Pat Ruger: Caribbean Shuffle

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Chapter 4

I stared at my screen. I should have been feeling great. We had signed three new clients in the morning. I was extremely satisfied that we had helped Juan the day before, and I would be leaving the next day with my ex-partner and friend, Jimmy, on a long-awaited cruise. However, while Jimmy’s wife, Erin, would be joining him, Amanda wasn’t going to accompany me.

A chime from the computer broke my chain of thought and I checked my email. I had a new message from Amanda.

I paused, but opened the email and read it. “Babe, I’m worried about you. Are you okay? Please let me know you’re alright. Love, Mandy.”

My first instinct was to delete the message and ignore it, but that didn’t seem right. She was important to me, and she deserved a reply.

I typed, “Hi, Mandy. I’m doing fine, no worries. Flying out tomorrow for the cruise, going to be fun. Take care, Patty.” I read it back to myself and decided that short and sweet was good. I hit “Send” and sat back.

I suddenly felt a little melancholy and decided to call it a day. I gathered my stuff — my camera bag, tablet and coffee mug — and walked out to the lobby. “I’m heading home, everyone!” I shouted. “I’ll see you when I get back from my vacation!” -

Anna came from the back and hugged me, followed by Lola. Both said their bon voyages and Jacob stepped forward to shake my hand.

“Don’t worry, sir,” he said. “We’ve got it covered.”

“Thanks, guys,” I replied. “I’m not worried about a thing.”

I walked out to the elevator and didn’t look back. By the time I got to my Camaro, I was already feeling better.

In Colorado, it gets dark fairly early in February. By the time I got to the house in the middle of the afternoon, dusk was approaching. I flipped on the TV and sat with my Carl’s Jr. burger, having stopped for fast food on the way home. They got the order right, I was relieved to see — no mayo, no onion, add mustard. A light beer topped off the meal.

I decided that daytime television wasn’t very entertaining, but it was too cold out to use my casting course. I had set up several targets around my backyard in the form of spare tires of various sizes and distances from the patio. The hours spent perfecting my spin casting skill and accuracy had left me a lot of time for thinking.

So, I turned the channel to the news and lay prone on my old, cozy sofa. I smiled, thinking about how Amanda wanted me to buy all new living room furniture, replacing my twenty-year-old set. It wasn’t ragged, I had rationalized, just outdated, but really comfortable.

My groggy state was interrupted by the distant gong of my doorbell. The second bell got me up to answer. Old habits dictated that I look out the peephole, leaning in somewhat from the side. The porch light hadn’t taken effect yet, but I was able to see a well-dressed black woman holding a container of some kind. I unlocked and opened the door. “What can I do for you?”

“Pat? Do you remember me?”

I quickly looked her over. She was tall and moderately slender with a short coiffeur of straightened, black hair, obviously professionally cut. She had thin lips, more Angela Bassett than Vivica Fox. A little too much eye makeup for my taste, and I noticed pretty, low-hanging earrings with purple stones. Scanning downward, she wore a beige jacket over a leopard print blouse, showing the slight cleavage of her smaller bosom. Her skirt was dark brown, matching the leopard spots, and showing off her beautiful calves above a bright red pair of sandals. I did recognize her.

“You work at Nadyne’s, right?” Nadyne’s was an upscale restaurant and one of Amanda’s favorite eating spots. In fact, our first date was there, if you could call it a date. It was supposed to be a meeting, but Amanda had had other plans.

“Yes, I’m Rhonda, one of Amanda’s friends. You and I met at one of the retirement parties we catered for her.”

“I remember. Come in.” I opened the door wide and stepped aside. She looked like she was in her mid-30’s, and had a classically beautiful face.

As she entered, she handed me a glass container covered in foil. “Amanda asked me to bring this over.” I started opening the cover, but Rhonda stopped me. “It’s a 4-cheese casserole with ham. She said it was one of your favorites.” She continued in and sat on my couch, seemingly surprised at the softness of it.

“I’ve already eaten, but I’ll have it for a late dinner tonight, for sure.” I carried it into the kitchen and placed it the refrigerator. “Something to drink?” I called out.

“Wine would be good.”

I pulled out a bottle of Columbia Crest chardonnay, inexpensive but tasty, and poured a couple of wine flutes. On my way back to the living room, I asked, “You’re the sous chef, aren’t you?” I handed her a glass and she took a big sip.

“Yes, for the last two years,” she answered. “But I also lead the catering team.”

I sat on the accent chair, took a sip myself, and set the glass down on the side table. “So, Amanda sent you?”

“Yes, she called and said to check up on you. I was thrilled to do it.” Rhonda had a gorgeous smile. She finished off her chardonnay and set the empty wine glass down next to mine.

“I’m not sure why,” I said with a chuckle. “But I won’t turn down good food.”

“I figured.” She began taking off her jacket. “It’s a little warm.”

I stood and took the jacket from her, then hung it by its label on a coat hook near the front door. “Safe and sound.”

When I sat back down I could see that the garment had been hiding a lovely figure. I decided to continue with small talk, unsure of how to send her home politely. “Are you a Denver native?”

“No, but I’ve been here a while. I moved here from L.A. to attend culinary school and stayed.” She stood up. “Bathroom?”

“Left through the hallway, first door on the right.”


She disappeared into the dim hallway and I was left alone with my thoughts. I wondered what had prompted Amanda to send her friend over. To check up on me? To see if I’m miserable? Was my email reply inadequate?

After a few minutes, I heard the toilet flush and some rattling of clothing and accessories, I assumed. I patiently waited.

Ten minutes later, she still hadn’t come back out and I was getting anxious. A couple more minutes went by and I decided to check on her. I quietly went to the hallway and noticed the bathroom door was open. “Rhonda?”

“In here.” The voice came from my bedroom.

I went to the end of the dark hallway and couldn’t see inside the bedroom very well. I flipped on the light.

“I wondered how long it would take you …” Rhonda said gleefully.

I was taken aback. She was lying on the bed, stripped naked. She moved her arms up behind her head on a couple of pillows, increasing her delightful profile. Though not overly large, her breasts were luscious and inviting, with half-dollar-sized areolas that were striking, nearly jet black against the background of her bronze skin.

“Who am I, James Bond? An evil seductress lurking around every corner?”

“You think I’m evil?” she asked, accompanied by a cunning look.

I took a breath and sighed. I started retrieving her clothes, which were scattered on the floor. “I’m sorry, Rhonda,” I said with soft, calm voice. “I’m just not ready for a new relationship.” I picked up her shoes and panties and continued to hand her items.

“Wait …” She sat up with a pained look while accepting the garments from me. I left the room and waited for her in the living room.

When she finally emerged, mostly dressed, I thanked her for bringing dinner. “I’m flattered, really.” I handed her the jacket at the front door.

She walked by and stopped on the front porch, turning around to face me. “You know, I’m not looking for a relationship, not at all. With my schedule?” She moved back towards me a half-step. “I was so excited to be able to see you tonight …”

“What about Amanda? You think she would approve?”

“Hell, Patty. It was her idea.”


“She asked me to have my way with you. She knew how much I was attracted to you and she figured you wouldn’t be out making yourself available.”



I reached out and grabbed her, pulling her back inside. We kissed with passion as I closed the door and we both disrobed as fast as possible. Her curves felt wonderful as she held them tightly to me. I stopped briefly and she took my hand, turning to head back to the bedroom.

“It was my idea first,” Rhonda giggled when we reached the back room. She pushed me onto the bed, following quickly, and started French kissing me, and I could feel the length of her body at one time.

Tall and slender gave way to limber and athletic. Sex with Rhonda was fantastic and exhausting, even more strenuous than my first time with Lola. It must have been the excitement of a new partner, I ultimately decided.

When I woke up later that night, Rhonda was gone. I remembered the casserole and, happily, I knew what I was having for dinner.

On the kitchen counter was a note, which read, “I had a fabulous time. I hope for a repeat performance when our schedules allow. Call me when you get back — 720-555-1254. I’ll make you tilapia.” It was signed with a faded lipstick imprint of her lips.

I then realized my mood had changed. Amanda had known best, again.

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