Sunday, October 9, 2011

Liz Stratton Closes the Store: Chaper Seven

Liz Stratton Closes the Store
Maren Bradley Anderson

This is the seven chapter of Liz A. Stratton Closes the Store.
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Published by Maren Bradley Anderson
Copyright 2011 Maren Bradley Anderson

PRUDE ALERT: This book contains ADULT CONTENT. Enjoy!


Maureen and her girlfriends were in a low-key gay club in Hollywood where the paparazzi rarely lurked. Her friends were there to dance without being molested by handsy heterosexuals. Since the sex strike took effect, it was too risky to go to a straight club. The men were getting more and more desperate, and less and less apt to hear a “no,” even when said firmly or loudly. Maureen was there for that reason, too, mostly. She was also taking in the sights.

It was hot inside, and loud, and apparently the bartenders hadn’t heard about the smoking ban in bars. The air was thick and heady with smoke of various legalities, and it was pitch dark except for the lights pulsating over the dance floor. Men in all sorts of undress danced everywhere, and they welcomed the girls with gleeful cheers. Contrary to popular opinion, most gay men love women, especially pretty girls. They just don’t love women. There was plenty of bumping and grinding going on, but it was more innocent than it would be if the were at a straight club. It was innocent in a childish way, like they were all kids imitating something they saw on television, but had no real interest in actually taking part in. 

Maureen made her way to the bar after a long dance session with a gay boy with a rockin’ body and a pierced nose. She was slightly afraid he was going to follow her and complain about his boyfriend, so she was relieved when she found herself alone at the bar. In tight jeans and a halter top, most people didn’t recognize her from television: this wasn’t really the show’s demographic, anyway. She found that she liked the anonymity. She wasn’t sure she was cut out to be as famous as Liz.

She waved a twenty over the bar to get the bartender’s attention. “Mandarin cosmo, please!” she shouted over the music. He nodded and made her drink in front of her. She had always admired a good bartender. She’d had to mix a few drinks herself back in the day, and a man who could get a curl of orange zest into your drink while dressed in leather pants had her respect.

She accepted her drink and held out her bill when someone pushed her arm down onto the bar. “Your money’s no good here.” Maureen looked up to see a beautiful woman slipping the bartender a fifty-dollar bill. “I’ll have the same as her,” she said and smiled at Maureen.

“Thank you.” Maureen sipped her drink. “This guy’s a master at the Cosmo.”

“I know.” The woman accepted her drink and sipped, not taking her eyes off Maureen. “I thought Cosmos were passé, but I like the orange twist.”

Maureen smiled. “They were the rage ten years ago. I’ve always liked them, and I don’t view cocktails as fashion accessories, anyway.”

The woman smiled and set her glass down. “I’m Vanessa,” she said, holding out her hand.

“Maureen.” She shook Vanessa’s hand.

“I know who you are,” Vanessa said. “I’ve seen your show.”

“Well, it’s hardly mine,” Maureen said modestly. “I’m just babysitting for a friend while she’s busy.” She shifted a little under Vanessa’s heavy gaze. Her eyes were taking Maureen in inch by inch, and Maureen realized that she was being undressed in Vanessa’s mind. Maureen was not used to such an overture from a woman, and she found herself blushing.

“Would you like to sit at a booth? I’d love to get to know you better,” Vanessa suggested.  Maureen nodded, so Vanessa led her to one of the private booths that ran along the sides of the club. As they went, Maureen took Vanessa in: long legs, short dress, cute ass, and short, light hair that Maureen couldn’t decide was blonde or light brown. It looked soft, though, and she wanted to feel it in her fingers. Vanessa oozed sex and it wafted off of her in such waves that even the gay men turned to look appreciatively. Maureen was a little fascinated following her to the booth.

Maureen slid into the booth next to Vanessa, who immediately put her hand on Maureen’s knee. Maureen gently moved the hand aside. “Getting to know me is first,” she said.

“Of course,” said Vanessa. “Where are my manners? I like your show.” She leaned in close and breathed the last part into Maureen’s ear.

“Thank you.” Maureen closed her eyes and found herself very attracted to the forward woman. When she opened her eyes, she was looking into Vanessa’s very blue eyes. “Tell me about yourself, Vanessa.”

“I’m just a single gal who works in television, too,” she said.

“Oh? Anything I might have seen?”

“Perhaps. I report for one of the local news stations.”

Maureen smiled. “I thought I’d seen your face before.” She touched Vanessa’s chin with her fingertips. “You’re the meteorologist on Channel Six.”

“Weekends,” Vanessa said, smiling. “So, we’re mutual fans.” She took Maureen’s hand in hers and stroked her fingers gently.

“I suppose so.” Maureen relaxed and leaned back into the upholstery. “That feels nice, Vanessa.”

“Can we go somewhere quieter, Maureen?” Vanessa leaned against the seat back, too, and gazed at her face.

Maureen sighed. “I’d like to, Vanessa,” she said. “But there’s a sex strike on...”

“I wasn’t going to invite you straight to bed,” Vanessa protested.

“Maybe not,” Maureen said, sitting up. “But I’m pretty sure in a couple drinks, that’s where we’d want to be.”

“I want to see more of you,” Vanessa said.

“Lunch tomorrow?”

“Lunch? Really, lunch?” Vanessa sat back pouting.

“I’m only doing lunch dates now because of the strike, honey,” Maureen explained. “Believe me, you are a dish I would love to...”

“Lick ice cream out of?”

“...yes. But I’m only doing lunch dates because of what I do. Do you understand?”

Vanessa, who Maureen realized was much younger than she first thought, sulked a moment. Then she pulled a pen out of her tiny purse and wrote her number on a card.

“You can reach me here,” she said. “Call when the strike is over.”


“Yes, over. I’m not the kind of girl who does lunch. For you, almost.” Vanessa leaned over and kissed Maureen with her full, luscious lips and Maureen felt herself get wet and jiggly. “Call me when you can fuck.” Then she slid out of the booth and slinked her way out of sight.

Maureen’s friends descended on her as soon as Vanessa vanished. “Who the hell was that?”

“Channel six weather girl,” Maureen said, turning the card over in her hands.

“Wow, you got her number? What’s she like?”

“She wanted to fuck,” Maureen said with a sigh.

“Shitty timing.”

“That’s the truth,” Maureen said. She wondered if she would ever call the girl who made her so wet. She tucked the card  into her bra and stood up to dance with the gay men some more so she didn’t have to think about it anymore.


A week later, Maureen sat at the table in the bus as it barreled along the Missouri highway on the way to somewhere over the rainbow. She had met the bus in St. Louis so she and Liz and Zeke could talk about the show.

She loved being on television, and she loved being the host of Spare Me. She was, however, new at this, and had run out of ideas, as had her similarly new producer. They had resorted to “Liz’s sexiest shows” re-runs until they could come up with more content. Hence the emergency trip to Missouri.
Liz read the list leaning against the bus window and flat farmland whized behind her head. “Well, this is a good list, Maureen, but I can see how it can get old talking about NOT having sex. It’s certainly easier to find material on depravity, etc.”

“How about interviewing people like the S&M club that are abstaining for the campaign and see how it’s affecting them?” offered Zeke.

“Yeah, sure,” said Liz, sitting up and scribbling on the list. “You could interview all sorts of weirdos. And the theme could be, ‘If that huge sexual libido can abstain for a good cause, so can you!’”
The three of them bent heads and scribbled lists of the baby-dressers, beastialists, and drag queens that had been on the show recently. “Oh, oh, how about that woman who could only come if there was a video camera in the room?” said Maureen

“‘Video Viv’? She’d be great,” muttered Liz. “You might have to schedule her for next month...she’s having a baby in like two weeks.”

“Aw, that’s sweet,” said Maureen.

The door to Liz’s private room in the back opened and Dion stepped out. Maureen’s eyes got wide as she watched him walk to the front of the bus where he sat and began reading the paper.

“Who’s that?” she hissed at Liz.

Liz glanced up and smiled. “That’s Dion. He’s in my security detail.”

“Oh, my!” said Maureen, sitting back. “He’s delicious. Does he come in any other flavors?”

“Wouldn’t know,” Liz said quickly.

Maureen leaned forward. “You-ou like him,” she sang softly.

To her glee, Liz blushed and said, “Do not.”

Zeke turned to look at Dion carefully. Damn his height, his hair, and his perfect vision, Zeke thought, and flung mental daggers at the Secret Serviceman’s head.

Maureen was suddenly sympathetic. “Oh hell! With the sex strike going on, you couldn’t do anything anyway? Shit, I’d love to have you on the show. Wouldn’t this just make the ratings?”

“Shut up,” hissed Liz. She wrote “Things to do on initial dates that aren’t sex, even though you want to jump his bones” on her list.

“What are you going to do?” Maureen asked.

Liz sat back again and looked at the back of Dion’s head. “Well, obviously nothing. I can’t risk a scandal, and I think fucking a guard while preaching abstinence would pretty much kill the campaign, don’t you think?”

Zeke said, “Oh, definitely,” a little to quickly and enthusiastically, causing Liz to look at him queerly.

“Well, thanks for the support,” she said unhappily. “Maybe he’ll still be around on the first Wednesday in November. There’s not much I can do until then, you know?”

“Mmmm, I could just take him off the market for you,” Maureen purred. “You know, to make it easier on you.”

Liz smiled and rolled her eyes. “Don’t you dare. You’re on strike, too, you know. We’re all the picture of abstinent resolve, don’t cha know?”

Maureen pouted sweetly and then the three of them sighed together and doodled a bit on their lists. Finally, Maureen threw down her pencil.

“Fuck, this is hard,” she moaned. “I’m used to...well, you least a couple times a month. That’s a lot for a single gal, I know, but I live in L.A. for chrissakes!”

“I know,” said Liz. “I was counting the months on my fingers earlier, too. Granted, I’ve hit a dry spell, but still, months??” She shook her head sadly. “I’d love to just wake up next to someone. I miss that kind of intimacy.” She looked up across the table at Zeke. “What about you?” she asked.

“Me what?”

“When was the last time you had sex, Zeke?”

“I don’t kiss and tell,” said Zeke.

“I thought that’s all men ever did,” said Maureen. She bumped her shoulder against his. “If you tell yours, I’ll tell mine. Mine’s good,” she promised.

Zeke looked quite uncomfortable. “It was a week or two before the campaign began,” he said.

“Who was she? Was she cute? Where did you meet her?” Liz leaned in, hungry for details, even Zeke details.

“Um, I met her at a club. She’d just moved to L.A. from Virginia, I think she said.”

“Oh my God, Zeke. She was an aspiring actress?” Maureen said.

“You didn’t have casting couch sex, did you?” Liz asked, grinning like an idiot. “I didn’t know that sort of thing still happened.”

“It wasn’t like that,” Zeke said defensively. “I did get her a lead or two on agents, but I liked her. Of course, I haven’t heard from her since.” Zeke began doodling again.

Liz and Maureen looked at each other. After a moment, Maureen leaned in to Zeke and said, “She must have been pretty cute, though, huh? Huh?”

“Well, yeah,” Zeke admitted. He grinned to himself. “She had this long, dark hair. She could wind it around like a bun and then let it go so it fell all over my face.”

“She was on top!” Maureen squealed so loud that everyone else on the bus, including Dion, looked up at them. Maureen grinned wickedly at Zeke and leaned back in her chair.

“You little tart,” Liz scolded. “Your turn.” Liz winked at Zeke kindly and he silently thanked her. He folded his hands in his lap to keep from reaching over and squeezing her knee.

Maureen rolled her eyes and lied. “Well, I met this guy at this party at this house. I forget who was holding the party or why. He was this aspiring actor/waiter who was serving drinks. He recognized me from the show—you know, only working night shifts—and so I took him home.” She licked her lips. “He reminded me of someone I had a crush on in high school, except he had much better abs.”

“Did you do anything special?” asked Liz.

“Oh, not really,” said Maureen. “He made me breakfast to make up for his tiny penis, but that’s about all.”

“That’s sad,” said Liz. “It wasn’t good at all?”

“Didn’t say that,” said Maureen. “I mean, pizza’s pizza, right?”

“I thought only men said shit like that,” Zeke said.

“Nope,” said Liz. “You should know that by now, Zeke. You’ve produced my show since the beginning.”


“Your turn, Liz,” said Maureen, leaning on the table, chin in hand, expectantly.

Liz didn’t want to have a turn, but it was obvious that Maureen wasn’t going to give up. Zeke tried not to look as uncomfortable as he felt as Liz dove in to her story.

“Um, do you guys remember the show we did about six months ago about the hot new yoga trend?”
Maureen gasped. “That yoga guy? The one with the hair? And the arms?”

Liz nodded. “Yeah, Yuri Davidson.”

“Yuri the Yogi,” Zeke said. He had taken an instant dislike to the guy when they’d met on set, and now he knew why. He desperately wanted to avoid the rest of this conversation.

But Liz went on. “Yuri invited me out for drinks after the show, which I thought was a little forward, you know, but how many invitations do I get? I work too much.” Liz looked off into space for a moment, completely forgetting that she got at least one invitation a day from Zeke. “Somehow, we ended up back at his hotel.” She stopped and smiled coyly.

“More!” cried Maureen. “What’s it like having sex with Yuri the Yogi?”

“Surprisingly straightforward and a little boring,” said Liz analytically. “He didn’t have the tiny penis problem, but he was quite unimaginative, and not limber at all!” She shook her head. “God, what if we die in a crash right now, and those are our last sexual experiences?”

“Sobering thought,” said Zeke. Even though he had quiet enjoyed little miss Virginia, he’s much rather die in Liz’s arms.

After a moment, Maureen grumbled, “They better fucking declare peace soon. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.” Everyone within earshot had to agree wholeheartedly.


Maureen’s last sexual experience had been just before the strike was called. She had found Grace in a bar on a Tuesday night. The girl had recognized Maureen from the show and had gushed admiration, so they ended up leaving together. Grace’s apartment was on the small size, but Maureen spotted the expensive upgrades with a L.A. resident’s skillful eye. Tile floors to help cool the summer heat, stone countertops (though granite was passé, other stone was not), and restaurant-quality appliances. Grace had done well.

“How about a glass of wine?” Grace kicked off her shoes and walked to the oversized refrigerator. “I have a nice white open.”

“Sure.” Maureen amused herself by admiring the “art” on Grace’s walls—mostly framed posters of impressionists.

 Grace handed her a glass of too-cold wine and Maureen sipped it. “Nice place.”

“Thank you. How about a sit?” She arranged herself seductively on the couch.

Maureen joined her, and slid her hand between Grace’s knees. “Nice dress,” Maureen said, and kissed her.

Grace had suitably luscious lips and a firm ass that was the perfect size for Maureen’s hands. She hadn’t had her breasts done yet (yet...always the probability in this town), but Maureen didn’t mind. She liked the asymmetry of natural breasts.

She quickly ascertained that Grace was a relative novice at female-on-female relations, so Maureen gladly directed her. This hand here, that hand there, do this with your mouth, no, let me show you.
Afterwards, Maureen pulled one of her own strawberry-blonde hairs from between Grace’s teeth as they snuggled under a blanket on the couch...they hadn’t made it into the bedroom. “That’s kinda gross,” Grace said, licking her lips.

“They don’t call it ‘flossing’ for nothing, Sugar,” Maureen sat up and stretched. “I’m going to call it a night.” She stood and began hunting for her panties.

“You could stay here.” Grace’s voice had a peculiar note to it, and Maureen glanced back at her. She was sitting up, holding the plush blanket up to her own chest modestly and watching Maureen with hopeful eyes.

“No, I’m going to go home now,” Maureen said, pulling on her jeans and stepping into her shoes.

“Will you call me?” Grace asked as Maureen walked to the door, pulling on her shirt as she went.

“Sure, Sugar. I’ll see you around!” Maureen was in such a hurry that she left her panties behind, wadded in a ball under the blanket.

She sat in her car a block away wishing that she were a smoker so she could get a little relief from the thoughts that flew through her head. She thought this pattern of sleeping with girls and then running from them had ended in college, when she had sworn off girls because of Beth. She didn’t like herself this way, but abject admiration was hard for her to resist.

Beth was a year behind Maureen in college and followed Maureen around like an adoring fan. She was tall, with short black hair and a cute little nose. She was wickedly funny, and her habit of hanging on Maureen’s every word became endearing. Eventually, Maureen gave in to Beth’s amorous advances and a yearlong relationship developed.

A straight girl had once remarked to Maureen that it must be nice going out with a girl because women understood each other. She was dealing with a boyfriend who didn’t get her “shoe thing.” Maureen tried to inform her that not only did women “get” women, but women knew how to torture each other better than men did.

Beth was jealous. Maureen was a gregarious person and habitually had a crowd around her. As a ginger-haired kid, she had learned early that she either had to shun the spotlight by hiding or embrace it—if she were going to stick out, she decided that she’d do it on her terms.

But Beth was quiet and bookish. She was a devil in bed, but in life she was likely to be railroaded. She was often swept aside by the crowds Maureen attracted with her personality and complexion and figure. Beth took every laugh, touch on the arm, and air-kiss as evidence that Maureen was cheating on her. Maureen wasn’t, though not for lack of opportunity.

Beth was not convinced and left, noisily swearing revenge. She flung Maureen’s possessions out on the lawn, even though she had been staying at Maureen’s place. She tried to poison Maureen’s friends against her. She sat glaring at Maureen at the cafe where she worked so much that the manager finally had her removed by the police. That didn’t stop her from parking outside of Maureen’s apartment several nights a week with a camera. Every couple days Maureen would get an email loaded with pictures of people coming and going out of her apartment building. There was never a message, just the pictures.

Even so, Maureen was devastated when Beth left, had pleaded with her to stay, and swore her innocence. She dragged herself around campus afterwards, and didn’t think about Beth’s threats of revenge until her parents phoned a week later. Beth had called them and outed Maureen.
Maureen swore off girls partly to appease her parents who were desperate for grandchildren. Her older brother refused to marry any girl he brought home. He found tiny faults with all of them, which he then blew out of proportion and used as an excuse to leave them. Their parents had written him off as a lost cause, and so pinned their hopes on Maureen spreading their genes. A gay daughter was not acceptable, although they did mention artificial insemination every now and then, just to remind her that there was no reason to wait for “Mr. Right.” She knew they were hoping that even if she found a “Mrs. Right,” she’d still choose to have kids.

Beth’s behavior was the other reason.

As for leaving girls after sleeping with them, Maureen had a bit of a reputation for that before the Beth affair. She wasn’t proud of it, but she had slept with several women whom she didn’t want to see again. To be frank, since then she’d slept with several men whom she didn’t want to see the next morning. Oddly, she didn’t feel as bad about leaving the naked men in their bedrooms as she did about the girls.

She liked sex, and she did want another serious relationship someday. But until then, she saw sex as a hobby.

Maureen whacked the steering wheel. She felt like calling Grace right away and apologizing, maybe offer to take her to dinner or something, but she couldn’t. They had never exchanged numbers, and she wasn’t brave enough to go back to Grace’s apartment and ask for it.

Maureen threw the car into gear and flipped a U-ee in the middle of the dark street and drove back to Grace’s apartment. She didn’t like the girl enough to leave her own number under her doorknocker. But she felt guilty enough to jot an apologetic note and cram it under her windshield wiper. Maureen drove away alleviated of a little guilt. She still felt like a heel when she got home, and punished herself by crawling under her sheets without showering so when she woke, she still smelled like cigarettes, alcohol and Grace.


Liz tapped away at her laptop in her hotel room that night with the news chattering in the background. She had on her silk pajamas with the kittens and her hair was twisted up in a bun held in place with a pencil. She was working on an idea for a new speech when there was a soft tapping at the door. She opened it to find Zeke holding a steaming paper cup with a teabag string draped over the edge. “I saw your light on and thought you might like some herbal tea.”

“Thanks,” she said, taking the tea. “Want to come in?”

“Oh, uh, no,” he said, realizing he was getting a massive erection just seeing her in pajamas again. It was cold and her nipples were making an appearance. “I really need to get some sleep. Good night.”
“You sure? Okay, then. Thanks for the tea. Good night,” she closed the door softly. Zeke stood a moment kicking himself and then stalked off to his room next door.

Liz had just arranged herself at the computer with her tea when there was another knock. She assumed it was Zeke changing his mind, so she just unlatched the door and said, “Come on in. I just need to finish this thought.” She ran back to the computer and finished typing her sentence. She felt the cold night air whoosh as the door opened and closed.

“Thanks again for the tea,” she said as she turned around. “That was really thought...” Her stopped when she realize that the man standing somewhat awkwardly next to her bed was not Zeke but Dion.
“It’s not tea, actually,” Dion said. “It’s bourbon. Your favorite brand. But I could probably find some tea if you’d prefer.” He grinned lopsidedly and his hair fell in his face as if on cue.

“Um, bourbon’s great,” said Liz. She scrambled to find the glass tumblers from the bathroom. “I, uh, didn’t get any ice,” she said. “But I don’t really want much. I’ve got a busy day tomorrow.” She watched as Dion poured her two fingers of bourbon and handed her the glass. She wondered what the hell she was doing.

“Aren’t you supposed to be protecting me or something?” she asked, inhaling the smoky scent of the liquor.

“I’m off duty tonight,” Dion said. “Besides, how much closer could a protector be?”

Liz didn’t answer, but took a sip of bourbon instead. She looked at him over the lip of the glass. He peeked at her from over his glass.

He took her glass from her and set both on the television. He put one hand on her hip and the other cupped her face. “I’ve wanted to do this since the first time I saw you in person,” he breathed and pulled her close to him, kissing her with much more restraint than Liz expected.

He tasted of bourbon and somehow smelled of maraschino cherries and starch. She liked how his hand felt on her face and the way his other hand traveled up her hip to her side to her back. She loved how he was holding her and how he was now cupping her breast...

Liz backed away suddenly, panting. “I’m so sorry, Dion, but you have to leave, now.” She pointed at the door.

“But, why? Am I moving too fast?” Dion stepped closer to her.

“No, no, no...I mean, in June, I would have been all over you,” Liz explained while backing way. “I’m not risking a scandal during the race, though, no matter what you taste like or smell like.”

“You taste like strawberries dipped in caramel,” Dion murmured, and he was kissing her again.

Liz pulled away again, more violently this time. “Dammit, Dion, don’t make me ask again. We need to WAIT. That’s the whole point.”

“I’m not sure I can wait,” said Dion. “And I’m not sure you can wait, either,” he said. He turned to go. “Just remember: I’m ready anytime you are. You give me a nod and I’ll meet you in your room on the bus ten minutes later. Ten minutes.” He opened her door and stepped out. Then he leaned back in and looked at her with obvious lust. “Keep the bourbon. Just think of me as you drink it.” Then he was gone.

Liz made it to the bed before her knees gave way. She sat shaking with desire and jittery with adrenaline. When she felt a little steadier she rummaged around in her luggage until she found what she was looking for: a white paper goody bag. She switched off the television and quaffed both of the bourbons and turned off the light.

In the morning, the tea was stone cold and untouched when Zeke saw it still sitting next to her computer. He wondered in passing where the Maker’s Mark had come from.


Later that day, Liz sat on the edge of her bus bunk and pulled on her stockings. A crowd had gathering in the nearby pavilion, waiting for her to appear and encourage them to vote for her and keep their legs crossed until the war was over. And Liz had a run in her pantyhose. Dammit.

Cal knocked loudly on the door. “Liz! They’re waiting!”

“I know,” she called. “I’m nearly ready. I’ll meet you outside.” She tore open her bag and dug through it. She knew she had a fresh pair of hose in there somewhere.

She heard the door open and click closed. “Cal, do you have any hose on the bus?” she asked. “Oh, wait. Here’s a pair.” She turned to find Dion smiling at her, again.

“Jesus, do you ever enter a room announced?”

“Last time I knocked,” he said. He stepped forward and took her in his arms. “I missed you.”

“Stop,” Liz protested weakly. “I’m late.” With great force of will, she pulled away. “I need to put these on.” She turned away modestly and pulled on the hose and stepped into her shoes. When she turned around, she yelped at the sight of Dion, presumably naked, under the covers of her bed. “How’d you get out of your clothes so fast?”

“Talent,” he said. “Practice? Care to join me?” He lifted the covers just enough that she could see a flash of bare hip, but not enough that she could miss the tent.

“If I didn’t want you so badly, I’d have you fired for sexual harassment,” she said. “I have to go.” She backed out of the room and closed the door behind her. She turned and ran into Maureen who was waiting for her just outside the door.

Maureen smiled lasciviously. “I saw Mr. Handsome go in there. Now I see you come out all flustered two minutes later. Either that was a record-breaking quickly, or you told him no.”

“I was a good girl, but it was…difficult,” Liz said. “I’ve got to get out there before I go back in there!”

“Suit yourself,” said Maureen. “I mean, I’m so proud of you!”

Maureen watched Liz as she retreated from the bus. When she was sure Liz wasn’t coming back, she let herself in to the back room.

Dion was surprised to see her. He looked up as he sat on the edge of the bed in his boxers. “Hello. This isn’t what it looks like,” he began.

“Of course it is,” said Maureen. “I was just curious. I can see how Liz would be tempted.” Maureen bit her lip coyly.

Dion smiled. “I’ll take that as a compliment. Would you care to sit?”

“All right,” Maureen said, perching coquettishly on the bed next to Dion.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know your name...”


“Maureen. You’re a piece of work, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” said Maureen leaning in a little closer to Dion. “I suspect you are, too.”

“Perhaps so,” he said, and leaned in for a kiss, but his phone rang. “Damn. Need to get that,” he murmured and reached for his pants.

“No worries,” said Maureen, diving for his trousers first. “I’ll get it for you.” She seized the pants and pulled out the phone, snapping it open before Dion could take it away.

“Young? Is that you? Have you compromised Stratton yet?” barked a voice that was Southern and authoritative.

“No,” Maureen said in a deep voice.

“Well, get on it. We need that bitch out of the race.” The Southerner hung up.

“It was your Mommy,” purred Maureen. “She says to be good.” She tossed the phone into the corner of the room and took off her shirt. “I say we be bad.”

“I’ll apologize to Mom later,” said Dion, reaching for her. He buried his face in her cleavage and moaned.

“Has it been a while, honey?” Maureen cooed.

“God, yes. This strike is killing me. I used to get it every week at least.” He pulled down her bra straps.

“Wait, let me close the curtains!” Maureen pulled away and minced around the tiny room, pulling the curtains over the already one-way windows. As she passed him, Dion slapped her on the ass.

“You like it in the dark, eh?” he asked when he got his hands on her again.

“You’re right, I do,” she said, pulling away again to switch off the lights.

When she got back, Dion had shimmied out of his boxers and was laying on his back on the bed, socks only. Maureen climbed next to him and removed his socks painfully slowly. “I have some ‘stuff’ in a goody bag in the other room,” she whispered in his ear as she tickled the hairs on his belly.

“Forget it,” he moaned. “Just come here.”

Maureen allowed her hand to trace larger and larger circles on his body until she fingered his balls and his cock. Dion shivered and moaned as she took his whole penis in her hand, but then went rigid when she hissed, “That was Ostrem on the phone, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?”

“Who?” Dion said too casually.

Maureen squeezed just a little too hard. Dion yelped, “Yes, yes, it was!”

“What is he paying you to do? How were you supposed to compromise Liz?” She tugged in what she knew to be the wrong direction.

“Ah-ah-ah...Just sex, seduce her, spill the beans. Ow-ow-ow!” whimpered Dion.

Maureen grinned wickedly. “Ever heard of a purple nurple?” she asked, and Dion dissolved into tears and begged her to let him go. She stood and put her shirt on as he curled in a ball and watched her with wide, horrified eyes. “I’m sending Big Sam back here now. You’ve got two minutes to clear out. If we ever hear anything about a relationship between you and Liz, I’m going to invite every girl you went to high school with to come on the show for a free paternity test.” She fluffed her hair and left him without looking back. She had to find Liz.


Liz peeked from behind the curtain. In front of her stood a crowd of thousands of horny women who had given up sex to show support for her effort to end the war. They expected her to say something that could keep them from going to bed with their husbands or lovers (or both) until the war was over. But Liz kept thinking about that...that...MAN who was currently in her room on the bus waiting for her, she supposed as she left him...naked and half-crazy with desire. Honestly, she didn’t know whether she was going back to him once she was done with the crowd. What could she say to those women to keep them on track if she wasn’t able to even contain herself?

She slumped on a folding chair and flipped through the note cards, not reading them. She was thinking of Dion’s floppy hair, his sexy sunglasses, his lopsided grin, what his cock must look like. She sighed and swore.

Maureen walked up looking more smug and coy than usual. “I’ve got something to tell you that might solve your problem,” she said.

“Oh? Which problem?”

“The...Secret problem.”

“What is it?”

“He tried to seduce me,” said Maureen.

“What?” Liz was surprised at the emotion she felt at this news. “Why you, you little slut!” she hissed.

Maureen tried not to look hurt, but she was. “That’s neither here nor there,” she said, pouting. “He tried to seduce me, remember? But there’s more.”

“What?” Liz snapped in rising fury.

“He’s working for Ostrem,” said Maureen.

Liz sat back. “Wh-what?”

Maureen knelt beside her friend. “At first I just wanted to show what a slimeball Dion is, but then his phone rang and I answered it. It was Ostrem on the other end. I heard him tell Dion to hurry up and finish ‘compromising’ you. Then I...coerced...a confession out of Dion. His job was to seduce you and then tell everyone that you’d reneged on the sex strike. I’m sorry. I know you liked him.” Maureen patted Liz’s hand.

Liz sat stricken for a moment. “Wow,” she said finally. “That would have really ruined us. That son of a bitch. Those sons of bitches.” She looked at Maureen. “Thank you.”

“You’re the one who was sticking to her principles.”

“He came to me in my room last night. Tried to get me drunk. Oh, God, I’ve been so naive and stupid!”

“No, no, you’ve been strong! You stuck to your guns! I’m proud of you. Really. I mean it.”

“I might have, though, after the rally. I was thinking about it.”

“No harm in thinking. They can’t hang you for that,” said Maureen. “Now, you need to go out there and wow them. Can you use that anger? Can you channel it to fire up that horny multitude? Channel all that sexual energy into positive work?”

“I can,” said Liz. “I’m so angry I could spit fire. It’s time I take off the gloves and fight like a girl...with teeth and nails.”

“Attagirl,” said Maureen as Liz strode onto the stage.


Liz wasn’t one for drinking herself into a stupor, but she felt so stupid for falling for Dion Young’s tactics. He was the same kind of asshole that her longtime boyfriend Evan had been. That jackass had cheated on her so many times that she lost count. She had expected him to be that way, and tolerated it until she realized that she had wasted five years on him. She could have had three kids in that span of time. In fact, a friend of hers did, and that realization had been the reason she threw him out.
She had begun dating Evan because he was so forward and charming, just like Dion. She poured herself another neat Maker’s Mark from Dion’s bottle and let the aroma waft up and bathe her face.

She felt like hell.

There was a tap at the door of her room on the bus and then Cal let herself in. She sat next to Liz on the bed and put an arm around her. They sat quietly for a moment.

Finally, Cal said, “You gave a fine speech today. I’ve never seen you so fired up.”

“I was livid,” mumbled Liz. She glanced at Cal. “You know what happened? Maureen told you?”

Cal nodded. “We left Dion at the Greyhound station. I wanted to leave him in a bad neighborhood without his cell phone, but I was outvoted.”

Liz groaned and lay back on the bed. “How could I be so stupid? I was just thinking how much he was like Evan. Remember Evan?”

Cal nodded. “He treated you like shit, but he was beautiful.”

“I was such a fool, Cal,” Liz whined. 

“Pooh. How could you have known your own Secret Service guy was working for the other side? I mean, that’s dirty pool.” Cal said.

Cal poured herself a drink and leaned back on the bed next to her.

“They really have it in for me, don’t they?” Liz asked.

“It looks like it,” Cal said.

“I mean, to find someone like Dion and then plant him. That was a lot of trouble to go to.”

“True,” said Cal swirling her bourbon. Then she sat up a little. “Actually, this might be a good sign.”

“How could it be a good sign?” groaned Liz. “I nearly succumbed to the wiles of a cheap whoring spy. How could it be a good thing?”

“Well,” said Cal, tucking her legs under her and leaning in. “It was a lot of trouble to go to, and it took a lot of pull from way high up, right?”


“Liz, they’re worried about you. I mean, they think you’re a threat!” Cal’s eyes gleamed.

“So, you think that means we have a chance?”

“Probably! What’s more, I think we need to do something spectacular to show them that we aren’t afraid of them and we’re not going anywhere.”

“Like what?”

“Let’s get the team in here and figure it out!”


Later that night in Liz’s hotel room, Cal and Zeke and Maureen were finishing up the plans for “Operation October Surprise.”

“That’s all we can do tonight, team,” Cal said, gathering up her things. “Let’s get out of Liz’s hair.”

“Oh, look, she’s out,” Maureen whispered. Sure enough, Liz had nodded off leaning against her headboard. Her chin rested on her chest and she snored softly. The combination of the late hour, bourbon and her Dion-inspired shame spiral had put her out completely.

“I’ll take care of her,” said Cal, stifling a yawn. “You guys go on.”

Maureen picked up her bag and staggered a little on her way to the door. She mumbled, “G’night.” and left.

When the door clicked shut, Cal took off Liz’s shoes and tried to pull off her jeans, but had trouble until Zeke stepped up and lifted Liz a bit off the bed. A look passed between the two of them. Then Cal got to work peeling off Liz’s clothes and slipping her into a tee-shirt to sleep in (her pajamas were far too much trouble) as if she were a small child who had fallen asleep in the car. Zeke turned away when modesty required, but he helped move Liz’s deeply somnolent body the rest of the time. When she was safely tucked into bed, Cal picked up her things and took a step toward the door. Zeke did not. Cal paused a moment and then left the two of them alone, holding the door so it closed with only a soft “click.”

Zeke turned off all the lights in the room except for one small lamp in the far corner. Then he sat in the armchair nearest the bed and watched Liz sleep. He didn’t know what he was going to say when she woke up. He wasn’t sure what she might think, or if he’d be brave enough to admit that he didn’t intend to let her out of his sight long enough ever to get hurt again. He hunkered down in the soft chair, propping his feet up on another chair and tried to sleep, but his head was swirling with images of Liz being magnificent on stage and then dissolving into the puddle of hurt and shame that he’d seen today. He wished again that he’d had a chance to say a few words to Mr. Dion Young, or better yet, beat the shit out of every one of his 73 inches.

Instead, the event the team had planned tonight would be a triumph of publicity, but he wondered whether it might completely wreck Liz’s chances for being President. On the other hand, it might catapult her straight to the White House. He might be watching the next President sleep, and snore, he thought. He smiled fondly and tried to doze off.


Liz opened her eyes when her wake-up call rang at 6:30 a.m. Her head hurt, and she moaned in protest to the world at large. “Why do they put bourbon in such big bottles?” she asked, and tried to silence the phone by whacking it. It stopped suddenly, so Liz rolled over and was instantly asleep again.

“I’m sorry, honey. I can’t let you do that,” a gentle voice said, and a warm hand shook her shoulder.
“Dad, I can totally sleep five more minute and still get,” Liz murmured. Then she sat up. “Crap. It’s been a million years since I was in high school.” She fumbled for her glasses and peered into the face attached to the warm hand. “Zeke?”

“Good morning.”

“God, you look like hell. When did you get here? I didn’t hear the door, I’m sorry.”

“I, actually, I never left,” Zeke said. He nodded at the chair he’d eventually slept in with the blanket draped over it.

Liz’s lovely brow furrowed. “Why?” she asked.

Zeke willed himself not to redden. “We, I didn’t feel like leaving you alone last night.”

“Why not? I was asleep, it’s not like I was in danger. One of our guys is outside, right?”

“Yes,” said Zeke.

Liz shook her aching head, but managed a smile. “So, you’re going to sleep in the same room with me from now on, just in case?”

A peculiar look crossed Zeke’s face, but all he said was, “If at all possible.”

“Fine,” Liz said. “But let’s just get a room with two beds from now on.” She groaned quietly. “I need an aspirin,” she said and staggered to the bathroom in her t-shirt and panties.

Zeke stood stunned for a moment. He felt as if he’d just won the lottery or climbed Mt. Everest. He allowed himself a shit-eating grin. Cal marched in and saw it, and smiled in response.

Things were going to work out. She could tell.


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About the Author
Maren Bradley Anderson is a writer, teacher, podcaster, blogger, and alpaca rancher who lives in the Willamette Valley of Oregon. She has written short stories and plays for years, and has recently taken to writing screenplays and novels. She teaches live and online classes on literature and writing at Western Oregon University. She has Master’s Degrees in both Literature and Teaching Writing from Humboldt State University and a B.A. in English and Studio Art from Mount Holyoke College. Maren hosts a podcast about alpacas (Paca Talk) with her husband, and blogs about alpacas and writing. Her alpacas win ribbons for conformation and fleece, plus she thinks they are darned cute.
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