Escort to Tenderness - Chapter 12
 

Norma Jackson will officially be on the other side of thirty on her next birthday, and her cousin refuses to let her spend that not-quite-a-milestone alone. Enter Max Worthington, Founder and CEO of Dream Dude LLC, who fulfills a favor by helping Norma find her Dream Date for her special day. However, both Norma and Max begin to realize her Dream Dude isn’t listed on the Website and this birthday fling may have some forever legs on it.

(c) 2016 by Savannah J. Frierson. Beta read by the awesome LaVerne Thompson. Please forgive any lingering errors and enjoy!


This story is for mature audiences only!


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Norma rarely let go of his hand throughout the rest of the day, and Max didn’t mind this one bit. He hadn’t meant to get so heavy with her, to grill her, but he’d needed answers as to why she was resisting the very thing she craved. Part of him now realized she’d simply been overwhelmed. For someone with that little experience, the headiness of everything would require the use of a pause button. He’d taken it far too personally, but he’d already reached a revelation she couldn’t trust herself to believe.

They were attuned to each other because they were meant for each other.

He didn’t make that pronouncement out loud, realizing she was already at the limit of her ability to process what was happening right now, but he understood this fact to his bones. He’d been here before, and the fallout of that had taken him over a year to recover from it. At least that previous time, that person hadn’t been completely new to everything. Norma was a far more delicate case and he had to proceed with caution.

Ooh, this is pretty…”

The flower she was admiring was almost the same color as her dress, called a Pachypodium baronii according to its placard. There were five petals that looked like they’d been crumpled up and stretched out again. If she wanted to call it pretty, that was fine with him. Aside from its striking color, Max didn’t see anything truly distinctive about it.

They were at the Fairchild Tropical Botanic Gardens about thirty minutes south of Miami. Norma had suggested the outing, wanting something to do that wasn’t typical “Miami” as she’d never been much of a clubber and she admired nature.

“I work with dirt, after all,” she’d said on the drive down. “Me and Mother Earth are tight.”

“But you don’t like bugs.”

“We all have our inconsistencies, Max.”

He let her guide him around the gardens, and he watched her more than the colorful and verdant plants surrounding them. She came alive looking at the pretty flora, her smile wide and her hand squeezing his as they stopped at one plant or another. Max stayed close, not letting her stray far enough that he couldn’t touch her. He wanted her used to his touch, to the physical manifestation of his regard for her that wasn’t wrapped up in lust.

Max was glad they’d cleared much of the air earlier and was humbled Norma had trusted him enough to tell him those things. He realized now Norma had been trying to overcompensate for much and he’d been letting her, desperate for her in a way he hadn’t been for a woman in a long time. But then, as she’d said, she’d gotten in too deeply and her flailing had caught him off guard. He shouldn’t have been as upset as he’d been; plenty of clients had backed out of Dates before when things had gotten too hot to handle. That he’d taken Norma’s rejection personally was yet another sign Norma wasn’t remotely a job or a favor or anything else so clinical.

She was his harmony.

Max stepped behind her and pressed his lips to the back of her head, closing his eyes at the contact. Norma leaned back into him and sighed. They were standing on a bridge overlooking a waterscape that was filled with waterlilies and other colorful plants. They’d been at the gardens for about two hours and honestly he was over the trip now. Not to say what he seen hadn’t been lovely, but he was anxious to get Norma alone again. He wanted her, obviously, but he more wanted to pamper her until maybe—just maybe—she’d forget all about her train ride back to Charleston Monday morning.

“Ready to go?” he asked against her short-cropped hair. It was soft against his lips and smelled very nice, sweet but not too cloying.

She chuckled, palming his hip with a squeeze. “Are you all natured out?”

“Yeah,” he confessed, dipping his mouth to her ear. “I want to be alone with you.”

Norma turned her head to look at him, a small smile on her face. “So you can do what?”

He grinned and brushed his nose against hers. “Pamper you.”

Her eyes brightened at that. “Ooh, like a massage?”

He nodded. “Would you like that?”

“Yep,” she said, grinning broadly. “I haven’t had one in such a long time. Do you give good ones?”

He held up a hand and shrugged. “Not had many complaints about them. I’m actually certified.”

Norma held his hand in both of hers, letting her index finger trace along the lines of his palm. “This is a strong hand. I like holding it.”

“It likes you holding it too.”

She smiled and kissed the center of his palm. “We can go. We’ve been out here for hours and I’m afraid your sunscreen is going to wear off soon.”

He smiled, remembering how thorough she’d been with her application of it. She’d made sure she’d gotten every nook and cranny of his face, ears, neck, and arms. He did his own legs and feet, not wanting her to kneel before him again. His cock had started twitching under her care and he hadn’t wanted them getting derailed.

“Before we go, though,” he said, pulling out his phone. “We need a selfie.”

“Selfie won’t get all the pretty!” Norma insisted, and managed to recruit a fellow visitor to take the picture that would capture them and the nature behind them. The young teen snapped three photos and Norma thanked her while he retrieved the phone.

“You’re super hot,” the young girl gushed. “There’s hope for me yet!”

Max just smiled, not wanting to ask what she meant but having a good idea anyway. He frowned at the device he held as he went back to Norma.

“Are they bad?” she asked, slight panic in her voice. “Your face says they’re bad.”

He blinked and shook his head. “I don’t think so.”

Max pulled up the photos. They were basically the same shot of him with his cheek pressed against Norma’s and his arms around her waist. Norma looked gorgeous for her part, a bright smile to go with bright eyes. He smiled as well, but it was much more contented than Norma’s eager one. He looked at peace and pleased.

“We look good,” Norma declared. “Send it to me? I’m not even gonna send it to Gideon. This is just for me.”

“I still want my selfie,” he said, putting the settings on his phone so the picture would snap on a timer. He held it out so the camera would capture them both, but he turned his head just before the shutter clicked to kiss the space by her nose. The resulting photograph was of a grinning Max smushing his face into Norma’s scrunched up one.

“We look absolutely ridiculous,” Norma critiqued on a laugh as they made their way out of the gardens. “I’m definitely not sending that one to Gideon!”

“It’s my favorite,” Max determined. “Might make that my lock screen.”

She looked at him, surprise stark on her face. “Are you serious?”

He didn’t look at her as he changed the settings on his phone so that his lock screen now showed their awkward, laughing faces. He presented his phone to her and earned her arm weaving around his and her lips against his shoulder.

Norma dozed on the drive back to his condo, but her hand remained linked with his. He ran his thumb across her knuckles, the ability to touch her comforting. The sun streamed into the car, hitting her dark skin in such a way that she seemed to glow. The gentle swells of her breasts pressed against the bodice of her dress, and the dress’s straps curved around bared, generous shoulders. He’d wanted his mouth on those shoulders, those swells, all damn day, but he maintained a safe distance.

Norma shifted, squeezing her fingers around his, but didn’t awaken. He’d had plans for them, having called ahead to one of his favorite restaurants to reserve a table. But he didn’t want to go there, anymore. He didn’t want to share her, but she deserved a nice dinner for her birthday. Leftovers weren’t going to cut it.

They were a block away from his condo when Max roused Norma from her light nap. She stretched and smiled, cradling his hand in her lap.

“This car is a problem,” she said, her voice raspy. “Every time I get in here, I fall asleep.”

“You make for a boring driving partner,” he said with mock seriousness, and he laughed when she sucked her teeth and let go of his hand.

“Nope,” he chastised, grasping her hand again. “Least I can do is hold you while you sleep. You owe me some form of connection.”

She chuckled and placed their joined hands upon her belly, looking out of her passenger window. “Least you can do, huh?”

Minutes later they were back in his condo, both of them in the kitchen as they drank glasses of water. He let her check his face to make sure his face hadn’t started blistering, and he basked in her care. He felt fine; the SPF 75 she’d applied had been more than enough to protect his skin. Yet Norma was a nurturer, greedy to care for someone. He submitted wholeheartedly.

“I see why you’re a nurse,” he murmured when she pulled away. “You’re a worrywart.”

“Am not,” she said on a chuckle. “Just that sunburn’s not fun.”

“Have close and intimate experience with that, do you?”

“You know how many folk with peeling, blistering skin come in to the urgent care? Yes, sir, I do!”

They laughed and Max shook his head. “You can admit you’re a worrywart. Gids has told me stories.”

Her face fell slightly and Max squeezed her hand. She shrugged. “Maybe this weekend is her way to make a return on investment.”

Max shook his head. “This isn’t payback, Norma.”

She nodded and looked at their interlocked fingers. “Aunt Dot still doesn’t know I gave Gideon the money. Or Murphy. She just thinks they ran off half-cocked, chasin’ pipe dreams. But sometimes you gotta chase until you can reach them, right? It wasn’t even a lot of money, just enough to help out with their rents for a few months until they got steady gigs.”

“That’s plenty,” Max said quietly. “That’s more than a lot of people get to go pursue a dream.”

She nodded, then shook her head. “I should tell Aunt Dot I gave them the money.”

“Why?”

“You heard that earlier phone call,” she said. “Today is one of her favorite days. Would she still feel that way if she learned I aided and abetted her girls into professions she doesn’t like?”

“Those lives ain’t hers to live,” Max said. “Do you know how precious it is to have someone who believes in you? Norma, you gave them both so much more than money, far more valuable.”

Norma nodded and smiled, this one more genuine. “I’m so proud of them.”

Max kissed her temple. “Now, enough about them. This is still your day, easin’ into night. What else would you like?”

Norma shrugged and smiled wider. “What else do you have planned? Or, should I say Gideon?”

He gave her a mild glare at her teasing, but then softened his expression when she kissed his cheek. “I have reservations for us at a restaurant on the water, if you want to go out.”

“I’m not really hungry,” she admitted. “I mean, not enough to shower and change and go out, because I’m sure it’s fancy.”

He arched an eyebrow. “It could be a McDonald’s on the water for all you know.”

“Bye, Max.”

He laughed and conceded her point. “Fine. Would you like for me to order in again?”

“Isn’t that awful?” she asked with a nod. “In Miami and all I wanna do is stay in and eat takeout. I could’ve done that in Moncks Corner.”

“But I’m not in Moncks Corner.”

“You could’ve gotten on a train just like I did, sir. Try again.”

“You would’ve had to pay for the ticket,” Max returned, his eyebrow raised.

She gasped in mock indignation. “You wouldn’t have made me pay! You coulda added that to Gideon and Murphy’s tab.”

Chuckling, Max stood directly in front of her and wrapped an arm around her waist. “I would’ve refunded them the money.”

“Oooh, you big spender, you,” she teased. Her lips were pliant for his kiss. “You don’t mind if we stay in, do you?”

“Nope,” he said against her mouth. “Why do you think I rushed you out of the gardens?”

She pulled back, her smile shy. “You want to give me a massage that badly.”

He kissed her again, this time doing his best to caress every crevice of her mouth with his tongue. When he broke it, she swayed and sighed, nuzzling her nose against his broad neck.

“I wanna make you feel good that badly.”

She brought her grinning mouth to his ear. “Your bedroom or mine?”


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