Tag Archives: funny erotic stories

Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story

I am pleased to announce the publication of my long short story Weekend Away: An Almost-Erotic, Almost-Love Story, now available in eBook exclusively on Amazon for only $0.99, or free with Kindle Unlimited.

“And then we were standing, rising up from the water, and as the droplets cascaded down my naked body I imagined myself as a mortal and less awe-inspiring version of Aphrodite, and Jesse as Poseidon, except with, um, only one prong in his trident.”

Cindy’s friend Jesse is great – especially when he gets out of her way after the “benefits” part of their evening is over. So when he proposes a weekend excursion at a nearby lake, she’s naturally suspicious – isn’t that the kind of thing “couples” do? Now she might never be able to get the smell of him off her…

weekend-away

 

Press Release: The Hannelack Fanny, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Rump is now available in audiobook!

Author Lori Schafer’s funny, sexy short story The Hannelack Fanny, Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Rump is now available in audiobook.

“I was so impressed by the audition submitted by Karin Allers that I didn’t even bother listening to any more – she caught the tone of the story perfectly,” says Schafer.

The Hannelack Fanny is the first of Schafer’s books to be produced in audiobook format. Schafer connected with Ms. Allers through ACX, an Amazon platform for facilitating production and distribution of audiobooks for the growing audiobook market. The story is now available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B013UTL2EK/ and on Itunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/audiobook/hannelack-fanny-or-how-i-learned/id1030978213.

Audiobooks of Ms. Schafer’s other erotic works are expected to be available before the end of the year.

Hannelack Fanny Audiobook

SALE! My Erotic Romantic Comedy Just the Three of Us is Just $0.99 through June 11th!

The eBook version of my funny, sexy romance Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged is on sale for just $0.99 through Thursday, June 11th (borrow FREE with Kindle Unlimited). I’ve been incredibly pleased by how the book has been received by readers so far – some of the reviews have been quite entertaining, too!

Five Stars   Not What I Expected… So Much Better

I wasn’t sure how much humor a book about a triad couple could elicit, but this one made me laugh out loud. From the start of the book when Kathy feel like a dirty old woman to the end where she finds her place in their world. There are laughs, tears and a few things that make you reference porn for logistics. All in all a well written book.

Five Stars   Hot, Sexy, and Well-Written

Love comes in many forms, and although this books interpretation of a loving relationship may not fit many people’s idea of a healthy family unit, the author just somehow makes it work for the two men and woman in this book. The writing is clear and concise and the growing attraction between the characters as they struggle to find their way in this unusual relationship is honest, real and oh so sexy. There is plenty of sizzling three way sex in this book, but laid over it all is the love and care that the characters feel for one another. This book is a romance with well developed characters and lots of sexy scenes rather than porn with a throw away stab at building a plot.

NO CLIFF HANGER!! This is a stand alone book with another related book due to publish this year, and I am looking forward to reading more from this author. This book was well worth my time and I will revisit the characters in my mind, like old friends, for a long time to come.

Just the Three of Us II

Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged

I’m excited to announce the publication of my new novel, a funny, sexy romance entitled Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged, now available in eBook exclusively on Amazon (FREE with Kindle Unlimited!). Here’s the blurb:

Meet Kathy, a thirty-seven-year-old drifter who’s constantly on the move: to new towns, new jobs, and new relationships. Imagine her surprise when she’s befriended by lifelong friends Sam and Ted, attractive young men who, though ten years her junior, are far more settled than she thinks she’ll ever be. Cheer them on as their three-way friendship succumbs to passion, then passion to romance, and romance to… well, surely it couldn’t be love. Could it?

With a Heat Level of 4+, dialogue that will make you laugh out loud, and a plot to tickle your most sentimental of spots, Just the Three of Us promises an entertaining read for fans of romance looking for a unique take on love and sexuality.

Want to read more? Here are the first few chapters:

Chapter 1

“Wow, you’re fast!” he said with admiration, gawking at me with wide eyes through a plastic face-shield thick with fog.

I turned to look behind me but I was the last player on the bench; this unfamiliar young man with the friendly face appeared to be talking to me.

“Uh, thank you,” I said, returning my eyes to the ice and uncomfortably shifting my grip on my stick.

“I mean it,” he assured me. “You are very fast, especially for, you know, a – Hey!”

The exclamation caught my attention more than the unfinished remark. I turned again and saw another young man sitting beside this one, elbow out as if he’d just used it to nudge his friend into silence.

“For a what?” I said shrewdly, watching in amusement as my neighbor struggled to solicit a polite response out of an apparently unresponsive brain. “For a woman? Or perhaps you meant for an older woman?” I concluded, putting extra emphasis on the “older.” At thirty-seven I was hardly ancient, but there was no doubt in my mind that these fellows were a good ten years my junior, a fact that gave me the indisputable right to tease them mercilessly.

His face, already beet-red from the exertion, flushed scarlet. “I wouldn’t say older!” he fibbed unconvincingly. “You’re what, like twenty-eight, twenty-nine?”

“Don’t mind my friend,” the other fellow said, leaning across him towards me and grinning. “He’s really a nice guy. Sometimes just a bit of a dumbass.”

“It was a compliment!” the nearer man stuttered before being abruptly rescued from his consternation by the return of the other left wing. He stumbled over the boards and onto the ice and his buddy slid over next to me.

“I’m Ted,” he said, extending his arm in my direction. “And that’s Sam.”

“Kathy,” I replied, bumping my glove against his by way of a handshake.

“I haven’t seen you here before,” he said. But before I could answer, I saw the one of the defensemen hurtling towards the boards and sprang to my feet to take his place. Ted followed hard on my heels to replace the other wing, who had just lurched, panting, over to the bench.

I hadn’t even noticed them before – possibly because I’d been too busy trying not to embarrass myself my first time on the ice in my latest new town. But now I couldn’t stop watching them skating around in front of me; two of my nameless, faceless teammates had turned into people. Of course, meeting people wasn’t always as great as it sounded, as I’d discovered in the course of my many travels. You don’t worry so much about making a good impression when you’re an unknown member of an anonymous crowd. I pondered that as I forced my legs to an inhuman effort in chasing down the next breakaway when it came. I didn’t want to lose my newly established reputation for speed, after all.

“Nice job,” Sam said when I flung my body back over the boards a minute later, fresh sweat trickling coolly down my spine.

“Thanks,” I gasped, plunking my butt down on the bench and taking a deep swig of my water. My partner for the day was still nowhere in sight and I wished he’d hurry up and finish dressing; it was exhausting playing with only three D.

The guy named Ted leaned over again. “So are you new here?” he said, picking up our conversation right where we’d left off. It’s customary for hockey players to chat in fragmented one-minute intervals.

“Just moved to town,” I nodded, starting to catch my breath. “I was in a women’s league the last place I lived, but there isn’t one in town here. Thought I’d give this group a try, if it’s not too tough.”

“You’re tough enough!” Sam exclaimed. “I’ve seen the way you skate.”

“Trust me, I have no skills,” I countered, pleased in spite of myself. I wasn’t being modest; I was a poor puck-handler and had no shot to speak of, and it had already become apparent that my rather abundant apportionment of feminine muscle wasn’t quite as useful among these men, most of whom were younger and a lot bigger than me. And apart from my speed, I had few real skills as a skater, and already I was struggling a lot harder to keep up than I had in my last league. Ever heard the expression “tripping-over-your-tongue-tired?” That was me.

“Pshaw!” he answered, dismissing my critical assessment with a wave of his glove. I turned to look more closely at my new acquaintance. Along with that broad, boyish face and welcoming eye went the kind of personality that could use an expression that went out with the previous century without an iota of shame.

“Pshaw?” Ted echoed, making a motion as if scratching his helmet with his padded glove.

“Pshaw!” Sam repeated, unabashed.

“Okay,” Ted said, clearing his throat audibly and leaning towards me again. “So where are you from?”

“Um, well… New England, originally. Most recently, California,” I answered. “Up north, near San Francisco.”

Sam laughed. “So what the hell are you doing here? Sick of the beautiful weather?”

“Something like that,” I chuckled back. I wasn’t about to try to tell my life story to two strangers in the ten seconds before I had to be on the ice again.

“Well, welcome to Minnesota, eh?” Ted replied in a heavy and decidedly phony accent. I looked askance at him. He had the agreeable look of a young man who hasn’t quite reached his prime; I guessed he would be downright handsome about five years down the line. Slimmer, more serious-looking than Sam, with dark hair and deep brown eyes and a neatly trimmed beard that ran the length of his chin.

“Yeah, you’re welcome, eh?” Sam agreed.

“We don’t actually talk like that,” Ted assured me. “It’s just an affectation put on for outsiders, so they’ll think they’re in Canada or something.”

“You’d better start working on yours, too,” Sam said seriously. “Here, I’ll teach you,” he began, but fortunately I was rescued from a lesson in Northern American linguistics by the return of the entire forward line, which sent my new acquaintances scurrying for their positions.

My defensive partner finally arrived, plopping his enormous body down next to mine and effectively cutting me off from further conversational efforts with Sam and Ted. I couldn’t decide whether or not I should be sorry about that. But as the game continued, I watched them weaving in tandem along the ice, passing the puck to one another seemingly without effort, to all appearances like two balls on the ends of the same chain. They must have been teammates for a long time, I thought; they made such a good wing pair. I wouldn’t have said that they were great athletes; I mean, they were both obviously competent, but not spectacular in any way. But there was something in the way they played together that made them better, much better than their skill levels alone would have suggested. Almost as if they knew each other so well that one was an extension of the other; two minds and bodies separated only by twenty feet of ice.

Following the closing handshakes, I was surprised to find them both skating beside me back to the bench.

“Okay, so we know you’re not a native, but do you drink beer?” Sam inquired, as if it were a beverage endemic only to Milwaukee and cities of similar latitude.

“Of course!” I answered. I was actually very fond of beer, although I’d found, as I often did, that the styles that were popular in Minnesota weren’t the same as those that dominated other markets.

“Good,” Ted replied. “We usually go out for a beer after the game, and we think you should come.”

I was taken aback. They seemed like nice enough fellows and all, but I really saw no point in going overboard with the acquaintance. Sure, I was a little lonely. It’s never easy being the new kid in town, no matter how old you are, and I hadn’t exactly been a ball of social fire in any of the many places I’d lived in the wandering course of my adult life. But really, what besides hockey could I, a relatively mature woman, possibly have in common with two twenty-something-year-olds? Boys, practically, to my mind.

I guess my lack of enthusiasm showed, because while I hesitated in answering I heard Sam saying, “I don’t think she likes us, Ted.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have made that comment about her skating like a, ‘you know,’ ” Ted replied, shaking his head dolefully.

“Please just come have a beer with us!” Sam pleaded. “Otherwise Ted will never let me hear the end of it.”

“Unless you really don’t like us,” Ted said, narrowing his dark brows at me. I wasn’t short, especially with my skates on, but standing up he still towered a good six inches over me, and I might have been intimidated had he not had such an indisputably gentle face.

“We wouldn’t blame you much,” Sam chimed in. “We are kind of obnoxious.”

I looked from one to the other. There was something refreshingly youthful in their earnestness and a part of me was touched. It was sweet, really, the way they’d taken pity on me. After all, I probably seemed as old to them as they seemed young to me.

“It’s not that,” I answered finally, weighing my words carefully. “I was just surprised that you’re old enough to drink.”

“Oh-ho, she got you back, Sam!” Ted said with a laugh.

“Says you!” he shot back. “Ted’s just jealous because I’m more mature.”

“You’re only six months older than me!” Ted said. “And older does not mean more mature!”

That was certainly the truth. Here I was in my late thirties, with no husband or children and no particular desire for either yet. In a new city with a new job that I wasn’t even sure I was going to like because I still hadn’t decided what I wanted to be when I grew up. Plus I was living in a one-room apartment with cardboard-box furniture and a mattress on the floor. What did I know about mature? Maybe my mistake all along had been in trying to meet people my own age: settled, adult, grown-up people. I’d be right at home with these guys.

“Twenty-six is mature!” Sam retorted. “Isn’t it, Kathy?”

“Hmm, sorry, I can’t remember back that far,” I joked. “It’s been a long decade.”

We retreated to the locker room to undress. As usual I kept my head down so I could pretend not to notice those few bold fellows who stripped down to their bare asses before changing into clean clothes. Me, I never bothered. I was always way too sweaty after a game to even think about forcing fresh pants on over my sticky thighs. I did wonder, though, how the other players would react if one day I, too, decided to strip down naked and wander around the locker room with all my goods hanging out like it was no big deal.

That was one way to make an impression, I thought. I’d never been what you’d call beautiful, even when I was younger, but I wasn’t bad to look at, either, especially since hockey had sculpted my once-flabby form into a passably pleasing shape. I hoped that having a decent figure helped to distract the interested observer from my other physical flaws, which weren’t too tough to overlook if you didn’t look too closely. I had very plain brown hair that I wore cut to the shoulders, and kind of a square face that was rescued from dullness by deep dimples, rosy cheeks, and big green eyes that I simply adored. Most days I didn’t mind not being gorgeous. It was much easier to blend into the background when you were average-looking, and I’d spent most of my adulthood trying not to be noticed. And I could still clean up pretty cute when I wanted to, although I knew those days were rapidly drawing to an end. Hmm, I thought as I glanced around the room full of strangers and contemplated the cold and lonely bed waiting for me at my apartment. Maybe I should flaunt it while I still had it.

I hauled my gear out to my car and then, with some trepidation, headed upstairs to the sports pub. Sam and Ted were waiting for me in the doorway and that relieved me somewhat; I always felt hopelessly awkward walking into a place alone. I nonchalantly looked them over. Unlike me, who was twice my normal size with gear on, they didn’t look that different without it. Sam, I saw now, had golden blond hair that he wore in a buzz-cut all over his rather round head; it added to the general impression of constant cheerfulness that he radiated like sunbeams off of every edge of his person. He had a solid, stocky build and was several inches shorter than Ted. With his fair skin and bright smile, I’d describe him as cute more than handsome; he seemed to ooze a boyish sort of charm that made him appear pleasant and harmless. Ted, by contrast, had a darker, almost olive complexion, and seemed the quieter of the two; something in the set of his jaw suggested a level of reserve his friend seemed to lack. He had a narrow face that went well with his lean form, and seeing him in his street-clothes, I would have sworn he didn’t have an ounce of fat on him; only lithe, long muscles that ran like thick wires over his elongated limbs.

“Shall we?” Sam said, extending an arm as if to offer it to me with old-fashioned courtesy. When I hesitated, he seemed to think better of the idea and hurriedly retracted it. I pretended not to notice.

I followed them inside. A few of the other guys from the team were up there and nodded to Sam and Ted. Then I caught them looking bemusedly at me and I blushed. Self-consciously I raised my hands to my head and felt my hair all utterly disheveled into sweaty locks, as it always was after hockey. I’d never gotten in the habit of showering after a game, either. I figured since I was always going straight home afterwards, what was the point in enduring the fungus-ridden locker room shower?

This is why you don’t have a boyfriend, I thought as I plunked myself down at the small, circular table Sam selected while Ted went up to the bar to buy us a pitcher.

“So why did you move here, Kathy? Was it for work?” Sam asked as Ted poured our beers and I slipped him a five for my share. He pushed it back across the table with a pleading little wave of his hand. I shoved it back towards him with a bigger, more insistent wave. His eye caught mine and I watched it crinkle in amusement. Then he nodded and, conceding defeat, tucked the bill into his pocket. It was very rare that I lost the battle over going dutch with men. I hadn’t been independent all these years for nothing, after all.

“Was it for work?” Sam was repeating.

“Oh! Well, sort of,” I answered, jerking my attention back to the conversation at hand. “Not really.”

I took a sip of my beer while he stared at me as if expecting me to continue talking. Ted was peering at me keenly through narrow-rimmed glasses he had not been wearing during the game. I liked them. They did something for the shape of his face.

“No shutting her up, is there?” Sam said at last into the silence.

“So are you naturally not very talkative, or do you just have a lot to hide?” Ted inquired.

I chuckled. “A little from Column A…”

“Well, what do you do? For work, I mean?” Ted said.

“Oh,” I hedged. “This and that.”

They looked at one another.

“Wait right here,” Sam said. “I left my good dental extractor in the car and I think we’re gonna need the big one if we want to get any information out of this girl.” His voice was husky, and a little edgy, as if he spent a lot of time joking around; it rather pleasantly complemented Ted’s deep, gravelly rumble.

I laughed. “Really, there’s not much to tell. I have a Bachelor’s in Film Studies, which, as you might imagine, is pretty close to worthless.”

“Film Studies?” Ted interrupted. “That sounds interesting!”

“It was!” I answered enthusiastically. “Oh, I really enjoyed it. It’s not what people think, criticism and all that, it’s more like a sociological study, looking at the culture behind movies and so on. You do a lot of reading on the history of the time and write a lot of papers – it was really fun. Kind of useless in the real world, though. There wasn’t much I could do with it except get a doctorate and then teach, and I don’t really have the personality for that. It looks good on my resume, though; proves I was smart enough to finish college.”

“Why’d you choose it, then, if you didn’t want to make a career out of it?” Sam inquired curiously.

“I dunno,” I answered vaguely. “There wasn’t really anything else I wanted to do, I guess.”

“Huh,” Ted replied, resting his head on his hand as if seriously considering the meaning of what I had said.

I gave up attempting to describe what was obviously a foreign concept and hurried on with my speech. “Anyway,” I said, “I haven’t got what you’d call a career. I’ve done all kinds of work: office jobs, waitressing, copyediting… I was even an online retailer of out-of-print videos for a while. Right now I’m working as a bank teller.”

“Well, that’s cool!” Sam said without much enthusiasm.

I shrugged. “I like math,” I said. “It’s one of the better jobs I’ve had. I actually did it once before, back in New Jersey, but then I got promoted to New Accounts and I didn’t like it as much. Dealing with people… It can be really irritating, you know. And when I moved to North Carolina, I decided to try something else so I never advanced any further in banking.”

“Why did you move to North Carolina?” Ted inquired, his eyebrows raised as if he thought it a strange destination.

I shrugged again and let out an awkward laugh. “No real reason, I guess. Just felt like a change.”

“How many places have you lived exactly?” Sam asked, furrowing his brow. It forced his forehead into shallow, barely perceptible wrinkles that made mine look like the walls of the Grand Canyon but without all the pretty colors.

I smoothed my wet hair down over my forehead uneasily. “Oh, I don’t know,” I said. “I guess on average I move every couple of years.”

“Every couple of years?” Sam replied, astonished, drawing back to peek underneath the table at my lower half. “No moss grows beneath your feet, I see.”

“I guess we shouldn’t get too attached, eh, Sam?” Ted said.

“Why so often?” Sam asked me.

“I can’t stand cleaning,” I said seriously. “It’s easier just to move when the apartment gets dirty.”

They frowned at me skeptically and took big swigs of their beer.

“Well, I think that’s great,” Ted said defensively. “You know that except when I was in college, Sam and I have only lived two places our whole lives?”

“Really?!” It was my turn to be shocked.

“Yup. We moved here from the country right after school and have been in the same apartment ever since.”

“Wow!” I said. “Don’t you get tired of being in the same place all the time?”

“Well, one day we’d like to move out to the suburbs. Have a place we can call our own.”

“I really want a house with space in the yard for a vegetable garden this big,” Sam said eagerly, spreading his arms wide to illustrate the size he had in mind. “And that’s not happening here in town.”

I guess they realized that I was starting to wonder, because all at once they said together, “No, we’re not gay.”

“And if we were, I still wouldn’t want to go out with him,” Ted said seriously, peering across the table at me. “He just isn’t my type.”

“Oh, you would, too!” Sam objected. “You’d be lucky to have me!”

“That’s not what your mom says!” Ted replied.

“It’s true,” Sam conceded, turning to me. “My mom’s been hoping for years to get Ted for a son-in-law, and since I’m an only child…”

I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not, so I tactfully decided not to comment. “So what do you guys do?” I asked, hurriedly changing the subject.

“I’m a carpenter,” Sam announced with pride. “A Lead Carpenter, in fact. Just got promoted last year.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Sort of like a foreman.”

“I know what that is!” I answered. “I was a foreman once.”

“Really?” They stared at me in disbelief.

“Yup. Up in Alaska when I was nineteen. I’d gone up to clean fish for the summer and was put in charge of the vacuum-packing machine. I had one person under me. I was so proud.” I clasped a hand to my chest to express the sweetness of the memory of being in charge.

“Who’d you get to go with you all the way up to Alaska?” Ted wanted to know.

“Oh, I went up alone,” I answered, thinking it a strange question. Why would I have brought anyone with me?

“All by yourself?” Sam squeaked, jumping a little in his chair as if something small and furry had just scurried underneath it.

“I don’t travel that well with others,” I confided. “Most people kind of drive me crazy after a while.”

“Huh,” Ted said again, scrutinizing me as if I were as mysterious as the Mona Lisa and only half as congenial.

That’s it, I thought. From now on I stay home in my apartment with the door locked and the windows bolted shut.

“So what do you do, Ted?” I said, taking one last desperate shot at trying to sound like a well-adjusted woman having a normal conversation with people she wanted to befriend.

He shrugged. “Something with computers,” he said. “You don’t want to hear about it. Boring.”

“Don’t you like it?”

“Yeah, I do,” he admitted. “It’s just not my dream job. But I’ve got student loans to pay off.”

“So what is your dream job?” I started to say, reaching for my glass and finding it empty. I always drank faster in the company of strangers.

“Hey, you want another?” Sam said, standing up to go and fetch a fresh pitcher.

“No, thanks, I really gotta run,” I said.

“Big date?” Ted said.

“Just me and my showerhead,” I chuckled. They frowned at me again in that half-serious manner and for a moment I felt like the young and immature one. “No, I just get really nervous about drinking and driving. I don’t like to have more than one if I have to drive afterwards. But I can’t stand sitting around with an empty beer, either.”

“I hear that,” Sam said.

“Well, will we see you next week?” Ted said, standing up by way of farewell. I wasn’t sure if he meant at the game or afterwards, so I played it safe.

“I think so,” I said vaguely.

“Come again when you can stay longer!” Sam called as I made my way to the door. I turned to wave at them and thought that I would never see those two outside of hockey again.

But I was wrong. I didn’t see how anyone who’d had to endure twenty minutes of my dull and dreary conversation could be inclined to sample more of it, but they didn’t seem bored with me at all. Indeed, had I not been an on-the-spot witness to my poor social performance, I would have sworn that they actually liked me. It seemed impossible, but the following week they cornered me again, and the week after that, and before I knew it, meeting those two for a beer after the game had become a routine that I looked forward to as much as the game itself. They had such easy-going personalities that, somewhere between the post-game drinks and the bits of chatter on the bench, even I began to relax around them. In a weird way, I thought the age difference also helped. I mean, I knew it wasn’t the biggest spread ever, but between that and the fact that I only ever saw the two of them together, I was fairly confident that this wasn’t some elaborate pickup scheme, and that took most of the pressure off me. Of course, if they’d ever been tempted to think along those lines, they would have stopped once they’d gotten to know me.

“So why did you leave California, anyway?” Sam still wanted to know during about the sixth week of our acquaintance.

“It’s complicated,” I muttered.

“Complicated how?” Ted prodded.

“Oh…” I said reluctantly, trying to remember that these were my only friends. “I was seeing this guy, and he wanted me to move in with him. I thought that was crazy, because we’d only been going together six months, but he kept trying to convince me, and I don’t know… I couldn’t decide. And I’d been sorta looking around for a new job and then this position came up, so, well, I figured that made the decision for me.”

They both gawked at me as if I was speaking a little-known dialect of ancient Swahili.

“Um, couldn’t you get a job as a bank teller anywhere?” Ted said.

“I suppose… Yeah, I guess I could.”

“And how did you happen to even be looking for a job in Minnesota, anyway?”

“Well, I wasn’t, really. I just put some feelers out… I mean, I don’t really care where I live.”

“I have a question,” Sam announced. “Most women your – I mean, most women would be delighted if a man they were seeing wanted to move in with her. Aren’t you starting to worry… I mean, don’t you want to get married?”

“Not really,” I said. “I mean, I’m not planning on having any children, so I don’t really see any point in it.”

“You don’t want kids?” Ted said, surprised. I could swear there was a bit of a crack in his usual calm, and Sam appeared downright shocked, his jaw hanging open like I’d just announced I was next in line to be the Queen of England.

“Kids are a lifetime commitment,” I said seriously. “It’s not like a marriage; there’s no walking away from that.”

“Well,” Sam said, at last recovering his ability to speak, “I think we finally understand why Kathy prefers to hang out with us after hockey.”

“Don’t worry, Kathy,” Ted said. “I promise we won’t be pressuring you to move in with us or anything.”

“Phew!” I said, wiping a warm hand across my still-sweaty brow. “I was worried there for a second.”

“But we do want something from you,” Sam said enigmatically as he stood up to hug me goodbye. “Something that will require a serious commitment on your part.”

“If it involves planning a bank heist, I’m not interested,” I replied.

He glared back at me. “One of these days we’re going to come pick you up so you can come out with us for some real beers and you won’t have to drive. There’s this great place near our apartment and we usually go there on Fridays.”

“Where do you live anyway, Kathy?” Ted inquired. I guess it had never come up before. I told them.

“Do you know where Delaney’s is?” Sam said excitedly.

“Sure,” I said, surprised to realize that I actually recognized a landmark. Although I’d been in town nearly three months by then, I still didn’t know my way around very well, probably because I never went anywhere but work or home or the ice rink. “It’s like a mile down the street from my place.”

“We live just a few blocks from there!” he exclaimed.

“Well, whaddya know?” I marveled. “We’re practically neighbors.”

“Now you have no excuses,” Ted threatened ominously, lowering his glasses down to the bridge of his nose and peering forbiddingly down at me. I cowered in mock intimidation.

“You will come for a beer with us,” Sam said, waving his fingers at my face as if attempting to perform some sort of supernatural mind-meld. “Next Friday. Deal?”

“Deal,” I agreed. It was nice having something to look forward to on a Friday night for a change.

But of course one Friday led to another, and before I knew it, that, too, was a standing engagement. Just three friends meeting for beers; nothing unusual about that. Except for the fact that social-moth me was one of them. But I admit it; I fell in with those two as splendidly as feathers fill out a peacock and without all the fuss. I had a great time hanging out with them, a great time. They were so full of youth and vitality; everything was exciting to them, from a new ale on the beer list to an old-fashioned roadster driving by; even my dull, repetitive work stories seemed to interest them. And they had stories, too, endless, joyous reams of them, as if everything that had ever happened in their short, unchanging lives was novel and fascinating and worthy of telling. And there was something in the banter between them that I enjoyed listening to and watching; it was the kind of relationship the guys I had known growing up had had with their close friends and I found it amusing and comforting somehow.

And it wasn’t long before I could say, with undeniable honesty, that “my boys,” as I liked to call them secretly in my mind, had become my closest friends; probably the best friends I’d had in a very long time. Soon we weren’t just meeting for beers on Friday nights; sometimes it was dinner on Saturday or a movie on Sunday, and then the following summer, when we’d known each other about six months, one day it happened, the unthinkable.

“We wanted to ask you something,” Ted said, one dark eye on me, the other monitoring the level of head in his glass. “Something important,” he added mysteriously.

“Oh?” I answered, raising my eyebrows in dubious disbelief.

“We’re serious!” Sam declared. “This could mean a big step forward in our relationship!” He winked coyly at Ted.

I looked at them appraisingly. “Your mom is right; you would make a pretty cute couple,” I observed.

“Kathy!” Sam objected. “I meant our relationship,” he clarified, spreading his arms as if to encompass the three of us.

“Huh,” I answered, narrowing my eyes at them in mock suspicion. “What exactly did you have in mind?”

“See, you’re totally giving her the wrong impression,” Ted said.

“What? No – no, I’m not!” Sam added hastily. “I didn’t mean – I didn’t mean that!”

“Don’t be scared,” Ted said reassuringly to me. “He’s basically harmless. Just kind of an idiot.”

“Not that you aren’t… I mean… not that we wouldn’t be lucky to…well, you know…” Sam continued, his neck reddening.

“How deep do you think he’ll get into that hole before he shuts up?” I inquired of Ted.

“But we would never… You’re our friend!” Sam spluttered, flecking both Ted and I with a spray of saliva.

“Pretty deep, I think,” Ted said disgustedly, wiping his cheek with his napkin. “Are you going to ask her or what?”

“Well, I’m not sure I want to, now!”

“Of course you do! You haven’t stopped talking about it all week!”

“But that was before…”

“ ‘We should ask Kathy,’ ” Ted quoted. “ ‘Don’t you think we should ask her? It would be fun, right?’ ”

For one crazy, wild moment I wondered if they actually were referring to the thought that had inevitably crossed my mind in the midst of this roundabout conversation. You know what thought I mean.

“Nah,” I said to myself, shaking my head. “It couldn’t be.”

“Just ask her!” Ted prompted.

“Oh, all right,” Sam said as his face gradually faded from maroon to pink. “Kathy,” he began momentously, turning to face me with a pronounced aura of solemnity. “Kathy… we’d like you to go away with us for the weekend.”

I hesitated a long moment before answering. They sat across from me, watching me intently, evidently anxious for my response.

“Do you really think we’re ready for that?” I said quietly at last. “I mean, first it’s weekends away, then suddenly we’re shacking up together. Before you know it, we’re starring in our own reality TV show.”

Sam began humming the Three’s Company theme.

Ted flicked a coaster at him; sent it bouncing hard off his wrist and onto the floor. “It’s just a camping trip,” he explained. “We go once or twice a year with some of the guys from Sam’s work.”

“There’ll be beer there,” Sam said hopefully. “Lots of beer!” he wheedled, nudging Ted with his elbow as if to emphasize the point.

“Hmmm…” I pretended to think. “Bunch of drunk people I don’t even know? Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.” They stared at me uncomprehendingly. “Pint of beer,” I said, translating my metaphor into language they could understand.

“They’re good guys,” Ted assured me. “Not at all creepy.”

“Plus we’ll be there to protect you,” Sam added, flexing his big bicep at me as if I should be reassured by its length and depth.

“Not that you’ll need it,” Ted chipped in hastily.

“You won’t be the only girl,” Sam asserted. “There are always at least a few at the campground.”

“A very few,” Ted said under his breath.

“But see, we know you can hold your beer. That’s why you should come.”

I mulled it over. “When and where is this camping trip?” I asked.

They told me. It was in two weeks, at a lake a couple of hours north of us.

“We guarantee you’ll have a good time,” Sam promised.

“What do I get if I don’t?” I wondered.

“You get to smack Sam upside the head,” Ted answered, demonstrating with a light whack against his friend’s skull.

“I can do that anyway,” I argued, responding in kind and causing Sam to exclaim “Hey!” and withdraw, sulking, to the corner of the table with his glass.

“We’ll buy you a beer,” Ted offered. “No, two beers,” he said, emphasizing the “two.”

“Way to sweeten the deal, Ted,” Sam replied, rolling his eyes.

“Well,” I sighed, “I suppose it would be kind of a long weekend, me here at home all by myself while the two of you are away.”

“Aw!” Sam exclaimed. “You’d miss us!”

“Hmph!” I snorted contemptuously.

But I would, I realized to my unending chagrin as I listened to them regaling me with tales from prior camping trips. Although I’d begun to have dates here and there, the majority of my social life really revolved around these two young men, and sometimes I even got the feeling that a huge part of their lives revolved around me, too. Why didn’t they ever seem to go out with women their own age? I almost began to wonder if they saw me as a girlfriend-substitute of some sort. Without the sex, of course.

I was still thinking about that when we met up at the pub the following week. That and the disastrous first date I’d had myself the previous evening.

“Loser,” Ted was saying, shaking his head disappointedly as I described the miserable lack of chemistry between me and my co-worker’s cousin, a deep, thoughtful man whom she had assured me would appeal to my sensitive side.

“I’m just not sure I have a sensitive side,” I said uncomfortably, recollecting the unfortunate fellow’s unfortunate monologue on the nature of romantic love. “Isn’t love mostly about screwing, anyway?”

“Kathy, please!!” Sam objected. “My virgin ears!”

“Your ears are virgins?” Ted said quizzically. “That’s a relief.”

“Plus he was just no fun,” I went on, ignoring them. “Talk about stodgy… it was like being out with somebody’s invalid great-great-grandfather, only the conversation wasn’t as lively.”

“We’ve spoiled you,” Sam said. “It’s hard for you to hang out with anyone else now that you’ve experienced our awesomeness.”

“Do you guys ever date?” I said suddenly.

It got so quiet that a feather falling off of a pigeon’s butt would have broken the silence.

“Oh sure,” Sam said hurriedly into the void. “We go cruising for chicks all the time. Ted’s a great wing man.”

“I thought you were the wing man,” Ted replied.

“No, you’re the wing man. And the straight man. I’m what you would call the main man.”

“That explains all the empty space in your little black book.”

“Hey, I get around!” Sam exclaimed. “You’re just never around to see the bevy of beauties I’m always bringing home.”

“But we live in the same apartment,” Ted countered.

“So you two don’t date much either, I take it?” I interjected.

There was another long, silent pause. “It’s been a while,” Ted admitted. “My last relationship experience… didn’t end so well.”

“You were too good for her,” Sam snarled defensively. Ted shrugged. “You were. She was nothing but a… but a hoochie-mama!”

“A hoochie-mama?” Ted repeated, frowning. “What century are you living in, Sam?”

“I am living in a century in which girls like that stay away from my friends,” he huffed.

“Sam’s last girlfriend wasn’t exactly a shining example of womanhood, either,” Ted confided to me.

“She sure wasn’t,” Sam agreed. “Good-looking but cold, real cold at the core. Our kitchen table treats me with more affection than she ever did. She didn’t even blink when I finally broke up with her.”

“Ten years later,” Ted muttered.

“You were together ten years?” I said, astounded.

“That’s not so long,” Sam said, shrugging as if all men in their twenties had had relationships that had lasted a decade.

“It is to me,” I insisted. “I’ve never had a relationship that lasted more than a year.”

“That’s funny,” Ted said. “I’ve never had one that lasted less than a year.”

“Huh,” I said wonderingly. “You guys are all like, good at commitment and stuff.” It certainly wasn’t one of my particular skills, and not one I was sure I was all that interested in honing, either.

“Especially Sam,” Ted answered. “He’s a one-woman man.”

I shuttled my eyes back and forth between the two of them. Ted was gazing at Sam, who stared unabashedly back at him and then glanced back at me.

“That’s right,” he said vehemently, coloring only slightly, as if uncertain whether to be proud or defensive in light of this unexpected revelation. “I’ve only been with one woman. We were high school sweethearts, you know.”

“When did you break up?” I inquired, thinking that he seemed awfully uninterested in dating for a twenty-six-year-old man who’d only had one girlfriend.

“I dunno…eight or nine months ago,” Sam replied.

“Not long before we met you,” Ted clarified.

“And you haven’t found anyone new, I take it?” I said.

“Nah… nah,” he said. “Girls my age, you know, they’re just so immature. They don’t even want to think about settling down yet.”

I stared at him for a moment in stunned disbelief. That settled it; I simply didn’t understand the younger generation.

“How about you, Ted?” I continued at last.

He shrugged. “Haven’t met anyone who interests me lately.”

“Sorry, guys,” I said. “I don’t really have any girlfriends I can set you up with.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Ted replied. “We’re in no hurry.”

“Someone’s bound to come along someday,” Sam agreed.

“Well,” I said seriously. “At least we have each other.”

“See, you’re totally sensitive,” Sam said, grinning. “From time to time.”

“And on that charming observation…” Ted intervened, “Let’s have a toast. Here’s to the three of us.”

“To the three of us,” Sam and I agreed.

We clinked.

Chapter 2

As it turned out, the camping trip actually was a pretty good time. It was a lazy weekend spent lounging on the beach and paddling around the lake and sitting about the campfire while the men cooked and I took charge of handing out beers. It was, in fact, a good group of guys, as I should have known it would be. I really appreciated the fact that no one treated me any differently because I was a girl, if you know what I mean. I understand that men are just trying to be polite when they do things like apologize for farting or swearing in front of you, but I think it’s silly. Really, we women aren’t that delicate, and you’d have to come up with some amazingly rancid gas or creative cursing to offend me in a noteworthy fashion. And I know they mean well when they offer to help you carry your luggage or your groceries, but personally, I don’t like it much; it’s as if they think I can’t take care of my own crap. I, who had moved single-handedly in and out of more apartments in fifteen years than most people occupy in a lifetime. If I can manhandle a mattress in and out of the back of my pickup with my own two hands, then surely I ought to be allowed to carry a case of beer out to the car. But these guys seemed perfectly at ease with cursing freely and letting me haul coolers full of beer and ice into the shade to my heart’s content. And nobody gawked or laid it on thick with cheesy compliments, either, as men sometimes seem to feel the need to do with women, even ones they aren’t trying to get into bed. Nobody except for Sam, that is.

“You really look lovely today, Kathy,” he said sincerely when I emerged from my tent in a simple sundress, looking, perhaps, more feminine than I usually did when I was bundled up in my bulky winter jacket or my enormous chest pads.

“Uh, thank you,” I answered, startled but not displeased by the compliment.

“Hey, Ted,” he called over his shoulder, “Doesn’t Kathy look nice today?”

Ted let go of the bundle of firewood he’d been rearranging and stood up to glance at me.

“You look very nice,” he replied, then bent again to his chore.

“What does Ted know?” Sam said in exasperation. “Trust me, you look good.”

Just as I was about to make a smart remark asking whether he was flirting with me, he got up to join his friends in a game of washoes and didn’t mention it again. But for the rest of the summer I did notice that he looked at me a little differently when I was more scantily clad in a skirt or a dress, and maybe I was a little surprised to realize that he was aware that besides being a friend, I was also a woman, and a not unattractive one, at that. Not that I thought anything of it, of course. You don’t suddenly become immune to the charms of the opposite sex just because the charmer happens to be your pal, after all. But that doesn’t mean you plan on making anything of it, either. I guess mostly it struck me as odd because of the age difference. Friends or not, I wouldn’t have expected even cursory admiration from a man who was so much younger than me. I did find it reassuring, though, particularly considering that I wasn’t exactly burning up the romantic scene. Maybe I even found it so reassuring that I started putting a little extra effort into dressing things up a bit. I frequently found myself choosing skirts that were cut an inch or two shorter and tops an inch or two lower when I went out with them. I couldn’t help myself; it was flattering to watch Sam’s eyes tripping delicately over my body in that appraising way before settling themselves again firmly on my face, as if he’d snapped himself out of a pleasant but fleeting daydream.

But if Sam could be beguiled by thighs and cleavage, Ted appeared as immune to such shallow physical qualities as ever; never once did I catch him glancing at my bared flesh the way Sam did, not at mine, nor, as far as I could determine, at anyone else’s.

“Oooh, look at her, Ted,” I’d say, pointing out a particularly fine specimen perched on the nearest barstool, her shapely figure encased in a dress that emphasized each one of her well-rounded curves.

“Eh,” he’d shrug. “She’s trying too hard. I mean, really, does anyone need that much makeup?”

And I’d brush my hand against my own perpetually unpainted face and wonder if he’d given me a backhanded compliment after all.

But these changes in our friendship were subtle, at best. The overriding difference was really the comfort level we began to develop with one another, which expressed itself in a myriad of ways. The way we lounged together on their sofa, watching a movie, Sam with his arm extended around me while I crooked my elbow through Ted’s. The stories I relayed to them of my unending dating woes while they clucked sympathetically and threatened any man who treated me shabbily. The way we crammed all together at our bar around a table built for two, our knees and elbows overlapping one another’s like spokes on a bicycle wheel. The tales they told, of their families and their childhoods; their lost loves and faded dreams. Although I was sure there were secrets they didn’t share with me, I would have been hard-pressed to guess what they were. Indeed, as time went on, I began to feel almost as if the lifelong friendship they’d had with one other had itself expanded to include me; as if they’d allowed me into their own cozy circle and made me a part of the bond that was Sam and Ted.

So early that fall, when the next camping trip rolled around, they didn’t even have to ask me if I wanted to go.

“You’re free that weekend, aren’t you?” Sam inquired anxiously, consulting the calendar on his phone.

“For you guys?” I said with affection. “Of course.”

“Good,” he answered. “It wouldn’t be the same without you. Right, Ted?”

“Right,” Ted agreed.

They were right. It wouldn’t have been the same without me. And after it was over, none of us would ever be the same, either.

Chapter 3

“Ew!!” I howled, crossing to my tent and finding, by the faint firelight and strong stench, that someone else’s vomit was spewed all over the front flap. “Who puked on my tent?” I yelled to the campground at large and got no answer. Admittedly, I wasn’t too surprised. The puker was probably passed out already and was unlikely to ‘fess up even if he wasn’t.

“What’s the matter, Kathy?” Sam said, unzipping the flap of the tent he shared with Ted and poking his head out in alarm.

“Somebody barfed all over my tent!” I grumbled. He slipped on a pair of flip-flops and stumbled out to investigate.

“Aw, man, they got you good!” he said, laughing.

“I’m so glad you’re amused,” I answered icily. “Perhaps you’d like to sleep in the puke house?”

“Noooo, no thank you! But hey, you know, since you’re hard up and all, you can come and sleep with us if you want. Wait, I totally didn’t mean it like that!” I’d shot him my frostiest stare. Although I wasn’t quite what you’d call hard up yet, I hadn’t had any masculine companionship of the naked kind in over a year, and I was really starting to feel the pinch of not being pinched. Secretly I liked to blame Sam and Ted. They made lousy wing men for a single girl.

“Seriously, I’m sure Ted won’t mind if you stay with us. We’ve got plenty of room. You’d better watch out for Ted, though; sleeping outdoors makes him frisky. Man, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve woken up to find him crawling into my sleeping bag looking for a little action.”

“Don’t you know that mesh isn’t soundproof, dumbass?” I heard Ted call out, perfectly audible from within their tent.

“Don’t worry about him,” Sam assured me. “He gets cranky when I’ve been away too long.”

“Kathy, why don’t you come and sleep with me and put Sam in the puke-tent where he belongs?”

“Oh-ho, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” he yelled to Ted before turning back to me. “He’s trying to get you alone, I see. Just because you’re prettier and a little more feminine than I am. I’m heartbroken, I tell you.” He wiped a phony tear from dry eyes and looked coyly at me from underneath his long eyelashes.

“Shut up, sweetie,” I said. “Can we please just get to bed before I have to pee again?”

“Oh, sure. Just be careful where you let it go. I mean, me, I’m broadminded, but I don’t know if Ted’s gonna be cool with the whole golden shower thing.”

I shoved him unapologetically in the direction of their tent and followed the noise of his yelping to my new lodgings for the night.

“So, now, Kathy,” Sam said once we’d ducked inside the darkened canvas, “Not to put any pressure on you or anything, but which one of us would you rather sleep next to?”

“I dunno,” I replied. “Which one of you is the bedwetter?”

“Funny, funny, ha ha ha. That would be Ted, of course, so I guess that means you’re sleeping next to me.”

“I don’t think so,” Ted snorted from the corner, where we could see the dim outline of his slim form. “Because then I’d have to sleep right next to you, too, and that ain’t happening. Besides, Kathy’s the girl, so she should sleep in the middle.”

“Ted!” Sam exclaimed in mock horror, positioning himself in front of me like a shield; a knight in shining armor preparing to duel in defense of a hapless maiden. “Are you planning on attacking our sweet, innocent Kathy with vile intentions?”

“No,” Ted answered evenly while I snorted my disbelief. “But I’m going to attack you if you don’t shut up.” He had sat up and was unzipping their sleeping bags. “I only meant that since we’re going to have to share our sleeping bags, she should be in the middle so she won’t get cold.”

“Thanks, Ted,” I replied. I slipped off my shoes and shorts, unhooked my bra, and climbed in awkwardly next to him in the darkness, trying to ignore the body heat I felt emanating from his side of the bed and being careful not to let our limbs touch. Whatever levels of intimacy we had achieved in recent months, getting into bed together was not among them. I heard the jingling of keys and zippers and knew that Sam was getting undressed, too.

“Here, take my pillow,” he whispered as he lay down at the far edge of our shared blankets, shoving it towards me like a pushy waiter with a tray of cocktail weenies at a wedding.

“I’m fine without one,” I fibbed.

“Just take it,” he whispered urgently. “It’s too firm for me anyways; I was just going to put my head on my jacket,” he lied in return.

“Well, all right,” I said. “Thanks, Sam,”

“You’re welcome,” he said earnestly. He could be almost charming when he wasn’t trying to be funny. “Good night, Kathy,” he said, reaching out to pat my elbow in a friendly fashion before rolling onto his side away from me. “Good night, Ted.”

“ ’Night, Sam,” Ted replied. “Good night, Kathy,” he said, a bit more softly, before also rolling over onto his side away from me.

I don’t know how long that sleeping arrangement lasted, because thanks to all of the sun and beer I slept straight through the long, cool night. But when I woke up in the morning, I found that I had wrapped my arm tight around Sam, Ted had circled his tight around me, and we were nestled all together as cozy as three silver spoons in a velvet-lined drawer. Even then, I might have escaped without the idea insinuating itself into my mind except that I couldn’t help but notice that Ted was holding me in a most peculiar and unexpected fashion. Just beneath the tiny beer belly that was so determinedly beginning to take hold around my waistline, his arm was stretched out, so close to my crotch that the edge of his hand brushed up against the pubic hairs that were peeking over the top of my underwear, which had become slightly disarranged while I slept. I didn’t mean to do it, but I couldn’t help myself; instinctively I shifted upward and that hand slipped down just barely onto my mound. That urge I knew so well bubbled up unbidden within me, as exciting as a geyser of newly tapped oil and half as controllable.

For a long time afterwards I wondered what it was that made me respond the way I did. Another woman would have withdrawn from the embrace of a friend, or would have shunned all together the touch of one man while another lay beside her. Even a rather kinky female inclined to give in to such a filthy temptation would at least have rolled away from the one into the arms of the other; could have derived her satisfaction from the naughtiness of clandestine cuddling and fondling alone. But neither of these very logical courses of action even occurred to me as I lay there squeezed between them. Instead I pulled Sam closer; pressed my breasts into his back and felt them swell in response as he stirred. And then I felt Ted’s fingers twitch where they rested so near to the most enjoyable parts of my body and right then I was inexplicably overwhelmed with the desire to fuck them both back into unconsciousness.

And then Ted woke up, realized with a start where his hand lay and jerked it away, mumbling something apologetic and incomprehensible, while Sam jumped out from underneath my arm, hopped into his shorts and dashed out the door of the tent like the bed was on fire. And me? I just lay there quietly turned away from Ted while we both pretended to sleep until Sam returned, looking much more at ease and not in the least aware of how close he had come to enjoying a costarring role in the wild and wicked feminine fantasy in which I had nearly indulged. But he didn’t come back to our nice warm bed, and when Ted rose soon after, they both politely left me alone to dress in private.

“Oh, hush,” I whispered to my whining breasts as I nuzzled them, lonely and naked, back into their wiry cage. “Stop even thinking about it!”

But of course I didn’t stop thinking about it.

We rode home in peace, though, and it was obvious from their usual free and easygoing manner that the moment I had so fiercely experienced hadn’t happened for them; had probably never even entered into the most recessed parts of their subconscious minds. I was relieved. It was bad enough that I had thought it, but if they had known about it… I could only envision disaster.

Over the months that followed, I made a studied effort not to alter my behavior towards them, and this was made easier by the fact that their conduct towards me hadn’t changed in the slightest. We continued to go out for beers together on Friday nights. We saw each other at hockey and hung out afterwards. We went for hikes and kicked around the dead leaves until the autumn ended, and then built mini-forts and threw snowballs at each other all through the winter. But I was conscious now, when we were cuddled up together on the couch or at the bar, of something more than a close but benign friendship, of the masculinity that now seemed to emanate from each of them like a radiant force pulling me towards them. Now I couldn’t help but notice, when I peeked out of the corner of my eye at them undressing after a game, how well-built they were; Sam’s big arms and broad chest, Ted’s lanky sensuousness. And suddenly I didn’t see them as merely boys anymore, much too young for a woman my age; they were men, two very appealing, very attractive men that I would have had a very hard time resisting, if only they’d been inclined to give me cause to attempt to resist them.

Routinely I promised myself not to think about it. And in their carefree innocence, I doubt that they ever even came close to suspecting. If once or twice one of them caught my eye trained upon areas of their bodies where I should not have been looking, they probably chalked that up merely to lack of attention on my part to where I was blankly staring. If my hugs were longer, more frequent, and more fully-frontal, they no doubt attributed that more to my ongoing singledom, my lack of romantic masculine companionship than to any unsavory desires cropping up in my straight-laced mind. I shelved away that hunger I so often felt now, the desirous greed kept so carefully in check in their presence, leaking out only in dark, devious daydreams that I pretended belonged to someone else. I could never let on, I knew. It would ruin everything. What would they think of me, if they knew what I was thinking? Likely they’d be thoroughly disgusted; maybe even repulsed to the point of forsaking me entirely. There was simply no way. It was certainly possible that the idea of being with me in that way had crossed one or both of their minds at some point in time. Maybe it wasn’t even so far-fetched to think that one of them might be willing to risk our friendship in order to turn it into something more. They might consider a Kathy and Sam or a Kathy and Ted if that was what I wanted. But I had no interest in either of those combinations. I simply couldn’t separate them in my mind; couldn’t see myself with one without the other close by. It had to be Kathy and Sam and Ted, or nothing at all. And the idea of that, I knew, would never, ever fly.

But time flew, and before I’d even finished dusting the snowflakes off my heavy winter jacket, spring had come, and with it the dreaded annual ritual that these days usually left me as desolate and cold as a midwinter dawn: my birthday. Not only was I rapidly heading towards the downhill side of the getting older coaster, it had been years since I’d had anyone with whom I even wanted to celebrate such questionable milestones. In consequence, as with most other holidays, I’d made a practice of ignoring the event entirely, and I’d gotten pretty darn good at it, too. As it happened, that year it fell on a Friday night. Since I was happy to let this particular occasion slip by unnoticed, I didn’t mention it to the guys, but arrived at their place as usual for our Friday night beers, only a little less cheerful than usual.

You can therefore imagine my very great surprise when they both sprang to the door, grinning like two mad Christmas elves, holding a vast bouquet of brightly colored balloons and a highly mysterious cylindrical package wrapped in tissue paper and tied with curled ribbons all around it.

“Happy Birthday!” they cried, releasing the balloons and permitting them to drift joyfully to the ceiling as if they’d been imprisoned far too long.

“How did you know?” I inquired, gently shaking the cold, damp present as if trying to guess what it could possibly be.

“Ted remembered,” Sam burst out proudly, as if he himself were somehow responsible for his friend’s recollection. “You told us last year when we all went out for my birthday, remember?”

“Not really,” I admitted. Sam’s last birthday was the first time I’d had a hangover in years. I didn’t feel too bad about it, though. As I recalled, he hadn’t gotten up at all the next day.

“We know you don’t like to make a fuss,” Ted assured me. “But we wanted to get you a little present. Something we hope you’ll want to share with both of us.”

I felt that intoxicating burbling in my loins again and for one crazy moment I almost dared to hope that my birthday wish was going to be granted after all.

“Open it,” Ted said, grinning and nodding towards the cool package that was warming in my fevered hands. I managed it with only a bit of shaking.

“Why, it’s a beer!” I exclaimed, poorly feigning surprise. “But what a beer!” I added, examining the bottle. It was an oak-aged Imperial Stout from a prestigious craft brewery. This was a rare and ridiculously expensive beer.

“Thanks, guys!” I said enthusiastically, internally rebuffing my surging hormones into silence while I pecked each of them on the cheek in turn. “What do you say we crack this puppy open right now?”

It was as delicious as anyone could have hoped and strong, very strong, and when we finally lumbered out into the street towards the bar, I didn’t feel the slightest compunction about positioning myself cozily between my friends and locking my arms about their waists.

“You guys are the best,” I said, drawing them towards me.

“Eh, we kinda like you, too,” Ted conceded, eyeing me affectionately and squeezing me back ever so slightly.

“Not me!” Sam interjected. “I just put up with you for Ted’s sake.”

“Good. I only put up with you for Ted’s sake, too,” I shot back, sticking my tongue out at him.

“Oh, I’m hurt!” he cried, half-pulling away and forcing me to draw him in tighter, my breast pressing against his ribs like a cheerful ambassador from the pools of my passion.

“You know I was joking, right, Kathy? I really do like you,” he added anxiously a moment later, peering at me with concern.

“I know,” I said. “Being a jerk is part of your charm.”

“Did you hear that, Ted? Kathy says I’m charming.”

“Sure she did,” Ted answered skeptically. “Dumbass.”

“Speaking of asses,” Sam said to me, seemingly apropos of nothing. “You’re what, thirty-nine now?”

“Don’t remind me,” I grunted.

And with that he drew back his hand and slapped my butt hard with the flat of his palm.

“There’s one!” he cried.

My internal simmer rapidly threatened to boil over and for a moment I couldn’t even walk; I stood stock-still in the middle of the sidewalk while they halted beside me, staring at me curiously. And then Ted drew back his hand and whack! my other cheek was stinging delightfully in turn.

“There’s two!” he shouted.

“Stop that!” I muttered unconvincingly, wondering whether they could see me blushing beneath the streetlights.

“Huh,” Sam said, grabbing my hand and dragging me back along the sidewalk. “You know what I think, Ted?”

“Um, that Kathy likes being spanked?” he replied without hesitation.

“You picked up on that, too, huh?”

And before I could even mount a half-hearted protest, they had both slapped me again hard, smack in the middle of my ass.

“Does that count as one or two?” Ted inquired.

“Two, I think,” Sam answered cheerfully. “Only thirty-five to go!”

“Plus one to grow on,” Ted reminded him, pulling back for another strike.

“Catch me if you can!” I cried, wiggling out of their grasp and bolting down the street towards the bar while they chased me with threatening palms.

It may have been the best night I’d ever spent with them. We joked and talked and laughed and sat close together at the bar, each of them angling to get another crack at my butt every time I shifted in my seat or got up to go to the bathroom. And I don’t know whether it was the stout that did it or the three beers that followed, but by the time we tumbled in a pile out onto the sidewalk I was definitely feeling tipsier than usual and said so.

“You’re just punch-drunk from all the spanking,” Sam replied, landing another solid one on my buttocks while my back was turned.

“That was what, nineteen?” Ted said, winding up for another pitch. “We’d better get busy; there’s a long way to go.”

“Did I say I was turning thirty-nine?” I said playfully, edging away from them. “I meant forty-nine.”

Again we ran most of the way home until at last, landing on their doorstep, they cornered me; set me face-first against the wall and gave it to me good while I screamed and laughed.

“Twenty-eight! Twenty-nine!”

They eased up for a second and I broke free; scrambled out from between them and ran shrieking through the apartment.

“Look out!” Sam cried as I tore off my jacket and hurled it behind me like a wild animal net.

“Booby trap!” Ted yelled, tripping over the hard, flat shoes I’d smoothly slipped out of and left in my wake.

When I reached Ted’s bedroom at the end of the hall, I was forced to a halt. I’d only been in here once before, when he’d wanted to show me the oil paintings that hung on his wall, and I felt vaguely as if I’d entered some very private space and wondered whether I really ought to be there. But I was cornered now, and I had no choice but to duck behind the king-sized bed and stand there waiting while they prowled menacingly around the perimeter.

One man, of course, I might have held off. But with two there was no chance.

Finally tiring of toying with me, they sprung, one on each side, throwing me laughing onto the bed. Undaunted by my half-hearted struggles, Sam sat down on the edge of the mattress and together they forced me upside-down onto his lap, my skirt riding up to my thighs and allowing a cool breeze to flush against my burning cheeks.

They took turns while I whimpered and groaned, naughtily shifting my hips so that my skirt rode up higher, exposing the lace panties already damp with my dew.

“Forty-nine, and fifty!” Sam said, releasing me at last. But I simply lay there in blissful abandon, my face pressed against his thigh, not looking at either of them except in my mind.

“Look, we wore her out!” he observed, noting my lassitude.

“You know I’m really only thirty-nine, right?’

“Guess we’ll have to start over!” Ted threatened, leaning over me with palm extended.

“No!” I yelled, grabbing his hand and yanking him down onto the bed beside us. He went over laughing, and then I pushed hard against Sam and he went over, too, with me lying between them while we all panted from the exertion.

“That wore me out, too!” Sam said, lying down on his back, closing his eyes and turning his face towards me and Ted, who now lay on his side behind me.

Subtly I scooted my backside closer to Ted. I could feel his fingertips on my back and I reached around and grabbed his hand and drew his arm snugly around me, letting his hand fall either accidentally or subconsciously onto my right-hand breast.

Being too thoughtful to point out my little mishap, he didn’t jerk his hand away, but rather tightened it into a fist that hovered just above the flesh of my breast. I inhaled deeply and felt his knuckles tickling my nipple.

“Comfortable?” he murmured.

“Mm-hmm,” I sighed, trying and failing to keep the longing out of my tone.

Suddenly Sam’s eyes popped wide open and then bulged as he saw us lying there so close together. “Hey, how come Ted gets to feel you up and I don’t?” he teased.

“I’m not feeling her up!” Ted protested. But he didn’t move that errant hand as I wiggled my chest more thoroughly into it.

I looked at Sam and patted the bed right beside me, indicating that he should come closer. “Are you sure you two wouldn’t rather be alone?” he teased again. I didn’t answer but patted the sheet again, more vigorously this time. He grinned and scootched over half a foot.

“Closer,” I said, patting an area an inch in front of my thigh. He laughed and pulled in, so close to me that the hair on his legs tickled mine. He lifted his hand to my hip and dabbed at it with playful fingers.

“Close enough?” he inquired.

“Almost,” I agreed. And then I took hold of his hand and planted it firmly upon my left breast.

“Whoa!” they said together. For a moment nobody moved.

Then Ted muttered into my ear, “Um, Kathy? Are you drunk?” In the excitement he’d forgotten to keep that fist going and now his palm lay flat upon my breast, which was silently begging to be clutched.

I couldn’t help myself. I tilted my body and snuggled further into the hands that were touching me from before and behind.

“I don’t think so,” I answered tentatively, uncertain which answer was most likely to get me the action I so desperately wanted. Neither man had let go of the breast I’d given him and they both seemed to be poised there, waiting uncertainly to see what would happen next.

I looked at Sam, whose eyes were just inches from mine. His hand twitched on my tit and involuntarily my hips jerked in response, pressing against the delicious warmth of the thighs on my thighs, the belly and back on my belly and back.

“Aw, shit,” he said softly.

I felt my hindside grow cool as Ted retreated behind me, but he only withdrew far enough to push me gently onto my back, where I lay snugly between them while they gazed down at me with a mix of wonder and apprehension. Their arms were still criss-crossed over my chest and I felt trapped like a full-grown butterfly in a silk cocoon, waiting to flutter beautifully into life.

I inhaled audibly and heard them breathe deeply in turn. They gazed intently at one another, as if talking without speaking, and then nodded in unison, as if they’d come to some unspoken mutual agreement. I waited.

As one man they released their hands from my breasts and began unhooking the buttons of my blouse, one starting from the top, and the other from the bottom. With bated breath I watched as they gently pulled the cloth aside, leaving me nearly bare in a hot pink brassiere that nearly matched the color rising in their cheeks. Slowly they unhooked the front clasp, and pulled the bra aside, releasing me into the wild. I moaned gratefully. For a long moment they gazed down at my naked breasts, not moving, not speaking. Then they both smiled broadly, bent their heads to my breasts, and took them into their mouths as if they’d been expecting this all along.

It was ecstasy; every bit as glorious as I’d dreamed it would be, and I watched with ardor the tongues on my tits while unseen hands crept further down my trembling torso, my shivering hips, and my shaking thighs. They sucked harder and I groaned and wiggled my hips in response as I felt a different man’s fingers grasping at each edge of my panties, tugging them softly, surely away from my body while they both looked up at me with warm, tender eyes.

Eagerly I lifted my rear and my undies broke free. And all at once, I was exposed to them, these, my two closest friends, and as they smiled up at me I was no longer afraid of what this might do to our friendship, no longer worried about their disgust over my unusual desire. I let my legs fall open wider and smiled as they bent to glance down at it, my most private of parts, one of the very few sides of me they had never yet seen. And gently the fingers of two hands crept across my hips and thighs; met in the middle at the juncture of my holiest crevice, and again, as if by that unspoken mutual agreement, silently parted. They bent to my breasts with renewed vigor, and I cried out in my joy and desire and pulled them even more tightly to me. And then I felt them at last, the hands exploring my underside, the fingers slipping into my hole and stroking my clitoris and I couldn’t help it; abruptly I burst into a frenzied, frantic, flailing finish while they hung on by their teeth to my still-swollen breasts and gazed up at me with a hint of amusement filling their eyes.

Slowly they withdrew; let go of my breasts and leaned back on their elbows while I waited, flushed and panting with pleasure and wondering what to do next. Ted looked over at Sam, and Sam looked over at Ted, and they nodded at one another again in silent understanding. Then Sam sat up, awkwardly shimmied my panties back up over my body, stripped down to his boxers, and again lay down beside me, blinking bemusedly at me with his long eyelashes while his hand travelled over the sheet still warm and wet with my sweat. Ted got up to turn off the light, slipped off his pants and then climbed back into bed, nuzzling my ear with his nose and saying “Good night,” as if nothing out of the ordinary had happened here, and within minutes they were both fast asleep. I might have lain awake myself, and pondered what was to become of the three of us now, but I was so damned satisfied that I had no energy left for thinking, and merely lay peaceably between them, enjoying the feel of their hot breath on my skin until I too, fell serenely into sleep.

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The eBook of Just the Three of Us is now available exclusively on Amazon at only $3.99 – borrow FREE with Kindle Unlimited! Paperback now available in both standard and LARGE PRINT sizes on Amazon (Universal Link), Barnes and Noble, and other online retailers. The audiobook, narrated by Lana Long, is also available on Amazon and other audio book retailers.

Just the Three of Us II

My Life with Michael: A Novel of Sex, Beer and Middle Age (Chapter 1)

This is the first chapter from my just-published novel My Life with Michael: A Novel of Sex, Beer, and Middle Age, now available in paperback and eBook at online retailers worldwide. The first chapter contains suggestive language but no explicit sexual scenarios.

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My Life with Michael: A Novel of Sex, Beer, and Middle Age is an erotic fantasy for anyone who has ever wanted to have their beer and drink it, too. Surprisingly sweet, the story follows the course of an adulterous affair between two ordinary people confronting the changes that aging brings to the experience of love and sexuality. With humor and honesty, my novel explores the pleasures and pitfalls of the adulterous relationship: the crudity of the courtship, the raw sexuality that ultimately lapses into monotony, and, inevitably, the bittersweet farewell.

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Chapter 1

I was thirty-nine years old when I first met Michael. At the time, I was happily cohabitating with my boyfriend of the past four years. Oh, we had our problems, of course, but not many, and for the most part, we were well contented with each other. We had no intention of ever getting married, and neither of us wanted children, so you might say that we were as committed as we were going to get. Nonetheless, by this time I was fairly convinced that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him, and I’m comfortable saying that he felt the same way about me.

Everyone said we were a terrific couple. They were right. We were both very busy with work and our own projects, so we didn’t always spend a lot of time together, but we really enjoyed each other’s company when we did. I couldn’t have counted the number of late nights we stayed up just talking, or the number of groggy mornings I spent wishing that we didn’t always seem to find so many new things to talk about. He was an excellent companion, definitely not someone you’d get sick of in a hurry, and even though we never travelled or really did anything more exciting than sharing a beer at a local pub, I loved being with him. And I had definitely reached a stage in my life in which I was more interested in companionship than sex. Not that sex was a problem – in fact, he was a swell fucker – but I could safely envision still wanting to be with him even if that changed. Although I’d never been in a relationship that had lasted this long before, I assumed that eventually bedtime would become routine and monotonous, just as asking and hearing about the other person’s day must ultimately lose its power to enchant.

But as I’d moved through my late thirties, I’d stopped worrying so much about whether our sex life would remain novel and exciting because, frankly, my own drive seemed to be diminishing slightly with each passing year. I still needed frequent fucking, but the strength of my desire for it had lessened, and I didn’t always want to make a big production out of it, if you know what I mean. It was similar to the way I felt about breakfast. When I was single, I rarely bothered eating breakfast. Now I cooked breakfast for us every day, and I usually made a bigger fuss over it than was strictly necessary, because I figured if I was going to go to the trouble of fixing food, I might as well make something I really wanted to eat. Yet some days, preparing a three-course meal and washing pots and pans seemed like more hassle than it was worth, when boring old cold cereal would fill us up equally as well as eggs and potatoes. And sometimes I’d even forget for a little while how much more satisfying it was to have a big fancy morning meal until something or someone prompted me into that recollection and I’d remember how awesome bacon made the house smell or how much I enjoyed the confluence of flavors in Eggs Benedict. I only hoped that the day would never come in which I decided to skip breakfast entirely because I’d rather stay in bed and sleep late.

But if that day was lumbering on some far-distant horizon, it hadn’t arrived yet, and in the meantime, there was Tom, and that guy wasn’t only sexy, he was gorgeous. He wasn’t the chiseled, clothes-model type, nor the handsome, dreamy sort, either; he was more like that cute boy who lived next door when you were a teenager who you secretly hoped was watching when you undressed in front of the window, but who you knew never would because he wasn’t that kind. He had a real, down-home boyish kind of charm that was practically irresistible, and I never could understand why he wasn’t constantly crawling with women, although I suspected it had something to do with the jealous old lady on his arm. Even had he not been beautiful, I would have found him appealing because he was exactly my type, and I mean, exactly, as in, if I were describing my ideal man he would have fit the bill without having to shift a molecule. He had slightly wavy brown hair that he wore a little long, warm brown eyes, and a modest beard and mustache that he never quite managed to keep trimmed. I loved the soft scruffy bristles he grew between shaves, and never tired of rubbing his cheeks. He wore glasses. I’ve yet to meet the man who was not more attractive to me with glasses than without them. He had a great build, too. A couple of inches shy of six feet, just the right height for smooching, and muscular; once when I’d sprained my ankle out on the front sidewalk, he’d carried me in his arms up the stairs and into the house as if I were a child. Yet he was soft in the belly, which is where I like men to be soft. He had a wonderful deep voice, and a great hearty laugh, and huge smile lines radiating outward from his eyes in a purely adorable and not an old, wrinkled kind of way. Nothing about him struck you as old. There was not one gray hair in that man’s head, and I should know; I searched frequently and enviously through every lock and never found one. He was only three years younger than me, but could and did pass for much less. I never told him this, but I harbored a secret fear that one day we’d be out together and someone would mistake me for his mother!

Not that I was so bad to look at either. I’d always been cute more than pretty, and that doesn’t come off so well when you get older, but I didn’t think I’d gotten a bad deal all around. I had fair skin that was just beginning to get blotchy, unimpressive brown hair that I wore short and plain because it looked even worse long and styled, and rather lovely green eyes that were becoming less lovely as the skin around them sagged and puckered. My mother had been the same way. She used to forewarn me that one day I’d be sorry my face was shaped like hers; that I would grow to despise those pouches and dark circles, and boy, was she right. I wasn’t sure whether I should be grateful or regretful that I had no daughter to inherit this precious family trait.

I was surprisingly satisfied with my body, however. I’d always liked my height; at five foot six, I was neither too short nor too tall, and I had a large frame that could carry quite a few extra pounds with some success. Although I’d never been particularly heavy, I’d always had to monitor my weight closely to keep it under control, and when I’d moved in with Tom, the additional meals and sharp increase in beer intake rapidly robbed me of dominion over it. I put on twenty pounds in two months, so fast that I didn’t even have time to shop for fat clothes. It took almost two years, but somehow through rigorous exercise and severe alcohol restrictions, I lost the twenty pounds I’d gained and another twenty besides, and for the first time in my life I could actually be described as thin. People did, in fact, refer to me that way, usually with unmistakable envy. But naturally I never understood that, because I still couldn’t see anything but the bulges. I’d be willing to bet you could walk up to the skinniest woman in any room and ask her how she felt about her figure, and she’d find an inch to pinch somewhere and tell you she wished she was ten pounds lighter. Anyway, the one saving grace of my aging body was that I finally had a rather nice figure, except for my thighs and butt, which were both disproportionately large, and my breasts, which were decidedly not. That last was the one thing I missed about my old body. Although I wasn’t well-endowed even at my heaviest, I’d at least had respectable boobs. Now, even on my considerably smaller frame, they seemed depressingly tiny. Of course, I wasn’t sure how much of that was because they had shrunk, and how much because they were simply spreading out over a larger area. In fact, I grew less annoyed by my wee breasts as I approached middle age and gravity began exacting its vengeance on me for defying it by spending so much time upright. I took some small comfort in the assurance that my boobs could never possibly reach my waist, no matter how hard they tried.

Michael, on the other hand, was not at all the kind of guy I would ordinarily have perceived as attractive. In fact, he was almost the opposite of everything I find physically appealing in a man. He had coppery-red hair, which I have never particularly cared for, pale, almost icy blue eyes, and a foot-long beard that I always thought was just ridiculous. This narrowly pointed monstrosity grew almost down to his chest, like a goatee run hideously amuck; a chin-decoration that would have sent even its four-legged namesake scurrying for shame into solitary abandon, but which Michael seemed to wear with pride, stroking it often as if for ideas or luck. I’ve never understood that about brewers; they all seem to be walking around with piles of crazy facial hair. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the faces surrounding you the next time you’re at a beer festival and you’ll see what I mean. I’ve often wondered if they incorporate that into some bizarre secret handshake or something. Anyway, he certainly was not a man I would have spotted from across a room and thought, Oh, I want a piece of that! Up close he did have a pretty nice body, though, rather to my taste. Not quite as tall as Tom, and definitely a little rounder. I can still picture that growing beer belly stretching out his T-shirt, and my eyes helplessly watching my own hands reaching out to rub it, without even asking my brain for permission.

But nothing could have been further from my mind than the idea of changing partners on that first unexpected evening when Michael came do-si-do-ing into my life.

“You gotta come see this, Tom!” A largish, nondescript fellow in a navy brewer’s shirt was tugging impatiently on my boyfriend’s arm. I’d never been able to keep track of all of Tom’s many friends, but I was pretty sure he was one of them.

Tom looked at me inquiringly. I shrugged. “I’ll be right back,” he promised, pecking my cheek and following his buddy down a long steel staircase into the hidden depths of the brewery. I stood awkwardly holding my taster cup, trying to pretend that I was perfectly at home in a room full of strangers and desperately seeking anyone with whom I could fake making intelligent or even somewhat lame conversation.

I should have just tagged along like I usually do, I thought irritably as the seconds stretched into minutes, clutching at my beer as though it were a crutch, and leaning as awkwardly against the wall as if I really had broken something. You weren’t invited, I reminded myself, wishing that I could remember Tom’s friend’s name so I could curse it properly.

I’m sure old what’s-his-face didn’t mean it personally, I admonished myself, returning to the tasting-room bar to top off my glass, my last sample having mysteriously evaporated more rapidly than usual. He was only an assistant brewer, and evidently a new one at that; probably didn’t want to be seen traipsing through the private rooms with an entourage. And you couldn’t blame Tom for wanting to go and see whatever the secret treasure was, either. Beer is a big deal where we live, and Tom was unquestionably even more passionate about it than most; he’d often expressed curiosity about what went on behind the scenes.

But, but being a wise and understanding man, he’d never deserted me like this before, and as the minutes passed and people continued to stroll by me, half-smiling in alcohol’s comfortable glow, I became more anxious to find someone, anyone to talk to; something to look at besides the tiny cylindrical glass I kept emptying for lack of anything else to do.

And that was when I spotted him. Also alone; also staring at his beer as if debating whether to strike up a conversation with it before someone came along and rudely interrupted. Although I was never very good with faces, I was fairly certain I’d seen this guy around. In addition to being regulars on what you might call the “festival circuit,” Tom and I often also made the rounds of the local breweries, most of which, like this one, had tasting rooms where you could sample the new varieties as well as the old favorites. Likely he was a regular, too. It wasn’t much of an opening, but I snatched at it like a hound-dog after supper’s last bone.

I marched. I was never very subtle. Walked right over and stood close beside him until he turned to look at me, perhaps slightly surprised to find a not-unattractive if no-longer-young woman at his elbow, sipping a beer and not offering the slightest pretense of nonchalance.

“I think I’ve seen you around,” I said bluntly.

“I think I’ve seen you around, too,” he answered, his lips twitching slightly as if uncertain whether they ought to surrender to a smile.

Now if you’re a young person, you may be astonished by the boldness of my approach, because if a young woman walked randomly up to some male stranger and struck up a conversation, he’d likely interpret that as a signal, one utterly inappropriate for someone who is happily attached. But when you get to be thirty-nine, you don’t worry about that anymore. One, because you’re no longer hot and you can’t make the assumption that almost any man you meet is going to want to sleep with you if you merely look at him cross-eyed. And two, because if he’s roughly your age, as this man was, then both you and he know that at least one of you is bound to be married. In other words, it suddenly becomes possible to be friendly to a member of the opposite sex without it being misconstrued as meaning anything more than that, which is certainly not the case among younger people. It’s the one teeny consolation you get for no longer being perceived as a sex object.

“How’s your beer?” I inquired, infusing the question with as much sincerity of interest as I could muster. It was one of the few phrases in my very limited array of conversation-sparking techniques that was guaranteed to generate an enthusiastic response among members of the beer crowd, and I wasn’t too proud to latch onto it if it kept me from having to talk.

I can’t transcribe the answer he gave me, but it sounded very technical; too technical for someone who was not a devotee to attempt to understand. I listened closely to the lecture on fermentation temperatures, but gave up trying when he reached the part about the fruity esters.

“Uh-huh,” I answered, nodding my head as if I’d written the book on fruity esters and looking around to see if there was another novice I could talk to instead.

“How’s yours?” he asked, nudging my attention back to him.

“Yummy!” I said with conviction. “Must be them fruity whatchamacallits.”

He laughed good-naturedly. “That’s a stout.”

“For your information, Mister whatever-your-name is,” I replied with assumed haughtiness, “It’s a blend. Unlike you obvious laypersons, we true connoisseurs aren’t afraid to mix!”

He laughed again, his eye-wrinkles crinkling in a manner that reminded me of my own.

“Actually, esters or no esters, I really like the beers here,” I confided, deciding to give Mr. Expert another chance. At least he had a sense of humor; was less of a beer snob than some others I had met.

“So what’s your favorite?” he replied, warming to a subject that was clearly close to his heart.

I told him, and then noticed that I’d polished off my two ounces of beer again. It sure went fast in those tiny cups.

“Your beer’s empty,” he said, frowning as if I’d been downgraded to critical condition while the doctor was out taking a smoke break. “Here, I’ll get you a new one.”

Had I still been a young woman, naturally I would have interpreted this gracious act of kindness as an attempt on the part of this man I’d just met to get me drunk in the hopes of having his filthy bar-guy way with me. But being closer to the mature side of life, it was only my innate sense of feminist independence that was offended.

“I’ll get it,” I objected as he magically transferred my taster cup from my hand to his in one deft, seamless motion, as if he’d had a lot of experience with manipulating glassware. But then I saw that he had ducked the line and was stepping behind the bar to fill my glass with my designated favorite.

“Thanks,” I said, clinking my cup against his and taking a small sip. “Do you work here or are you just really obnoxious?’

“Guilty on both counts,” he answered, grinning. “Actually, that’s my beer you’re drinking. All of us worked on it together, course,” he clarified. “But it was basically my recipe.”

“Nice job!” I said, taking another sip and scrutinizing my new acquaintance with greater respect.

“Glad you think so. My wife says it had better be good for all the extra hours I put into making it.”

“Married, huh?” Told ya. “Any kids?” I inquired politely.

“Three.”

“Holy cow!” I was always a little stunned to learn of the existence of other people’s offspring, especially when it came to people my own age. In my mind, I still thought of grownups as creatures from my parents’ generation.

He chuckled, evidently unoffended by my consternation. “You?”

“Nope, no children. That I know of,” I qualified. He tilted an eyebrow at me and I knew my little joke had fallen flat. No one understood my sense of humor, I fretted with a sigh. “Uh, no husband, either,” I hurriedly continued, by way of dispelling the awkwardness.

“That you know of?” he smirked.

“Right,” I agreed. “Although I did go to Vegas last year, so I suppose it’s possible. Of course, my boyfriend probably would have noticed if I had married a lion-tamer or something while we were down there. Seems like he would have mentioned it.”

“Probably just being polite,” he contended. “Doesn’t want to embarrass you over not remembering. Besides,” he continued, leaning in closer and whispering conspiratorially, “It’s not wise to mess with the wife of a lion-tamer. They’re very ferocious in defending their territory.”

“And how exactly did you become such an expert on lion-tamers?” I queried bemusedly.

“Family tradition,” he shot back without hesitation. “My father was terribly disappointed that I was unable to carry on our generations-old trade.”

“Just couldn’t keep the lions tame, huh?”

“On the contrary. I made them too tame. The audience got bored watching them just sitting and purring; rolling over with their legs in the air until I rubbed their bellies. One even insisted on brushing his teeth – and flossing – before I put my head in his mouth!”

“Thank you, thank you,” he said, bowing as I dissolved into a fit of giggles. “May I refill your beer, Miss…?”

“Kate,” I answered. “Yes, please, Mr…?

“Michael.”

“Ah! One of my favorite names,” I said, oddly pleased with the moniker although for some unfathomable reason it didn’t quite seem to fit the man.

“Really?” he inquired curiously, cupping my empty glass in his palm. “How come?”

“No idea,” I shrugged. “Maybe because I’ve never known anyone irritating by that name.”

“There’s still time!” he reassured me seriously, vanishing again behind the bar and reemerging a moment later with two beers and an amiable smile.

And we were off. It turned out we actually had quite a few things in common, me and this heretofore unknown brewer-man. He was three years older than me and, like me, had attended a private university and started down the path to becoming an engineer before shifting into an entirely different career. He’d also moved around quite a bit like I had, and it was refreshing to have a conversation with someone who hadn’t been born in the area and lived there his whole life, like practically everyone else I knew. Maybe it was only because we did have so many things in common, but I found him easy to talk to; not once did I sense my brain struggling to come up with what I was going to say next, as it normally spent so much of its time doing in social situations. Anyway, we chatted about this and that and I don’t remember what all for probably a whole hour before Tom finally reappeared.

“I am so sorry!” he declared penitently, bursting free of the milling crowd and landing with an audible plop at my feet. “Dave gave me the whole tour; he wouldn’t stop showing me… Hey, aren’t you a brewer here?” he exclaimed, suddenly noticing my companion.

I introduced them.

“Really nice to meet you,” Tom said, in that friendly but not phony way he had with new acquaintances. “I wish I’d brought that beer with me,” he added wistfully. “I’m a homebrewer,” he explained in response to Michael’s questioning look. “A new one; this is only my second batch. You could probably tell me what’s wrong with it.”

It was too bad, really; the first batch had turned out amazing, I thought, but the second had a powerful off-flavor and an odd smell, like rotting rubber. Tom had blanched when he’d tasted it and was dispirited and heartbroken for about five minutes, which was about as long as he was ever dispirited or heartbroken.

“This is great!” he’d declared at last. “I’m only going to get better if things go wrong, right?”

Sometimes I envied his optimism and even keel. In my universe both good things and bad happened randomly and without warning, and I was rarely able to maintain the smooth, unruffled calm that he so effortlessly achieved.

“Be happy to,” Michael said encouragingly. “Bring it by some time. I got started as a homebrewer myself. Sometimes the troubleshooting is tough.”

“Thanks!” Tom answered. “I’ll do that. But we should probably get going,” he said, turning back to me. “I quit a while ago but I shouldn’t drink anymore if I’m going to drive.”

“Yeah, sure,” I said. Tom always drove when we went out, so I never argued when he wanted to leave. He was good at knowing when to quit. Driving after drinking made me very nervous, even if I’d only had one beer; I always worried that maybe I was too tipsy to know I was tipsy.

“Well, it was nice talking to you,” Michael said, extending a firm hand for me to shake.

“Yeah, you, too,” I answered, clasping the proffered handhold gratefully in farewell and following Tom to the door without looking back.

“I didn’t know you knew that guy,” Tom remarked as we were climbing into the car.

“I don’t,” I answered. “I just needed someone to talk to. He looked vaguely familiar, so I went over to him.”

He smiled apologetically. “I really am sorry. I know you’re not comfortable being alone in that kind of situation.”

“Actually, it was fine. Really!” I assured him in answer to his skeptical glance. “Believe it or not, I had a good time.”

I think Tom was as startled as I was to hear me say that, me not being a big fan of chit-chat under the best of circumstances, let alone when I’ve been abandoned in an unfamiliar setting and have no place else to go. In fact, had this happened ten years earlier, when I’d still been painfully shy and reserved, rather than only somewhat so, I probably would have fled the building and started skating the miles across the slippery, icy sidewalks back to our house rather than endure the agony of random discourse with a real live human being. But nowadays my sense of self-consciousness outweighed my shyness; I hated being stared at more than I dreaded making small talk, and trust me, people do stare when you’re standing all by yourself in a crowd. Whether it’s out of pity or scorn doesn’t matter; no one wants to be the subject of either.

“You’re sure you’re not mad at me?” Tom asked as he hopped energetically into bed. He scootched over to my side, wrapped his arm around my shoulder, and pressed his chest close against mine, a very effective method of attracting my attention as well as my forgiveness.

“You’re lucky I had what’s-his-name to keep me amused,” I answered with mock severity. “And to get me beer!”

“I bring you beer all the time!” he objected, withdrawing slightly from my embrace to look me defiantly in the eye.

“I know you do, sweetie,” I conceded, drawing him towards me again. “That’s what I keep you for,” I joked, planting a hoppy kiss on those warm, soft lips and following it up with more until he took the hint and undressed me.

And I didn’t give Michael another thought until the end of April when we ran into one another at the Spring Festival, one of the major events that all of the beer fanatics attended, and my personal favorite. Joyously is not a word I would typically use to describe how I anticipated most of the days of my life, but for that festival, it fits. I looked forward to it for weeks in advance. It was held at this large pub downtown, and although it was tricky, it was possible to get there and back via public transit so that neither Tom nor I had to worry about driving, which was both nice and necessary. Maybe other people were able to attend that festival and drive safely home afterwards, but we were not they. Actually, I always thought that anyone who could wasn’t doing the festival right. There were so many delicious beers to taste that we usually found ourselves hanging on until the bitter end, cleaning up the dregs even as the servers were threatening to wheel the last kegs away, which was probably a little silly because after the first ten or twenty samples, they all began to taste alike anyway. But it was always a great time, and I liked the pub itself, too; it had a neat design. An enormous shiny wooden bar had been constructed in a rectangle around the center of the main room. Inside the bar, well protected from inebriated patrons, a mass of bartenders resolutely guarded the dozens of kegs they routinely kept on tap, as well as the hundreds of glasses they kept in stock in valiant defense against continual breakage. Apart from the scores of swiveling barstools, numerous small tables were scattered about where you could sit and listen to the local bands that would play on the raised stage opposite the front door. On festival days they lined the walls with kegs, too, so that it was wall-to-wall beer and people for hours on end, but no brawls ever broke out, the participants were always friendly and polite, and by the end of the day even the servers were loaded, but no one, including the bar owners, ever seemed to care. To me it was the grandest event of the whole year, and from the crowd that always turned out for it, it was apparent that I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

“Well, hello there!”

I turned. Michael was standing by my elbow, smiling sideways at me and holding out a hand for Tom to shake.

“Nice to see you, Michael!” I said, reeling him into half a hug and smiling back.

“Oh, yeah, I’m really glad you’re here!” Tom said eagerly. “See, I’ve been having this problem with my mash…”

I nodded politely as they launched into their long-awaited discussion of homebrewing techniques. I people-watched while I pretended to listen – I had rapidly grown accustomed to ignoring a lot of beer talk – and every so often I slipped away to fetch a new taster and pretended to listen some more while I sampled it.

“Would you excuse me a minute?” Tom said abruptly, handing me his taster cup. “I gotta visit the Port-A-John.”

“Oh, okay,” I said. I had that uncomfortable feeling in my gut again, the one I always got when I was left alone to chat it up with someone I didn’t know very well.

“I’ll be right back,” he promised, hurrying towards the exit.

It’s only for a few minutes, I thought to myself, glancing out the window at the long bathroom line. Besides, you got along fine the last time, didn’t you?

I sighed a little as I watched him go. And then I turned to Michael, feeling squeamish and wondering what to say next.

“So what’s your favorite so far?” he said. Was he ever at a loss for words? “I’ve been so busy chatting I haven’t gotten many samples in.”

“Well, let’s fix that right this minute!” I replied, steering him by the elbow towards the nearest keg, relieved to have something to do.

In no time we were talking and laughing like old friends, and when Tom reappeared, he found us standing side by side with our arms around each other like it was the most natural thing in the world. I am not generally flirtatious, and rarely am I physically affectionate with anyone who is not my boyfriend – in fact, I think it’s rude to fondle someone other than the someone you’re attached to – but although Tom eyed me a little peculiarly, he didn’t comment.

We were ready to leave not long after that, and in a kinder world that might have been the end of it. Except that as we neared the exit, we heard a voice calling out, “Is that you, Tom?”

“Oh, hi!” he shouted back, waving at an older woman sitting on a bench by the door. “That’s a friend of my mom’s,” he said to me, his eyes glassy. “I’ll just go say hello.”

Well, I simply could not face having a mom-friend conversation after what seemed like fifty beers even if it was actually only forty, so I went back inside and found Michael again. He was chatting animatedly with someone else, but I unabashedly poked him on the shoulder, past the point of caring whether it was rude to interrupt.

“I thought you were leaving,” he said, shooting me half a smile that might have meant anything.

“Not until you hug me goodbye again,” I said, throwing my arms wide.

I didn’t mean anything by it – at least, I don’t think I did – but I guess it was a pretty transparent move because he looked at me kindly, and then put his arms around me and squeezed me so tightly I shook.

“Hey, you’re a beautiful girl,” he said, pushing me gently away. “But…” And at that moment, Tom came back and found me so I never got to hear what the “but” was. But as I pulled away from him our eyes met for a second, and maybe I was just loaded, but it felt as if we shared a flash of, I don’t know what you’d call it. Mutual understanding? Well, maybe understanding isn’t the right word, but there was a connection and I felt it even if I couldn’t define it. The image that sprang to my mind was that of a circuit being closed. There’s a snap of wires and suddenly you have electricity where there was none before. It was so well-defined that it was almost physical. It was a look that bound me somehow.

But in the morning I woke uneasy, and as the day wore on and my hangover wore off, I conceded that it wasn’t only the excess of alcohol that was upsetting my stomach. I kept mulling over what had happened, and by early afternoon I was thoroughly disgusted with myself. It was that last comment he’d made that disturbed me most.

“You’re a beautiful girl, but…”

Who could have guessed that an unfinished remark could be so devastating? It so clearly implied that he thought I was coming on to him, which I really wasn’t. Okay, maybe it was conceivable that there was a fleeting attraction there, but it wasn’t as if I intended for anything to come of it. I was a good woman, a fine woman, trustworthy and loyal, and he was merely some dude I’d met once or twice. I loved my Tom, and that made me invulnerable to such frivolous temptations, I was sure. But now I worried, too, with cause, that I had been disrespectful of Tom. I certainly didn’t want his countless friends and acquaintances thinking that his girlfriend went around flirting and making moves on other men. I sure as hell would have been pissed off had it been him instead of me. Plus, this guy was married, for God’s sake, and married men had always been strictly taboo in my reckoning. The end result was, that although technically I hadn’t done anything wrong, the more critically I examined my behavior, the more like a lowlife I felt.

Of course, although I couldn’t admit it to myself at the time, I might not have felt quite so rotten about it were it not for the implied rejection. Whether he’d misjudged me or not, I’d still had to swallow his polite, No, thank you, which was a little insulting, even if it was the proper response for a dedicated husband and father of three. Of course, it wasn’t logically possible for him to reject me if I wasn’t after him, was it? So said the irrational part of my brain, pretending to act rationally and doing a poor job of it. But there may have been a tiny bit of hurt mixed in with my guilt. Maybe it even intensified it slightly. I was almost old, after all. I had no business expecting anybody to give me a second glance, which was all the more reason why I should be thankful that I already had a great boyfriend who still thought I was sexy. So on top of misbehaving, I’d probably made a complete fool of myself flirting with someone who couldn’t possibly conceive of little ol’ me as an object of desire anyway. By the end of the day, I was so unhappy and ashamed that I resolved to apologize for my behavior and keep a polite distance in future. But there was something about Michael that somehow always managed to unravel my most earnest resolve.

***

Both the paperback ($9.99) and ebook ($2.99) of My Life with Michael are now available at online retailers worldwide:

Amazon (Universal Link)
Barnes and Noble
ITunes
Kobo
Smashwords

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What Are People’s Reactions When They Find Out You Write Erotica?

I Write Erotica

My author interview with Guy Hogan of The Pittsburgh Flash Fiction Gazette is online at the following link. (Note: As always when visiting The Gazette, expect to see pictures of naked ladies. Lots of naked ladies.)

http://pittsburghflashfictiongazette.net/lori-schafer-write-erotica/

You can also read my interview in my recently released collection of erotic short short stories To All the Penises I’ve Ever Known: Erotic Shorts by Lori Schafer, only $0.99 in digital formats on Amazon (Universal Link), Barnes and NobleSmashwords, ITunes, and Lulu. Large print paperback is only $5.99!

white underwear on a string against cloudy blue sky

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“Morning After” in Erotic Review Magazine

My erotic short story “Morning After” has been published in Erotic Review Magazine:

http://eroticreviewmagazine.com/fiction/menage-a-trois-morning-after/ (Adult Content)

The inspiration from this story came from my second novel, Just the Three of Us: An Erotic Romantic Comedy for the Commitment-Challenged. The style of this piece differs somewhat from that of my novel – the humor here is more restrained – but it’s very much in the same vein. Frankly, I was delighted to revisit the concept because I really, really enjoyed writing that book. I love the characters, I love the setup, I even love the rather silly premise that three friends could just “happen” to fall in love in almost exactly the way that two friends might. In fact, I liked it so much that I’m halfway through writing the sequel. Plus I wrote this story. And then I got the idea for another short story called “Avalanche!” in which three friends… well, you get the drift.

The funny thing is, I never would have thought I’d find the whole threesome concept so intriguing. And honestly, I’m not sure that I really do. For me it’s not threesomes in general, but more this particular threesome that’s so endlessly amusing. Of course, maybe that’s how it starts. Maybe it always begins with plain old monogamous, monamorous folks who, by chance, meet the two other people who make the perfect corners on that kind of triangle. One day you’re hanging out with your best friends – the next you’re in love. It could happen to you!

Okay, probably not. But don’t discount the idea entirely, because you never know. And if it does happen, and it does work out, would you let me know? I could use another idea for a sequel…

Erotic Review Magazine

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You can also read “Morning After” in my recently released collection of erotic short short stories To All the Penises I’ve Ever Known: Erotic Shorts by Lori Schafer, only $0.99 in digital formats on Amazon (Universal Link), Barnes and NobleSmashwords, ITunes, and Lulu. Large print paperback is only $5.99!

white underwear on a string against cloudy blue sky

Would you like to be notified when I have a new release? Please sign up for my newsletter.