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Irish Spring

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Irish Spring

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Copyright (c) 2000, John Jameson. All rights reserved.

Notice: This story contains depictions of people having sex. If
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One gray autumn day, shortly after my forty-eighth birthday, I
decided to take advantage of a lull in my work schedule to visit
the St. Louis Art Museum in Forest Park. I thought I'd see what
was new there as well as revisit a few old friends like George
Caleb Bingham, one of my favorite early Missouri painters.
Besides, the Museum is a great place to people watch and I enjoy
seeing how people react to the works on display. I was sitting
on a bench in the Egyptian collection area, smiling at a group of
what looked like fifth graders on a field trip, when I sensed
someone else settling onto the other end of the marble bench.

"Sure, aren't you glad you can just watch that without having to
ride herd on them?" I heard a contralto voice ask quietly.

I turned to look at my fellow people watcher and almost forgot
about the school kids. My bench mate was a young woman (I
guessed her age at about thirty-five, which is young from where I
sit) who looked like a poster-girl from the Irish Tourism Board.
She had creamy pale skin, with the lightest dusting of freckles
across the bridge of her nose, long, dark red hair and emerald
green eyes. Her smile, as she looked half at me and half at the
school group clustered around an ancient sarcophagus, seemed to
illuminate not just her face, but the whole room. Dirty old man that I am, I let my eyes wander briefly downward and was pleased
to note the gracefully lush swell of her breasts beneath a pale
gray fine gauge turtleneck. Her long slender legs were encased in
opaque tights of the same color emerging from a mid-thigh skirt
in a darker gray wool. The tweed jacket over the turtleneck not
only completed a perfect ensemble for a cool autumn afternoon in
St. Louis, but it looked almost as though we had arrived there
together. I was wearing a similar jacket, a white Oxford shirt with a wool tie almost exactly the color of her turtleneck, and
dark gray flannel trousers.

"That wouldn't be a hint of County Galway I hear now, would it?"
I asked with what I hoped was a welcoming grin. To my delight,
she turned the full force of that brilliant smile on me and I
felt the temperature in the marble hall rise at least five
degrees.

"Och, now, haven't I been uncovered for the immigrant I am?" she
chuckled. "The Irish part is easy, but aren't I wonderin' how
you know I'm from Galway City itself?"

I used a little of my limited stock of Irish Gaelic to extend a
proper greeting, apologizing for my terrible accent. "Wouldn't
it have something to do with the fact that my teacher in the
Gaelic has that same Galway accent?" I replied with a chuckle of
my own. Forgetting the surroundings, we spent a couple of
minutes with her assuring me my accent was just fine, "for a
friggin' yank," and asking where I was studying Gaelic and, more
to the point, why?

I introduced myself and learned her name was Anne Siobhan Leary
and she had recently moved to St. Louis to teach and complete her
doctorate in Computer Science at Washington University. I
explained I was studying Gaelic from a CD-ROM-based course in
preparation for a long-anticipated visit to the land of my
ancestors, which I'd promised myself for my fiftieth birthday.
Then I handed her one of my business cards to prove that I was,
indeed, an information technology consultant.

The string of coincidences seemed entirely too improbable to be
mere chance, we agreed jokingly, and I'm still pretty sure that
was all I had in mind when I invited her to join me for lunch in
the Museum's cafe. When we saw the size of the crowd, and
learned that it would be a twenty-minute wait for an undersized
table where we could eat tiny little sandwiches and sip tea, we
needed a new plan. Annie asked if I could recommend someplace
else where we could get a little more to eat--if I wasn't in too
great a hurry, she hastened to add, explaining that she had no
classes to meet on Tuesdays. When I told her I had given myself
a holiday and asked if she'd been to John D. McGurk's in the
Soulard neighborhood, her brilliant smile returned.

"Wasn't I in there Monday last?" she answered. "Some of me
colleagues recommended it, but we were just there for the drinks
and music. It seems a grand place, though."

Anne had walked the few blocks from the Washington U. campus to
the Museum, so there would be no need for her to try to follow me
through St. Louis traffic. We continued talking as I wound the
Cherokee through the park and down Hampton to Interstate 44 for
the drive to 12th and Russell.

"I know it's not a true Irish pub," I told her as we swung into a
parking place that was miraculously vacant a few doors from
McGurk's, "but the food is good and the people are friendly."
Anne's grin widened when Kelly, the regular day bartender, called
out a "Hi, Pat!" as we waited to be seated.

"Isn't it pretty clear that you're no stranger to the place
yourself?" she laughed.

"Well, I don't exactly live here," I explained, "but it is one of
my favorite places to entertain clients." I didn't want this
lovely young Irishwoman thinking I was some lecherous drunk.
Although I won't deny that I was attracted to her, my habits and
the age gap between us kept me thinking in terms of friendship
rather than romance. Still, she was a lovely young woman with a
sense of humor, who not only spoke my professional language, but
also could be a great help in planning my celebratory trip to
Ireland. I was determined to get to know her better without
frightening her off by acting like some over the hill would-be
Lothario.

We were shown to a table next to the lit fireplace in the middle
dining room. The extra warmth was welcome as the autumn weather
was definitely taking over--the outside temperature already
dropping even at noon. Aside from the additional warmth, the
flickering firelight reflected from Anne's coppery tresses and
danced in the depths of those emerald eyes, making her look like
some pre-Christian Celtic goddess in modern dress.

I ordered the Russell Street Rueben (the best Rueben sandwich in
St. Louis) and a pint of Murphy's stout; Annie decided to give
the Irish stew a try and assured me the Murphy's wasn't bad at
all, at all, for having made the trip all the way from Ireland.
A quick question revealed that she adored sauteed mushrooms, so I
asked Connie, our server, to bring us the appetizer while we
waited for lunch. Annie let out a muttered "Jaysus!" when she
saw the heap of mushrooms, sauteed in butter and vermouth, that
someone at McGurk's considers an appetizer. One bite on her
part, though, and I could tell I'd met a fellow addict--this
plate would be going back to the kitchen clean.

We chatted over lunch, which included another pint of Murphy's.
I learned she was actually thirty-seven, and while she'd been
engaged, briefly, at twenty-two, there was no one waiting for her
back at UCG (University college Galway); nor had she entered into
any relationships with any of her colleagues at Wash U. She came
from a fair-sized family, the youngest of three girls and four
boys, and herself the third to emigrate from Ireland to the
States. She had an older sister in Chicago and her eldest
brother lived in the San Francisco Bay area. Her parents still
lived in Galway, just a few miles from where my
great-great-grandfather Powell had grown up before leaving
Ireland behind at the age of seventeen.

I told her about my kids, Patrick and Caitlin, the latter belying
the traces of Welsh, Scots and German in her blood and seemingly
an Irish matriarch in training. We talked about my small but
successful consulting business and I explained how I sometimes
used subcontractors for specific engagements. When she learned
the hourly rates I paid for those subcontractors, she made me
promise to keep her in mind if something came up that would fit
into her other commitments. I gave her my email address so that
she could send me a copy of her resume. When we finished lunch
we moved over to Kelly's domain and had a Black and Tan apiece.
I love to watch the way a skillful bartender like Kelly pours the
stout over the spoon and into the half glass of ale so that the
two liquids remain clearly divided in the glass.

About three o'clock, I drove Annie back to the university campus.
As she got out of the Cherokee, she leaned over and kissed my
cheek. "I don't recall when I've had a grander time, Pat," she
smiled. "Thank you for lunch and for the company--and don't be
forgettin' me if a project should come up where you could use a
daft Irishwoman, ya hear?"

I laughed and told her I might have to include "daft Irishwoman
required" as part of my pre-proposal checklist from then on and
we parted with a promise to keep in touch. I drove home a little
wistfully, certain that so young and lovely an Irishwoman, no
matter how daft, would have much better things to do than sitting
around exchanging stories with a middle aged businessman. I
figured I'd soon have an email from her with her resume and that
would be the last contact I'd have with the lovely lass from
Galway until a project came up that I could subcontract to her.

I was surprised the next day when I checked my email and read the
cover note Annie had used for her resume. She had added a note
after the formal business part to ask if I'd be interested in
meeting on Tuesday afternoons as long as my business commitments
didn't interfere. "You could show me all the marvelous places in
and around St. Louis," she wrote, "and in return I could give you
private tutoring in the Gaelic at the same time." She gave me her
telephone numbers on campus and at home and told me to call
before Monday night if I was interested. I didn't even hesitate;
I picked up the phone and called her office number.

The next Tuesday I picked her up outside Simon Hall, where she
was waiting at 11:30 as planned. She was wearing jeans (not the
baggy ones currently in fashion, but tighter, revealing the
shapeliness of her long legs); a UCG sweatshirt and the latest in
Nike cross trainers. I asked her if there was anyplace in
particular she wanted to see. She informed me I was to be her
tour guide to St. Louis and she would rely on my judgment as to
what places we should visit, just as she would be in charge of my
education in Gaelic.

Since it was a beautiful autumn day, with clear skies and mild
breezes, I decided on the Missouri Botanical Garden, known
locally as Shaw's Garden for the English expatriate whose land it
had been. Annie was positively delighted as we strolled along
the pathways and took in the colors of the fall foliage. It was
the Climatron, though, the big geodesic dome designed by
Buckminster Fuller, that left her momentarily speechless. She was
like a child, walking past bunches of bananas ripening on the
tree in the tropical warmth and humidity, her luminous green eyes
taking in the profusion of tropical plant life around us.

"Glory be to God," she told me in a stage whisper, "it's a fockin
rain forest!"

I laughed and took her hand, guiding her along some of the narrow
pathways. When we emerged into the coolness of a St. Louis
October afternoon, Annie moved a little closer to me until the
initial chill wore off. Her hand remained in mine as we continued
to explore the Garden in autumn, from the backyard gardening demo
area to the charm of the Japanese garden. For my part, the
warmth of her hand in mine dispelled any chill the afternoon
might have held. As we were leaving late in the afternoon, I'd
already had over an hour of drills in Gaelic and Annie had fallen
in love with one of St. Louis's more charming institutions--so
much so that she insisted in stopping at the membership desk on
our way out and then going to the gift shop for a Shaw's Garden
sweatshirt.

"If I'm to be a St. Louisan," she informed me when she saw me
smiling, "then 'tis only right that I support some of the area's
cultural institutions, isn't it?"

"As you no doubt noticed when we arrived," I replied as we walked
back to the Cherokee, "I'm a member myself, so I'm hardly in a
position to criticize your enthusiasm, even if I were inclined
to."

It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, but already there was a hint
of evening coming on and a bit of chill in the air. We'd had a
small bite to eat at the Garden, but my stomach was telling me
that it was time for more. "How about finding someplace for an
early dinner and getting in ahead of the rush?"

"Wasn't someone telling me about some of the fine asian restaurants in this part of town?" Annie looked at me and smiled.
"Or maybe someplace on this Hill you were talking about this
afternoon--I'll leave the choice up to you."

I decided that the Hill (home of Yogi Berra and Joe Garagiola and
still the center of Italian life in St. Louis) was a good idea,
especially as we were only a couple of blocks from its eastern
edge. The Hill is a sprawling neighborhood in southwest St.
Louis that is home to some of the finest Italian restaurants in
America. Given that we were both casually dressed, I opted for
the closest, if not the fanciest, restaurant and introduced Annie
to Rigazzi's. We followed the hostess up the narrow stairs to
one of the upstairs dining rooms and I ordered us each a fishbowl
of Budweiser.

"If you're going to be a St. Louisan," I told her, "you'd better
get used to the local brew. Bud may not be Murphy's, but it's
the one beer most likely to be on draft anywhere in town, as the
Anheuser-Busch headquarters is here."

Annie laughed at the size of the glasses we were served; even by
Galway standards, a Rigazzi's fishbowl is a big beer. We drank
them as we looked over the menu, then had another over toasted
ravioli (another St. Louis trademark) and calimari. She ate her
lasagna ravenously, and drank a couple glasses of Chianti. This
was no shrinking violet, pretending she had no appetite simply
because she was dining with a man. The thought arose unbidden --
were her other appetites as strong and as lustily satisfied? I
told my overactive imagination that it could take the night off
and tried to concentrate on the meal and the conversation.

By the time we were done eating it was almost eight o'clock. I
hadn't even noticed the passage of time listening to her stories of growing up and going to school in Galway. When we got back
into the Cherokee it was beginning to get dark.

"Would you ever mind," she asked hesitantly, "driving me all the
way to me apartment? Me fockin car is in the bloody shop," she
explained, "and I have to confess I'm not all that comfortable
walking home from the campus in the dark."

"I'm glad you said something," I told her. "As much as I hate to
admit it, much of St. Louis isn't safe to walk at night,
especially for a young, pretty woman who's alone."

Annie gave me her address, a house just a few blocks west on
Forsyth from the Wash U. campus, which had been subdivided into
apartments years earlier. When I pulled the Cherokee up to the
curb, she again kissed my cheek and thanked me for a wonderful
afternoon and evening and then disappeared behind the ornate
front door of the old house.

The pattern continued over the next several months as I
introduced her to the Zoo, the Science Center, the Botanical
Garden's Arboretum out in Gray Summit and the wine country around
Hermann and Augusta. My command of Gaelic was steadily
improving, as was my accent, she assured me. ("Sure, won't ya be
sounding like a fockin native by the time ya go there?") Each
Tuesday evening we'd have dinner at a different restaurant and
then I'd drive her home, where she'd leave me with her thanks and
a kiss on the cheek. One Tuesday in early March I chose
Tucker's, just a couple of doors from McGurk's. When we were
leaving, Annie asked if I'd mind stopping in for a wee jar, as we
were so close, and I readily agreed. We miraculously found seats
at the bar, where Kelly was presiding--getting in some overtime,
she explained. I introduced Annie and Kelly smiled as she
brought us each a glass of Jameson 1780.

"You're a lucky woman, Anne Leary," Kelly laughed as she handed
Annie her glass. "More than a couple of the regulars here, not
to mention one or two of the staff, have tried to catch his eye
and failed. I think he made a pretty good choice himself,
though," she confided with a wink in my direction before turning
to handle another order.

"As soon as she's free again," I tried to tell Annie, "I'll
straighten her out, I promise you." I didn't want Kelly getting
the wrong impression, but even more I didn't want Annie to think
I'd been running around telling people that she and I were
romantically involved. Annie put her hand on my arm before I
could try to attract Kelly's attention.

"And just exactly what is it," she asked me with a grin," that
you're going to straighten her out about?" She laughed as I'm
sure I blushed and tried to explain that I hadn't been trotting
around St. Louis telling people I was dating my Gaelic tutor.
"And do you think for a moment, Patrick Ryan, that she doesn't
see your eyes when ya look at me--or mine, for that matter?" It
was Annie's turn to blush. "I suppose me stopping in here last
week and asking her a whole fockin pile of questions about you
may have added to her impression." I saw a shadow cross her face
as doubt crept in. "If your lass there and I are both laboring
under a misunderstanding of your intentions..."

"No, Anne Siobhan Leary," I replied, my hand closing gently on
hers, "you are not. I think you're one of the most amazing women
I've ever met, as well as the loveliest." She was blushing even
more now and I saw Kelly out of the corner of my eye, not so
subtly eavesdropping. "It's just that I know you've been dating
men your own age and I never dreamed..."

It was her turn to cut me off as she leaned close and pressed her
lips softly to mine then sat up straight and looked at me. "And
do you think I give a fock that you're a few years older than I
am? You heard Kelly--I'd better get me claim in before someone
else does."

"Kelly," I told her as that grinning lass stood by, ostensibly
wiping down the bar where we sat, "swallowed the Blarney Stone on
her own trip to Ireland."

It occurred to me that she and Annie were about the same age and
I could only imagine the conversation they'd had about me.
Regardless, Annie leaned close to me as we sipped our whiskeys
and I wasn't about to object. She and Kelly talked at times as
though I weren't even present; at one point Kelly came around the
bar and hugged her, then kissed me on the cheek to the
accompaniment of whistles and catcalls from some of her
coworkers.

"You be nice to this girl," she commanded me sternly, "or you'll
have to find yourself another bar."

When we left McGurk's and I drove Annie back to her apartment,
she looked at me as I pulled up to the curb out front, and I
realized she had been strangely silent through the whole drive,
while I had been lost in my own thoughts. Yes, I admitted to
myself, this young woman excited me in ways I hadn't felt in
years. It went beyond the physical attraction, considerable as
that was. Despite the gulf between our ages, we spoke the same
language and had shared many of the same experiences. Annie
would never really understand the Vietnam era, but so what? I
would never have her ingrained understanding of the Troubles,
which had plagued Ireland for so much of the twentieth century.
The only people whose opinions mattered to me were my kids, and I
was confident she would charm them as thoroughly as she had
charmed me.

What if it went beyond romance, though? In spite of myself, I had
to think about what it would be like to be married to Anne
Siobhan Leary. It would never be boring, of that I was certain.
Nor was she likely to become the constant complainer my ex-wife
had been since shortly after Caitlin's birth. This woman was
definitely not the passive-aggressive type.

"What the hell are you doing thinking about marrying this girl?"
The voice in my head was one I hadn't heard since my divorce. It
was the doubter--that little part deep down that after twenty
years of marriage had begun to tell me that perhaps my wife was
right and everything that was wrong in our lives was my fault.
"You swore you wouldn't remarry, remember? And even if you
hadn't, you haven't even properly kissed this girl; much less
have any idea what she's like with her clothes off. God knows
you haven't shown any signs of being the Great stud of the
Western World." I did my best to suppress the voice, though it
was right on at least one count; it was way too early to worry
about marriage.

"I don't suppose you'd want to come in for a cup of tea, would
ya?" Annie put her hand on my forearm and I could see concern in
her lovely green eyes. "I think we need to have a talk right now
so there are no misunderstandings between us--that's the very
last thing I want."

I switched off the engine and followed Annie to the door through
which I'd so often watched her vanish before. She took my hand
and led me up the stairs and I admit to being somewhat surprised
at what she had achieved with a small one-bedroom apartment. The
living - dining room, though small, didn't seem cramped with the
way she had managed to integrate a loveseat, wing chair and
entertainment center at one end of the room, overlooking the
street, with a small dinette at the opposite end by the tiny
kitchen and the computer work center in between. No one was
going to be dancing any jigs or reels in the little bit of open
space remaining, but the impression was of coziness rather than
clutter. The kitchen itself was bright and airy, even if it was
far from being a gourmet chef's dream. The available wall space
in both rooms was covered with prints (mainly Impressionists),
posters from Galway and other parts of Ireland. There was also a
workmanlike calendar and class planner near the desk. The desk
itself was the one sign of disarray in a space that was otherwise
pin-neat. Since I've long had a small plaque in my office that
reads "A clean desk is the sign of a sick mind," that exception
didn't bother me in the least.

It wasn't long before Annie emerged from the kitchen bearing a
bright earthenware tea set on a wooden tray and nodded toward the
seating area. I took one side of the loveseat after she'd set
the tray on the coffee table and seated herself on the other
half. She already observed during our outings that I take my tea
black and sweet and the brew she served me was nearly strong
enough to bend the spoon-- just the way I like it. She served
the tea in hefty earthenware mugs of bright primary colors--no
dainty china here, this was for serious tea drinkers.

"I don't want you to feel pressured into taking a step you're not
ready for," Annie told me quietly. "While everything Kelly said
about me is true, I know you must be accustomed to women a great
deal more experienced and sophisticated than I am. If you want to
keep our relationship right where it is, I'll march meself into
McGurk's and tell her that we were mistaken about your feelings
for me." I could feel the warmth of the hand she rested on my
knee even through the heavy denim of my jeans. "I just hope I
haven't focked things up altogether so that you'll not be wanting
to continue our Tuesdays together." The poor woman looked close
to tears, and I felt all my doubts fading into the distance.

"Anne Siobhan Leary," I replied in the sternest voice I could
muster at the moment, "let that be the last time I hear you
apologizing for paying me such a marvelous compliment." As the
import of my words reached her, I saw that thousand-watt smile
returning to her face. "It's me that's been a nine-fingered
shitehawk for not telling you sooner how I feel about you." Annie
giggled at my West of Ireland accent, though she also took my
hand in both of hers as I continued. "Your friend Kelly is a
wise young woman. She saw what I hadn't even admitted to
myself--that over these past weeks and months I've found myself
more and more attracted to you, and not only as a bright, witty
and charming companion for Tuesday afternoons." My fingertips
caressed her cheek as my thumb traced the curve of her smile.
When Annie kissed my thumb, I felt goose bumps such as I hadn't
known in ages.

Slowly, like two teenagers on their first date, our lips met.
The kiss back at McGurk's had been a mere peck. This one seemed
to go on forever and Annie's lips were incredibly soft and sweet
against mine. Then, with a sigh, her lips parted and her tongue
met mine, shyly at first, then with increasing urgency. Annie's
fingers brushed back through my hair until I felt her nails
lightly grazing the short hairs at the nape of my neck. I truly
wasn't conscious of slipping my hand under her sweatshirt to
caress her firm, round breast until Annie herself reached under
the sweatshirt to release the front catch of her bra so that my
fingers could seek out her bare nipple, already hard and swollen.
As I realized how quickly things were moving, I broke the kiss
and sat back, withdrawing my hand from its delightful
explorations.

"Annie," I gasped, "I didn't mean to act like some horny
teenager..."

Annie grasped the hand that had been caressing her breast and
kissed the fingertips which had been teasing her nipple. She
took a deep, shuddering breath and looked into my eyes. "Pat,
darlin'," she panted softly, "would ya ever do me one wee favor?"

"Woman," I replied in my fake Irish brogue, "wouldn't I do
anything if it would keep that marvelous glow in your lovely
green eyes?"

"Then take me back to me bedroom right now," she giggled, "and
fock me silly."

"You don't have to make love to me tonight if you feel it's too
soon," I told her. "You've already captured my heart, Annie, and
I'm not going to run away."

"I'm a grown woman, not some trembling virgin," Annie replied
before kissing me hungrily. "I was ready for you to make love to
me the day we met, you sweet, wonderful man. Now I feel like
we've got years for slow, tender lovemaking--tonight I'm a horny
teenager meself and I just want us to fock each other
unconscious."

She rose from the loveseat holding my hand and pulled me to my
feet. The sweatshirt landed on her desk chair after she peeled
it over her head while leading me to the bedroom. The white lace
bra fell to the floor and Annie turned, her marvelously firm,
full breasts drawing me on as she flipped the wall switch and a
small lamp next to her queen-size four poster bed softly lit her
bedroom. I watched as she turned down the quilt and faced me. I
took her in my arms, my lips and tongue caressing down her arched
neck until I could feel her pulse against my tongue at the base
of her throat. Annie shivered delicately in my arms and
hurriedly unbuttoned my shirt.

Then it was my turn to shiver as she tore my shirt off and pulled
up my tee shirt, her soft lips and hot, wet tongue teasing my
nipples even as I pulled the tee shirt over my head and tossed it
toward a small upholstered chair in the corner of the room.
Almost without thinking, my hands reached down between us, opened
the button on her jeans, drew the zipper down and one hand
slipped into the opening. My fingertips encountered
close-cropped curls and then bare flesh, warm and damp with the
evidence of her arousal.

"I spent an hour shaving meself for you this morning," she moaned
against my chest. "I was determined then that you'd spend
tonight in me bed; I just hope it doesn't put you off."

"Far from it," I assured her as my questing fingertips brushed
between her slick, engorged lips and over her clitoral hood,
drawing another moan from deep inside her. "It makes me all the
more determined to find out how long it will take you to come in
my mouth."

"Oh Jaysus!" Annie shuddered and began tearing at my belt buckle
even as she was working her feet out of her Nikes. "And me more
determined than ever to find out if that tongue of yours is as
talented in me cunt as it is in conversation."

I kicked off the L. L. Bean moccasins I was wearing and knelt to
pull her jeans over her slender hips. All the while the scent of
her pussy and the dampness evident through the lace French-cut
panties that matched her bra were making my throbbing erection
strain even harder against my jeans. When I drew her panties down to join her jeans around her ankles; Annie steadied herself
with her hands on my shoulders and stepped out of both. She
squealed with delight when my tongue flickered over the top of
her slit--briefly caressing the hood of her clit as it peeked out
from between her smooth lips. Only a small patch of fire-red
pubic hair remained at the base of her belly, the rest, as she'd
said, shaved cleanly. I stood and pushed her gently backwards
until she sat on the edge of the bed. Annie stopped me long
enough to yank down my zipper and shove my jeans and boxers down,
bending to tease the swollen head of my cock with her hot little
tongue before she slid back onto the bed.

"Now, darlin'," she gasped, "I want that lovely tongue in me
pussy--I warn ya, though, that with the way you've turned me on
you're in serious danger of drowning if you're not careful."

"I'll risk it," I laughed as I slid both hands under her slender
ass and lifted her hips from the bed. Annie's long legs slid
over my shoulders, her heels caressing my back and pulling me
closer as her fingers tangled in my hair. She moaned loudly and
opened herself to me with the fingers of one hand. I could see
the other caressing her breasts and lightly pinching her own
nipples before I dragged my tongue slowly from the bottom of her
slit and up its sweet length to brush, feather-lightly, over her
engorged clit. Annie gasped out my name as my warm, wet tongue
snaked between her slick, swollen lips and tasted the sweetness
of her nectar. My tongue dipped in and out of her hot, wet pussy like a hummingbird feeding from a honeysuckle blossom, and then I
slowly entered her with my index finger and swirled the tip of my
tongue upward and over the hood of her clit. She began to rock
her hips against my mouth as my middle finger joined the first
and they began to twist in and out of the hot confines of her
pussy, my tongue fluttering lightly over her throbbing clit. I
turned my wrist and curled my fingers, seeking out her G-spot,
and began to lap softly at the swollen bud of her clit. Her
heels pressed into the muscles of my back as she arched and
thrust her pussy against my face, her body shaking. I felt an
increased flow of her warm honey flooding over my thrusting
fingers.

"Oh GOD!" she screamed. "Just like that, me darlin' lover! Sweet
Jaysus, you're goin' to make me..." And then she went rigid for a
moment before a huge shudder shook her entire body. "Oh,
yesssssssssss!" I continued to lap softly at her flowing cunt even as her slender legs relaxed and slipped from my shoulders
and Annie collapsed onto the bed. Finally I slid up beside her
and saw the way her eyes glittered when she licked droplets of
her own juices from my lips and chin.

"You know, don't you, that I'll never let you go now?" Annie
kissed me hungrily and drew me closer, one long leg draped over
my hip. "I suppose there's no need for me to ask if I should
keep up with me shavin' now, is there?" She giggled, then moaned
softly as a slow movement of her hips pressed the rigid shaft of
my cock against her still-sensitive clit. "Jaysus Murphy, how I
want to fock you right now ... but I suppose after a licking like
that one, it's me that should be returnin' the favor, though I'm
afraid I'm not nearly as talented in that way as yourself."

"Annie, my love," I replied solemnly between soft, sweet kisses,
"it's not a barter system. If you're not comfortable ..."

"Don't you be puttin' words in me mouth now! I didn't say I
didn't want to taste that lovely cock I feel pressing against me
pussy--I just wish I had your talent. Won't you be finding out
soon enough if me skills in that regard don't quite measure up to
me enthusiasm for the sport?" Her fingers wrapped around me,
stroking up and down my rigid length ever so gently and making me
just that much more insane with desire. "Won't I be doin' me
best to drive you as crazy as you did me, and worryin' that
you'll find me clumsy?"

"I doubt you could ever be clumsy, love, but remember that it's
tremendously exciting for a man to find that his lover is as
excited about giving that gift as he is about receiving it."

"Oh," she replied with a throaty chuckle, "I'm not a total novice
at this, it's just that I feel like a student pilot about to take
your man Neil Armstrong for a ride, if ya take me meaning."

"Woman," I laughed, "you'll have me believing your blarney if you
keep talking like that."

"Then perhaps," she replied as her tongue flicked out to tease my
nipples, "I should find something else to do with me mouth ... "

No more patient than I had been, her soft lips and fiery tongue
traced their way around my nipples and down my belly, though she
paused long enough to raise herself up and let one hard nipple
glide down the underside of my shaft, making me shiver with
delight. Her tongue danced softly around the crown of my cock
and then suddenly I was arching my back as the wet heat of her
mouth engulfed my cock, taking me a little deeper each time her
mouth moved down on me until her forehead was bumping against my
belly. Her tongue never stopped swirling and dancing around and
along my cock ... she managed to snake it out to lick my balls
with the head of my cock firmly lodged in her throat, which
nearly destroyed my sanity altogether. My fingers twined in her
coppery curls as her mouth moved on me faster. Soon her rapid
rhythmic sucking was having the desired effect, as I felt my cock
swelling and jerking and my balls tightening. I moaned out her
name.

"Annie, oh God, sweetheart! If you don't stop right now ... "
Whatever I'd been about to say was lost to me as Annie quickened
her pace slightly and gently squeezed my balls. At that, I felt
the flood gates open and I began to shoot into her hungry mouth,
spurt after spurt while my cock jerked wildly and Annie gradually
milked me of every drop, her mouth only reluctantly slipping off
my cock when it finally began to lose its rigidity.

I reached down and pulled Annie up to me, kissing her
passionately and tasting the salty residue of my orgasm on her
tongue. Our hands gently caressed one another as we snuggled
close together.

"Would I be mistaken," she asked, "to assume you didn't find me
too clumsy?"

"Clumsy? No," I replied as best I could, "I don't think clumsy is
one of the adjectives I'd pick for you at all, at all." Her face
lit up like a little girl's at Christmas. "Glory be to God,
woman!" I hugged her tight. "If that's what you consider
'unskilled,' I could be in deep trouble if you ever feel you've
mastered that skill."

"Then I think," she whispered, "that when you've got your breath
back 'tis time to find out how sturdy me old bed really is." Her
fingers closed around my cock, still nearly erect, and as she
looked into my eyes and stroked me gently, my own hand resumed
its explorations of her smooth, wet pussy. When her hips began
to move I entered her again with my fingers and watched her
eyelids grow heavy with her arousal. Both of us were breathing
harder as the fires within rekindled and blood once again
engorged sensitive flesh.

"Darlin' man," she whimpered just as I was about to surrender to
the temptation to find out how it felt to be inside her, "if you
don't fock me now I'll scream."

When I rolled over and positioned myself between her smooth
thighs, she raised her legs until her knees were pressed against
my ribs and her hand guided me to her dripping entrance. Loud
gasps escaped us both as I slid into her with one long, slow
thrust until my balls rested against the upturned cheeks of her
ass. There was no subtlety now--we were like rutting animals,
each of us slamming our hips into the other's. I felt the hot,
slick sheath of Annie's pussy gripping me tightly each time I
pulled back. My mouth feasted on her swaying breasts and our
hands were caressing and exploring everywhere we could reach.
For endless minutes we maintained a moderate but steady rhythm
with her hips meeting each deep, hard stroke of my cock. Then
our eyes met and locked and Annie kept urging me to fuck her
harder, deeper. Her heels pressed into the small of my back as I
complied and for a brief moment I wondered if her bed might truly
collapse under us. Her nails raked my back and the sound of
sweaty skin meeting sweaty skin grew even louder than the
creaking protests of her bed. Suddenly Annie screamed at the
same moment I let out a roar and I could feel her pussy convulsing on my cock even as my balls erupted once again.

Finally spent, both of us drawing in great shuddering breaths as
our hearts gradually slowed back to normal, I collapsed onto the
bed beside Annie. With our legs intertwined and our arms around
one another, we kissed tenderly and soothed one another's sweaty
bodies with gentle caresses. I brushed damp tendrils of red hair from her face and smiled at the glow in her emerald eyes.

"That was ... incredible," Annie whispered. She kissed me softly
on the lips and smiled. "I've always been too picky for there to
have been a great many men in me past, but none of them ever made
me feel like that."

"I think I was inspired," I whispered back, "because I don't
think I've ever been that successful in making a woman feel what
I wanted her to feel -- and I know I've never felt an orgasm like
that in my life."

I amazed myself by waking sometime in the middle of the night
with my arms around Annie from behind. Her warm ass was moving
slowly against my cock, which was once again fully erect. I was
going to turn over and try to go back to sleep rather than wake
her, knowing she had classes the next day. But as I started to
move I heard her whisper.

"Slide it in me just like that," she sighed happily. "One more
time and then I promise you a good night's sleep."

"Annie," I protested quietly, "twice in a night is pretty good at
my age; I think three times may be more than I can manage."

"Slow then, darlin'--I'm not askin' for a ride like the last one,
but I think you underestimate yourself if you don't believe
you've another good fock left in you tonight."

I felt the warm heat of her labia parting around the swollen
crown of my cock and pushed forward slowly. We both sighed as my
throbbing shaft slid deeper with each movement of her magnificent
ass to meet my slowly rocking hips. Almost without conscious
thought I was kissing and nibbling the back of her neck and
massaging the firm curves of her breasts, feeling the slick inner
walls of her cunt milking me.

We must have kept up that same lazy pace for close to twenty
minutes and I could feel my prick swelling and twitching inside
her. Anne felt it, too, even as her pussy was growing wetter and
hotter, her copious nectar running over my balls and my thighs.
And then she was begging me to roll her on her belly and fuck her
once more, hard, and I was doing it. As I rolled her over I
slipped a pillow under her hips and slid both hands up to cup her
tits and tweak her elongated nipples. Once again the rhythmic
slap of wet skin on skin filled the room along with our harsh
breathing, moans and soft grunts. I slipped one hand down over
her flat stomach and found the rigid button of her clit, my
fingers teasing it in rhythm with our fucking.

And then I felt it, the gathering pressure in my balls and the
driving urge to empty their contents into the wet receptacle
sheathing my rampant cock. Annie squealed and her hips lost the
rhythm of our dance, slamming back into me, and that was all it
took. With her tight pussy spasming all around my cock I sank my
teeth gently into the sweaty flesh of her shoulder and pumped
wildly into her grasping cunt. I exploded, spurt after fiery
spurt of my cum mixing with the warm juices flowing from Annie's
pussy. Spent at last, we rolled onto our sides still joined and
were asleep in minutes.

I didn't need the sound of my wristwatch beeping to wake me at
5:30; the habit was too ingrained and I seldom overslept on a
weekday. This time, though, I was momentarily disoriented on
awakening. Then the rich scent of the previous night's
lovemaking reached my brain and I realized the warmth I was
snuggled up to was my beloved Anne. I tried to slip quietly from
the bed, but her head was pillowed on my right shoulder and as I
moved her eyes opened.

"Good morning, darlin'," she purred sleepily.

"Good morning yourself, beautiful," I replied, kissing her
softly. "I think I must have died last night, because I seem to
have woken up with an angel."

"Go 'long with ya now!" she giggled. "If I'm an angel I must
look like the most debauched angel in history. It's more likely
I look like a harlot the morning after payday." Her graceful
fingers caressed my cheek with a delicacy that made me shiver.
"Didn't I spend the night being ravished by some lusty pirate,
and meself an innocent country lass powerless to resist him?"

"Is that the way you recall it now?" I laughed at the mock
seriousness of her expression. "Then I'm sure in your innocence
you didn't encourage his advances?"

Annie buried her face against my chest and laughed. We managed
to sort out the mechanics of getting showered in the old claw-foot tub, then I slipped out to the Cherokee for the
carry-on bag I always keep packed in case of emergencies. With a
clean shirt and my teeth brushed, I rummaged through the kitchen
while Annie dressed. I managed to produce a couple of scrambled
eggs, an English muffin and orange juice to serve Annie with her
morning coffee. I stayed long enough to share a cup of coffee
before I had to leave for my office at home and she for her
classes, but before we parted she agreed to let me show her my
home and feed her dinner that evening.

Most of that day is a blur in my memory. Luckily there weren't
many calls from clients and none of those too complicated,
because I couldn't seem to think of anything but the previous
night and what might lie ahead. I did manage to make sure I had
the necessary materials on hand for dinner and checked the house
carefully. The latter was a waste of time; not only am I
normally a neat person, but Mrs. Patton, the housekeeper who
comes in three days a week, keeps everything spotless. When
Annie arrived at six that evening, I was as ready as I was likely
to get.

"This isn't exactly what I visualized as bachelor digs," she told
me after a quick but passionate kiss when I answered the
doorbell.

Given the need to provide at least part time accommodations for
my kids, I had opted for a house rather than an apartment or
condo following the separation from my wife. Free for the first
time to pick what I truly wanted, I'd built a two story Georgian
on a wooded lot in South St. Louis County, with a rear view
overlooking the bluffs along the Mississippi River and the lush
Illinois farmland beyond. I knew the effect the house often had
as people followed the winding driveway through the trees and the
house came fully into view. I could see in Annie's case that it
had had the desired effect.

I offered her a drink from the bar in the great room and we
sipped our Bushmill's single malt whiskeys while I gave her a
quick tour before dinner. She insisted on seeing the whole
place, so we began up on the third floor with the garret rooms
that I had set up as study and recreation space for the kids,
their dormer windows overlooking the trees in the front and the
river view to the rear. The second floor bedrooms charmed her,
apparently, until we reached the master suite.

"Jaysus, Mary and Joseph!" she exclaimed. "Sure, isn't this
bigger than me whole fockin' flat?" Annie ran her hand
approvingly over the rich oak of the massive king sized
four-poster bed and stood for a moment looking out from the
lounge area with its loveseat, comfortable wing chairs and
fireplace at the brick terrace and the river beyond. I waited by
the door when she wandered into the master bath and laughed when
I heard her exclamation of delight. Joining her in the bath, I
watched her examining the big whirlpool tub and the shower built
large enough for two people to share. "You've even got a fockin'
bidet in here," she laughed. "I take it this is where you seduce
all the maidens of the village then?"

"Sorry to disappoint you, but you're the first 'maiden' other
than my daughter and the housekeeper to visit the place." I
shrugged. "I indulged myself," I explained. "When I designed
the house, I decided that a truly sybaritic bath would be my
treat for myself, and a good selling point when I get too old to
keep the place up myself."

We took the back stairs down to the ground floor since she'd
already seen the great room with its living and dining areas, and
emerged into the smaller family room that adjoined the kitchen
and breakfast nook across the back of the house. Annie was
delighted with my kitchen, too, obviously not having expected
such a facility as mine in the "bachelor digs" she'd envisioned.
I told her that both kids and I enjoyed cooking, especially
together, so we'd selected a kitchen that had plenty of space for
three people to work without tripping over one another.

"The basement has my home office, exercise room and storage," I
concluded. "Feel free to explore down there, or anywhere you'd
like, while I get supper for us." Annie opted instead to go out
to the bar and freshen our drinks, then perched on one of the
kitchen stools and watched while I dropped farfalle pasta into a
kettle of boiling water and began sautéing shrimp with herbs and
sun-dried tomatoes. She held the colander when it came time to
drain the pasta and carried the salad bowl to the dining room
table while I tossed it with the shrimp and a light vinaigrette
dressing. She accepted a single glass of pinot grigio with
dinner, which she ate with obvious relish.

"'Tis a grand wine, love," she explained, "but after two whiskeys
I'd be to fluthered to make the drive back to me flat, and I do
have classes tomorrow."

I admired her all through dinner, barely tasting the food myself
in the midst of my delight at having her at last in my home.
Annie had dressed for the occasion and looked every inch a member
of the aristocracy herself. She'd pinned her red hair up in an
elegant chignon and she wore a soft green dress the color of her
eyes. The clingy wool jersey was tasteful without allowing one
to miss the graceful curves of the woman wearing it. Small
diamond studs at her ears matched a pendant that nestled in the
inch or so of cleavage at the modestly scooped neckline of the
dress. The overall impression was of a refined and sophisticated
woman, secure enough in her beauty to have no need to flaunt it.

Our dinner conversation wandered, as usual, over a range of
topics from campus politics to the latest advances in
communications technology and the incredible antics of some of
the undergraduates in the classes she taught. We discussed
everything it seemed, except the one topic most on our minds.
Neither of us brought up the subject of the previous night, much
less what it meant for the future of our relationship. I wasn't
sure whether Annie was actively avoiding the topic or simply
waiting for me to bring it up but I decided that it was best to
wait until after dinner to discuss it.

After we'd finished eating and Annie had helped (at her
insistence) to load the dirty dishes into the dishwasher, we
moved back out in front of the fireplace in the great room. In
spite of the warmth of the early spring days, the nights were
still cold enough to make the fire welcome. I poked the logs
around a bit to get a nice blaze going and settled in beside
Annie on the couch.

"Patrick, me darlin' man," she sighed, snuggling up against my
side as I circled her waist with one arm, "this is almost too
much of a good thing."

"In what way, Anne?"

"All of this--this house, your wonderful cooking and your even
more wonderful lovemaking. Sure, it's me superstitious Irish
nature I suppose, but it scares me a bit."

"Annie, love," I protested, "the last thing on earth I want is to
scare you."

"I know you don't, sweetheart, and I don't know why I feel this
way, but I do." I felt her fingers curling around the back of my
neck and she drew my face down to hers for a soft, lingering
kiss. "I'm sure it's just nerves," she assured me with a smile,
"and I think I know just the thing to cure me of that..."

This kiss was deeper, more demanding. Our tongues met and dueled
wetly while our hands roamed each other's bodies, teasing and
exploring at the same time. When I tried to suggest that we move
upstairs to the bedroom, Annie protested that she couldn't think
of any place she'd rather be right then than with me in front of
the roaring fire. Trembling fingers opened buttons and drew down
zippers--shuddering gasps heralded the unveiling of pale skin
that had been barely hidden beneath lacey lingerie. Annie's
sweetly musky scent enticed me and drew my kisses down the
slender loveliness of her body at the same time she was turning
and twisting to caress and delight me with fingers, lips and
tongue.

Her hoarsely whispered "Now!" came just as the urge to feel
myself inside the writhing beauty who was orally assaulting my
sanity became irresistible. There was no subtlety, no attempt to
delay the release we both craved by that point. Annie locked her
heels behind my knees and thrust herself up, impaling herself on
my jutting erection as vigorously as I strove to drive it into
the fiery heat of her molten center. There were no intelligible
words spoken, only animal growls of pleasure. I had barely begun
when I felt a burst of heat that seemed to spread from the small
of my back, down through my balls, finally erupting deep inside
my Celtic angel's wildly thrashing body. Before the second spurt shot into her depths I felt her legs slide up, her heels pulling
me down into her and driving her own hips up to mine, and then I
heard her frenzied whimpers and felt the tremors that passed
through her body.

We still didn't speak as we lay in the rug before the fireplace
catching our breath. Light kisses and gentle caresses seemed to
be the extent of our ability to communicate at that point, until
suddenly we both jumped at the sound of the grandfather clock in
the foyer tolling eleven o'clock.

"Sweet Jaysus!" Annie exclaimed. "I don't want to leave you,
love, but I have to meet me first class in eight hours." I
pulled on my boxers and did my best to help her collect and don
the clothing scattered between the couch and the hearth.

"I don't want you to leave, either, Sweetheart. Next time maybe
you'd better bring an overnight bag so you don't need to rush
off." I don't know why, but I found myself blurting out
something I doubt either of us was really ready for. "Or maybe
we should just move you in here and you won't have to worry about
bringing a change of clothes." Suddenly furious, Annie whirled
to face me with her hand on the front door knob.

"So I can be the kept woman, is that it?" she hissed. "If it's a
concubine you're after, you gobshite, 'tis the wrong woman you've
picked--I make me own way, d'ya hear?"

My stunned attempts to protest that she had misunderstood fell on
deaf ears: this was Grace O'Malley, the pirate queen, whom I
faced in full battle cry. I don't think it's too great an
exaggeration to say I was grateful that there wasn't a pike or
halberd in easy reach at that point.

"Take your fancy house and your focking yank arrogance and shove
them up your arse!" she yelled, charging out the door and roaring
off down my driveway as I stood there in shock.

My own rage flooded through me moments after her taillights
vanished around the bend. Who was this little bitch to assume
all I wanted was a steady partner for fucking? How dare she blow
up at me like that, after I had offered to share my home with
her? All right, maybe I had been a little premature--God knew I
wasn't really ready to make such a commitment myself and had
simply blurted it out on impulse, but I'd be damned if she could
get away with talking to me like that! <Annie, oh Annie! What
have I done wrong? God, I feel like I'm dying inside.>

I left my own clothes scattered in the living room, grabbed the
bottle of Irish whiskey from the bar along with one of the
Waterford Powerscourt glasses and poured myself a stiff drink of
the amber nectar. Another glass followed the first, then
another, and sometime after midnight I fell asleep (or passed
out), still fuming on the couch.

Drunk or not, my internal alarm went off at 5:30 as usual. With
a raging headache and a stomach that protested every movement, I
gathered up the remains of the previous night's debacle and
started the coffeemaker before trudging up the stairs to throw
myself under a steaming shower. All through my ablutions,
dressing, and my first cup of coffee as I dragged myself down to
my office in the basement I alternated between towering rage and
unbearable grief. One part of me said I was well rid of the
little bitch, her arrogant assumption that I was out to use her
as a sex object, and her fiery temper. Another part, less
certain, despaired that I had lost my last best hope for
happiness in this lifetime.

The rest of that day was something of a blur. I know the
housekeeper showed up on schedule, but I wasn't in the mood to
talk. I barricaded myself in my office and lost myself in my
work, getting through the day on Tylenol and coffee. At some
point in the morning I had considered calling Annie and
apologizing for upsetting her, but the other side, the one that
told me to wait and let her come crawling back, won that debate.
Some time late in the evening I threw a frozen dinner in the
microwave and then crawled upstairs to bed. My sleep was
restless, broken by dreams in which I forever chased after a
shining angel just out of my reach.

By the time the weekend rolled around--the weekend I'd originally
hoped to introduce Annie to my kids--I was still alternating
between rage and depression. I managed not to snap at the kids,
but I know I wasn't much fun, either. When Caitlin asked me
Saturday evening what it was that was eating at me, I tried to
dismiss my mood by telling her and her brother that I thought I
might be coming down with something.

"Dad," Pat replied, "that's bull. You've been really happy these
last few months and suddenly you're barely able to drag yourself
around the house."

"He's right, Daddy," Caitlin joined in. "There's something wrong
and Pat and I are both worried about you." Both of them came up
to me and put their arms around me, something that had become
increasingly rare from my independence-seeking teenaged son.

"Really, guys," I assured them as I gathered them both in for a
hug, "it's no big deal. I'll be back to my old self in the next
couple of days, I'm sure." <I'll never be all right again. The
most wonderful woman I've ever known, lost to me--and I don't
even know why!>

They pretended to accept my explanation, but both of them watched
me closely for the rest of the weekend. As they were preparing to
leave late Sunday afternoon both told me to call if there was
anything at all they could do between then and our next scheduled
weekend together. I was smiling and misty-eyed as the two kids
got into Pat's aging Jeep Wrangler for the drive back to their
mother's house. I knew I was lucky to have two such wonderful
children and for the first time since Annie had stormed out the
door I slept soundly that night.

I was functioning a little better the next couple of days,
getting work done for my clients and sleeping at night, even if
it took a couple of whiskeys to help me to sleep. Wednesday at
about noon, I walked into McGurk's to meet one of my clients for
lunch. Kelly was relatively idle, just wiping down the bar, but
she frowned and ignored my greeting. When I'd seen my client off
after lunch, I returned to the bar and waited for her to reach a
lull in her work.

"Kelly, what's the matter?" I asked her. "I don't need a kick in
the head to know you're upset with me for some reason."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Ryan," she answered with the barest professional
courtesy, "but I'm rather busy right now." She paused and I saw
a flash of anger in her brown eyes. "Maybe you'd better report
me to John (John McGurk, the owner of the pub.) Apparently you
get off on crushing women's feelings, so I'm sure you'd love to
get me chewed out by my boss."

"What the hell?" I spluttered. "Kelly, after all these years..."

"Poor Annie has been crying her eyes out for nearly a week now,"
Kelly hissed quietly enough so that only I could hear her. "I
hope you're happy with what you did to her."

"Did she tell you that it was she who flew into a rage?" I
demanded sotto voce. "Did she tell you that I tried to apologize
for whatever I'd done to anger her, but she wouldn't listen to
me?"

"All I know," Kelly replied angrily, "is that one of the sweetest
women I know is talking about leaving Washington U.--leaving the
country and going back to Ireland and all because of you!" Her
glare was intense enough to pierce me and the solid brick wall
behind me. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have customers to attend
to."

I drove home in a rage--the little Irish bitch had even deprived
me of the pleasure of my favorite pub! <Shut up, you son of a
bitch, and call the girl now--beg if you have to!> So now she was
remorseful, was she? It served her right, the fucking
harridan--all I'd done was offer her my heart and she'd ripped it
out and trampled on it. <Damn, what had I done? How had I
managed to fuck up something that had seemed so damned perfect?>
By the time I'd returned to my desk the rage was gone, and I even
picked up the phone and started to dial Annie's office number
before slamming the receiver back into the cradle. So she was
going back to Ireland? Let her go--let her return to UCG and her
miserable spinsterhood. <How will I ever survive without her?>
No wonder she'd never come close to marriage since her early
twenties--what man could withstand that fucking temper? <Face
it, Ryan: you fucked up big time.> I resolved to forget Anne
Leary and get on with the rest of my life.

There was still a small, quiet part of my being that kept urging
me to call her, to apologize and ask her not to leave, even if
she no longer wanted to see me again. Each time it tried to
assert itself, though, the anger returned and I turned away from
the phone in disgust.

At 10:30 that evening I was turning off the tv after the local
newscast and getting ready to go up to bed when the phone rang.
I looked at the caller ID and nearly decided to ignore it, but
looking at the "LEARY, A. S." on the display, my hand seemed to
act of its own volition as it reached out to lift the handset.

"Ryan," I answered in my "professional" voice, then I heard a sob
coming from the other end of the line, and it felt like a glacier
was melting somewhere inside me.

"Patrick?" she began in a small voice, husky with emotion. "Could
we talk for just a wee bit before you cut me off? Not that I
don't deserve it for the way I ran out on you, but please, please
can I have just a bit of your time?"

She sounded so pitiful, so woebegone, that I couldn't have
refused if I'd wanted to. Sure, there was still some hurt and
anger lingering underneath, but at that moment she sounded more
like my daughter after she'd bumped into something breakable than
she did a professional woman and I found myself wanting to cry
with her and tell her whatever was wrong could be fixed.

"Of course we can talk, Annie," I assured her. "I've been wanting
to call you since I saw Kelly at McGurk's today, but my stupid
masculine pride kept getting in the way."

"Oh, me darlin'!" she sobbed. "Don't go blamin' yourself when
'twas me own focking insecurities that caused the problem in the
first place. Would you ever be willing to give me an opportunity
to try to explain why I reacted the way I did?"

"I'm listening right now, Annie. I know I may have seemed to be
rushing things. . ."

"Not at all, love, not at all. I was thinking the same things
meself just before you made your suggestion."

"Then I'm really confused," I confessed. "What angered you so,
sweetheart?"

"I'd rather explain in person, if that's agreeable to you. I can
understand if you're not ready to see me yet, but. . ."

"Not at all! I'm dying to see you, and if it makes it easier for
you to talk, then the sooner the better. I don't have a thing on
my calendar tomorrow that can't be postponed, if you're free."

"I am," she replied in a lighter tone than I'd heard from her
since the night of the explosion, "but if that's the case, do you
think I might be able to come over tonight instead? Couldn't I be
there in less than an hour, if you're agreeable?"

"Should I put on a pot of tea, or is this a case for the
Jameson's?"

"Dead focking brilliant! I'm out the door--we can decide what to
drink when I get there."

I spent the next several minutes getting the teakettle ready,
making sure there was enough of the precious Jameson 1780 in the
bottle on the bar to get us well and truly fluthered, and
straightening up rooms that didn't need it. Finally I made myself
sit and wait for her, but that didn't keep the questions from
flooding my mind. What had caused Annie's outburst that night?
Could we overcome it--was she even willing to try? Apparently she
was at least willing, or she wouldn't have called. It was
pointless to speculate, especially as she'd be there to explain
for herself in a few minutes, but I couldn't stop myself.

Then I saw lights coming up the drive and ran for the door. Annie
pulled to a stop and I was standing there, opening her door
before she could. She scrambled out of the car with tears
streaming down her face--but smiling, laughing and crying at the
same time. Then she was in my arms and I knew I wouldn't be
letting go of her anytime soon.

***

Annie and Pat will return.

----------
SPECIAL NOTE: This story is fantasy. Some characters herein may
engage in unprotected sex acts, but that in no way implies that
the author of this story advocates or condones unprotected sex.
Today, HIV may linger undetected in the bloodstream of an
infected individual for ten years or longer. Some infected
persons never do develop full-blown AIDS, but they can still pass
on the virus. Because there is no cure for AIDS available today,
or any sign that one will be available in the foreseeable future,
having unprotected sex is not just careless, it's almost
criminally negligent. There are only two ways by which you can
significantly reduce the risk of AIDS: abstinence from sex
outside a committed monogamous relationship and the use of
condoms. If your partner objects to using condoms, FIND ANOTHER
PARTNER! Sex shouldn't be literally "to die for."
----------

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