Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 15

There was no sex that night at the hotel since Delane suddenly wasn’t in the mood. As a result, Petra went to bed feeling angry and rejected. After all, her steady bed-buddy was usually always in the mood for intimacy. In fact, this was the first time Delane had ever turned her down.

After not being able to get to sleep, though he’d reclined in the dark for almost two hours waiting for sleep to come, Delane finally decided to go downstairs to the hotel bar and have a few drinks. Unfortunately, since this was something that he never did, the alcohol went straight to his head.

Fortunately, the inebriated man decided to use some of the common sense he’d been blessed with and not try to drive himself around town afterwards. Instead Delane prudently hailed a taxi for his drive since he was still not ready to go back up to the room where Petra was.

Interestingly enough, that ride took Delane right back to Sage’s apartment complex. After ringing the doorbell three times, he encountered a sleepy looking Sage in the doorway wearing a pink, knee-length knit sleep-shirt. She’d never looked more gorgeous to him than right now and he fought to keep his hands to himself.

“We need to talk,” Delane said with a slight slur as he waited for permission to be let in. Too unsteady to stand completely erect, he leaned against the doorframe and allowed it to take the bulk of his weight.

“At this late hour?” Sage asked, looking backwards at the clock on the living room wall. The oval-shaped timepiece read: 3am. Sage needn’t wonder how Delane got there because when she looked back in his direction, she saw the departing taxi in the distance beyond his right shoulder.

“Yes, I need to know what game you’re playing now. Why did you come all the way to Arizona to tell me about my son and then didn’t even leave an address and phone number so that I could reach you? I also need to know if anything about our brief marriage was real.”

Although his head was spinning like a well-swung merry-go-round, Delane knew that he had to have the answers to his questions tonight. He couldn’t make it another day without knowing.

While he’d talked, Sage had gotten a good whiff of Delane’s breath and realized that he’d been drinking tonight. Something must really be wrong because he never used to drink before, she mused, recalling how he usually liked remaining in control of his facilities at all times.

“Come on in,” Sage said with concern and a bit of resignation. She’d known that they would have to deal with other pieces of their past some day. It looked like today was that day.

After turning on a brass and blue trimmed lamp, she sat on the blue southern placed loveseat. He sat on the long blue and white sofa on the east wall. Then taking a deep breath of confidence, she began to address Delane’s previous statements.

“Although I seriously doubt if you’ll ever believe anything I say again without proof, I did leave my address and phone number on your machine. In fact, I left it there the very next day around 9:45am to be exact. The reason I know the exact time is because I remember thinking that I had only thirty minutes to make it to the airport in order to catch my flight and I wasn’t sure if that was enough time to be cleared by airport security,” Sage said.

She recalled having to take an hour later flight because there hadn’t been enough time for security to check everyone. Especially with all the new restrictions placed upon airports as a result of that world-changing incident on September 11, 2001.

“Could that message possibly have gotten erased by mistake, Delane?” Sage asked. She also recalled how her ex-husband hated telemarketers and would often clear the answering machine at home without listening to the person’s full message. In fact, as soon as those people started their sales pitch, he’d press delete.

“That’s entirely possible.” Delane leaned back on the cool, comfortable fabric of the sofa and thought back to that morning after his encounter with Sage at the hotel. He remembered that there had been a message erased around that time and it wasn’t by mistake, either. It was by permission since he’d been informed by Petra that the message was just another one of those pesky telemarketers. Now he felt like a fool for trusting her.

As soon as I get back to the hotel, I’m sending her home, Delane mused resolutely, determined to break things off with his regular lover for good. He would not tolerate a woman he couldn’t trust. Once burned, twice shy, as the old folks say.

“I didn’t call back and leave it again, because I assumed that you’d changed your mind about being in our son’s life. Plus, I didn’t want to be accused of hassling you and I wanted no part of trying to force something on you that you didn’t want. After all, our son deserves better than an unwilling father,” Sage said, breaking into Delane’s thoughts.

Since that trip Sage has had to learn an important lesson from Matthew 18:15-17. Even though those passages primarily talk about the need and the procedures for brethren to settle their differences when one sins against the other, she nevertheless gleaned a fresh revelation from those scriptures.

Sage learned that if a loved one seems unwilling to reconcile no matter what you do to make things right, then it is time to just let that situation go. You can’t make someone forgive you. You can’t even make someone repent for the wrong they’d done to you. People have to exercise their own freewill.

“No, I would never change my mind about that,” Delane said adamantly, sitting forward on the couch now with his hands clasped tightly together. “But what about my other inquiry? Was anything real about our marriage other than the great sex?”

“What does it matter now, Delane? You’ve moved on with your life. Petra is proof of that. Why rehash old stuff which you know you’re never going to forgive me of?”

And the sex wasn’t just great, it was fantastic, Sage added to herself, feeling twinges of desire attack her even now. Although she wanted to cross her legs to relieve the ache so badly, the nightgown she wore wasn’t long enough to do so without showing too much thigh.

Delane stared intently at his ex-wife across the dimly lit room. “What if I told you that it still matters? That it matters a lot? That Petra means less than nothing to me now that I realize that she was the one standing between my son and me. It wasn’t you. She erased that message. What if I also told you that I’m willing to try to forgive? That I wish more than anything right now that you’d come over here and bounce around in my lap like old times. That you’d let me have the joy of experiencing what it’s like to be inside of you again. To run my tongue…”

“Whoa…Delane,” Sage quickly interrupted, stopping his alcohol-induced confession before it went any further. She was already thoroughly pulsating with want now from his declarations and the succulent memories they’d invoked. “You’ve been drinking. You couldn’t possibly know what you’re saying right now.”

“I know exactly what I’m saying, Sage. Now tell me, was any of it real for you? Did you ever truly love me?” Delane insisted, his caramel eyes were more vulnerable than they’d ever been.

Sage felt an emotional lump form in her throat upon witnessing his vulnerable side again after so many years. Her ebony eyes filled with unshed dew. “All of it was real for me from the moment you ate that third helping of my lasagna that day and told me to use the money you gave me towards my college fund. The hugs, the kisses, the compliments and I-love-you’s were all real. All my mother did was push me in your direction, I’m the one that fell madly in love with you,” she confessed, staring at him just as intently as he was staring at her.

I still love you, Sage added silently, keeping that thought to herself as she broke the gaze and stared down at her hands. After all, Delane hadn’t asked if she still loved him or mentioned anything about still loving her, though he’d made it crystal clear that he still wanted her. At this stage in her life she couldn’t settle for passion and desire alone. Love and marriage had to be involved, and Sage wasn’t sure that he’d be willing to have the latter with her again.

“And while we’re talking about all this, I think you should know that I never cheated on you. Not once while we were dating, not once while we were married. And especially not that night my mother set both of us up by having me to bring those appetizers over while she had male guests. Oh, yes, she planned that scheme very well, even down to the part of getting Panella to call you on your way home so that you could come over, see me there, and jump to the wrong conclusion.” Sage shook her head at that painful memory. “It’s ironic that in the end, my mother used the truth to separate us.”

Delane let out an audible sigh and unclasped his hands, now using them to hold his head, which, interestingly enough, wasn’t spinning so fast anymore. It seemed as if a heavy weight had lifted from his shoulders and the world had suddenly righted itself again. Just knowing that the love, the sex, and the fidelity had been real between them went a long way towards healing his wounded heart. It went a long way towards making a lot of things right again.

Lifting his head after a few minutes, Delane beckoned Sage over with his left hand. “Come here, baby. I need to feel you near me,” he said softly, his voice a husky rumble.

Sage shook her head, afraid to meet his gaze head-on for certain now as she watched him from the corner of her eye. “Delane, I can’t. I can’t have premarital sex. I’m celibate, remember?” Sage reminded him, still hesitating to move an inch. The sexual tension in the room was thick enough. If she got any closer to him or looked at him directly, she might do something she’d regret in the light of morning but certainly not now.

“I know, baby. After spending time in your presence with all your church family around, I can see that you’ve really changed which is why I actually believe that you’ve told me the truth tonight,” Delane said as he stood up and came over to her. “And although I want to make love to you so badly right now that it hurts, I can respect your morals and settle for one of those wonderful hugs you used to give me.” He extended both hands to her now.

At those words, Sage received both of his hands and stood up. When she put her arms around his waist, she was surprised that her hands actually met together behind his back. She’d never been able to do that before. And although it felt different, it felt good different. Then the two of them just hugged one another for a long silent while, enjoying the feel of each other with their eyes closed.

After about twenty minutes of this, Delane released Sage with a reluctant sigh. It was time for him to go, but he dreaded leaving. Especially since he only had Petra to look forward to at the hotel. Especially since everyone he loved in the whole world was in this apartment right here.

Suddenly Delane had an idea. “Is it possible for me to crash on your sofa tonight? As you know, I took a taxi here. I figure I’ll probably be sleep long before another one arrives to pick me up. Plus, I really don’t want to go back to that hotel room right now.”

Sage nodded. She really didn’t want him to go back to that hotel room, either. Ever. Well, at least not as long as Petra was there. “Sure, but why not take the extra twin bed in our son’s room. I’m sure Delaney will be excited about waking up to his daddy in the morning.”

“Thanks, Sage. By the way, whatever happened between you and your mother to separate you two? I haven’t seen Sivilla or heard Delaney mention anything about his grandmother since I got here. And the Pastor mentioned something about you arriving in town alone and pregnant.”

“That’s a long story that I’ll have to tell you about some other time. But to satisfy your curiosity for now, let’s just say that I finally grew up and started using my own mind,” Sage explained, before turning around towards the bedroom area.

“Good for you,” Delane said with approval as he followed her to the back. Inwardly, he still wished that he were going to her bedroom instead of their son’s. However, he had high hopes that one day in the near future he’d have access to that room, too. In the meantime, Delane made an additional inquiry. “Oh by the way, how long has that guy at the church been in love with you?”

Sage stopped short in her tracks and turned around to face Delane. Although she couldn’t really see his face in the dim hallway that only had lower wall globes lit up to illuminate a person’s pathway, she knew he was smiling. She’d heard it in his voice.

“Why? Are you jealous?” Sage asked, thinking that Delane certainly didn’t sound jealous and wishing that he was since that would mean that he still had deep feelings towards her as she did him. But why isn’t he jealous? she mused, recalling how only a few minutes ago he’d professed to wanting her so badly that it hurt.

Delane chuckled and grabbed Sage about her waist, gently bringing her closer to him until she was firmly in his arms again. “I would be, if I thought you returned his feelings. If I thought for one minute that your body trembled in MacCauley’s arms like you’re doing in mine right now, I would be insanely jealous. And I would have to steal you from him,” he whispered in her left ear, before licking the lobe. That action caused Sage to tremble all the more and by instinct, her body leaned closer to him in all the best places.

When Sage heard Delane groan with pleasure at their intimate contact, the fog in her head began to clear somewhat and she began to earnestly pray. God, strength. I need strength right now, she petitioned. Not only were they too temptingly close to her bedroom due to the fact that it was the first room one encountered in the hallway, Sage honestly didn’t know if she would be strong enough to go in there without Delane.

After taking a deep, calming breath, Sage whispered back, “No need to steal what I’d willingly give to the man that signs his name above mine on a marriage license.” With that, she basically told Delane what she’d told all the other men who desired her over the last few years. No marriage license, no sex.

At those pointed words, Delane slowly released her. He’d signed his name once on a marriage license and got burned. He couldn’t bring himself to do that again for any woman. “I guess this is goodnight then, huh?”

“Guess so. Delaney’s room is the next one on the right,” Sage said, fighting disappointment as she pointed in the direction of their son’s room. Then she quickly entered her own bedroom with a heavy heart, knowing that she and her mother were the reason Delane couldn’t even discuss remarriage.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, January 30, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 14

Delane never had so much fun in his life and he soon discovered exactly what a collective meal was. It started out with Sage’s church members all meeting up at one central location - the church. Then they all caravanned to seven selected individual homes for fellowship and to consume one course each of a seven-course meal.

Not only was the fellowship outstanding, with all those friendly church members around keeping a smile on everyone’s faces, but the food was also stupendous. It was of the highest quality possible.

The first course contained an appetizer of fresh shrimp on ice with cocktail sauce. That was eaten at a man they called Brother Bryant’s home. The second and third courses consisted of baby artichokes and salad with stuffed salmon balls on the side. They were eaten at Sister Edwards and Brother Aragon’s homes respectively. The fourth course was a homemade minty grapefruit sorbet and it was served at Sister Shari Hutcheson’s home.

Delane soon realized exactly who Shari was to his son when the child affectionately hugged her around the legs upon seeing her and warmly referred to the woman as godmother. He also learned that Shari was Sage’s best friend and business partner, and that she lived in the same apartment building with her husband and three girls. Yet that would not be all that Delane learned tonight as he consumed the grapefruit sorbet with his son now sitting right next to him on Shari’s country blue sectional couch.

According to Sage, who spearheaded the whole event, the sorbet was needed between courses in order to cleanse the palate after consuming the salmon. Then she proceeded to give the participants a short lecture and demonstration on how highly specialized the taste buds were and how the different basic tastes were located in different areas of the tongue.

“Sweet tastes are located near the front tip of the tongue. Bitter tastes are located on the back portion in the central part of the tongue. Sour tastes are located on the sides of the tongue, midway back. And salty tastes are located just between the sweet area and the sour area,” Sage said, sticking out her own tongue and pointing to select areas in between sentences.

Delane didn’t know about anyone else, but he was very impressed by Sage’s brief, yet informative lecture. It showed that she had studied her craft well. He couldn’t help but be proud of her, despite his current bitterness. As for Sage’s tongue demonstration, Delane couldn’t help but be physically stirred by that since he had many vivid memories of other things she’d done with that very same tongue. Fortunately, he was able to keep a tight lid on his passion, considering the wholesome environment he was currently in.

It was also fortunate that Shari lived so close to where the next course would be served. In fact, all the meal participants had to do was walk down a flight of stairs for the fifth course, which was served at Sage’s immaculate apartment.

As soon as Delane crossed the threshold of his ex-wife’s home, he felt at home. Sage’s apartment was decorated in a soothing pacific blue theme. Her living room had two comfortable blue loveseats and one long blue and white sofa. There were no chairs, but two extra large ottomans served as additional seating areas.

The oval-shaped cherry-wood coffee table in the center of the room and the three matching round end tables near the loveseats and couch revealed Sage’s prudence. She’d made sure that there were no sharp tables for Delaney to hurt himself on in case he forgot not to run in the house. As a result, Delane couldn’t help but be impressed by that as well.

The fifth course consisted of prime rib roast, small new red potatoes, fresh pea pods, cherry tomatoes and a special horseradish sauce that Sage invented herself. Delane quickly discovered that that was yet another thing that he missed about his ex-wife, her delicious cooking. As a result, he ate his full with the rest of the people there and only declined to eat thirds when his weight conscious ‘girlfriend’ gave him the disapproving eye.

Petra had been instrumental in helping Delane to keep the weight off by showing him how to eat in moderation. Although he was grateful for that, he thought she was making way too big of a deal about it tonight, especially since it was obvious that she was jealous because it was his ex-wife’s food that he wanted thirds of. Delane had never even asked for seconds of Petra’s cooking. Ever.

Although he’d interacted with his son during the earlier part of the evening, Delane was now sitting across the room from him since Delaney was currently being handfed certain items by his mother from her plate as they sat on the westward placed blue loveseat together. Witnessing that precious mother/son moment caused the thirty-five-year-old man to discover something else he missed about his ex-wife – her attentiveness.

Sage used to love feeding Delane food by hand and he loved having her do it, too, especially since they usually engaged in fierce lovemaking afterwards. After giving Delaney one final cherry tomato, Sage suddenly felt eyes on her. Instead of looking at the slender carpenter who usually stared amorously at her during gatherings of this nature, she looked in her ex-husband’s direction.

Sure enough Delane was staring. Sage instantly started to blush, and in that moment it was clear that she was remembering those earlier days between them as well and was being severely affected by those memories the same as her ex-husband. Neither of them paid any attention to the dejected looking carpenter staring at them from his position by the front door.

Whatever else was fake about her, the sex wasn’t, Delane mused with certainty as he recalled Sage’s heated responses to him back then. No woman could fake those incredible tremors and shivers as she reached ecstasy time and time again in his arms while every muscle in her gorgeous body seemed to contract with release. What Delane wouldn’t do to have Sage trembling in his arms like that now?

Then feeling convicted about his lustful thoughts in the presence of such godly people, Delane began to talk to the minister of Sage’s church again as a way to distract himself, and since the man was seated directly on his right. Petra continued to sit to Delane’s left on the long, soft fabric sofa, doing what she’d been doing all evening, listening to the conversations around her and making no move to join in as she nibbled on her food like a bird to fresh seed.

“I’ve really enjoyed meeting everyone tonight, Pastor Abbott,” Delane said, making polite, yet truthful conversation. He had enjoyed meeting these godly people. The only person who had seemed a bit standoffish with him was the carpenter with the two last names.

MacCauley London had been less than his usual friendly self tonight. In fact, he’d found it extremely hard to say much of anything to the man that still had Sage’s heart, especially since MacCauley wanted that honor and had pursued her unsuccessfully for two years until she recently revealed to him that she still wasn’t over her ex-husband yet.

Although Delane knew none of this, he still could sense why the tall, slender man hadn’t been as friendly to him as everyone else. Every time MacCauley looked at Sage it was obvious that he had deep feelings for her whereas she seemed to only have platonic feelings towards him. The latter pleased Delane to no end and he couldn’t even fake remorse for the dejected fellow. In fact, he hoped the carpenter soon got enough sense to just move on, because Daddy was back in the picture now.

“I think I speak for most of us here by saying that it’s so good to finally meet Delaney’s father,” Marc Abbott replied, keeping in mind to talk to MacCauley about finally letting his dream of marrying Sage go when it was clear that the woman didn’t care for him that way, even when her ex-husband wasn’t around. Marc, too, had noticed how standoffish MacCauley was tonight when the animated man was usually a ball of energy at every church gathering.

“I tell you that boy of yours love sports. He told me that he plans to play pro-football one day. Did you ever play pro-ball?” Marc Abbott continued, noting Delane’s muscular build.

Delane shook his head. “No. My parents were too afraid of me getting hurt to let me participant in any physical sports. My extra curriculum activities consisted of chess and other sit down games like that. As a result, I was a pretty chubby kid, teenager, and adult,” he said, unable to hide the quick flash of pain that crossed his features although his tone had been lighthearted.

Pastor Abbott nodded in acknowledgement, inwardly discerning that Delane had gone through a lot of emotional pain associated with his weight. There were probably things that he hadn’t even told his ex-wife about.

“Well, you certainly look pretty fit now, brother. What do you do to keep it off? My wife, Lele, is always trying to get me to trim down.” He patted his slightly rounded belly through the white dress shirt of his gray suit and snuck a peek at his beautiful, mahogany-skinned wife who was across the room talking to Shari and Sage about how well everything was going tonight.

Delane’s dimpled smile returned. “I stay in the gym, swim a lot, and try to eat as healthy as I can. Plus, I don’t eat second helpings of anything.” He laughed and looked down at his empty white plate where only stains of where food had once been remained. “Well, most days I don’t,” Delane added, returning the sturdy paper plate to his lap.

Pastor Abbott laughed as well and held up his empty plate. “Yeah, hanging around Sister Sage’s kitchen can be quite tempting. The woman can make anything taste good. She even taught my wife a recipe or two which forever puts her in my good graces.”

“So how long have you known my wi…my ex-wife, Pastor?” Delane asked, quickly correcting himself when he felt Petra stiffen beside him.

He still loves her, too, Marc discerned, instantly noting the man’s slip of tongue.

Sage had already shared with Pastor Abbott and his wife that she was still in love with Delane and probably would always be. But what none of them knew was how serious the ex-husband was about the woman he was currently with.

“Since right after she came to town about four years ago.” Pastor Abbott put his plate on the coffee table and looked Delane straight in the eye for his next statements. “I got to tell you, at first I thought the worse of you for sending your wife away, alone and pregnant. But Sister Sage quickly corrected me on that. She told my wife and I all about how you two met, about the evil that she’d done to a good man like yourself, and why she didn’t tell you about the baby. Although the whole church has tried to be that extended family that she and Delaney needed, my wife and I have always advocated that Sister Sage should try to make things right with you somehow. At the least tell you about your son.”

Marc smiled and continued, stroking his graying side burns reflectively as he did. “I’m glad to see that she finally did that and that you decided to respond so favorably. After all, although boys need their mothers, there are just some things they can only get from their fathers,” the learned man said, having successfully raised two boys of his own. One was married and the other was in college. Only his fifteen-year-old daughter remained at home now and she was too into her soccer career right now to run after boys. Marc thanked God for that every day.

Delane nodded as intense feelings began to well up inside of him from the things Pastor Abbott had disclosed. It was clear that the whole church family thought highly of Sage and that she’d been very forthcoming with them about her past. And the fact that she’d defended his honor by letting them know that she’d been the one at fault touched Delane in all the right places. In fact, he was finding it even harder to hold onto his bitterness towards Sage.

Suddenly, Petra leaned over to whisper in Delane’s ear. “I can’t wait to get back to the hotel, baby. Being around all these goodie-goodie, pure-as-the-driven-snow church folks have me wanting to get a little dirty tonight.”

Delane felt heat crept upon his neck, not because he was excited about what Petra had said, but rather because he was embarrassed about it. This was not the time or the place to discuss such things. Where was her sense of decency?

After that, Delane had considerably less fun and, in fact, decided to forgo the sixth and seventh courses, which consisted of ice cream followed by decaffeinated latte for the adults, hot cocoa for the kids, and chocolate covered crepe cookies. However, he did not leave without giving his son an affectionate hug and a promise to see him on the next day.

All Delane gave Sage was a stare that said ‘don’t even try to stop me from seeing him tomorrow’. That stare garnered another puzzled look from her. After all, Sage went all the way to the west coast to bring him into his son’s life, why would she try to get in the way now?

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Author Note

Just a reminder:

This is the last week Side Dishes will be featured. The remaining sample chapters posted this week will be 13,14,15 & part of 16. I'll let you see for yourselves how good they are.

Though Side Dishes can be purchased at the SIDE DISHES link on the left, due to an unexpected backlog of sorts at the publisher, I ask that you visit the ordering pages of My Website instead. This way, you can get this e-book in a more timely manner.


Thanks so much for following Delane and Sage's story.

Suprina

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 13

After their long flight, Delane and Petra freshened up in their hotel room. Then they drove the luxury black sedan he’d rented to Sage’s address on that sun-drenched May 30th afternoon. Perusing the middleclass neighborhood that his ex-wife lived in before pulling up in front of her red brick three-story apartment building, Delane was pleased to see that the lawns and homes in the area were well maintained and that the children that were playing outside were well monitored by caring adults.

Wonder what the properties in this neighborhood go for, he mused, thinking like the avid property buyer that he was.

Although Delane already owned large sections of property in Protégé, he saw no need to limit his real estate ventures just to Arizona. Especially now that his son lived in Georgia.

As soon as Delane parked the car in the small parking lot of the apartment complex, he noticed a woman and child heading towards a blue van two cars away. Right before they made it to the van, the woman stopped and allowed the little boy to tie his black leather shoes. The child seemed too young to be able to do that already, but sure enough he was doing it and with finesse, too.

From the woman’s figure alone, Delane’s mind told him that she was Sage. His body knew it, too, because it immediately began to react to the sight of her in the beige, rhinestone studded, silk skirt-set and matching leather mesh pumps.

Petra frowned and narrowed her eyes as she noticed Delane staring at the woman with pure lust swimming in his eyes. Any minute now she expected to see him drooling at the mouth.

So that’s her, she mused angrily, never having seen a picture of Sage even though she’d heard a lot about her. Even now, Petra couldn’t see what Delane found so special about his ex-wife. In her bias opinion, Sage was pretty, but not beautiful with her ordinary features that consisted of bronze skin, ebony eyes, and short black wavy hair that was layered about her round face.

Furthermore, Petra deemed Sage as shapely, but not in the best physical condition as evidenced by the wide hips and plump derriere she’d gained from her pregnancy. And Sage was much shorter than Petra expected her to be.

So what if she has the kind of bosom most women would pay thousands of dollars for, Petra mused, not realizing just how biased her assessment of Sage was. But then again, what other kind of assessment would a bitter rival have?

“I’m assuming that’s her,” Petra finally said aloud, deciding to address the obvious since her traveling companion was too star-struck to get the ball rolling.

“Yes,” Delane replied huskily before quickly clearing his throat. “Yeah, that’s her, which means that that little boy she’s with must be my son.”

He now focused the whole of his attention on the robust looking child with Sage. Not only was Delaney well dressed in the white dress shirt, black vest, and black trousers, he also looked well fed which meant that Sage was being a good mother to him. And the fact that the child had an athletic build instead of the chubby frame that his father used to have meant that she kept him active. Delane was very pleased about that also since he didn’t want his son to go through the ridicule that he’d endured growing up.

“Well, are we going to get out or what?” Petra asked, ready to get this family reunion of sorts on over with so that they could hurry back to Arizona.

In answer, Delane opened the driver’s side door and got out, completely forgetting to go around the car to open Petra’s door in his usual gentlemanly manner. It appeared that he only had eyes for his ex-wife and his child. As a result, Petra got out of the car with even more rising ire pricking at her heart.

Sage stopped mid-stride as she recognized the man coming towards her with a mixture of anger and lust dancing in his eyes. She had no idea that those two emotions could co-exist, but they obviously could because Delane’s caramel pools were living proof of it.

“Delane?” Sage gasped at the sight of her ex-husband in the tailored navy suit and gray dress shirt he wore. She suddenly felt hot all over even though it was a cool evening with a slight breeze.

In her distraction, Sage involuntarily held their son’s hand tighter than usual. When she heard Delaney wince beside her, she instantly relaxed her hold on him. “I’m sorry, little man,” she said apologetically, briefly glancing down at their son.

“Yes, it’s me, despite your failure to leave your address and phone number as requested,” Delane said, looking at Sage with disdain before glancing down at their son, as well. He soon found identical caramel-colored eyes staring back up at him.

Fortunately, Delane’s sour look lasted only a split second because he couldn’t help but smile at the sight of his dimple-faced firstborn. In fact, potent tenderness evaded his soul towards the child that was so obviously his.

“But I did leave…” a puzzled Sage started right before she was rudely interrupted by the sound of Petra loudly slamming the passenger side door of the sedan only two vehicles away.

“Hello, Delaney. Do you know who I am?” Delane asked, ignoring his ex-wife for the moment as he began to speak directly to their son.

The child shook his head, never having seen even a picture of his father since Delane never liked taking pictures when he was bigger. He still didn’t have many photos of himself. However, Petra possessed several pictures of him. In fact, her bedroom walls were adorned with them, most were from the weightlifting competitions she’d encouraged Delane to enter over the time they’d been dating.

“Who is he, Mommy?” Delaney asked. He looked to his mother for answers as most kids usually did at that age.

“This is your father. Remember I told you all about him after my last trip,” Sage supplied just as Delane’s companion joined them.

“Yeah. He does look like a black Hercules,” Delaney said, recalling the most recent conversation with his mother, unaware that his statement had caused Sage to blush furiously. “And who is she?” the child asked as he pointed to the beautiful lady now standing beside his father with a possessive arm looped through his.

“I…um…I don’t know her,” Sage stammered out, feeling jealousy tie her stomach up in tight knots. There was no way she was going to enjoy the collective church meal tonight. The woman standing next to Delane epitomized the word beautiful with her long silky black hair, flawless nut-brown skin and athletic-looking body in the white pantsuit that had lovely elongated bell sleeves and a zip front.

Why am I not too surprised that he eventually hooked up with an Indian sister? Sage thought, recalling that Arizona had the third-largest Indian population in the United States with only Oklahoma and California ahead of it. In fact, Delane was half-Indian from his father’s side, so it was only natural for him to go back among his father’s people to look for a second wife. That fact made Sage even more jealous and caused her to have to say a quick prayer of repentance. Father, forgive me for being jealous.

“I’m Petra Monte. Your father’s girlfriend,” Petra pleasantly informed the inquisitive child even as her worst fears were confirmed. She’d wanted to plant more seeds of distrust in Delane’s mind by suggesting that the child wasn’t really his in the first place, and that that’s why Sage had changed her mind about contacting him. But one look at this younger version of Delane made Petra abandon that plan altogether. She now had to find another way to keep him and Sage apart.

Delane made no move to refute Petra’s false claim since it served his purposes well for the moment. However, he did find it interesting to see more than a hint of jealousy in Sage’s eyes. In fact, it did his ego a world of good to know that he had something that she wanted, but couldn’t have. At least Delane would try to make sure that Sage couldn’t have him since his body still craved hers ferociously.

“Well, nice to meet you, Petra,” Sage said courteously, making a genuine effort to like the woman she envied. After all, she was sure that that’s what Jesus would want her to do. “If I’d known you all were coming, I would have never made plans tonight. Delaney and I are on our way to a church function that I can’t get out of since I’m one of the people that helped plan it. So if you all want to join us, you can. If not, then just leave me the name of the hotel you’re staying in and I’ll call you as soon as this collective meal is over.”

Before Petra could decline for the both of them, Delane said, “Collective meal? That sounds interesting. We’d love to go to this church function of yours. Just lead the way.”

Although Delane accepted the invitation because he didn’t want to let his son out of his sight again, at least not so soon, he also wanted to see just how sincere Sage was about this Christian thing. After all, she wouldn’t be the first person to fake salvation in order to get over on others.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Author Note

Reminder: This is the last day to vote for DATE NIGHT!

So far, 2/3 of you are still undecided, 1/3 wants Mateo and Brenda to go out again. If the undecided remains undecided by 5pm EST, the 1/3 reigns and Mateo and Brenda will have a happily ever after together. Poor Stan will just have to find somebody else. LOL. Either way, my fingers are ready to write the closing scenes.

On another note: Thanks to everybody who is following this month's featured book -SIDE DISHES. I am really loving the comments. Keep 'em coming.

Suprina

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 12

After his heated encounter with Sage, Delane rushed back home and took a long, cold shower. When that didn’t help and he ended up tossing and turning in bed, he called Petra to come over for an intimate nightcap, hoping that she would be able to quench the fire that another woman had started within him.

By the time his nightcap was all over, Delane had ascertained that his fiery desire for Sage might never be quenched, even though Petra had come closer than most to putting it out. He also resigned himself to the fact that he was just going to have to live with that harsh reality.

Additionally, Delane decided to drop the idea of trying to make Sage a part of his social life. After all, that would only serve to fan the flames higher and give her an added edge over him through his desire. And Mr. Ryder did not want his ex-wife to have any future advantage over him. It was bad enough she could now hold a child over his head. Delane couldn’t wait to see how much she was going to ask for in child support. If her greedy mother had anything to do with it, Sage would be asking for an arm and a leg.

********

While taking his morning shower a little bit before 10am the next day, Delane heard the phone ring in the distance. He knew that Petra, who was downstairs fixing nutritious breakfast smoothies for the two of them - would not answer it since that was a general rule in their uncommitted relationship. They each answered their own phones.

Downstairs, Petra stopped the black and white blender to listen to the woman on Delane’s answering machine. Although she knew that he casually saw other women sometimes, the current woman on the machine didn’t sound casual at all. And the things the woman mentioned during her call didn’t sound casual, either.

“Delane, this is Sage. Just wanted to leave you my phone number and address before I leave town today per your request. I also wanted you to know that I told our son that I’d found his father and he seems very excited to meet you. Delaney says he can’t wait to draw a picture of you to take to his kindergarten class.” The woman chuckled, before adding, “Not only is our boy a bit of an athlete, he’s also a self-proclaimed artist, too. Anyway, call us as soon as you can and let us know when you’ll be coming to Georgia.”

Sage? Isn’t that the name of his manipulative ex-wife? The same ex-wife that turned him off from marriage altogether, Petra mused, feeling jealousy like no other course through her veins on that sunlit morning which for her had just turned a stormy gray.

When the phone went click after the caller had left her phone number and address, the gray sports bra and black biker shorts clad woman listening quickly made her way to the answering machine to erase that pivotal message that stood to interfere with her plans to become Delane’s next wife. Petra could let nothing interfere with those plans, not even a long lost son.

Then realizing that Delane might make inquiry about the missed call, Petra sprinted up the stairs to the bathroom where he was taking a shower and knocked on the door. The athletic woman was up that spiral staircase in less than twenty seconds thanks to her job as an exercise instructor at the gym Delane frequented, the same gym where they’d met. Even Petra’s long ponytail hadn’t had a chance to catch up yet. It had barely bounced in her smooth ascent.

“Yes?” Delane yelled over the loud sound of the surprisingly gentle shower spray as he lathered his body again with the spicy brown soap he’d been using since high school.

“That was an annoying telemarketer on your line. Do you want me to erase it?” Petra innocently asked. She knew how much he hated people calling him at home begging for donations or trying to sell him stuff he didn’t need. Although Delane was very generous, he liked giving from his heart, not by compulsion or guilt. In fact, Petra’s closets were full of heartfelt gifts from the benevolent man. She hoped to keep them that way which explains her current underhanded actions.

“Yeah. I can’t stand those people,” Delane agreed, glad that she’d asked before touching his private data. Now this is a woman I can work with, he mused as he returned to his shower. If I ever get married again, it will be to an honest woman like Petra.

“Okay,” Petra said, forcing her voice to sound nonchalant as she turned around and skipped back downstairs to finish their breakfast. Her black athletic sneakers made a happy springy sound on the brown carpet of the stairs.

I hope she never calls back, Petra thought. She wondered if she should start coming over more often in order to block any future calls from Delane’s ex-wife.

********

After almost three full weeks of not hearing from Delane, Sage began to think that maybe he’d started to have second thoughts about being in their son’s life. That perhaps his bitterness had gotten the best of him after all. As a result, she didn’t even bother to call back.

Sage figured why should she call back, when her ex-husband’s uncommunicative actions clearly indicated that he didn’t want a relationship with Delaney. That’s the part that cut her to the core. After all, their child hadn’t done anything wrong and shouldn’t be blamed or punished for his mother’s actions.

Delane’s uncommunicative actions also sent Sage the message that he really didn’t want any type of reconciliation with her, not on any level. Sadly, not even sexually since any man that wanted her as badly as Delane pretended to in that hotel room would have jumped at the chance to know where and how to locate her.

To hide her disappointment, Sage began to throw herself even more into her work, doing as many catering jobs as possible. She also began to spoil Delaney rotten in an effort to make up for the disappointment that he must be feeling, too. He’d been so excited about finally meeting his father, even told his teacher about it.

Every day Sage scolded herself for getting her son’s hopes up so high in the first place. Every day she wished she’d just waited until her ex-husband came to Georgia before discussing his proposed presence in Delaney’s life with anyone, especially with her son. Every day she regretted that she’d put her son in a position to be reared without really knowing his father the same as she’d been.

Although she continued to spoil her son, Sage didn’t overindulge him with food. She’d learned from the mistakes of Delane’s parents. Instead she overdid it in the activity department, allowing Delaney to participant in just about anything his little heart desired, within reason, of course.

********

Meanwhile, Delane, who was unaware that Petra had erased Sage’s message, was growing angrier by the day. In fact, he was piping mad now as he lie in his lonely bed at 2am in the morning, unable to sleep because his mind wouldn’t allow itself to be emptied of thoughts concerning his ex-wife and their son.

By now, Delane had come to the conclusion that Sage had somehow changed her mind. That she decided to keep him from his son after all, proving that she hadn’t changed as much as she claimed.

Well, I’m not going to let her get away with taking something else that belongs to me, he mused, determined to scour the whole east coast if he had to in order to find his son.

Suddenly Delane remembered Sage’s check and smiled. He wouldn’t have to scour the whole east coast when her address had to be on the green check that he’d been wise enough to make a copy of for his personal files.

Dressed only in his black boxer briefs, Delane rushed downstairs to his study and retrieved the copy of his ex-wife’s check. He soon discovered exactly where Sage was and immediately began to make plans to travel to Opus, Georgia – a city whose name meant creative works, especially as pertaining to musical compositions, and as such had many great colleges with strong creative arts programs.

As a last minute thought, Delane decided to ask Petra to go with him. Yeah, having her there will alleviate the temptation of sleeping with Sage, he mused. Then he picked up the brown phone on his warm espresso-colored desk and dialed his steady bed-buddy. Fortunately, Petra wasn’t averse to him calling her any hour of the day or night. Delane hoped she wouldn’t be too averse to flying clear across the country at the last minute, either.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, January 23, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 11

The east coast, Sage repeated silently through the thick, desire-filled haze that threatened to only get thicker as Delane turned her around in his lap and began to literally feast upon her torso with loud slurping sounds that revealed his extreme hunger for her.

Yet Sage continued to repeat those three words to herself - the east coast. Just thinking about the east coast reminded her of all that had happened to her there, including salvation and giving birth to their son. A son that she was supposed to be telling Delane about right now instead of being two steps away from making love to the man.

“I can’t do this,” Sage suddenly announced, withdrawing from him completely and returning to the glass table area on shaky legs. She quickly planted her body in the nearest chair, lest she fall down from the gravity of their passionate encounter. Sage could hardly catch her breath now as it was and she had no idea how or when her shoes had come off.

“Why not, Sage? I can tell that you still want me. And you and I both know how good we are in bed together. So what’s keeping you from me?” Delane asked as he sat on the side of the bed a bit breathless himself.

Inwardly, his mind became almost consumed with jealous thoughts of Sage being in love with another man to the point that she couldn’t finish what they started. A man that she probably genuinely loved since Delane deemed the love she once professed for him just as fake as Petra’s long sculptured nails.

“God,” Sage replied softly as she adjusted her bra and buttoned her shirt back up with shaky hands. “I’m a Christian now.”

Delane looked at her in shock, before laughing in disbelief. “What kind of scam are you pulling now, Sage? I mean, I’m not a religious man, but even I know not to play with the Man up above. Furthermore, Christian women don’t behave the way you just did. At least I don’t think they’re supposed to.”

Sage’s cheeks grew red with embarrassment, her heart swelled with conviction. “No scam. I am a Christian and have been one for about four years now, despite how promiscuous I just behaved. And you’re right, Christian women and men aren’t supposed to act the way I just did. Therefore, I apologize to you and to God for setting such a poor example. I now see that old feelings, five years of celibacy, and a private hotel room don’t mix.”

It won’t happen again, Lord, Sage vowed silently, sending up an extra prayer for strength to insure that it still won’t happen tonight. After all, her gorgeous ex-husband was still in her hotel room and she still had much to tell him before he left.

“Huh? Wh…” Delane started, not really sure what to say to that. He’d never heard Sage talk this way before. Had she really changed? Was she really a Christian and had only just experienced a moment of weakness? And what was this about her being celibate for the last five years? And why did knowing that bring him such pleasure?

“But that’s not the only thing that has changed about me, Delane,” Sage continued. Then she stood up and walked towards the bed until she was standing directly in front of him.

Lifting up the bottom of her blouse with one hand while lowering the waistband of her skirt with the other, Sage said, “These were put there from carrying our son.” Her fingers pointed to the tiny stretch marks that were leftover from her pregnancy even though her stomach was still amazingly flat.

Delane’s eyes widened as they looked where she pointed. No wonder her breasts are bigger, he mused, mindful of other changes in Sage’s body. Yet he had no words to say in his shock. His passion was long gone by now.

“Delaney was the other thing I was going to tell you about tonight,” Sage continued as she re-adjusted her clothes. Then she went to her multi-colored purse and retrieved her black leather wallet that was full of photos, showing their son from infancy to the age he was now.

A still silent Delane received the wallet and flipped through it, studying the pictures for a long soundless moment as his thoughts ran rampant inside of him. There was no doubt about the child’s paternity. He looked the spitting image of a mocha-skinned, caramel-eyed Ryder male, even down to the long dimple in his right cheek.

Finally Delane looked up at Sage, but it was with accusatory eyes. Finally he had words to say, but they were also accusatory in nature. “Not only did you take my money and possessions, you also took my child away from me?” he asked with increasing bitterness weighing heavily upon him. Delane felt robbed of almost five precious years with his son.

Sage felt slapped in the face by his words. Soon her ire rose above her pain. When she spoke, her anger was apparent. “If I’d come to you sooner, you would have only accused me of trying to get child support. So I stayed away until I could take care of the child on my own, without your money.” Then her voice softened a bit as she realized that anger was not the way to go in this matter. “Now I’m trying to make restitution for what I’ve done, Delane. Doesn’t that count for something?”

“You shouldn’t have done it in the first place!” Delane nearly shouted. He stood to his feet as unforgiveness dripped from each and every word he said. Yet underneath that unforgiveness was an inferno of blazing desire as he stood so close to Sage that each inhalation gave him a loin-stirring whiff of her floral perfume. What Delane wouldn’t do for just one more taste of her?

“So you won’t forgive me for this either?” Sage asked in an almost whisper. She gazed up into Delane’s stormy eyes that now looked like a hard stick of caramel candy. Knowing that this was the second time she’d tried to get him to forgive her with very little success, Sage felt disappointment and discouragement eat at her belly again. As a result, her shoulders drooped and her eyes looked away, lest he see the pain he’d just caused her.

“No. You don’t deserve to be forgiven,” Delane retorted in a lower voice that was becoming eerily calm with each passing second as he handed his ex-wife the wallet back and moved completely away from her.

Although Delane felt sure that he could still sleep with Sage, he knew that he could never allow himself to forgive her. Doing so would make him vulnerable to her wiles again, and Delane’s wallet and his heart couldn’t afford that a second time. Fortunately, his family’s business wasn’t affected by the divorce since it was acquired before the marriage and by inheritance, which meant that Sage legally didn’t have access to it at the time of their breakup. However, all the profits Delane had made in that business while he’d been married to her had been split down the middle.

“And what about our son?” Sage persisted, looking up at him again. She hoped that Delane would at least want to be in their son’s life. Surely he wouldn’t take the money and possessions back and forget about their little boy.

“Our son will know his father,” Delane said calmly as he quickly buttoned his shirt and restored his clothes to normal.

Sage smiled with extreme gratitude and enormous relief. “I appreciate this so much, Delane,” she whispered as she watched him go towards the door.

Having heard her whispered statement, Delane stopped at the door and glared at his ex-wife. “Don’t think for one minute that I’m doing this for you, Sage,” he replied with sharp bitterness accenting each syllable, immediately causing her eyes to tear up.

Unable to remain unaffected by her pain, Delane lowered his eyes and took a deep breath to ventilate his temper and cool it down. His right hand remained paused on the doorknob since there was no way he could leave the room while Sage was hurting like this. Especially since he was the one who’d caused it.

Then tapering his voice to at least a professional tone, Delane concluded his business with his ex-wife on a more positive note. “The phone number at the house is the same, so just leave your home address and telephone number on my answering machine. I’ll get out to the east coast as soon as I can wrap up a few things at work.”

Then Delane quickly left the room, lest he surrender to the overwhelming desire to hug Sage’s pain away and then make sweet love to her all night to try to make up for all the years of pain they’d both suffered.

As he walked down the hallway towards the elevator, Delane began to acknowledge a few things about himself. One was the fact that he was absolutely still attracted to his ex-wife, now more than ever before. The second being the fact that hurting Sage still had a way of hurting him. Knowing that he was still vulnerable to her made Delane angry. The unmet need in his loins didn’t help the current situation very much, either.

********

Meanwhile, Sage continued to watch the closed door with sadness pervading her soul. Realization hit her hard that she and her mother were solely responsible for turning such a good man into a bitter soul. She could only pray that Delane's future interaction with their lively son would help to restore him back to the man that he once was.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 10

Delane called Sage at the hotel three days later - after her sizable check had cleared the bank, of course - to set up a time to talk. Although she had given him the car and jewels, he still hadn’t trusted her check not to bounce or trusted her motives for returning those things. After all, she was Sivilla’s daughter and had been well trained in the art of manipulation. Furthermore, the fact that Sage had chosen to stay in the hotel of their first date seemed very suspicious, very suspect to Delane.

Being in such close proximity to their meeting place, Sage arrived ten minutes early and settled at a small, white-clothed corner table to wait for Delane at the exact same restaurant they’d had their first public date in. Although she could have chosen many other hotels to stay in and countless other restaurants to have their meeting in, she’d chosen this one because it was special to her and because what she had to tell Delane tonight was just as special, if not more.

During her wait, Sage noted that the restaurant still looked the same. Chandeliers were still elegantly hung every second table, the red Persian carpet was still plush and free of debris, most of the tables were still intimate two-seaters with the four-seaters near the center of the room, and most of the patrons were still well-dressed people with wealth as their only form of substance.

Although appreciative of her plush surroundings, Sage quickly grew tired of witnessing the same superficiality she’d seen in wealthy people before. As a result, she sought a connection with a real person. Thinking that Delaney was as real as they came, she got on the phone and called her son. Unfortunately, the child was already asleep and Sage could only talk to his godmother. Fortunately, Shari was a genuine person as well and served as a great substitute.

“Girl, that boy is knocked out,” Shari whispered in the phone as she looked in on her godson as he slept in the extra twin bed in her youngest daughter’s room. Delaney might be sleeping in a white decorative girls’ bed, but the football sheets he’d begged his mother to let him bring from home gave the bed his own special flavor.

“Forgive me, girl. I keep forgetting about the time change from the east coast to the west,” Sage said to Shari, recalling that it was now after 10pm in Georgia. “I guess I’ll have to talk to my man in the morning then. Tell him that I love him very much and can’t wait to see him again,” she concluded. Sage was unaware that Delane had walked up at that exact moment and heard the tail end of her conversation just before she hung up the phone.

So she has a man, huh? I wonder if he can make her toes curl with ecstasy like I can? Delane mused, suddenly feeling hot jealousy course through his veins as he vividly recalled how Sage used to respond to his lovemaking. How she used to melt at his touch. How she used to passionately cry out his name while begging for more of his love. At times, Sage had even cried actual tears to express how deeply moved she’d been by their passionate union.

Suddenly Delane had an idea that quickly drove all jealousy away. As soon as he sat down in the hand-carved renaissance chair across from her, he proposed that idea to Sage. “Although I have no idea what you’re going to tell me, I was wondering if we could have our talk up in your room where it’s more private,” Delane suggested in the same professional tone that he used at work.

Sage shrugged. “Okay,” she said, not really having a problem with that change of plans. Although she knew that he didn’t trust her to pour water on him if he was on fire, she still trusted him completely. Delane was a true gentlemen with a really good heart. He wouldn’t hurt a fly unless seriously provoked as in the case of Dr. Stefan Matlock. Surely five years couldn’t change that.

********

In her modest suite compared to some of the others in the luxury waterfront hotel, Sage soon discovered just how much Delane had changed. As soon as they were seated at the small glass table on the east side of the room, his professional persona was dropped and his eyes became ablaze with passion, causing them to look like soft caramel candy.

“Over the years I’ve made it a point of practicing complete honesty with everyone I meet, especially the women. However, in your case, I’ve found that you like a bit of deception to spice things up which is why I lied about wanting to talk in a more private setting. What I actually want to do is have a little private rendezvous with you,” Delane confessed in a husky voice that was laced with desire. It seemed to be oozing from his pores as he openly perused Sage’s shapely frame more closely in the multi-colored ruffled skirt-set she wore. And if desire were a fragrance, the air would be thoroughly saturated with its spicy scent.

Instead of being afraid or put off by his newfound aggressiveness, Sage discovered that she liked it. Especially since it was clear that Delane would still wait for her consent before acting on his desires. Why else would he still be sitting in that chair like a gentleman, clenching the armrests in anticipation as he waited for her response? A man that planned to do her any real harm would have tackled her by now and just taken what he wanted.

“Delane, although I admit that the attraction between us is still there, I did not come to town to have a private rendezvous with you,” Sage contended, despite the fact that her voice sounded breathless, despite the fact that she was aching for him to touch her.

“It’s not only still there, I’d say it’s stronger than ever,” Delane replied, reaching across the table for one of her soft, trembling hands. Feeling her racing pulse and seeing the thick desire in her ebony eyes only confirmed his statement.

“Delane…” Sage began, attempting to keep her head clear; knowing that one kiss from him would send her mind into a thick fog.

“No, I don’t want to talk right now, Sage. I want to feel. In fact, I want to feel you. And I want you to feel me,” he said, standing to his feet and pulling her up with him.

Then reaching for her other hand, Delane drew them both to his muscular chest and began to let Sage feel the changes in his body through the white button down shirt he wore. He watched her eyes gloss over with passion as her fingertips cascaded down the rippling muscles of his torso.

When Delane heard her moan, he smiled down at her, revealing that delicious dimple in his right cheek. “Feels differently, don’t it? Many women like it.” But none of them I have liked as much as you, he added to him, determined not to give Sage anything to use against him later, including any stray words of affection.

Hearing that he’d been with many other women since their divorce, did something wicked to Sage. It made her want to prove to Delane that she was superior to the rest. That she was the only woman that could ever truly appreciate his body since she’d loved it when it was bigger and less socially acceptable. There was no telling how much she would adore it now that it had less than five percent body fat.

“But do any of those women really know what you like?” Sage asked as she stepped out of her shoes. Then draping her arms about Delane’s neck, she began to move against him in a barefoot, slow hula motion, working her hips in that familiar rhythm that he’d grown to love and appreciate. It was the same rhythm that had Delane moaning with pleasure right now and hungrily seeking her lips.

As on their honeymoon, Delane and Sage soon began to go at each other like two love-starved people. She unbuttoned his shirt; he unbuttoned her blouse, both trying to feel more of the other. When Sage began to move even more sensually against him, Delane countered those rhythms. With each return movement, he allowed her to feel just what she’d been missing for five years.

Sage moaned loudly from that reminder as his hungry hips continued to move against hers. This new version of Delane was going to greatly enhance the dreams she constantly had of the old Delane. Still needing to feel more of him, Sage pulled Delane towards the queen-sized cherry-wood poster bed on the south side of the room so that she could straddle him. As soon as she lowered her body to his for an even greater affect, he became vocal, letting out a loud moan before speaking intelligible words.

“Baby, you sure haven’t lost your touch over the years,” Delane whispered hoarsely as his eyes fluttered open and closed with exhilaration at the hungry way Sage was moving upon him. Even though she was still fully clothed as she sat in his lap with both legs on either side of him, the suggestive way she worked her agile hips let him know that she still had the ‘it’ factor, which was simply the ability to drive him clear out of his mind with desire.

This was the kind of passion Delane had been looking for, the kind that his body had been craving all these years. Sage had spoiled him sexually and this heated moment proved it because he hadn’t been this excited in years. As a result, Delane made up his mind that although he would never make her his wife again, she would be at the head of his sexual calendar. Sage would now be the woman he gravitated to the most instead of Petra. She would be the woman Delane went to in order to keep his urges under control.

“And you haven’t seen nothing yet,” Sage replied as she turned around in his lap and began to move against him again with her back now facing his chest. The loud moans and groans in her ear, and the way Delane held her closer to him let her know that she’d struck gold in pleasing him.

“Keep it up, baby, and I’m going to make you forget all about that man on the east coast,” Delane said as his hands reached around to caress her double D-sized supple treats through the black lacy material containing them.

How fine can one woman get? he mused as he realized that Sage’s bosom had only gotten suppler over the last five years. He couldn’t wait to send his mouth where his hands were. Delane couldn’t wait to do a lot of things with and to Sage.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 9

Delane arrived back to his lonely home around noon after driving his latest one-night-stand to her place. Even though the woman had stayed all night, he was still severely disappointed. As usual. No matter how shapely, no matter how beautiful, no matter how eager, no woman could seem to satisfy him in the bedroom. In fact, the only one that could, had betrayed him.

Only Sage had made Delane’s body sing with desire beneath her touch and made his heart quiver with love. Yes, many women had tried over the last five years, especially since he lost all that weight and carved his body into that of a Mr. Universe. Unfortunately, none of those women had been successful and now he was more miserable than before.

If anything those women had been merely side dishes with Sage as the highly anticipated main course. Even Petra, Delane’s regular one-nighter whom he’d been seeing for almost a year, hadn’t moved behind the side dish stage although it was obvious that she wanted to. Why else would she volunteer to do wifely type things like grocery shopping and picking up his suits from the dry cleaners?

Most people would think that Delane had no reason to be miserable. That surely his riches would satisfy him. They never had before. Others might think that losing all of that weight would have made him happy. But that had only served as a constant reminder of his sorrow and devastation. After all, Delane had lost his love affair with food because of Sage. These days he basically ate to sustain his health, especially since food really didn’t taste all that good to him anymore.

In Delane’s bitterness, he turned away from food and turned towards bodybuilding in a subconscious effort to rid himself of what had contributed to his deception. He blamed his weight for all the rejection he’d suffered over the years. Rejection had affected Delane’s self-esteem to the point of causing him to be literally starved for affection. And it was that same malnourishment of soul and spirit that had made him a prime target for two manipulating women.

Because of his diligence, Delane’s soft flab soon turned into hard muscle. That’s when the abundance of women started pouring in. Soon it didn’t matter whether he had money or not as the females continued to flock to his muscles. The fact that he had a devastatingly handsome face only added to the attraction, making him now one of Protégé’s most eligible bachelors.

When is a woman going to love me for the man I am on the inside? Delane thought, repeating his continual question as he ascended the stairs to his lonely bedroom.

Just then, the doorbell rang. Slowly making his way back the way he’d came, a mentally distracted Delane swung the front door opened without even looking through the peephole. If he had taken the time to look through the tiny hole in the door, he might have been tempted not to open it at all.

“Sage?” Delane said as an emotional lump formed in his throat and a primal ache began in his body. It was as if he’d never had sex in his entire life, much less just last night as he gazed hungrily upon the woman standing in his open doorway.

“Hello, Delane. You…look good,” Sage forced out over the emotional lump in her own throat. The eighty-seven degree day had just gotten ten degrees hotter. Nothing had prepared her for this version of her ex-husband in a tight black knit shirt, which was tucked neatly inside of a pair of formfitting blue jeans, revealing the V-shaped muscular torso he now had.

Sage always knew Delane was handsome, but now he looked spectacular. And the fact that he was looking at her with such hunger made her long for his touch again. You could have at least warned me that he had gotten so fine, Lord, Sage thought, wondering if that had been part of the plan. If she had known that Delane would turn out like this, she might have been tempted to come back sooner and not specifically for such nobles reasons, either.

Pushing past his intense desire, Delane now began to practically scowl at the woman in front of him. Neither his flesh nor his heart would rule him anymore. Only his head would have a say where Sage was concerned. “I look good? As in good enough to be a main course now? Or am I still just a side dish?”

Sage winced at that memory and her passion quickly weaned. “Those were my mother’s words, not mine. I loved you.” She looked away when she said that, knowing that a large part of her still loved him. Always would.

Delane scoffed with disbelief. “Sure you did. So much so that you tried to take half of everything that I owned. If you had so much love for me, why didn’t you prove it by walking away empty handed the way I found you?” he asked, knowing that if Sage had walked away empty handed, he would have followed her to the ends of the earth to get her back, despite what she’d done to get him.

But no, Sage had taken every dime offered to her and even a few precious family heirlooms to boot. The latter had no doubt been due to Sivilla’s influence, because his ex-wife didn’t even like to wear a lot of jewelry and she preferred to drive up-to-date vehicles. In fact, while they’d been married Sage had loved the two Lexus’ he’d own and had driven the white one while he’d used the gray one. Now she drove a modest blue Oldsmobile Silhouette van. Delane didn’t know that and probably wouldn’t believe it if she told him.

“My mother wouldn’t…” Sage began, wishing that they could have had this conversation inside the house, but seriously doubting if she would ever be welcome or allowed within those walls again.

“You were a grown woman, Sage. Yes, you were only twenty-two, but you were still able to and capable of making your own decisions. Sivilla didn’t make you do anything you didn’t want to do,” Delane retorted, interrupting her obvious attempt to excuse her behavior.

Sage took a deep breath and stared him directly in the eye. She didn’t come all this way to be intimidated by his anger or to point the finger at anyone other than herself. “You’re exactly right, Delane. I take full responsibility for my own actions, and I want you to know how sorry I am for hurting you.”

“I don’t want your apology, Sage! In fact, I don’t want anything from you!” Delane raged. Yet if he’d taken a poll of his heart, mind, and body, his heart would have said that any woman that could get him this riled up was still very much in his system. Whereas his body would have advocated that he was outright lying about not wanting anything from Sage because it definitely wanted to take her into the house and make love to her right now, regardless of the fact that she’d gained at least ten pounds since he last saw her.

In Delane’s opinion, Sage had gained weight in all the right places as he observed the added expanse of her hips and the extra fullness of her bosom in the orange V-neck wrap top and white flat front pants she wore. Oh, how this man craved Sage’s unique brand of lovemaking that consisted of fire and tenderness. Oh, how he wanted to relive happier times with her in his arms.

Sage shook her head to ward off his angry words and the disappointment she felt at his rejection of her heartfelt apology. Then determined to finish this particular part of her visit, she pulled a velvet bag out of her purse and thrust it at him, revealing some of her own anger in her forceful actions.

“Although I was hoping that you would accept my apology, it has no bearing on the fact that I still came to return your mother’s jewels,” Sage said with forced calmness as he peered inside the bag. Then she moved to the left side of the doorframe and pointed towards the street. “I also brought you that back,” Sage added, referring to the black and gray classic vehicle parked in front of the house. A red and white taxi was parked right behind it.

Delane’s head snapped up and his mouth fell open in surprise. “Is that… is that my father’s dream car?”

“Yes, it is, and it’s still purring like a kitten, too. I locked the car title in the glove compartment, but the keys are in the bag with the jewelry. You’ll also find a folded check at the very bottom of that bag for half of the money you gave me in the divorce settlement. I’ll have to send the rest in installments once my business is securely operating in the black,” Sage said in the same even tone. Although she would love to tell Delane about their son now, she was still too angry and his bitterness was still too potent to do so right now.

“Business?” Delane asked, still in a state of shock. Had Sage and Sivilla found some way to make gold-digging a legitimate business? Arizona was very close to Nevada and a lot of unscrupulous things happened there.

Sage smiled at the fact that her business gave her something to be proud of in her life. That and her wonderful, well adjusted her son made her think that she wasn’t all bad. It let her know that at least two good things had come out of her union with Delane.

“Yes, my catering business. I used some of the money to send myself back to culinary school. By the way, there’s one more thing that I need to talk to you about, but that will have to wait until later. I don’t want to keep my cab waiting too much longer,” Sage said, concluding their intense, impromptu at-the-door meeting.

Then after telling Delane what hotel she was staying in and for how long, Sage turned around and walked towards the waiting cab, feeling lighter already and considerably less angry although traces of disappointment lingered. She’d hoped for a more positive response from Delane and when she didn’t get it, the disappointment had cut her deep.

Oh well, Lord, I did my best, Sage mused as she entered the back door of the cab and thanked the driver for waiting.

Delane continued to stand in the doorway long after the taxi had gone up the street and around the corner. His loins were still thoroughly stimulated and the hard bitterness around his heart had begun to soften. One more unselfish encounter like that with Sage and all the bitterness would be mush and ready to be rinsed away with forgiveness.

Even now Delane knew that he’d wanted to say, ‘Let the cab go and spend the night, the rest of the week with me,’ but he’d restrained himself. After all, Sage had proven that she couldn’t be trusted. However, the gifts she’d brought today suggested that maybe things were different now. That maybe she’d turned over a new leaf in the last five years.

And what is this other thing that she has to talk to me about? Delane wondered as he finally closed the front door and went to his study to think on a few things.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, January 16, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 8

Five years later
On the long plane ride back to Protégé, Arizona, Sage tried to calm her nerves once more about going to see Delane again. Already she knew that he was not going to be happy to see her again. After all, she’d pursued him with the wrong motives and taken half of what the man had acquired during their marriage in their divorce settlement. What man would want to see a woman who’d done that to him?

However, it was extremely necessary that Sage did see Delane again. Not only did she need to relieve the lingering guilt of what she’d done by giving him back most of what she took from him, she also needed to tell him about their four-and-a-half-year-old son. The same son that Sage decided to keep her married name for since she wanted to honor his father and reduce the social stigma that went along with a mother and child having different last names. The same son that she affectionately called her ‘man’ or her ‘little man’ at times since he’d been the only male in her life since her divorce.

Sage didn’t want another man in her life. After what she’d done to Delane, she didn’t think that she deserved any romantic happiness. As a result, she didn’t seek it and she always refused it when it came her way, no matter how great the guy was, as in the case of MacCauley London, who attended the same church and who’d expressed his interest in Sage countless times to no avail.

Originally, Sage had wanted to give the guilt money that she’d gotten from her husband to charity, but her mother had argued against it, stating that they needed the money more. Never had a statement been truer, because a month after that incident at the duplex, Sage discovered that she was pregnant.

Unwilling to tell her mother about the baby since Sivilla was only going to pressure her to get rid of it anyway or try to use it to extract more money from Delane, Sage began to revisit earlier liberation plans that she’d had before her marriage. Except this time she didn’t have to wait around and accumulate a secret stash that would enable her to leave Sivilla and her manipulations. This time, Sage had more than enough money handy to start an immediate new life without her mother.

After giving Sivilla one-fourth of the money and none of the possessions she’d gained from the divorce, despite the fact that the older woman wanted their usual fifty/fifty split, Sage waited until she was home alone to pack her things and leave. The reason the split was twenty-five/seventy-five this time was because Sage was still bitter with her mother about setting her up and because now that she was pregnant, she would need more of the money in order to take care of her child.

When Sivilla came home, she found a note that stated that her daughter was declaring her independence and that she need not try to find her because Sage was through with the whole gold-digging game and just wanted to be left alone to live her life as she saw fit. There was no mention of the child Sage carried in the short note since that would have surely gotten Sivilla’s wheels a’ churning to find her.

Sage had not wanted to be found by her mother. That was the main reason she relocated to a state that didn’t have community property laws in an effort to insure that Sivilla would not follow her and would not become a negative influence in her grandchild’s life.

Although she’d wanted to give up the gold-digging game months before she ever pursued Delane, as soon as she discovered she was pregnant, Sage became determined not to let any part of that lifestyle (directly or indirectly) touch her child’s life. She didn’t want her son to grow up like she did, not having a real place to call home because his mother was constantly in search of new male money prey.

Thinking back upon her childhood now, Sage thanked God that Sivilla did have the good sense to use some of the money she gained to send her to boarding school from ages six through sixteen. Otherwise she wouldn’t have had any education or a stable place to lay her head for most of the year.

It was an added blessing that Sage excelled in her studies and thus graduated a year ahead of schedule. Especially since the year right after that her mother’s prospects began to dwindle due to Sivilla’s overexposure in the California area and since that was also the year Sage’s father, Hal Davenfall, died overseas in a military combat zone, causing the child support payments to dry up as well.

If Sage had been a lazy student or even mediocre in her studies, she might not have ever received her high school diploma from that boarding school. Or at all for that matter since she’d spend the next few years after graduation living a nomadic life. After that, Sage knew not to even think about going to college. Especially since it became obvious that Sivilla now needed her daughter’s youth and beauty as well in order to help trick rich men out of their money.

Fortunately, Sage’s determination to leave that reckless lifestyle behind has paid off. Now she enjoys a different kind of life for herself and her child, a life of peace and stability in a city called Opus, Georgia – a family-friendly town with lots of parks, restaurants, and shopping centers.

With her son, Sage lived in a modest two-bedroom apartment in a middleclass neighborhood. Fortunately, her apartment building was right across the street from a vibrant Pentecostal church. The same Pentecostal church that caught Sage’s attention from the very beginning of her stay in Georgia.

After several weeks of watching the joyful church members come and go to their place of worship, and after hearing the jubilant praise of that church’s worship services filter across the street and into her open apartment windows, Sage decided to attend one fateful Sunday. That Sunday led to two, then three and soon she had turned her life completely over to Christ, and the guilt of what she’d done in the past had lessened considerably. It would have gone away completely if Sage was willing to forgive herself, but she wouldn’t do that until Delane had forgiven her first.

From her move to her conversion, Sage experienced bouts of extreme loneliness and despair. After her conversion, those bouts left for good and she experienced what it was like to have a real family for the first time in her life. The pastor and his wife were even there at the hospital the day she went into labor, while another church member joined her in the labor and delivery room to see Sage give birth to a beautiful mocha-skinned son that she named Delaney Ryder.

Three months after Delaney was born, Sage enrolled in a Georgian culinary school to pick up her dream of becoming a chef/caterer. Because she’d been a good steward over her share of the divorce settlement, she still had enough funds to take care of her child and pay for college. The part-time job she worked at an upscale restaurant helped, too, and it gave her experience and exposure to the type of career she wanted to root her professional feet in.

Now that her college graduation was well behind her and she was starting to make a pretty good living through her catering efforts, Sage decided to try to go back and finally make things right with her ex-husband like her pastor and his wife advocated that she do for years. Although she knew that romantic reconciliation was next to impossible with Delane, she could promote financial reconciliation by returning the majority of his money and all of his possessions. Not to forget the most important thing, which was to allow Delane a chance to know his son.

Sage also wanted to abide by the principle for living that she found in Matthew 5:23-24. She saw those passages as a sure sign for her to make things right with the person she’d hurt before she presented her gift of cooking to more of the world. Sage wanted her catering business to be a success and she doubted if it would be with the lingering guilt she felt or with her still holding onto the money and things she’d received through ill-gotten means.

Fortunately, Sage didn’t have to worry about her son on this trip. Delaney’s godmother Shari - who was also her business partner and who was there at Delaney’s birth - had him safely in her care and would continue to look after him and the business for one week which was the proposed length of Sage’s stay in Arizona.

The catering business was mutually agreed upon to be called, ‘A Taste of Sage’ after the person that solely financed the company even though both partners shared equally in the labor. Shari insisted that it only fair to do so under the circumstances, plus she liked the catchiness of the name and the wonderful manifold meaning attached to it. After all, how many businesses could proclaim to have a taste of wisdom, a taste of the famed aromatic seasoning, and a taste of the talented chef named Sage Etheridge-Ryder all rolled into one?

Lord, please make this week count for something and please let Delane be home when I get there, Sage mused as the descending plane prepared to land. Inwardly, she hoped that the black and gray ’67 Impala that she had shipped all the way from Georgia had made it safely here as well.

The classic vehicle in question had been purchased by Delane during their marriage in honor of his father who used to love such vehicles. Unfortunately, Sage had taken it in the divorce settlement after she’d unwisely listened to her mother who’d coveted the vehicle from day one. Fortunately, she hadn’t given it to Sivilla and had used the car to travel to Georgia. Of extra good fortune is the fact that Sage planned to return that to her ex-husband first.

Sage would also return all the jewelry that Delane’s family lawyer presented to them right after their honeymoon from his mother’s old safe deposit box. That steel container had included seven priceless jewels and a brief note from the deceased Mrs. Ryder, telling her son that the enclosed gems therein were to be given to his future wife.

And lastly, although there was a large sum of money to be returned as well, Sage would have to give that back in installments since she’d had to use a great deal of it to live off of, to pay for her education, and most importantly to take care of her child these last five years.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Author Note

Just wanted everybody to know that the latter part of Beautiful…Tangled Roots (December’s book that was featured in its entirety) will be taken off the blog this coming Thursday (1/19/06). Therefore, if you haven’t finished the book, do it in the next four days, because from that point on it will be back on the selling block.

Also the book that is being featured this month (Side Dishes) has received several RAVE REVIEWS. The links are posted below so that you can go read them for yourselves:

http://www.romancebookcafe.com/suprina-frazier.html

www.coffeetimeromance.com/SideDishes.html

www.fallenangelreviews.com/November2005/Anita-SideDishes.htm

Suprina

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Side Dishes - Ch. 7

A week before Valentine’s Day, Sage went to her mother’s home to deliver some of those shrimp puffs that Sivilla seemed to like so much and had requested for a private dinner she was having with her new man tonight. Sage was glad to be doing this favor for her mother. Especially since it gave her a chance to practice what it would be like to live the life of a caterer.

However, as soon as Sage entered the duplex, her elation at doing this favor for her mother soon turned into deep regret. Sivilla wasn’t alone as she stated she would be around this time since her date wasn’t supposed to arrive for at least forty-five more minutes. And instead of there being one man present, there were two. Both were very handsome and both looked to be very wealthy by the expensive suits they wore.

The mahogany-skinned older man with the friendly almond-shaped eyes was sitting on the hunter green eastward placed couch and the bronze-skinned younger man with the cocky green eyes was on the green and blue westward placed couch. Both were looking at Sage with pleasant expectancy.

Looking as sexy as ever in a red halter-top dress with a pair of red and black 6” heels, Sivilla greeted her daughter cheerfully. “Hey, baby girl. You’re just in time for dinner,” she said, making it sound as if Sage had been included in tonight’s festivities instead of acting only as the caterer. Then Sivilla began to introduce her daughter to their companions, stating the men’s esteemed occupations in the process.

No wonder she asked me not to wear the jeans I normally cook in, Sage mused. Inwardly, she could care less that both men were doctors and that they both looked like they could have stepped right out of a magazine in their sharp gray and burgundy suits respectively.

All Sage cared about was getting out of here as quickly as possible since it was obvious that her mother was up to her old tricks again. Coming home to a rich gentleman caller in the house was something Sage had gotten used to over the years. However, her mother only brought two of them home when she had plans to give one to her daughter. The latter had been the case since Sage turned of legal age.

“Mama, I just brought over the items you asked for. I’m not staying,” Sage announced decisively as she handed her mother the decorative tray of plastic sealed food, not even bothering to take the tray into the kitchen as she normally would.

Sage was in such a rush not only because she wasn’t enthused about this little set-up, but also because she failed to leave Delane a note in her haste to make it over here in time before her mother’s date arrived. Unfortunately, Sivilla’s catering request had only been called in two hours ago, which meant that Sage had been on a tight deadline from the beginning. Now she was trying to make it back home in time to greet Delane at the front door the way she usually did when he arrived home from work.

The younger doctor in the burgundy suit, who was named Stefan Matlock, stood to his feet and came closer to Sage. “No, don’t go. Stay awhile. Your mother told me so much about you that I couldn’t wait to meet you.” She’s just as beautiful as Sivilla said, the tall, lean man mused, noting Sage’s voluptuous frame in the black skirt-set with its pucker detail at the bodice and sleeves. And those small red-painted toes in the rhinestone slides she wore made a man want to get on his knees and not just for prayer, either.

Sage frowned and took two steps backwards from the brazen green-eyed man who seemed ready to pounce on her at any moment. She could smell alcohol on his breath and could tell that it was the good stuff, too, which meant that Sivilla had gone all out to impress these men. Even the apartment was spick-and-span.

“Did my mother also tell you that I’m married,” Sage said, holding up her left hand, revealing her large diamond ring and thick gold wedding band.

“Yes, but she also told me that you’re getting a divorce soon. And I say, one man’s loss is another man’s gain.” Stefan moved closer still.

Just then, there was a knock on the door. Sivilla put the tray down on the mahogany coffee table by the solid green sofa and quickly went to answer it. A strange, secretive smile was on her face just before she flung the door open.

“Oh hi, Delane. What brings you here tonight?” Sivilla asked in an innocent tone.

“Someone called and told me that my wife was here,” the large man stated, recalling the disturbing message he’d gotten on his cell phone from one of his former tenants. Delane was unaware that Sivilla had gotten Panella Ferguson to make that call at just the right time while he’d been commuting home from work. He also was unaware that his whole life was about to change drastically.

“Yes, she is, but we’re busy entertaining right now, so you’ll have to talk to Sage later when she gets home. If she gets home tonight,” Sivilla said matter-of-factly with a smug smile on her face.

‘If’ she gets home tonight? Delane mused, feeling uneasiness settle in his gut. “I’m talking to my wife now!” he said aloud.

Then with just a slight brush of his large hand, Delane moved his mother-in-law to the side and boldly strode into the apartment. Sure enough there were two men there, just like he’d been told by Panella. And it looked like they’d already been paired off since one of them was standing very close, too close to Sage.

“Delane! What are you doing here?” Sage asked, surprise written all over her bronze face.

“No, the question is, what are you doing here?” Delane countered, looking thunderous at his wife. A thousand icicles seemed to attack his insides all at the same time, causing him immeasurable pain. Who ever thought that love could hurt so badly?

This is your husband?” Stefan asked, truly in a state of shock that such a beautiful woman would be married to such an obese man.

“Yes, it is,” Sage said proudly, unashamed of her husband or of his size as she moved closer to the man she loved.

For a moment there, Delane almost wavered in his mind upon seeing how proudly his wife acknowledged him to the other man, and how she instantly moved to his side to confirm whom she belonged to. Yet when Delane thought about what else the informative ex-tenant had said about Sage pretending to be in love with him while pursuing him for his money, his thoughts grew stormy again. After all, she could just be acting that way in order to hold on to her meal ticket.

“You must have married him for his money then, because I don’t see how he could hold your attention for very long without you wanting to throw up every bit of food you ever ate. No wonder your mother invited me here tonight. She was trying to show you what you’ve been missing,” the arrogant young doctor deduced aloud. He’d noticed the tailored navy blue suit the large man wore and ascertained that Delane’s attire cost way more than his, and not just because it had taken more material to make, either. It was the quality of the suit that made the difference.

Having heard enough from the egotistical man, Delane slugged Stefan with a right hook, sending the much slender man sliding across the polished hardwood floor until he landed in a heap at the foot of the two-toned sofa on the other side. Then Delane turned to the other doctor in the gray suit, daring him with his eyes to interfere. It was like grade school and middle school all over again.

“Do you want some of this?” Delane hissed with his large hands balled into tight fists at his sides.

“Oh, no,” Barton Nelom replied as he held up his hands in surrender, letting the angry man know that he wasn’t about to meddle in business that wasn’t his. After all, Barton was a plastic surgeon, which meant that his hands were his livelihood and he wouldn’t risk injuring them for anything.

Did you only pursue me for my money?” Delane asked, finally turning to face his wife who had moved closer to the wall upon seeing how brutally he could respond to an enemy. Yet even in this moment it was clear that he would not hurt Sage. There was still too much love swimming around in his caramel pools to do something like that.

Sage looked crestfallen at that question. If Delane had asked if she married him for his money, the answer would have been an unequivocal ‘no’. But he had to ask if she’d pursued him for his money and that meant a completely different answer altogether.

Unable to lie to the man that she loved with her whole heart, Sage nodded and dropped her head. “I’m so sorry, Delane.” Tears gathered in her eyes and began to flood her cheeks.

Suddenly Sivilla spoke up, having watched the scene unfold beautifully before her from her position by the door. Although she hadn’t planned on a fistfight, everything else had happened exactly according to her covert little scheme. “No need to feel sorry, baby girl. After all, fatso here was just a side dish. It’s time for you to have a main course man. Someone who is not only richer, but at least a hundred pounds lighter.”

At those agonizing words, Delane turned to glare menacingly at his smug mother-in-law. A part of him wished that Sivilla was a man so that he could slug her, too. But since she wasn’t, he had to deal with her in another way. And that way was to remove her from his life forever. Unfortunately, that meant that Sage had to go, too, and that’s what tore at his heart the most.

Yet when Delane realized that Sage’s loyalty had never been with him, and that he’d been played and bamboozled in the worst way, he resigned himself to the reality that he had to lose her, too. After all, he could not, would not tolerate a deceptive woman.

“When I first saw you, Sivilla, I knew you were a gold-digger. However, I gave your daughter the benefit of the doubt since she still seemed so pure on the inside. Now that it’s been made painfully clear that Sage is just like you, my lawyer will be getting in touch soon to end this sham of a marriage,” Delane said, speaking in a remarkably calm voice that belied the thunderous storm raging beneath the surface.

Then without another word to anyone or another glance in his now silently crying wife’s direction, Delane left the property that he used to own and had foolishly given away due to the thick fog of artificial marital bliss that had surrounded him.

No woman will ever dupe me again, he vowed, getting into his gray Lexus. Delane couldn’t wait to go home and pack Sage’s clothes in hopes that the sooner her things left, the sooner his pain would, too.

Hearing her husband speed away and knowing that her marriage was as good as over, Sage let out an agonizing sob and ran to the bedroom that used to be hers, slamming the door behind herself.

Meanwhile, Sivilla and Barton helped the fallen doctor back up on his feet. She’ll be mad with me for a minute. But afterwards, things will go back to the way they were before fatso, she mused. Sivilla was confident that her daughter would probably even thank her later for intervening.

It was unfortunate that Sivilla’s self-centered mind wouldn’t even allow her to entertain the thought that Sage wouldn’t appreciate how well Mama’s little plan worked out tonight for a long time to come, if ever.

********

Later that night, it rained. Not a soft gentle rain, it was a virtual downpour, as if the Arizona sky was trying to make up for all the days when it hadn’t rained. Sage watched it through the open curtains of the window in her old bedroom as she lay in a fetal position upon the white cotton sheets of her full-sized pine bed. Sadly, she was too emotionally drained and benumbed to even cover up her shivering body with a warm blanket as she, too, engaged in a bit of a downpour.

As a torrent of tears continued to roll down her cheeks, Sage couldn’t help but wonder what her husband was doing right now. Was Delane home alone as well? Sage had been alone for the last three hours ever since Sivilla had left with her two doctor friends for a night out on the town, leaving her daughter to grieve alone.

Was Delane’s heart just as broken as Sage’s? Would he even believe that hers was broken at all considering all that he’d learned tonight? Could he possibly believe that right now Sage was aching for his touch, his whispered words of love, and all the goodness that was wrapped up in that deliciously chunky body of his?

********
On the richer side of town, a few things were just as Sage suspected. Delane was at home alone, he was just as heartbroken as her, and he was having serious doubts that she’d ever loved him at all. Furthermore, nothing within Delane could make him believe that a beautiful woman like Sage could be aching for his touch or anything else he had besides his money.

Refusing to cry, despite his heartbroken state, Delane left his lonely bedroom and went downstairs to the kitchen. Enroute he passed by all of Sage’s personal belongings, which he’d angrily packed into seven large suitcases as soon as he’d gotten home this evening and sat by the door for an early morning delivery on tomorrow. He scowled at the black luggage now and increased his steps towards the kitchen.

Once in his very own sanctuary, Delane began to consume everything in sight, trying to overcome his appetite for a treacherous woman by catering to another basic need. At the end of it all, all he got was an upset stomach and the strangest feeling that he would not be able to look at food or women quite the same again.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier