The Road Less Traveled – Chapter 11
Something soft grazed my thigh as sleep fled from me. Gabe’s fingers traced across my legs, sliding around to my inner thigh. I wondered what he would do if allowed to continue, so I kept my eyes closed and enjoyed the gentle touch.
His fingers sent tendrils of little jolts of pleasure through me, and he worked them up my leg until his touch grazed my panties. It was only the briefest of moments, but I loved what he was doing to me. His hand moved over my panties until his fingers caressed my lower abs. The thing about my panties, they were low cut and the top of my pubic mound was just above the waistband. I burned with desire to know his fingers were on at least part of my pubic mound. Gradually, his fingers played with my skin, working upward.
I wore a loose-fitting cami that didn’t quite cover my navel. When his fingers reached it, they slid under the hem, gradually pushing it up, inch by agonizingly slow inch. God alone knows how I managed to avoid flinching when a finger grazed one of my modest swells. Keeping my breathing regular as his fingers crept forward was the hardest thing to do. When he reached my nipple, he cupped his hand and covered my breast, gently squeezing. My erect nipple poked against his palm. After squeezing it for a bit, he retreated down my stomach, leaving my breasts exposed, my cami pushed over them. His fingers didn’t stop until he reached my panties’ thin lacy band. He caressed the skin above it. Oh, how I wanted to just pull my panties and let him gawp at my shaven pussy. To tell him that it was his to do with as he pleased.
More tentatively than before, Gabe slid a finger under the lacy band. It was just to his first knuckle. I was wet between my legs. If he went much further down, he’d wonder why the front of my panties were wet. Of course, by now he’d read enough of my bodice rippers to know women get wet between their legs, so maybe it wouldn’t be quite the surprise.
A second finger slid under the lacy elastic, then a third. He paused when he was halfway toward my slit. Was he trying to figure out where my pubic hair was? Good luck with that. Maybe it was a change in my breath, maybe he just lost his nerve, but he pulled his hand back and rested it on my belly as he snuggled against me.
That intimacy didn’t last. A few minutes later, he rolled out of bed and padded across the smooth tile to the toilet. When he opened the door, I was sitting up in bed, my cami pushed back into place. I smiled, “How’d you sleep?”
He seemed unaware of the lump in his underwear, “Okay. Thanks for letting me sleep in here. I tried to sleep on the sofa, but couldn’t.”
I moved across the bed and took his hand, “Oh, baby, I know that feeling. During the night, I woke up and felt you lying next to me and was really glad you did.”
A touch of crimson on his cheeks made me wonder if he felt guilty about touching me while thinking I was a sleep. I added, “I sleep so much better when you’re next to me. You wouldn’t hurt my feelings if you decided you wanted to stay in here with me full time.”
“L-like as your boyfriend?”
I shrugged, “If you’d like. But even if you want to be friends, or even if we’re only aunt and nephew. I just like sleeping next to you.”
He surprised me with a smile, “Me too.”
Gabe bounded up the stairs and handed me a bag with the golden arches’ logo on it. I waited for him to settle into the passenger seat by the door before asking, “Where to now?”
He looked out the windshield. The day was nearly cloudless; a great day to move on down the road. “I like the weather here. I was reading how some people who live in their RV stay in the mountains in the summer and then go to places like Florida and Texas in the winter. Could we do something like that?”
I was about as nomadic as it came. Since buying the old Winnebago at twenty, I never looked back, traveling wherever the muse took me. “We can, if you want.”
He smiled as he dug an Egg McMuffin from his bag, “Cool. Let’s find a place in the mountains to stay for a while. That’ll be fun.”
I pulled up a map on my phone and zoomed into the central part of the state, “You want a RV park similar to where we stayed last night?”
Gabe pursed his lips, “Dunno. I want you to teach me how to be a better writer. Plus, I really don’t want to be around lots of people.”
Colorado is the Mecca of boondocked camping. I’d only done it once before. The problem with boondocking is that you only have what the RV can carry. You’re dependent on your holding tanks for water and sewer, and your generator and diesel fuel for electricity. The benefit is that with few exceptions, you could park anywhere you want in a national park to camp. Sure, there are rules to follow, but it lets you stay at places you’d never get to stay normally.
“Your wish is my command, Gabe,” I said as I zoomed in. “What about the Rio Grande National Forest?”
He tore into a bite of his biscuit and nodded.
Durango was the largest town in the southwestern corner of the state. There were a handful of smaller towns and wide spots on the highway with pretensions of being a village between us and the national forest, so we stopped at the local Albertsons and picked up groceries enough for a couple of weeks. The nearest grocery store to our destination was in Creede.
A forty-five-foot diesel motorcoach has its moments of fun on the open road. My favorite is when I’m on the interstate with a long stretch of straight road ahead of me and no cars around. The road to the national forest was not like that at all. The first bit of “fun” was going over Wolf Creek Pass. The road over the pass twisted and turned. The best thing I could say was the road was two lanes in both directions, so when sporty little cars zipped past, I could stay in the right lane, my white knuckles gripping the steering wheel.
Once we crested the top of the pass, my voice was strained, “Look at the sign, Gabe. We’re crossing the continental divide.”
The entire time we’d been climbing, the boy ignored the manuscript in his lap and turned and gawked at the mountains all around. He grabbed my phone from the console between us and snapped a picture before we passed the sign. “Wow, Syd, look it, we’re at ten-thousand-eight-hundred-and-fifty-seven feet.”
The wonder on Gabe’s face made the experience worth it. As we started down the eastern side of the pass, I downshifted into first and kept my foot on the brake. More than an hour after we started up the steep slope on the western side of the pass, we were finally off the eastern slope. The rest of the drive, through plenty more twists and turns, was child’s play compared to Wolf Creek Pass.
We rolled into a small, unimproved camp ground about thirty minutes after passing through Creede. There was an RV spot for a camp guide, but it was empty. There were a dozen or so pull-through sites for RVs like ours and signs posted that no dumping was allowed, although each site came with its own spigot. At least we wouldn’t have to use our water tank.
While I hit the button to roll out the slides, Gabe connected the water, and we were officially home; at least for the next two weeks. I’d read that the National Forestry Service only allows campers to stay in one spot for two weeks. The seclusion was exactly what we needed. Gabe would have the time to figure things out about us and I could figure out how if Give the Devil His Due was to be my next series. I took a nap on the sofa while Gabe explored the nearby area.
After a dinner of hotdogs, I sat on the sofa with the windows open, the clear mountain air cooled off fast once the sun was hidden by the mountains to our west. I split my attention between a TV show and emails with my virtual assistant about current marketing campaigns. Gabe lay next to me on the sofa. He propped his legs on the armrest and lay his head against my hip. Every couple of minutes, he flipped a page, reading my manuscript. There weren’t many pages left, and he was too preoccupied with the story to realize he kept reaching down to adjust his shorts. Seeing the bulge in his shorts was confirmation that at least some parts of the story were doing what they were supposed to. I wanted middle-aged women wearing down the batteries on their vibrators after reading my story.
I had closed the windows and lowered the blinds by the time Gabe closed the manuscript and said, “That was, um, fucking hot.”
The profanity made him blush. Unlike Abby, I thought Gabe sounded cute when he swore. I grinned and muted the TV, “So, should I self-publish it?”
The blush spread to his ears and neck, “Mom would have loved it, I think.”
The admission caught me off guard. Sure, I’d give Abby copies of all my books, and knew they were one of her few guilty pleasures. “You knew she had my books?”
He nodded. “Yeah. She kept them hidden in her room. I found them hidden in her room last Christmas when I was hunting for my presents.”
I smirked, “Did you find the presents?”
He gave me an embarrassed grin and shook his head. “And no, I was too scared to read your books. Mom would have beat my ass if she’d caught me.”
I reached down and rubbed his chest, “Now you’re catching up on lost time.”
He grinned and nodded. “I’m not reading it because of the sexy scenes. I’m trying to see how you write.”
I chuckled at the transparent lie, “Um-hmm. Right. I bet every woman has heard her man use that excuse.” I lowered my voice, trying to mimic a man, “No, honey, I wasn’t reading the magazine with the nude pics for the naked women, I was reading it for the articles.”
I’m not sure if the reference went over his head. Gabe just shrugged, “Whatever. I think you should publish this book. If my mom would’ve liked it, I bet lots of other women would too.”
My curiosity piqued, I asked, “What did you think of Lucien? Too much the billionaire bad boy?”
He shook his head, “No. I mean, he does some pretty bad stuff to Holly and the other girls. Dunno, it’s weird, when I read the story from Lucien’s point of view, he didn’t seem like a villain. But when you switched over to Holly, she’s trying to figure out who she is and what she wants. I understand her and I think other people will to.”
He was only twelve, and he understood the story better than my agent. “What’d you think of the end?”
“You ended it on a cliff-hanger. When I finished it, all I wanted to do was pick up the next book. Have you written anything else?”
I sighed as my hand kept rubbing his chest, “Not yet. It was supposed to be my first traditionally published work.”
“What’s the difference?”
I explained, “What I’ve done is self-publishing. I write the book, find an editor to fix my typos, keep an eye out for continuity, and clean it up. I also have to hire an artist to design the book and someone else to manage my marketing campaign. A traditional book publisher does everything but the writing. Well, they used to. These days, authors are expected to do more and more marketing themselves, even if they have a traditional contract.”
Gabe cocked an eyebrow in surprise, “Why would you want a book contract? You’re really successful already.”
“I’m glad you think so. But Amazon is my only outlet. A traditional publishing contract would let me get my books into bookstores, even onto other online bookstores, like Barns and Nobles. Also, it’s an ego thing. Getting a traditional book contract is a tremendous deal. It means the publishing gatekeepers think you’re good enough to support.”
Gabe sat up and leaned against me, resting his head on my shoulder, “But Amazon is huge, right?”
I dipped my head in agreement, “That’s true. In the US, Amazon is almost ninety percent of the e-book market. And if my books are traditionally published, I’d probably not get them enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.”
That was enough confirmation. The manuscript still required at least one final review before sending it off to my editor, but fuck it, I was sold. If a twelve-year-old boy could finish it and enjoy it, what little doubt I still had evaporated. I snaked an arm around him and pulled Gabe closer, “Thanks, sweetie. I’ll get started outlining the rest of the series tomorrow. What about you? You ready to start writing?”
He nestled himself closer and nodded, “Yeah. I want to finish my story about the boy who kills the dragon and rescues the princess.”
I gave him some pointers, sharing with him some of the things I learned along my journey as a writer. Eventually I yawned. A glance at my watch showed it wasn’t even ten in the evening yet. But the stress of the morning’s drive caught up with me; I could barely keep my eyes open. I leaned over to Gabe and brushed my lips against his cheek, “I’m off to bed. The offer still stands, sweetie. You don’t have to sleep in here if you don’t want.”
He flushed at my kiss. But he didn’t respond with one of his own. Neither did he pull away. I wished I understood what Gabe was going through. Frankly, I was confused, especially after waking up to his exploring fingers that morning. If that’s what he was comfortable with, then I’d have to accept it. That thought was on my mind as I stripped down to my panties. Only the uncertainty of how Gabe would think if he came in and I was in just my panties, kept me from sleeping that way. I found an old cotton cami in the bottom of my underwear drawer. I hadn’t worn it since cutting away the bottom half a few years ago. I checked myself out in the bathroom mirror and decided it was just about right. The jagged edges at the bottom ended an inch or two below where my breasts started.
I settled into bed, hoping Gabe wouldn’t leave me alone, but I fell asleep, dreaming of him taking me by force.
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