John D MacDonald – Barrier Island

While Maria dressed she glanced over at Tuck from time to time. He was on his back, snoring slowly and regularly, the big thatched chest lifting and falling, his mouth hanging open. She floated a wool afghan over him. He stirred as it settled upon him but did not awaken. Being with him was an excitement she had never experienced before. She remembered having felt something akin to it when she was little and they had taken the kids to the zoo one day. She had stayed behind the others at the lion stockade. They had come back and gotten her and scolded her. She had been staring into the great somber eyes of the nearest lion. She had wanted to be closer to him. She had wanted to touch him.

Tuck was not a wild beast, but he was a hard and dangerous man with a ruthlessness she feared and respected, and an improbable amount of money. They had been making love for seven weeks, on weekend afternoons and often in the morning before Lottie and Henry came to work. She had never suspected that a man of his years would have such powerful physical needs. She had very slowly and carefully seduced him into acts which, in the beginning, he had not wanted to attempt, thinking perhaps that they were unsuitable to a man of his stature and importance. When she went too far too quickly, she annoyed him and that made him rough and quick with her, as he had been in the very beginning. Wham-barn-thank-you-ma’am. But now he was doing whatever she asked of him, and she had taught him to think about and respect her pleasure before taking his own. He was such an apt student she found herself approaching a peak of sexuality she had seldom reached before, an immediate readiness, orgasms so prolonged they became a variety of agony. And her heightened sensory awareness in turn enlarged and extended his. It was as if she were taming something, teaching and controlling and using it, knowing all the time she was on dangerous ground, but wanting to take additional chances each time, feeling a growing flavor of affection for the old man. It was a totally physical infatuation, an immersion in the rolling, gasping flesh, and she knew it had to end but right now she did not want to think about when or how.

She looked at her watch. Ten of four. She rechecked her hair and makeup in the bathroom mirror, and closed the bedroom door quietly as she left his room. She hurried to Mrs. Loomis’ room and found her asleep. With a quick light touch she straightened the blanket without awakening her. The afternoon sun was moving closer to the bed. She adjusted the blinds, and in a few moments she heard Shirley drive in. She went to the back door and unlocked and opened it for her.

“How are things?” Shirley asked.

“Madame is asleep. And so is the head man. The phones are turned off. She had a little fever this morning, sub-normal at noon.”

“Thanks. I’ll want the phone on, at least until nine. My son is going to phone here from Miami.”

“Well, I’m off.”

“Take care. See you tomorrow, love.”

As Maria drove out of Parklands, through the gate and down to the Arden River Road, she was feeling guilty about not wrestling Thelma Loomis out of her bed and into the wheelchair for a little ride around the grounds after lunch. But there was no way Thelma could snitch. Blame it on the little fever she had ran. And not on my little fever, she thought. As she approached West Bay she was stopped by a red light. When the light changed she tried to accelerate and stalled. Damn old antique Ford Falcon. Junk. She tried three times before it caught. It ran the battery down, and had it not caught on that third attempt, she would have been really hung up.

The two of them back there in that eight-hundred-thousand-dollar house, sound asleep. Two cars worth maybe sixty thousand total sitting there in the big carport. What if? What if? Ah, what a world it would become! First-class air travel.

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Categories: John D MacDonald