Chapter 1: The Charm Offensive
God, apparently as a prank, devised two sexes and called them "opposite." For 5,000 years the sex war has raged, with still no truce in sight. While birds, beasts of the field, invertebrates even, all pair off happily, breeding away without the aid of French ticklers, nipple-window bras, videos entitled Moist or Thrust, Viagra, She-agra, clitoris-orientation classes or Internet dating sites listing GSOHs -- the male and female of the human species are constantly at war. We're supposed to be the higher animal life form, but you don't see octopi going on dating-quiz television programs to get laid, now do you?
This is what Shelly Green thought to herself as she waited at the altar of a church on Euston Road, on a dark, damp February day, a sweat stain the shape of Ireland beneath each armpit of the posh frock she'd been tricked into wearing on the pretext that she was going to play classical guitar at a Valentine's Day wedding.
She just didn't know it was going to be her own.
The TV presenter, sporting a tangled, unruly hairstyle that few men outside a heavy metal band would dare to contemplate, was relaying events via a handheld microphone to his viewers across England.
"And we can now reveal that the winners of our computerized matchmaking competition here at Channel Six are...Shelly Green and Kit Kinkade!" he announced with lunatic fervor. "Their prize? Each other! Plus one hundred thousand pounds. Each!! A white wedding in Gretna Green, a reception in the faaaab-ulous Balmoral Hotel, a honeymoon on the sensaaaa-tional, unspoilt Réunion Island, a two-bedroom flat in the Docklands and -- " he verbally drum-rolled " -- a Honda hatchback! All of which the little love birds get to keep if, and I underline if, they can stay hitched for one whole year! What do you think, viewers? Has the computer played Cupid? Have two soul mates been united? Or will we watch as Kit and Shelly break up in a frenzy of mutual recrimination and toxic incompatibility?..."
The maps beneath Shelly's armpits now grew to encompass all of the British Isles. She glowered at the gaggle of sixth-form pupils in their prime position in the front pews. They were the ones who'd tricked her into this debacle. An acned, teenage crew, they'd taken up music to get out of Home Ec and Woodwork, but had lucked upon the only teacher who didn't make them feel like pond-scum. These students liked their beloved music teacher enough to realize that she, a late and only child, was still grieving for her mother who'd succumbed to ovarian tumors three years earlier. To kick-start Shelly's life again they'd secretly entered her name into this reality television marriage competition, a crime for which, Shelly silently swore, they could expect detention involving a lot of trigonometry for the rest of their natural bloody lives.
"So, isn't this every little girl's dream, Shelly -- to be married on Valentine's Day?" The coiffured presenter thrust the mike into her startled face.
"I don't like the idea of getting married on any day," Shelly replied, stunned. "I don't even like the idea of men all that much!"
Shelly's music students, overhearing this blurted confession, looked stricken. There was bound to be some legal penalty for forging their teacher's signature on the entry form. The announcer looked equally alarmed. He abruptly reclaimed his microphone and launched nervously into an upbeat spiel, for the benefit of any new viewers, on the program's premise. Basically, having been matchmade by computer from thousands of entries, after this "gorgeous" photo opportunity, bride and groom would be chauffeured by limousine to Gretna Green. This village just over the Scottish border, he explained, was a traditional elopement destination which didn't require the usual month's notification of the intention to marry. During the five-hour trip, the nation would hold its breath -- and the station would sell loads and loads of advertising -- while the "winners" decided whether or not to accept the computerized marriage proposal.
But just as Shelly was summoning up the courage to stop the presenter mid-flow and call off the whole idiotic stunt before the PR people could bundle her into the courtesy limo that was purring curb-side, the flustered frontman announced the arrival of her "intended."
"From the three final male contestants, a systems analyst from Ipswich and" -- the presenter consulted his clipboard -- "a solicitor from Milton Keynes, how could you not fall for a man who answered Cupid's request on his attitude to love with, 'About my height, only fatter'? And folks! Do you know what? The computer agreed!"
As the presenter went on to describe Kit Kinkade to the viewers, including his response to a question about his attitude to sex (apparently, as far as Mr. Kinkade was concerned, sex was nobody's business, except for the horse, dog, wife and two hookers involved), a top-hatted-and-tailed streak of chic moved debonairly, Fred Astairely down the aisle towards Shelly. "Height six foot one. Complexion olive. Hair fair. Age thirty-five years. Profession doctor" reached the altar, spun towards Shelly on a Cuban heel and cocked his top hat rakishly over one eye. With his tanned face, butter-blond shoulder-length hair, fleshy mouth, green eyes and chiselled physique (despite his diamond ear stud, this was a Real Man, the kind of guy who could take a cold capsule and still operate heavy machinery), it was clear that Mr. Kinkade was a GP who had a five-mile line to get into his waiting room and a five-year waiting list to make it into his Palm Pilot.
When Shelly first saw her intended groom, she smiled so hard she pulled a muscle.
Kit's eyes slid up and down Shelly's body and she felt her face burn.
"Height five foot four. Complexion fair. Hair brunette. Age thirty-one years. Profession musician" tensed, squared her shoulders and sucked in her abs so violently it felt as though she had a vacuum cleaner strapped to her vertebrae. Shelly had been so engrossed in her intended's appearance that she hadn't given much thought to what his first impressions would be of her.
The high-school music teacher suddenly felt gawky in the soufflé of white chiffon one size too small she'd dug out of the back of her wardrobe for the non-existent gig at the nonexistent wedding. She also knew she'd become rather bland over the last few years since she'd cut her hair, stopped wearing makeup, lost her mojo and given up on life. Human Muzak, that's what she was, just fading into the background. If Shelly could see herself as others could see her, she was pretty sure she wouldn't take a second look.
"You lied" were the first words her computer-chosen hubby-to-be ever said to her. "On your form." Shelly was so amazed to note that her groom was chewing bubblegum at the altar that she didn't register right away that the honeyed twang was American. "Five four, blue eyes, natural charm..."
Oh God, she cringed. What else had those bloody kids said about her? She ran her fingers through her ragged locks. Shelly's hair, cut on the cheap by a pupil's mum, was not exactly a designer style. It was more as if she'd been knocked down in the street by a runaway lawn mower which had then done three-point-turns all over her cranium. Or perhaps -- she started to panic beneath his cool scrutiny -- she should have given a bit more thought to cuticle buildup? Didn't everybody know that "natural charm" simply decodes as being too lazy to bleach her moustache every four weeks?
"Well," she stammered, "nobody is ever going to admit that they're ordinary looking, are they?"
"Naw," Kit clarified. "You lied about your eyes. They ain't blue -- they're aqua." And then he gave a slow smile, a rich glint of wickedness lighting up his own lovely orbs. "Not to mention your hot bod. You shouldn't wear such tight dresses so poor unsuspecting guys can see how sexy you are. The only part of you that's safe to have on display is your big toe...or maybe an elbow."
Well, Shelly mentally amended, perhaps she could just go for the limo ride. I mean, what harm could one limo ride do, hmmm? That would give her time to work out how the hell she was going to get out of this preposterous situation without landing her pupils in deep disciplinary doo-doo for forgery and conspiracy to commit public mischief.
* * *
"Look," Shelly confessed the moment the smoky-windowed limo lurched into the London traffic heading north and Kit had detonated the Dom Perignon with an optimistic pop. "Actually I'm a misogamist."
"Really?" Kit Kinkade's laser-like eyes burned into her. Shelly had to check that she didn't have any more holes in her body than were strictly speaking necessary. "You hate women? I thought all chicks were lesbians -- emotionally. It's just that when it comes to comin', you need us guys." He grinned saucily.
"No! Not a misogynist. Misogynist is just Greek for 'man.' " (It was something her mother used to say.) "I'm a misogamist. I'm allergic to marriage." This disclosure was evidently of profound concern to the man beside her. One long leg jerked as though it had been struck by an invisible neurologist's hammer. Shelly quickly preoccupied herself with guzzling bubbles from the crystal lip of her frothing flute, while he composed himself.
"Yeah, me too," he faked, breezily. "Allergic to normal marriage, that is. But this ain't normal, is it? How many failed 'normal' relationships have you had? Squillions, right?" He paused to toss in a fresh piece of bubblegum. "Well, me too. Which is why arranged marriages are the way to go. Once marriages were arranged by tribal elders and family...but, well, my folks are dead."
"I'm so sorry," Shelly said, with compassion. "You must miss them dreadfully," she added, pained by a sudden stab of the grief that had coagulated around her own heart.
Kit shrugged. "Nope. Mum only ever broke off talkin' about her complex gynecological problems to tell me again what a waste of labor pains I was. Got a picture of her someplace" -- he started rooting around in his wallet -- "topless, in the Readers' Wives section of some shitty magazine. Not that she was a 'wife' for long, mind you. I only saw my dad once. For Thanksgivin'."
"How was it?" was all Shelly could think to say. Talking to Kit Kinkade was not so much a conversation, more a rush of verbal vertigo.
"Novelistic. A Streetcar Named Desire. Act One, Scene Four."
"Actually, that's a play, not a n -- -- " Shelly began, but Kit plunged on.
"He had a house that was mobile but ten cars that weren't, ya know? Oh, I guess his phone was mobile too, come to think of it. With a speed dial to the UFO report hotline."
If only Shelly could stop thinking about how the champagne and bubblegum would taste mixed together on his luscious lips, she'd be able to say something sensible along the lines of "It's been lovely meeting you, but clearly our differences in education are going to mitigate against a happy union." Instead of which she could only manage a faint query. "If aliens really exist, why do they never abduct sensible Brits -- only weird people from Texas?"
"Arkansas, actually," he corrected, with a wry, lopsided smile.
"And your father?" Shelly tried not to watch him moistening that succulent mouth with his tongue. "Where is he now?"
"Dead. Cirrhosis of the liver. Mind you, he hid his transvestite tendencies from his family to the very end, so that was somethin'."
"Oh," Shelly said. She seemed to be saying "oh" rather a lot. "I'm sorry," she added diplomatically. "About your father dying, I mean."
"Don't be. I only went to the funeral so that I could drive a wooden stake through the coffin lid, screamin', 'Take that! Oh creature of the night!'"
"Oh." (There was that "oh" again.) "So we're both orphans then." She waited for him to inquire about her story, to show mutual concern. But Kit Kinkade just blew a diaphanous bubble that obscured half his handsome face. They were well into the second bottle of Dom Perignon and his tenth hilarious family anecdote and he still hadn't asked.
And it was just as well really as there wasn't much to tell, she admitted to herself, hovering over a grotty loo in a Midlands motorway service station. Her beloved mother had been abandoned by Shelly's dad -- a drug-addled, promiscuous Celtic rock guitarist with a band called I Spit In Your Gravy. Next she was ostracized by her Bible-thumping Welsh family for having a child out of wedlock. Shelly's mum, although intellectual, had eventually become, out of necessity, addicted to Reader's Digest DIY manuals, with special editions devoted to Adjustable-track Shelving Systems. She watched videos entitled "Adding a Spur Socket to a Ring Circuit." They didn't need a cleaner in their flat but a mechanic. Unable to afford even package holidays, she'd subscribed to Practical Caravanning magazine. Yes, Shelly thought, it was a safe bet that her small family unit was never going to be made into a TV situation comedy.
"Anyway, where was I?" As they passed by Birmingham, Kit shrugged off his satin-lined black jacket. Shelly couldn't help noticing how the man's tight silk shirt worshipped every inch of his musculature.
"Oh yeah. Arranged marriages. Once upon a time, couples were matched by tribal elders, right? Well, this millennium they're matched by computers. Now I know you're a Brit, so you're naturally pessimistic -- your blood type is B minus, am I right?" He grinned. "But just think about it. A house! A car! Not to mention the big buckaroos! Twenty-five thousand pounds each today, another twenty-five thou at the end of the week if we can stay hitched, plus another fifty if we make it to the end of the year!"
"Money isn't everything, Kit."
"I know -- there's also MasterCard and travellers checks!" he joshed. "Plus, an amazin' vacation. This beach resort at Réunion is so exclusive not even the tide can get in."
Shelly smiled. He was quirky, yes, but also quick-witted. She liked that in a Love God. "Look, Kit, it's not that I'm averse to going somewhere hot with a lot of vowels and a turquoise sea -- and all for free -- but..."
"But what? Hey, Shelly, at our age, tempus is fugitin' like there's no tomorrow."
Shelly perked up. "In vino veritas," she toasted back. But he looked at her blankly.
"Latin? You speak it?" she asked, rather pointlessly. Her mother had drilled it into her, along with the rudiments of music.
"Don't try that educated shit on me, kiddo. I left Arkansas Maximum Security High at fifteen." He popped his gum again. "I'm an autodidact."
Shelly had to admit that she was linguistically stumped. "What does that mean?"
"Self-taught...It's a word I taught myself." He smiled cockily. "And you?"
"I did my formative sulking and angsting in a Cardiff Comprehensive, and then on to the Academy of Music."
"Hey, I'll show you my attempted-suicide scars if you show me yours." Kit drained his glass in one long gulp, exposing a café latte-colored throat. "Nah. Actually, it weren't that bad. The most dangerous thing was avoidin' the pedophilic gym teacher. Not easy in a Catholic boys school whose motto was, 'We pull together! We aim higher!'"
A guffaw, as urgent as a sneeze, exploded out of Shelly, surprising her with its vehemence. Kit laughed in response, a smoke-frayed, sexy, late-night laugh, which kicked Shelly's pulse up into double time.
"What have you gotta lose, Shelly Green? Say yes and I promise to say real nice things about you, you know, on national television when we get back to London after the honeymoon. And of course you'll say I'm better hung than a Pakistani pachyderm." He winked. "And that you've now discovered, contrary to what women's mags reckon, that size really does matter."
"Size of ego you mean, of course," she ribbed, caustically. "And in that case I'd say you're extremely well endowed. I'm sorry, but I'm never getting married, Kit. Wedding dresses are white because all kitchen goods are white," she stated, passionately. "That's what 'wife' stands for, isn't it? W.I.F.E. -- Washing, Ironing, Fucking, Etc.?" (Her mother again.)
Kit took her chin in his hand, turned her pale face towards him, tilted back her head and trickled champagne down her throat from his own mouth. "So, what are ya sayin', Shelly?" His mischievous lips pouted with petulant charm. "You don't believe in love at first sight?"
Shelly swallowed, then brushed his hand aside. "I don't believe in love at second sight, let alone first." But despite her practical approach to romance -- that love was a powerful self-delusion, genetically designed to bond people for breeding; that romantic love did not exist until Hollywood arrived to promote it -- she found that she was already fantasizing about the cute little joint message they'd leave on their answering machine.
The eyes the American now turned on her were clear and assessing. "How can ya not believe in love?" Kit nonchalantly extracted a Marlboro packet from the waistband of his Calvin Klein underpants and lit up. "Don'tcha wanna be besotted? Entranced? Enraptured? Iridescent with lust and longin'? Intoxicated by orgasmic bliss?" Shelly glanced pointedly at the non-smoking sign beside his head. "Have you ever been married before?" He eyed her critically, between smoke rings, before teasingly amending his query to, "Or on a date even?"
"God. I've been on so many blind dates I should be given a free dog!"
Kit threw back his head and laughed with that insouciant abandon that Shelly found simultaneously sexy and unsettling. "Have you ever even been in love?"
"Only once. With an oboe player. I absolutely adored him. Despite the fact that he was a lactose-intolerant, anally retentive vegan."
"So what went wrong? Lemme guess. He said he couldn't go down on you because he was vegetarian."
Shelly snorted. Champagne spurted attractively out of both nostrils. But it didn't stop her from feeling an electric heat pulse through her thighs. She shifted in her seat and attempted sobriety. "When it comes to the Sex War, let's just say I have now declared myself a Conscientious Objector." (Hence, she thought pathetically, her dates of late in an Internet chat room, typing one-handed and, on one occasion, with her nose.) "Anyway, that's why these...friends of mine kind of concluded that it would be safer for a computer to pick a partner for me and entered me in the bloody competition. Under false pretenses. I'm afraid I knew nothing about it."
Kit's eyes clouded with disappointment for a moment before he verbally rallied.
"But your pals are right, Shelly!" He popped open another bottle. "Love's arrow is about as accurate as a Bush bomb on Baghdad. I've always attracted the worst women. Life's rejects." He stubbed out his cigarette with his heel, then tossed it out of the limo window where it landed on the nose of some ancient statue in some town square where they'd detoured for fish and chips. (Obviously not a classicist type.) "Show me a psychopath and I'll show you a girlfriend."
Shelly gulped down a lungful of tepid, centrally heated oxygen. "Um, Mr. Kinkade, perhaps you should take me through your dating history, excluding pets and relatives." She'd meant it to come out as light banter, but couldn't keep the trepidation out of her voice.
"Sure. Well, I've only been in love a couple of times. The first time I fell for the gal because she loved animals so much -- until I found out she was on parole for it."
"A case of puppy love?" Shelly was trying to sound suave but urgently refilled her glass for fortification.
"Yeah, and she had the porno movies to prove it. When I complained about her choice of co-stars, she told me I was oversensitive and shot me."
Once more, "Oh" was the only reaction Shelly could manage at short notice.
"Only in the leg." He hiked up his trousers to reveal a muscled calf, marred by one puckered bullet hole. Kit gave an insolent smile, which split his lively, cordial face; a cordiality belied by the odd scar, Shelly also noted. Okay, the man was dissolute but fascinatingly so. His broken nose gave him the look of a streetwise Greek god; the way Hercules would have looked if he'd played in a rock 'n' roll band.
"And what about the second time?"
Kit's expression hardened. He bit his lip and looked away. "Let's just say, to find my princess I've had to kiss a lot of frogs. Nothin' amphibious about you, though." He placed his hand on Shelly's chiffoned knee and her fanny did a fast fandango. His touch gave a wake-up call to her senses, a hormonal reveille. The sad truth was that she'd been celibate since her mother died. If she was ever called upon at school to give the sex talk, she'd be lecturing from notes. Her clitoris had taken to sending the odd sexual SOS along the lines of "Remember me?" If it weren't for Mrs. Palm and her five daughters (although the two elder daughters usually sufficed, with the other three fighting over the VCR), she would have dried up completely. Yes, there was a lot to be said for celibacy, and most of it began with "Why me?"
"Only trouble is -- men and women," Shelly persevered, brushing away Kit's hand like a bothersome fly. "We're not just from different planets -- we're from different galaxies. It's never going to work, is it?"
"Well, it ain't our fault. I mean, men's needs are simple. Football, food, music and" -- his warm hand stole back onto her leg, a little higher this time -- "sex. It's you gals who want so goddamn much!"
With the third bottle of champagne warming Shelly's blood and fizzing to her brain, she found herself melting towards this loquacious Lothario beside her. "I don't want much! Just a man who agrees that everything is his fault and always puts himself second," Shelly teased flippantly. "And is smart enough to realize that women are superior."
Kit threw back his head once more to laugh. There was an animal vigor about him, a sense of dangerous heat. And not just because of the limo's now overexuberant central heating, for which she felt most grateful when it caused Kit to unbutton his shirt and reveal his trampoline-taut abs and pectoral pillows. "Of course women are superior." Kit met her gaze defiantly. "I mean, you must be smart, 'cause look who you chose to marry? Us guys!" He winked. "That's what makes it so goddamn annoyin' when you whine about it bein' a man's world."
"Oh come on! It's much, much easier being a bloke."
"Howja figure that?"
"Okay...Wrinkles and gray hair add character. You can eat a banana without every man in the vicinity imagining you naked. You don't have to commit suicide if someone turns up at a party wearing an identical outfit to yours." Shelly began tipsily counting off points on her fingertips. "You never have to shave below your epiglottis. You don't care if nobody notices your new haircut. Nor did the hairdresser charge you double for it! Your phone conversations take thirty seconds, tops. You're always in the mood. You're -- -- -- "
"Hey," Kit Kinkade interrupted, "with the right man you'd always be in the mood too." His elongated vowels left a verbal vapor trail. "You need proof that it's a woman's world? Well then I have two words for you, kiddo." He leant back on the leather seat, arms spread along the back of the upholstery, smugly pleased with himself. "They are 'multiple' and 'orgasm'. Another reason the sex war is your fault. We men are so givin'. While you chicks are so selfish and demandin'! You're always callin' out, 'Don't stop! Don't stop!' for hour after exhaustin' hour. To delay orgasm we're s'posed to think of somethin' awful. Well, I once thought of Andrea Dworkin, Anne Widdecombe and Barbara Bush naked, and delayed my orgasm by three goddamn months!" Kit opened his mouth wide and guffawed again, that cynical, rude, jazz-joint American laugh which had slightly irritated Shelly at first but which she was now starting to find unaccountably enchanting.
"At least all your orgasms are real!" she fenced.
"As I said, with the right guy..." His voice was silken, with hands to match -- hands that were now straying beneath the hideous soufflé. And she wasn't stopping them. It wasn't as if Shelly had ever actually faked an orgasm. No. Her trouble was that she'd only been with men who'd faked foreplay.
But not this one. The air in the limo was suddenly crackling with sexual heat, like a fuse burning towards a bomb. "Ah, I see you're already contracepted."
Shelly, breathing hard, managed to cant a brow.
"Panty hose," he clarified with cheerful rascality.
"Hey, if suspenders were so great you guys would be wearing them. And anyway" -- she snapped out of her sensuous trance -- "what the hell do you think you're doing?"
A little light caressing was one thing, but this cocksure Yank had adroitly started to peel down the waistband of her tights. "Hey, your ladyship. I'm so sooorry. I didn't see your bustle and bonnet. How nice of you to pop in from Victorian England." His fingers began brushing back and forth across her lower belly until, despite herself, she was soon arching like a pussycat.
But as his hand strayed lower, she seized it in a vice-like grip. "Holy hell. Where do you think I am from? Strumpets R Us?"
"You think too much. If done right, the woman shouldn't be thinkin' about anythin' 'cause she'll be in a coma of sexual stupefaction. She'll be a coma-sexual." Kit's fingers stole back under her panty hose waistband. She gave an involuntary sigh of pleasure. This man could find libidinous places where women didn't even have places. He was a carnal cartographer, mapping out her erogenous zones -- and then double-parking in all of them.
"Men are...luckier...because you can...extricate emotion...and not feel guilty later. I mean" -- Shelly swallowed hard as a sexual surge set her nipples on fire -- "you can just make love to a perfect stranger, right?"
Shelly felt disappointment course through her.
"I don't want her to be perfect," Kit explained cheekily, "I want her to be really dirty and bad." Then he kissed her -- hot and startling. She tasted the warm, salty interior of his mouth and felt a dark throb of desire worthy of a scene in a bodice-ripper.
"You'll be emotionally scarred forever, but hey" -- he laughed cavalierly -- "it'll be an experience you'll never forget."
A part of Shelly knew this was true. She knew it was dangerous to make love to Kit Kinkade -- he was so exotic, so, well, "out there." Like encountering a Tasmanian Tiger, or a poltergeist. But her body had started without her. She registered a feeble hope that her panty hose would protect her from her baser instincts, but he used both hands now to tear the crotch of her tights right in two and she felt her traitorous legs yield enthusiastically for him without consulting Mission Control. His fingers lingered over the equatorial flesh of her inner thighs and then on to the, oh God, she remembered too late, very tropical jungle between her legs. Houston, we have a problem.
"I don't bikini wax in winter," she blurted, cutting short the kiss and attempting to cross her legs. If he thought panty hose were unsexy, what would he make of her secret undergrowth, she fretted, trying to ignore the pleasure building up in her blood.
The stranger's supple fingers parted her thighs once more.
"You might discover the legendary lost temple of the Xingothuan tribespeople down there, you know," Shelly panted into his mouth, her voice embarrassed, but still thick with lust. "Or maybe a couple of Big Brother contestants who don't yet know the series is over."
He planted a warm kiss in the curve of her neck. He was all concentrated heat. The smell of him was spicy and wild. Shelly didn't need to rub his groin to know that he was as keen as a pot of Dijon -- but she did anyway.
And then he bent her back and nipped a line of kisses down her throat and breasts. The nerves in her body jumped wildly as his head disappeared beneath her synthetic soufflé.
"I s'pose now would be a good time to tell ya I ain't vegetarian."
As the limo sped past Manchester to her right, then Blackpool on her left, if the soundproofed window had not been smoked, the driver would have seen his passengers fling themselves at each other with primitive abandon. Glimpses of Cumbria and Carlisle kaleidoscoped past Shelly as Kit playfully wrestled with her on the carpeted floor of the limousine. To Shelly's astonishment, she discovered in herself a passion so fiery that not even that daredevil oil well capper Red Adair could have quenched it. The world and its reason was obliterated by sensation. When Shelly, clawing at Kit's hair, cried out, she wasn't sure whether it was an orgasm or demonic possession. Would Kit thrust his tongue inside her again or call an exorcist? But whatever it was, she wanted more.
"Wow!" Her face whipped up from the limo floor to gaze down at him in admiration. Kit Kinkade smiled, smugly. If he'd had a snooker cue, he would have blown suavely on the tip. And then he crawled up her body, found her mouth and kissed her lubriciously, deliciously, letting her taste her own juice as they breathed in the essence of each other, the "ussence" as Kit called it, that intoxicating pheremonal ambrosia that Mother Nature gave men and women so that we would occasionally stop fighting each other.
When Shelly found herself grabbing urgently between Kit's legs, he gently pushed her back onto the leather seat. And then he said the words every woman fantasizes about one day hearing (along with "Scientists have discovered that celery was fattening all along"): "Pleasin' you is what gives me pleasure."
Now, the handful of men with whom Shelly had been intimate had possessed an insectine sexual attention span. They had been abrupt and arrogant, making the sex joyless and functionary. It seemed to her that most men only performed their bit of perfunctory cunnilingus for the penis payback, the erotic IOU that it implied. Which is why Shelly pinched herself now to check that she wasn't wet-dreaming. But no, seconds later, she was more than just a thought on the tip of his tongue. She heard a languorous, low moan and was startled to realize that it had come from her as she writhed once more beneath his mouth. The pleasure was simultaneously exquisite and excruciating -- as though she were swimming through warm then icy spots in a deep, delicious pool.
When Shelly climaxed for the final time that trip, the sensation was so long and strong and bone-marrow-meltingly spectacular that she could only describe it as an out-of-body orgasm. She was a coma-sexual! She touched his face, amazed. When she eventually managed to draw in a quavery breath, it was to confess that she'd just experienced an orgasm longer than Wagner's Ring Cycle.
"Ring Cycle?" asked Kit, licking her salty juice from his lips. "What the hell's that? Zsa Zsa Gabor's theme song?"
"Zsa Zsa Gabor?" quizzed Shelly, stroking the slivers of amber in his hair.
"Wagner?" queried Kit.
But it didn't matter. High on endorphins, they wore smiles so huge they were off the Richter scale. They just grinned their euphoric complicity into each other's besotted eyes. It was nothing short of a magic moment. Hell, it was so magical, she wouldn't have been surprised to learn that Gandalf was behind it.
"So, Shelly Green" -- Kit kissed her forehead -- "now do you believe in love at first sight?...or should I walk by again?"
Copyright © 2004 by Kathy Lette