Friday, September 5, 2008

Phaze Fantasies, Vol. I

Charlie descended the rolling metal staircase onto the tarmac at Juan Santamaría International Airport, shielding his eyes with one hand as he made his way into the terminal. Even though Stormy promised to meet him at the little café on the other side of Customs, he scanned the crowd for her anyway--eager to see her again. It had been several months since they parted company in Pittsburgh; he to promote his new company, and she to expand the presence of hers in Jamaica and Costa Rica.

By the time he reached the terminal, the muggy tropical air had his shirt clinging to his back, but the cooled interior dried him quickly. His mind swirled with memories of their first encounter, nearly three years ago, when together they discovered the sensual delights of the Costa Rican rain. While ostensibly a business trip, both their private and public lives had been forever changed by the experience; their horizons expanded in ways neither anticipated.

Stormy's advertising company now topped her former employer's for tourism-related accounts, and she partnered with Charlie's newly-launched travel agency--Pura Vida!--whenever feasible. Together they explored exotic vacation destinations and documented the most sensual and serene aspects of their trips. Their business ventures dovetailed beautifully, and when they combined their creativity, they could make even a mosquito-infested swamp seem like the sexiest place on earth. The lucky folks who followed their travel advice invariably agreed, and their talents were in great demand--both individually and as a team.

Her e-mail had simply read: Found an opportunity near Jaco. I need your advice (and I want your body). Come soonest. I guarantee it'll be worth your while. Charlie admired her moxie. Stormy didn't make requests; she gave directions--but she did so in an utterly compelling fashion. Knowing that she tolerated neither fools nor sycophants, he was pleased that--in spite of her wild successes--she still sought him out for both advice and sex. She could have anyone she chose, and she chose him. That fact would make any man feel good about himself.

To be fair, his own accomplishments rivaled those of Stormy, and he had no shortage of offers to partner with other business--and personal--interests. Somehow, they all paled in comparison to the energy and innovation Stormy brought to both the boardroom and the bedroom. She challenged him in every way imaginable, and he realized very early in their relationship that he might never find a better partner with whom to explore new territory, both personally and professionally.

Jess' uncanny intuition, Mia's diplomacy, Richard's encyclopedic knowledge of the sexual psyche, and Sam's organizational talents combined to complete their winning team's roster. If intimacy was the sun, they orbited it like planets--each independent, but each influenced by the pull of the others. Their paths crossed in varying combinations, but always cooperated to form a balanced system. While their interactions might seem seedy and tabloid-worthy to the unfamiliar, within their ranks they functioned much like a Heinlein family.

Charlie spotted Stormy before she noticed him. She looked relaxed yet vibrant, sipping an iced mocha latte and chatting with a stunning young man as they awaited his arrival. Pietro, he assumed, their newest team member. When the Costa Rican government signed a long-term advertising contract, Stormy offered the former rainforest tour guide a job as manager of a local office--a move which pleased both the local business community as well as the entrepreneurial young tico. She met Pietro on the same fateful trip that brought her into his world, and Charlie suspected Pietro's would also never be the same.

Stormy glanced at her cell phone and a small frown creased her brow. She rapidly punched its keypad with both thumbs and snapped it closed just as Charlie's phone beeped in the pocket of his jeans. "Where are you?" the text message read. He grinned and shot off a reply, watching her reaction as she received and read it.

She stood and peered through the glass, searching for him with her hands forming parentheses around laughing brown eyes. When she spotted him, she pressed her lips to the glass, winked, and waved. Charlie fired off another text message and waited for her reply. He drew the stares of his fellow travelers as he laughed out loud at her response: "Yes, but he doesn't know it yet."

It took another ten minutes to make it through the Customs line. The moment he stepped through the security checkpoint, Stormy pounced. Her arms wrapped around his neck and she breathed into his ear, "I've missed you!"

Pietro hung back, looking a wee bit uncomfortable. Peeling Stormy off of him, Charlie extended his hand and introduced himself in halting Spanish, which earned him an appreciative nod and a brilliant smile. Gorgeous didn't even begin to describe the man! Stormy swore his looks had no bearing on her decision to employ him; that she chose him because his charisma and wit relaxed the stodgiest of government officials, and his resourcefulness enabled the office to capitalize on even the smallest business advantage. Charlie believed her, but he knew that she also appreciated his appearance a great deal.

"Gracias, señor. Stormy was just telling me that Pura Vida! topped its first quarter earnings by nearly thirty percent. That's very impressive for a brand new company!"

Charlie grinned. "Yes, well, at least part of that is due to our alliance. We're still drawing a nice chunk of business from Stormy's Wetter Has Never Been Better campaign. Sex sells, mi amigo, regardless of what the fundamentalists would like us to believe. It's an inescapable--and wholly natural--part of who we are."

"Careful." Stormy nudged Pietro's ribs with an elbow. "He's about to get preachy. Better change the subject or he'll be talking about sex all the way to the coast! The Right Reverend Charles Thomas delivering the sexual gospel."

"Seeing as how it's one of my favorite subjects--correction: my all time favorite subject--I'd welcome that! He'd be preaching to the choir, though." Pietro gestured toward a battered 4x4 parked at the curb. "Shall we be on our way?"