Many of you have read my crime novels and in them you know murdered bodies seem to multiply like morning glory twining a picket fence. For instance: Hemingway Homicides, Image of Evil and Murder Under London Bridge. But, the only bodies in my latest novella, The Heart Never Sleeps, are the hot and steamy kind. In this story of modern love and discovery, middle-aged Elizabeth Kent is a self-confessed "cougar" who is assigned to write about a GI who wakes fully alert from a coma four decades after being wounded in war. She soon learns she has much in common with this "older" man and his "life never lived."
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I'm including the first chapter of The Heart Never Sleeps © 2013 by R.D. Byron-Smith and Pilar Publishing. Inquiries: email@example.com.
Five-ten, she read the bedside clock, and switched on the light in the master bathroom. She hadn’t wanted it to go this way, at least not just yet, but it had, and now that in her mind their “relationship” had passed the buoy of no return, her unmade face looked swarthy and sea-worn in the vanity mirror. Closing her eyes didn’t rub it away. She stuck out her coffee-stained tongue, curling it downward toward her chin in the mirror.
“Yuck,” she managed, still tired. She’d have to clean her tongue later.
Suddenly she had an unexplainable urge to attend early Mass. It was Sunday morning in Arlington, Virginia and wasn’t it the bishop himself who had reminded her she’d been away from church too long, the last time they talked on the phone.
She’d wake the dude now snoring across her king bed, and tell him to leave her apartment. Her place only had one bedroom and there wasn’t room for his ego.
It wasn’t like she wasn’t practiced at these shoveoffs.
Elizabeth Gale Kent had been taking in young stray dogs for years, and she had a knack for knowing the exact time to take the food bowl away. In the mirror she could almost see her head throbbing from her indulgence of vodka cocktails last night, and her thigh muscles ached. She’d thought her legs would have been used to the kind of work over she had had, and Kent managed to chuckle to herself in the mirror, remembering her last visit to the nurse practitioner for a pelvic.
“How many sex partners have you had?” the nurse, new at the clinic, had asked, explaining they were conducting a survey for the National Institutes of Health.
“Before or after marriage?” Kent mused back at her intrusive carnality. After getting home that night she roared to herself, thinking of it: “And why does the damn government want to know how many guys I’ve slept with?” Truth be told -- and Kent herself had crunched the numbers one night alone, curious and drunk -- the average age of her sex partners was 27 over the past decade, and she hadn’t made love to anyone more than 32 since her divorce.
She had a voracious bodily appetite, and the hairy-backed, muscular 26-year-old now sprawled buck naked in her bed was the latest hot dish. She had met him at a lavish party hosted by The Washington Post for the Washington Press Corps, and although Kent was Pentagon reporter for the rival Washington Tribune, she had been invited, first, because she was a bonafide Press Corps member, and, second, because she had stunning looks for a 47-year-old, knew how to hold a Champaign glass the right way according to Miss Manners, and enlivened any gathering of mixed sexes. Whispers followed her as she left the party before midnight with the youngster in tow -- he’d just have to get used to it because she had years ago. That was a week ago.
He worked for a think tank off K Street and in their first night together he had shown her what he had really been thinking about at the office. But, like the same campaign speech on the stump by a political candidate, reporters tend to get bored with repetitiveness sooner than most, and for Elizabeth Kent last night had been nothing new and it was time for her latest young studly thing to think about impressing other older women.
Now, with her make-up finished she looked 10 years younger, she stood at the foot of the bed, having squeezed into a white, wholesome skirt, and buttoned a white and pale yellow flowered blouse from the closet. She readied a pair of white flats from the closet.
“Mark, wake up,” she said in a raspy, morning voice.
He remained a dead weight on top of the sheets.
Had he awoken he would have seen her straight blonde hair scissor-cut just above the shoulders, her smooth, tanned, unblemished complexion, a delicate nose centered between attractively high cheekbones and a mouth squeezed into perfection by two puffy, red lips, all playing second fiddle to a melodious body, proportioned fulsomely top and bottom. In other words, she was a female stud muffin.
Kent shook him, and he rolled over, lifted his head and yawned. “What time is it?” he said, sleepily, looking around. “It’s still dark. Come back to bed.”
“No, it’s time for you to leave,” she insisted. “I’m going to Mass.”
“Mass? Jesus Christ!”
“You’ve got the concept, yes.” Kent tapped him on the bottom of his foot, saying, “Come on, up!”
She didn’t want it to get nasty, as some of these partings had, and she added, “I’ll make you a couple eggs and bacon, if you like. I’m just having coffee and a croissant, but, I’ll cook breakfast for you.”
Now how magnanimous was that?
“Screw breakfast,” he barked like a woolly hound at her, getting dressed in a hurry, as if he couldn’t wait to get out. -- As if she might drip cold holy water on his nakedness. His rush of attitude belied his inner anger. She had seen it often in her passing stable of young stallions. -- Always eager to trot when a canter was called for.
“OK, screw breakfast,” she said, without a smile, leaving the room and going to make coffee in the kitchen.
Now he stood shoeless at the kitchen door as she was measuring ground coffee for the coffeemaker. “When will I see you again?”
“You screwed up my count,” she said, angrily, dumping the coffee in the filter back into the one-pound can of Yuban. “Shut up for a second.” She counted out ten spoonfuls. “OK, what?”
“When can I come back?”
“Mark, we’ve had a lovely go-round, to our mutual satisfaction, I am confident in saying. But, our relationship has gone as far as it can, I’m afraid.”
“Bitch,” he mumbled, scorchingly.
Kent had been to Iraq and Afghanistan, embedded with Army Rangers, Marines and Special Operators, and had let loose enough of these tough 20-somethings to have become battle-hardened herself. Not one of them -- not one -- had ever called her a bitch.
“Get out of my house this minute or I’ll call my SEAL friends and you’ll be floating face down in the Tidal Basin.” She grabbed her cell phone from the countertop. “Go home to your mother!”
“If I wanted my mother I’d stay here.” He turned to leave, mumbling, “broken down, wretched old bitch.”
When skin talks to skin you learn a lot.
She trailed him into the living room as he put on his shoes near the door. “Who’s weirder, an old woman who likes younger men or a young man who craves old women?” Kent’s quarrelsome heart pounded and she shouted, “Get out!”
He slammed the door, knocking a picture off the wall.
“I might call a SEAL anyway,” Kent huffed to herself, picking the picture off the carpet, hanging it up, and returning to the kitchen for coffee. She never made the call, and in less than an hour she walked piously up the steps of her church, pulling a lace shawl over her head, ready to atone for her plenitude of sins.