This site provides the first few chapters for free so you can decide if you like the story before buying the book. MATURE CONTENT: These sample chapters contain sexual temptations, discussions, and some sexual terms in descriptions of the main character's private thoughts. Later parts of the book (not in these free sample chapters) include sexually-explicit scenes between husband and wife and one scene of moderate violence.


Chapter 6


Forty-five minutes later Susan was blissfully driving Charles’ car south from I-40 on highway 92.

“That’s it…” Charles said as they approached the bridge over the dammed up river. “Douglas Lake.”

“Left turn ahead,” announced the GPS.

“This car is so much fun to drive!”

“Once we get in the boat, most of the lake probably won’t have speed limits… so you can go as fast as you want when there aren’t many other boats around, and you won’t have to worry about another ticket!”

She slapped at his arm playfully. “That was totally the car’s fault.”

She cast him a hopeful glance. “Do you mean I’ll get to drive the boat, too?”

“If you’d like to, sure!”

“Oh, yeah! How fast will it go?”

“That depends on whether it’s got a semi-displacement or full-displacement hull, the size and type of engine, the…” Charles looked at Susan and noticed a playful frown. “I don’t know… but we’ll find out!” he concluded.

They pulled onto Boat Dock Road and quickly found a parking spot. Susan grabbed her beach bag with her purse, sunglasses, a book, a windbreaker for each of them, and other items.

“That’s probably where we check out the boat,” Charles remarked. “See if you can spot someplace to get some chips and soft drinks or something.”

A few minutes later Sam was walking them down to the dock, carrying a pair of life jackets. “You folks sure made a good choice. The River Rider is only a year old, and it’s one of the nicest boats on the lake. A Sea Ray, of course. Biggest an’ best pleasure boat company there is, and their headquarters is right there in Knoxv’lle. There’re local boat owners who rent this when they want to spend a weekend on something bigger or nicer than their own.”

That sounds expensive, Susan worried.

“That’s it on the right side of the dock, forth one up.”

Susan counted boats. “Forth from this end?!”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She looked at Charles, who was nonchalantly looking all around the lake as they walked. It’s the biggest boat around here… oh, I guess you didn’t know that before, but still… you must have known the price. Well, maybe it’s not as expensive as it looks.

The River Rider’s stern was backed up to the dock, and as they got close enough to see into the boat, Susan’s jaw dropped.

“Charles! This is… this is luxurious! It looks like something out of… some fancy magazine or something!”

Charles looked it over and smiled at her. “Like it?”

“Like it? I’m afraid to touch it!”

Sam stepped onto the wakeboard from the dock, opened a gate panel in the transom and stepped through into the cockpit, leaving it open for Charles and Susan as he put the life jackets on one of the seats. “This’s the main deck, with a stateroom below, and a fully equipped galley and head. All folks like you need to bring on board is yourselves, food, clothes, things like that.”

Charles stepped down to the wakeboard. “Take my hand, Susan.”

She stepped on and walked into the space between the curved white leather seats, followed by Charles.

Sam looked them over. “Water’s still a little cold for skiing, but I guess you folks weren’t planning on that anyhow.”

He turned to Charles and handed him the keys. “You’ve got your boater safety card, so I won’t go over a bunch’a stuff you already know. Things like the light switches are all labeled, an’ she’s got a GPS and tracking system we can follow from the marina, and the radio is tuned to us. If you run into any problems or have any questions, just key it up and we’ll hear ya, and find ya, if need be.”

“Thanks, Sam, but I think we’ll be fine,” Charles assured him, as he put in the key, turned it just enough to enable electrical systems, found and turned on the switch for the ventilation system.

Susan put her beach bag down while observing the rich detail of all the features and trim of the cockpit.

“Okay, and you said up at the marina you’re plannin’ ta be back about sundown?”

“Right. We have dinner reservations at The Point Marina Restaurant.”

Sam nodded and took his leave. “Awright then, if we don’t see her headin’ back awhile after dark sets in, we’ll give ya a call on the radio to check on ya.”

“We’ll be fine. Thanks again!” Charles called out. He turned to Susan and smiled, “Well, it’s all ours for the rest of the day.”

Susan was watching Sam walk away and took a step to stand next to Charles so she could speak to him without Sam hearing.

“Charles, how much did this boat cost to rent?”

Charles looked at her carefully before asking her to sit down on one of the cockpit seats and he sat down beside her.

Uh-oh. If I have to sit down for this, it must be bad… how much is it, as much as a car payment? Maybe a house payment?

“Susan, tell me something… have you ever been on a boat like this?

Are you avoiding the question, or just taking a roundabout way to get to it? She shook her head. “No, not even close. I’ve only been on a paddle boat when I was a little girl and a row boat once when I was in college.”

“You live in a modest house, the same one you were raised in. You have a modest car, and can’t afford to take it to the repair shop.”

Susan cocked her head. If you’re trying to make me feel better about you spending a fortune on a boat trip, it ain’t working.

“Do you think it’s wrong for a man who adores a woman to want to give her something special, something she’s never had before? Something she could never do for herself?”

Special would be okay, but I didn’t ask for a ride in a fancy boat! You’re out of work, and you need to save your money!

Charles paused before continuing, “Or something she probably wouldn’t do for herself even if she could?”

That’s because it’s too big of a waste of money…

“What if I gave you flowers on your birthday?”

“That would be nice, of course.” And reasonably priced.

“What if I gave you flowers once a month?

Wow, every month? “Well… that would be okay, I guess.”

“Suppose we had known each other since we were teenagers, and I had given you flowers every month. Say forty years… times twelve months, that’s four hundred and eighty months… let’s round it off to five hundred.”

Where are you going with this?

“Let’s say that each bouquet cost fifty dollars in today’s dollars… that would be…”

Five hundred times fifty is… Susan gasped.

“Twenty-five thousand dollars,” Charles concluded.

Susan looked stunned, and looked away. Twenty-five thousand dollars… for flowers…

“Flowers wither and die, but if they were given in love, the memory of the love they represent lives on… and those memories magnify their worth.”

A lifetime… of flowers…? Marty never gave me flowers… not even once.

“Renting this boat for an afternoon didn’t cost nearly that much… but even if it did, it wouldn’t make up for forty missing years.”

Forty missing years… with me? Forty years… of you and me? Susan blinked and her mind swirled. ‘Dark brown, with a delicious tinge of green around the outside edge,’ you said. You. You’re the one who discovered my secret. You’re the one in my dreams. Oh, Lord… “Why didn’t we find each other forty years ago?”

Susan looked at Charles again and saw tears welling in his eyes.

“We weren’t Christians when we were young,” he continued, “so we didn’t seek God’s will for our lives then.”

He took her hands in his. “We can’t get back that past… and… we don’t know what the future holds… not next year, not next month.”

Susan started crying softly as Charles brushed away his own tears.

“Sure, we might have money problems someday, but today… on this day, I have enough money for this, and I wanted to honor you with something special, something extraordinary… something we could make a memory of… together.”

Susan slid closer to Charles and hugged him. Charles put his arms around her and she rested her head on his shoulder.

“Oh, Charles… I understand now… I think. You just… you’re so much more than…” more than I ever dreamed “…than I ever expected.”

“You’re certainly more than I ever expected, and I’ve been thanking God for you since we first met. ‘To him who is able to do more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power… to him be the glory!’”

Susan looked up, “Is that…”

“From Ephesians. Chapter three, I think.”

More than all we ask or imagine… thank you, Lord. She gave Charles a stronger hug. Thank you so much!

They broke off the hug, and Charles stood up and helped Susan to her feet. “C’mon, let’s make a memory!”

We just did, my beloved. We just did…

He ushered her toward the captain’s seat. “You take the helm first.”

She looked surprised but took the seat. “You want me to drive first?”

“Sure! There’s nothing to it. I’ll guide you every step of the way.”

Just like when you taught me to waltz? A pleasant shiver went through Susan at the memory.

“See this switch?” Charles pointed. “I turned it on a few minutes ago. It’s the power ventilation, and by now it should have removed any stray fumes from the gas tank and engine compartment, so we’re ready to crank the engine. Turn the key just like you’re starting a car motor.”

Susan cranked it and smiled at the easy success.

“Okay, it’ll be very easy getting away from the dock. Since we’re pointed out, we don’t have to back up. When we get back, I’ll back it in, if you don’t mind.”

“Oh, no, by all means, you do any backing required!” she said happily.

“Okay, just let it idle while I cast off the spring lines. That means untying the ropes that hold it to the dock.”

Susan nodded and Charles took in the bow and stern lines before sitting down beside Susan in the “companion’s seat.”

“We’ll just leave the fenders hanging,” Charles commented.

“The…”

“Fenders are the bumpers on the sides of the boat that keep the hull from hitting the dock. They’ll be fine where they are.” He elaborated as he started pointing out the controls. “Now, there’s no gear shift and no brake pedal. All you have to deal with is the steering wheel and the throttle… these handles.”

“These?” Susan asked for confirmation.

“Yep. Push them forward to go faster, and pull them back to slow down or stop. Just go real slow until we get out of the slip… that’s this area between the walkways on each side. Then turn left and speed up a little, but not too much until we get into the main channel… Go ahead and ease the throttles forward.”

Spring lines, bumpers, throttles… were you in the Navy or something? There’s so much we don’t know about each other. Forty years’ worth. But, at least we know each other now, and we’ve started learning about each other. Susan smiled as she cast a glance at Charles and moved the handles up ever so slightly.

Charles rested his right arm over Susan’s shoulder.

Mmm, I like this… and driving the boat too! She noted that the boat was only inching forward and moved the throttle handles forward just a little more.

The big cruiser exited the slip and Susan turned the wheel, feeling the boat respond quickly. She straightened it up and they were headed for the channel.

“Excellent,” Charles complimented.

“I can speed up a little now?”

“Yes, indeed. We don’t want to go super-fast while we’re near the dock partly to avoid the chance of a collision with another boat, but mainly to avoid making waves big enough to rock the other boats against the dock. That would make the bumpers wear out unnecessarily.”

“Okay, got it.”

“Start easing her left as we approach that point, and when we pass it, make a full left turn into the center of the channel.”

‘Her…’ I forgot, boats take feminine pronouns. She nodded. “Uh-huh, got it.”

“Turning left will have us headed West, and downstream toward the dam. That way, when we’re coming back to the marina as the sun is going down, the sun will be behind us instead of in our eyes.”

Boy, you really do think of everything.

Susan completed the left turn into the channel and straightened her course to keep the boat centered. She looked at Charles and beamed. “How’s this?”

“Perfect… Although that’s a completely inadequate adjective concerning you…”

“Aww, thank you,” she replied. “Uh… did you say this is when we could go faster?”

Charles leaned over and whispered in her ear, “No speed limit here. Let ‘er rip!”

Should I throw the throttle all the way up? Probably not. I need to get used to things first.

Susan started pushing the throttle up more and more as the River Rider surged ahead.

Wow, it’s pushing us back in the seat! Oo… better ease the wheel left a little bit.

“Perfect… again. Now we have a long straight shot coming up. That’s it…” He leaned in again, “Go to full throttle now, let’s see what this baby can do.”

Full throttle? That means all the way forward. Should I… well, like the man said, let’r rip.

Susan rammed the throttles all the way forward in one quick push, and she and Charles were pressed hard into the backs of their seats by the acceleration.

“Hoo-wee!” Susan shouted over the roar of the engine. “Wow!”

“Yee-ha!” Charles added above the din and patted Susan’s shoulder.

“Wow, it feels like we’re flying!” Susan yelled.

“It sure does!”

As the force of acceleration leveled off, Susan gave the steering wheel a gentle turn to the left, and then back to the right, and the changes in direction pushed their bodies into each other as the boat tilted from side to side.

Ooo… I definitely like that!

“By the way…” Charles started, but was interrupted by Susan jerking the wheel hard left. The boat responded by tilting to a very steep angle, making them feel like they could fall, almost into the water.

“Oh, help! Charles! We’re heading right for the shore!”

Charles reached up and coaxed her to turning the wheel into a gentler turn, as he reached around her and reduced the throttle. They completed a full circle, straightening out their direction to their original course at the end of the turn.

“I should have warned you sooner about turning real sharply when we’re going real fast… at least now you see why.” He leaned over and kissed Susan on the cheek.

Her heart was pounding as Susan pulled the throttles all the way back and the boat rapidly slowed down. “You should drive this thing.”

“Why? That was my fault, I didn’t warn you about that soon enough.”

“Charles, I almost turned the boat over… and probably would have gotten us killed,” she said while getting up.

Charles held her hand to keep her from walking away from the command seat. “First of all, despite how dangerous it felt, this boat is designed so that it can’t turn over even at full speed and the sharpest possible turn. Second, the boat was turning sharply enough that we couldn’t have run aground. And, like I said, it was my fault for not warning you about sharp turns at high speeds.”

Susan looked doubtful.

“You had a little fright, but we weren’t in any real danger,” Charles continued. “So, now you know either not to do that, or if you decide to do it on purpose, you know what to expect.”

“There’s no way I’m going to do that again!”

“Okay, but you can still drive the boat. Just don’t do that one maneuver,” Charles said as he tugged on her hand to encourage her to resume her position behind the wheel.

Susan resisted the tug and got a pained expression on her face. “Uh… well, now that I’ve stood up… I’m sorry, but I need to go back to the marina to use the bathroom.”

“Oh, you can use the head below,” Charles said.

What? Is that some sort of crude joke? ‘Cause I don’t get it, nor do I want to, nor…

“’Head’ is the word for bathroom on a boat or ship, and ‘below’ means downstairs.”

Oh. “Oh…! There’s a downstairs?!”

“Yeah, I thought you heard Sam say there was a stateroom and head below,” Charles said as he got up and unlatched the sliding hatch-door in the center console.

“Wow, I guess I missed that.”

Charles slid the door open and stood aside. “I can’t go down to look over it with you right now, since we’re not anchored or docked.”

She peered down the dark steps. “Oh, okay.”

“So if you don’t mind, I’ll keep going toward the dam. The water will be at its widest down there.”

“Is it safe to get near the dam?” Susan asked.

“Completely. They’ll have barriers to keep small boats away from the dangerous areas, and buoy markers further out from there.”

Susan smiled and climbed down the ladder. Her eyes adjusted quickly, and she found a light switch. She started to look around for the bathroom, but her breath was taken away by the interior of the stateroom. Oh, my! A big bed… don’t you get any ideas from that, Charles… She went over and sat on the edge and bounced, which reminded her of her need for a bathroom. Desk area, kitchen… including a refrigerator…! And where’s the bathroom?

She opened a compartment door and peered in. Ah! Very tiny, but very clean.

After finishing in the bathroom, Susan took another few minutes to look around the stateroom. Wow, this is so… elegant, so cozy.

She ran a hand over the bed spread. If we were already married… oh, but we can’t be down here at the same time… no, I guess we could, we’d just have to anchor the boat first.

Susan didn’t notice her breath quickening. Oh, well, we’re not married… yet.

She started back up the steps to the cockpit, casting one more look back.

“Find it okay?” Charles inquired.

“Yes, thank you,” she replied with a smile. “I had no idea that a boat this size could be so… elaborate.”

“Cruisers are little homes away from home. You can make long trips on them, if you can afford the fuel for a long trip… want to drive again?” Charles inquired.

“No, thanks.” Susan replied as she sat down on the companion seat. This is nice. Must be designed for husband and wife, since it’s so small your bodies have to be in contact…

“You sure this isn’t a fell-off-the-horse-get-right-back-on situation?” Charles asked.

She laughed, “No, I’m fine, I just don’t want to drive right now.”

“’Because you only did a sharp turn, you weren’t even fishtailing.”

“What’s fishtailing?” Susan asked naively.

Charles squinted his eyes, “I’m soo glad you asked…”

“Oh, now Charles, don’t…”

Charles gunned the engines, and moments later started rocking the steering wheel hard from one side to the other.

Susan grabbed Charles and held on tightly as her eyes opened wide and she looked at him with surprise. At a mid-point between turning, she leapt up, grabbed the top of the windshield frame, and yelled at the top of her lungs, “Woooo-Hooooooo!”

She looked down at Charles and grinned, and saw that he had a big smile of his own.

He began to slow down and keep a straight course as they approached another bend in the river. “You want to try that on the next straightaway?”

She sat back down, still grinning. “No, thanks. That was a lot of fun, but I’d like to just sit and talk while you drive, if you don’t mind.”

“That would be wonderful.”

She snuggled up close and put her head on his shoulder, breathing the river air deeply and enjoying the view. “Charles… tell me more about yourself.”

“Well,” he smiled mischievously, “I know karate…”

“Oh!”

“Jujitsu…”

Well, I guess that helps you stay healthy…

“And several other Japanese words.”

It took only a moment for the last statement to sink in, and then Susan drove her shoulder playfully into Charles’ side as he laughed. “Oh, you… I’m serious. We get along great, but like you said, we missed knowing each other the past forty years, so we don’t know each other’s histories. And I want us to.”

Charles nodded. “I know, but I don’t want either one of us to get anxious about learning everything there is to know about our pasts as fast as possible. I want us to enjoy the journey of learning about each other.”

He shifted in his seat so he could shift his gaze between Susan and the area in front of the boat and put his left arm over Susan’s shoulder. “So… something about me… something serious. Okay, I’ve been married twice before.”

He studied Susan’s face to see her reaction, but she just nodded.

“My first wife Jennifer killed herself. My boys were both out of the house by then, and they blamed me for her death. I suspect she became depressed as a side effect of some medicine she was taking, but I can’t be sure. Anyway, I guess it was at least partly my fault because I didn’t notice how bad it was. And that was because I was spending most of my time at work, as usual. She was a good wife and mother, but I was a lousy father and husband.”

“Is this too hard for you talk about?” Susan asked.

“No, I’m okay… but thanks for asking,” Charles replied. “Less than a year after Jennifer died, I met another woman and remarried. Laura. That made my boys angry, too. They said it was disrespectful to Jennifer to get married again so soon. That was the objection they raised, but they also asked how long I had known Laura… and I guessed they were wondering if she and I had been an item before Jennifer died. We weren’t, and I tried to make that clear to them, but I don’t think they trust my word at all, so… I guess they still have doubts about that. In fact, as sad as it makes me to think they could, they may wonder if I killed Jennifer and made it look like suicide, so I could be with Laura.”

Wow. No wonder they’re so mad at you.

“They may not even know that I really loved Jen. I hardly ever did anything to show love to her or the boys except try to earn more money for them…”

That’s still an improvement over Marty.

They were quiet for a few moments and Charles steered the boat through another bend in the river.

“What happened with your second wife?” Susan asked.

“Laura… I wish I knew. She divorced me after two or three years… about three. At the time we got married, I thought I was in love with her, but in hindsight, I think I mostly just wanted someone to have sex with again.”

Charles looked sharply at Susan. “That’s not what’s driving my relationship with you. I wasn’t a Christian back then, and I was very selfish, or at least self-centered.” He looked at her as if looking for trust.

“I believe you, Charles,” Susan reassured him, then looked up at him.

“Do you want to know about me?” she asked meekly. That was dumb. I meant…

“I want to know everything about you. But if there are things you’re not comfortable sharing, I’ll do my best to try to wait until you become comfortable with whatever that is. Even if that means never.”

She shook her head. “I really don’t have any secrets, and… I’m glad you want to know about me… I’ve only been married once, but I had sex with several guys before that. Back in high school and college.” Now it was her turn to look at him for a sign of acceptance. Oh, Charles… please tell me you still love me! Please tell me my slutty youth won’t kill our friendship… our relationship.

Charles looked down at her and held her gaze, then leaned in close and used a stage whisper to be heard over the engines, “If you were only half as beautiful then as you are now, it would seem impossible to have been otherwise.”

What…?! ‘If I were…?!’ Wow, can you compliment a girl, or what! She skootched around in her seat so that she was facing him head-on. “Will you… forgive me? For…”

Charles pulled the throttles all the way back without looking and let the boat slow to a drift as he turned to face Susan and hold her hands. “Susan, we both made mistakes before we were Christians. Plenty after, too, but hopefully not quite as bad. I also had a few relationships I regret before I got married. Let’s just acknowledge our mistakes and trust God that he’s forgiven us for our sins. And let’s concentrate on living the way he wants us to live today!”

Susan lunged forward and hugged him. Oh, dear God… a gorgeous hunk of man who loves you as much as I do, and isn’t afraid to bring you into normal conversations! And he doesn’t hold my awful past against me! Thank you! Oh, dear God, thank you!

She ended the hug and sat back, gazing at the man before her. Ask me! Please, ask me! I want to marry you, Charles Parker! I want to marry you and get you into bed! I want to dance with you naked! I want to fall asleep with you in my arms! I…

“Susan…?”

“Yes?!”

Charles’ eyes twitched as he appeared to search for the right words. His brow furrowed. “Uh… I, uh…”

Yes…?! Yes…?!

“I’m sorry, but now I need to use the bathroom.”

Susan just stared for an awkward moment before hurrying to get up and let him past. “Oh… uh… okay.” Boy, I thought… I guess I just hoped…

“That’s the dam up there. You can drive around if you want to, or just let it drift. And just yell down if you have any questions… okay?”

“Uh… sure.”

Charles quickly disappeared below, and Susan looked around blankly.

Father, what… what will it take to get him to propose? He said he wants us to enjoy the journey of getting to know each other. How long will that take? This is so intense… I don’t know how long I can handle this. Would… would it be okay if I propose to Charles? Is he afraid to ask because of what I said at the concert about just being friends? I thought I made it clear that’s no longer the case. Oh, God… what should I do? I wasn’t imagining all his compliments, and I just asked him to tell me something about himself… he’s the one who chose to tell me about his previous marriages.

A few minutes later Susan heard the toilet flush, and a minute or so after that, Charles came back up and looked around.

“Just letting her drift, eh?” Charles asked rhetorically. “What do you say we drop anchor, put on some music, and talk back here where we have more room?” He nodded to the curved, white leather bench seats behind the captain’s chair and companion seat.

“Sure… you’ll have to do the anchoring, though. I have no idea how to do that.”

Susan eyed the bench seats as they traded places. Plenty of room for snuggling and cuddling, but I don’t think I can handle that.

“Hmm. Not much current or wind… and remarkably few other boats about for a Saturday.” Charles flipped a switch on the console to activate the windlass and lower the anchor. “We have plenty of room in all directions, so I’m just going to drop anchor and let it set itself.”

Susan idly stepped over to the bench seat and sat down, but didn’t relax. Should I pick up on our last conversation? Ask him about anchors? Start a new topic?

Charles plugged in an mp3 player to the ship’s sound system, turned it on, and adjusted the volume low enough not to interfere with a quiet conversation.

Susan looked away as Charles sat down next to her. Please don’t kiss me. I’ll catch on fire if we kiss right now.

“What happened to your marriage?”

Oh, thank you, God! That topic will turn my motor off. Susan glanced at Charles before looking off into the distance.

“I met Marty in college. Marty Towns. I started dating him just because I thought he was good looking. A couple of months later I found out I was pregnant… and I decided I wanted to keep the baby.”

Should I tell him it was because I didn’t want to have a third abortion? “Anyway, Marty bounced back and forth between being supportive and being angry. Come to think of it, that’s Marty in a nutshell: bouncing back and forth. We got married and I finished my degree before Steve was born. Marty dropped out of college to work, but he never really found a job he wanted to stick with. I…” Susan paused in mid-sentence. Oh, no…!

Charles’ arm was on the back of the seat and he had just reached out and stroked Susan’s hair.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to distract you,” he offered.

What in the world would you have done if you had meant to distract me?! “That’s okay. I mean… it is distracting… I like it… but, uh…”

“I apologize,” he said after quickly retracting his arm a bit. “I’ll keep my paws off.”

Oooh, Charles, I wish you could put your paws all over me… I…

“You were saying Marty never found a job to stick with.”

“Oh, uh, yeah… Marty. He was out of work a lot of the time, so I supported us financially. Marty… he cheated on me twice. At least twice, that I know of. Even then, I didn’t want to end our marriage for the kids’ sake. Then, two days before my thirty-seventh birthday, Marty left and never came back. Steve was only thirteen years old, and Stephanie was twelve. He didn’t even tell them good-bye. Or me. We had a fight that morning… we had a lot of fights… and when I got home, most of his clothes were gone. I was crazy with worry for days, then weeks, but I never heard directly from him. A few weeks later, I tried to use a credit card and it was declined. It turned out he had maxed out our credit cards and taken all the money in our bank accounts. The bank said I should talk to a lawyer. The bank man seemed sympathetic… well, technically, he only implied I should talk to a lawyer, but I did. And the lawyer said the only way to protect myself and the kids financially was to divorce Marty. It was a divorce in-absentia since I didn’t know where he was. That whole time was a nightmare, although Marty never showed up to contest anything, so I guess it could have been worse. Except for the kids. Steve kind of withdrew into himself for a while, then got into sports. He joined the Army right after high school, and… he was killed a few years later in Afghanistan.”

Susan bit on finger for a moment before going on. “Stephanie, my daughter… Stephanie just never understood. She was always angry and rebellious after Marty left. She blamed me for Marty not being there, and she ran away with some boy right in the middle of her senior year of high school. She’d come by once in a while, or at least call… up until I had to tell her about Steve’s death. She blamed me for that too, and I haven’t heard from her since. I’ve been praying for her every day, but I’m not even sure she’s alive.”

Susan teared up as she turned to look at Charles and was surprised that he had moved closer. Now he put his arm over her shoulder and took one of her hands in his free hand.

“Heavenly Father,” he began as they both closed their eyes, “we lift up Stephanie to you. Wherever she is, she’s not beyond your ability to reach her. I ask you to reach her heart, Lord, and melt the hardness there with your indescribable love. Healing her wounds are beyond our abilities, but we ask you to intervene, we ask you to heal her. Protect her, Lord. Deliver her. Give her the ability to love her mother again.”

“Oh, God!” Susan turned and buried her face in Charles shoulder and cried passionately, sobs racking her body. “Oh, God, please!”

Charles hugged her tight. “Father, I want to ask you to heal Susan’s heart also, but I think the way to do that is by healing Stephanie. Lord, break the bonds that hold Stephanie in darkness. Set her free. Give her your life… let her come to know your love.”

Susan continued to cry for long minutes, and Charles just held her, patiently waiting.

Just as she was about cried out, a small jolt shook the boat and she looked up with concern.

“It’s okay, the anchor just set. That means it lodged into the lake bottom. It must have been skimming until just now,” Charles explained.

“Is it safe?”

“It’s fine. There still aren’t any other boats to worry about, and we’re a long way from shore and the dam.”

Susan started brushing away her tears, and got some tissues out of her beach bag and blew her nose before reclining against Charles. He wrapped his arms around her as they looked out over the water.

“What about your sons, Charles? Shall we pray for them now?”

When he didn’t answer right away, she turned enough to look at him.

“I find it strange, Susan. I pray for them every day, but I seem to have more faith while praying for other people than I do praying for my own children.”

“Oh, I understand, I do! I can have lots of faith to pray for other people, but when it comes to Stephanie, it’s like all I can do is plead for God to have mercy.”

He nodded. “Yeah, it’s just like that.”

She snuggled down against Charles and began to pray, “God… I don’t know William or…”

“Robert.”

“Or Robert, but I know you know everything about them. You know every disappointment, every heartbreak, every doubt, every pain. Lord…” Susan’s voice trailed off as she turned her hands palms-up, “…nothing is too hard for you, nothing. No matter how deep their pain, no matter how strong their anger, you can overcome it all. I ask you to break the hardness in their hearts with your love, and heal their grief. Bind their wounds and show them your awesome power to save, to make them your sons.”

“Oh, God, yes, yes!” Charles agreed fervently. “Amen. Amen! Thank you, Lord!”

Susan and Charles just sat there in each other arms, listening to the instrumental music, small waves lapping the side of the boat, and faint sounds from shore drifting in and out.

“I’m starting to get hungry,” Susan finally said.

“Hmm. Still a little early for our dinner reservations. How about if we split one of those sandwiches you brought to tide us over.”

Susan laughed as she sat up and started searching through her bag. “Tide us over? Are you making nautical puns?”

Charles laughed too. “No, not intentionally. That was a good catch. Ooo, and no, that wasn’t a fishing pun, just an observation regarding your wits.”

Susan stood up to stretch and Charles joined her as they shared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

“If I had had my wits about me when we got on board, I would’ve put our sodas in the refrigerator downstairs.”

“You didn’t even know that area was down there yet,” Charles corrected.

“Ah, so much for my vaunted wits!” Susan laughed.

“Your wits are still reliable, as evidenced by your instant observation that my amendment to your former observation could impugn the integrity of your wits!” Charles rejoined with a flourish.

“Oh, my, Charles! That was hard to keep up with! Say it again.”

Charles laughed, “Not a chance. I’ve already forgotten most of it, and I’m not even sure I understood it while I was saying it.”

Susan’s attention was caught by a new song beginning on the stereo. “That sounds like waltz music, Mr. Parker.”

“So it is, mademoiselle. Would you care to dance?” Charles asked, pronouncing the “a” in dance with an overly sophisticated “ah” sound.

“I would,” Susan accepted, stepping into Charles’ arms in the center of the cockpit.

Charles moved the last few bites of his sandwich to his left hand, and Susan moved hers to her right hand, and instead of holding hands, they just touched their wrists together.

“Think you remember, or would you like me to go over the steps again?”

“I’m ready, sir. Lead on.”

Charles listened to key into the rhythm and started off. They did the “box” steps forward and back, slowly turning, making use of every bit of the small cockpit floor.

Oh, Charles, you’re as hard as a rock down there, Susan observed to herself, as her emotions began to challenge her reason for control of her will. Your chest, moving against mine… feels… so amazingly good.

They continued to move their bodies together in harmony, finishing their sandwiches, and feeling warmer despite the breeze picking up.

What was it you said…? I’m burned into your heart. You feel like I’m part of you… like we were always supposed to be? Mmmm…

Charles’ right hand slid from the center of Susan’s back to the small of her back and pressed her lightly toward him.

Uuunng.  She pressed her waist more tightly against his, and their steps became shorter.

The waltz came to an end as Susan slowly looked up, and Charles met her with a full-on kiss. Their feet stopped moving as the music shifted to another song and played on.

Susan slipped both arms around Charles and hugged him, subconsciously sliding her hips up and down against the front of his pants.

Charles’ tongue entered her mouth and she groaned as she used her own tongue to toy with his, then suck gently on it. A moment later, Susan used her tongue to push his tongue back into his mouth, and then pushed her own tongue as deeply as it would go into his mouth, as Charles’ right hand slipped further down and squeezed.

Uuunng… ohhh… Susan moaned without care as she became acutely aware of the protrusion in his pants moving against her, and she was powerless to resist its appeal. “Oh, Charles… take me! Take me downstairs…”

“We… can’t…” he managed to say.

Ohhh… “I want you, Charles. I need you, right now!” She parted and pulled him toward the hatch to the stateroom, and he started to follow, then pulled her to a stop.

Susan panted lightly as she looked at Charles with hunger, noting his heaving chest, his whole body inclined toward her as he stared at her.

“No…” he croaked.

“No? No…?! You can’t say no!” I felt you pushing against me as hard as I was pushing against you! She pointed to the bulge in his pants and said with some anger, “You want this as much as I do, Charles!”

He stood, wavering.

Susan’s tone tuned to pleading. “Please, Charles! Please! I need you!”

Still holding one of her hands, he sank to his knees. “Susan…” his voice trailed off.

Get up! I can’t drag you down there! You put your hands all over me and got me hot, now you’ve got to do your duty! Susan’s voice changed again, this time to a commanding tone. “Charles. Get up, and come down there with me, right now!”

A tear rolled down his face as he strained to speak, clearly this time. “No.”

Susan stared for a moment longer, then stormed down the steps alone. “Arrrrgh! I can’t believe this! What’s wrong with you?!” What’s wrong with me?! Is the thought of going to bed with me that repugnant?! She started opening and slamming cabinet doors and throwing small items around.

“Charles Parker, take me home!” she yelled toward the hatch. “No! Take me back to the marina; I’ll take a cab home! I’ll… I don’t have enough money for a cab… I’ll hitchhike home! I’ll…”

She picked up a throw pillow and launched it through the hatch. “Ohh, you impossible man!” The pillow sailed unimpeded over the transom and into the water.

“You can’t just toy with a woman’s affections! You can’t… you can’t just turn on her motor and… and not…” drive her, she finished silently.

She opened a cabinet and found a cooking pot and hurled it through the hatch just as Charles peered in and it caught him right at the hairline with a loud clang. Charles stumbled backward and fell as blood started pouring out of the gash.

“Charles!” Susan screamed. She rushed up the steps and tripped over the pot, falling on top of Charles’ legs with her head coming down hard on his crotch.

“Oowwww!” Charles yelled and bent his knees up toward his chest, trapping Susan’s head.

“Oh, Charles! I’m so sorry! Please don’t be hurt…!” she cried as she untangled herself.

Susan scrambled up and gasped in shock at the profuse bleeding. “Charles, you’re bleeding!”

“Uuunh,” was his only reply.

“We’ve got to get you to a hospital! Do cell phones work out here? No, they can’t come out here anyway! We’ve got to get the boat back! But first we need to do first aid! Uh, we apply direct pressure, I think, to stop the bleeding.” She grabbed one of Charles’ hands and put it on the cut.

“You’ve got to hold this Charles, so I can drive the boat back to the dock. Can you do that? Can you hold this?”

“Susan…”

“And for a head wound, we uh… raise the feet.” She noted that his knees were still bent up toward his chest. “Okay, we’ve got that covered.”

Susan jumped behind the wheel and put her hand on the throttles.

“Susan!”

“Yes, darling?” she called back anxiously.

“The anchor’s down.”

“Oh…! Oh, Charles, how do I get the anchor up? Is there an axe I can use to just cut it loose?”

Charles laughed and rolled over onto his side. “No, hon, there’s no axe… and you don’t have to rush. Head wounds always bleed a lot to start with, but something like this should be easy to stop the bleeding. I’m going to be fine.”

He laughed again. “Although it may be a bit longer before I’m able to stand up again.”

Susan went back to his side and knelt down. “Oh, Charles, I’m so sorry! Will you forgive me? I… I don’t know what came over me! I… I’ve never acted like that before, I promise! That’s not like me at all! In all my fights with Marty, I never threw anything, not ever. I’m so sorry, Charles, will you forgive me?”

“Susan, of course I forgive for. I love you. Nothing will ever change that.”

Susan looked away. “I’m so ashamed of myself. I can’t believe I acted that way. I don’t understand. I was like a wild woman. I can’t even blame my period, or menopause. I’m definitely past my periods and I think I’m past menopause, too, though I miss having it to blame for mood swings.”

“Susan…” Charles called, and Susan turned back toward him.

He motioned with a finger for her to come closer, and she leaned in.

“Yes, Charles?”

“Being a wild woman has a certain attractive aspect to it,” he said grinning.

“Oh, don’t you start getting me stirred up, again. You… maybe you don’t understand what a powerful impact your words…” and your body “… have on me.”

“Well, your impact on me is obvious.”

Susan frowned until she realized he was exercising his dry sense of humor again, and they both burst into laughter. “Oh, Charles… I wish I had never made that particular kind of impact.”

“Well, help me up, and down into the cabin… to look for a first aid kit, mind you. And nothing else.”

Oh, Charles… I’m so sorry! Susan started helping Charles get up on his feet, though he couldn’t straighten up completely.

You’re still hurt! All because I wanted to have sex so badly… I was ready to sacrifice all my beliefs just to satisfy my lust. Oh, God, I didn’t realize I was that low. I’m so sorry. Please help me to do better. Help me not to want sex unless and until we get married.

Susan got Charles to the edge of the bed, and he rolled over into a semi-fetal position with a groan.

“Oh, Charles, is it still that bad?”

“Well, I… it… was, uh… fully… uh, well, let’s just say it was the worst possible time for a head-butt in that area.”

“Ohhh, Charles…! Is there anything I can do?” Other than taking your bloody clothes off, which would be a decidedly dangerous thing to do right now…

“Just look for a first aid kit, please, for bandages… for my head. The… my, uh… that is, as far as walking normally, I just need a little more time, I think.”

Susan rushed through the cabin searching for a first aid kit. I don’t suppose kissing your balls to make them feel better would be a welcome offer… Susan…! Dear God, please help me keep my mind clean! Please… Oh…!”

She spotted a white box with a red cross on the front and unstrapped it from its mount. “Here it is!”

She brought it to him, and they looked through the contents. Susan picked up a large roll bandage.

“I could wrap this around your head…”

Charles winced. “And look like I was returning home from war? Help me to the bathroom, and let me get a close look at this. I think I’d like to go with the smallest bandage possible, not the largest.”

He hobbled to the bathroom and washed a lot of the blood off his face.

He still can’t stand up straight, and it’s all my fault!

“It’s not too bad. I can use a butterfly bandage to hold it together.” Charles used some scissors from the kit to start shaping a band aid into a butterfly by cutting away from the center area to make it a thin strip while leaving the larger sticky areas on each end.

Despite his cheerfulness, Susan walked over and sat down dejectedly on the edge of the bed. I can’t believe I acted that way. I would have dragged him down here if I could have. Even prostitutes don’t behave that badly. Oh, God! I was worse than a prostitute! I don’t even deserve…

“I’ll need to cut away a little bit of hair so the bandage can stick, but hey, that’ll grow back in no time!”

Oooh… God, I’m so sorry. I can’t seem to control myself, so… doesn’t that mean I should get married? I would have said yes if he had asked me, but… why didn’t he? Does he want me or not?

Susan looked toward the bathroom. It’s apparent I can’t control myself. I don’t know how he’s able to, and I don’t understand why he wants to, for crying out loud. What kind of a man turns down sex with a woman he thinks is pretty, who wants to have sex with him? What kind of a man turns down sex at all…?

Her eyebrows went up as a thought struck her. A man with Godly character, obviously…

A frown crept back onto her face. Even though I’ve been a Christian much longer than him, he’s a much better Christian than I am. Well, even if he has self-control, I obviously don’t, and I can’t handle the pressure… I just hit him in the head with a pot, for crying out loud! So… what are the options? Either he has to ask me to marry him, or I have to ask him, or… we have to stop seeing each other. Any other options…? I don’t think so. But how long should I wait for him to ask me? What if he never does? So, then, I should ask him. But what if I ask him and he says no…?! Oh, Lord, why would a Godly man want to marry a woman who just acted like I did?

Charles walked back in still a little bent at the waist, and buttoning his shirt, which he had washed in the sink with little improvement. “You look so serious… you know I’m not, uh, permanently damaged, right? Another half hour or so and I’ll be as, uh… capable as I ever was.”

Capable? To have sex? I don’t understand you, talking like you want to have sex, but refusing to even when I begged you for it. Susan looked away. Oooh, God, I was begging a man to have sex with me, and we’re not even married!

“Talk to me Susan,” Charles pleaded, “what’s wrong?”

“What’s wrong…? What’s wrong?! I… I lost my temper so badly I actually hurt you, and it could have been a lot worse. As far as you know, I may lose my temper like that all the time. And I wanted to have sex so badly, I might’ve raped you if I could have. And I thought I was a Christian.”

“Being a Christian doesn’t turn off a person’s sex drive.” Charles reached out to put a comforting hand to Susan’s shoulder, but stopped, sitting down instead, with plenty of room between them. “A little while ago I had more will-power than you did. That doesn’t mean I always will. Next time, you might be the strongest.”

Next time? How long do you think I can go on like this? What can I say? Marry me now so I can satisfy my sex drive? Or leave me alone to my old sexless life even though I love you so much?

“I’m sorry I made you angry,” Charles said quietly.

Susan looked down and shook her head. “You have nothing to apologize for. I shouldn’t have gotten angry. And I shouldn’t have asked you to have sex with me.” I shouldn’t have wanted to have sex with you.

“Well, we were both… aroused, and that’s behind us now.”

Susan started to smile as she turned to look at Charles, and then looked distressed. “Not for your head and ruined clothes.”

Charles smiled warmly now. “Those are insignificant. My head will heal, and my clothes can be replaced… minor, temporary setbacks.”

Susan sighed. At least I didn’t see you while your shirt was off. Well, maybe you’re right… maybe my will power is strong enough to control myself now.

“Well, how about if we head back toward the marina now? They should be expecting us soon,” Charles suggested as he reached over and put a hand on Susan’s back and brushed it up and down once.

Susan looked away and gasped quietly as her body responded with instant arousal. Oh, dear, God. I… I…

Charles didn’t seem to notice as he got up, walked to the steps up to the cockpit and looked back. “Coming?”

Cumming? Susan echoed to herself.

Charles’ expression turned to one of concern and he started to walk back toward Susan.

“No, Charles… if you don’t mind, I’d like to stay down here by myself for a few minutes… to pray.” That’s a lie. I don’t really want to pray, I just want to find an off switch on my awful libido.

Charles stopped and nodded with a smile again. “Okay, Susan. I’ll get us headed back and you come up as soon as you’re ready. Okay?”

Susan smiled and nodded and Charles went up the steps. As soon as he was completely around the corner of the hatch, she grabbed the remaining throw pillow, hugged it to her chest and curled up on the bed. Oh, God, pleeaase help me! One stinking touch and I’m on fire…!

Her breathing became rapid and deep as she bit the edge of the pillow and screamed into it. Her leg muscles tightened and she bucked her hips as she grunted, with the pillow still muffling her. She rolled face down and put the pillow between her thighs, squeezing it hard as she screamed again, into the mattress.

Any sounds that weren’t absorbed by the pillow and mattress were drowned out by the boat engines and the sound of water against the hull.

Sometime after Charles has raised anchor and started the boat back toward the marina, Susan came up on deck, her face flushed. Instead of sitting next to Charles, she stood next to the seat and leaned against it, leaving plenty of room between them.

“Feeling better?” Charles inquired with a smile.

Susan nodded as she looked all around at the scenery, “Not good, but better, yes.”

“Anything I can do for you?”

Susan just shook her head in response. We’ve already established that you’re not going to do what my body is craving for.

He increased the speed until the engines were going all-out, and Susan held onto the top of the windshield again.

“Getting hungry?” he asked.

Susan sighed. There you go again. Yes, I’m hungry… for you.

She noticed some faint stomach-related hunger pangs, then looked at Charles’ shirt, still damp, badly wrinkled, …probably from twisting it to get the water out after rinsing it… and still with large, obvious stains. “Yes, but… we can eat out another time. You can just take me home tonight.” Did that sound like invitation for sex at my house…? Did I want it to?

Charles looked deflated, then furrowed his brow. “I, uh, already have reservations at the marina… and it is the closest place to eat. And you just said you’re hungry…”

“Yes, but, did you forget about your clothes?”

He glanced down. “Oh. That bad? Well, I can wear my windbreaker, zipped up. Would that be okay? It’s probably semi-casual, and they’re used to boaters, of course.”

“Are you sure you want to? I don’t mind, but…”

“Oh, no, I don’t mind either! And I’d rather eat soon, if you don’t mind.”

She nodded, “Okay, if you’re sure.”

Susan noticed Charles smiling broadly.

Wish you had been that hungry for me… No! No, I don’t! Lord, I need more help to keep my thoughts pure, and my body… tame. Dear God, can I not keep my mind off sex for five minutes?

The rest of the trip back was uneventful, with no touching and lots of small talk. Charles parked the boat back in the slip as the sun was setting and showed Susan how to lash the spring lines. After putting on his windbreaker, they took their things up to the office. Charles was walking normally again, and they turned in the keys and life jackets.

Charles told Sam that he’d gotten a cut on his head without giving any details, and asked them to charge any extra cleaning costs to his credit card. Sam agreed, and Susan and Charles walked over to the restaurant in the fading glow of twilight.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Susan asked with concern. “They probably wouldn’t mind cancelling the reservation under the circumstances.”

“Oh, no! I mean… yes, I’m sure I want to do this.” Charles said but then stopped abruptly and glanced down again. “Oh, I’m sorry, Susan. I should have realized you’d rather not be accompanied by someone in such a state…”

“What?! You think I…” Susan grabbed Charles’ arm and hooked her own arm in it. “Charles Parker, I am proud to be with you,” she said, and they finished the walk arm-in-arm.

Charles zipped his jacket all the way up as he held the front door for Susan.

“Ah, welcome to The Point Marina Restaurant, Mr. Parker,” the maître d’ said briskly as they entered. “My name is Jefferson. Just Jefferson. And this is Juliette, our lovely hostess. Everything is ready just as you requested, Mr. Parker, and the band has been practicing all afternoon. And Sam called from the marina and explained about your clothes. If you like, sir, we have some spare clothes we keep for vacationers who sometimes come a bit unprepared and want to dress up a little. I believe we have some things that will do very well for you, and we have a changing room, if you’d like to try them on.”

“Well, yes, that would be very nice, thank you. Susan… if you won’t mind if I excuse myself for a few minutes?” Charles asked.

“Oh, no, Charles,” Susan replied happily, “that’s fine!”

Jefferson leaned over to Charles and lowered his voice, but Susan still heard him say, “And your package arrived about an hour ago.”

Jefferson led Charles off to the changing room, and Juliette ushered Susan toward the back.

Band practicing… package arrived…? Charles has been busy planning again…

“Miss Susan, is it? Right this way, please, we have a very nice table set up for you on the patio. I’ll bring Mr. Parker out as soon as he’s changed.”

I wouldn’t change a thing about him, Susan thought lightly as she followed Juliette to the table, already set with a silk tablecloth, linen napkins, fine china, lead crystal water glasses, and ornate silverware.

“Is this table acceptable?” Juliette asked. “The tiki torches keep the bugs away in addition to providing romantic lighting.”

“Yes, this is very nice, thank you. It’s a beautiful view.” Romantic lighting… that didn’t use to sound like a risky thing.

“Your waiter will be right out with some appetizers,” Juliette said as she helped Susan with her chair, then excused herself.

Well, this really is nice. I’m surprised no one else is out here… the weather’s perfect. And it’s no wonder Charles wanted to come so badly, he must have planned out the whole thing… and he’s really good at planning. And that package… I wonder what that is? And the band practicing? I’ll bet he asked them to play a waltz tonight. Susan put her elbows on the table, put her chin on top of her folded hands, and sighed. Charles, I don’t want to disappoint you, but I’m afraid to dance with you… even at arm’s length. You’re simply too attractive for me to… control myself. Which brings me back to my earlier quandary… should I ask you to marry me? Well, I can’t imagine a nicer setting… but will that offend you? What if you say no? What do I do then? Oh, God… what would I do if Charles says he won’t marry me?! How can I go back to who I was before I met him?

Susan got up and walked over to a railing, looking out over the lake, as the waiter put a bread basket on the table and left.

A few minutes later, Charles came out in pleated khaki pants only a little too long, and white shirt that was a little too large, and a dark blue sport coat.

“Nice view,” Charles said.

Susan turned, smiled, and sighed. “Oh, Charles, aren’t the reflections of the lights on the lake beautiful?”

“Yes, those too,” he smiled back.

“Oh, Charles… thank you. And you look great!”

“Thank you, ma’am,” he responded. “Are we ready to dine?”

“Yes, let’s.”

Charles helped her with her chair and seated himself across from her as the waiter appeared and stood by the door, holding what appeared to be menus.

“How does salmon sound?” Charles asked.

“Fine, if they have it.”

Charles looked at the waiter and nodded. The waiter opened the door, and two additional staff came out with their meals.

Susan, with raised eyebrows, said, “Well, isn’t that handy? They just happened to have two salmon dinners ready…”

“Yes, how about that?”

The beautifully arranged plates were placed in front of Susan and Charles, and Susan looked at him.

“And if I hadn’t been in the mood for salmon?”

The extra staff retired inside as the waiter poured wine.

“Then we would have looked at the menus, you would have picked whatever you wanted, we’d have waited for it to be cooked, and you’d have never known about the salmon.”

The waiter retired as Susan stared at Charles and grinned, then started drumming the fingers of one hand on the table.

“A preplanned meal that had to be paid for even if not used…” Susan pointed out, “…a mysterious package… a band that’s been ‘practicing all afternoon’…”

“I may have gone a little overboard.”

“Well, at least I didn’t push you there.”

“Huh?” Charles tilted his head for a moment, then started to laugh.

Susan joined in his laughter, but his increased until he was howling and tears streamed down his face.

Well, that joke worked out well… would this be a good time to propose, once you calm down, but while you’re still in a good mood? She nervously toyed with her napkin. Will you say yes? You said you wanted to make some memories today… Uh, oh… I think your wound needs a little attention… and you probably didn’t mean for our memories to include a scar on your head…

“Perfect,” he finally gasped, “that joke was absolutely perfect! Oh, Susan, that was hilarious!”

Susan moved from her chair to a chair next to him and used her napkin to dab up a drop of blood forming on the cut on his head, as he studied her face.

“What are you grinning about?” Charles asked.

Susan laughed, “Well… I think we succeeded in making a memory.”

Charles laughed heartily again, then calmed down to a warm smile. “We certainly did make some memories today. Though I had something quite different in mind.”

“Oh? What did you have in mind?”

Charles slipped out of his chair, pushed it aside, and got down on one knee as he pulled a small ring box out of his jacket pocket and opened it facing her. “I love you with all my heart, Susan…” he said very nervously. “Will you marry me?”

Really?! You really want me? Tears clouded her vision as Susan gasped, then got down on her knees to hug him around the neck as tears streamed down her face once again. “Oh, Charles, Charles, I love you. I love you so much! I was praying you’d ask me. I was begging God for you to ask me!”

“Is that a yes, then?” Charles said in between kisses.

“Yes! Yes, I will marry you… anywhere, anytime… and the sooner the better! Very soon! Very, very soon!”

Susan removed the ring from the box, and Charles slipped it on her finger. A one-carat diamond was surrounded by a heart shape of tiny diamonds.

“It fits perfectly!” Susan said blissfully.

They stood up and hugged cozily.

“Are you serious about the very, very soon part?’ Charles asked. “Because I seriously don’t think I can keep my hands off you much longer.”

“I don’t want you to!” Susan blurted. “Let’s set a record, Charles! What’s the fastest we can possibly get married?” Susan asked.

“Are you serious? You don’t want time to invite friends and make plans to…”

“Serious. No friends. No plans. Just fast….” Susan interrupted. “You saw what I was like on that boat. I want to get your pants off so bad I can…” oops, “taste it” might have the wrong connotation… “Charles… I’ve never been this horny before. I… oh, I’m sorry. Marty and I used to use that kind of language. What’s a more polite word? Aroused? Excited?”

“Horny’s fine. That is, the language is fine. I’m used to that kind of language, too. As for being horny, that will only be okay if we can wait until we’re officially married. Let’s see, we’ll need a license, we’ll need a minister, and witnesses. Oh, are blood tests required in Tennessee?”

“They didn’t used to be. I don’t know about now. My pastor will know, though, he does weddings all the time,” Susan replied.

“Great, we can ask him first thing in the morning! Now, what else? We’ll have to wait for the license office to open on Monday, but if they don’t have a waiting period…”

“Then we could get married the day after tomorrow!” Susan exclaimed.

“Yeah, that’s the best case, but…”

“Yee-ha!!” Susan yelled before smothering Charles with kisses again.

After he got his lips loose for a moment, he commented, “You’re a woo-hoo girl and a yee-ha girl? You’re just full of delightful surprises!”

“Not as many surprises as you. But you just wait till I get your clothes off in two days, mister!”

“Oh, Susan…”

“What?! What’s wrong?” Susan asked.

“Your last comment will make it twice as hard for me to wait.”

‘Twice as hard?’ “Oh, Charles…” She said and kissed him again, pressing herself against the bulge in his crotch. Does that mean you don’t want to wait? Does your ring on my finger mean we can go ahead? I don’t think I can get pregnant… no, definitely not, it’s been years since I had a period…

Charles ended their kiss and pulled away. “Two days never seemed so far away,” he said. “But…”

He took Susan’s hand and led her back to her seat, then sat down.

“Susan, it’s really important to me that we not have sex until after we’re married. Is that okay?”

Oh, Father… that’s good, I know, but… it’s impossible! “Charles… I don’t know why, but… I’ve never wanted anything so… urgently as I want you. I get calmed down a little bit and I think I’m going to be okay, and then something insignificant sets me off again. I want to have sex with you so much it almost hurts.”

Charles sat back in his chair. “I didn’t realize this was so hard on you.”

She fidgeted with her fork. “Why is waiting so important to you?”

“Well, I didn’t wait before my first two marriages, and they… weren’t exactly perfect. I guess I thought since we’re both Christians now, I’d really like us to start our marriage right, in every way possible.”

Susan gulped. You’re right, of course. But I don’t want you to be. I want you inside me… tonight! But I also want to honor you, and this is important to you. And… I’m sad to think I thought of this last, but I want to honor God, too.“Charles…”

“Yes, my darling?”

“If you want me to wait… for sex… if I can, it will have to be with your help,” Susan pleaded.

“What can I do to help?” Charles asked.

The memories of their activities over the last few days that stirred her up flashed through her mind. “No hugging… no kissing… no dancing…”

“Okay, for your sake, until we get married, we won’t do any of those things,” Charles assured her.

“And don’t rub your hand on my back,” she added.

Charles cocked his head and furrowed his brow.

“On the boat,” she said.

Charles frowned.

“When we were sitting on the bed.”

No sign of recognition from Charles.

“You put your hand lightly on my back, to console me, I suspect, and you moved it up, then down, exactly once.” Susan elaborated.

Charles shook his head. “I’m sorry, I don’t remember that.”

Susan sighed heavily. “Charles, that touch… overwhelmed me. And you didn’t even notice.”

Susan lowered her voice and leaned forward. “Do you see how hard this is going to be? If you have any little slip-ups, just as small a thing as that, I’m going to rip your freaking clothes off and impale myself on you.”

Charles stared in surprise or shock, Susan couldn’t tell which.

I can’t believe I just said that! But… I’m glad I did. If you can’t handle that, better to find out right now. I’ll give you the ring back and I’ll never want to see you again. No! I don’t mean that! Oh, God, why doesn’t he say something?

Susan dropped her head and closed her eyes. My Lord, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me, Lord! I don’t even recognize myself anymore! I don’t know what to do. Please forgive me for my carnal desires!

“Susan?” a sweet voice drifted into her consciousness and she looked up.

Charles was looking at her intently. “Susan… tomorrow we’ll talk to your pastor. If he says there’s any reason we can’t get married in Knoxville on Monday morning, we’ll go to the airport straight from Church and fly to Las Vegas and go straight to a wedding chapel.”

Susan looked at him with great appreciation as she nodded. “Okay, then.”

They spent several more moments just looking into each other’s eyes.

“Oh, I almost forgot. I have an engagement gift for you.” He started reaching into a pants pocket.

Interesting that you have it down there where you’ve also got a wedding present for me. Susan gave her head a shake. “What? What is it?”

“Well, it’s an engagement gift because you said yes. Otherwise it would have just been a present for no reason.” He pulled her keys out of his pocket and gave them to her. “Your car’s working.”

“Wha… my car?!” Her face lit up. “What…? How could you do that? They said it would take a week!”

“They didn’t know what they were talking about, as I suspected. Or worse, they may have been trying to knowingly cheat you,” he replied, and then grinned again. “You don’t know what kind of work I’ve done for a living do you?”

“Um, no, come to think of it, that’s one of the many things we haven’t talked about yet. Why…? Oh, something to do with cars?”

He laughed.

Oh, I love to hear you laugh!

“Yeah, something… since high school,” he said. “Started learning how to work on them then and stayed with it. I’m a pretty good mechanic, truth be told.”

“Oh, well you ought to be able to find a good job quickly, then. Good mechanics are hard to find,” she said.

“It can be hard to find competent mechanics, and it can be hard to find honest mechanics,” he said as Jefferson came out on the patio, followed by the waiter. “And it’s especially hard to find mechanics that are competent and honest.”

“Is everything alright with the meal, Mr. Parker?” Jefferson asked with concern. “If not, we’ll…”

Susan and Charles laughed as Charles stood up and patted him on the back. “Actually, Jefferson, we haven’t even tasted it yet. I was too busy proposing, and Susan has blessed me by saying yes!”

Jefferson clapped his hands in delight and the waiter smiled with relief.

“That’s wonderful news, Mr. Parker, wonderful news! And when you do get ready to eat, we can warm up your food, or prepare you new meals, whatever you wish.”

“Susan?” Charles asked.

Susan took a bite of her salmon, and nodded as she swallowed. “Yes, it would be nice to warm this up a bit.”

The waiter quickly removed the plates and took them inside.

“Would you like us to move the band out here, Mr. Parker,” Jefferson asked, “or perhaps just open some of the windows to let more of the music out here?”

“No thank you, Jefferson,” Charles replied. “We’ve decided we won’t be dancing tonight after all. But whatever you usually pay the band, double it tonight and charge it to me. Give them my thanks, and tell them we’ll be back, so make sure they keep practicing some three-quarter time songs.”

Jefferson bowed politely. “Yes, sir, Mr. Parker. That’s very generous of you sir. I’m sure they’ll appreciate that very much!”

Susan looked shocked.

“Now if you don’t mind, I think we’d like to be alone again.”

“Yes, sir! And our heartfelt congratulations to you both!” Jefferson said as he made a rapid retreat.

“Charles…!” Susan exclaimed quietly. “You…”

“How about if we stretch our legs while we wait for dinner again?” Charles asked.

Are you crazy? Paying the band like that? We may need that money to pay for plane tickets!

Susan got up without speaking and started walking with him toward the fence. Do you have an uncontrollable urge to spend? Is that your kryptonite? “Charles, I know this is a very special occasion, but paying the band double when you’re out of work? Buying a huge diamond ring? You may have some money from selling your house, dear, but you’ve got to be more careful with your savings.”

She frowned. “And another thing… they offered to move the band outside just for us. And Jefferson seems to be treating us like royalty. Do you have any idea why?”

“Well, yes, probably. I paid a lot extra to reserve the entire patio tonight, and that might have given them the impression that I’m a wealthy customer.”

“Oh, Charles! Well, what’s done is done, and you certainly made this an extraordinary day, an unbelievable day, stock full of memories, but from now on, no pretending to be rich, okay?”

Charles nodded. “Okay, no pretending to be rich.”

“Good,” Susan said, “I feel a little guilty bringing it up after you’ve proposed, but the sooner you find out, the better. My finances are in bad shape, Charles. I inherited my house, but Marty talked me into taking out a mortgage on it, and now I’m not sure I’m going to be able to make the payments. If something doesn’t change, I may lose the house.”

“I see,” said Charles, “Well, I’m glad you told me now. And I have something I need to tell you, and I feel a little guilty about for not telling you before asking you to marry me.”

The waiter returned with the dinner and Susan and Charles paused their conversation as they returned to the table. When he removed the covers and they each tasted the food, Susan smiled and nodded, and Charles thanked him and dismissed him. They both started eating with relish.

“Okay… so what’s your big secret?” Susan asked.

Charles replied between bites, “Have you ever heard of Parker Automotive Centers?”

Susan shook her head. ‘Parker’ automotive?

“There aren’t any in Tennessee, not yet, anyway, but there are sixty-three, with most of them in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. I’m Parker.”

Susan stopped chewing and looked quizzical.

“I built the first one, I turned it into a franchise, and I’m still the largest shareholder. When I said I was out of work, that was technically true, but misleading. I’m sort of semi-retired.”

Susan’s eyebrows went higher and higher. Largest shareholder… sixty-three stores… semi-retired…?

“My interest in the company is probably worth at least eighteen million dollars,” Charles concluded.

Susan dropped her fork onto the table. “That word… between ‘eighteen’ and ‘dollars’…”

Charles was wolfing down more salmon and replied with his mouth full, “Million.”

“Million,” Susan repeated.

Charles nodded.

Susan’s mind raced. “…You wanted to ask me to marry you and get my answer before I knew you were rich.”

Charles nodded as he chewed, looking carefully at Susan.

Susan nodded slowly as her mind whirled. …a beautiful woman… must have been fighting men off left and right… your smile makes my heart beat faster… I love being in your presence… God changed me, Susan… I have become in his eyes like someone bringing contentment… burned into my heart… you’re part of me… like you were always meant to be… you’re part of me… delicious tinge of green… carried up the stairs to a bedroom… they should marry… dancing while the world fades away…

“Susan…? Are you okay?” Charles asked again.

Hmm? I feel a little faint, but that’s better than being uncontrollably horny. “Yes, Charles, if I’m not dreaming, I’m okay.”

“You are a dream, but you’re not dreaming, sweetheart.”

Sweetheart! I’m his sweetheart! I’d better not be dreaming!


An hour and a half later, after finishing dinner, taking a short moonlight stroll, and driving home, Charles pulled his car into Susan’s driveway. He put it in park but left the engine running and they looked at each other happily, but wearily.

Charles glanced at the clock. “It’s only ten-thirty. Feels a lot later than that.”

“It’s all the excitement today…” Susan commented. “You look exhausted. Are you sure you’re okay to drive the rest of the way home?”

“Uh-huh,” Charles replied. “You look like you’re a little on the sleepy side yourself.”

“Thank God for that. I don’t know how I’d get any sleep tonight if I weren’t exhausted from all the stimulation.”

Susan started to lean toward Charles.

“No kissing,” Charles recited.

“No kissing,” Susan confirmed, leaning back. “And no hugging.”

“And no dancing.”

Susan laughed, “Definitely need a rule against dancing in the car.”

“I love you, Susan.”

“I love you, Charles.”

“What time shall I pick you up for Church in the morning?”

“Umm…” Susan struggled to think it out. “Nine-thirty? I like to get there early.”

“I will be here will bells on at nine-thirty.”

Susan opened the car door and got out, then leaned over. “I love you.”

“I love you.”

“In two days, I’m going to give you a much better idea of how much I love you,” Susan said.

“A day and a half!” Charles corrected.

“Mmm… Good night, my love.”

“Sweet dreams, precious one!”

Susan walked slowly to her front door, looking over her shoulder several times. She unlocked the front door, stood in the doorway and waved goodnight to Charles. He waved back, and she closed the door and locked it, listening through the door to the sound of his car driving off. She leaned against it and sighed contentedly as her thumb played with her new ring. Oh, sweet Jesus… Lover of my soul… oh, wow… boy, have you surprised me! I never even imagined that you had anything this wonderful planned for me. Charles is so perfect for me! Thank you so much, Lord! Thank you so much!


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