Tuesday, October 29, 2013



Chicago, Illinois
June 28, 2010
7:45 AM

    “C’mon you guys, let’s go!”
     Rhonda raced around the high-rise apartment picking up clutter left over from the night before. Bristol and Sammy were suspiciously quiet, for a change, sequestered in their separate bedrooms, supposedly getting ready for school – a summer program -- conveniently located around the corner off State Street at the Holy Name Cathedral. The television was on; CNN was broadcasting loudly from the kitchen. A bearded newsman was reporting from New Orleans. Hurricane Alex was wrecking havoc on the Louisiana coastline. He stood, drenched, dripping with water, holding a microphone under the flimsy shelter of an over-sized  yellow tarp. Rhonda glanced outside. The eerie storm warnings in effect until after midnight the night before had miraculously blown over. But, you never knew, the Windy City was a chameleon. One minute the weather could be sunny and serene, a Photoshop image of perfection, and the next, an ice surge could migrate from northern Canada and play severe damage to the City.
    “Okay, you two, I am not going to tell you again.” She checked for messages, a text...an email. Nothing. She hadn’t heard a peep from Alex. Not since last evening. Strange. He had to be up. She checked the clock, a two hour time difference in California. His itinerary for the day was full, jam-packed; one executive meeting after another, one more significant than the next: career making opportunities, introductions, presentations, all of which needed his input, his support…him. This wasn’t like Alex.  Alex awoke early, hours before, nervous, apprehensive, practicing his speech, organizing his work, buffing his shoes, his suit, choosing the right tie; the perfect match. Alex was immaculate…sometimes, too much so.
    Bristol ran into the living room. Her long, blonde hair was pulled back loosely in a ponytail. Rhonda watched on in amazement. Unbelievable how they grow up so quickly.
    “Grab your jacket. It’s chilly outside. Sammy, come on!”
    Sammy slammed the door to his room and strolled cocksure into the living room. He carried a backpack over his shoulder. He wasn’t amused at having to get up so early, even if it were his idea to register for the school’s summer activities. The handle of his tennis racket jetted out the top of his bag. He snatched an apple from the counter as he passed by.  “Okay, okay.”
    Rhonda took one last look around the apartment before closing and locking the door. The elevator took forever, stopping at each floor. She leaned over and secured Bristol’s jacket tight around her neck. Bristol was eight years old and prone to strep throat. The slightest breeze could catapult her into a high fever and swollen glands. Rhonda took extra precautions.
    The school was close by, right around the corner from their apartment complex. She would take them over, drop them off, and then mosey over to the Starbucks on State Street and have herself a latte, a clandestine moment just for herself.    
    A mass of morning tenants exited the elevator in front of them as they waited, patiently. Then, they hurried around the corner to the lobby. Dennis, the morning door attendant, stood watch. He sat like a Mayor behind the imposing circular desk. "Doesn't feel much like summer out there today, Mrs. Kitas." His voice was deep, bass, sweet with soul.  They pushed through the revolving glass doors onto Superior Street.
    “Thanks, Dennis.”
    Outside, Rhonda nudged Bristol and Sammy toward the intersection at State Street. It was chilly. The weather felt more like fall than summer. The air had that fresh, clean, crisp, burnt-leaves sort of smell. A welcome change before the sweltering layer of humidity descended upon the City, and the hot heat of summer arrived.  She held both of their hands at the streetlight; a habit practiced early on since they were children. Sammy pulled away. God forbid one of his friends should catch him holding onto his mother’s hand.
    “I don’t bite.” Rhonda inwardly smiled. At twelve, he was becoming quite the man. Tall, like his father, with, thick, wavy, sand-colored hair that fell poised, naturally, to perfection. And that smile. God, he could light up a room, from any angle. He was definitely a looker.
    “Mom, I’m almost thirteen. I don’t need to hold on to your hand anymore.”
    “Oh, excuse me, Mister Man!”
    Bristol was perfectly content in holding on. Firmly. She enjoyed watching Sammy act out his impending adolescence, being the older, tough guy. She preferred residing in that in-between stage, no longer the baby, but also not a grown up, ready to take on the world and the responsibilities that came with it. She wanted to continue to believe in magic; that whimsical element called fantasy, where fairy tales do exist and actually do come true.  Enchantment!
    Past the statuesque church, finally finished from all of its exhausting renovations, they ran around the corner to Chicago Street. Sammy recognized a friend waiting outside and waved. He turned to Rhonda for a look of approval. Please, Mom?  Still not quite the man. He still required a sense of direction, a reassuring nod from his mom saying, “it’s okay.”
    “Go,” she insisted. “Have fun. I’ll see you in a couple hours.”
    Sammy took off running, a new found pep in his step.
    “Okay, you,” Rhonda bent down and connected with Bristol face-to-face. “You have a great time today, you hear? Bring me back something amazing from your art class. I’ll frame it. Okay?”  
    “But, what do you want, so I know?” Bristol wiped her nose with the end of her sleeve.   
    “Surprise me. And, by the way, you did an awesome job with your hair this morning. Tres, tres chic.
    “Thanks, Mom.” Bristol turned and skipped toward the entrance. Her pony-tail swayed to-and-fro in the nippy air.
    Rhonda turned toward Superior Street, the congested intersection of Chicago and State. Busses passed by; the insides cramped like canned fish with early morning commuters. Foot pedestrians waited at traffic lights; taxicabs honked and blared, scouring for random fares. Rhonda took a deep breath. She checked her cell phone. This was weird. It was eight in the morning and still no word from Alex. Not even a text message. In the fifteen years they’d been married, Alex had never forgotten to call her, particularly before an important meeting like NBC. She pulled up his cell phone number and pressed enter.  Voice message. “Hey, it’s your wife. It’s nine o’clock here in Chi-town. Where are you? I thought you were going to call me? Oh well, good luck this morning. Give me a holler when you get a minute. Love you.”
    And, she did. Love at first sight sort of thing. They’d met in college. Alex was nerdy, a good-looking marketing major and her, a goody-two-shoes from Wisconsin studying for a degree in art. Art history to be precise? With her white, porcelain skin, a face full of freckles that tap-danced across her cute, upturned nose, and a mop of strawberry-blonde hair, they quickly connected, got together and became an item. Chicago was clean; a Midwest City not quite as intimidating as Manhattan or San Francisco, so they made the decision to put roots down. They shared similar aspirations: make enough money, high-tail it to the suburbs, purchase a house, raise a family, thrive. Alex’s career took off, like gangbusters, while Rhonda’s stalled. She got pregnant with Sammy and never saw the inside of another lecture hall. Although, she did stay active by visiting the diverse and eclectic art shows that circulated through the City.
    Rhonda ended the call, deposited her cell phone back into her coat pocket and crossed Chicago Street. The small, brick-paved courtyard of Starbucks came into view as she turned the corner. A few tables were available outside as she pushed through the squeaky fence, entered the busy store and took her place in line.
    “What can I get you?” the male counter person asked. “Usual?” 
    God, was she that predictable?
    Slightly embarrassed by her own rigid, day-in and day-out routine, Rhonda answered, “Why not?”   
    He smiled back, his teeth enormous. Braces filled his entire mouth.
    She strayed from the counter, perusing various brand-name items on discount, arranged on shelves in overly-organized fashion. She positioned herself close to the pickup area. Within seconds, a pair of masculine arms slinked around her waist and pulled her in close. A moment of divine weakness -- should she or shouldn’t she? And then that unanimous feeling of letting go.  She grabbed hold of the grip snaking around her sides. Short, prickly stubble of a beard tickled at her neck; soft lips nibbled. Wet intoxicating kisses.
    “Right on time,” the voice cooed. He turned Rhonda around, and they kissed.  His tongue entered her mouth, probing, searching, revisiting known territory. A few people waiting next to them took offense.
    Jake was Rhonda’s friend with benefits. Okay, so the sex with Alex had died. Dried up. She wondered about Alex, his sexuality. Did he still find her attractive? How many nights could they go over the same tedious topics, ad nauseam, to come up with the same monotonous answers? The same boring retorts. She tried to understand. But, it was frustrating for her, and equally debilitating for Alex. He would answer the incrimination's the same way, always -- the stress, the job, the hours -- whatever. Rhonda was bored. Deprived. Sexually abandoned. She felt unattractive to the point of seeking out a shrink. On the down low. She would get answers from somebody, come hell or high water.
    “Rhonda! Latte, skim milk with a maple scone.” The clerk yelled out. In all the heated excitement, she hadn’t noticed the guy’s nose ring. Or, the large, circular, black holes; the size of copper pennies, punched out of each of his earlobes. Ouch!
    Rhonda slipped away from Jake’s grip and fetched her items. “You want something?”
    Damn, he knew all the right things to say, especially to a sexually denied woman. She smiled coquettishly and collected her things at the counter. “Thanks.” 
    “Let’s get the fuck out of here.” Jake lived around the corner on Chestnut Street in a one-bedroom pied-a-terre located on the second floor of a walk-up apartment building. Rhonda’s new holding pen for adultery. Time was nonexistent. He helped her with her goodies, pulled her, carefree and somewhat guilty from the store and allowed her to cuddle up beside him as they ran the few blocks to his place.
    She had met Jake at that Starbucks, sitting at that patio, reading the New York Times and, for the record, minding her own business. She didn’t pay him much attention. Not at first. Why should she? He was years younger, a baby. But, he protested. Persisted. And, sooner than she would care to admit, he'd led her down the cougar, primrose path of infidelity.
    Jake’s body was muscular. He had a swimmer’s, lean build, not overly worked-out but smooth, slender, and deliciously sensuous. His dark, moody eyes and his brown curly, longish hair, was so, so different from Alex.
    His skin was dark, Moroccan cocoa, and his body had an ever-so-slight scent to it, sexy, manly, like ripe musky fruit.  He couldn’t be more than thirty. And, she refused to ask his age out of sheer embarrassment that he might even be younger. His fingers were mid-western, farmer-thick, and his torso was bare, without a stalk of hair. She wondered if he shaved. Could a body be so hairless? Hers had more hair on it than his. He indulged Rhonda, spoiled her shamelessly with an electrical surge of sexual attention she’d been craving, starved for. He allowed her to feel once again the finer details of being a woman; waxing, shaving her legs, exercising at the apartment complex’s gymnasium. The Stairmaster had become her new best friend, huffing-and-puffing before noon, at least three times a week, as well as the occasional Pilate’s class. Somebody, thank God, was finally paying attention to her, and damn, it felt good.
    They laughed and giggled up the two flight of stairs, keys out and ready. They tumbled like drunken sailors into the undersized living room. His pants were unbuckled and had fallen around his ankles as they entered. He shuffled into the adjoining bedroom. Rhonda set her coffee cup and scone down on the floor. She unbuttoned her blouse, flung her jacket on the only chair in the room, and left a trail of disrobed clothes to his perfectly made bed. Morning sunlight filtered in through open blinds covered in sheer red, (whore red) curtains.   
    She stood in front of him, nude, witnessing his nakedness. She was wet with excitement. Jesus! Absolutely mad for him.  He unbuttoned her jeans and helped slide them down over her hips, collecting her nothing thong with his thumb in the process. He bent over and allowed her to hold onto his back as she stepped free from each leg. Then, he reached behind her and with such ease, such grace, he lifted her onto the bed. He began tasting and licking, teasing, and exploring. In the background, soft, jazz played. A sultry saxophone serenaded.
    Rhonda was beside herself with pleasure and extreme guilt. She would allow herself this one happy diversion, this one act of betrayal. Obviously, she loved Alex, adored him, and wanted to be with him, absolutely. Forever. What she didn’t want was to grow older and experience one more year without sex. Any sex. It caused anguish. Such torment. Her new, expensive therapist was the first one to organize Rhonda’s thoughts. The positives and the negatives divided into two symmetrical blame free columns. Alex was the perfect husband, a generous provider, a wonderful man and a fantastic father. True or false? True, of course. Could she, would she, divorce Alex just because the sex between them sucked?
    “Yes, yes, oh my God,” she screamed out. Jake buried his tongue deep into her center. He was definitely practiced, educated in the fine art of cunnilingus.   
    No, she didn’t want a divorce. Of, course not. But, she would have some fun on her own. She was sure Alex was enjoying his own secret amusement, whatever that was.
    Rhonda was on top now, straddling Jake. He massaged her breasts; every so often lifting his head, slightly from the pillow to suck on one of her extended nipples. His toes would flex; his legs tense, and then relax as she lowered herself down upon him. He was the perfect size, not too large, but not too small and completely and utterly giving. He wanted to pleasure her. Giving Rhonda satisfaction seemed to give him fulfillment, at least, she hoped so. He was smiling when they came. Together. The sensation of his cock pulsating thick inside her made her come instantly.
    What a turn on! 
    They remained in that satiated, heated state until his hardness softened, and squirmed free. She rolled off and lay beside him. A ceiling fan twirled, ticked above them. She held onto this young man’s body. Reaching over for a kiss, he positioned his arm around her shoulder.
    She could fall asleep like this...   
    Then, the jarring noise of her cell phone.   
    “Jesus. Probably Alex.” Rhonda jumped up from the bed and ran down the hallway to collect her coat, which had fallen on the floor. She grabbed her mobile, looked at the number. 415 area code. Okay, San Francisco. “Hello, this is Rhonda,” she said, out of breath, flushed.
    “Mrs. Kitas?” A male voice asked. 
    “Yes.” A worried look came over her face. “How can I help you?” She turned her nakedness away from Jake, who was now sitting up on one elbow watching, listening.  His body was on display, a prime piece of exquisite, human, masculine art.
    “Mrs. Kitas, this is Dennis Plumber from NBC. Have you heard from your husband this morning? He hasn’t shown up for his nine o’clock meeting.”  

* * *

    Back at the apartment, Rhonda took a moment to regroup. Process. She needed space, some privacy, some down-time to think about this new situation dumped into her lap. She needed to at least try to make some sort of sense out of it. Luckily, she had a few hours before needing to pick up Sammy and Bristol. First things first. Don’t panic! A simple phone call to Alex would clear this whole mess up, lickety-split. Perhaps he’d overslept, which was completely unlike him, Alex being the early riser in the family. She rolled through the contacts on her cell phone until landing on ICE (In Case of Emergency) and pushed CALL. Several seconds passed by before the phone connected. Four rings then Alex’s familiar voice, baritone, grounded, sturdy. Comfortable.   
    Alex, where the fuck are you?   
    In the shower, Rhonda systematically rehashed each second they’d last spent together. She went over the details, raking for facts, compiling a mental agenda, logging the events of their last day. Sunday morning, the usual, routines like coffee, the Chicago Tribune, breakfast with the children, packing. All, very ordinary, mundane, every day sorts of things. She did remember asking him why he needed to leave so early when his meetings didn’t start until Monday? Why not hop a plane later that evening? His response was typical Alex. He needed time to organize his paperwork, prepare. Again, Nothing out of the ordinary. At least, not for Alex.
    Rhonda visualized him; sitting on their bed, watching him stow the neatly pressed shirts, his ties, socks, the new shoes they’d just purchased for good luck at Neiman Marcus, the Brooks Brother suit.
    Drying off, a tinge of guilt resurfaced. Her sexual liaison with Jake, the carefree sex, the feel of Jake's hands firm upon her breasts; gentle but rough, so in tune with her body, her needs. It was all still so fresh, so yummy, so steamy, so tantalizing, a dizzy, blurry memory. Her clumsy, guilt-ridden attempt to scrub away his scent in the shower was futile.
    In the living room, she looked out the sliding glass doors onto their wide terrace, the breathtaking view of Chicago planted in front of her like a Hollywood backdrop. She'd wanted, asked, pleaded for, in fact, a higher floor. But, Alex remained steadfast, preferring the lower levels. They compromised, the big "C" on 18. They were good together. They balanced each other out; her weaknesses, his strengths.
    In Alex’s office, she sat at his desk. She swiveled back-and-forth in his worn leather chair. She viewed with envy his immaculate organization. Everything arranged perfectly in its own individual spot.   
     Virgo! Everything has a place; every place has a thing!
     She rifled through several ledgers scouring for a clue, a hint, some evidence, anything. She opened his laptop. The icon located dead center on the screen with his name neatly printed beneath it. Password? No idea. She opened the drawers, pulled out papers, files.
    Nothing. She walked to the closet, separated the doors, the shelves used for storage, paper, toner, ink cartridges, all displayed neatly, meticulously, labels facing forward, everything in order.
    Oh, Alex…  
    She grabbed her cell phone in the living room, scrolled to the Google landing page and typed in the Fairmont Hotel located in San Francisco. The webpage loaded within seconds showing the iconic building located at the corner of Mason Street and right below it, the number for reservations. She pressed the local listing. She didn't want to get lost in some international Fairmont answering pool and have to wait for yet one more redirection.
    “Good morning. Could you please connect me to Alex Kitas’s room? Yes, thank you, I’ll hold.”   
    She looked around their spacious apartment. She was scared. Lonely. Alone.    
    Where was he?        
    The operator connected her.  After several rings, an automated voice alerted her that the guest she was trying to contact was not available. If she wanted to leave a message, she could.
    She hung up and immediately redialed.
    “Yes, hi, this is Rhonda Kitas, again, Alex Kitas’s wife. You just connected me to his room; I think it was you. Anyway, he’s not there. I have a funny question to ask. Has anybody at the front desk seen Mr. Kitas this morning? His work just called saying he hasn’t shown up, and I’m beginning to get a little worried. Yes, I’ll hold. Thank you.” She began biting the nail of her index finger, a bad habit she’d dropped years ago. This was so not Alex. As disconnected as they were sexually, they were still a team, partners, swans for life in this dance called marriage. Or, so she thought.
    “Hi, yes. Last night? Okay. Did anybody witness him coming back to the hotel? When is he due to checkout? Tomorrow. Okay, thank you.” She ended the call and flopped onto their overstuffed sofa. Her mind was racing. Panic was slowly setting in, taking up residence. She pressed Alex’s cell phone number, again. The familiar rings, his voice.
    “Alex, you are fucking scaring me right now! Please pick up. Where are you? Your job is calling, and I’m a basket case.” She ended the call and glanced around the living room. Time. She needed time to know what to do. Should she call the police? Missing persons? Jesus. Her stomach churned, gurgled. She peeked at the wall clock hanging in the dining room. It was almost two. She hadn’t eaten a thing. Not even that fucking scone left forgotten on Jake’s floor.  Right now, her appetite seemed the least of her worries.
    Once again, she opened her phone and began texting a message.
    Alex, please, I’m worried. Call me immediately!   
    Maybe he was leaving her. Maybe he found out about Jake. But how? And, why wouldn’t he mention it to her. Some things you don’t reveal. Can’t! Some things are better left unsaid.
    Oh, by the way, honey, I got laid by this young, hot Moroccan stud!    
    Yeah, not the sort of thing you bring up to your husband of fifteen years.  
    Even though Rhonda wasn’t on the best of terms with Alex’s parents she thought she’d better reach out to them. They lived in Downers Grove, a suburb of Chicago. Alex might have called them to say he was leaving her, their life together, the children.  She didn’t know. She needed answers. Rhonda was not one to live with indecisiveness easily, even if the news wasn’t what she wanted to hear, or expected. A direct “yes” or “no” worked perfectly fine.
    “Hi, Jean, it’s Rhonda. Yes, the children are fine, thanks for asking…listen, I’m calling because Alex went to San Francisco on some business yesterday and this morning I received a call from his work saying he hadn’t shown up. I was wondering if maybe you’d heard something from him.” She ran fingers through her wet, curly hair. “Hmmmm.  Okay. Well, if you do hear something, let me know.” Pause. “I’m sure it’s nothing to get alarmed about, Jean. Just thought you might know something. Thanks.” She flung her phone on the sofa and walked into their bedroom. She threw her robe on the bed and began dressing. She opened the closet and grabbed a pair of slacks. She noticed her suitcase perched on the top shelf, stored away.
    Their trip to Bermuda together, the last time she packed it, the family vacation. Atlantis! Water slides and mermaids… She pulled open the top drawer of her dresser and reached for a sweater, gray, soft, easy. Again, she glanced at the black stow away.  It taunted her.  
    She closed the door and went into the living room. Her cell phone on the table began buzzing. Finally! She ran to it, tapped the screen to read who the message was from. It was a text from Jake, confidential, secret. 
    Thanks for the Scone. Hope we can meet again for coffee. Real soon.
    Her thoughts were so far away from Jake at this moment. She didn’t even respond. In the past, she would have answered, immediately, a short, cute, flirtatious line…some playful banter.  Now, her thoughts were on her children, her chaotic life, her missing-in-action husband.
    Rhonda made a Google search for American Airlines. She pressed CALL.
    An automated answering system guided her through an obstacle course of choices before she reached the voice of a real live human being.  The man answered, expectantly.

    “I’d like to book a flight, please, from Chicago."  Pause. "San Francisco."


  1. WRITE FASTER!!! lol I can't wait to read the rest of this! You my dear are definitely a bestselling author.

  2. You are such a tease... LOL! The book is in the final stages. Thank you for that!

  3. I can't wait to read this book. Sounds wonderful and I loved the excerpt. The name Rhonda is my sister's name. She is in a book now.. lol Do I still get the first read?? You promised remember. :) Boy I wish it would have been ready today but that is only making me want to read it even more. Thanksgiving can't get here fast enough... Love all of your books so I know I will LOVE this one too. Thanks for sharing Doug and didn't you say there would be another Sami Saxton book?? I thought I read that!! Happy Halloween, watch out for the Ghosts and Goblins.. hehehe xx

  4. Nice. Have been looking forward to this since I saw the first tweet about it. Love the details...like "Alex" as the Hurricane's name matching up with the early Summer. Too often authors and screenwriters are careless about that kind of detail. Thanks for the preview--speaking of teases. Cheers.

  5. Thanks!! I promise a roller coaster of a ride, Al!!!

  6. Wonderful, like your other books. I can't wait to read more, even the exert sucked me in right away! Do finish quickly, I can't wait for it to come out!

  7. Excellent, I look forward to reading it.

  8. Thank you for the comments. Hope you enjoy ENCOUNTER!