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Sun shafts through the treetops infiltrated early morning mist over the river as Loretta Oblinger sat in the sales office, hands warmed by a hot mug of coffee resting against her breasts. Smiling faintly, she contemplated the scene and thought about the wedding she’d attend that afternoon, alone, although the invitation stated ‘and partner’.
Tomboy (actually Tessa) was the last of her closest friends to commit to a guy, leaving Loretta almost thirty-four, last ‘maiden’ on the shelf. Oh there had been guys, plenty of them, including a few who could really send her blood racing. But only one had seemed to be Mr Right until he was taken from her. However, she’d not given up, believing one day her prince would come.
“And cum copiously,” she sighed, not at all embarrassed at that exclamation. Loretta rarely talked dirty but she thought dirty. Often.
A black and silver SUV pulled up. Loretta didn’t recognize the vehicle or the driver who looked about her age but when he turned she knew she didn’t know him. The guy had unruly long brown hair, a wide chest under his polo shirt and wore a hunting jacket, tight light-blue jeans and hand-tooled brown western boots. She judged he was rather too well dressed for a New Zealand guy on a Saturday morning. When about to enter after opening the door he wiped his boots, obeying the sign. She figured he had to be a foreigner.
She went out to greet him. “Hi, welcome. May I pour you a coffee?”
He said in an American accent, “That’s mighty fine of you Loretta.”
She almost dropped the coffee pot. He knew her!
Loretta looked at him carefully and decided he didn’t look the stalker kind although she really had no idea what they looked like. He appeared to read her confusion as she handed across the coffee.
“I live across the river from you at Miller’s Crossing, just moved in. The ferryman’s wife pointed you out to me and said you were house-sitting here at the Richard’s place.
“Yes, Marcia Richards is my aunt. They are touring Europe. I stay here at nights to keep an eye on the place that is a little isolated and I manage the store Saturday mornings to give the manager a two-day break.”
“It will be warm as it’s approaching mid-summer over there. Here’s okay though, I haven’t had my snow gear out yet.”
“You won’t be wearing it either Mr…?”
“Domboise but call me Harden ma’am.”
Loretta swallowed, rehearsing never to accidentally call him Mr Hardon or for that matter Mr Hard and Ready. Now what was his name? Miraculously, her mind being young, it dropped into place.
“Harden you’ll not find snow in winter around here. It occurs down in the center of the island and to the mountain ranges east of there on the Central Plateau experience light falls, but high up. By the way everyone calls me Loretta.”
“Ah, fine name.”
“My later mother was America and I was born in Nebraska.”
“Well, well. I’ve spent most of my life in Chicago and a few months ago had a big claim against my marine pile-driving company upheld by the court that ruined me financially and took my reputation with. My folk gave me a bucket of money that cannot be touched by the claimants and so here I am.”
“Oh I’m so dreadfully sorry at you loss Harden.”
Harden said softly, “Well at least I do have my mom and dad.”
What, no wife or lover? Loretta had to turn away.
He said solemnly, “No rings I see.”
“We’ll my wife left me as soon as my assets were frozen and later divorced me. Since we are neighbors perhaps we could negotiate a date?”
Harden appeared to be waiting for a more encouraging response.
“I…er…er…oh sod it. I’m not shy. Come with me to a wedding this afternoon a 4:00. Although I advised I’d be unaccompanied, the bride is one of my best friends and her mom is a great planner so will have asked for some extra settings.”
“Are you sure?”
“Does that mean the answer is yes?”
“I hadn’t gotten than far but since you are so keen and it’s been quite a while since I’ve had a prospective date apparently keen about me, the answer has to be yes.”
“I didn’t want you to feel pressured.”
“I don’t feel pressured.”
“You can always pull out.”
“I don’t want to pull out.”
“Oh, thank you. Pick me up a 3:30 as the church is only five minutes away and I can introduce you to people before the church service begins. I have the present.”
“This is wonderful Loretta. I’m off to the city to buy a formal shirt.”
“Excellent, now your purpose for being here. Timber or hardware?”
“Nancy at the store told me when I asked you worked at your father’s mill sales office. I came to ask if you wanted to accompany me to a movie tonight.” He looked at his boots and muttered, “Nancy said you were damn attractive.”
“Oh, how nice.”
“Um the wedding will give me the chance to meet local folk. I arrived from Fiji five days ago and most of me time has been taken up with finding a property with immediate possession, almanbahis settling on it and buying some bits of furniture and the like. Some decking needs to be replaced and the riverfront fence was apparently swept away by the last big flood two years ago so needs replacing.”
“Will you’ll get hardware supplies from here and timber from dad’s mill?”
“I certainly will.”
“Then sign this application form for 60 days’ credit as a wholesale customer at this store. As you were a pile driver you qualify for contractor’s and tradesmen’s discount.”
“Well, that’s stretching eligibility. It’s mighty generous of you of you and the folk who own this store.”
Loretta involuntarily pressed her thighs together when she opened the door and grabbed the first look at her date. She was fairly tall for a woman at five-eleven but broad-shouldered Harden was at least six-three. His hair was slicked-back into a ponytail. He wore a dark green velvet jacket, collarless white shirt with gold medallion riding high, fawn pants and light brown shoes. She almost panted.
“You look gorgeous,” he said and asked her to turn around slowly.
Loretta did that, coloring slightly but she didn’t mind. He’d only say ‘confirmed’ or something similar. Because of the chill it was a lightweight wool suit, although riding high and with a plunging neckline.
She finished and adjusted her little hat, titling it towards her right eye. “Well?”
“Everything is cute: ass, legs and breasts. Suit is lovely too.”
Harden, I really don’t think…”
“Then why ask if you don’t except a frank answer?”
“Thank you Harden. It’s rather sweet you think my ass and legs and breasts are cute. That is a first for me, I mean someone saying that on a first date.”
“It’s important for me to have you know what I think of you Loretta.”
“Thank you,” she said, unable to hide a gigantic blush.
As expected, Harden drove like a male, aggressively, but he appeared firmly in control. Quite unexpectedly he ran the conversation, saying he loved living beside the river, he now had something very beautiful to look at across the water (more blushing, but he didn’t see it), his early impressions with the community north of Auckland City were very favorable and the timber yards at the mill were much larger than his first impression.
By then they’d arrived.
Six of Loretta’s friends were standing outside the church when Roger looking at Loretta and companion said something to Ivy. The women turned as one and mouths dropped open almost in unison. Loretta was ready to give Harden anything he wanted, ANYTHING, just for being with her at that moment.
The women rushed her and looked a little crossed-eyed trying to look at her and her partner at the same time. The introductions were made. Loretta carefully said the name as HardDEN, knowing what her friends were like. The smallest two, Judith and Christie, almost curtsied when the big mitt pushed forward to be shaken.
Ian said something quietly to Harden who nodded and accepted a silver flask. He took a swing without wiping the neck of the container and after swallowing wiped his lips with the back of his hand in the approved manner, closely watched by the men, and said, “Black rum, lovely drop.”
The guys circled him, sign of acceptance.
The women’s conversation was very earthy and could be summed up with Judith’s “Cor, where did you find HIM” and Ivy’s “I bet it’s a food long.” They gaped when Loretta said she’d only met him that morning and no they hadn’t had sex on the way to the wedding.
After the service and the official photographs on the church steps had been taken, the bride Tessa went straight to Loretta and demanded to be introduced. She then kissed Harden almost immodestly and from that moment all watching guests assumed Harden must be big cheese. People made a point of being friendly to him during the wedding breakfast and the dancing the followed.
At the door to the house Loretta said, “Well, what a lovely afternoon and evening. Please come in.”
Harden looked at his watch. “It’s almost 1 o’clock and you’re rather tipsy. Why do you want me to come in?”
“To give you a well deserved reward. You allowed me to have such a lovely time and now my girlfriends know I’ve found a real man, if only for tonight.”
“Loretta, I have no wish to upset you but please, not tonight. I know it was a wedding celebration but you were rather swigging them back and your judgment will be impaired. Good night and thank you. I really enjoyed myself and met some good people. I’ve been invited to go fishing with Ian and Roger. I have to be at the town wharf at 6:00.”
“Well hurry to bed. Obviously I come second to fishing.”
“Loretta please, you’ll love me in the morning for avoiding you being embarrassed at having me seduce you on our first date.”
Bottom lip trembling, Loretta asked, “Are more dates possible?”
She kissed him and said, “You are quite right. God I’m drunk and we girls almanbahis yeni giriş meet at the bride’s parents place at 10:00 to start all over again.”
“Take care. I’ll call at the mill on Monday to place my order for delivery of decking timber.”
“You can phone in your order…unless you wish to call to see me.”
“I wish to call to see you. You are a beautiful woman and not at all scatty for a blonde,” he said, drawing a frown and then received a big smile and another kiss.
* * *
Harden drove slowly to the ferry crossing, swiped his card that paid for the trip across and that also gave him access to the wheelhouse.
On the other side after driving off his SUV, Hayden returned to the wheelhouse, set the controls on to timed auto-control and sent the small vehicle ferry back to the other side forty yards away where it had protected docking below the ferryman’s house. He had time to lock the door and disembark before the unmanned ferry returned along its heavy-duty guide wire. He thought what a marvelous system to ensure a night service continued after the ferryman finished work.
In bed Harden couldn’t believe his luck, virtually falling into Loretta’s arms. She appeared perfect for him and at the wedding, with sixty guests present, apart from the bride’s mother in his opinion Loretta was the next most outstanding female there. He chuckled recalling the envious looks he’d received from her girlfriends. He could feel Loretta beside him almost shaking and gurgling in delight. Well he now had some people likely to become buddies, including Loretta. He was likely to go to bed with Loretta but anything more would depend.
Mrs Williams the bride’s mother would be the one to provide information about Loretta The girls including Loretta gathered around her as if she were Queen Bee and he sensed that had nothing to do with being the bride’s mother. She was all class and he hadn’t found out what it was, but his thinking she’d been an international celebrity of some kind, possible an actress or singer. If the extra fat were stripped away, she still would have lacked the cut to be a model or a dancer.
Miraculously Harden was down at the town wharf at 6:00 and a 6:15 a fast boat called a runabout with a 75hp Mercury outboard sped down from the marina and he saw someone wave and waved back. The only occupant was freckle-face Ian.
“Climb down,” Ian called cheerfully. “I arranged to pick you up here because getting in and out of the marina with its security systems is a pain in the arse. Harden thought arse was the English word for ass, confirming the Kiwis were more English than Americans.
“Roger is a no-show. I guess Judith wanted a fuck when they got home last night. They have an infant who wakes up every couple of hours and Roger would be expected to be on bottle duty. I saw him wander off with Wendy Mitchell last night both appearing to be innocently heading for the loos and next minute I saw them outside hand-in-hand presumably heading for Wendy and husband’s room for you know what.”
As they pulled away from the wharf and slowing as they hit the 15 mph speed limit in restricted waters, Harden was struggling to come to the Kiwi’s forthrightness, swearing and a more relaxed attitude towards promiscuous people so laughed and that only encouraged Ian to ask, “Sink a length last night buddy?”
“Ah no. We’d had so much liquor we would have not completed.”
“Yeah, same with us. There are few things worse that going to sleep on the job and being berated in the morning. Women don’t enjoy being with guys who don’t perform, even if it’s their husband.”
Although Harden hadn’t known that he now thought that would be the case.
They fished for only ninety minutes and then returned with five big snapper and two other fish Ian called blue cod. At the wharf Ian handed up a bag containing the fish, asking could he drop them off to Mrs Williams on the way home and gave the address, which was on the main road Harden used.
“She’s the bride’s mother and this is a contribution to food for tonight guests who drop in. The girl’s will process and prepare the fish for her. Her home has been the main hangout for the girl’s since they were at high school.”
“What does Mrs Williams do?”
“Nothing now. She was formerly a national breaststroke champion and won five gold medals at Commonwealth Games and a silver at the Olympics and then went on to be our country’s most successful female swimming coach. All the girls in our group you saw last night liked swimming almost as much as they like fucking.”
“I did say all of them.”
“Loretta was the strongest swimmer of them all but switched to surf lifesaving and won several titles in competition between New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.”
“She’s bored mate, sitting in that office all day. You look the guy who could give her the action she needs.”
“You mean, um…”
“Yeah mate, fucking and also something almanbahis adres to occupy her brain in the form of a challenge. Want a beer?”
“Me neither. Well I’m off.”
* * *
Jennifer Williams answered the door in shorts showing half her belly and a top obviously without a bra under it. Harden clearly saw the obviously remnants of powerful swimmer’s shoulders.
“Christ, you would catch me like this, plus without make-up.”
“You look cuddly.”
“Gawd, a silver tongued America. Give me the fish and come in for coffee but don’t stay too long and I’ll have to prepare for the arrival of guests. Thank God I had the sense last night to tell everyone if they wanted breakfast they could forget about coming here.”
“It was a beautiful wedding.”
“Thank you. My daughter Tessa told me she thought you were gorgeous. How did you come to meet Loretta so quickly? She said you’d only arrived in the country a few days ago.”
“I’ve acquired the Armstrong’s house just opposite where Loretta is holed up and met her for the first time yesterday morning.”
“And obviously made an impression on her?”
“I went in attempting to make progress, if you know what I mean. And succeeded well enough to be invited to accompany her to your daughter’s beautiful wedding.”
Jennifer said she was so happy seeing Loretta with a guy again. “She’s only just come out of mourning. She was out at one of the West Coast beaches eight months ago on a day of boisterous surf. A rip snaked across the bay. She told her fiancé to swim ashore while she helped get swimmers back on to the beach. She swam out about four hundred yards to the center of the rip where people had been swept out and were screaming. She calmed them, well most of them, and assured them help was on the way.”
“That sounds scary stuff,” Harden said
“The jet-skiers and lifesavers in four-man surf canoes and others on paddle boards with rescue rings began arriving. She went across the bay and brought back two kids, unconscious but both were revived without apparent ill effects. An old guy who and two younger guys didn’t make it. When they were taken ashore Loretta was dismayed her fiancé was not around. She looked out to the southwest and saw one guy floating face down. She jumped on to a water-ski and raced over. It was her fiancé Stephen, not a good swimmer. A rescue helicopter dropped her an oxygen bottle but it was too late. It’s left her with a sad streak that she hides Harden.”
“I sensed there was something.”
“Good boy, I pleased to hear that. Just go easy with her, huh? Her father half-blames her for her mother’s death saying because she was a female and closest to her mother she should have read the signs earlier than the doctor that she had cancer, invasive cancer. That’s bullshit of course. But you know how some men can’t cope with grief… no I suppose you don’t.
“Thank you for briefing me Mrs Williams. It is most useful. I’ll go now.”
“Thanks for bringing the fish. I guess you caught some of them?”
“Yeah, I went out with Ian. It was the incoming tide he said.”
“Ian is a lovely guy. Call me Jennifer in future Harden. Again I’m sorry you caught me all floppy like this.”
“I saw nothing but a woman in her prime.”
Jennifer laughed and said, “Off you go your flatterer.”
Harden went home and unpacked some of the furniture he’d purchased a couple of days earlier. He had a long way to go before the empty house would be furnished. The outgoing family had taken everything, including their refuse, and that was fine by him.
He’d just finished placing the table and six chairs in the family room extension of the kitchen, wondering why he’d bought six chairs. He didn’t know six people in this country. Oh, after yesterday he did. Well, he didn’t have to invite everyone around at once. He decided after what Jennie had said he wouldn’t call or visit Loretta until next Saturday morning. That would give her plenty of time to decide if she liked him and check with the FBI or whatever women did before taking on a man. His phone went.
“Hi, it’s Harden Domboise.”
“I hope it’s hard tonight.”
She laughed. “And who else were your expecting to call?”
“No one, not even you because you indicated you were going to an all-day party.”
“Well, we’re bored and can’t face the evening just with women. Jennifer said we must invite the men so I’d like you to come over as my man. “I’ve had only two wines and drank them slowly and now am drinking water. I don’t want you telling me I’m not in the right condition to be fucked.”
“Er…yes, I accept your invitation.”
“What to come here or come hugely tonight?”
“I admire your diplomacy. Jennie said my lovely man dropped the fish off so you know the address. I await your first kiss so please don’t loiter.”
Harden drove home with Loretta’s hand on his thigh. She didn’t talk about sex or move her hand. It appeared she was indicating he’d not be allowed off the hook this time. Well, she was relatively sober so if she wanted it she could have it. As they neared the ferry he said, “My house?”
“Do you have a bed and a table?”
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