Welcome to my tour stop of The Opposite of Love by T.A.Pace! The full tour schedule can be seen here.
About the Book
When 37-year-old Melanie is challenged to find a mate by her overbearing mother, she finds herself in a relationship that pushes her sexual boundaries, and in a place like Sin City, that can be a precarious ride.
An homage to Erica Jong’s Any Woman’s Blues, The Opposite of Love is a psychological/sexual ride through Las Vegas and its local sex scene as experienced by two lovers who will test each other’s ability to accept them as they are, as well as their own ability to accept themselves.
James arrived at Melanie's door promptly at seven-thirty wearing a suit and carrying a bouquet of flowers. Melanie opened the door in a burgundy chiffon gown that draped modestly in front and dramatically in back, with a slit up to her mid-thigh on one side. She spun in a circle, modeling for him, and he let out a low growl in sincere approval. Without a single strap holding it in place, it seemed like the dress could just slide right off of her shoulders. The thought made his dick pulse.
"That is some dress, babe."
"Glad you like it," she said. Then, nodding at the flowers, "For me?"
"Who else?" He handed them over with a kiss on the cheek.
He’d had his truck washed and waxed and when he opened the door she climbed in gracefully, her leg sliding out of the open slit in her dress, then sliding back in before he closed the door. That visual image reminded him of what he’d be doing to her later.
James didn’t always bring a date to the policemen’s ball. The last time he had was three years before and his date had worn a short, silver sequined dress with porn-star cleavage and platform heels that looked like they’d just fallen off a pole dancer. She’d had too much to drink and giggled at everything anyone said. Did she make his dick hard? Sure. But she looked like she was paid for, and that didn’t help his image with the higher-ups. Melanie was the kind of woman who could be sexy without being trashy and manage interesting conversation and drinking without being silly or embarrassing him. She was the kind of date who could help him get promoted.
It was August and monsoon season was at its worst. Almost daily, black storm clouds materialized over the valley, looming like dark ghosts, dropping an inch of rain and hundreds of lightning strikes in the matter of an hour, downing trees and power lines and causing flash floods before moving on and leaving the residents feeling vaguely assaulted. But worse, the air had become the one thing locals couldn’t tolerate: sticky. Even humidity of thirty percent was likely to have a Las Vegan mopping his forehead and complaining of swampy weather.
They valet parked, and once inside the casino, they were safe. No matter the weather outside, the air-conditioned wombs of the casinos were always mild and dry. As they crossed the casino floor heading toward the banquet hall, men playing blackjack and craps twisted their heads around and leaned back from their tables to get a look at Melanie. With her high heels she was still about two inches shorter than James, but the way she held herself made her appear statuesque. She didn't have bombshell curves, but her femininity was palpable and what curves she had were classy. She held her head high and kept her arm threaded through his as they walked. James tried to remember ever feeling so proud to have a woman on his arm, and couldn't. The thought made him a little nervous, but more than anything, he felt like the man. His colleagues would be insane with jealousy and insatiable with questions.
On a Saturday morning several weeks after she and James started having sex, Melanie slept in. Slipping quietly out of bed at nine-thirty, she worked her way through the house, cleaning up as she went. She started a load of laundry, stacked the books and magazines, took out the garbage and answered some work-related emails. By eleven a.m. she was in the pool swimming laps. After doing thirty, she got out to grab some water. That was when she saw James on the other side of the living room slider. He stood there in his boxers, watching her, smiling, his bed head making him look like a child. She motioned for him to come out.
“Hey yourself, sexy. What are you up to this fine day?”
“Just doing some laps. I was gonna catch some rays for a bit.”
“Need some company? My tan could use a boost.”
James pulled off his underwear and threw them on the back of a lounge chair.
“Um, ok.” Melanie laughed. “The pool boy doesn’t come until two, so I guess you’re safe.”
James took a few running steps and cannon-balled into the deep end of the pool. Melanie shook her head. When he surfaced, she asked, “I’m going to grab some water. Want anything?”
“Beer if you have it.”
“I have it. Want me to grab the noodles for the pool?”
“You know, the foam things.”
“Afraid I don’t know the foam things.”
“I’ll grab ’em.”
Melanie came back with a bucket of beer on ice and two long, bendable foam sticks.
“Oh, noodles,” said James. “I get it.”
She handed him a beer and tossed the noodles in the pool. James tucked one of the noodles around his back and under his armpits and leaned back, sipping his beer. “Nice. Noodles and beer.”
“I call it pooling.”
“Pooling?” he asked.
“Yeah. Pool, drinks, lounging. It makes something lazy sound active.”
“I can think of other ways to make it active.”
Melanie winked at him. “I bet you can.”
She grabbed an inflatable lounger against the wall and tossed it in the pool. James held her beer while she situated herself on the raft.
Once she was all settled, she sighed and closed her eyes. It was a crystal clear ninety-five degrees out. The rays felt good and the water was doing a fine job of keeping her cool. The wind was calm and had been for the past week, so there weren’t many leaves in the pool. She could hear James paddling lazily around her. After about ten minutes of silence, he said, “You’re gonna get tan lines in that bikini.”
She opened one eye and peeked at him, smiling. “As you’re well aware, I already have tan lines from this bikini.”
“Haven’t you heard?” James smirked. “Tan lines are out.”
“Are they? It’s so hard to keep up with these trends.” She feigned exasperation and waved her hand dismissively. “I gave up trying.”
“Well then I will take it as my job to prevent you from committing a fashion faux pas with your tan lines. You can thank me later.” He put his beer on the deck and paddled closer to her.
He came up behind her raft and tugged at the string at her neck. She glanced toward the block fence on the left side of the yard. It was seven feet high, so it would require a ladder for anyone to peek over. She sat up and giggled as he untied the string at her back and threw her bikini top on the deck. She lay back down and he paddled around to the foot of the raft.
“Bottoms too,” he said.
“If you insist.”
She watched him pull her bikini bottoms off slowly, arching to help him. He was staring at the spot where her legs met. He slid the suit over her feet and let them slip from his hand and hang in the water. She self-consciously closed her legs.
James tucked the noodle around the front of his chest and leaned forward, letting the foam hold his weight up. He wrapped both hands around one of Melanie’s feet and kneaded the sole with his thumbs. She hummed with approval. “Heaven,” she said.
After a few minutes James worked on the other foot, then started rubbing her calves, then her thighs. By the time he reached her upper thighs her legs parted themselves. She loved the way his touch felt. And the combination of being caressed by the sun, the water and James all at the same time was having a narcotic effect.
He touched her gently, running a finger up and down her slit until she moaned and spread her legs wider. He spread her wetness around, and his breathing deepened, but when she pushed her hips against his hand, he wouldn’t put his fingers inside her. Instead, he stopped touching her long enough to pull the raft toward the shallow end of the pool. Once there, he was able to position his head between her legs and go to work.
The sensation was surreal—the coolness of the water and the warmth of his mouth—and Melanie couldn’t help thinking how lucky she was. This was what she deserved: a lazy Saturday in the pool, soaking up rays, drinking a beer, being pleased by a man who adored her. She imagined there were other things she’d been missing out on too—more important and profound things—but for now, this was all she wanted.
James increased the tempo and pressure until Melanie was on the edge of her orgasm, chasing it, pushing her hips back against his mouth. And he stopped.
Melanie whined. “Why’d you stop?”
“It’s just for a second,” he said. “I’ll be right back. No touching yourself.”
Melanie grunted and splashed water at him.
James got out of the pool and jogged to the slider and into the house, his member erect and bobbing, and emerged a minute later with the package of condoms from the nightstand and two towels. He put the towels at the top of the stairs, then tore one of the condom wrappers open with his teeth and rolled the condom on. He came back to Melanie and resumed where he’d left off.
It only took a few minutes before Melanie was again ready to come, and once again, James stopped.
“Come here,” he said. He took her beer from her, pulled her from the raft and led her to the edge of the pool. He positioned her on all fours on the pool stairs with her knees in the water and
her elbows resting on the towels he’d left on the deck. He continued playing with her, running one hand over her slit as his other hand ran up and down her arched back.
“Are you ready?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said breathlessly.
He put himself at her opening and waited. The anticipation was too much for her and she pushed back. James grunted with satisfaction. He moved in long strokes so that the head of his penis escaped her completely on each stroke, and she whined each time it did.
“You want me to stay in?” he asked.
“Yes, I want you to stay in.”
And with that, he grabbed her by the hips and thrust once, deep and hard, holding the head against her cervix. She cried out.
“You look so beautiful in the sun,” he said.
Ten seconds went by. James caressed her back and then returned his hands to her hips and thrust again. This time Melanie moaned. Eight seconds went by. Again he thrust hard. Six seconds. Again. Four seconds went by. Again. Two seconds. Again. And then he was giving it to her, the water around them churning as he pulled her into him, skin slapping wetly against skin.
Melanie moaned and lowered her head to the towel. She could feel her knees starting to chafe against the step, but she was very close to coming. She reached between her legs and before she could touch herself James grabbed her elbow and pulled her arm back—not to the point of hurting her, but close.
“Babe…” she whined.
“No touching yourself. I’ll get you there.”
“Ok. Let go of my arm.”
James didn’t say anything, and he didn’t let go of her arm. His stroke slowed slightly. Melanie started to push herself up so she could turn and look at him, but he pushed her head down to the towel.
He leaned over her so that his chest was pressed against her back. “Do you trust me?”
“What are you doing?”
“Just trust me, ok?”
“Ok.” Melanie had no intention of trusting him if this got out of hand. But so far nothing had been painful except the chafing on her knees, so she gave him a little leeway.
“Do you know how beautiful you are?” he asked.
Melanie didn’t respond.
James increased the tempo again and Melanie felt her muscles start to tighten. It appeared she would be able to get there without touching herself, and she was beyond ready for it.
James wrapped her hair around his free hand and held it against the back of her head. He was thrusting hard and strong and panting into her ear. Melanie was moaning more with each stroke and trying not to be loud enough that the neighbors would hear if they were out in their yards.
James whispered, “We’re being watched.”
“What?” Melanie tried to lift her head to look around but James tightened his fist in her hair and held her where she was with her cheek against the towel. She squirmed under him but he was still holding her arm and she couldn’t get free. He slowed his stroke again.
“Who’s watching?” she whispered loudly.
“It’s ok. Just relax. I’m not letting you go until you come.”
She wasn’t fighting him, but she wasn’t sure she could relax with someone watching. The urge to come was ebbing and flowing and her mind was racing.
“Who is it?” she asked again. If it was her creepy next door neighbor she’d pretty much have to sell her house and move. The thought of him masturbating to her was too nauseating to bear.
“I’m not sure, but I think it’s the pool boy.”
Melanie tried to turn her head toward the gate where the pool boy always let himself in, but James held her firmly. She closed her eyes and groaned. At least he was young and attractive. The thought of him seeing her—and liking what he saw—didn’t seem completely offensive. Maybe just the opposite. She tried not to think about it and just concentrated on her orgasm. She knew the sooner she came the sooner this would be over, and she knew better than to try and fake it. She’d tried that the week before when she was tired from a trip. He’d become suspicious, but she’d been able to convince him that she’d had a small orgasm.
“Come for me,” he said now, the water splashing around them as he whispered into her ear.
James started thrusting faster again and her body continued to spasm and arch despite her self-consciousness. When she began moving back against him, he put his knees outside of hers so she could squeeze her legs together, and within moments they were both coming. Melanie was
able to turn her face enough to muffle her cries in the towel as her muscles convulsed hard and long. James released her arm and hair. He leaned back and moaned up toward the sky as he thrust into her slowly, once, twice, three times.
Before the waves of pleasure had subsided completely, Melanie slowly lifted her head and turned toward the gate. There was no one there.
“I don’t remember what kind of wine we were drinking that night, do you?” Melanie asked.
Around eleven, Derek texted and asked if she wanted to have a drink at the Artisan. A nostalgic pang made her smile. She assigned Jen to drive Sarah home. Now she and Derek were sitting at the bar in the same seats as the night they met. It was a minor miracle they’d found seats at all; the place was jumping and a DJ was set up in the corner playing hip-hop and top-40 music.
“Some kind of chardonnay, I think,” said Derek. He ordered a bottle and they toasted the recovering Arts District.
“It must be nice to have the extra income again,” Melanie said.
“You said it. A teacher’s salary is no way to live.” Derek laughed morosely, then brightened. “But if the gallery keeps up at this rate, I’ll be coming to you for investment advice.”
“I hope you do,” said Melanie, but she knew he was exaggerating. “What else has been going on? How are things with Sharon?”
“That didn’t go so well.”
“We split. She was pushing for something serious. I couldn’t commit.”
“Really? Mr. Love-is-everything couldn’t commit? What’s the deal?”
“I can only commit to the right person. We didn’t have as much in common as I would’ve liked.”
“Like what?” Melanie asked. Anticipating that he’d be providing her with ammo she could use in a future debate, she turned in her chair to face him and give him her full attention.
“Don’t get all righteous on me.” Derek shook his head. “But we weren’t compatible in intellect. Or in bed.” He took a swig of his wine and Melanie thought she could see the color rise in his cheeks,
although it was hard to tell for sure in the dim lighting.
“I’ll be damned.”
“What?” He still wouldn’t look at her.
“Yep.” He nodded repeatedly. “It matters.”
“So then why am I dating a friggin’ cop with no advanced degree and no apparent limit to the kinkiness of his sexual preferences.”
Derek choked on his wine, struggled valiantly to recover, and said, “Where to begin, Mel?”
“You tell me.”
“Does it bother you that he’s a cop?”
Truth be told, it had at first. In fact, she’d pocketed it thinking it would make a nice exit strategy if nothing else worked. She could always say that his work was too dangerous, that she was afraid of him getting killed. But his job wasn’t even remotely dangerous. He’d only pulled his gun once since he’d been promoted to detective, and even then it was on a dog, and he hadn’t fired. She’d also thought that a blue-collar man was beneath her, but she found that he was smart—even without an advanced degree—smart enough to debate with her, and to occasionally be right. And she also found nobility in his reasons for becoming a cop in the first place. To want to make a difference on such a substantial scale, even in the face of bureaucracy and cutbacks and painfully incremental successes was admirable, and she could see the value in being with a man with that kind of moral virtue and determination.
Derek nodded as she explained her thoughts on James’ job. “What’s this about the kink?” he asked.
“It’s been interesting,” Melanie said. And it was her turn to blush. She spared him the pooling, the spanking, and simply explained that he introduced her to things she’d never really explored before.
“Well, have you ever been to the Green Door?”
“Actually, I have. It’s pretty cool if you’re open-minded about that kind of thing. Place is huge. Like the Disneyland of sex.”
Melanie gaped at him.
“I had no idea you were so…”
Derek laughed. “Hardly. Went there once with a girl I was dating who liked to be tied up. Went another time on my own. That’s pretty much it.”
“Really? Tied up?”
“Yeah. And choked. It was kind of weird. But I’d never done any of that before so I figured, what the hell. You never know what’s going to flip your switch ’til you try it.”
Melanie thought about the spankings she’d been getting, how it turned her on so much that her juices wet the insides of her thighs before James even touched her there. She never would have thought it would be so hot to be the recipient of pain.
“So what did you think of it? Tying her up and choking her?”
“Wasn’t really my thing.”
Melanie was swirling her chardonnay, watching the legs crawl down the sides of the glass, deep in thought about this new side of Derek, the sexually experienced Derek. Perhaps kinky even.
“So I take it you’ve either been already or you’re thinking about going,” he said.
“He wants to go this weekend. I’m nervous. I worry about people seeing me and knowing who I am.”
“If that’s all you’re worried about, definitely go. It’s wild. And if they can see you, you can see them too.”
“That’s what James said.”
“Smart guy. Can’t wait to meet him.”
When Melanie finished her second glass of chardonnay she ordered water. It was almost one a.m. and she’d need to drive soon.
“Have you been here much since we met?” Derek asked.
“Once or twice I think. Still reminds me of that night though.” She smiled at him and he rubbed her upper arm.
“Shall we end it the same way tonight?” he asked.
Her smile disappeared. She had expected the invitation, but she hadn’t realized that there was a dilemma involved until it presented itself. She was dating James now, and they’d both established that they weren’t seeing other people. Semantically, she wasn’t “seeing” Derek, so there was a loophole there. But she knew she and James had both meant sex as well when they’d had the discussion. So in this moment, in the face of this invitation, Melanie was forced to decide what kind of relationship she wanted to have. If she wanted something casual, she could do whatever she wanted, as long as she gave James the same freedom. But if she wanted to have a serious relationship, she could no longer sleep with Derek. It seemed a surprisingly cruel loss to endure.
“Let me guess,” he said, sparing her the explanation. “You and James are monogamous?”
“Yeah,” she said, her tone full of regret. “We are.”
“Hey, don’t be bummed about it. This is really great news,” he said. “That means things are going well, right?”
She smiled at him. Ever the optimist. Silver linings and unicorns.
“I would say things are going well so far, yes. Ask me again after the Green Door.”
He laughed. “I will. Can’t wait to hear all about it.”
They left the bar and headed toward the front door, but Derek pulled her into a small room to the back of the lobby. “Ever been in here?” he said.
There were four wooden pews on either side of a short aisle that led to an elevated platform. Six paintings hung on the wall of the tiny room.
“No. What is this, a chapel?”
“Yep. They do weddings here.”
Drifting slowly around the room, Melanie studied the artwork. The paintings were in the style of 16th century Renaissance art, replete with wistful women and wise infants.
In one, a baby reached its hands greedily toward the mother, while looking at the viewer with knowing accusation; Melanie found herself a bit creeped out by it. In another, a mother held a child in her lap and a cherubic cupid stood on the floor to her right pulling her attention completely away from the infant. But the one that drew Melanie’s attention hung just inside the door of the chapel. A young woman, naked from the waist up, pushed an armed cupid forcefully away from her. The cupid held his arrow expertly, with the coordinated hand of a grown man, the tip of his forefinger against the shaft, aiming it at the woman’s heart. Her hands were on his shoulders, elbows locked out, fending him off. It seemed a strange choice for a chapel, but then they all did.
“You like that one?” Derek asked.
“It’s odd, don’t you think?”
Derek shrugged. “Who do you think wins?”
“Tough to say, since the cupid has the advantage of not being real and therefore not held to the rules of reality.”
“So he’s got tricks?”
Derek laughed. He walked Melanie to her car in the self-parking area and hugged her close, not letting her go after the usual three seconds. “Just because you’re in a relationship now doesn’t mean you have to be a stranger, ok?”
“Ok,” she said. “I’ll call. We’ll have lunch or something. Like normal people.”
Derek laughed and kissed her on the forehead. She got into her SUV and waved to him as she pulled out.
He mouthed to her, “Be safe.”