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29

THE MOST INFURIATING thing about men was that they were both predictable and impossible. Their buttons were ridiculously easy to push, but unfortunately, every button came with its own self-destruct program.

As Roselle had learned long long ago, on the very first occasion that she might climb into bed with a man he would be practically purple with lust, all stumbling haste and slack-jawed avidity, high on urgency and low on technique. With each repetition, though, the balance between hunger and technique would shift, as his initial craving for the fantasy he had originally pursued became replaced by his interest in this one actual woman. The lust would never return in that original incandescent way, at least not with her, and eventually, unless some other factors entered the picture — shared fondness, shared interests, shared phobias, shared something other than sex — the interest, too, would begin to wane, until eventually all of that heat was reduced to yesterday's campfire.

Roselle had no interest in sharing much of herself, other than her body, with anybody, so her time of ascendancy over every man she targeted was a limited one, and with someone like Preston Fareweather, all narcissism all the time, that window of opportunity would be a very narrow opening indeed. Time to crack the whip.

Tuesday morning, therefore, she donned her teeny-weeny polka-dot bikini, red polka dots on white — so much more carnal — and went off for breakfast with every intention of making Preston suffer a little. It was, after all, supposed to be good for the soul.

Preston was already in the dining hall, with the undertaker Pinkleton. Roselle collected her yogurt and fruit bowl and coffee and joined them: "Good morning."

Preston's eyes lit up at the sight of her: "Don't you look good enough to eat!"

"I am. Good morning, Alan."

"Morning, Pam." Sour as ever.

Preston, talking mostly to her breasts, said, "I thought, this morning, we might just nestle in for a while, then go over and watch the volleyball. That's always pretty amusing."

"Oh, Preston," she said, "that does sound like fun, but I had such a good time sailing yesterday, I just want to do that again."

"What, out in the ocean?" His nose wrinkled with distaste. "We're land creatures, Pam."

"Actually," Roselle said, "we all come from Mother Sea. Well, you don't have to go if you don't want to, we're all on vacation here, we can all do whatever we want."

"And I want us," Preston said, with a meaningful little grin, "to just have some kidding-around time together this morning, just the two of us."

"Maybe later," she said, "if I'm not too tired from sailing. I wonder if I could find someone else to go with me."

"I'm sure you could," Pinkleton said, with just a trace of the snide in his voice.

Innocent as a newborn hawk, Roselle smiled upon Pinkleton and said, "How about you, Alan? Sailing's really fun."

The look Preston gave Pinkleton at that point would have wrinkled aluminum. Affecting not to notice, the nasty little sycophant said, "Oh, I think I'm just another landlubber, thanks just the same."

It wasn't hard to find a single man — no husbands, please — who would be pleased to go sailing with her. Robert, his name was, and he claimed to be a stockbroker from Chicago, though that bushy mustache did read firefighter to her. Not that it mattered; Robert was only for show. And a perfect show, given that Preston was the primary audience — fortyish, tanned, well built, with a smile full of gleaming teeth.

The resort offered several small sailboats that the guests could either operate themselves within the adjacent cove or simply ride in while an accomplished sailor did the work if they wanted to venture out to sea. These professional seamen were all locals, and Roselle happened to know that the operator of the boat she chose was named Tonio. As they boarded, Tonio looked at Robert and then at Roselle, but she infinitesimally shook her head — not this one.

As they set off from the dock, gently bobbing, the sky huge and blue, the sun a fierce high gold, the sea a gently heaving gray-green as though it were the breast of the sleeping Earth, Roselle said to Tonio, "Oh, let's go along close to the shore for a while. It would be fun to see the resort from out here, wouldn't it, Robert?"

"Sure," he said.

So they sailed along past the curving row of little bungalows, and there were Preston and Pinkleton, on Preston's little porch, and Roselle gave him a big wave and a jolly, "Yoo hoo! We're off to have a wonderful time!"

Preston's answering wave could not have been more surly.


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