been burned. Big time. And there was no way she was going to let anyone get close to hurting her again.

She finished her dinner and poured herself a glass of wine. She wished it was winter so she could start a fire in the fireplace. Then she remembered where she was. Winters would be warm and dry. Oh well, it was a lovely thought, anyway.

She sipped her wine and thought back to the happy years she and Sharon had shared. She had still thought them happy; had had no idea there was a problem. Until she came home one lunch hour to find Sharon in bed with someone Eleanor didn’t even know. How had Sharon met her? Who was she to her? 

Eleanor would never know the answers to any of those questions. She’d kicked Sharon out and wouldn’t listen to any explanation. She sold the house, packed up her things, and moved to Florida shortly thereafter. And Florida had become home.

 

v

 

Randi was in her garage lifting weights when her work cell rang.

“Animal Control,” she said.

“Yes. I need your help. I have a raccoon in my backyard and he’s got my cat treed.”

Randi smiled at the sound of fear in the older woman’s voice. Surely the raccoon was as scared of the cat as the cat was of him, but she wasn’t about to argue.

“Can you see the raccoon from where you are?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Keep an eye on him. I’ll be there in a few.”

She got the woman’s address, slipped her uniform shirt on, and headed out. She pulled into the driveway, and the elderly woman came out to greet her. Randi groaned inwardly. She’d asked the lady to keep an eye on the raccoon. Chances were it had taken off with her not watching it.

“He’s still there,” the lady said.

Randi followed her back to the backyard. There was no sign of the raccoon.

“He must have taken off,” the woman said.

“Yes, he probably did.” She tried to put things as softly as she could. “That’s why I wanted you to keep an eye on him.”

“I did. Right up until I heard you in the drive.”

Her face dropped.

“Oh. I should have just stayed with him.”

“It’s okay. The only thing now is he might be back. If he comes back, call me again and I’ll come out. But don’t take your eye off him for a second, okay?”

“Okay.”

They watched as the lady’s frightened cat climbed down the tree and skittered past them.

“At least Fluffy’s okay,” the lady said.

“Yep. That’s what’s important. You have a good evening, you hear?”

Randi climbed back into her truck and drove home. She didn’t mind being on call after hours. It was good money and things were usually quiet. As was the rest of that evening. She finished her workout, took a shower, and climbed into bed. 

The next day was Saturday, and she didn’t have to work. She turned her work cell off as soon as she woke up. She made herself some coffee and pondered what to do with her day. She decided to go fishing so she loaded up her tackle box and headed out. She made a quick stop at the mini-mart to pick up some beer and ice.

“Hey, Randi,” the cashier, Veronica, said.

“Hey yourself. How you been?” They’d slept together on numerous occasions. Veronica was an excellent bedmate and never wanted anything more than sex from her. She always looked forward to their encounters.

“Good. What are you up to?”

“Goin’ fishing.”

“Great. What’s biting?”

“I won’t know till I get there.”

“Fair enough,” Veronica said. “Say, any chance of seeing you at Joni’s tonight?”

Joni’s was the women’s bar. Suddenly, the prospects of the weekend were picking up.

“Sure, I’ll be there.”

“Buy me a drink?”

“You better believe it.”

“Okay then,” Veronica said. “Good luck and I’ll see you tonight.”

Randi parked her truck and hiked along the water’s edge. She came to a spot where the water rippled nicely over a patch of rocks. She opened a beer, took a sip, and cast her line. 

She enjoyed her quiet day in nature. She had no luck fishing. She didn’t even get a bite, but she had a few beers and caught a few rays. Life was good. She packed up and drove home where she took a shower and dressed in cargo shorts and a green T-shirt to go out to Joni’s. She seldom dressed up. It wasn’t her style. She wore the occasional golf shirt, but that was only if she was looking to impress. And she figured that night Veronica was a shoo-in.

She had another beer from the six-pack she’d bought that morning and headed off to the bar. She got there a little after nine. The place was packed, but she easily spotted Veronica. Veronica always wore three-inch heels when she went out, so she stood above many of the other women there. Her bleach blond hair hung to her shoulders. As Randi cut through the crowd, she saw Veronica was wearing a micro skirt and a pink shirt with spaghetti straps. She looked like she was ready for action, and Randi had just the action she wanted.

“Hey, good lookin’,” Randi said.

Veronica turned and looked at her. She greeted her with a big smile and kissed her cheek.

“Hey yourself,” she said.

“You want a drink?” Randi said.

“Sure. I’ll have a glass of Chardonnay.”

“Coming right up.”

“I’ll walk to the bar with you.”

Randi stood back to let her go first. She didn’t know how she walked in those heels, much less looked so sexy doing it, but she was glad she did. She was easy on the eyes and made for lovin’ up. Randi was already itching to get her out of there.

“Did you want to dance?” Randi said.

“Sure.”

They cut through the crowd and found a spot on the floor. The other thing about Veronica was that she was a natural dancer. It was as if she became one with the music. She swayed and swerved, and Randi was mesmerized watching her. She was always disappointed when the music stopped. 

She took Veronica’s hand and led her back to the bar where they finished their drinks amid easy conversation.

“How was work today?” Randi said.

“Pretty busy. Made the day fly by. How was fishing?”

“Awesome.”

“Did you catch anything?”

“I caught a few rays.” Randi laughed. Veronica laughed as well.

“Very funny.”

Randi ordered two more drinks and they sipped them. Well, Veronica sipped hers; Randi darn near chugged hers.

“You trying to get buzzed?” Veronica said.

“No. Just really thirsty for some reason.”

“Okay. Because I need you awake and alert later on.”

“Oh, don’t you worry, honey. Nothing’s going to slow me down.”

She ordered another beer then led Veronica to the dance floor. They danced a few fast songs before a slow song started. Veronica moved into Randi’s arms.

“You feel so good,” Veronica said. “I love the feel of your arms around me.”

“I love it better when we’re skin to skin.”

“Mm. Now you’re talking.”

“You ready to get out of here?” Randi said.

“Sure. Let’s go.”

The evening was warm and still as Randi escorted Veronica to her car.

“You remember where I live?” Veronica said.

“Of course. I’ll see you there.”

Randi fought the urge to kiss Veronica right then and there. She held back. She knew what pleasures lay ahead for her. She didn’t need any public display of affection. She’d be fine waiting.

She drove to the apartment complex where Veronica lived. She knew the way perfectly as she’d been there so many times. She parked her truck in an open spot and crossed the lot to Veronica, who was waiting outside her door.

“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not that you know where I live,” Veronica said.

“Ah, you mean I’ve been here too many times? I don’t think that’s possible.”

“I don’t think it is either. Let’s get inside.”

She opened the door and Randi followed her inside. As soon as she closed the door behind her, Veronica was in her arms. She pressed against her, kissing Randi with a passion that met her own. Their mouths were open and their tongues played over each other. Randi ran her hands over Veronica’s back, finally bringing them to rest on her firm ass. She pressed Veronica into her and ground her pelvis into Veronica’s. She was sopping wet and ready to take her. She finally broke the kiss.

“Holy fuck, that was hot,” Veronica said.

It took a moment for Randi to find her voice.

“Let’s get to bed. I need you now.”

Once in Veronica’s bedroom, Randi kissed her again and attempted to strip her of her clothes. They broke the kiss so they could both finish undressing. Naked, they kissed anew, and Randi felt like she would burst into flame. She was burning with desire. She climbed onto the bed and invited Veronica to join her. 

They rolled around on the bed, legs entwined and tongues dancing. Randi rolled on top of Veronica and kissed her hard. She kissed down her chest to suck on a pert nipple. She licked and tugged on it. Veronica had her hands in Randi’s hair, holding her head in place. Randi continued to suckle her until Veronica cried out. 

That’s one, Randi thought. She released her grip on Veronica’s nipple and kissed lower. She left little kisses all along her belly and finally came to rest between her legs. She dragged her fingers over the length of her.

“Don’t tease me,” Veronica said. “Please.”

Randi laughed. It was an evil laugh.

“Please,” Veronica said again.

Randi slid her fingers inside Veronica. She was wet and ready. And tight as hell. She felt so good, Randi almost forgot her need to taste Veronica. She bent down and ran her tongue over her while she moved her fingers in and out.

“Oh, my God, Randi. Holy shit. The things you make me feel. Oh, dear God. Don’t stop. Please don’t stop.”

Randi had no intention of stopping. She focused her mouth on Veronica’s clit. She sucked and licked it as she continued to move her fingers in and out, plunging them deeper with each thrust.

“Oh, shit,” Veronica cried. “Holy mother of God.” 

Randi grinned to herself as she felt Veronica come over and over.

Veronica finally tapped Randi’s shoulder.

“That’s enough, hot stuff. I got nothing else in me.”

Randi climbed up and kissed Veronica.

“You sure?” she said.

“Positive. Now it’s your turn.”

Veronica kissed Randi as she placed her hand between her legs. She wasted no time entering her. She clearly knew what Randi liked. She moved in and out of her until Randi’s breathing became labored.

“Oh, God. Get me off,” Randi said.

Veronica didn’t need to be told twice. She brushed over Randi’s clit with her thumb and that’s all it took for Randi to catapult out of her senses.

“You ever going to let me have my fingers back?” Veronica laughed.

Randi opened her eyes and realized Veronica was still deep inside her.

“I’m sorry.”

“Mm. Don’t be. You feel really good in there.”

“Yeah? You like it in there, huh?”

“Yeah, I do. But I think I’m going to need my hand. I’m going to try and pull out now, okay?”

“Yeah. Go for it.”

She braced herself and Veronica was able to get her fingers out.

“You sure get tight,” she said.

“Well, that’s because you make me come so hard. So, it’s not my fault.”

Randi welcomed Veronica into her arms.

“Sex with you is always so much fun,” Veronica said.

“Yeah, it is. But I should probably get going now.”

“Oh, yeah.”

Randi got dressed.

“Be careful driving home,” Veronica said.

“I will. I’ll see you next time, huh?”

“Count on it.”

 

Chapter Three

Eleanor spent her Monday evening reading through papers. It would have been what she’d been doing if she were still in California, but she wasn’t. She hated Sharon. No, she didn’t. She’d catapulted her out of a dreadful routine and into a wonderful new life. Wonderful? Ha. Maybe not yet, but once she got her bearings about, she was sure she’d start having a blast.

Who was she kidding? She was a schoolteacher. They didn’t have blasts. They worked their asses off all day to keep kids in line and spent their free time grading papers and the like. No wonder Sharon had looked elsewhere. Surely she’d gotten too boring for her. No. She refused to believe that. Eleanor was a fun loving person who was always up for something new. She wasn’t a tired old worn out carcass of a woman. She was only thirty-three, after all.

She went to the kitchen to pour herself a glass of wine. She was out. That did nothing to improve her mood. She grabbed her purse and headed to the mini-mart down the street to pick up some wine.

Eleanor picked up two bottles of wine and headed toward the cashier. She stopped in her tracks when she saw the woman talking to the cashier. She was in a tan uniform of some sort. Her shorts showed off muscular legs, and her arms were tanned and toned. The way she leaned on the counter made it obvious she was flirting with the cashier. She struck Eleanor as some kind of rogue. She turned and looked at Eleanor, and Eleanor’s breath caught at her green eyes and short, spiky blond hair. She was a very handsome woman. Eleanor didn’t appreciate the way she looked her up and down, as if assessing her.

The woman stepped away from the counter and let the next customer check out. She gave Eleanor one last look before leaving the store. Eleanor finally got to the cashier and paid for her wine. She was tempted to ask who that woman had been, but judging from the way they’d been talking she was probably the cashier’s girlfriend.

She took the wine home and poured a glass. She got back to reading papers. She taught Accelerated English, so most of the papers were very well written. She was proud of her students. And grateful that the woman who had been teaching them before her had done such a good job.

Eleanor graded papers until her eyes began to cross. When she could grade no more, she climbed into bed, certain she would fall into a deep sleep. But sleep eluded her. Instead, she kept seeing bright green eyes and spiky blond hair. The vision danced in her mind until she fell into a restless sleep.

The rest of the week was uneventful for Eleanor. She worked during the day and graded papers at night. On Friday, she handed back the papers to the students and asked if anyone had any questions. Nobody did. They all seemed to accept their grades, which were mostly A’s anyway.

She dismissed the class and had just grabbed her purse when Ron stuck his head in her classroom.

“Time for happy hour. You up for it?” he said.

“Sure,” Eleanor said. “I even brought extra quarters for pool.”

“Great. I’ll see you there.”

“I’m on my way.”

She arrived to find the usual crew there. She bought a drink and sat next to Martina again.

“So,” Ron said. “How was everybody’s week?”

“You mean outside of the fire in my classroom?” Martina smiled.

“Oh, yeah. I heard about that,” Eleanor said. “What happened?”

“Just kids being kids. I should have assigned groups instead of letting people choose their own groups. I’ve got one set of jocks that only want to goof off and see if they can blow things up.”

“Bummer,” Eleanor said. “How bad was the damage?”

“It was minimal. I have extinguishers all over the classroom. I had it out in minutes. But I did separate that group. They won’t be working together again.”

“Smart move.”

The group moved to a pool table where they played several games. Eleanor even managed to win one. She was happy and having a good time. When people started gathering their things, Martina approached her.

“So, do you get out much, being so new here and all?”

“Nope. Happy hour is about the extent of it.”

“Well, I’m starving and I know a great Thai place. Care to join me?”

Alarms started going off in Eleanor’s head. Not as bad as when Ron had asked her out, but she wondered if Martina was a lesbian and if she had been giving off vibes. She told herself she was overreacting.

“Sure,” she heard herself say. “That would be great.”

She followed Martina to the Pink Orchid. It was a small, nicely decorated place in the middle of town. She and Martina were shown to a table in the back. It was quiet there. Eleanor was starting to feel uncomfortable again. She wished she wasn’t so afraid. She’d been out, loud, and proud in California but wasn’t ready for that here. For starters, she figured Florida would be much more conservative. And she wasn’t ready to get involved with anyone again, and staying in the closet should insure that.

“What do you think of the place?” Martina said.

“I like it.”

“The food’s excellent, too. I hope you like spring rolls because I always get an order of them.”

Eleanor laughed. Martina seemed easy to be with. 

“Spring rolls would be great,” she said.

Eleanor perused her menu. It all looked so good. And with the knots in her stomach slowly unwinding, she found herself very hungry.

“It all looks delicious,” she said. “What do you recommend?”

“I’ve had it all. It’s all good. You can’t go wrong.”

After they placed their orders, they sat back sipping their water.

“So, how are you acclimating so far?” Martina said.

“I think I’m doing okay. The kids are all performing very well. I haven’t had any problems, nor have I seen any drop in their work, so I’m pretty happy.”

“What about outside of school? There’s lots to do around here. Have you checked the area out yet?”

“No. I confess I haven’t. I’ve kept myself pretty busy with schoolwork. And setting up my house. I’ll admit I still have boxes to unpack. But this weekend, I’m going to take a break and work on the outside of the place. The backyard is a jungle.”

“Oh yeah? Well, that will keep you busy then. But don’t forget to stop and smell the roses. Our little town has lots to offer, and I’d hate to see you miss out on the hotspots. Maybe I can be your tour guide some Saturday?”

Was she asking her out on a date? Eleanor’s alarms went off again.

“Are you okay?” Martina said. “You look like you just saw a ghost.”

“Oh, I’m fine.”

“Was it something I said?”

“No. Not at all. And I’d love to take you up on that.”

Dinner arrived and they ate with quiet, pleasant conversation. Eleanor was almost sad when it was over. She was no longer worried and felt like she’d made a new friend in Martina.

“Well, if you get tired of doing battle with your backyard tomorrow and want to go out for a drink or dinner or something, give me a call,” Martina said as they left the restaurant.

Eleanor handed her her phone and Martina entered her number.

“Thanks,” Eleanor said.

“No problem. It’s always nice to have a friend in a new city, don’t you think?”

“I do. And I really appreciate it.”

“No problem. Don’t work too hard tomorrow.”

“I won’t.”

v

 

It was Saturday afternoon, and Randi and her partner, Johnny, were sitting in their office at Animal Control. They had just gotten back from a drive around the city looking for strays that might be roaming the streets. It was a slow day, which was fine for Randi. She’d been out late the night before. She was hoping the rest of the day went easy for her. She was off on Sunday and planned on hitting Joni’s that night for a little more fun and action. 

They were in the middle of a game of chess when the phone rang. Johnny answered it.

“Animal Control. Yes. Yes, ma’am. Okay. Calm down and stay away from it. Okay. What’s your address?” He wrote something down. “Okay, ma’am, we’re on our way.”

“What’s up?” Randi said.

“Alligator in someone’s backyard.”

“What’s the address?”

He told her.

“That’s old man Winters’s house. I thought it was vacant.”

“No. The new middle school teacher lives there now.”

“Oh great. We’ve got some school marm scared of an alligator. Let’s hope she leaves it alone.”

They arrived at the house, and a tall, thin woman in shorts that barely covered her ass and a tight T-shirt greeted them in the driveway.

“Oh, my God,” she said. “I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Where’s the gator?” Johnny asked.

“He’s back here. Follow me.”

Randi was happy to oblige. She didn’t look like any schoolteacher she’d ever had.

“What’s your name?” Randi said.

“Eleanor. Eleanor Bremer. The gator is right over there.” She pointed.

Randi and Johnny walked slowly over to where the gator was lying in tall grass.

“You want the mouth or you want me to take it?” Johnny said.

“I’ll take it. You just be ready.”

“Okay. Be careful.”

“Don’t know any other way to be with a gator.”

They approached the animal slowly then Johnny hung back and focused on Randi, who was circling it. The alligator followed Randi’s every move, opening its huge jaws and clamping them shut. Randi circled it again. This time when the gator opened its mouth, she slid her hand under its lower jaw. She closed her thumb over the top of the gator’s mouth, then grabbed it with both hands and squeezed like hell. 

Johnny ran over and jumped on the gator and sat on it while Randi taped its large mouth shut. They secured its legs, picked it up, and carried it to the truck where they had a cage waiting. They wrestled it into the cage and locked it.

“Thank you both so much,” Eleanor said from behind them.

Randi had forgotten about the beautiful Eleanor. She’d been so focused on the job at hand.

“No problem.” Randi shrugged. “Just doing our job.”

“I’d like to thank you somehow.”

“You’ll get our bill.” Johnny laughed.

“No. I mean it. I’d like to do something nice for you.”

“How about dinner tonight?” Randi saw a perfect opportunity. “I’m off at six and can meet you somewhere at seven.”

“That sounds great,” Eleanor only paused briefly. “I don’t know my way around town, though. I’d have no idea where to go.”

“There’s a steak place out on the highway. You eat red meat?” Randi looked her up and down.

“Sure I do. I’ll find it and I’ll be there at seven.”

“Sounds good. Now, we need to get this bad mamma jamma released. I’ll see you tonight.”

Randi and Johnny headed to the Everglades and carefully and cautiously released the alligator. When that was complete, they high-fived each other.

“Job well done,” Johnny said.

“I’m just glad I didn’t shit my pants,” Randi said. “That’s the biggest one I’ve ever wrestled.”

“You were great. And the lady sure seemed impressed.”

“And I got a steak dinner out of it.” Randi winked at him.

“That you did. You are quite the smooth operator.”

“Hey, she wanted to do something nice. I’ll let her. Just giving the lady what she wants.” She laughed.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful. They picked up a couple of stray dogs roaming on the north end of town, but that was about it.

After her shift, Randi drove home, stripped out of her uniform, and took a quick shower. She drank a beer and got dressed. Tonight called for a golf shirt. She was out to impress Eleanor.

She arrived at the restaurant at exactly seven o’clock and found Eleanor waiting.

“I hope I’m not late,” Randi said.

“No. I got here a little early since I didn’t really know where I was going.”

“Ah. Good idea. I suppose I could have offered to give you a ride.”

“No. It’s fine. I need to find my way around.”

“How long have you lived here?” Randi said.

“A little over a month.”

Randi took in the way Eleanor had dressed for dinner. Gone were the short-shorts. She was wearing a long blue skirt and a yellow blouse. The blouse brought out the blue in her eyes. Her long blond hair was loose now and fell to her shoulders. She was a sight for sore eyes.

“I remembered you while you were wrestling with that monster today,” Eleanor said.

“Remembered me? Have we met?”

“No. I saw you at the mini-mart the other night talking to your girlfriend.”

“Whoa. I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Well, I saw you chatting up the cashier big time.”

“Oh, yeah,” Randi said. “Now I remember you. You were buying two bottles of wine. Must have been a rough night.”

“I was grading papers.”

“Enough said.” 

They laughed together.

They were shown to a booth in the back of the restaurant, which suited Randi just fine. She wanted to get to know Eleanor. She liked her. She wasn’t sure what it was about her, but she was drawn to her. She got the vibe that Eleanor might be a lesbian, but she wasn’t sure. She wanted to find out. And maybe even take her home that night.

They ordered dinner and sat back to chat.

“So, you’re new in town,” Randi said.

“Yep.”

“Where’d you move from?”

“California.”

“Wow. Major culture shock, huh?”

“Yeah,” Eleanor said. “But I really like it here.”

“What about the kids? Are they okay with you?”

“Yeah. No whoopee cushions or anything like that so far.”

Randi laughed. Eleanor was funny. And she seemed smart, too. Two qualities she never really found out about the women she spent her time with. For her it was mostly caring about dancing and sex. That was about it.

Dinner came and they laughed and talked their way through it. The bill came and Eleanor reached for it, but Randi grabbed it first.

“What are you doing? I’m supposed to be paying you back for helping me out today.”

“Nah. You heard Johnny. You’ll get a bill. This will be my treat. As a way to welcome you to town.”

“I don’t know, Randi…”

Randi liked the sound of her name on Eleanor’s lips. She hoped to hear it again soon.

“Nothing to know. My treat. Now, relax.”

Eleanor seemed to relax a little, though she still seemed uptight. Randi didn’t know why. All she knew was she’d had a great time and wanted to see Eleanor again.

“Well, thank you for dinner,” Eleanor said.

“No worries. You know, if you ever want someone to show you around or anything, you can just call me.”

She handed Eleanor her card. Eleanor smiled.

“Thank you,” she said.

“Not a problem.”

“Okay,” Eleanor said. “I should get home. I’ve had a big day.”

Randi hoped her disappointment didn’t show on her face.

“Okay. I’ll walk you to your car.”

They stood at Eleanor’s car for an uneasy minute. Randi wasn’t sure what to do next. She wanted to kiss her. She wanted to very badly. But she didn’t know enough about her yet. So she stood there, not willing to say good-bye because she didn’t want the night to end. She was shocked when Eleanor wrapped her arms around her. Randi returned the favor and grew wet at how perfectly Eleanor fit in her arms.

“Thank you again,” Eleanor said. “And I’ll call you sometime.”

“Okay.”

She watched Eleanor drive away.