The Road Less Traveled – Chapter 4
I pressed the key on my laptop, putting a period at the end of the sentence. Another chapter done. Leaning back against the leather seat at the dining table, I glanced outside. In the distance were the westernmost peaks of the San Juan Mountains. One pleasure of my nomadic lifestyle was a moment like this.
I saved my work and shut the laptop. Tomorrow, I would edit the completed chapter and begin work on the last chapter. This book had already been delayed by my experiment with Give the Devil His Due. This would be the fifth and final book in a particularly steamy billionaire romance series. I liked writing series; fans mostly seemed to enjoy binging every book in a series. Although there was a fall-off in readers between a fifth and sixth book. That’s why the fifth book would wrap up all the loose ends.
A blanket was folded on the end of the sofa. We hadn’t bothered unfolding the sleeper part of the sofa the previous night, and Gabe had slept on top of the leather cushions. His laptop rested atop the blanket. Gabe gave up writing by lunchtime and said he was going to explore the RV park. Getting out of the coach sounded like a good idea. This part of Colorado was arid and dry during the summer and when I opened the door, the dry heat slapped me in the face.
There were other diesel pushers near ours, but the way the park was set up, there were trees between each site, giving guests some measure of privacy. I expected to find Gabe wandering around the park. Imagine my surprise when I found him lying on a foldable lounge chair between the two slide-outs in nothing more than a pair of blue board shorts. He appeared to have fallen asleep while reading. My surprise was doubled when I saw the book he’d fallen asleep to. It was laying on his narrow chest, the front and back cover facing up. It was the book that launched my self-publishing career, Can’t Buy My Love. Since its release five years ago, it sold over two-hundred-fifty thousand copies. The cover showed a young woman wearing an evening dress with a plunging neckline. Her breasts were all but revealed as they nearly spilled out of the dress. A man in a tuxedo stood next to a Lear jet, his arm outstretched, as though begging her to come to him. I was proud of that cover.
But Abby would shit a brick if she knew I was letting her impressionably naïve eleven-year-old son read women’s porn. I cleared my throat as I stood at the end of the lounge chair.
Gabe’s eyes fluttered open. “You finished writing?”
I pointed to the book, “Your mom wouldn’t approve of you reading that, Gabe.”
His eyes shot open and instinctively, his hands shot to cover the book. A worried look crossed his face, “Come on, Aunt Sydney. It’s just a book. I read lots of books. And you’re a really good writer and I wanted to read your stuff.”
My problem with him reading my smut had everything to do with my sister. Funny how our experiences form us. She was the one who got knocked up in high school. Yet, she treated Gabe like he was still a little child and not a near-teenager. Smothering is what it was. But she was my sister and even if I didn’t share her views, I didn’t want to disappoint her.
Unlike Abby, I didn’t lose my virginity until college. Was the worst sex of my life. We were the same age, but he wasn’t gentle or skilled. It hurt the entire time, and I was bruised and uncomfortable for a week. Since then, my sexual experiences extended no further than the sex toys secreted under my bed. Yet, I prided myself on the realistic sex scenes in my stories. Yeah, funny how different my sister and I are.
Trying to figure out how to explain to him about why it was bad for him to read my smut, I grabbed a second lounge chair from an open storage bin and set it up next to Gabe’s. “What would your mom say about you reading my books?”
A spark of anger flashed in the boy’s eyes, “She doesn’t understand what it’s like to want to write, Aunt Sydney. I’ve read books at the school library with stuff in them. People getting shot, people kissing and, um, doing stuff.”
I doubted the school library had anything as explicit as what I wrote. I tried again, “But what about your mom?”
He glared at me, “She treats me like a little kid, Aunt Sydney. I’m not. I’m almost twelve. I’m as big as some of the eighth graders and I know what they talk about when no teachers are around.”
My resistance crumbled. Gabe wasn’t my child; just my nephew. But I found myself agreeing with him. He had more emotional maturity than some adults I knew. As much as I loved my sister, I also wanted to show Gabe I trusted him. And one way was to get off his back about reading my books. Writing under a pen-name, the only feedback I got were the piles of reviews on Amazon. My mom never approved of my writing career and Abby treated it as some guilty pleasure. She probably went to confession after reading each book. If Gabe wanted to read the books, maybe I could finally have someone with whom I could share my passion.
I raised my hands, “I surrender.” Then, as I thought about some of the explicit scenes in Can’t Buy My Love, I added, “You might want to skip some of the scenes. They get really mushy.”
A splash of crimson rose on Gabe’s cheeks, “Yeah. I-, I noticed.”
Unconsciously, he reached down and adjusted his shorts. For a split second, I thought I saw a bulge pushing against the fabric between his legs. I tore my eyes away from his midsection, “I warned you.”
The flush in my nephew’s skin didn’t go away, but he smiled, “Y-, yeah. But I’m old enough to read stuff like that now.”
It would be wildly inappropriate, but I wanted to ask him what he thought of it. But no sooner had the thought materialized that I pushed it away. This was my nephew I was thinking about, for God’s sake.
I pushed the back of my lounge chair back and closed my eyes, pretending to sleep. After a few minutes, Gabe said, “Aunt Sydney, does a woman really like it when a man, um, forces her to do stuff, um, like in this story?”
After more than fifty books, and countless steamy sex scenes, they ran together in my mind. But I would never forget that first sex scene I wrote. Rupert, my first billionaire bad boy, had forced himself onto Elizabeth, my first heroine. For reasons I still don’t understand, there’s an enormous market for stories with dubious consent in them, and Can’t Buy My Love tapped into that market in a way nothing since had done. But fiction wasn’t fact.
I bit my lip, trying to figure out how to explain this in a way Abby would approve of. Not for the first time had I wished she had already had the talk with him. “There’s stuff that happens in a story, Gabe, that touches our fantasies. Kind of like when your character in your story turned his magic on the bullies. Even though it’s fiction and fun to think about, it probably wouldn’t be near as fun in real life.”
Gabe pursed his lips, “But there’s no magic in real life. The bullies keep on bullying.”
I dipped my head, “It sucks when they do. I guess it wasn’t the best example. There are some women who like it when a man…”
The word failed me. There wasn’t a way to explain this to Gabe that would carry the stamp of Abby’s approval. I sighed and decided it’s easier to be me instead of trying to toe my sister’s line. Abby might kill me, but Gabe deserved a real answer, “… does things to control he. Even forces himself on her.”
Gabe sat up straighter, “L-, like um, doing stuff together?”
Damn you, Abby, I thought. There was no getting around the fact that Gabe’s education had been sadly lacking. I snorted, “You mean sex?”
He absentmindedly adjusted his shorts as the blush spread down his neck, “Yeah.”
Maybe I’ll burn in hell, but Gabe would learn about the birds and the bees from his Aunt Sydney, regardless of what my sister had planned. “Okay, sweetie, you’re almost twelve. When I was your age, I called things what they were. Stuff usually has a name. Sex, penis, vagina, those are all nouns that describe stuff. You’ve got the makings of a talented writer, Gabe. So, let’s call stuff by its name. You’re not going to embarrass me if you say penis or dick, vagina or pussy, sex or fuck. We’re writers and sometimes we make use of all of them. Just don’t call them ‘stuff’ anymore. Okay?”
Maybe that was a mistake. Gabe giggled as he stared at me. When he stopped laughing, he said, “Okay, Aunt Sydney. So, in your story when Rupert, um, fucked Elizabeth, he forced her.”
Now that the gloves were off, I said, “Lots of women fantasize about a powerful man forcing them to have sex. But that’s just a fantasy for nearly all women. In the real world, that’s not what they really want. They want agency.”
Gabe cocked his head at how I used the word. He replied, “Agency? Like the Agents of SHIELD?”
I chuckled at his understanding, “Not quite. To have agency is to be in control of your life, able to do the things that are important to you.”
Recognition flared to life in his eyes, “Oh. I get it. Kids don’t have any agency, because we can’t control our lives.”
I reached over and patted his bare knee, “That’s a good example of it. Adults, both men and women, want to be in control of our own lives and that means how we have sex. We might fantasize about someone forcing sex onto us, but would never want that in real life. We want it to be with someone we love, or at least with someone we like.”
I had opened a whole new world for my nephew, and watched the gears in his mind spin, absorbing our conversation with growing awareness. “I guess that’s why mom didn’t have many second or third dates.”
Abby never talked to me about her love life. The wild teen had become a bit of a prude in her twenties, as far as I was concerned. I said, “It could be more complicated than just about sex, Gabe. She may have thought none of those guys would have been a good father figure to you. Without asking her, we’ll probably not know.”
The light dimmed in his eyes, “Even if she wasn’t really sick, I don’t think I could ever ask her about that. You understand me and it’s easier to talk about this stuff-, um, about sex with you.”
I don’t know why the praise from a nearly twelve-year-old made me feel so good, but it did. I grinned at him, “I’m glad. You’re growing up and there ought to be someone you can talk to, and I’m glad I’m that person for you.”
He smiled, picking up the book to continue reading it, “Me too.”
We fell into silence; Gabe reading my smutty first novel and me closing my eyes and hoping I could figure out how to tell my sister she doesn’t need to worry with the birds and the bees anymore. After a bit, he said, “Aunt Sydney, I know Mom never brought any men home, but what about you? Why don’t you have a boyfriend?”
My stomach lurched; had I just unleashed Pandora’s box? I opened my eyes, “That’s a story for another time, Gabe. I think I’m going to head inside and start preparing dinner.”
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