Chapter 1

Charlotte Howard threw open the executive suite door and marched toward the front entrance of the First Commerce Bank. She was followed by the president of the financial institution, Harold Loomis. "Charlotte, wait…"

She kept walking with her chin up, lips pressed tightly together, and portfolio clasped in her left hand. Her heels clicked on the marble floor, as she hastened past the ornate pillars that lined the lobby. Heads turned to watch the normally cheerful business woman walk out the door.

Outside the bank, she exhaled loudly and drew in a deep breath. The July sun slapped a hot blanket around her. On went her sunglasses and off came the lightweight suit jacket she had worn to meet with Loomis. Anger hung between her mind and her vocal cords. Finally, "Aghhhhhh" was all she could muster.

The Bank was on Millburn Avenue, just down from The Grand Summit Hotel and her business, Jimmy's Bar and Grill. She walked toward the bar, slowing her pace so she could collect herself.

In front of the hotel, she paused under the shade of the entrance canopy for a moment absorbing the cool air filtering out of the lobby. She had one thing to do before heading to work and it involved Roberto, the long-time doorman of the hotel and her friend.

"Itsa hot day, Ms. Howard. What's you doing out thisa Saturday morning?"

"Had to meet Loomis at the bank before it closed at noon," Charlotte answered. "Did you remember the favor I asked?"

"I did. I lefta note fora him toa see me before hesa go out. Don't you worry none, I willa do my part."

"Thanks, Roberto. Bring Maria in one night, steaks on me. Okay?"

That task settled, Charlotte continued to push her way through the heat and make her way to the Bar in the next block. As she walked, the sun played peek-a-boo with the clouds. Each step alternated between shade and bright sun depending on the celestial game beginning played out above her. She stopped in front of Jimmy's Bar and Grill and stared at the brick front of the old building. Some days she loved this place, but this wasn't one of them. But she had high hopes for this evening. As if on queue, the sun beamed between the clouds and reflected off the stained glass of the massive oak doors of the bar. Maybe that was a good sign for tonight.

Entering the cool interior of the Bar, she paused to wipe the sweat from her forehead.

"How was your meeting?" greeted Ronnie Mitchell, the long time maître d' at the Bar.

"Frankly, Ronnie, I have come to loathe bankers and lawyers. But I need them so I have to be nice."

"So I take it the meeting went well?" Ronnie laughed.

"Oh sure, everything was smooth as silk." Charley gave her head a quick shake.

"What happened?"

"I presented our renovation and expansion proposal; Loomis spent barely 30 seconds looking at it and then declared, 'The Bank can't loan you money at this time.' He had no questions about the proposal or our business, nothing. He hardly had time to read it. I tell you, Ronnie, I'm about this close to pulling all our accounts from Harold Loomis and telling him to take his Bank and shove it."

"He must have had a good reason, don't you think?" Ronnie had seen Charley become upset over other business matters with increasing regularity; things that normally she would have brushed off.

Ignoring the question, Charley fumed, "You know what he said to me? He said, and I quote, 'Charley, honey, you're not ready to take on a project this size. Maybe next year.' The ass called me 'honey'. Can you believe that?"

Ronnie recognized his role in this conversation was to listen and grunt occasionally and just let her voice her rage. She wasn't looking for advice, she needed a friendly ear.

"I go to church with the man and sit on the board of the Boys and Girls Club with him and he treats me like a child. Honey, my ass! I've run this bar for five and a half years going on six and, except for last year, we increased profits every year."

"He really has underestimated you".

"He sure as hell has! He thinks because I have boobs and am younger than his no good daughter—I take that back, I like Teresa—nevertheless, he thinks because I am a young woman that I am stupid. He'll see, he'll see."

"Can I fix you a drink? Might help."

"No, thanks for letting me vent. It's good to get it off my chest." Charley put her portfolio down and flopped into one of the plush leather chairs in the lounge area and took a deep breath. "Maybe I'll have a diet soft drink." This is so frustrating. Jimmy's has so much potential, why can't she get it moving again?

Just like my life, I guess, I'm in a real funk and can't get things going again. Damn you Randle, why did you have to die? This is not what I married you for!

She took the Diet Pepsi Ronnie brought and sat back in the comfortable chair. "You going to have something?"

"No, but I need to talk to you about tonight."

"Sure Ronnie. I probably know what you are going to say, but go ahead." Ronnie had been like a father to her ever since her own dad died. They had had this conversation earlier in the week, but she listened out of respect for the older man.

"Charley, you're expecting to meet that coach tonight and I am afraid your expectations are unrealistic about what might happen. You don't know anything about his personal life or who he really is. In your emotional condition now, I'm just afraid you are going to get into something that you can't handle."

"So you and Loomis think I can't handle myself; I'm too young and emotional?" Charley was teasing because she knew he was dead serious and this was a subject she really did not want to discuss. Ronnie and Wilma had talked her to death about her plans.

"No, no you can handle almost anything, I just meant…"

"Ronnie, I love you. I know what you meant and I love you for it. You're like my Dad, always worried about his little girl. Listen, this is like a blind date only the coach doesn't know it yet. I don't know a lot of things, but I do know dating and, honestly, I can handle this. If it makes you feel any better, I promise to be careful."

"Well okay, I guess that'll have to do."

"I'm going upstairs to change. Hopefully, he will come in as planned and this afternoon can be forgotten."

"Charley, I don't like you meeting someone you haven't seen in years. I think you are making a mistake," Ronnie shouted making one last attempt to dissuade her.

She laughed and waved over her head as she made her way toward the stairway to her apartment. "I love you, too."

Ronnie might be right; I could be making a mistake. I haven't seen him in at least six years. So what's the harm in having dinner with the man? Ronnie is too protective; if something develops after dinner, I can handle it. Heck, I hope something does develop after dinner!

Charleyentered the spacious apartment and kicked off her heels. I've got to get out of this blame suit and into something comfortable. She undressed, tossed her clothes on the bed and walked to the shower. "I'll show you who's a honey!" she continued to fume.

The shower was huge; almost 10 X 10, big enough for another room. It had been the extra bedroom where Randle grew up with his parents. When Randle moved out, Jimmy had the room converted to a combination shower and mini-spa. The size and the spa steam made life bearable for Sarah Brewster who had been confined to a wheel chair the last ten years of her life. Tile covered the floor and the walls to the top of the eight foot ceiling. Across from the door was a three sided shower with a water fall shower overhead. A detachable shower head allowed Mama Brewster to sit on the oversized bench and bath. In this room, taking a shower was an experience not just a way to get clean.

On the left wall was a full length fogless mirror. Close at hand were wall shelves contained her shampoos, conditioners, rinses and lotions. This was a spa in every sense of the word.

She turned the shower on the hottest possible setting to allow some relaxing steam to build up in the room. While the steam began to fill the room, Charley turned to the mirror to loosen her hair. She had to admit, she liked the 32 year old body staring back at her. She reached up to free her dark brown hair and let it fall over her shoulders and down her back a few inches. Reaching behind her neck and holding her hair up, she turned left and right to admire her shapely body. At five foot eight inches, 126 pounds, she felt good about what she saw.

Her skin was tanned from the summer sun and the occasional visits to the tanning salon. She had long ago conquered any skin blemishes left over from her teen years. A light smattering of freckles dotted her chest from her collar bone to the top of her breasts. They always appeared when she began her summer tan.

Her breasts were not tiny nor were they huge. They were rounded and the light brown areola and nipples were centered. The muscles across her chest allowed the Twins to hold their shape without a bra if she chose. Maybe they were too big, but Randle had loved them and wouldn't think of allowing her to have breast reduction surgery. So she grew fond of her D cups and their near perfect symmetry, well, the left breast was a little smaller than the right, but who cares. Certainly no one cares now since Randle is gone.

She had a shapely body with well portioned hips and long legs. Her crotch was covered with a patch of perfectly trimmed blond hair.

"Yes, I like the outside, but inside I am a mess. I would love to trade." She sighed out loud to no one in particular. I wish I could quit pretending and just be me for a change.

She turned the water temperature down and stepped into the warm water and allowed it to cascade over her head. She leaned back and let the warmth of the water massage her face and body. Slowly the stress began to ease from her body and the condescending comments from Harold Loomis were pushed to the darker recesses of her mind.

She reached for her favorite shampoo Paul Mitchell's Awapuhi Shampoo; it left her hair smelling like a fresh bouquet of summer flowers and it was gentle on her dyed hair. She stepped back from the shower and worked the shampoo into her hair. With the shower turned to a drizzle, she stepped back into the shower and gently washed away the lathered shampoo. The soapy water slowly drained over her face and down her breasts glazing them with a warm glistening shine.

They often showered together. He would reach around her back and grasp those mounds of pleasure in his soft hands. There was something special about the way he slowly cupped her breast and began to massage them; she would lean back against his wet body and back her hips against his healthy manhood. They almost never completed a shower; there were more important things to do. Mama Brewster's oversized bench made a perfect place for Randle to sit while Charley straddled his lap and received his anxious manhood as the warm water slowly covered their hot passionate bodies.

But there's only me now.

Charley lathered her wash cloth to wipe away this afternoon's coating of sweat, but the memory of their making love in the shower could not be washed away. She worked the soap over her body in an absent minded routine; face, arms, stomach, breasts. With the wash cloth over her hand she slowly massaged her breasts. The soap laden cloth was soft and slick but the texture made it feel like the roughness of Randle's hand on her breasts. She closed her eyes and the image of her late husband instantly flashed in front of her. Massaging her breasts continued as her other hand slipped from her breasts to slowly rub her crotch and slip her finger inside.

The self pleasure quickly gave way to a deep sadness as she dropped the wash cloth and slowly slid down the soapy tiles to the floor of the shower, pulled her knees to her chest and sobbed uncontrollably. Randle, I love you, but you're not here, Damn it! Let me go, please. I've got to move on with my life. I just don't know if I can or if I really want to!

A few minutes later the spell was broken by a knock on the shower room door. "Charlotte, Charlotte are you in the shower? I came up to help you dress. We need to get your hair done."

The voice belonged to Wilma Watson. She was in charge of the wait staff and generally ran the front end of the restaurant. Wilma was a female version of Ronnie. She had been with Jimmy Brewster from the opening of his Bar. When Randle and Charlotte started dating, Wilma assumed the role of chief chaperone and mama to the two young lovers.

After a long pause, she pulled herself together, "I'll be out in a minute." Quickly she stood and reached for her favorite body lotion; the one that gave her body a soft vanilla scented silkiness. "Pick me something sexy to wear." She knew Wilma wasn't there to help her dress, she never had before. Wilma was there to talk about tonight and her message would be the same as Ronnie's.

No matter, Charlotte loved Wilma and welcomed her comments about life and love because they came out of love and concern. And she was generally right, just like her own mom.

Wrapping a towel around her, she stepped into the world of Mama Wilma. "I hope you picked out the pastel pink wrap around shirt and the white silk blouse."

"I thought that would be your choice, I'll get them in a minute. Come over here, let's get your hair dried." Wilma was trying hard to be casual but it was obvious she had other things on her mind.

"Wilma, Ronnie has already talked to me about tonight, but I suspect you have something to say, don't you? You're not going to be like my mom, are you? One time, she forbid me to leave the house because she didn't approve of a boy I wanted to see. I can leave the apartment, can't I?"

Wilma reached for the hair dryer and began to brush the damp hair, "Be serious, Charley, we're just concerned for you."

"I know. But this is something I need to do."

"What do you need to do, honey?"

"I need to get on with my life; I'm mired down. When Randle and I married, we had such high dreams. When he got involved with that damn Leonard Martin and got himself killed, my life fell apart. You knew I was pregnant when he was killed. Did you know we had just found out it was a boy? Going to name him Jimmy after his Granddad." Tears began to develop in Charley's eyes. "And three weeks later, I lost our baby!

"Wilma, in three weeks, I buried my husband and my baby and our dreams. Everything good in my life was gone, just gone." The words came harder as they struggled to be heard above Charlotte's sobs..

"There, there, child everything will be okay."

"My life is dead now, I have the Bar and you and Ronnie, but I go to bed in that huge condo and don't have anyone to hold me. I get up and there's no one to eat breakfast with. I don't have anyone to tell me I'm pretty or I'm sexy. I can't let my guard down with anyone. I don't have anyone I can build a future with." Charley leaned on Wilma's shoulder and hugged her tight. "I'm 32 and I'm dead, dead and alone."

"What about that young lawyer you are seeing? Terry something? He seems nice."

"He is nice Wilma, but I need a man I can depend on, who can make decisions, who is affectionate; Terry is too nice, too clinging, and on top of that, he's lousy in bed." Charley laughed a little through the tears.

"I know everyone else in town and they know me. My best friend from high school, Bobby Wagner, is married to my best girl friend, Debbie Wilson. Everyone else is either married or moved away or gay. There's just me; confident, successful and, damnit, I'm alone, all alone! Wilma, when the Bar closes, I either come up here or go back to the condo and I shower and put on an old ragged shirt and panties and I climb into the bed; a bed meant for two! I need someone to hold me and say, "How was your day" and listen to me and rub the tension out of my shoulders and make love to me."

"Sweet baby." Wilma didn't realize the depth of Charlotte's hurt. "But why this coach, why now? You don't know this man. He might be a killer or worse."

Charley had to laugh at Wilma's imagination, "Could be, but I doubt it. Wilma, when he played for the Knicks, Randle and I went to most of the games. We met him occasionally at various civic functions and knew him enough to wave at him across the room. Randle liked him and I thought he was a hunk as well as a good ball player."

"But you don't know anything about him since he retired. No telling what he has become."

"A couple of years ago, I was rummaging through our things looking for something, who knows what, when I found an old program Randle saved. Apparently he saved it because McCoy had signed it for us. The autograph said, "Til We Meet Again". I broke down and cried, It was like a sign from Heaven, "'This is the man for you' flashing in neon blue and red and yellow lights. Is that silly, Wilma?"

"Sweetheart, that was just an autograph, it didn't mean anything."

"I know, I know. But two months later, Sports Illustrated had him on the cover. The cover no less! He is the coach at a small college in Ohio and they had just beaten Indiana in the first round of the NCAA tournament."

"Wilma, I've always dreamt of Randle, but I started having dreams about Phillip McCoy as well. God knows, I didn't plan them, they just happened. At first the dreams were simple and meaningless and then some of them became pretty sexy, I mean real sexy. At first I was ashamed my mind was thinking and dreaming about someone else; even today I feel uneasy thinking I might have dreams about someone other than Randle. But I keep having dreams about him and honestly, now I look forward them.

"But those are just dreams, Charley, They're not real. You need a real man."

"I agree Wilma, when the Chamber of Commerce secured the NCAA coach's convention; I decided to put an end to this madness. I am going to meet this dream man and see just how close he was to the real man. If he is the man for me, I want to know it. Wilma, something is just pulling me to see just how close this dream man and the real man really are."

"Sounds pretty unrealistic to me. Dream man! Huh!" Suddenly Wilma voiced what was really on her mind, "You're planning on having sex with the man, aren't you? Damn girl, you stay in your room, I will not allow you out." Wilma was half serious. "You have protection?"

"Okay Mama Wilma, I promise I will be careful. But if the real Coach is half the dream Coach, and I hope he is, I may well mess around a little."

"Be careful, honey."

"I will, I promise. Now go on back downstairs, I've got to get ready." Charley stood and hugged Wilma. "I love you, thanks for loving me and listening, it makes me eel better."

She finished drying her hair and fixed it in a French twist to expose her neck. She selected her clothes, the pastel pink wrap around skirt and white silk blouse, to provide just the right flair, a bit of modesty and lot of sexy. Around her neck, she fastened the stacked chocolate pearls that dandled just to the top of her breast and were inviting but tasteful.

She started work on her make up for the evening, little brighter cheeks, inviting lipstick, base, powder, blush, eyes. I love getting ready for a date, men are so visual; use the right hair style, show a little cleavage and wear the perfect make up and you have them. I wonder if I am going to have Coach Mac tonight. I wonder if he will remember me?

She was ready, after a few whirls before the mirror, she returned to the stairs and descended to the Bar to begin her routine of greeting patrons and insuring everyone was having a good time. And she waited for her dream man