Indulge, Page 2Georgia Cates
Wow. I didn’t consider the possibility I’d need one. “I don’t. Is that going to be a problem?”
“Let me have a look.” The hostess studies her computer screen. I notice her nametag. Michaela. Same as my mom. Reminds me. I need to call her and Willa to let them know I arrived safely.
I cross my fingers hoping it’ll help Michaela find a table for me. “You’re looking at a minimum of two hours before I could seat you.”
Shiz. That means I won’t eat for almost three hours. “Good grief. Are the other restaurants packed like this?”
“Likely. It’s the dinner rush but also guest census is at its highest since Wicked Week is beginning soon. Things will be even more crowded next week. I highly recommend making reservations as soon as possible.”
“I don’t really know what I want to do.” Maybe there’s a snack bar or something. I’m not choosy at this point.
“Would you like me to check to see if there’s an opening with a single diner?”
In a normal world, I would assume she’s referring to a seat but I’m not so sure about this place. “I’m sorry. This is my first time at Indulge. Can you expand on what you mean?”
“Some single diners may choose to offer available seating at their table to other lone guests. I can see if there’s an open seat that way.” I’m certain splitting a table during dinner doesn’t hold a candle to all the other things that get shared around here.
I don’t think I can wait two or three hours for food. “What is your opinion on the speed of room service?”
“It’s hard to say. I’m guessing at least ninety minutes.” Then I’m not much better off. And I went to the trouble of getting ready.
“I’ll give this single diner thing a try.” I’m not the least bit excited about sitting with a complete stranger. It’s weird.
“Let’s see what we can find for you.” Michaela studies the computer screen again. “You’re in luck. I have one single diner agreeing to share. Right this way.”
Quiet, sultry jazz tunes tantalize guests. The tables are dressed in white and crystal while little pops of red décor scatter the room. Elegant black and white damask wallpaper covers its walls. Enormous chandeliers provide soft light, and the glossy black marble tiles underfoot beautifully complete Consume’s décor. Mesmerizing.
White. Black. Red. If sin had a color palette, this would be it.
I stare at the sensual black and white art on the walls as I’m led to my table. I’m so engrossed by the nudie photos that I bump into a server carrying a full tray of food. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry. I wasn’t watching where I was going.”
This server looks so young. I’m certain he must be at least twenty-one to work in an establishment like this, but I swear he doesn’t look a day over sixteen.
“No. Pardon me, Miss.” Ah. He has a lovely Jamaican accent.
“It was all my fault.”
The hostess gestures toward the empty seat. “Kevin is your server. He’ll be with you shortly. Enjoy your dinner.”
I settle into my seat and observe the man sitting across from me. One look and I’m able to form an opinion: He’s too damn handsome for his own good. Thick, dark brown hair. Hazel eyes surrounded by lush black lashes. Rosy cheeks. Full, pink lips.
His rakish smile completes the package. “You sound just like a Georgia peach.”
He’s hit the nail on the head. How unsettling. “I’m sorry?”
“Your accent. Can’t mistake it for anything else.” His voice is deep. Smooth. Southern just like me.
“You sound a little peachy yourself.”
His smile broadens, deepening the dimples in each of his cheeks. “Guilty as charged. Buckhead, born and bred.”
Buckhead. Born. Bred. The three B’s.
Buckhead is an affluent uptown district of Atlanta, which tells me two things: this guy is probably wealthy. And by default, he’s likely a total jackass.
He tilts his head to the side and lifts his brows. “And you?”
“Buford.” I say the word and immediately regret it. I should have lied. He has no business knowing where I’m from.
“Been to Buford many times.”
Buckhead and Buford are close, only about forty minutes apart. I’m not sure how I feel about meeting someone who lives so close.
I need to chill. He’s likely feeling a little uneasy about me as well.
“I occasionally shop in Buckhead. My best friend and I love their boutiques.” It’s rare that I’m able to afford anything so I mostly look when I go with Meredith.
He holds out his hand over the table. “I’m Beau Emerson.”
I consider lying about who I am. This guy’s well within stalker distance but I wasn’t blessed with thinking fast on my feet. “Anna James Bennett.”
My double name is confusing for people since James can be both a man’s name and a last name. “My friends and family call me Anna James. Or AJ.”
“Very nice to meet you. I’m pleased to share a table with such a lovely woman.”
Is that a move? I’m not certain, but it’s probably best to nip this in the bud now. Beau Emerson doesn’t need to be under the impression this is anything but two people sharing a table because of a crowding issue. “I appreciate your interest, but no thank you.”
He leans back in his chair, his arms crossed over what I’m guessing is a well-built chest beneath his white linen shirt. He studies my face for a moment before a lopsided grin appears. “Miss Bennett. That wasn’t even close to being a proposition.”
Heat pulses in my face. I would love to crawl beneath this table. “I’m sorry.” I can barely breath the words through my embarrassment.
I feel obligated to explain. “I’m not familiar with the typical practices here; I’ve never been to a place like this.”
“Clearly.” Both of his dimples are back on display now; I’m amusing him. I’m not sure if I should be angry or embarrassed.
I’m normally confident in all I do, but I’m out of my element. This is his world, and I’m an outsider. “You find my ignorance entertaining.”
“You’re wrong. I find your inexperience intriguing.”
“What part of that could you possibly find intriguing?”
“You’re new to hedonism.”
Oh. I get it now. He sees me as a newcomer. Fresh meat. A shiny new toy. “You’ve got this all wrong. I’m not here to participate. This is a free Jamaican vacation for me. A treat from my best friends.”
“Your friends brought you to a place where crazy stuff happens. And by that, I mean lewd sexual acts.”
“Meredith and Grayson warned me.”
“Are your friends trying to recruit you into a polyamory relationship with them?”
Polyamory is the hard-core stuff. Meredith says she and Grayson will never go there. Too much commitment for them. “Oh, God no! Meredith has been my best friend for nine years. She and her husband just wanted to do something nice for me.”
“Right.” He’s wearing a different kind of smile now, the skeptical kind.
“I know what you’re thinking but they’re really not.”
“If you say so.”
I don’t know why I feel the need to convince him. “I had a shitastrophe in my life. This trip is their divorce gift to me. They thought the sun and sand would do me some good.”
“I don’t know. We only arrived a few hours ago.”
“Then welcome to Indulge, where your fantasies meet reality.”
“Thank you.” I think.
Our conversation is briefly interrupted when our server appears. Good thing I already know what I want because I’ve not even looked at the menu.
After placing my order, I resume my study of the nude photography on the walls. They’re actually tasteful and elegant.
“Like what you see?”
Oddly, I do. “I’ve never seen anything like them. They’re lov
“Third one on the left. That’s me.”
I search the walls and find the one he’s referring to. Holy shizzle. That erection is enormous.
I swallow. “It’s very nice.” Shit. That was a dumb thing to say. “The picture, I mean. It’s artful.”
He bursts into laughter. “I’m kidding. I just wanted to see your reaction.”
The heat has returned to my cheeks. “Well, aren’t you the comedian?”
“I’m a good-time guy who enjoys a laugh. And that was a fine one.”
“At my expense.” I think he enjoys laughing at me.
“Sorry. Not sorry.”
Kevin returns with our drinks, a pineapple-coconut martini for me and a draft beer for Beau.
I sample my cocktail. It doesn’t disappoint. “Are you a frequenter?”
“I don’t know what makes one a frequenter, but I typically come four times a year.”
“That qualifies you as a patron in my book. Is this your quarterly visit or a special trip for Wicked Week?”
“I, too, had a shitastrophe in my life. I thought the sun and sand would do me some good.”
He’s using my words. “Divorce?”
“No.” That’s all he says. No explanation. I’m curious to know what he means but not rude enough to ask him to expand if he doesn’t volunteer the information.
I decide to steer the conversation in a safer route. “What do you do for a living?”
“Real estate agent but I also flip houses with my brothers.” I’m guessing Beau has a lucrative business. He’d have to if he comes here four times a year. This place isn’t cheap.
“What about you?”
“High school teacher. English and creative writing.”
“So you’re out for summer.”
“Yup. Can’t lie. Summer break is a huge perk for being a teacher.” It’s one of the things that drove me to choose that profession. That and my love of words.
Words are powerful. They can evoke countless reactions. Joy. Pain. Arousal. Make a heart skip a beat. Or shatter it into a million pieces.
Dinner arrives quickly considering the crowd. Our conversation never slows despite the fact we’re stuffing our faces. “You mentioned divorce. Is it safe to assume that a split from your husband is the shitastrophe you were referring to earlier?”
“How long were you married?” He’s asking more questions than I’m comfortable answering.
“Our divorce was final a week after our first anniversary.”
Yeah. All that and a bag of chips. “I guess you could call it that since I was unable to accept him screwing one of our former students. And he had a bad case of douchebaggery.”
“That’s fucking low. And illegal. I hope the prick is being prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” I’m a little surprised by his annoyance. It can’t possibly be out of concern for me, but I can’t ignore the slight ping of joy to hear someone else’s disgust.
“Technically, his relationship with Caitlyn isn’t illegal since she’s nineteen. They both claim their relationship started after she was of age and had graduated so there’s nothing to pursue from a criminal aspect.”
“And you believe that?”
“Absolutely not.” I’m no fool.
“You seem like a great girl, so your ex must be a dumb bastard. I don’t have to spend more than a few minutes with you to come to that conclusion.” He’s quick to defend my honor. Sort of reminds me of Grayson.
Everything about Beau seems normal. I could almost forget where we are and that his tastes are likely something I’m not accustomed to.
“Are you married?” He’s dining alone, but that means nothing in a place like this.
“Almost. I was engaged until a month ago.” I’d like to know what happened but I don’t want to pry.
“Don’t be. Best thing that could have happened to me was not marrying her.” I recognize bitterness when I hear it.
My curiosity is piqued. “The almost Mrs. Emerson must have done something really bad.”
Beau goes completely still and closes his eyes. “Unforgivable.”
There’s only one thing worse than losing one person you love to cheating: it’s losing two people you love. “She cheated with a friend? Or relative?” Oh, God. I hope it wasn’t one of his brothers.
“Cheating would have been much less painful.” I can’t imagine what he means. There’s very little that could hurt worse than being scorned by the one you consider your soul mate.
“My bad. I just assumed.”
I give him a moment to expand on what he meant, but he says nothing. Guess he’s not in the mood to talk about it so I take our chat in a new direction. I’m interested to hear someone’s opinion besides Meredith’s.
“My friend swears that swinging makes her marriage less complicated. She’s a full-on advocate.”
“I wouldn’t know. I’ve never been married nor am I a swinger.”
Well, he isn’t a four-times-a-year attendee for nothing. He’s some kind of sexual deviant. “My mistake. I assumed you were because you’re at a hedonism resort.”
“Not everyone here comes to do that.”
I point to myself. “I can testify to that.”
Our server comes by to clear our plates. “May I interest you in some coffee or dessert? Perhaps another cocktail or beer?”
I’m feeling my four martinis. A fifth probably isn’t a good idea. “Heat and hangovers don’t mix, so nothing for me, thank you.”
Beau flicks his hand. “Nothing for me either.”
This is the part where we go separate ways. “We should probably get up and give our table to two of those hungry people out there waiting to be seated.”
We exit the building and stop on the sidewalk to say goodbye. “It was a pleasure dining with you, Anna James.”
Beau Emerson is handsome. Kind. Intellectually stimulating. The way he spoke to me made me feel the way a woman should. More like the old me. Not the one still licking her wounds because she was dumped for a toddler, but the woman I was before Drake. Confident.
“Thank you for offering your extra seat to a stranger. I’d still be waiting for a table if you hadn’t.” In some ways, even though I am thanking him for his seat, he has actually given me more.
“I hope your stay is a pleasant one.”
“And yours as well.”
“Goodnight,” we say in unison.
I want him to say something more, such as “take a walk with me” or “can I see you tomorrow?” But he doesn’t. I’m tempted to turn back for a glance as I walk away. But I don’t; he’s a hedonist. Spending time with a vanilla girl like me isn’t deemed worthy of a blip on his radar. And spending time with a hedonist as handsome as he is not on mine either.
Anna James Bennett
It’s growing dark. The ocean has already swallowed the sun. Beau and I talked much longer than I thought.
I’m not ready to return to my room to sit alone so I decide to explore the resort despite the warning Meredith gave me about the risqué things happening at Indulge after the sun goes down.
This is a huge resort; it isn’t a bad idea to scope it out. Identifying the places I can and shouldn’t go is essential.
The first sign I stumble upon directs me straight ahead for the beach area. Perfect. I would love to feel the sand under my feet.
I reach the beach’s edge and bend down to remove my shoes.
“Taking a walk on the beach?” It’s that deep, smooth, southern voice again. Beau.
Tingles dance across my skin. I nibble my bottom lip to suppress the delight I feel. “Yeah. I’m too anxious to wait until tomorrow.”
“Mind if I join you?”
“I’d like that.”
Beau holds up a finger. “Give me a few minutes.�
He disappears and returns a few minutes later holding a drink in each hand. He holds out a cocktail for me. “Pineapple-coconut martini.”
“How did you pull this off?”
I look around and spot a freestanding bar. “The only magical thing about this will be if I don’t have a huge hangover tomorrow.” I sip the fruity concoction. Yummy. “I believe you, Mr. Beau Emerson, are a bad influence.”
“Not the first time I’ve heard that.”
“I bet not.”
“In case you’re unaware, there are two beaches. Planning to go nude or prude tomorrow?”
Those are my only options? “Choosing to cover my T&A doesn’t make me a prude.”
“Maybe not anywhere else in the world but it’s different here. Covering your tits and ass means you’re uptight.”
I haven’t been a goody-goody a day in my life, but it seems I could be labeled a saint by these standards. “I won’t be getting naked so show me the way to the prude side.”
“You got it.” Beau leads me down a path lined with glowing torches and trees. The overhead foliage is so heavy I can no longer see the sky or stars. It’s an odd sensation, like walking through a tropical labyrinth.
We come to the end of the maze where the path meets the beach. With shoes in one hand, and my martini in the other, I step into the sand. Beau stands with a hand in his pocket, unmoving. “Now who’s the prude? Roll your pants up and come with me.”
I advance toward the water, leaving him behind. I rake my toes through the sand. I close my eyes and listen to the rush of water. Its pattern is predictable. Anticipated. I like that.
Peace. Tranquility. Deliverance. This is what brought me to this place.
“I love the feel of sand at night. The sun has gone down, and it’s had time to cool. The deeper you dig your toes in, the cooler it gets.”
He plunges his toes in. “I’ve never given that any thought but you’re right.”
“Shh. Be still and listen for a moment.”
Beau stands beside me, shoes off, pant legs rolled to mid calves. Silent.
“I love this sound. I have a noise maker set to ocean waves, but the real thing is so much better.”