Chloe gets a birthday present she never expected.
Chloe perched on the edge of kitchen bench, her legs crossed at the knees. A silver heel dangled from one set of toes while the other lay on the tiles at her feet. A feeling of contentment washed over her. She tossed her black hair over one shoulder and glanced around the chaotic kitchen. There were empty glasses everywhere, half-finished plates of food, and someone's forgotten jacket draped over a dining chair.
She drew in a breath, her chest lifting beneath her blue party dress. Chloe smiled and sighed. The cleanup would have to wait until tomorrow. Her thirtieth birthday celebrations had completely wrecked her - in a good way of course - but now all she wanted to do was have a wind-down drink and curl up in bed.
Her attention drifted to Jake, her husband Dominic's best friend. "Did you have a good time?" she asked him. Dom had gone out a few minutes ago to drive his parents back home, refusing to let them call a taxi after they'd overindulged. He'd left Jake behind to keep Chloe company. Jake was visiting for a week, staying in the guest bedroom as he often did.
"Yeah, I had a good night." A tie hung un-knotted around his neck. He walked toward her, unfastening the top button on his shirt. His dirty-blonde hair had that artfully roughed-up look, and a lifelong surfing addiction had given him a well-toned body. “You and Dom always did know how to throw a party.”
She'd known him for years. The three of them met back in college and had been friends ever since. Her relationship with Jake had always been a platonic one. The energy between the three of them just worked somehow. Boundaries were never crossed. She'd always felt comfortable around him, the closeness allowing her to talk to him about anything.
Her brows snapped together as he stopped before her now, though. She watched him closely, surprised by the play of emotions flitting across his face. When his mouth lifted in a half smile, her heart began to race and she couldn't put her finger on the reason why.
He looked her over, his grey eyes spending far too long on the breasts nestled inside her low-cut dress. Chloe fought the inclination to clamp her hands over her chest. It was as if his eyes had physically touched her. He'd never shown the slightest interest in her body before. She wondered what had gotten into him. "What's wrong?" she asked, keeping a wary eye on him. He'd had a bit to drink, but not enough to make him act this way.
"Nothing." Jake's gaze returned to hers. He flicked another button open on his shirt. A sprinkling of blonde hairs appeared in the vee of exposed skin.
"You're being strange." Chloe shifted and uncrossed her legs, her remaining heel dropping to the tiled floor with a clunk. She'd gone without a bra and panties for the night, wanting to surprise Dominic at the end of the party. That decision left her feeling vulnerable now.
"Sorry, Chloe-bear, I don't mean to be." Jake rested a hand either side of her on the bench, his body remaining just far enough away to keep from crowding her. "It's just...well, after watching you tonight I've finally come to a conclusion." His eyes swept over her, lingering on her mouth. He released a breath of air through his nose and his tongue moistened his lower lip.
"Oh." Chloe fingered her soft waves of hair, trying to calm her nerves. The tone of his voice had deepened. Her nipples hardened in response, pressing against the silky fabric of her dress. Her body's reaction to him confused her. He'd never stirred these feelings inside her before. "And what's that?"
"I want to tell you a secret." His breath whispered over her cheek as he spoke.
"So...tell me." Chloe tried to maintain eye contact with him, but it was impossible. She glanced off to the side. "You've never had trouble talking to me before."
"It's different this time." His thumbs brushed the sides of her thighs. "The subject's a bit delicate."
She shivered and met his eyes, searching for something to explain his strange mood. For some reason she wanted distance from him, immediate and prolonged distance. "Well, maybe you should think on it a while longer and get back to me."
"See, that's the problem." Jake inhaled and let the air out in a controlled breath. "I've been putting this off for years."
"Years? Sounds serious. Why don't you wait till Dom gets back? You can speak to him if you're uncomfortable talking to me." Chloe silently begged him to choose the former option. She didn't even know why she wanted to put him off. She only knew the air had grown heavy around them and she wanted to disperse it somehow.
"That wouldn't work. I don't think he'd appreciate hearing what I have to say." Jake's gaze lifted to meet hers. "The thing is, Chloe, I want you. Always have."
Oh, God, no. Chloe swallowed hard. He wasn't smiling, not in the slightest. Was this supposed to be a joke? "What? You tell me just like that? We're friends." Heat crawled up her neck. She couldn't breathe. It was as if the air had been sucked out of the room. Her mind whirled as she wondered what Dom would make of this. Even if she never told him about his best friend's confession, it would change everything - the secrets, the shifts in behaviour and uncomfortable silences - nothing would ever be the same between them again. Anger welled inside her, hot and intense. "You've just ruined our friendship."
"That wasn't my intention. I've been dealing with this a long time. I've tried talking myself out of it. It's been going on for years."
"Not for me, it hasn't. I had no idea you felt this way." Chloe closed her eyes. She pressed her lips together to keep from screaming out her frustration at him. She wanted to go back ten minutes in time and talk Dom out of leaving the house. If his parents had called a taxi instead of letting him drive them home, this would never have happened. Why now? Why do this when it never had a hope of going anywhere? She opened her eyes and shot an accusing glance at Jake. "You should have kept this to yourself. I'm married to your best friend. I'm happy. Nothing's ever going to happen between you and me."
"I know that. You're a good girl." Jake smoothed the hair from Chloe's forehead, slid his fingers down to trace the shell of her ear. "I have no intention of making a move on you. I just want you to know how I feel."
"Why?" Chloe's lower lip began to tremble. She raised her eyes to his. "How could that possibly help?"
"Because when that husband of yours is fucking you senseless, I want you to think of me." Jake leaned in closer, so close their mouths almost pressed together. "It'll be a small consolation knowing that even though Dom's the one moving inside you, I'm the one you'll be thinking of."
"I won't." Chloe tried to keep her voice from wobbling. "Just because you feel this way, doesn't mean I do, too."
"It doesn't really matter." A deep chuckle rumbled in his chest, the sound bringing both fear and pleasure alive inside her. "When Dom kisses your mouth,you'll think of me. When his lips suckle your nipples and your back arches, when you make that sweet keening sound I've heard you make, you'll think of me."
Chloe shook her head, squeezing her eyes closed as a tear leaked free. It embarrassed her knowing Jake had listened to her and Dom late at night, to the sounds they'd both made as they lost themselves in each other. More than that, it hurt knowing he was prepared to throw away all the years they'd had together for something that had no chance of developing.
"I'm not asking for anything. I'm not making demands on you. This won't go any further than what's happening between us right now." Jake trailed a fingertip across her collarbone and she couldn't help but shiver at the touch. His eyes dropped to her breasts. She knew her nipples strained for release against the fabric. Chloe closed her eyes, ashamed. "Do you see the way your body’s reacting to me? Do you feel it?"
His voice both calmed and confused her simultaneously. He shouldn't be having this effect on her, Chloe thought. They shouldn't be having this conversation.Her eyes drifted open, taking a moment to focus on his features. His expression had hardened with desire, his blue eyes boring into hers. How could she have not known he felt this way about her? How could she have missed the signs? "Jake. Stop."
"I haven't even started." He swept his finger along her shoulder, continuing down the length of her arm. Tingles followed his touch. She shoved his hand away, angry at her reaction. He gave her a patient smile. "Whenever our eyes meet,I'll picture your legs wrapped around me, your body moving beneath mine. Whenever I hear your voice, I'll imagine my cock buried deep inside you, my tongue licking your tears while I fuck you so hard you cry."
His words delved deep inside her, to some hidden place never before touched. Her inner thighs heated and tingled, pulsing uncomfortably. She spread her knees to ease the feeling and braced her hands beside her on the bench. "Stop it." She glared at him, her anger simmering just beneath the surface. If she let go it would overwhelm her. "Just stop it. That's enough." Her eyes moved to the kitchen clock. She mentally pleaded for Dom's return, for the torture to end.
"Are you upset because a part of you wants it?"
Heat surged inside her, flushing her cheeks, blocking out all sense of reason. She wanted to hurt him, tear at him like he was tearing at her. Chloe pushed at his shoulders, balled her hands into fists and thumped his chest. "Stop talking. Stop saying those things to me!" She slapped his stomach, grunting and shoving his body with her elbow to get him the hell away from her. Tears threatened to break free any moment. Chloe just wanted him gone so she could let go.
"It's okay." He stood there and took it, stood strong and bore the brunt of her anger. "It's over now. I'm done."
She felt her heart breaking. A sob tore from her throat. "You didn't have to do this. You've ruined everything we ever had!" She quashed the urge to start balling like a baby and reach for him. Chloe knew how his arms would feel around her. She needed that comfort, but instead she pushed the back of her hand to her mouth to keep the emotion inside. When she'd regained her composure she dragged her hand away and looked at him with all the hurt in her heart. "I hate you."
"Chloe-bear." He tipped her chin up, his voice soft as his gaze meshed with hers. "I hate you too. I hate that you've had my heart all these years and didn't even know it. I hate that you're not mine. I hate that you chose him. And every time he fucks you till you call out his name, you'll hate me even more because it'll be my name you'll really want to scream."
The front door opened. A jolt went through Chloe's body. She sucked in a quick breath and swept her fingers over her eyes. Her throat ached with pent up emotion. She sniffled and smoothed her hair beneath her palms, keeping her attention on everything but Jake.
"Sorry, sweetness." A look of tenderness passed over his face as he watched her. He used a knuckle to catch a stray tear travelling down her cheek, then wiped a thin trail of mascara from under her eye with his thumb. "I don't like seeing you hurt. I hope you understand. It had to be said." He touched her lips with his fingertips and stepped away.
Chloe stretched out on the recliner, her eyelids drooping as she fought against sleep. Her hand angled over the edge, a tumbler of vodka clutched in her fingers. The ice had melted long ago but the act of leaning forward to put the glass on the coffee table just seemed like too much effort.
The TV flickered in the edge of her vision; a late-night home shopping channel. Light and shadows from the screen played across the modern living room, bouncing off the dark wood furniture.
Jake had lost the battle to stay awake. He lay sprawled on the couch opposite her, his head cradled on one armrest, feet propped on the other. His shirt was unbuttoned almost to his navel, his bare chest rising and falling rhythmically. One arm crossed his body while the other dangled over the edge, his fingertips hovering over the beige rug.
Chloe watched him in a restful daze, listening to the soft breaths puff from his lips. His features were gentle in sleep, his barely leashed anger gone now. She tried to figure out what had made him confess to her, what he'd hoped to achieve.
They hadn't spoken much since the scene in the kitchen over an hour ago. She just didn't know what to say. His words had reached inside her, tugging at something unexplainable. She'd never thought of him as anything more than a friend in the past. Now she couldn't think of him at all without remembering that look on his face. It pained her to know their relationship had changed. It hurt her in ways she could never have imagined.
She heard footsteps and her mouth curved in a weary smile as Dom walked into the room. He had a folded blanket tucked under one arm. His dark hair was dishevelled, his tie loosened and shirt sleeves rolled up. Despite the long day he'd had, his eyes remained bright and alert. He hadn't mentioned the tension hanging between her and Jake. Either he'd chosen to ignore it or hadn't picked up on it to begin with.
He spread the blanket over his friend's sleeping form, a casual yet thoughtful gesture that was pure Dom. For some reason the sight inspired sadness inside Chloe. Her eyes welled with tears and she blinked them away. She took a deep breath and focused on staying calm. If he caught her upset now, he'd likely make her explain the reason for it.
Dom turned and wandered over to her chair. "Kitchen's all clean," he said. He smiled and eased the glass from her hand, setting it on the table.
Chloe reached out to him and tugged on his fingertips. She twirled his wedding ring, rubbing the warm circle of gold with her thumb. "Thank you," she said. "You've made this a wonderful night." She searched his features for any indication he might know of her troubles. His face remained peaceful, his soft brown eyes glowing in the lamplight.
He was too good to her - she really didn't deserve him. Never had that been clearer to her than now.
He knelt before her and slid his palms up and down her thighs. Her silk dress bunched between his fingers, riding to the tops of her legs. She sighed and stroked the dark stubble of his cheek. It felt like her perfectly ordered life had frayed at the edges. One tug on a loose strand could have her world unravelling around her. She'd been on a high earlier tonight, surrounded by family and friends. Now...she didn't know what to think anymore.
Dom turned his face into her hand and pressed a kiss against her palm. "You're sad, honey. What's wrong?"
Tears clogged her throat. He understood her so well. Chloe wanted so badly to share her thoughts with him, but she knew lessening her immediate pain would only create worse long-term problems. If there was any chance of salvaging a friendship with Jake, she had to deal with this on her own. "I don't know."
"Want me to make it all better?" Dominic pressed a lingering kiss against her inner thigh.
Despite her sadness, a breath of laughter escaped. Chloe looked down at him and parted her knees slightly. "How do you plan on doing that?"
"Don't worry about a thing. Lie back. Let me take care of you."
Chloe flicked a glance at Jake and combed her hands through Dom's hair. A thrill shot though her. "I appreciate the offer, but we're not alone."
"Don't worry about him." Dominic sent a cursory glance over his shoulder. "He'll sleep through anything." He turned back to her and shoved her knees apart. Chloe gasped. He moved into the space he'd created and slid his hands over her belly, his thumbs sweeping down to caress her mound. "I can see you're not wearing a bra. Don't tell me you've been parading around all night without panties on too."
Chloe smiled and closed her eyes. "Okay."
Dom chuckled. The husky sound sent shivers rushing over her. He tugged at the thin sash holding her wrap dress together and slid it free. He dropped the material over the side of the chair and looked up at her. "I haven't given you a birthday kiss yet."
Chloe blinked. She could swear her lips still tingled from when he'd ravished her mouth this morning. He'd grabbed her on the fly, pressed her against the wall and gone at her till he'd left her breathless and wanting. She touched her fingers to her lips, remembering. "I'm pretty sure there was an episode in the hallway earlier today."
"Mmm...not up there." His gaze settled on her mouth for a moment before travelling down her body. "Down here." He pulled the two sides of her garment apart, revealing her taut belly and smooth pussy. He groaned at the sight and dipped a thumb between her folds, stroking the delicate skin.
Chloe sighed, her legs separating further at the notion of having his tongue lapping at her. "Let’s go to bed."
"Not yet." He left her pussy and smoothed his hands over her ribcage, his fingers spreading to cradle her fabric covered breasts. He rubbed her nipples and sent her a questioning look. "What's holding his together? Tape?"
He'd seen her using the tape before with other revealing dresses. Funny how him remembering such an insignificant detail made her heart warm. She nodded and her eyes drifted closed. Her fingers curled over the armrests and she held on tight. His teeth closed over her nipple, silk and all. He rolled it between his lips, his hand massaging her other breast. Moisture pooled between her legs. Chloe's lips parted to try and convince him to move somewhere private. She needed to feel him moving inside her, the weight of his body pressing against hers.
He ripped the two sides of her dress apart with one sharp tug. Her eyes shot open. "Dom!" Her voice came out in a sharp whisper. "That hurt." She looked down and saw her breasts sway with the force. A tremor of excitement shook her.
"Shh." He pressed his lips to hers briefly. "As gorgeous as you are in this dress, Chloe, it's your tits I want to see when I'm looking up at you over your belly." He trailed gentle kisses over her reddened skin, soothing her, his hands moulding and squeezing her bared breasts.
Chloe watched his mouth and hands work. He suckled hard on her nipple and her irritation evaporated. His eyelashes tickled as he drew her flesh into his mouth. She moaned and her back bowed with the pleasure.
Jake's words came back to her in a rush, his promises sweeping over her like a physical caress. She remembered the look in his eyes while he'd ranted at her in that soft voice. He'd been so sure of himself, so sure her mind would be on him. And he was right. Dom's hands were cupping her breasts, but she couldn't stop herself from wondering how Jakes fingers would feel gliding over her. Would his hands feel soft against her skin? Would he make her shiver and moan the way Dom always did?
Chloe mentally shook herself and tried to focus on Dominic's touch. If she let Jake get the better of her now, there'd be no going back. She had to focus, keep telling herself they were just words.
Dom's warm tongue flickered over her nipple, then he nuzzled the taut peak. He thrust against her once, his pants creating friction between her thighs. Chloe sighed and glanced over the top of his head in a cloud of desire, staring at nothing and everything. She needed to feel normal again, to connect with her husband and forget all that had happened before. She loved him. She needed him. It would be all right.
Her gaze locked onto the figure sprawled on the couch. It felt like her heart stopped beating for just a second before it started up an unsteady rhythm. Jake lay there watching her, an arm draped behind his head. A lock of dark blonde hair hung over his forehead. His expression was lazy and appraising, his features relaxed.
Chloe drew in a sharp breath. Her body stiffened. A torrent of thoughts swirled through her head; the need to cover herself, to stop Dom's busy mouth, to put an end to this. She hated just the thought that Jake had listened to her through the walls separating their bedrooms. Allowing him to intrude on a moment this private pushed the boundaries further than she could handle.
"Honey, relax." Dom's breath expelled hot and moist against her chest. He trailed his fingers down her sides, groaning when an involuntary shiver rushed over her.
Jake's eyes followed the movement, then shifted to her breasts. His expression grew intent and his hips shifted under the blanket. Chloe opened her mouth to speak. She wanted to clamp her arms over her chest, but she couldn't because Dom's lips were there. She wanted to warn him, but her throat tightened and the words just wouldn't come. Dom nipped at her. Her head tipped back and she cried out, pressing her breasts against his mouth.
Her eyes connected with Jake's. A corner of his mouth lifted in one of the sweetest smiles she'd ever seen. She knew he was remembering their conversation too.
Chloe couldn't summon the will to end the moment. The longing she saw in his features made her throat ache. She bit her lip and appealed to him with her eyes. He could help her. All he had to do was yawn, make the noises of someone slowly awakening - give her time to cover up and pretend this had never happened.
He gave just the slightest shake of his head. His expression was soft as he watched her. Jake wouldn't walk away now. He was getting exactly what he wanted. Even if his hands weren't the ones on her body, even if his lips weren't roaming her skin, he was still a part of this - still seeing a side to her he was never normally privy to. His line of sight shifted, lowering to the back of Dom's head as he trailed kisses down her belly.
Dominic slipped his hands under her. He cupped her ass in his palms, lifting her, bringing her to his mouth. His lips moved over her mound, planting soft, intimate pecks along her skin. Chloe sighed with the pleasure of it all. Her conscience fought the desire welling inside her. Her body began losing the battle. "Please, Dom, not here."
"Mmm...I agree." He pushed his tongue gently through her moist pussy lips. "Here."
Chloe whimpered. She couldn't fight it anymore. He knew exactly where to touch her, exactly what to say to make her lose control. She moaned when his tongue ran along her outer lips, moving with slow, leisurely strokes. Could she let her husband make her come while another man watched? The more Dom touched her, the more intent Jake's gaze became as he watched her, the more she feared her answer might be yes. What kind of person did that make her? Despite the conflict twisting her stomach, Chloe bent her legs and spread her knees to allow Dominic better access.
She glanced over at Jake and saw a quick movement under the blanket. One hand was still draped over his head, the other had disappeared. Their eyes met; his were focused and intense. His tongue appeared as he moistened his lips. The blanket shifted again and heat spread through her belly when she realised what he was doing.
A rush of panic combined with passion to create the strangest feeling inside her. Dom suckled on her clit and slipped two fingers inside her. Chloe jolted against his mouth and swore in a harsh whisper. He kissed her pussy and flicked a long stroke over her inner lips with his tongue.
Something snapped inside Chloe. Sense and reason faded and her sensuality took over. She had her husband's head wedged between her thighs while another man stroked himself and watched. She tried to convince herself she loathed the situation Jake had put her in, but a small part of her loved it, too.
She sank her hands into the sides of Dom's hair, gripping the strands close to his scalp. She rocked against his mouth as his fingers plunged inside her. “Dommy...Oh...That feels amazing."
Dom groaned and buried his face in her thrusting wet sex, his tongue flickering over her. Chloe stared at Jake, watching him watch her through half closed lids. His hand moved with increasing speed under the blanket. Her hips started to thrust faster in response. She looked down at her body. Her hands gripped Dom in place against her pussy. Her tense arms shoved her breasts together. Her nipples stood out proudly, tingling for the touch of a mouth or hands. Her belly tightened.
Chloe kept her eyes on Jake. Dom drew her clit into the warmth of his mouth, running his tongue over the sensitive flesh. Her hips rolled. Her back arched. She parted her lips to release a moaning sigh. "Ohh...Jaa-" She snapped her mouth closed, caught herself just in time. Dread streaked through her. She couldn't believe she'd almost uttered another man's name.
"What, baby?" Dom mumbled against her moist heat. "What did you say?"
"I said just don't stop. I'm so close." She looked across at Jake, saw his shoulders move in a silent chuckle. She should be angry, but the look of amusement glimmering in his eyes almost made her want to laugh. She fought the lightness inside her and sent him a scowl that didn't quite work. She mouthed the words, "I hate you", but there was no feeling behind them.
His amusement disappeared. His hand jolted beneath the blanket...faster, faster. His mouth formed the silent words, "I love you".
Her eyes drifted closed and she swallowed over the lump in her throat. She was going to hell, plain and simple. Passion raced through her, heating her blood, scorching her veins. All rational thought fled her mind; this had already gone too far, there was nothing left to do now but feel. Chloe fought the need to throw her head back and let go. She opened her eyes again, wanting, needing to see Jake.
Dom groaned against her pussy as she thrust her hips. His fingers dipped inside her, his tongue circled her clit. The pressure built inside her until she thought she’d explode. Her hands gripped her breasts, her belly lifted from Dom's cradling palms.
The wave of pleasure took her by surprise. "Oh Dom, oh, I'm coming." Her mouth dropped open and a low scream burst from her. She rode the wave and ground her pussy on his flicking tongue, her back arching as pleasure radiated throughout her body. Just when she thought it was over, he kept going, kept up his relentless assault on her over-sensitive clit. Her body jerked. "Dom, I can't do it again." Her words came out in breathless pants. She reached out and stroked his cheek.
He shot her a quick look, his eyes dark in the lamplight. "Yes you can." His fingers clutched her ass, digging into her flesh. He sank his mouth back in to her wetness and moaned. The vibrations travelled through her. His tongue circled her swollen clit. Another orgasm racked her body, jolting her hips as they thrust against his face. Chloe cried out, pressing her back into the chair, lifting her ass from his hands as the intensity claimed her.
Jake kept his eyes on her, a look of pure ecstasy on his face. His chest laboured. His hips jerked and shuddered beneath the blanket. He never uttered a sound. She couldn't even hear him breathe.
Chloe sucked in air through her open mouth, her hands fluttering over her breasts. Dom licked her pussy, lapping at her sex with slow strokes to bring her back down from her high. A breathy laugh erupted from her when an after-spasm shook her body. She noticed Jake still watching her and her laughter died.
Things would never be the same again.
She tried to ignore the returning sadness and instead focused on Dom, combing her fingers through his hair. Chloe smiled when he glanced up at her.
"I love you, baby," he said. "I've never seen you get so wild before."
His lips glistened with her juices. She fought against the threatening tears and used her thumb to wipe away the moisture. "I love you, too. I don't…I don’t know what got into me."
Jake took his cue and yawned loudly in the background.
Chloe's eyes widened. She snapped the two sides of her dress together and shoved at Dom's chest, praying Jake wouldn't give their secret away. She hated that they even shared a secret. "Move, honey. He'll see us." She felt awful. She felt wonderful. Everything inside her was jumbled. She'd have time later to analyse her thoughts.
Dom pushed himself up to stand, reaching a hand out to Chloe. She let him clasp her fingers within the strength of his and pull her up from the chair. Holding her dress together with one hand, she followed Dom, but her attention remained on Jake. Her heart sped as they approached the couch. She hoped he'd just let them leave the room without commenting.
Jake stretched his arms above his head and opened his eyes as they were passing. "What's going on?" he asked. His calm breathing and tired smile gave him a well-rested look. If Chloe didn't know better, she would've been convinced he'd just woken from a nap.
"You missed a good show." Dom sent Chloe a meaningful glance over his shoulder and squeezed her hand. "That's all I'm saying."
"Bastard." Jake's white teeth flashed in a grin. "Wake me next time so I can watch."
Chloe wanted to slap him. She wanted to pound out her frustrations on him, make him pay for bringing this into their lives. Mostly she just wanted to hurt him for making her enjoy it. Her fingers tightened on her dress and she barely managed to rein in her temper. She sent him a lethal glare.
"Sorry, man." Dom tugged on Chloe's hand. "She's all mine."
She followed her husband down the hall toward their bedroom, knowing he’d want to continue on where they'd just left off, only this time Jake would be listening to their private moment. The knowledge that he’d be a part of their encounter again, however far removed, both excited and infuriated her. A feeling of foreboding settled inside her as her feet trod the floorboards.
Jake's voice echoed down the hallway, his words trailing behind her, taunting her. "Night, Chloe-bear," he said.
She heard the amusement lacing his deep tone and flattened her hand against her stomach in an effort to calm the churning there. Unfortunately, something told her this was just the beginning.