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Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book One - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

He was gone. He’d stayed away a lot in the last two months, not that he had much to do, but he spent time riding, just him and Destiny and Raven. And he practically lived on the boats, the sailboat, the cigarette boat, the little pirogue. Sometimes, he even spent the night, sleeping below deck. Raven was always with him during those times too. He was dark as a pirate from being so much in the sun.
            She was old enough to notice what was going on by now so she knew all the times he had girls at the cabin and that he sometimes took them to the boats. Occasionally, he invited her to go along when he rode or went sailing but not often.
            He still let her come to bed with him when he was in his room but it wasn’t nearly often enough to satisfy her. She felt she wanted to store up as much time with him as she could before he left but he was just the opposite, trying to get her used to the time when he’d be gone.
            The last night was bittersweet for her. Tears were flowing down her face the whole time.
            “You know, Lane,” he joked, “it’s not really very sexy when the girl you’re screwing has to keep stopping to wipe her nose.”
            “I can’t help it, Rafe.”
            “I know, Honey, it’s okay, I’m only teasing you.”
            She begged him to let her stay. “Please, Rafe, just this one last time. Please don’t make me leave. It’s going to be so long. I won’t ever ask you for anything ever again if you just let me stay this time.”
            And finally, he relented and made an exception to his rule. She wouldn’t even let herself fall asleep until he hugged her tightly and said, drowsily, “Jesus, Lane, go to sleep. I can’t stand feeling you lying here beside me wide awake. If you don’t, I’m going to send you off to your own bed so I can get some sleep myself.”
            So she forced herself to close her eyes and she guessed she must have dozed off because the next thing she knew it was morning and she awoke to his lips on hers.

            Renny had heart-to-hearts with both his kids. Rafe, the evening before he left and Lane, the evening after.
            “Sit down, Rafe, I want to tell you a few things before you go.”
            Rafe sat in the chair in front of the desk, noticing, as he always did, the family portrait over the carved wooden fireplace at the end of the room – the one of Renny and Magdelene and their first seven kids, painted when Annecy was four and they thought their family was complete.
            Then he turned his attention to his father.
            “Knowing you as well as I do, Rafe, I don’t think you’re going to settle into Princeton very comfortably. It’s not that you’ll have any trouble with your classes or getting on any team you decide to try for. You’ll do fine in those areas. But, private as you are, you won’t like the social aspect of it all. You’ll be a lot more crammed together with other people than you’ll like.
            But, it doesn’t matter, Son. I expect you to adapt as best you can and succeed as you always do. If you have to grit your teeth to get through it, then that’s just what you’ll have to do. And when you’re a sophomore, you’ll join the Ivy eating club, just as every Vincennes has done. Again, you probably won’t appreciate what you’ll have to go through to do that. I know you’ve heard me or the other talks about bicker, the interview process by which you get invited. It will be a formality for you seeing as how you’ll have been preceded by great-grandfathers and grandfathers and me and your brothers. You’d have to shoot someone on the cottage lawn to be turned down. But you’ll think it’s Mickey Mouse bullshit, Rafe. You’ll hate being forced to do it, but you will do it.”
            He smiled. “You’re a lone wolf, Rafe, and lone wolves and dorm life aren’t the best fit but you’ll have to overcome your nature. It’s why I’m letting you take your car and why I offered to pay to have it garaged in Princeton, so you’ll have a means of escape when the bindings get so tight you think you’re choking. It’s the best I can do to help you get through it. I know what you’re capable of, Rafe, I won’t settle for anything less. Are you clear on all that, Son?”
            “I’ve got it, Dad. I won’t disappoint you.”
            “No, Rafe, I don’t think you’ll disappoint me.”

            And then Lane, who was intimidated as hell, because she didn’t ever remember having a face-to-face discussion with her father in her whole life. He’d always been a handsome but distant and somewhat forbidding figure to her, the authority in the family, whose judgment was never questioned.
            He studied her appraisingly, noticing the dark circles under her eyes and the way her mouth drooped at the corners.
            “You look like you lost your best friend, Lane, and I expect you think you did with your brother gone. I’ll tell you the truth, I have a little sympathy for you but not a lot. I know he’s been the center of your life and that’s mainly because yourMother and I opted out. Maybe you’re lucky that he was here to take up the slack and even more, that he was willing to do it, but maybe not. It’s made you more dependent than you should be on him for lots of things. He’s never really made you fend for yourself.”
            His expression was implacable. “That’s over now though, Girl. You’re going to have to learn to be strong on your own, which you’re perfectly capable of doing, and I think it’s past time for you to do it. So I don’t want to see you crying around here, Lane. You’re smart and you’re beautiful. I know you’re popular at school. You’ve got lots more going for you than most people so self-pity isn’t going to cut it with me. I expect you to get on with your life without your brother. Do you understand me, Elena?”
            “Yes, Dad.” Her throat was so dry from nervousness, she could barely choke out the words.
            “I will do one thing for you, Lane. Whenever it will be convenient for Rafe to bring you up for a visit, I’ll treat you to an all expense paid trip to beautiful New Jersey.” He smiled wryly, “until then, I want you to know that if you have any problems or worries, you can always come to me and I’ll try to help.”
            She left the room thinking that in a million years, she’d never have the courage to approach him about any problem she ever had – but a trip to see Rafe,  yes, that would be something she could look forward to!

            Dear Rafe – it’s so lonesome here without you – I miss you lots. Dad gave me a pep talk after you left. He was sort of mean. He told me he’d pay for a trip to come visit you once you’re ready for company though. I’m trying to do what you said and get involved in school. I’m going to try to get on the staff of the Scribe. I’m going to a movie with Cal on Friday. I’m trying, Rafe, but it’s hard…I hope you like it there. Let me know. I love you, Laney.

            Hey Lane – I’m  here and more or less settled in. Had to laugh at the amount of stuff most of them brought. I had least of anyone – you know me, I travel light. Well, what else can you do in a Corvette? Thank God, I have a single room. Don’t think I could tolerate a roommate. Dad was right. I’m going to hate having so many people practically sitting on my head. What was he mean to you about? We had an orientation. I hate shit like that. Food is decent. Good luck with the paper – and with Cal. love, R

            Rafe – Well, maybe Dad wasn’t really mean but he wasn’t exactly sympathetic either. Basically, told me it was time for me to stand on my own two feet without counting on you all the time. I had to turn in a writing sample for the Scribe. Keep your fingers crossed for me.  The movie was fine. Cal is nice – but he isn’t EXCITING! I love you!!!!!

            Hey Lane – Dad’s more perceptive than you think. He knows more about us than you think too, although hopefully, not everything. Have started classes and they’re easy so far. I have an okay schedule. Looks like I’ll probably make the varsity baseball team. love

            She wrote to him almost every day. He wrote her once a week, if she was lucky, and sometimes it was only once every two weeks.

            Rafe -  I had another date with Cal. Is it safe to tell you something personal on e-mail, Rafe? I got the spot on the Scribe – yay! I’ve been assigned to write a story about tattoos. Do you think I should get one so I can write first-hand about what it feels like? What about a ladybug on my shoulder? Would that be cute? By the way, Mrs Fisher asked how you were and said to tell “that sure-footed brother of yours” good luck in college. What’s THAT all about??? Miss Britt is dating Mr. Stark now. Everyone thinks they’ll end up getting married. Are there lots of pretty girls at Princeton? Do you have a girlfriend?  Xoxoxoxoxoxo

            NO!!!!! Don’t send anything via e-mail you wouldn’t want printed on the front page of the Benedict Sentinal. If you need to talk to me, call me on my cell. And as for the Scribe, if I ever come home and find you with a tattoo, I will be fucking pissed, Lane! Long story re: me and Mrs. Fisher. Tell her I said, I wouldn’t have worried too much about her catching me but I figured Dee would vote for the death penalty! Poor Starkie. He needs to record the words, “I love you” on a cd and just play it morning, noon and night. Yes, lots and lots of pretty girls at Princeton. You know, I’ve always believed what they said about variety being the spice of life. Love

            Rafe, first, Mrs. F said to tell you, “yes, the death penalty but preceded by the Rack”. And Misty’s Mom, Pam, said to tell you that it is possible for old dogs to learn new tricks. So, there – I’m starting to feel like Mata Hari passing on all your coded messages! The other news is that Mom and Dad are in Ireland for a freaking month! I guess they’re looking up her family connections. The house is like a tomb. They are paying Reba to stay here with me at night and to chauffeur me around when I need to go somewhere (Mom’s even letting her use the Lexus) but she isn’t exactly great company. She said the folks told her I sometimes have nightmares and offered to sleep in your room so she’d be closer but I said no! I’ve spent some nights with my girlfriends to try to stay away from here. Did you know that Misty’s Mom and her boyfriend, Joe, got married. Misty was happy about it. She said Joe is really a good guy. I miss you bunches. Lane

            Hey, Honey – I’m starting to get nervous about you saying you need to talk to me privately. Remember the little lecture I gave you about sex before I left? Well, I specifically asked Cal when his birthday was when we were at the dance and he told me it’s in November. He’ll be 16 then. That means he’ll be able to drive and that means if you get the urge, you can go up to the cabin, like every other Vincennes has done, but it also means that if you think there is the remotest possibility you’ll do that, you need to get yourself to the school clinic asap. Remember I told you they’d give you a prescription for bc pills if you tell them you’re planning on becoming sexually active and they’ll keep it confidential.  Do NOT try the “oh, well, it will probably be okay just this once” method!  
            Tell Misty’s mother I said congratulations.
            Pretty rough being there by yourself for a whole month but you’ll make it.
            Everything is all right with me.     Love

Don’t worry, it’s not what you’re thinking, Rafe, just the opposite in fact.
Every Vincennes? Even Annecy?
I was only kidding about the tattoo.
I got on the honor roll this six weeks. I was afraid high school classes would be harder but they’re not. Are they in college?
My life is so boring, I can’t stand it.
I love you, Lane

Lane, wtf  does “just the opposite” mean?  Yes, especially Annecy, when she and Bill were hot and heavy. I don’t know for sure but I’d say every Vincennes. If anyone didn’t, it was Mariel and that wasn’t because she thought it was wrong, just that she was saving it for the highest bidder. College classes aren’t bad. I’ve been thinking about your trip. How about Feb? There’s a long dry spell after Christmas. You could take off Friday and fly in early, then go back late Sunday.  Talk to Dad when he gets home.
Love, Rafe

The main reason she didn’t want Reba sleeping in Rafe’s bed was she slept there herself sometimes when she missed him so much her heart hurt and she needed to feel close to him.  If she could only get through another couple of months, he’d be home for Christmas break. She could hardly wait! Thank God, he finally mentioned her coming to see him. She was beginning to think he just didn’t want her there. It would have killed her if she’d thought that.
She’d decided not to tell him about her problem until he came home and she could do it in person. He said not to use e-mail and it didn’t seem like the kind of thing you wanted to talk to someone about on the phone. The situation was that she’d gone out with Cal three times now. The last time was a real date, to a movie and out to eat. They doubled with her friend, Dawn, and her boyfriend, Jarod. Jarod had his license so they drove. Afterward he took Cal home first because he lived closest and they all sat in the driveway and necked for a little bit before Cal went in.  He kissed her and she let him put his hand down her blouse. And she felt zip, zero, zilch. Rafe could touch her anywhere and she just started to vibrate with desire. It didn’t even have to be an erogenous zone but her back or her shoulder or anywhere. She didn’t know what that meant. She liked Cal.  He was handsome and funny and sweet. You couldn’t find a nicer boyfriend than Cal. She knew the other girls thought she was lucky to be dating him. And she thought he liked her a lot. But when he kissed her or touched her, nothing stirred. She could have been kissing a department store mannequin for all she got out of it.

“Hey, Renny, it’s Gil. How’s it going down in Maryland?”
Gilbert Murray was the President of Princeton. He and Renny had been tight since they’d roomed together there themselves. They stayed in touch over the years and Gil always took a personal interest in Renny’s sons and gave him regular reports on their progress. (Something none of them knew about. They’d have been more than a little nervous about one of their Dad’s best friends keeping tabs on them at Princeton. They knew Renny and Mr Murray had dinner together sometimes but they figured that was just Renny getting the royal treatment for being a major donor).
“Fine here, Gil. Maggie and I just got back from a month in Ireland, tracking her Morgan roots. We had a great time. What a spectacular country. How about you, Gil, how are things going for you? How’s Cindy?”
“We’re good too, Renny. Four more years and then I’m retiring and we’re moving to the Alabama gulf coast. We just bought a place down there near Mobile. Princeton has given me a great life but we’re ready to go to an adult community where it’s warm all the time.”
Renny chuckled. “I appreciate you sticking around ‘til I get my last one through, Gil.”
“Yeah, for a while there, it looked like you were never going to quit, Ren. I wouldn’t have wanted to put off moving south until I was 80 just to be watching out for an endless procession of Vincennes kids.”
“Trust me, we wanted to quit long before we did, Gil. So how’s this latest one doing anyway?”
“You know, Ren, I’ve always thought of you as the perfect father. If anyone had to have nine kids, it’s good it was you. Every one of your boys has been outstanding. They’ve all gotten great grades. All of them have excelled in whatever their areas of interest were. None of them were ever in any trouble. They’ve all been popular with their teachers and the other students. Rafe seems to be following right along on that path for the most part.”
“I can take credit for the others, Gil, but I can’t take much credit for Rafe. The truth is that Maggie and I pretty much ignored him so whatever he does, he’s done on his own.”
“Well, I’ve got to say, he would have been brought to my attention even if I hadn’t asked about him especially. I can’t keep up with all our students but I do pay particular attention to the ones who stand out and your Rafe does in a couple of different ways.”
“How so, Gil?”
“First, grades. He’s carrying an A average in all his classes. That in itself isn’t so remarkable. We’ve always got a few kids who accomplish it. But I have to tell you a story. Alvin Digby teaches Advanced Calculus. He has a phobia about cocky high school kids who come to Princeton thinking their shit don’t stink because they got great grades at Podunk High. He likes to knock them down a peg or two. To do that, he always makes the first test of the year lots harder than any freshman can deal with. They get a crappy grade to start off with and it makes them humble so they’re ready to settle down and learn. After that, he teaches a hard but honest class.  He’s been here for about 25 years, Ren, and he’s never had a student who got a perfect score on that first test until your Rafe. It flatly knocked Al’s socks off. He couldn’t believe it. There are questions on that test that most Calculus teachers couldn’t answer. His first thought was that somehow Rafe had cheated but then he thought – “but who would he have cheated off of?” No one knew the answers but Al himself and he knew damn good and well Rafe didn’t get them from him, so he finally came to the conclusion that, hard as it was to believe, the boy had simply done it.”
Renny grinned on his end of the phone line. “That’s typical Rafe.”
“Okay, next is athletics. He made both the varsity baseball team and now the varsity football team. He was named Most Valuable Player of the Year in baseball. We ended up with a winning season and he gets a big chunk of the credit. He’s got one hell of an arm for hitting home runs. And he’s been given a nickname in football, Renny, you know what it is?”
“No, what?”
“Rafe the Wraith. Coach says he’s like smoke. He just drifts through enemy territory and it seems like they don’t even notice him ‘til he’s flying across the end zone. The season isn’t in full swing yet but it looks like he’s going to be a star in football too.  Now, we come to girls.”
“Oh, oh,” said Renny, “I have a feeling this is where the trouble starts.”
“Yep. He’s cut quite a swath through the female population, Ren. All your kids were handsome and popular with the girls but this one seems to have a certain kind of animal magnetism, call it what you will that reminds me of Elvis in his glory days. So, I don’t know how that will turn out. Maybe he’s just enjoying all the women on offer here at Princeton and he’ll get it out of his system and settle down with a steady girlfriend here before long.”
Renny was doubtful. “I don’t think I’d count on that happening, Gil.”
“And last, and here’s where he really goes his own way from his brothers. I’ve checked and he hasn’t joined anything since he’s been here. You know we have a million different organizations for whatever you’re interested in whether that’s science or chess or music or photography or drama or Gay and Lesbian affairs or history. I mean every kid joins something but so far as I can tell, Rafe hasn’t.  Does that sound like him, Ren?”
“Yeah, Gil, it sounds exactly like Rafe. I told him before he left that I wasn’t sure how enjoyable he’d find college because he just isn’t communal by nature. I told him he’s a lone wolf and he might not be that comfortable but he’d just have to deal with it.”
“He’ll join Ivy when the time comes though, won’t he?”
“Because I told him he had no choice. That’s the only reason.”
“Well, I guess it doesn’t really matter. It isn’t something we force them to do, we just figure it will make their adjustment easier if they get involved with like-minded kids and make friends.”
“Gil, there are no “like-minded”kids when it comes to Rafe.”
 Gil chuckled. “Well, anyway, Renny, there you have it. I’ll report back again in a few months unless something comes up I think you need to know about.”
“Thanks, Gil, I really appreciate it.”

            “What, Dad?”
            “Do you keep in close touch with your brother?”
            “Pretty much, I guess.  I e-mail him more than he answers.”
            “Does he ever tell you anything about what he’s doing, how he’s getting along in his classes or with sports?”
            “Just that he’s doing okay.”
            “All right, that’s what I figured. I just thought I’d ask.”

            Hi Rafe – There’s not a lot of gossip from this end. Miss Britt’s engagement announcement was in the paper. Things are going okay at school. Mr Capshaw says I have a talent for writing and I should consider becoming a journalist! Cal asked me to go steady. I told him yes but I really need to talk to you about it when you come home for Christmas. Speaking of Christmas, we had the drawing at Thanksgiving. We drew for you and you got Mariel’s name. Ha!Ha! I know you’ll love hearing that. Dad said yes about the trip, just let him know.  I miss you so much, Rafe…..

Lane – Oh, great – Lady Mariel! We’ll figure out the details of your trip when I’m home – and also talk about what you need to talk to me about. Congrats on your writing. Everything is all right with me. R

Rafe – I saw Mrs Fielding at the Fashion Boutique. She told me, they’ve sold Bay Front and will be moving to Florida at the first of the year. She said to tell you she still has what you gave her and she wishes you well. I didn’t even know you ever knew Mrs. Fielding? What did you give her?  We had to take Raven to the vet. He cut his paw and it got infected. I think he’s going to be as happy to see you as I am. He’s sort of droopy since you left. Me too. Lane

Lane – Are you sure Raven’s all right? Watch him close, okay? He’s almost 12. It would break my heart if anything happened to him. I just know Alexis Fielding from the boats. I don’t remember ever giving her anything. Maybe she has me mixed up with someone else. I’m looking forward to Christmas break too. I’ll be glad to get away from here for a while. R

Rafe – I can’t quite imagine anyone mixing you up with anyone else! Raven’s fine. Would it break your heart if something happened to me too?  It’s boring around here. Let’s see, there’s some family stuff. Wyatt and Belen are going to have a baby in February. Mariel is going to have a baby in April. They already know its going to be a girl. Jocey and Edgar are going to have a baby in May. How’s that for expanding the Vincennes family? Jeff got a really good part in a Broadway play (can’t remember the name of it) and he and Denis are all thrilled about that.  That’s all I know. I’m counting the days ‘til you get home – 22 more! I love you, Laney

Lane – Christ, I hope this baby stuff isn’t catching! Yes, Honey, it would break my heart if something happened to you too, almost as much as if it was Raven. Just kidding! Gotta’ leave for class. It’s 3 days since your last letter so we’re down to 19 days. Rafe

            Rafe was lying in bed thinking his father was oh, so right.  He hated being in a room with people, often noisy people, above and below and on every side of him. It made him feel like a drone bee in a beehive.
He looked around his tiny room. It was like an oasis of austerity compared to most of the rooms around it. Books were stacked on the desk, largest on the bottom, smallest on top. The rest of the desktop was bare except for his laptop and a container of pens and pencils. There was nothing posted on any wall except a calendar with his schedule printed neatly on the squares. The only furniture was the bed, a dresser and a small bookcase of books. He didn’t have a t.v., a refrigerator or a microwave like so many of the other students had brought. There were no sacks of chips or boxes of cookies or candy bars. Rafe wasn’t a snacker. The only drinks were a couple bottles of water and he could drink water warm as easily as cold. When he left in the morning, his bed was always made. Dirty clothes were in a laundry sack and clean ones were hung up. There was never an item of clothing just flung onto the floor or over the back of a chair (well, except maybe when he had a girl with him and they were in a hurry to get in bed).
 At times, he got claustrophobic. Sometimes when he felt that way, he got out and walked until he found an empty place without anyone around. Sometimes, he took the bus or even a taxi to where the Corvette was garaged and drove (fast!) until he felt like he could cope again. He’d found a lonely cemetery fairly near his dorm and he frequently took his textbooks there to study where he could concentrate in peace.
            Thank God, women were so thick on the ground at Princeton because it meant he never had to spend a night alone unless he just wanted to. If he had someone with him in bed, it helped him not to focus on the press of humanity so much. On the other hand, girls were people too and that meant making the effort to please them. Sometimes, he just wasn’t up for that effort.
            Rafe never felt a need to confide, not ever, not in anyone, not even Laney. He had never had a best friend or even any friend, really. He had no desire to tell anyone his innermost thoughts. (He grinned a little thinking most people would probably be shocked if they knew some of his innermost thoughts).  It’s not that he couldn’t have had friends. He’d hung out with a crowd at high school, as he was beginning to do here, and he was friendly to everyone. He joked around with people in the cafeteria and in the gym and standing outside waiting to go into the building and walking down the halls to class. Lots of people would have liked to be on closer terms with him, both boys and girls, but when classes ended, he never invited anyone to go with him wherever he was going. In Benedict, he’d never asked other kids out to the boat and he never had them all up to the cabin for a cook-out as his brothers and sisters had, and it was the same here.
            He knew he had charisma, whatever that actually meant, because he’d been told often enough, and he knew how to use it when it was in his best interest, but he thought charisma was a mixed blessing. It seemed to him that everyone wanted more from him than he had to give. Girls, for sure, always wanted more (even Lane, maybe even especially Lane although he didn’t mind it so much from her), but guys were just as bad. The more he moved away, the closer they seemed to want to come toward him. Even teachers were that way. He’d aced Digby’s test and now he felt the old prof’s eyes on him every time he entered the room. By doing what he did, he’d brought himself to Digby’s attention and he sensed that because he was good at it, Digby wanted him to love Math like the old man himself did. But he didn’t. He didn’t care one way or another. It was just another subject. His honors English teacher, Judith Lentz, in high school had been the same. His photographic memory allowed him to memorize almost as much poetry as she knew but that didn’t mean he gave a shit about Alfred fucking Lord Tennyson.
            So it seemed to Rafe that he always had to keep people at arm’s length to protect himself or they’d nibble him to death, all wanting a little piece of him until there was nothing left. He knew a lot about how people acted and how to manipulate them, but that didn’t mean he understood how they thought. For instance, he would have been surprised to know how often he was the subject of discussion by staff and students alike.

            “I talked to his Dad,” Gil told the others who were attending a small party at his house. “He’s never even told his family about his grades or his baseball record or how he’s doing in football. That just doesn’t seem normal, does it? Most kids wouldn’t be able to wait to share those kinds of achievements.”
            “It’s the same in football,” Coach said, “he’s really kind of spectacular, especially for a freshman, but he doesn’t seem the least bit impressed with himself. It’s like I give him a job to do and he just goes in and does it. Oh, he might give the audience a quick smile and a bit of a strut when he makes a touchdown, almost like that’s expected of him too, but I’ve never coached a kid who was less of a glory hound than Rafe Vincennes. Even when he does especially well, he doesn’t seem to get any pleasure out of reliving his triumph. In fact, I get the impression he’s bored sitting through the after-game reviews. You know, like ‘it’s over, so let’s forget it and move on’.
            “Well, I’m not so sure it’s that way with girls. I think he’s totally aware of how much sex appeal he has and how to use it to get what he wants and what he wants seems to be to see how many notches he can have on his belt by the time he leaves Princeton.” Ms. Barnes taught a course in Women’s Studies. She was a militant feminist.
            “But, Helene, that’s not exactly what we’re talking about. He may sleep around a lot but do you think he talks about it? Do you think he shares his experiences with all the other guys? Do you think he brags about his conquests to anyone?”
            “Well, no, Gil,” she had to admit. “I’ve never heard that about him.”
            “If I had to describe the most unique characteristic of Rafe Vincennes, I’d say it’s how little he seems to need other people. I told his father that as far as I know, he’s never joined a single organization. Do you think we’ve ever had any student who didn’t join anything or hang out with anyone before? His Dad called him a lone wolf and I think that’s just what he is.”
            “I wonder if he’ll be able to hack
 it here for four years.”
            “Oh, trust me. I know Renny Vincennes. If he tells Rafe to stand it, he’ll damn well stand it. But, having said that, I’m not sure he’s going to enjoy it much.”

            He’d gotten the Corvette and picked her up. She hoped lots of people were watching her get in the car with him. She tried to peek around to see. He’d just told her flat out.
            “I’m going for a drive in my car. I’m going to drive fast. When I’m tired of driving, I’m going to a hotel to get away from here for a night. (Hotels didn’t bother him because every room was self-contained, not all connected like the dorm). I want to have a woman with me. Are you interested?”
            Not very romantic but he wasn’t in a romantic mood. Just, “here’s the offer, take it or leave it.” He’d felt her looking at him in class. He was pretty sure she’d take it and she did.
            They drove for a couple hours, at speeds well over 100. The longer it went, the more excited she got. He didn’t say much, just drove the car but every now and then, he looked over at her, a white smile flashing across his brown face, a smile that made her feel all melty inside. She watched his strong hand controlling the steering wheel, the long jean-clad legs stretched out toward the pedals, the strand of black hair falling into dark eyes that were framed by long black lashes. Occasionally, he gave her shoulder a light squeeze or let his hand rest on her thigh to let her know he was aware of her presence.
            Finally, he started slowing down and she could feel him beginning to relax, as if he’d expended some kind of tension that needed to be released. Soon, he drove under the overhang of a Hilton hotel. He went in to register, then came back and pulled around to the side, leading her to their room.
            The door was barely shut, when he drew her to him, kissing her as he unbuttoned her blouse and her jeans. They didn’t finally fall asleep until the early morning hours. She was thinking she’d never even known there were so many ways a man could make a woman come. He was thinking speed and sex were the only two things that would get him through the next few years.
            When he dropped her off, she asked if he would call her again and he said, “maybe.”
            If Rafe wasn’t one to talk about his sexual exploits, that didn’t mean that other people didn’t do it for him.
            “If he ever asks you to go, do it. It might be a one-night stand but it will be the best one-night stand of your life.”
            It got to be a kind of status symbol among a certain group of women to have been one of Rafe’s Riders. So far as anyone knew, no one ever got asked to go twice.

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