I put off calling Connor for a few weeks; I wasn’t sure why. Maybe it was the fear of hearing something I didn’t want to know. Maybe it was the fear that Connor would reject my proposal. All I knew was that my guts were in constant turmoil, and I was having trouble focusing on the business at hand. This was not a good thing. With only six months in my new position as Provost at Royal University, I still had to networks to forge and teams to build.
The phone rang while my thoughts roamed between the presentation I was giving to the Senate the following week and what I would say to Connor when we spoke.
“Shouldn’t that be Doctor Tim King?” The saccharine sweet voice of Louisa Drake, the Vice President of Development, came through with her usual razor-sharp edge. Louisa was stunningly beautiful, but her reputation as a barracuda made it difficult for her to bond with the management team. Her appointment as VPD was unusual in the world of academia, but by all reports, she would work the miracles needed to bring the corporate dollars to the university that it so desperately needed. Yet, there was something about her that made me wary.
“To whom am I speaking?” I hoped to knock her down a peg or two by refusing to take the bait.
“Come off it, Tim,” she said. “You know full well who this is.”
I waited a few beats. This was one fish she was not going to hook. I heard her long nails drum against a hard surface and a heavy sigh. A satisfied smile spread over my face. Hell, I was as catty as Kat; her influence must be rubbing off on me. I could almost hear her voice in my head, “Meow!”
“Tim, it’s Louisa.” I waited another beat, still smiling. Another heavy sigh. “Louisa Drake from Development.”
“Oh Louisa; I’m sorry. I didn’t recognize your voice.” The bullshit she thought was so loud it felt like an actual sound. My smile broadened.
“How may I help you, Louisa?” I was playing with the tiger, I knew; but I couldn’t help myself. I could almost feel her self-satisfied grin. Maybe I was reading too much into a simple phone call, but Katherine had me on the alert about Louisa.
“Actually, Tim, you have no idea what I can do to help you.” Her laugh made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.
“In this case,” she said, “I thought you might like someone to bounce your presentation off of, and since I’m an old hand at managing the Senate Committee, I thought I’d offer mine.”
OMG, was Katherine right about her? Cougar alert!
“How nice, Louisa. Thank you, but I’m good for now. I’ll keep it in mind though and let you know if I need any help.”
“Now Tim, don’t let your male ego get in the way. After all, you’ll only have one chance to make a good first impression. Let’s have dinner tomorrow night so I can make sure you’re hitting all of the major points that you’ll need to cover. Then, if time permits we’ll talk about what else I can do for you. You have no idea the things I can do for you; things that will benefit both of us.” She made that wicked laugh again.
Yikes! Straight for the kill.
“What a nice offer, Louisa. I have a date with Katherine tomorrow night, and the President has reviewed the expectations with me. I do thank you though.”
“Are you sure? I’m happy to, and I’m not used to taking no for an answer. I think you should reconsider before you blow me off, Tim.“ I felt the goosebumps break out on my arms. Double yikes!
“Thanks again, Louisa. That’s very thoughtful. I’ll keep your offer in mind and let you know if I run into any snags. Thanks for calling.” I hung up the phone before she could think of any other reasons for us to meet outside of the office.
My thoughts returned to the phone call with Connor, and I decided, nothing ventured, nothing gained. I realized I shouldn’t put it off any longer, so I picked up the phone and made the call.
“Connor McClane.” The abruptness of his tone threw me for a second. The academics I dealt with generally did not have the hard edge that was characteristics of many business people.
“This is Tim King. I am—”
“I know who you are. Katherine told me to expect your call a few weeks ago.”
“I’m wondering if we could meet,” I said. “I have a proposal to make.”
“A proposal. Sounds intriguing. Sure why not. I’ll be in Toronto on business on Friday. Will that work for you?”
You don’t live here?” I blurted out.
No, actually; I live in Montreal.” A sound that sounded like a chuckle came through the phone. “How about I answer your questions when we meet?”
We agreed to meet at the Royal York Hotel at 3 pm in their Library Bar. Katherine always had wanted to try their High Tea. She’d be so envious when I told her. Connor offered to make the reservation, and I thanked him as we rung off.
I spent the next three days running dialogue of possible conversations. I resolved to control this meeting. Did I dare go through with my plan? By the time I left to meet him, I was still undecided.
I arrived early and asked for the McClane reservation.
“Ah yes. Mr. McClane is waiting for you. Right this way please.” Advantage Connor. And Mr. McClane! How chichi was that.
He stood as I approached the table and extended his hand.
“Hello Tim. I’m pleased to meet you,” he said with a warm smile. His handshake was firm and friendly, and I immediately found myself feeling at ease.
Watch yourself, Tim.
His appearance surprised me. He wasn’t at all what I expected. He wasn’t Katherine’s type at all. Too tall, too dark, too hairy, too Johnny Depp. She much preferred the pretty boy Brad Pitt type. As she often reminded me, I’d barely passed the looks test. I was too tall at 5’8″ and had borderline colouring with my medium brown hair and eyes.
“But you were just so damn cute,” she always said. “There was something about you that drew me to you. Maybe it was those pheromones.” I mentally shook off thoughts of her and turned my attention back to the business at hand. After shaking hands, I sat in the chair the maitre d’ had pulled out opposite Connor.
“Stewart will be your server for the evening,” the maitre d’ said. “Would you like a drink in the meantime?”
“What would you like to drink?” Connor asked.
“Rum and coke on ice, please.”
“And the usual for me please, John. Thank you.”
“Coming right up.”
I watched John leave before turning my gaze back to Connor. He was looking at me through eyes intense with a blend of curiosity and wariness.
“Shall we skip the small talk and get right to the point?” Connor asked.
“So you’re fucking my wife,” I blurted out.
“And I gather you have a problem with that?” Connor threw back without a moment’s hesitation.
“Well, wouldn’t you?” I shot back.
“I’d have to think about that, but my gut feeling is that no, I don’t think I would. Have you seen my wife?” He paused a moment while he took a drink. “No, of course you haven’t. Well, she’s a beautiful woman, and I’d love to see her get off with someone else.”
“I don’t know whether to take you seriously or if you’re delusional,” I said. Even if I found the idea of watching Katherine with another man appealing, I’d also find it threatening, as I do now.”
“Why? After all, it’s only sex.”
Is this guy for real, or is he playing devil’s advocate with me?
“So you say, but one day it’s only sex and the next she’s leaving you for the other guy. I’ve seen it happen before,” I said.
“Sounds like it happened to you,” he said.
“No, not me,” I snapped. “Besides, we’re not here to talk about my past history.”
Connor arched an ‘aren’t we now’ eyebrow at me.
“And I’d wager there were already serious problems in those relationships that had everything to do with why she, or he for that matter, left the marriage. From what I understand from Katherine, you two are blissfully happy. What is it that she says? Oh yes, passionately besotted with each other. So what is there to fear?” Connor asked.
“Do you love her?” I asked. At that moment the server arrived with our drinks and introduced himself while Connor continued to look at me through those unfathomable hazel eyes. I realized I was holding my breath and slowly let it out.
“Are you ready to place your order sir?” Stewart asked.
Connor turn to me and asked, “Would you like a little something to nibble on why we chat?”
“Sure. Please go ahead and order whatever you like.”
“We’ll start with the antipasto platter. That should hold us for a while,” Connor replied. “Thank you, Stewart.”
I took a drink of my rum and coke and settled back to watch him. I was curious to see how he would handle my question.
After another moment’s pause he said, “Do I love her? No, not in the way that you mean that’s for sure. Did she tell you anything of our history?”
“A little, but to be fair I didn’t really give her a chance. I needed some time to absorb the shock before hearing details.” It’s not like it’s every day that you hear your wife fucked around on you.
“Katherine and I were lovers for a couple of years during university,” Connor said. “We became very good friends, so I guess you could say I love her as a friend.”
A couple of years? She’d told me about several guys she’d been with in university, but none of them had sounded serious.
“I flirted with the idea getting together, but by that time you two were living together, and it was clear that she loved you,” Connor continued. “Katherine always was wise beyond her years in some ways even then. Once she realized the attraction to me was purely sexual, she sent me packing.”
I took another gulp of my drink. Was this the truth? Or had she been sleeping with him all along?
“So you been screwing her all this time? Is that what you’re telling me?” I felt my throat close over the words, but kept my gaze steadily on his. I refused to let him see how upset I was getting.
“No, not at all. We ran into each other a month or so ago at a conference, and that’s the first time we’d seen each other since second year university.”
I thought I could see compassion with a touch of humor in his eyes. Damn him! It was a difficult realization that I was actually starting to like him. We took another pause to nibble and let Stewart refresh our drinks.
“Well we’re here to discuss my proposal,” I said , “not to rehash ancient history. First let me apologize if I get into too much detail about the terms of my proposal. We academics can get carried away sometimes.”
“Go ahead; I’m intrigued. So, what’s the proposal?”
“Katherine seems to feel that she’ll need to see you from time to time to explore this dominance thing you two have happening. The only way I can let that go on is if I’m involved somehow.”
Connor’s eyebrow shot toward the ceiling, but he stayed silent.
“I’m a bit of a voyeur; it’s just something that interests me. Truth be told, I’ve always fantasized about seeing Katherine with someone else. I’m thinking that somehow I could be involved and see that happen.”
“I’m a lot of a voyeur,” Connor said, “and I’ve always dreamed of seeing someone fuck my wife, and I’m not certain how I’d handle it. I’ve just met you and already I have my doubts, Tim. Reality is not the same at all as fantasy.”
“Well you’re not me, are you. What I do know is that Katherine will walk away from you if I give the word, and the only way I can allow this to continue is if I’m a part of it somehow.”
Connor took a sip of what looked like scotch on the rocks while never taking his eyes off of me.
“I’m not into men,” he said coldly, “so you’ll have to make that little fantasy come true with someone else.”
“I’m not into men either, not even a little. This isn’t about me, it’s about Katherine.”
“Is Katherine aware of what you’re asking?”
“No, and I’ll be the one to tell her in my own good time.”
Connor took another drink and said nothing. Although it was probably only a couple of minutes, it felt more like ten. I ate some more of the appetizer to keep from squirming under his steady gaze while he calmly took another drink.
When I couldn’t stand it anymore I said, “Well?”
“Maybe. Let me give it some thought and get back to you. What’s your cell number?”
“I’m from the old school and I don’t really use my cell. It’s best to get a hold of me at the office.”
I took out one of my business cards and slid it across the table to him. As if by magic, Stewart materialized with the bill and handed it to Connor. I started to take out my wallet, but Connor gestured for me to put it away. He signed the chit and stood with his hand outstretched.
“It was nice meeting you, Tim. I’ll be in touch.” And with that he walked away.
Unexpectedly, I had a hard on, and not just of the semi-erect variety. I was almost rupturing the zipper of my jeans, and it was damned painful. As much as I tried to reflect on the conversation with Connor, my next coherent thought was my recognition that I was imagining Katherine writhing under Connor as he rode her hard and slow. I wanted her, and I wanted her badly. To hell with the rest of it; we’d figure it out.
If you were Connor, would you accept the proposal?