Excerpt: Bridge to Fruition
Jasmine Malone was dashing from her dorm room when her cell phone buzzed. She groaned. She was already running late. And the last time she’d had her massage appointment, Susan warned her that if she was late again, she’d cut the appointment short. That would simply not do. Those muscle kinks following a week of finals were not going to relieve themselves.
Jasmine raced to her car and jumped in. Pointedly ignoring whoever was trying to contact her, she shoved into drive and was on her way, only slightly above the speed limit.
Susan was a lifesaver. Jasmine had discovered her two years ago, and had booked monthly massages ever since. Her life as a busy college student at Cornell landed her stress directly in her neck and shoulders, and an hour with Susan kept her loose and relaxed. Now, all that was separating her from graduation was the arrival of her parents.
All of them. That is, her mom and new husband Hank. And her dad, who found himself solo, since his dalliance which had broken up their marriage, was now splits-ville. She had no clue how to deal with this dysfunctional family dynamic. Hence, one last appointment with Susan.
She screeched into the salon parking lot and ran up the stairs to the salon. Was she late? She glanced at her phone and saw that no, she was right on time. The receptionist asked for her name.
“Jasmine Malone. I have an appointment with Susan.”
The girl tapped on her keyboard and looked up. “Oh, didn’t you get our text? Susan isn’t here today. ”
Jasmine frowned, hit the messaging icon on her phone and saw that indeed, the text had been from the salon. They’d sent her three today. She opened the latest message quickly. “Your appointment this afternoon will be with Dax instead of Susan.”
“Wait, w—-, Dax? What exactly is a Dax?” She pulled her attention from her phone to the woman behind the desk.
“Dax is one of our licensed masseuses. He’s very good, actually.”
Jasmine glared at her and the girl’s cheeks turned a shade of pink. “What happened to Susan?”
“She had a family emergency.” The receptionist cleared her throat, patted her cheeks and let her eyes rest on Jasmine. “Would you like your massage with Dax?”
Jasmine sighed. On the one hand, she had a rule about her masseuses: females only. She wasn’t entirely sure why. But she thought it had something to do with the fact that under the flimsy sheet, she’d be totally naked. And the masseuse would, of course, have his hands all over her.
And she just wasn’t comfortable with that.
On the other hand, she was tense and tight at the prospect of entertaining her parents on their first encounter since their divorce last summer. And it was her who’d brought them together. Well, her graduation.
So, she did a mental coin toss and decided, “Okay, yes. Dax it is.”
“He’ll be out in just a second.”
Jasmine nodded and sat down, picked up a fashion mag and started flipping through it. A few minutes passed and she heard a deep, rumbling voice that caused a trembling in her stomach. “Jasmine?”
She looked up and her heart jumped into her throat. Tall, lean, thin-hipped. Wavy brown hair, shoulder length. Smoldering brown eyes and just a hint of whisker on his chin and lip. He was dressed in white scrubs and his tanned skin glistened in contrast.
The man was gorgeous. Her voice had disappeared. As had her mind. What had he said?
“Jasmine?” he said again, this time looking directly at her.
Jasmine darted her gaze around the waiting room. There was only one other person sitting, besides her, and it was a woman her mom’s age. She cleared her throat and said a quick prayer for God to help her act normal and not embarrass herself. She had, after all, seen her fair share of handsome men before. She’d done a fashion internship in Paris last summer, for goodness sake. She’d dressed male models and helped them change clothes backstage at fashion shows. She could do this.
Of course, 90% of those men were gay. But still.
“Yes,” she said, probably a trifle too loud. She cleared her throat again and said softer, “That’s me.” She rose and approached him.
He smiled and held his hand out. “Good afternoon. I’m Dax.”
Heat flooded her cheeks, a sure sign that she was blushing. “Nice to meet you,” she muttered.
“Right this way.”
She followed him. They went through a labyrinth of narrow hallways until Dax opened a door and led her into a small room with a massage table in the middle, a chair in one corner and a counter and sink in another. “Have a seat, please,” he said, motioning to the chair. He pulled out a folder and glanced at it. “One hour relaxation massage.”
“You get them monthly? Very good, very good.”
Her heart rate increased. “Can we just get started?”
His head darted up. “Of course. Do you have any problem areas I should be aware of?”
She took a deep breath. “Not really. I just finished finals so I’m sure my neck and shoulders are tight. All that studying, you know.”
He nodded. “Oh, you’re a student?”
“Not for long. I’m graduating tomorrow from Cornell.”
He smiled and the sheer beauty of it almost made her swoon. “Congratulations.”
“Thanks,” she said and looked down at her lap.
“I’d love to go to college, but haven’t had the chance yet.”
She looked back up at him. “Didn’t you go to massage school?”
He nodded. “Yes, that was an eleven-month program. Very intense. But I’d like to start my own massage studio someday. Hire several therapists and offer all kinds of massage. I’d need a Business degree to do that.”
Okay, this was helping. Her heart rate was slowing and she felt a little more relaxed, getting to know him a little.
“I’ll leave and you take everything off. Lay on the table face down and drape the sheet over you.”
So much for feeling relaxed. Her pulse flew through her veins and she saw a few spots in front of her eyes. “You know, I’m not sure I can do this.”
He gave her a concerned look. “What do you mean?”
She gave a nervous chuckle. “I mean, you’re a man.” She exhaled air. “Well, obviously you’re a man. You know that, and I know that. But I’ve only ever had massages from women. So I’m not sure I’m comfortable with …”
“Ahhh. You’re modest. That’s okay. I won’t see anything private, I promise. And there are benefits from getting massages from a man.” He held up all ten fingers for her to see. “Strong hands. They can go forever.”
Oh boy. Just the thought of Dax’s strong hands and long fingers all over her body, going forever, caused her face to flood heat again. “I just remembered. I’m late for an appointment. I’m sorry.”
She stood and headed for the door. But his face fell and he looked actually … heartbroken. Crestfallen. She stopped.
“No, no, it’s okay. I understand.” His head dipped as he made a notation in her file and closed it. “Thank you for your time.” He turned and started toward the door.
Something in his dejected stance gave her a change of heart. “Dax, it’s not you. Really.”
He held a hand up and shook his head. “It’s tough for male masseuses. Men often don’t want to be massaged by a man. They prefer a woman. And women often don’t want to be massaged by a man, either. Until I build up a clientele, I don’t get a lot of business. But without doing a lot of business, I can’t build up my clientele.” He shrugged and opened the door.
“I’ll do it,” she said quickly before she changed her mind. “I’ll do the massage.”
“You will?” His beaming smile looked so happy she almost closed her eyes to block the view. A smoldering Dax was hard enough to resist. But a happy, ecstatic Dax was nearly impossible.
“Yes. I’ll get undressed and scoot under the sheet. Give me five minutes. But no touching anywhere that you shouldn’t, you got that?”
“Of course not! I’m a professional.” He gave an excited little bow and backed out the door.
* * *
An hour later, Dax was wrapping up her massage. She had to admit, he was right about one thing: his hands were stronger than Susan’s and she was the beneficiary of one awesome rubdown. She’d never felt looser or more relaxed.
He’d put her in a wonderful trance-like state with the darkened room, the peaceful music and ocean waves emitting from the sound system, his words spoken only in a whisper. Her brain was encased in a bubble that peacefully popped when he said, “All good? I’m done now. Take your time and dress when you’re ready. I’ll meet you out front.”
She pried her relaxed eyes open only to hear the door close behind him as he crept out. She took a deep breath and sighed it out. She felt good. Relaxed, no tension, no worries. Same as when Susan would finish a massage. But … different.
With Susan she never had to worry about the intense physical attraction that she had felt with Dax. Man, that boy was good-looking. Although she’d spent most of their hour together with her eyes closed, she pulled up a pretty accurate memory of his looks. She wouldn’t mind running her fingers through those waves of chestnut on his head. Soft, she imagined his hair was very soft, although perfectly rumpled and casual with no styling required. And while she was up there …
His face. She’d trail her fingers from his locks to his cheeks, run them over his prominent cheek bones, then down his jawline to …
His lips. He’d smile when her fingers reached them – maybe he was slightly ticklish there – but his stunning warm smile with his white teeth would cause her to move closer, with her own lips. Closer, closer till they were a breath away from touching. And then they’d …
Kiss. Faintly at first, feeling each other out, figuring out what they both liked, how the other tasted, this intimate connection, mouth to mouth. His lips would be soft, she decided, and his mouth would taste fresh like mints or chocolate or coffee. All her favorite things. The kiss would incite flutters in her stomach, and her heart, and she’d have to pull back to catch her breath by holding …
His shoulders. His strong, lean, muscular shoulders, leading to his arms. Oh, how she could run her hands up and down his arms to feel every inch of their form.
Suddenly, the room lightened, followed by a gasp and an “Oh, I’m so sorry, I thought you’d left already. Take your time.”
It wasn’t Dax’s voice, at least. It was a woman’s, probably the next masseuse scheduled to use this room, intending to prepare the room for her client. Not realizing that this particular customer would be lying there – how long had she been lying here anyway? – following her massage that, let’s face it, she didn’t even want in the first place, when she’d found out that Dax would be administering it.
Oh, how wrong she was.
Reluctantly, she dragged her legs out from under the sheet, maneuvered to a sitting position and hopped off the table. She made her way over to her clothes and began putting them on. Her fantasy of the good-looking masseuse caused her a little bit of embarrassment, knowing that she’d have to face him in mere seconds when she went out to pay her bill. And tip him. Here’s a ten, not only for the massage but the delicious fantasy afterward. Her challenge now would be not letting on that she’d spent the last few moments dreaming about him.
She left the room and made her way down the hall, repeating a silent mantra, Stay calm, stay cool. She arrived at the front desk, and there he was, in all his splendor, preparing her bill. Probably the best way to proceed was to avoid looking at him as much as possible. Then maybe he wouldn’t notice the evidence of her attraction: could he tell that her heart was racing, and her breath was catching at the mere sight of him?
“Thank you for coming today,” she heard him say. He pushed an invoice into the line of sight of her averted head.
“Thank you, nice job,” she murmured, not wanting to be rude. She pulled out her credit card and handed it to him, trying to ignore the fact that their fingers brushed against each other. Fingers touching. Shouldn’t be any big deal, considering he’d spent the last 60 minutes rubbing his hands over practically every inch of her body. So why did that mere finger brush cause a physical reaction in her?
Best to get out of there as quickly as possible. Then she could get home, get on with her life, her graduation, her impending parents’ meeting, her successful exit from college life. And she’d never see Dax, Susan, or this salon again.
He handed her something to sign, she signed it, and shoved her card back into her wallet. “Okay thanks again, bye.” She turned and headed to the door, congratulating herself on a successful exit.
“Oh, one moment, please,” she heard Dax say, but she kept moving. She was so over this little crush-moment and wanted to put it behind her. She was on the verge of major changes in her life. Time to get on with them.
She waved and headed out the door. She had reached the sidewalk when she realized he’d followed her out the door and was now standing outside on the top step of the salon. “Jasmine, wait … I wanted to give you your …”
She’d turned as he said her name, and again her heart fluttered like it had never seen a gorgeous, handsome man before, and since she was a fair distance away, and he wouldn’t be able to see her reaction clearly, she allowed herself one last opportunity to admire the sight of him, speaking to her.
And then, her body was thrown violently to the pavement, a crash of pain went through her forehead and all went black.