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A secure house has small windows, and I'm a private guy, so my small
windows are covered most of the time. I have nothing against
sunlight, but I can go outside to experience it.
Samantha squealed, and her mother gasped.
"Hang on," I said.
I don't smoke, but I carry a lighter. It's probably the cave man
in me, cherishing fire or something. Who knows. But I was
really glad, just then, that I had that lighter on me, because within a
few seconds it wasn't so oppressively dark. There was an old
fashioned oil lamp on top of my refrigerator. I left it there
just for situations like this.
"Cool," said Chip as I lit the wick, replaced the chimney and trimmed
"I'm really going to have to get me a backup power supply," I said. "Then again, it wouldn't do to be the only house on the block with power. That has a tendency to make you stand out a bit."
"What happened?" asked Valerie.
"Rioters, most likely," I said. "I'm sure it will come back on
But it didn't.
An hour later, with three lamps burning, and two kids yawning, she put
them to bed. I have a natural gas stove, and that was working
fine, so I'd made coffee the old fashioned way. I was finishing
up the last cup of that when Valerie came back out. I don't know
if she'd planned on going to bed too, and changed her mind, or gotten
hot (those lamps put out more heat than you'd believe), but she'd taken
off the modesty shirt I'd given her. I'm pretty
certain it wasn't for my benefit, though I benefited all over the
place. Her nipples weren't stiff, but those dark circles fired up
my imagination. Normally, I do okay without a woman. I can
handle things myself, if you get my drift. But that only counts
when there's not a drop dead beautiful woman in a thin T shirt sitting
across the kitchen table from me.
"Thank you," she said.
"Seriously, you've done way more than most people would have."
"I have a nefarious plan," I quipped. Then I was sorry I'd said
it, because she had no place to go and had finally relaxed. I
started to tell her I was joking.
"No you don't," she said. "I only met you five hours ago, but I
can tell you're a gentleman."
"The curse of the Boy Scout," I sighed.
"Boy Scouts," I said. "I'm an Eagle Scout. And they demand
a high level of moral straightness that is what results in being a
gentleman. Unfortunately, we often die virgins, because women
expect us to be faultless and pure, and would never even think of doing
something nefarious with us."
She didn't crack a smile.
"Yes they would," she said.
Now it was my turn to show confusion. "Beg pardon?"
"Don't beg," she said, folding her arms over her chest and hiding those
dark spots. "It isn't seemly for an Eagle Scout to beg."
I blinked at her. Suddenly, we were talking about something ...
else. The trouble was, I wasn't sure what that was.
"Thank you," she said again. "Good night."
"Night," I said, automatically.
She turned to go back to her children, and then stopped after two
steps. She looked over her shoulder.
"I looked through your things. I'm sorry."
Since I couldn't think of anything to say that wouldn't hurt her
feelings, I stayed quiet.
"I just wanted to see what kind of man you were." Her brow
furrowed briefly. "Are."
"And you can tell that from a man's sock drawer?"
"I looked at the pictures on your credenza. The kind of pictures
a man has says a lot about what he cherishes. Some men have
pictures of themselves with their dog, holding up the birds he just
murdered. Others have pictures of family, people who are
important in his life."
"I see," I said. I knew she hadn't looked in the gun safe.
She'd have seen the shotgun I murdered birds with if she had.
"Anyway, I'm sorry I violated your space."
"Did you get into the medicine cabinet?" I asked.
She looked startled. "No."
"Go through all my drawers? Find my stash of girly mags?"
Even as far away as she was, and as dim as the light was, I could see
"No. I just looked around and gave the kids a snack."
"Snack? I have snacks?"
She turned to face me.
"Cheerios," she said. "You have Honey Nut Cheerios. They
"So all you did was walk around soaking in the ambience that is ...
well ... me," I said. "No harm done."
"I felt like I should tell you. You've been very kind to us."
I stood, and bowed at the waist, looking up at her from that position.
"You are forgiven, milady," I said as formally as I could.
She blushed again. She'd dropped her arms when she started to leave, and
those firm, round breasts were no longer covered.
I don't know what emotion she was feeling, but those nipples popped out like they were whack-a-moles, just daring
me to whack them.
I was glad she turned and actually did leave, because I was thinking
about how delightful it would be to whack those moles with my tongue,
and help her forget her troubles for half an hour.
I got one last look at them when she stopped again and turned, standing in profile. Her nipples looked even better from that angle.
"Where are you going to sleep?" she asked. "I didn't find any other beds anywhere in the house."
"Couch," I said. "I've fallen asleep on it before. It's comfy enough."
"Oh," she said. "Okay, then."
Ten minutes later I settled on my back on the couch in my living
room. I draped a blanket over me. I had a natural gas
furnace too, but it wouldn't come on unless the fan was spinning, and
the fan was electric. It was going to get cool if the power
stayed off a long time. I really did need to think about getting a generator or something. I'm not a prepper, but I do like to be as independent as possible.
But the primary reason I spread that blanket over me was because I had
an iron hard penis to deal with before I could get to sleep.
And it would be just my luck for Valerie, or worse yet, one of the
kids, to need something and catch me spanking the monkey right out in
I confess, I thought of the woman thirty feet away from me as I jetted
into a tissue.
Then I slept. Chances were I was going to have a full day too.
I did, in fact, have a full day. It turned out one school had
been vandalized, and the others were closed. Valerie's babysitter
was also one of the unlucky people whose house had burned. She
was staying with a friend when Valerie called her. The friend
still had power, and they had all the information that was being
broadcast by the local news station. The rioting was over, but
cleanup was going to take a while.
"I have to go to work," she moaned, as she hung up. "My boss is
an asshole, and if I don't show up, he'll fire me for sure."
"Where do you work?" I asked.
"Milford-Watson," she said.
"The sweat shop?" I asked, raising one eyebrow.
"The garment factory," she corrected, gently.
"Not according to the labor unions I've heard mention it," I said.
"They're unhappy because the employees didn't vote to have a union,"
"Why didn't they?"
"Because Mister Milford said he'd close the factory if we did," she
said. "He said he'd sell the property and move the equipment
somewhere where people recognized, and appreciated his
benevolence. He used that actual word."
"I see," I said.
"I hate to ask this ... but could you watch the kids?"
"I don't mind that at all," I said. "They seem like good kids,
and I have a Play Station. But how are you going to deal with the
insurance company and all that if you're making garments?"
"We get breaks. That's one of the benefits they gave us for not
voting for the union."
"How benevolent," I said, dryly.
"We get one every two hours. I can make some calls while
I'm on break."
"Maybe the factory is closed," I suggested.
"Other places are. Isn't that what your friend
"You're right!" she said. "I'll
She did. Milford-Watson was open for business. She was
warned not to be late. I could hear that part from five feet away.
"You need to find a new job," I said.
"I know, but you can't find a new job when you're
busy working at the one you have."
"Hmmmm," I said.
She looked nervous.
"I need a ride to work."
"Look," I said, resisting the urge to reach out and take
her chin in my gentle grasp. "You're in a difficult
situation. I work when I feel like it, and I have the resources
you need. I really am an Eagle Scout, and I have a whole
year's worth of good deeds that sort of didn't get
done. Do not worry about this. We're going to do
whatever you need to get back on your feet. Okay? No more
feeling bad about needing a little help."
Her cheeks got pink, but she nodded. She was wearing one of my
shirts again, so I couldn't see other evidence of her emotions.
I got them all into the car and promised to go buy car seats as soon as
I dropped her off.
"Booster seats," she said. "That's all
they have to have now."
"Booster seats," I repeated. "Got it."
"And I'll pay you back," she said, earnestly.
"Oh, you'll pay," I said with a gravelly voice,
twirling the right end of my moustache, pretending there was actually
enough moustache to twirl.
"Stop it!" she said.
But it was the first time I'd seen her smile since I met her.
Milford Watson had guards flanking the employee entrance door.
They were armed with cudgels. I'm not shitting you. I
hadn't seen a night stick since an episode of M * A * S * H, where an
MP threatened somebody with one. The factory was in a section of
town that had completely escaped the mobs, or any damage. They
were checking employee IDs.
Valerie, of course, didn't have one.
I figured all this out because I had been waiting for her to go inside
before I left. When she didn't go inside, and was obviously
arguing with the guards, I told the kids to stay where they were and
got out. I walked over to them.
"Problem?" I asked.
"Who are you?" asked one of the men, gruffly.
"I'm just a concerned citizen, who dropped off a Milford
Watson employee so she could go to work, and who noticed she's
having a hard time going to work."
"You can fucking leave," said the man, aggressively.
"Ahhh," I said, holding up one finger. "Let me
correct my previous introduction. I'm the man who's
going to kick your ass if you aren't more polite."
He lifted the nightstick and moved toward me.
When I didn't move, he swung it. Somebody must have put the
fear of God in him, or told him that rioters would show up any minute,
because he was clearly freaked out. So all I did was catch the
stick in my left hand, and punch him gently in the stomach with my
right fist. He flew backwards and ended up in a heap on the
sidewalk. His friend looked at me, terrified.
"How much do they pay you here?" I asked Valerie, who
"Doesn't matter. I'll double it. Come
work for me. You don't need this shit."
"I need an executive assistant," I said.
"There's all this paperwork I have to deal with, and I hate
it. Come be my executive assistant and these nice gentlemen can
harass someone else."
"I can't quit," she moaned.
"Why not? I'm paying you double what these assholes
She blinked. I could tell she was rattled, but was actually
thinking about it.
"Do you provide health insurance?" she asked, suddenly.
The standing guard moved. The other one had been groaning ever
since I socked him, but the other guy had been like a statue. I
looked past her at him.
"Don't do anything stupid," I said, casually.
"I only hit him for threatening me. If I think you're threatening me too, I'm
going to use this on you." I held up the night stick
I'd taken away from the other one.
"No problem," he said. He held up the night stick in
his hand, but I could tell it wasn't a show of force. He
just didn't realize it was in his hand. "I
don't want any trouble."
"Neither did I," I said, dryly. I looked back at her.
"Of course I provide health insurance. And if you want to
join a union, you can."
She looked wary, suddenly.
"What do you get out of this?"
"An executive assistant," I said. "I told
you. I hate paperwork."
"Okay," I said, shrugging. "I'll just go
get the kids some car seats. Call me when you get off work."
I turned and made it all the way to the car before she yelled, and ran
to catch up with me.
"Do you mean it?"
"Of course I mean it. Why would I torture you with
something like that when you're already having a tough
"It's just so ... generous."
"You haven't worked for me yet. I could be like Simon
Legree, for all you know."
"No you're not," she said. "It's
just that ..."
"Just that what?"
"Men usually want something in exchange," she said,
softly. She winced. She probably thought she was offending
"It's human nature," I said. "I just try
to be a little more human, and a little less nature."
"I don't know what to do," she said, but I
don't think she was talking to me.
"I'll give you time off to deal with the insurance company,
and the utility company and all that," I said.
Her eyes widened.
"But then it's back to the salt mines with you!" I
growled. "I have dozens and dozens of pieces of paper
cluttering up my desk, and I want them gone!"
Her face got red. She blushed a lot. There was a lot of
emotion in this woman, and it was of all sorts.
"If this isn't for real ..." she started.
"I know, I know. You'll cut my balls off," I
said. "Come on. I don't want to be here when
the cops show up to investigate what will surely be reported as a
She looked at the night stick I still had in my hand. I think
that was the first time I realized I was still holding it too. I
thought, for a split second, about keeping it. Kind of a trophy,
you know? Plus, I didn't have one. I had tons of
lethal weapons, but nothing like a simple night stick.
Then I realized that, if I kept it, the Milford-Watson goon would
probably call it a robbery, instead of an assault, and the police might
actually do something about it. I was pretty sure they were too
busy to worry about a simple assault, but I didn't want to take
the chance. Unless, of course, he described me well enough for
them to connect me to the asshole who'd gotten away with owning a
shotgun and using it to defend himself. They'd just love getting
another shot at me. I turned and flung the stick, bouncing it off
the street so it skittered over to the curb where the guy I had taken
it away from was getting to his feet.
"I hope we don't have to ever see each other again," I said to the one
still holding his own club. "Like in court or anything."
"No problem, man," he said. "I didn't want to do this shit in the
The first one started to get up.
"Good," I said.
I hustled my new executive assistant into the car and drove away.
When we got to WalMart, the nice associate there informed us that, in
New York, only children under eight were required to have a car seat or
"Are you sure?" asked Valerie, worriedly.
"I'm sure," said the woman. "I
don't think they even make them for kids as old as yours."
"I have some," said Valerie. "I had some.
They got burned up."
"How old were they?" asked the associate.
"I don't know, four or five years."
"Well, you needed them when you got them, but you don't
need them anymore," said the woman. "Is there
anything else I can help you with?"
"Clothes," I said. "All her clothes got burned
"That's over there," said the girl, pointing.
"There's another associate there who can help you."
She objected so much to what it was going to cost to outfit them that I
finally had to tell her what I do, and how much I earn. Like most
people she didn't think three percent sounded like much, until I
explained the scope of the kind of money I was saving the company.
"So you're rich," she said, finally.
"Filthy," I said, as Sam brought me more clothes. Her kids didn't
worry about where money came from. They were just excited about
being able to pick out new clothes.
"This is bad," sighed Valerie.
"Why?" I asked. "I told you, you can pay me back later."
"I could never pay you back for everything you've already done, and who
knows how much longer I'm going to have to depend on your generosity."
"There are many, many Halloweens in the future," I said, alluding to my
earlier suggestion that she could make installment payments.
"What is your girlfriend going to say when she finds out her space has
"You don't have a husband. Why would you think I have a
"This is really, really bad," she moaned.
I thought I understood where she was coming from. Her world had
been turned completely upside down. Everything she owned had gone
up in smoke, including the priceless, irreplaceable things, like family
photos, and heirlooms and all that.
"Look," I said, patiently. "You've lost a lot, but your kids are
safe, and you can start over. Yes, it's going to be painful, but
I can already tell you're a strong woman. Seven or eight years from now,
when the kids head off to college, maybe you'll be able to look back on
all this and decide it wasn't the end of the world."
"That's not what I meant," she said.
I just looked at her. I had no idea what she was talking
about. But she didn't say anything else. She just looked
away. Finally I had to prod her.
"You want to enlighten me?"
Chip brought me three pairs of shoes to put in the cart. His
mother instructed him to take one pair back.
"Two pair is plenty," she said.
"Mom," he moaned, complaining.
"You don't need three pairs of shoes, Chip."
"But Bob said I could have them," he said.
"And I said you couldn't." There was steel in her voice.
Chip looked at me, beseechingly. I held up both hands, palms
"Don't look at me, buddy. Your mom calls the shots."
Valerie turned to me then, the shoes and her son apparently forgotten.
"Is that really true?"
"Is what true?"
"Am I really the one calling the shots, here?"
"Of course," I said.
"And this isn't just to indebt me to you so much that you can demand
some other kind of payment?"
I got her point immediately. And I understood why she might think
that. We hadn't shared much about her background with men, but it
wasn't hard to figure out it wasn't a happy one. In fact, I felt
a little sad that it must be so unhappy that she'd just assume that I
intended to take my payment in flesh.
But it also pissed me off. I might be an asshole, but I'm not
that kind of asshole.
"I'm sure the insurance company will give you something to live
on while your house is being rebuilt," I said, a little stiffly.
"As soon as you can make whatever arrangements you feel comfortable
with, I'll take you there." I stepped away from the cart.
"I'll wait up front by the registers. And, for the record, the
only services I'll require from you are as my executive assistant."
I saw the shock come over her face.
"I'm sorry, Bob. That's not what I meant."
"It's what you said," I pointed out.
"I know, but I shouldn't have. I know that. I'm just so
scared. I feel so helpless."
"Why do you think I'm helping you?" I asked. "No ... wait ... you
already expressed that."
She actually hit me on the right side of my chest.
"Would you stop that? I told you I'm sorry. It was
stupid. I shouldn't have said that."
"Why did you say that? Have I done something that suggested I
have any ulterior motives?"
She threw both hands up in the air.
"Let's see," she said, her voice frustrated. "You took us in
without blinking an eye. You've been generous to a fault.
You're handsome, and rich, but have no girlfriend. You're
obviously not gay. I know what men want from me. At least
what they've wanted in the past. Why is it such a stretch to
think you might be interested in the same thing?"
"You think I'm handsome?" I arched my right eyebrow. I
tried to make it seem like that was the only thing I'd heard her say.
"I'm being serious," she said.
"So am I. I can't remember the last time a woman thought I was
"You are also full of ..." Her lips formed to say the word, but
she stopped herself. After a short pause, she said, "crap"
"Guilty as charged," I said. "About the crap part, I mean."
"Please!" she groaned. "I'm being serious, here."
"I know you are. I'm just unhappy that you think I'd take
advantage of you. Of course I recognize you're a beautiful woman,
and like any other man, I'd love to have you on my arm. But there
are things that are more important than simple lust, and those things
mean a lot to me. They are what I base my life on."
She groaned again.
"That's what I'm talking about! How can a woman find a man like
you, and then resist if he acts like a man? I'm not scared
because my house burned down. I'm scared because I've known you less
than twenty-four hours and I'm already in trouble with my feelings."
"I can live with that," I said. "I don't mind being adored."
"You better not be running a game on me, Mister Masters," she said,
"I know, I know," I said. "Perhaps we should go over to the
sports section and find you a suitable knife."
"If what I've seen of your arsenal is anything to judge by, you already
have plenty of knives."
"Yes, but those are my knives. You can't cut a man's balls off with his
own knife. It's just not done."
We did not end up in sporting goods.
But at least she left off complaining about how much I was spending on
We had lunch out, and then, when we got back "home" I pointed her to
the phone. She had to go online to find the number to call, but
eventually she reached her insurance company. They were already
aware of the situation in Niagara Falls, and told her an adjuster was
already in town. They took her number and said they'd have the
adjuster contact her.
That only turned out to take half an hour, and she made an appointment
to meet the man at what was left of her property. I said I'd
either go with her, or watch the kids, her choice. She decided to
It was the first time the kids had been left alone with me, but by then
I was okay in their book. It's easy to like the guy who spends
lots of money on you. I tried to find them some chores to do, but
there wasn't much in disarray around the house, so the only things they
could clean up were their own mess.
Valerie was gone for an hour. She said most of that was to fill
out paperwork. The damage was obvious, as was the cause, so the
proceedings were routine. She had a check in hand for what the
insurance man thought would cover living expenses and getting a
contractor hired to start work on rebuilding the house. After
that, the contractor would be in direct contact with the company.
I assumed that was so they could try to control costs.
"So things are looking up," I said.
"For us," she offered. "Not necessarily for you."
"He gave me money to go to a motel," she said. "But what I'd
really like is to stay with you."
That right eyebrow climbed toward my hairline.
"Yes, really," she said. "But I can pay you back for the clothes,
and pay you rent ... if you'll let us stay."
"I thought you were worried about my nefarious plans," I said.
I got another thump on my chest. It wasn't hard, but it
communicated her unhappiness.
"I told you I was sorry for that. I trust you."
"And I told you I'm a completely normal man," I reminded her.
"The point is that you're a good man, a man who actually cares about
somebody besides himself. And I'm going to have to go do things,
like talking to contractors and all that, and I don't want to drag the
kids off with me. Plus school will start up again, and I don't
want them coming home to a motel somewhere when I'm not there.
Please. I'll pay you rent."
"We'll talk about rent later," I said. "I'd be a cad to take
advantage of a woman in your situation. Besides, if you're going
to work here, then it will save time commuting if you just live here
too." I actually liked the idea of her being there a lot.
Maybe too much. I frowned. "Temporarily, of course," I
"Of course," she said, jumping up and down on the balls of her feet
repeatedly. So help me I didn't mean for my eyes to drop and
watch her breasts bounce, but they did. I jerked them back up to
her face and, again, realized I was busted.
"I told you I was normal," I said, somewhat lamely.
"I forgive you," she said, too happy to be unhappy about something like
"Thank you so much," I said, sarcastically.
"You're welcome," she said, so relieved that the sarcasm sailed right
over her head.
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