A Taste of A Life Less Monogamous – Chapter 18
Without a doubt, the Horn Lodge was the nicest restaurant Jennifer and Ryan had ever been to. Intimidating, in fact, when they walked through the door: dimly lit by discreet inset lighting, deep red cherry wood bar and tabletops crossed with clean white linens, candles on each table. They removed their coats and gripped them tightly as they stood by the hostess welcome station.
A blond woman, early thirties in a crisp white dress shirt, stepped up to meet them. “Good evening, table for two?” she asked.
They stared at each other. No, we’re adding more to our twosome, thought Jennifer.
“We, uh—” Ryan began.
“We’re meeting some people,” she finished.
“You must be the Lamberts.”
The flush of embarrassment hit Jennifer’s cheeks. She felt so exposed here, in her low cut dress, cleavage on display. Real names. Shouldn’t there be aliases or pseudonyms or something when you do this? For rendezvous, for trysts? Something.
“Yes,” said Ryan. “We are.”
“The rest of your party is already here. If you’ll follow me, I’ll take you to them.” The young woman turned and walked into the dim restaurant, moving past the bar.
Jennifer looked at Ryan, who offered a weak smile. “It’s about possibility. Potential,” she said, walking after the hostess.
“Yes, right,” he said, following. “We can do this.” He leaned forward and whispered into her ear, “Your cleavage game is on point.”
Jennifer smiled to herself, shedding the doubt for a moment, knowing that he was right.
The hostess led them to a table for four, tucked into a back corner of the restaurant, secluded thanks to a rack of wine bottles on one side and barrels on the other. Bruce and Paige sat across from each other, Bruce with his back to the approaching group. When the hostess neared the table, though not near enough to hear conversation, she stopped and gestured toward it. “Have a lovely evening,” she said, and disappeared back into the darkness.
Paige noticed them first and smiled, standing. Bruce followed her lead and turned around. “Hello, Lamberts!” he said as they approached. He stepped forward, holding his hands out. “May I take your coats?”
Jennifer gave her coat up reluctantly, now with nothing to hide behind, no armor at all. Bruce hung their outerwear on wall hooks in the corner. Perhaps sensing the discomfort radiating off them, Paige walked over, all smiles. Her hair, spilling over her shoulders, framing a face showing little makeup. She also wore a dress that emphasized her bosom, with a high enough hem to reveal that her dark stockings were thigh highs.
She took Ryan’s hands. “We are so very happy you suggested this!”
He cleared his throat, more loudly than he’d intended. “So are we.”
Bruce ambled back to the group, his hands in his pockets. He also wore dark slacks and a burgundy button down. “Honestly we weren’t sure we’d see you again, when we found out that Noah…well, told on us. But thankfully we are seeing you now, so hello!”
He opened his arms, offering a most comforting embrace.
“Oh, well, it was sort of a left field surprise,” said Jennifer, stepping forward.
Bruce enveloped her with his arms. His scent filled her nose as she hugged back, just a touch of cologne or shave lotion. Warm, comforting indeed.
Paige leaned forward and kissed Ryan gently on the lips, following the kiss with a hug. Ryan blinked as she moved to Jennifer. That was the first kiss on the lips he’d received from anyone other than Jennifer in almost twelve years. That felt…significant. He watched Paige surprise Jennifer with the same kiss, and she appeared to go from quite content to startled, then to a sort of woozy smile.
Bruce pulled Ryan into a bear hug.
As Ryan returned the hug, he pondered the strangeness of it all. The intimate physical interaction with people they’d just met two days prior. Do friends kiss? Have the Shepards already made assumptions about their comfort level? Their interest level? Ryan recalibrated his thoughts. But isn’t it nice? The brief kiss from Paige, the hug from Bruce. Hell, his relationship with the two men he’d consider close friends was mostly antagonistic, wasn’t it? They didn’t hug. This all felt so…
“You guys sure know how to make people feel comfortable in their discomfort,” Jennifer blurted.
“Well, how about we ease that discomfort by doing something rather normal, and sit,” suggested Bruce. He extended his hand toward the table. He pulled out a chair for Jennifer, and Paige sat across from her. “Mind if I sit here?” he asked, gesturing to the chair next to Jennifer. She looked back at Ryan.
“Oh, uh, sure,” said Ryan, “Fine with me.”
Paige winked at him. “Good, I sit next to him plenty.” She patted the seat next to hers, and Ryan sat.
Quiet. Uncomfortable silence. The foursome smiled at each other.
Jennifer broke first. “So. We don’t know how this works.”
“It’s just like dinner with vanilla friends,” said Paige, “Only with more potential.”
“Vanilla?” asked Ryan.
Bruce smiled, looking back and forth between the Lamberts. “It’s what we call people like you. I mean, at least until you join us on the other side of the fence.”
Paige leaned across the table toward Jennifer. “That’s the fun side,” she assured her. “But Bruce, I think they’re at least vanilla with sprinkles.”
Jennifer and Ryan locked eyes across the table. She willed him to say something, to make sure that the other couple knew that this wasn’t a done deal, that they weren’t a sure thing yet. When he said nothing, she offered: “Oh, yeah, we’re just—”
“Testing the waters,” said Bruce. “We know.”
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Ryan said, looking down at his place setting. “I mean this is our first date in— I mean…it’s not a date. I didn’t think this was—” Jennifer watched him start to panic. “I just meant…”
Thankfully, Bruce saved him. “You’re fine, Ryan. Remember to breathe.”
“I think we should all have some drinks!” said Jennifer, craving the sweet social lubricant. “Do you all think we should have some drinks?” She noticed that the pitch of her voice had elevated, and the realization kicked it up a few notches higher. “Drinks would be good. Maybe some wine.”
“Yes, I think some wine would be a fine idea.” Bruce caught the attention of their waiter and made the international drinking gesture. The waiter nodded and disappeared.
“Okay, guys,” Paige leaned forward again and dropped her voice. She waved everybody in. “Let’s make this a little bit easier for you. Because I’m sensing some…”
“Stress?” offered Bruce.
Jennifer and Ryan met eyes and nodded.
“Do we want to fuck you?” asked Paige. “Yes,” she confirmed, her voice now little more than a whisper.
Ryan immediately broke eye contact. “Oh, uh—” He stopped talking when Paige pressed a purple-nailed index finger against his lips.
“Do we want to be your friends even if we don’t get to fuck you?” she posed. “Yes!”
Bruce nodded. “So let’s not worry about anything beyond having a lovely dinner with awesome friends.”
“Because there’s no pressure at all.” Paige looked back and forth between Ryan and Jennifer. Then she smiled and held both thumbs up.
A waiter appeared with a bottle of red. “Your Barbera, Sir,” he said, showing the bottle to the foursome. Jennifer watched as the waiter uncorked the bottle and handed the cork to Bruce, who smelled it as the waiter poured a taste. Bruce swished, swallowed, then nodded. The waiter set and filled their glasses, then left the bottle and vanished back into the restaurant.
“I, uh,” Ryan began, stopping before more came out. He took another run at it, lifting his glass up. All eyes were on him, he wondered if this was a foolish idea, should he have left the toast up to Bruce? You can do this! “I just wanted to say that we, that Jennifer and I, haven’t made very many friends in our adult lives. But, uh, meeting you two, we right away saw— Right?” he asked Jennifer, who returned a nod and proud smile. “Right away, that you were both the kind of people we wanted to spend time with. Whatever that meant.”
Paige rubbed his knee in support.
He felt he should actually get to the toast part of his toast. “So, I guess then, a toast. To trying new things.”
The foursome clinked glasses.
“And new special friends,” added Jennifer.
“Hear that, angel,” said Bruce to his wife, “They think I’m special.”
“We, handsome. We,” said Paige.
As the wine and conversation began to flow, things began to feel more natural for Jennifer. Ryan had begun to sit up straighter, to drop the “uhs,” to smile wider. She thought he might actually be coming out of his shell a bit; regardless of where tonight led, this wouldn’t turn out to be one of those evenings where they had the I wish we’d just stayed home and watched Netflix conversation.
Such a relief.
“I honestly had no idea she was interested in me,” Bruce said, in the middle of a story about an evening at a sexy party.
“No, sure,” Paige laughed she turned to Ryan conspiratorially, “he says this every time, but the woman was topless.”
Ryan laughed, hard.
“So were you!” Bruce said.
Jennifer found herself entranced by both Bruce and Paige, but she was spending a lot of her evening, between bits of conversation, watching her husband. Her husband, who’d over the years become so withdrawn around other people, even around her. Look at him now, smiling, making people laugh with his own stories. This was what he’d been like when they’d met, way back then. She watched Ryan tell a story, surprised to realize he was telling the story of the girl he’d dated before her, talking about his lack of sexual experience. Her mild embarrassment at the subject being brought up was washed away by the fact that he felt comfortable enough to tell it at all.
“I just never had a chance, you know?” he said, “And she was surprisingly uninterested in anything but giving hand jobs. I never did see her with her pants off.”
“The trap of heavy petting,” offered Bruce.
Ryan laughed. “Definitely. I mean granted, I was getting regular hand jobs, so how much can I complain?”
“Bruce doesn’t like them,” said Paige.
“Hey now, let’s not be telling stories after school,” Bruce winked.
“You don’t?” asked Jennifer. She’d wanted it to come out coyly, but felt she’d missed that target a bit and just sounded surprised.
“Well, hey,” Bruce held up his hands, “I’ve never said that I don’t like them.”
“You don’t prefer them, then,” clarified Paige.
“Okay, true, I don’t prefer them.”
“I love them,” said Ryan.
Paige smiled at him. “I love giving them.”
Ryan almost choked on his bread-stick. Paige lightly patted him on the back.
“You okay, there?”
Jennifer laughed, glancing down at Bruce’s leg as he spoke, recommending they not overthink his dislike of hand jobs. Trying not to overthink her next move herself, she placed her hand on his upper thigh and squeezed.
“So, when you masturbate the same way like that, heh,” Bruce turned and winked at her, “then it becomes difficult for anyone to…make it happen…without doing it exactly the same way.”
“And have you seen his hands?” asked Paige.
He looked at his hands, both front and back. “Guilty, I guess.” He rested his arm on the back of Jennifer’s chair, and she felt a light touch as he ran his finger along her back.
She let her eyes flutter closed for a moment. The fear they’d felt, coming into the restaurant, was a specter now, almost gone entirely. She still wasn’t sure where this would lead, of course, but she felt far more willing to go with the flow.
“We’d forgotten how to get ready for a date,” Ryan admitted when their food came.
“You’re fond of calling it that,” said Paige with a smile.
“Well, what do you call it?”
“With the food and drinks?” Bruce asked, ges-turing to said food and drinks. “It’s dinner, Ryan.”
Feeling cheeky, Jennifer asked “And how about the…sex?”
“Dessert.” Paige smiled and ran her tongue along her upper lip.
Dinner progressed and another bottle of wine arrived. Ryan and Jennifer deferred to Bruce’s wine expertise, though he did consult with Paige when choosing between an Amarone and a Chianti. She chose Chianti, “Because I’m feeling spicy.”
“Jen said your kids are making inquiries,” said Ryan, later. “About the thing.”
“Oh, the thing!” said Bruce.
“That thing we do?” laughed Paige, shimmying a bit.
“Yeah, as they get older they ask a lot more questions,” Bruce said. “Think we can stop them from doing that?”
“Getting older?” laughed Paige. “Not legally, I don’t think.”
“Maybe just the questions, then.”
“Questions like,” said Paige, “‘why do you put your coat on in your bedroom?’”
Jennifer wasn’t sure she understood why herself, but curiously asked: “What do you say?”
“The truth: that’s where I keep my coats!” Paige nodded, indicating that’s where the conversation with her sons would end.
“She just omits the fact that she’s wearing a schoolgirl outfit beneath the coat.”
Ryan’s eyes glazed. “Schoolgirl outfit.”
A vivid picture of Paige in a short, plaid, pleated skirt, and a white shirt, partly unbuttoned, coalesced in Jennifer’s mind. When her mind-Paige bent over, she saw that panties had been left out of the outfit.
Ryan noticed that Jennifer, across the table, had checked out, her glazed look intensely focused on Paige’s cleavage. “Jen,” he tried to whisper across the table to her, realizing the futility and foolishness as soon as both of the Shepards turned to look at him.
“She’s fine,” said Paige. “I’m happy she likes them.”
That snapped Jennifer out of it. “Oh, I.”
“It’s okay to like them.”
He watched the red flush crawl up Jennifer’s neck and into her cheeks as she avoided their gaze. He wanted to help, but wasn’t sure what he could do.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—” she took a sip of her wine and shrank in her seat.
“Jennifer,” said Paige, putting her hand on top of Jennifer’s. “I’ve been looking down your dress every chance I’ve had. Your breasts are wonderful.”
That did it, Jennifer coughed on the wine and kept coughing, pressing her other hand to her chest. Bruce patted her back.
“Are you okay?” asked Ryan.
“She’s experiencing girl lust, give her a minute,” said Paige, moving around the table and crouching next to Jennifer.
Jennifer turned a bit toward her, still coughing, still flushed with embarrassment. Paige put her hands on both of Jennifer’s knees.
“Look at me,” said Paige, then pointed to both of her eyes. “Right here.”
Jennifer did as she was told, and the coughing slowly subsided.
A waiter approached, but Bruce shook his head and silently waved the man away.
“You okay?” Paige asked.
A nod, a cough. Paige moved up from the crouch, closed her eyes, and pressed her lips against Jennifer’s. After a moment, Jennifer closed her eyes, too.
Ryan stared, entranced. He didn’t know what he’d expected from this night, but seeing these two kiss hadn’t been on the list.
“See, Ryan,” offered Bruce, “stepping outside your comfort zone is fun.”
Ryan nodded an affirmation.
After the kiss became a hug, and Jennifer’s breathing returned to normal, the conversation turned to hobbies and families, drifting briefly through the religion and politics valley, though all agreed that they had far more interesting things to talk about.
“The game is Never Have I Ever,” offered Paige. “You say something you’ve never done, and whoever has, takes a drink.”
“I think you guys’re going to win,” said Ryan.
“I think we all win,” said Paige.
The game started fairly tamely, with talk of kisses, fondles, and childhood crushes, going around the circle. Ryan had been right, the Shepards drank far more often than they did.
When dessert came, the waiter brought a slender dark brown wine bottle. “This is ice wine,” said Bruce, pouring a small bit in each of their fresh glasses. “They harvest the grapes after the first frost, and that traps in the sugar, so it’s very sweet. From just outside Niagara Falls. The Canadian side, above their tribute to Branson, Missouri.” He winked.
Ryan felt Paige’s lips and hot breath near his ear as he took a sip.
“It’s so sweet,” she said, “Do you like sweet, Ryan?”
He wasn’t sure which was more intoxicating, the wine, or the woman asking. “Do I like sweet?”
“Wine, Ryan, stay with me.”
“He does like sweet,” said Jennifer.
Paige turned to her. “I believe it’s your turn, my lovely.”
Jennifer thought for a moment. “Never have I ever been in an orgy.”
Both Bruce and Paige sipped their wine, Ryan was sure their sips were getting smaller every time. “How many people do you need to qualify as an orgy?”
“I think international standards say five and up,” said Bruce, “Sounds right, doesn’t it, angel?”
“Sounds exactly right,” said Paige, adding more wine to Ryan’s glass.
Ryan watched the glass fill with the thicker golden wine. “Are you trying to get me drunk?”
He watched her and Bruce make eye contact across the table. Her eyes seemed to gesture away. Bruce nodded.
“That was subtle,” said Ryan.
“Now, now,” responded Paige, standing up.
“We’ve all had a good deal of wine here tonight,” said Bruce. “I don’t believe subtlety is on the table any longer.”
“We’re going to excuse ourselves for a moment,” Paige said.
“To talk about us?” Jennifer laughed, then became serious when she realized, “oh, it is to talk about us, isn’t it?”
“In the spirit of transparency, yes,” said Bruce, also standing. “In this thing, we don’t have the luxury of just excusing ourselves to the restroom to assess the situation. That’s the detriment of plural.”
Ryan laughed. “The detriment of plural.”
“You like that?”
“So we’ll be right back.”
Bruce and Paige disappeared toward the bar. When they were a bit out of range, Ryan jumped up and sat down next to Jennifer. “How’re we doing?”
“I have no idea,” she replied.
“Well, how are you doing?”
“Fun! I mean, I’m having a lot of fun.”
Ryan felt relief. “Good, yes, me too.”
She took a deep breath, and when she let it out she had a touch of sadness in her voice. “I really like them. But it’s making me feel like I never really connected with my girlfriends.”
He nodded. “I know exactly what you mean.”
“And.” She stopped, and looked away.
“I don’t know if I can tell you.”
Ryan frowned. “Sure you can, you can tell me any-thing. I mean, didn’t they say that was a rule? That communication is key?”
“I feel like,” she started, “like Paige is really into me. And I feel sorta conceited saying that.”
He shook his head. “No, honey, look at me.”
“Paige is really into you.”
“Yeah, like, to an obvious extent.”
Jennifer giggled to herself. “I really, like really, want to make out with her. Is that bad?”
“Yeah,” she nodded, emphatically. “Yeah, it’s new.”
“Not bad, not bad in any way,” he assured her.
“You don’t think it’s weird?”
Ryan stared at her and saw fear of judgment in her face. He put his hands on her cheeks. “Honey, I love you.”
“I love you, too,” she whispered back.
“I think it would be really, really awesome to watch you make out with Paige.” He laughed. “When she kissed you earlier, I, uh, I hit at least half mast.”
Jennifer laughed heartily. She straightened up, almost cocky, clearly aroused. “Yeah? You’d like that?”
“God, well, yeah!”
“Well, something might interest you,” she said, “that I was thinking about.”
She dropped her voice to a whisper coated with devilish overtones. “I want to see you fuck her.” Embarrassment overtook the devilishness, and she looked away.
“Yes,” said Ryan, taking the comment in. “This idea would also…not…be…in any way…a bad…idea.”
“This is weird!” said Jennifer, affording herself a quick glance back to Ryan.
“This is the day, Jen. We’re jumping in together. You jump, I jump, right?”
“That’s from Titanic,” Jennifer said and burst out laughing.