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In That Moment

You can't save her Paul. You need to understand this. No matter how much you want it to happen, no matter how hard you try to make it happen, you can't stop it. Clara can't be brought back. This is not what I'm offering you. I'm sorry.”

Paul sat on the sofa and leaned forward burying his face in his palms. He breathed through his fingers and then sobbed once...but his tears had dried up long ago. He was spent and raw inside. He curled his hands into fists then rapped his knuckles against his forehead, at first with light taps, then with audible, punishing thumps. He wanted to feel something, anything that would jar the blockage in his skull.

Yet there was nothing.

He opened his eyes and stared into the blackness of his living room. He had spent the last twenty-four hours practically unmoving from his sofa. Night had come and gone and come again. Just outside his front door, he had heard the mailman deliver more cards and letters of condolence that he would never bother to read. He had long before yanked his answering machine from the wall and, even if his cell phone hadn't died, he still wouldn't have checked his voice-mail or inbox.

Across the room on a shelf stood a row of picture frames. They were shrouded in shadow cast by the glow of the light that manged to seep into the room through the drawn curtains. Still, Paul could envision the images of the people in the photographs as plain as the days they were taken. They stared through the bleak darkness and right into his heart. He thought he could even hear them whispering to him. Or maybe it was really just him wishing they could whisper to him, tell him some secret to clear his jumbled mind.

He poured himself another glass of wine, the darkness making the red of the Merlot swirl into the glass like oil. He slugged it back. It wouldn't have mattered if he had sipped it; the liquid still would have tasted sour.

With a weary sigh he fell back against the sofa and lolled his head to the side. On the side table, a clock ticked steadily. Paul squinted at it. 11:50.

Michael would be there in ten minutes.

* * * * *

Twenty-four hours earlier...

Paul never was one to pray to angels. He was more interested in tangible things: the sweet taste of fresh grilled sirloin on his tongue, the thrumming vibration of his car around his body, the tender softness of his lover's inner thigh against his hand. Life was about what he could see and touch.

But now he felt like he was falling forever into an endless void, his arms and hands grasping and flailing in the air, nothing to see, nothing to touch, nothing to hold on to. He felt totally lost in a vacuum as he sat by himself on his sofa in the dark.

“Clara.” Paul had no need for angels, yet he said her name like a quiet prayer. Even stranger still was his muted response when his prayer was unexpectedly answered.

“Paul,” a voice steady and crisp like the wind through the trees called to him.

Paul looked up with a remarkable calmness unexpected of a man confronted by a disembodied voice calling his name. Yet he watched in perplexing silence as strands and puffs of white light appeared in the middle of the room as if seeping through a hole in the darkness. They floated and pulled and tangled in the air before him. He felt warmth from their light. Not like the warmth of a fire, though, more like fingers of electricity dancing on his nerves, seizing him to attention. He knew this wasn't a dream, yet he didn't feel anything like fear or panic.

As the light continued to ebb and flow in front of him, an unexpected feeling of acceptance settled into Paul. His lips drifted apart and he forced a breath out, uttering the name, “Michael.”

Though he must have come across the name hundreds of time during his life, it never had any personal significance to him. Yet when faced with something indescribable, when feeling a hungering need to put a frame around an impossible shape, “Michael” was what came to mind.

The entity didn't take any exception to being christened by Paul but instead said, “I know you're hurting.”

Paul swallowed and shuddered.

“I know that you miss her.”

Oh God, I miss her so much,” Paul thought.

“I want to offer you something.”

Paul held his breath, a rattling pang of anticipation grinding in his gut.

“I'm giving you the chance to relive a moment with her again.”

He didn't care if he was drunk or if he was hallucinating or even if this was just a dream. Paul hung on Michael's every word like it was a rope twisting in a hurricane. He wanted to believe so much. Anxiously he asked, “I can see her again?”

“A moment in your life spent with her,” Michael said, his light shifting and curling, “For one hour you can experience it again, be with Clara again.”

Clara. When Michael said her name, it was like a spur against Paul's ribs. He sucked in air with a gasp, covering his mouth. His mind whirled. To be with her again, to touch her, to hold her, to smell and taste her...

Paul suddenly sat up, a thought igniting in his head. With a wild look of realization in his eyes, he leaned forward and said, “I could...”

“You can't save her Paul.”

Paul froze. He let the words sink in like an injection of ice water into his veins. “I-I can't...” his lips fluttered. “Why?”

“You can't save her Paul,” Michael repeated. “You need to understand this. No matter how much you want it to happen, no matter how hard you try to make it happen, you can't stop it.”

Each word felt like a hook pulling at his heart. Paul wanted to scream and yell but he couldn't find the words.

“Clara can't be brought back. This is not what I'm offering you. I'm sorry.”

Paul sank back against the sofa. In his heart, he knew that he had accepted what he was being told even before Michael finished. He closed his eyes, defeated.

Michael filled the silence with instruction. “I want you to recall every moment you've spent with Clara.”

Paul shook his head. “There are so many.”

“I know. The strongest, most meaningful ones will stand out though.”

Paul opened his eyes and thought for a fleeting second. A door within his mind opened a crack and a sliver of blinding light knifed through. It was overwhelming. Once more he shut his eyes tight. “It hurts too much,” he sighed. He relapsed and pleaded, “I just want her back here with me.”

“There's nothing you can do, Paul,” Michael assured him. “You can warn her. You can take her away from where the accident happens. You can be with her, shield her. Still, she'll be gone and you will be left as empty and hollow as you are now. Worse, you will have wasted this opportunity I'm offering you.”

“What opportunity?” Paul asked. “Without Clara, what's the point?”

Paul heard the voice of Michael surround him. “Don't think about the loneliness of this room and trying to fill this space around you. Think of filling the void that's inside of you here.”

A sudden warmth swelled within Paul's chest. It filled him completely, lighting up his eyes. He sat up and inhaled deeply as if he were a baby taking his first gasp of fresh air. Just as suddenly, it disappeared. It was a brutal tease on Michael's part, but a necessary one. It left Paul bewildered and cold inside, but it also kindled a thought which he couldn't quite place yet.

That is what I'm offering you,” Michael said.

As Paul stared at the shifting tendrils and mists of light before him, they seemed to settle and focus into one entity, like a candle flame. He nodded slowly once, a sense of understanding stirring in his head for the first time in days.

“What happens now?” Paul asked hesitantly.

“I will come back at midnight tomorrow,” Michael replied. “Together, we'll choose a time for you to return to be with Clara.”

Again Paul nodded.

With that, the light slowly folded in on itself, collapsing to a pinpoint marble-sized ball before dispersing silently into the darkness.

Paul was left alone once more, in the darkness, the emptiness, and silence. Within moments, hundreds of puzzle pieces of memories of Clara filled his head and swept him below like a violent undertow. His mouth agape and tears finally streaming down his face again, he fell on his side onto the sofa and cried and remembered.

* * * * *

Paul ignores the twigs and branches of the trees and bush snatching at him as he runs through the dark ravine. He is leaving the noise and crowds of the campus behind him. The flood lights from the midnight rally cast him in silhouette but eventually he outruns them as well and soon he is covered only in the grey-blue glow of the full moon above. Despite the darkness, he charges headlong into the tangle of woods, laughing and whooping.

Clara leads him on this chase like a siren. She is also laughing and giggling as she skips and leaps through the woods like the dancer that she is.

The two are filled with a giddy, youthful excitement. It had all started back at the rally with an innocent kiss on Clara's pink cheek, a not so innocent grope of her bottom, an indecent whisper into her ear, and a playful but stiff slap against Paul's head. The pursuit was declared with rascally laughter.

At first, Clara's lithe body and graceful leaps through the dark forest gives her a decent lead to start.

“You're disappointing me Paul!” she calls back teasingly.

Paul's running-back instincts kick in and he quickly makes up ground, aggressively driving his way through the clutch of branches around him.

Clara senses that he's coming up fast and suddenly the chase becomes in earnest. Between running and laughing, she can't catch her breath. Her heart pounds so hard, she has to swallow to keep it from beating up her throat. Her shoe catches against a twist of undergrowth and she trips, nearly falling into a ditch. Instead she pulls up and stumbles against a large maple tree. She embraces the trunk of the tree, gasping for breath. As soon as she turns, she lets loose a sharp yelp as Paul runs right up to her, inches from her face.

With Clara pinned against the tree, Paul digs his fingers into her belly and sides, tickling her into near hysterics.

“No! No! No!” Clara begs and chokes through her tears of laughter. “Stop! I can't breathe!”

“Who's a disappointment? Huh? Who?” Paul probes with a sharp grin.

“Stop! Stop! I give up!”

Paul leans back and cocks an eyebrow. “Yeah?”

Clara swallows hard and nods. Even in the dark, her smile glows like a beacon.

Paul burns his gaze into her wide, chestnut eyes. He moves in closer, prowling his face around her, drawn to her like a magnet. He reaches up and tangles his fingers into the tresses of her silky, raven hair, steadying her, urging her attention upon him.

Merely inches apart, they exchange wisps of breath in the cool night air. Clara pulls in her lips and moistens them, glosses them.

On that signal, Paul moves in with a forceful kiss. Her lips are impossibly soft. He inhales deeply, her jasmine scent mixing with the smell of fresh earth and trees to make an unexpectedly potent and arousing concoction.

They linger on the kiss, savouring it. Their next is much more abbreviated and desperate. Soon their lips fold and press quickly in an ungainly tangle of lust. Just as quickly as their arms reach around one another in a bold embrace, so do their tongues dart out and twist and wrestle. Their mouths smack and gasp, the sounds of their fiery desire deadened by the thick foliage surrounding them.

Paul slips his hand beneath her sweater and bra, quickly delighting in the feel of her soft, round breast against his probing fingers. He circles and teases her nipples taut and Clara groans her approval.

Paul becomes distinctly aware of the hardening, swollen sensation below his waist. He takes Clara's small, soft hand and brings it downward, pressing it against his crotch. Her eyes fix upon him as he guides her palm up and down, massaging it along his straining shaft. She doesn't pull back, and when he frees her hand, she continues to rub him to full, unbridled attention.

Their lips lock together once more. Somehow, almost unconsciously, they manage to each undo the clasps on their jeans. Boots and shoes are unceremoniously kicked off and aside, leaving the couple to find steady footing on the wooded ground in only their socks. Paul drops his pants to his ankles and then takes his time to help Clara peel her jeans down her shapely, pale legs and over her feet. Her panties quickly follow.

Paul remains crouching, taking a moment to admire the fine line along her clean-shaven crotch, only a moment. He pushes his face into her, pressing his mouth over her and probing his tongue against her folds.

Clara reaches behind her and clutches her hands against the tree trying to steady herself. She shudders and trembles and gasps at every wanton caress of Paul's tongue. She leans hard against the trunk as he reaches behind her, grabs her ripe bottom and pulls her forward. When she feels his tongue breach her petals, she clutches at his head, twisting his hair in her fingers, and groans.

Paul rises to his feet. Again they kiss as his boxers join his pants at his ankles. He feels the cool air curl around his pulsing shaft as he handles it, positions it. With a deft adjustment, he bends his knees and leans into Clara, pushing apart her velvety thighs, and then thrusts upward. Now he is engulfed by her warmth. She welcomes him with a languid moan.

Like a horse on an open range, Paul breaks quickly into rapid, rolling motions of his hips. Clara is both tight and tender, her body giving and responsive.

Clara wraps one hand around the back of his neck, the other at his buttocks as he lifts her from the ground with each fervent thrust. She curls an ankle behind his calf. When she gasps his name, it's like a kick to his backside. Paul responds with stiff, long strokes.

Covering her mouth with his own, he stifles her swelling groans. He grinds his hips into her, driving deeper and deeper. He feels her clamp down on his throbbing length and soon he's ready to burst. His muscles strain and beg for relief.

The desperation and urgency of the moment make it as exhilarating and thrilling as any roller coaster multiplied by ten. Paul never feels more alive and driven.

With one final thrust, he buries himself in Clara. Both of them hold their breaths as they embrace each other, melt into each other.

“Ahh...ahh-unn,” Paul moans and shudders. He feels one brief, steady rush of fire through his pulsing shaft followed by shorter surges of delicious relief.

As he fills her completely, Clara quivers and trembles in his arms. She inhales sharply, gasps and bites down on her fist as she comes with a warm, so satisfying release.

Paul feels her flow over him. The dampness spreads onto their legs, chilled by the brisk night air.

With Paul still inside of her, they kiss and hold their embrace. Their easing groans and gasps mingle with the sounds of rustling leaves and crickets. The expanse of forest they are hidden away in seems to collapse around them, the world narrowing its focus on this place, this moment – their first time.

* * * * *

Paul and Clara stumble through the door, laughing. Their halfhearted attempt at Paul carrying her into the suite fails miserably but they barely seem to care. It had been a long day and night already spent with too many family and friends. They love each of them dearly, of course, but they thank every angel and demon that they are rid of them. With an agile kick, the door closes behind them and they may as well have been the only couple in the only suite in the only hotel in the only city in all the world.

Their laughter eases and they face each other, holding each other at the waist and smiling.

Paul has to shake his head as he looks at her. How is it that she can be even more beautiful than she was just a minute before? That was the mystery of Clara that just seemed to tow him a long from moment to moment.

“Mr. Price,” Clara says with a curt, playful nod.

“Mrs. Price,” Paul says through a curly grin. Mrs. Price. Yes, he likes that very much. “Would you care for a night cap?”

Clara rolls her twinkling eyes. “Sure,” she says. She gives him a kiss then adds, “But maybe afterwards.”

Paul watches as she slowly backs away from him, a sharp grin angling upward to her flush cheeks. He angles his brow and asks, “Afterwards?”

As she reaches behind her back and unzips her evening dress, she shrugs. “ Yes,” she teases. “Why? Don't think you have much stamina left after all that dancing and shots with your groomsmen?”

He follows her as she leads him into bedroom. Suddenly, he remembers just how uncomfortable and stiff his tuxedo and shoes really are. He starts to remove them as Clara nudges him with her fingertips down onto the edge of the bed.

Paul continues to undo the buttons on his shirt, but does so mindlessly. His attention is fully set upon the blushing bride swaying over him, slinking out of her dress like the naughtiest stripper in Vegas.

Stepping out of her dress, Clara poses and holds it between her fingers off to the side for second then lets it fall to the ground.

Paul hasn't moved for the last few seconds, his fingers in a holding pattern at one of his shirt buttons. He's totally transfixed by the vixen, Mrs. Price, standing in front of him. He watches as she holds her sheer lace bra with her forearm while reaching back and undoing the clasp of it with her other hand. Still covering her breasts, she performs a little swivel-shrug and the straps slip off of her shoulders.

Paul hopes he isn't drooling, because there wouldn't be a damn thing he could do about it if he was.

Clara drops her arm, letting her bra slide down and off, revealing the smooth curves of her white breasts. She stands tall before Paul, in her white heels, panties, garter and stockings.

“Holy shit,” Paul mutters, his lips barely moving. He shifts his seat in the bed, suddenly and painfully aware of the immense pressure building beneath the crotch of his stiff slacks.

As if reading his mind, or perhaps the contorting look on his face, Clara asks, “Would you like me to help you with that, Mr. Price?”

Clara's lithe, seductive figure curls down as she kneels on the plush carpet. It takes little effort for either of them to push apart Paul's legs. She's already moistening her ruby glossed lips as reaches for his fly. With the pressure coming from behind it, it practically unzips itself.

Paul braces his arms behind him as he shifts on the bed. He breathes through his mouth, grinding his teeth together as Clara helps him ease his pants down and over his feet. His briefs are tented upward from beneath, but he's soon free of it as well.

Clara grins and offers him a cat-like purr as she takes him up in her tender hand. She gently strokes her palm and fingers over him, stoking his piece to a rigid length. Her slender pink tongue slides out as she leans in and licks him from his sack to his tip and then back down again.

Paul's head drifts back momentarily as she caresses the tip of her tongue against his sack. He listens to her muted gasps and licks. The strain in his swollen shaft is enough to elicit a frown on his face. Every time she did this, it was like a fresh reminder of just how incredible Clara was at it.

“Unn,” Paul groans as Clara finally takes him into her soft, wet mouth.

She sinks over him with a gliding stroke of her plush lips. Withdrawing from a moment with soft 'pop' and breathy gasp, she throws her mouth onto him again, spiking his tip against the back of her throat. She holds it there, revels in the feel of his pulse in her mouth, then slowly begins her bobbing motions, sucking on his length with a steady rhythm.

Paul strains breaths through his flaring nostrils. He smacks his lips and swallows. Gently he reaches forward and brushes his fingers through her hair, curling and tossing the wavy, long strands this way and that way. The way she looks up at him as she continuously strokes him with her lips and teeth turns him into a puddle.

Clara lifts her mouth off of him. Her hand slides up and down quickly now, the smooth, taut skin of his cock slick and slippery with her saliva. A milky, glossy bead of liquid appears at his tip and her tongue darts out to sweep it up. She looks up at him, grinning.

“Ah God,” Paul groans his approval aloud.

Minutes pass and Clara remains relentless and voracious. Paul feels his reserves begin to steel in his belly and hips. Emboldened, he grabs Clara's shoulders and leans forward. Her lips pull off from him and they are met with a resounding, intense kiss.

He stands up from the bed and lifts Clara to her feet. He covers her throat with kisses drifting steadily downward to her chest. As his hands cup and fondle her soft breasts, he inhales her dark nipple and swirls his tongue around and around.

Clara tilts her head to the ceiling and coos. Her breasts heave and sigh as they delight in Paul's heated touch and caress.

Within a minute she is falling backwards, onto the silky soft sheets of the giant bed. A second later, Paul discards his shirt and joins her, lying down between her legs. They clutch at each other, lips kissing, tongues dancing. She feels his hand at her hips, fumbling with her panties.

“Rip them,” she urges.

Paul obliges with a stiff tug. The thin lingerie tears off easily. He feels Clara's stocking covered legs draw up against his hips and squeeze and pull him forward. It's an unnecessary invitation on her part. The tip of his solid shaft is already in position and, with a mere ease of his hips, he enters her with one true thrust.

“Uh-uhn,” Clara groans softly, her sweet lips rounding open.

Despite the immense build up he feels within, Paul moves in her with steady, easy strokes. In and out his cock glides in, feeling her tender folds against every inch of his skin. He enjoys the warmth surrounding him, he savours the softness of her thighs against him, and he even appreciates the way heels of her shoes scratch and dig into the back of his legs and butt. Each of her soft moans is his reward.

Clara holds him close. She nips at his shoulder. She breathes and gasps warm wisps of air along his ear as she nips and suckles at his lobe. “Paul,” she groans, “Ahn.”

Paul raises his head. He continues to roll his hips rhythmically, probing her with long, deep thrusts of his cock. He gazes down upon Clara. Her round, high cheeks are glowing pink, her eyes shiny and alight. Everything about her is so right. She feels so good, so incredibly good. He wants to just melt into her.

Clara's ankles are now locked just below his butt. She guides him in, urging him on. She pushes her hips up, crashing her crotch against his, taking his throbbing length as far as it can go. She beckons him with her fervent gasps and moans.

Paul's motions become more urgent. His thrusts are shorter and more stiff. Still he tries to make the moment last as long as it can, to drive the potency of it to its pinnacle. The pressure within is both painful and immensely satisfying. He can feel the hairs behind his neck bristling. “Clara,” he groans.

Within seconds, she digs her fingers into his back and tenses her legs and stomach. Her lips part wide and for a moment she makes no sound. Then suddenly she trembles and groans, “Ahh! Huhn!” Her body quivers and rattles uncontrollably, her desperate moan announcing a dripping wetness coming in full release from deep within.

Hearing and feeling his lover come with satisfying abandon, Paul tightens his buttocks and stomach and gasps, “Uhn!” A rushing stream courses through and out of his swollen cock, jetting into Clara. As he clutches her tight against his exhausted body, nuzzling his face against hers, he holds his breath and gasps again, spurting more sticky, rich fire. He doesn't know how long it lasts, lost in his lover's embrace. She fits so perfectly in his arms. Only when he feels her fingertips gently stroking his back and his hair does he become aware of the time again.

Paul lifts his head back. As he looks at Clara, he carefully pulls aside the strands of hair that have fallen across her face. He brushes his knuckles against her cheek and traces the outline of her lips with his fingers. All the while, his eyes never leave hers.

Clara smiles like the dawn.

Paul never wants this moment to end.

* * * * *

Paul stands outside the door to his house. He's been standing there for five minutes, holding a bouquet of flowers. It's not as if he's locked himself out, though. He stands there because he's still trying to think of what to say to Clara.

Two hours earlier, he had stormed out of the house after they had another one of their heated arguments. He can't even seem to recall exactly what it was about. Yet he winces as he recalls some of the hurtful things he said. Clara had said some nasty things herself, but he's sure whatever he said was worse.

Paul looks down and shakes his head, smirking to himself. He doesn't know why he argues so much with Clara. Not as if he ever won an argument with her.

“Hi Paul,” someone calls out from behind.

He jumps a little and turns. His neighbour is walking by with his dog on the sidewalk.

“Flowers for the little lady?” the neighbour asks.

Paul grins sheepishly. “Yeah.”

“Argument again?”

Paul shrugs.

The neighbour smiles and nods. “Good luck!”

Paul forces a chuckle and actually says “Thanks.” He looks at the bouquet and realizes how stupid he must appear. Finally he goes through the door.

He stands in the foyer and peers around the house to the kitchen and living room. “Clara?”

Hearing a thump from the floor above, he makes his way upstairs. He goes into the bedroom and finds it empty at first but then Clara emerges from the en-suite bathroom dressed in a bathrobe and a towel wrapped on her head.

Clara pauses and glares at him with dead eyes. Crossing her arms, she leans against the bathroom door frame and says, “Is that your form of apology?”

Paul frowns and grind his teeth. Even he thinks that he's a bit pathetic. Still, he shrugs and says, “Yeah...maybe?”

Clara shakes her head slowly.

“No?” Paul asks.

“Drop those in the trash, come here, and apologize properly,” Clara instructs.

Following her orders, Paul dispatches the flowers and walks over to her. He opens his mouth to say something but Clara smothers his lips with her hand.

“No. Shut up,” she tells him, “Don't say you're sorry with words. Action.”

“Action?” Paul mumbles through her fingers.

Clara arches her this dark brows and nods. “Yeah. Action.”

As soon as she lifts away her hand, she moves in and plants a smouldering kiss on his mouth. It's so sudden and expected, but it only takes a moment for Paul to realize and accept what was going on.

He is going to enjoy apologizing profusely.

As they continue to kiss, Clara takes control and shoves Paul onto the bed on his back. She crawls over him and stops and straddles him just below his chest. There she takes a moment to remove the towel from her damp hair allowing the darkened raven strands to fall heavily against her shoulders.

Paul strokes her thighs as he watches her disrobe and toss her garment aside revealing her lovely nude shape. There is a very harsh and wicked look on her face as she continues to shimmy upward until she's splayed her legs apart over his face. An enticingly clean and floral fragrance fills his nostrils as he inhales her scent.

Clara looks down from above. “Start apologizing, Paul.”

With hands firmly stretched across her round buttocks, Paul obliges and buries his lips against her crotch and presses his tongue into her tender petals. She's as tasty as she smells. Quickly he works her folds apart, whirling his tongue in rapid, slick circles.

Clara swirls her hips and breaths deeply through her nose, sucking in her lips. She tilts her head back and succumbs to the delightful touches of Paul's agile tongue.

Paul nuzzles his face closer. He teases her clit with nips of his teeth then tongues the hood. He feels her quiver and shake. When he clamps down with his lips and hums, Clara groans aloud and nearly buckles above him.

Clara grinds and gyrates, bobbing her torso up and down. She massages her breasts, pinching her nipples. Her head snaps to and fro, at once forward , then to the side against her shoulder, then back. She gasps and moans relentlessly.

Paul is lost in the moment, tasting and pleasuring Clara, listening to her sighs of ecstasy above. He thinks he could do this forever.

Momentarily, reluctantly, Clara moves away but only to turn around and reposition herself. She continues to straddle Paul's face, lowering her crotch towards him, but now she's able to unzip his fly and release his swelling cock from beneath his shorts.

Paul reaches up around her butt and pulls her down the last inch so that he's mouthing her folds again. He redoubles his efforts, licking and kissing her tenderness even as he feels his shaft sliding into her mouth.

Clara has a firm hold of his length. She winds her hand up and down, and her mouth follows the same path. She sucks at his tip, whisking it with her tongue, before plunging down on him. She pulls off then presses his hard, wet shaft against her cheek as she runs her tongue down then back up.

Paul's breaths are warm and heavy on her crotch and thighs. She is damp with his saliva and her own wetness, and he savours all of the mingling flavours. Now with every deliberate, long lick of his tongue, with every soft nip of his teeth, Clara trembles then groans. The vibration of her throat rattles through his cock and he's quickly brought to his throbbing apex.

A duet of gasps and groans, of wet smacks and hungry slurps, fills the bedroom. Paul and Clara are both trembling and reaching their point of release. They hold on, mouths full, tongues working with fervour and zeal.

Paul digs his fingers into her butt, clamping down. Clara responds by tightening her thighs against his face. Suddenly, he hears and feels her loose a deep, guttural groan and then tremble uncontrollably. His mouth and tongue are met with a flowing wet release; she spills out over his face, down his cheeks and chin and neck.

The sensation of his lover's climax is more than enough for Paul. He tenses his butt and stomach and groans, “Uh-uhn!”

Clara wraps her lips around his tip and accepts what she can of the quick spurts of viscous cum splashing into her mouth. She hums and moans, rolling her tongue around him, slipping around on the slick spunk. As she pulls her mouth off, she maintains her grasp even as a final spurt pours out and over her fingers and hand.

The two are spent, both slowly squirming in the bed as if relaxing each muscle in their bodies one at a time. They both continue to sigh their satisfaction and approval.

Finally Clara slides off. Paul can barely move. He remains on his back gazing at the ceiling, a subtle smile on his wet lips.

Clara curls up beside him and he wraps an arm around her. “Apology accepted,” she says.

Paul stifles a chuckle, his smile broadening. He looks at her and says, “Yours as well.”

He holds her close and thinks that in moments like these, sometimes it's nice to say he's sorry.

* * * * *

11:55 p.m.

With the few minutes remaining before Michael's arrival, Paul's mind was in overdrive. He clutched at his temples and tried to focus. Laughing together, crying together, travelling together, dancing, eating, running, sleeping...making love. He wanted to experience everything again but he couldn't think of one single moment that embodied all of that.

He decided that the times he made love to Clara were the best moments he could experience again. He was sure that an hour wouldn't be enough, he would want to stay inside Clara forever, but what else could he do? There could be no more significant point in time with her; he was certain of it.

Even then, out of all the times they were intimate, how could he choose one moment?

Just then, he saw a pin prick of light appear in the air in front of him. It widened and grew then a cascading white glow poured slowly into the space, shimmering and sparkling like crystal particles of dust.

Paul sat up and steeled his jaw as he watched the light emerge and form into what he could see as Michael. He inhaled deeply to steady himself as a quivering feeling of anticipation swelled in his heart.

“Paul,” Michael said softly, “It's time to take you back to be with Clara.”

Boldly, Paul asked, “Is there any way I can have more than an hour?”

“No,” Michael replied, “Not a minute more. I'm sorry.”

Paul nodded. He had asked and he had to accept the answer. He waited, unsure of what was to happen next. Hesitantly, he asked, “Do I...tell you the moment I want to return to?”

The breezy voice replied, “That's not necessary. You already have.”

Paul frowned, wary of what that might mean. “When?” he asked, anxiety dripping into his voice.

“A point where every minute spent will say all you want and need to say to Clara.”

Michael's light began to flare like the sun, embers flashing in Paul's eyes.

“But...” Paul fumbled over his thoughts, “There's so much...I just want...I...”

Michael reached for him, swallowed him up with fingers of light.

Paul wasn't on his sofa anymore, he wasn't in his living room, in his home anymore. He felt like he was being thrown backward, spinning and spiralling through a twisting tunnel. He heard his heartbeat blending with his heavy breaths in his head. It was as if he were in a cloud, as if he was the cloud. He reached out blindly.



* * * * *

“So, Paul. Are you coming over?”

Paul blinks and shirks back in his sofa. He looks around. It's still dark...except now it's raining outside, a downpour.


He has his phone at his ear. The voice on the other end belongs to a woman. It's not Clara. He mouths the word 'What' three times before he finally utters it.

The woman giggles. “Don't tell me you're afraid of a bit of thunder and lighting?”

Paul stands up and looks around in the dark. Clara. Where is Clara? He struggles to figure out what's happening and reaches for the clock on the side table. It's 5:30 p.m. October 22. He shuts his eyes and thinks to himself, “5:30. Raining. October 22. Where's Clara? Think, think, THINK!”

“Just this once. I'd really like to see you tonight, Paul,” the woman says. There's an enticing lilt in her tongue.

He freezes, a sudden realization smacking him across the face like a load of bricks. “Sylvie,” he drones.

The woman chuckles. “You can say my name a little less like as if you're reading a road sign, don't you think?”

Paul spins on his heels, dragging his fingers through his hair then covering his mouth. It's that night. Oh no.

“You could be here in fifteen minutes even with the rain,” Sylvie says and adds, “The trains aren't running with the tracks flooded. It'll probably take her over an hour or more to get home. You can just tell her you went to see a friend, got stuck with them in the rain.”

' Her'. Clara. Clara won't be home for almost another two hours...and he won't be there to greet her when she finally did arrive.

Things were never the same between them after that.

“No, no, NO!” Paul screams in his head.

“She'll never know.”

Paul shouts aloud, “NO!”

He hangs up on Sylvie and launches himself to the door and runs through the rain to the car. He strains the ignition and, as he backs out of the driveway, he dials Clara's cell number.

The number you have dialled is not in service...please hang...”

Goddammit! He should have known better. Clara was always forgetting to charge her phone.

A normally thirty minute drive to her office downtown turns out to be an aggravating torture test of snarled traffic and flooded roads. Paul tries every shortcut he knows, cutting through parking lots and alleys, and against one way streets. As he drives he tries to gauge where she might be by recalling what Clara had told him of this night. How she walked through the blankets of rain to street corners where shuttle-buses were supposed to be waiting only to find a massive crowd huddled together at the bus stops. How she tried in vain to hail taxis only to get splashed as they drove by hitting the puddles on the streets.

She walked and walked to get home...because Paul would be there waiting for her.

“Oh God,” Paul cries, and smacks the wheel of the car with his palm. He checks his watch: twenty-five minutes remaining.

How could Michael do this? Why this day? Why now? All he can think about is to see her. That's all. To see here, to hold her, to be with her. It didn't matter if they said nothing, if they did nothing else other than hold each other close. He just needs to be with her, be with Clara.

Fifteen minutes. He is wedged into bumper-to-bumper traffic now. For half a heartbeat he considers ploughing his way through the other cars. It's no use. He looks around to get his bearings, figure out where he is. Then he opens the door, climbs out of the car and runs through the rain searching for Clara.

Even though the rain subsides, it's still a slog. The sidewalks are slick and crowded, people walking in every direction. The lights of the storefronts are dizzying and seem to close in on him. Yet, desperation and urgency drives him on and keeps him focused on one thing, one person.

“Clara!” he shouts repeatedly, till his lungs are ready to burst and his throat dry.

Five minutes.

He falls against a light pole, leaning heavily against the cold, wet metal. Still, with each time he breathes, he pushes out her name. It's hopeless.


Paul freezes, staring at the ground at his feet. The voice is like a tender caress at his heart. He lifts his head slowly, closes his eyes and turns. When he opens them...

“What are you doing here?” Clara asks.

He soaks in the vision of her like the sand absorbs the rain. His heart beats so hard he feels like he's being shoved from the inside and he stumbles back a step. “Cl...Clara,” he gasps, “I found you.”

Her coat is drenched, her shoes wrecked, and her hair is scraggly and pasted all over her face. She's never been more beautiful.

“Yeah? What are you nuts?” Clara says. A crooked, sweet smile tugs onto her lips as she eyes him and asks, “You didn't...did you come for me?”

Paul nods as he slowly steps towards her. “Yeah,” he says, “For you. I came for you.”

Clara's shoulders slump and she throws him a sympathetic look. “Oh Paul, you didn't have to do that,” she says, “I could have caught a bus or taxi. It must have been awful trying to drive down here tonight.”

“I just,” Paul says, hesitating to choke back a tear, “I just needed to be with you now.”

“Right now?” Clara says with a grin, “Right at this very moment?”

He almost laughs. “Yeah, right at this moment.”

She shrugs. “Okay. I'm fine with that.”

He reaches out and gathers her in an embrace. She fits so perfectly in his arms.

“I'm glad that you came,” Clara says as she nuzzles up against him.

“I'm sorry,” Paul whispers, “So sorry.”

She doesn't hear him. She simply settles into his embrace and hugs him back.

Paul is unaware of the people walking around them. He hears nothing else except her soft breathing. He feels nothing but her gentle frame in his arms. She's tangible and real and she's so warm. As he holds her, her warmth fills him completely mind, body, and soul.

In two weeks, Clara will be gone.

With a minute left, Paul holds her a little closer and entrenches this warmth he now feels into his heart.

"That is what I'm offering you."

A moment to last him forever.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

Copyright © All stories, characters, and situations are works of fiction and owned wholly by the author F.P.Rollins. The story in whole or in part may not be reproduced without the author's permission.

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