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Dirty Little Midlife Dilemma

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“I'M NOT SURE I WANT TO DO THIS.” MY VOICE WOBBLES as I glance off the wooden platform to the ground far, far below.
“You’ll love it.” Lee is nearby, getting his harness fitted around his thick thighs. “Like riding a motorcycle, except you’re two hundred and fifty feet above the ground.”
The employee checks my harness once more, then checks the strap on my helmet. “You’re all set,” he says. He’s a young man, mid-twenties, with tattoos on the backs of his hands and a neatly trimmed beard. He smiles a lot. In fact, he’s smiling right now while nodding encouragingly, as if that will convince me.
I’m clipped onto the zipline above. I look at the thick steel cable and the mechanism that will allow me to glide along it. It looks chunky and solid, but it doesn’t change the fact that I’m very far above the ground.
“Remind me again why we’re doing this?” I ask, closing my eyes for a beat. The tree we’re in sways in the breeze, its trunk creaking in an entirely unsettling way.
“Because it’s fun,” Lee answers.
Fun. Fun.
We have very different definitions of the word.
“You want to jump, or you want a push?” The guide asks the question as if it’s entirely reasonable. For him, I suppose, it is. He’s probably asked that question a thousand times.
I ponder. “Push,” I finally answer.
“Okay. Remember to keep your feet up!”
I stand on a yellow line at the edge of the platform, in the area where the handrail opens onto empty air. Above my shoulder, I glance at Lee, whose brown eyes are glimmering, his hair and skin dappled in the midday sunlight. The forest smells like fresh rain from last night, and the bite of autumn makes me zip up my windbreaker to my chin.
It’s been two months since Fallon got married to Jen. Two months of moving into my new home, driving back to Tahoe every weekend to visit my mother, and spending time with my new dog.
Two months of Lee.
Truthfully, they’ve been the two best months of my life. I’ve laughed more than ever. I’ve ridden on the back of his motorcycle. I’ve woken up with him next to me in bed almost every night, and I’m starting to wonder if I should ask him to move in with me.
After taking things slow, I find I want to rush now. Make up for lost time.
“Sit back in the harness,” the guide tells me.
I do as he says, lifting my feet up.
Then he pushes me.
My stomach drops down, down, down as the platform disappears and I fly along the treetops. A squeak escapes my lips, not even enough breath to truly scream. Forcing myself to keep my eyes open, I watch the tree canopies zip by as I fly along a steel cable between them.
Oh, it’s magic. Air whipping over my body, just like on the back of Lee’s motorcycle. Freedom. I laugh, casting an eye over the tops of the trees, wondering if birds feel this kind of elation every time they take flight.
Then, just as soon as it starts, it’s over.
Another worker is there to catch me at the next platform. She grabs the cable and steadies me until I get my feet under me, unclipping one of the cords attaching me to the cable, but leaving a safety line clipped on. She shuffles me out of the way as I try to catch my breath, glancing back in time to see Lee gliding down toward us.
His long legs are held straight out in front of him. His arms are spread wide, and his face is one big smile.
My man. My handsome, beautiful man.
He lands with a thump and as soon as he’s unclipped from the zipline, he crosses the distance to me and cups my cheeks. “So?”
“I loved it,” I answer, heart jackrabbiting in my chest.
His eyes crinkle at the corners. “I told you so.”
“Ready for the next one?” the woman asks. I nod, and she takes off to meet us at the next platform. The tattooed worker takes my harness and clips me to the next zipline behind her. So, just like that, we glide from platform to platform, flying through the beautiful old-growth forest, and I let myself go.
It’s been like this for two months. Lee coaxes me out of the shell I’ve built around myself. He teases me with new experiences, gives me a taste of adrenaline and love and laughter.
And I eat it up.
On the third zipline, I find the courage to glance down. The ground is so far below that my stomach gives a lurch. I must jump, because I wobble up, bouncing on the zipline so far above the earth.
Then it’s over, and my feet are on another platform.
Lee arrives behind me and gives me another kiss. We do it again. Again. Again. Until we’ve made a complete loop and are at the entrance of the adventure park, being swiftly divested of our harnesses and safety equipment.
Mac, Trina, her kids, and my dog Harley are waiting for us outside. There’s an incredibly cool playground full of swings and platforms where the kids are playing, and Harley is living his best life getting endless belly rubs from Mac.
“So?” Trina asks. “How was it?”
“Magic,” I answer.
A heavy arm lands across my shoulders and I’m unceremoniously pulled into Lee’s chest. He lays a soft kiss on top of my head, then turns to his brother and Trina. “Ready for lunch?”
“Let’s do it.” Mac stands, grabbing his motorcycle helmet.
Trina calls the kids, then turns to me. “You riding with Lee, or you want to come in the car with me?”
I still feel unsteady on my feet after what we just did, but— Oh, what the hell. I want more of that feeling. More of the weightlessness. “I’ll ride with Lee.”
“Damn right you will.” He crushes me to his chest and lays a big wet one on my lips. When we fall apart, I’m laughing. I’m always laughing with him.
Harley rides with the kids and Trina. Our little convoy heads out of the adventure park and down the freeway for a few minutes, then turns off to a picnic area. Nestled in the forest, we find a picnic table by a rushing river, and the kids run off to explore. Harley joins them.
When Lee produces chicken and aioli sandwiches, I feel a strange lurch in my chest. I pick up a triangle, my eyes suddenly blurry.
“You made sandwiches,” I say.
Lee meets my gaze, his expression softening. “Homemade aioli and chicken okay?”
“The view’s not bad either,” I answer softly.
With memories of that day on the beach, I bite into the sandwich and let the flavors explode on my tongue. That spring day all those months ago, Lee handed me control over the pace of our relationship. Without me having to explain anything, he gave me exactly what I needed to come out of my shell.
He’s still doing it. Dragging me out to that adventure park and ziplining with me—it’s exactly what I needed today. A little thrill, a beautiful view, and the love of my life to share it with.
LATER,WHEN WE STOP off at a hotel for the night before heading back to Heart’s Cove in the morning, I find myself freshly showered and wrapped up in a fluffy bathrobe, lying on a king-sized bed. Lee emerges from the bathroom in a cloud of steam, a towel wrapped low on his hips. Harley is on his dog bed, lying by the window. His ear perks up and he lifts an eyelid in our direction.
Lee sees me watching him exit the bathroom and cocks an eyebrow.
“Thank you for today,” I say.
“The day’s not over,” he responds, and drops the towel.
And oh—wow. Before I can speak, he grabs my ankles and drags me to the bottom of the bed. Laughing, I let him tug me close.
Harley takes the opportunity to huff, then trot to the bathroom. I hear his claws click on the floor and then another huff as he settles himself down.
The bathrobe gives absolutely no resistance as he unties the sash and spreads the lapels. Then his lips are on my skin, my breasts, my neck. When he kisses my lips, I wrap my arms and legs around him and melt into the sensation.
“It’s been a week since I started the birth control pill,” I say as my lips brush his earlobe.
With his weight still pressing me into the bed, Lee lifts his torso and meets my gaze. “We can…”
I reach down between us and grip the hard length of him. “Yeah,” I whisper.
His big body shudders against me, hands coasting down my ribs. It’s the work of a moment for him to tease pleasure from me with those long, talented fingers, then with his tongue. When I’m gasping and writhing and begging, he gives me what I want.
The feel of him inside me is like riding on a zipline two hundred and fifty feet above the earth, times a thousand. The weight of him above me, the bulk of the bed beneath me, the scent of his skin, the look in his eyes—it all makes me feel protected and cherished and so incredibly alive.
We go slow, holding back, until I put my calves on his shoulders. Then, all bets are off.
With him standing at the foot of the bed, and me clinging onto the edge of it, our lovemaking turns feral and wild and perfect. I let go, the way I can only with him. I cry out as pleasure rushes to every corner of my body, and then I feel him empty himself inside me.
My heart thunders. I gasp, lying on the bed with my legs still on his shoulders as he strokes the top of my thighs, his body curved over mine.
“I love you,” he rasps, hands tightening on my skin. “That was…” He blows out a breath.
“Yeah.” It’s all I can manage to say. It says it all.
After a quick cleanup, I discard the robe still hanging off my arms and climb into bed beside the man I love. He spreads an arm and pulls me tight to his chest. Harley has settled himself back in his bed now that the action is finished.
“Lee,” I start, my voice small.
“Yeah?” He’s sleepy. I can tell by his voice, by the absentminded way his fingers are drifting up and down my arm.
“Do you want to move in with me?”
The fingers stop. He pulls away, nudging my chin up toward him. “Would you like that?”
My cheeks are burning. It’s too soon. After everything, I should know that taking things slow is much, much better. Why rush it? Why did I bring this up now, shattering our post-coital bliss?
I swallow thickly, then shrug one shoulder. “I think so. But if you’re not interested, we can keep doing what we’re doing. It’s probably too soon, so just forget I said anyth—”
He silences me with a kiss. It’s long and languid and warms me all the way to my toes. Then, forehead to forehead, Lee speaks.
“Yes, Nora. I want to move in with you. I can rent my place out. It’s probably better for a family, anyway. Too much space for me on my own.”
My heart does a cartwheel. “I don’t want you to feel pressured—”
“I’ve wanted to move in with you since you got the keys, Nora. Since we christened the kitchen counter.”
My heart stops cartwheeling and is now threatening to explode. “Really?”
He lets out a low chuckle. “Really.”
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I’m a patient man, babe. Figured I’d wait for you to realize we should live together.” He lies back on the pillows, tugs me close, and closes his eyes.
Decision made.
Meanwhile, I feel like I’ve just done the hundred-meter dash. My heart is doing all kinds of strange things in my chest. My mind is spinning. My body feels hot.
I’m…elated. Excited. Happy.
The future is bright. Smiling against Lee’s skin, I close my eyes and hope tomorrow is as good as today.
Somehow, I already know it will be.

A second chance presents itself when a man from Georgia's past reappears. Big, burly, and oh-so-domineering, Sebastian decides he's in town to stay.​


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