My first thought, when I saw him striding along the water’s edge as though he owned the entire beach was, ‘Hey, get lost, this is mine!’ Stupid, I know, but in the time I had been living here, I had come to regard the long, curving stretch of sand as my own. Every morning, I walked Joss along the beach, half-past seven, regular as clockwork, and every morning I had the whole place to myself. Most seaside resorts are pretty much deserted out of season but here, even on a July morning, albeit a grey and overcast one like this, you could feel as though you were the only person in the world.
And today I needed that feeling more than usual, needed the sense of solitude that came from hearing nothing but the waves breaking over shingle and the gulls wheeling overhead. Last night, I had dreamed about Dominic, and woken to find the pillow wet with my tears. It was getting easier, as it should be doing after almost a year, but I still found myself missing him, still couldn’t stop myself thinking how bloody stupid and unfair it all was. It had been my fantasy as long as I could remember, to live my life with a deserted beach to walk along every morning, hand in hand with the man I loved and a dog of indeterminate breed loping ahead of us. And when that fantasy had finally come true, it had been less than three months before my husband had been taken from me, killed on a wet night on Snaefell, trying to take a corner too fast on his bike. And so I walked on my own, trying to forget and still, however hard I tried, not quite managing it.
I buried my hands in my jacket pocket, telling myself not to be churlish. Whoever this bloke was, he had as much right to walk along the beach as I did. And he might have wandered back on to the promenade and the rest of it would never have happened, if Joss hadn’t decided to go chasing birds. There were a couple of herring gulls sitting on the water, preening their feathers, and Joss went bounding in after them, barking and splashing around till they took off, wheeling lazily into the sky. Joss lolloped out of the water, no more than a foot or so from where the stranger was standing, and coiled his wiry body, ready to shake himself dry.
‘Look out there!’ I called, and he turned, just in time to side-step the droplets spraying from Joss’ wet fur.
He smiled at me as I approached. ‘Thanks for that. I’ve already had a shower this morning.’
Close up, he was younger than I had first thought, probably only in his mid-twenties, and well over six feet tall, with curly, mousy hair and startlingly blue eyes. He was dressed in a grey fisherman’s rib jumper and faded jeans with a rip in one knee; it struck me as the sort of outfit regarded as casual clothes by a man who spent all week buttoned up in a suit. He smiled again, dimples appearing in his cheeks. For that smile, I found myself thinking, I could forgive him disturbing the peace of my beach.
Joss bounded up, tail wagging. I had a plastic bottle with me, half-filled with water for ballast, and I threw it into the waves, shouting, ‘Go fetch, Joss.’ This was one of his favourite games, and he would happily let me throw the bottle for him till my arm was limp with tiredness.
‘He gets me up this early,’ I said, gesturing towards Joss. ‘What’s your excuse?’
‘Couldn’t sleep,’ he replied. ‘I never can in a strange bed.’ He offered his hand to me to shake. ‘My name’s Andy, by the way.’
‘I’m Ruth. And he’s Joss.’ Hearing his name, Joss trotted over and dropped the bottle at Andy’s feet, looking at him expectantly and wagging his tail. ‘He likes you,’ I said. ‘He doesn’t normally want complete strangers to do that.’
‘I love dogs.’ Andy threw the bottle, his long arm arcing it out further into the water than I could ever manage. ‘I’d love to have a couple, but when you live in the city it’s not fair on them.’
‘So what’s a city boy doing on the Isle of Man?’ The old me, the London me who had first moved here with Dominic, would never have dreamed of being so nosy. But now I was used to the relaxed pace of the island, where people had time to talk and were happy to listen. And the longer I stood talking to Andy, the more I noticed the warmth in his blue eyes and the sensual curve of his lips. It was a long time since I had looked at any man in this way, and he was really far too young for me to be taking an interest in, but it was suddenly nice to be made aware that not all my feelings had died with Dominic.
‘I was given a weekend here as a thank you for meeting a load of sales targets. I sell advertising for a travel trade magazine, which isn’t as glamorous as sounds. Anyway, I’ve brought my girlfriend, Abby, with me. We’re staying in the McIntosh.’
I knew it well; the one five-star hotel on this side of the island. When Dominic and I had come here, looking for our dream home, we had stayed in the McIntosh. I remembered a light, airy room with a comfortable king-sized bed, and Dominic’s body pressed against mine as his we lay side by side, his cock slowly thrusting in and out of me from behind. If it hadn’t been for the fact we had half-a-dozen properties lined up to view, we might not have left that room for a week…
I pulled my thoughts back to the present. ‘So she’s having a lie-in, then?’
‘Well, she was asleep when I left her. To tell you the truth, I don’t think she’s too happy about being here. When I told her I was taking her away for the weekend, I think she was hoping for Milan, or New York. Somewhere she could do some shopping. I don’t think the Isle of Man is exactly glamorous enough for Abby.’
As he spoke, I was building a picture of her in my head. Fashionably messy, highlighted hair; a taut body, toned by a couple of sessions a week at an exclusive health club; a jewelled stud glittering in her pierced navel. She probably had a job in PR, or working for some small TV production company. No, this sleepy island wouldn’t be nearly glamorous enough for a girl like that.
Andy sighed. ‘We had a fight about it, last night. That’s part of the reason why I couldn’t sleep. She was talking about catching the first plane back to London. And when she wakes up and sees the weather, she’s going to be straight on the phone to the airport.’
‘Then she’s an idiot,’ I told him. ‘The two of you could have such a good time here.’ I shrugged. ‘But maybe I’m biased. I love this island so much, even after–’ I bit my lip to stop the words spilling out.
‘After what?’ Andy asked.
‘I moved here with my husband…. He died a few months ago.’
‘I’m sorry,’ Andy said. He patted Joss’ shaggy head, and I was suddenly aware of how long we had been standing at the water’s edge.
‘If you’re interested, I have some decent guidebooks to the area. You could use them to plan what you and your girlfriend are going to do today. My house is a few minutes’ walk away – and I bet you haven’t had any breakfast yet. I make a decent bacon sandwich, if you fancy one.’
I half expected him to refuse the offer – after all, I knew just how good the food was at the McIntosh – but he smiled and said, ‘Thanks, that’d be great.’
I clipped Joss’ lead on to his collar, and we began to make our way along the promenade and up the hill towards the house. It was the last one Dominic and I had viewed, just as we were starting to think everything was either out of our price range or needed too much renovation to make it habitable, but as soon as we had stepped through the front door, it had felt like home.
I led Andy through to the kitchen, and put the kettle on. ‘Make yourself at home,’ I told him, gesturing to a chair. I went to fetch the milk from the doorstep. When I returned, Andy was looking at the sheaf of papers I had left on the table; proof pages I had been checking for corrections the evening before. He glanced at them, then at the row of cookery books at the side of the big Aga stove, and I realised something had fallen into place for him.
‘You’re Ruth Miller,’ he said. ‘It’s funny – I thought your face looked familiar, but–’
‘The photo they use on my books is about ten years out of date. I know. I keep asking them to update it…’
‘No, it’s not that. You look great now.’ I was sure he was flattering me – I was wearing no make-up, and my hair was windblown from the walk on the beach – but I found myself smiling inside at the compliment. ‘I was given a copy of Cooking For The Clueless when I was a student. Before I read that, I couldn’t even boil an egg.’
I blushed. Though I had written that book, my first, a dozen years ago, and I had lost track of how many copies it had sold, I could still never get used to praise from people who told me they had learned how to cook from its pages. I blushed even more at his next words.
‘You know, I’ve always had a fantasy about women who are great cooks. Abby never bothers; she just sticks packets in the microwave, or orders in a pizza. I’ve always thought a woman who can teach you how to cook could teach you how to do just about everything. Particularly in bed.’
I couldn’t meet his gaze. This gorgeous stranger, a man almost young enough to be my son, was standing in my kitchen, giving me what sounded like a blatant come-on, and I didn’t know how to react. I glanced round, trying to find some way of distracting myself from the sudden, lustful pulsing in my pussy.
‘Would you like to help me with a recipe?’ I asked him. ‘I’ve been commissioned to write a dinner party menu for one of the Sunday supplements, and the dessert I’ve been working on is a chocolate amaretto mousse. I’m just not sure whether I’ve got the amount of liqueur right.’ I pulled open the door of the fridge, and brought out a smoked glass bowl with the mousse I had left to set overnight. ‘I know it’s a bit early in the morning, but would you like to try some?’
‘I’d love to,’ he replied.
I went to take a spoon from the drawer so he could help himself to a mouthful, but he simply skimmed a finger across the top of the mousse, scooping it up and licking it with relish. ‘That is beautiful,’ he told me. ‘Seriously. Go on, taste it yourself.’
And he stuck his finger into the mousse again, before presenting it to my lips. I hesitated, wondering where this was about to lead. It could just be an innocent gesture, but then again… Slowly, cautiously, I took his finger into my mouth and sucked the mousse from it. A jolt of energy shot through my lower body as I did, raw and sexual and so powerful I was sure Andy could feel it, too. Forget the flavours of chocolate and almond on my tongue, even though on one level my brain was registering that I’d got the combination just right; it was the taste of Andy’s skin I was savouring. I’d almost forgotten he had a girlfriend waiting for him back at the McIntosh – and from the way he was behaving so, I was pretty certain, had he.
Praying that I hadn’t misread the signals, and wasn’t about to make a complete fool of myself, I bent my head and took another of his fingers between my lips. As I teased it with the tip of my tongue, mimicking what I suddenly, desperately wanted to do to his cock, he groaned. ‘God, Ruth, you’ve got a clever mouth,’ he murmured.
‘We could go to the bedroom and I could show you what else it can do,’ I suggested. ‘Or alternatively, we could just fuck each other right here.’
‘That sounds good,’ he said, and took me in his arms. The difference in our heights made it awkward to kiss; even with me standing on my tiptoes, he still had to bend right down before our lips met. My hands snaked up under the hem of his baggy jumper; he was wearing a teeshirt beneath it, and I pulled it out of the waistband of his jeans so I could caress the smooth length of his back. He took hold of my top and stripped it from me with brisk efficiency; I wasn’t wearing a bra beneath it, and his eyes widened at the sight of my small, round breasts, with their brownish-pink nipples.
‘Come here,’ he said, and hoisted me up on to the kitchen table. The book proofs I had been working on so diligently the previous evening fluttered to the floor, but I didn’t care. All that mattered was the sensation of being skilfully undressed by my handsome young lover. When he had me down to my white lacy knickers, he reached for the bowl of chocolate mousse.
I let out a gasp as he dolloped it on to my breasts and stomach; it was still cold from the fridge. He bent over me and his lips fastened on to one of my nipples, licking me clean. Sex with Dominic had been good, but we had never played this type of game, and for all Andy’s talk about wanting a woman to teach him the way in bed, I was beginning to feel I was the pupil here. His hot mouth worked slowly down my body; when it brushed over my pussy, the wetness of his tongue tickling me through the thin fabric of my knickers, I clutched at the edges of the table.
Andy hooked his fingers into the sides of my knickers and pulled. I raised my bum off the table so he could ease them down to my ankles, leaving them hanging from one foot like an erotic pennant. His fingers dabbled in the mousse once more, then he lightly painted it down the length of my crack, from my clit to my anal opening; the feel of the cool chocolate against my overheating pussy was almost enough to make me come.
He stood back, admiring his handiwork. ‘Why don’t you talk to the editor of that supplement you’re working for?’ he asked. ‘Tell him the serving suggestion for dessert is off the body of a luscious woman.’
‘But what about the female guests?’ I replied, stretching out a hand to stroke the swelling bulge in the front of his jeans. ‘What do they get to eat it off?’
In answer, Andy began to strip, peeling off jumper, jeans, teeshirt and a pair of tight-fitting grey briefs, which already bore a damp patch in the front as evidence of his arousal. His cock rose up from a nest of sandy hair, its fat head wet and glistening. It simply cried out to be daubed in mousse and licked clean, and as I reached for the bowl, making my intentions obvious, he was unable to wipe the grin from his face.
The kitchen table was one of the few items Dominic and I had brought over from our old London home, difficult though the logistics of moving had been, chiefly because of its size. Now I blessed the decision, as Andy clambered on to the table and hauled me on top of him, my nose to his tailbone. It wasn’t a dignified or particularly comfortable position, but it meant he could nibble on my sex, licking off the mixture of mousse and my own creamy juices, while I wrapped my lips round his stiff, sticky manhood. The taste was exquisite, savoury and sweet, saltwater and chocolate, and I was lost in the rapture of giving pleasure and receiving it, licking and being licked, as his tongue moved among the slick folds of my cunt and I swallowed as much as I could of his fat shaft.
With all the attention he’d been giving my body, I was ahead of him in the race to orgasm, and as his tongue worked in delicate little circles over my clit, I felt fierce spasms of pleasure sweep through me. Andy’s cock fell from my lips as I came, loath though I was to let it go, and when I caught hold of it again, the combination of my sucking mouth and stroking fingers took him over the edge. His spunk mingled with the last of the chocolate mousse, the salt-sweet combination lingering on my taste buds long after he had stopped coming.
When Andy could move again, he hopped down from the table and fished in the pocket of his jeans for his mobile phone.
‘What are you doing?’ I asked him. I wasn’t ready for him to leave me just yet, not when I hadn’t even felt that gorgeous cock of his sliding up into my suddenly needy pussy.
‘I’m going to ring Abby and tell her if she wants to get a flight back to London, that’s fine by me,’ he replied. ‘If it’s okay with you, I was thinking of staying here and making a weekend of it…’