Book Excerpt

Rules of Engagement
By C. Michael Bennis

Chapter III, London, July 1964

Alec ventured out into the great metropolitan ambience of London after a full English breakfast that included scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, black pudding, mushrooms, baked beans, hash brown potatoes, half a tomato and English breakfast tea. The morning’s humid seventy-plus-degree weather beckoned delightfully as Alec walked happily amid the smells of exhaust and the sounds of traffic. The morning was an orchestra of sounds. He was now being entertained with the chirping of unseen birds, and the strange dialogue of rapid speaking Pakistanis at the corner launderette. Alec’s keen senses were totally alive. Now he smiled delightedly with the smells of Balkan pipe tobacco, while ahead a young couple stopped to kiss.

Alec took the 52-bus to the Park, along Knightsbridge to Kensington Gate, where he got out across from the round brick building that is the Royal Albert Hall. He couldn’t miss the Albert Memorial, erected by Queen Victoria in memory of her late husband.

He was an hour early, so he sat in front of the statue. The metropolitan park with the spectacular trees, shrubs and greenery was overwhelmingly beautiful this morning. For perhaps the first time in over a year, Alec Santana was no longer restless. His adventuresome, competitive, and often angry spirit had dissipated and a feeling of peaceful tranquility washed over him in the morning sunlight. Alec was enamored with everything about him. This new day came with a gypsy spirit and the whisper of romance as one intuitive feeling tingled inside of him. Her name was Nicole.

The sun gently warmed his face. In an almost mystical sensation, Alec began to feel as one with the Park, the trees and the soft warm glow of the sunshine. The humid air and the sounds of chattering, chirping birds settled his expectant mind as he laid his head back on his forearm and looked up at the clouds drifting by. He smiled. ‘Perhaps she won’t show,’ but he knew otherwise. ‘The two of them were entrapped in unfolding temptation. There was a faint whisper of promise in the morning breeze that their lives would heretofore be markedly different than before. Somehow he knew she would be on time for their romantic rendezvous.

Back to TopShe was now walking toward him. He had been mistaken; she was early.

“Alec, I’ve come to tell you this won’t work.” Then she laughed and sat beside him on the cement. “I believe I’m here because I wanted to see if you’d be here. Do you believe that?”

“Yes. Honestly, I could not talk myself out of coming. I felt drawn to you as a moth is drawn to a flame.”

She looked down. “Nice simile, Alec.” Then she rose and started to walk away, but she stopped after several steps. “I can’t do it alone. Release me, Alec.”

“Hit the road, Jack. And don’t you come back, no more, no more!”

“Ray Charles. I love Ray Charles, Alec. Why Alec, do you always find the words that will draw me back to you?”

“You won’t like the answer, Nicole. It just happens. And maybe it was meant to happen.”

She looked at him without expression. “I’ve already thought of that.”


“I believe it to be true.” She sat beside him and reached for his hand. “This is not possible, Alec. I should not do this!” Then she started laughing. “It is so inescapably tempting to be with you! Oh, you know what?”


“We need some explicit principles to guide our conduct.

“Prescribing what is possible and allowable?” Alec laughed.

“Exactly! We need rules. Americans live without rules, but we French love rules!”

Back to Top“I’m unaware of that.”

“It’s true. You have to believe me! What we need are: Rules of Engagement!” She stopped and became very pensive. She searched Alec’s eyes with scrutiny. “You must not screw up, Alec! I have my whole life planned out!”

“You look scrumptious at this moment. I will agree to anything!”

“Okay. Here’s what is permissible and allowable: Rule number one: We never fall in love. Rule number two: We never provide information that might reveal our identities. Rule number three: Our relationship can and will be ended by departure forever. Beyond the Three Rues of Engagement, there are no further rules or restrictions. Now give me your hand, and with our handshake of honor we will admit to abide by the rules.”

“Nicole, I promise to abide by the rules of engagement!”

“Alec, I promise to abide by the rules of engagement! Now I need a forever kiss, please.”

They embraced and kissed for the longest period, and they were both flushed when they pulled apart. “Wow!” he said. “It gets better.”

“Throw water all over me, or let’s walk,” said Nicole.

They walked for several minutes. Nicole’s eyes were staring at the ground when she paused and turned to face him. Her face scrunched up with concentration, and for a brief moment Alec had a glimpse of what Nicole might have looked as a child. Then she bit her lower lip in a trembling motion. And in a barely audible voice she asked, “How long do you plan to be in London?”

“That has been on my mind all morning. My new wheels will be delivered to the B & B in three days. Then I’m off to Paris where my best friend, Tom, is waiting. From then on, we’re going to travel about Europe for the rest of the summer.”

Back to Top“You will leave London in two days?”

“Yes. That’s when I’m scheduled to leave. And that’s bothering me.”

“You would drive off in your new car?”

“That’s my schedule. What do you think, Nicole?”

“I don’t like that at all!”

Nicole was unusually silent. They strolled through the Flower Walk, up the Broadwalk to the Round Pond, and then they cut over to the Serpentine Gallery. Nicole had still not said a word, until they reached the Peter Pan Statue, and there she turned to Alec with a stricken look.. “Alec, you cannot do this!”

“I agree.”


“I can’t leave, Nicole! I’m not ready. It would be unbearable to leave so soon!”

“Alec, you’re not alone! Now, only thoughts of you fill my mind.”

They looked into each other’s eyes, and gently embraced. Nicole was the first to speak, “I think you should call the car factory. Maybe tell them and also your friend, Tom. You should say that you’re not going to accept the car nor be in Paris as planned. Could you do that?”

“Yes,” he smiled.

Nicole experienced such pleasure that she jumped upward and circled her arms around his neck and wrapped her legs around his body. She hugged him tightly. “You are a wonderful man!” Then she released him. She was thinking. “How about nine days together? Today is Monday, July 13th. Counting today and tomorrow makes two days. If we add one week, before you set off, that’ll be nine days for us. That way, you leave London on Wednesday, July 22nd. What do you think?”

“I think we should start walking. There must be public telephones in Kensington Gardens. I’ll need to convert some pound notes into change. A coffee place should do. What do you think?”

Back to Top“Let’s run! You’ve made me so happy!”

Alec laughed. It would be hard to ever refuse this remarkable woman.

Alec completed the telephone calls changing the delivery to Wednesday, July 22nd, and alerting Tom to the change in plans. When they walked away together Nicole said, “Alec, please sit with me by the Italian Gardens and tell me about your car.”

“It’s a 1964 Austin Healey 3000 BJ8 Mark III. The cars are built here in England, but 89% of them are exported to the U.S. The Healey is a sports car that can be driven to work during the week. Then used as a weekend racer or to compete in rally motor sport.”

“Alec, I have ridden in that car! It’s what my father would call strong and torquey. It has an unmistakable throaty exhaust that is so sexy. Lucky you! It will make every woman want to seduce you!”

“How do you feel about that?”

“Nicole parted with a phony, menacing stare. “I won the award for the most successful advertising campaign for a new brand. The secret was that you don’t have to tell people what they already know. The same goes for you, Alec. The answer you already know.”

“So it would bother you to think of women wanting to seduce me?”

“Uh ho, I see where you’re going. Yes, Alec, it would bother me.” She smiled.

“Uh Oh!” Alec smirked. “What would you say if I were to tell you that I have excellent faculty recommendations for New York interviews with Young & Rubicam, Grey Advertising and Ted Bates?”

“First, I refer you to Rule number two: We never provide information that might reveal our identities.” She looked sadly at Alec. “Our relationship is finite. In nine days, kaput! Are you appropriately admonished?”

“Yes, and I’m sorry.”

“You should be! You should also know there’s little creativity in any of those agencies. Why did you pick them? What’s wrong with Mary Wells?”

Back to Top“The singer? I like her song, My Guy.”

“Are you an idiot? Doyle Dane Bernbach in New York is renown for creativity and innovative work. Mary Wells is their copywriter; she is the best in the world! Mon Dieu! You have to be from some God Forsaken place in the US hinterland where they ride horses and fuck chickens!”


Nicole’s eyes were huge, her mouth was open and she was speechless. Alec reached over and closed her mouth. “Thanks for the advice.”

“You pass yourself awfully well for a rural nitwit.”

“Nice compliment!”

“What have I gotten myself into?”

“Nothing you can’t get out of with an apology!”

“Okay, I apologize. You really upset me!”

“Nicole, I honestly didn’t know about Doyle Dane.”

“I know, Alec. Don’t you see what’s happening?”

“Now I do. ”

“Okay. Promise you will apply to DDB! It’d be for account services, correct?”

“Yes, and I promise.”


Back to Top“Come closer, Nicole. You’re adorable when you are angry.”

“You would have to be the only person in the world to think so!”

They kissed and rolled and laughed across the grass. Then they talked about crazy things, such as Alec’s weird ears from boxing and his broken nose. He noticed Nicole had one ear larger than the other, and two of her front teeth crossed. Nicole also had a habit of chewing her bottom lip when she became aroused, as she was now doing. She kissed him again, and asked, “Does she kiss you like I do?”

“Please don’t go there, Nicole.”

“Dammit, I want to know!”

“Nicole, she’s not there any more. Truthfully, I’ve never experienced a kiss as exciting as yours!”

She smiled, “That’s why they it call French kissing!”

. . .

The day passed into late afternoon and Alex marveled how this sophisticated, intelligent woman giggled with the unrestrained pleasure of an adolescent child. She was now sticking her tongue between her teeth, “Okay, what would you do to get one of my exciting kisses?”

“Why, I would invite you to dinner. It would help if you selected the place.”

“I know the perfect place! It’s called the Tiddydolls Restaurant in Shepherd’s Market Mayfair. They have a fabulous Shepherds Pie. You’ll love it!”

“Interesting. A doll with woman’s breasts?”

Back to Top“No, silly. Tiddydoll was supposedly a great French gingerbread maker. It’s very British, despite the gingerbread.”

Outside Kensington Gardens, they caught a big black taxi and Nicole told the driver their destination. Then she carefully traced the contours of Alec’s face with her fingertips. Alec’s whiskers were already a dark shadow, and she affectionately rubbed his whiskers. Nicole whispered in his ear, “Such nice testosterone.” Then her tongue explored the contours of Alec’s ear, as he opened the buttons of her blouse.

Careful at first, they quickly plunged into the passion of mutual discovery, until the heightened pleasure of their racing libidos became interrupted by the driver’s gruff admonition that they had arrived at their destination. The two shaky passengers exited the taxi red-faced and disoriented, as they made their way into the restaurant where a crowd of people waited for the next available table.

Alec experienced disappointment. They would assuredly never secure a table in this popular restaurant. At the reservation desk, he said, “Two for Santana, please.”

The lady replied, “I don’t even know if I can seat you tonight. Let me check, please.”

He turned to Nicole. She was blushing. “Alec, you just broke Rule number two of our Terms of Engagement, Alec Santana! How downright naughty of you!”

“Oops. It just seemed so natural… I didn’t think.

He was about to suggest they leave when Nicole approached the maître d’. They spoke briefly, and then Nicole returned with a mischievous smile. Moments later the maître d’ returned. “Mademoiselle Bocart, your table is ready. Will your father be joining you and your gentleman friend?”

“No, Raymond, it will just be Mr. Santana and me.”

Back to Top“Of course, please follow me.”

Alec was grinning from ear to ear, and he pinched Nicole’s bum.

She looked up at him with a smirk and retorted, “Cool it, Alec!”

When they were seated, the waiter asked if Nicole would like to begin ‘as usual,’ and she nodded consent. Nicole was smiling at him. “Oops. How, funny, huh?”

“It’s okay, Nicole Bocart! I already had your essence permanently etched in my mind and heart. It will always be there.

“Alec Santana, I’m so irresistibly drawn to you!”

“Me too. As I once said, as a moth to the flame!”

“No, Alec. No burning up! Our affair cannot exist beyond nine days. You know this! We must go our separate ways when this is over!”

“Hey, I agreed.”

“Good. Now, you must know that my father is inviting us to dinner this evening. He has charge privileges at a number of places in London, and his company picks up all expenses. Oh, and to anticipate your sense of fairness, please don’t worry about my father getting into trouble because we dined on his expense account. You see, Alec, he owns the company.” Nicole’s Cheshire cat smile watched him as they were served what Alec supposed was a very expensive white wine. Nicole raised her glass “To my handsome man.”

Alec raised his glass, “To my lovely Mademoiselle and to her father, the host of tonight’s dinner!”

Their glasses clinked together and Alec saw concern in Nicole’s eyes.

Back to Top“Don’t be shaken by all this, Alec. We’re far more provincial than you might ever imagine.”

“Nicole, my father is a medical doctor, a psychiatrist. I would suspect you and your family have a great deal of money.”

“Beyond your wildest imagination.”

“And the prince charming in your life.”

“Of that ilk, my darling.”

“What are you doing with a man from some God Forsaken place in the US hinterland where they ride horses and fuck chickens?”

“I’m feeling emotions I never knew existed. I’m also beginning to think there are unfathomable depths I could go with you. It’s scary, Alec!”

“Let me be your touchstone of sanity. Get your feet back on the ground.”

“No I have another place to put them!”

Nicole’s toes found his crotch and began making all sorts of erotic movements to this very sensitive area, and all the while she looked serenely into his eyes. “Alec, I warn you. If you don’t calm down something’s going to pop.”

“You don’t play fair.”

“No, I don’t. And what a nice surprise you have in your jeans! There, I have removed the stimulating toes. You’re an amazing man, Alec Santana! So now that you have clamed down, what do you think of this place?”

“It’s terrific. Oh, and how funny, but I think your face has turned a lovely shade of crimson. Squirming in your chair is not acceptable, Nicole. I’m enjoying this!”

Back to Top“Stop it. I apologize for calming you down by psyching you up!”

They were now drinking red wine, and enjoining their main curse. Both were slightly tipsy. Nicole was savoring her Shepherd’s pie and Alec was enjoying jugged hare, which he referred to as ‘jackrabbit.” There was an unhurried sensual feeling going on beneath the table. Soon they were feeding each other tidbits of morsels with their forks. With more wine, Alec received two of Nicole’s fingers supporting a tidbit of potatoes and meat, and he slowly took her fingers into his mouth and then gently licked them clean. Then Alec extended his fingers full of greasy jugged hare and gravy into Nicole’s waiting lips and she ravenously drew in the food and retained the fingers inside her mouth in a gentle sucking motion that excited Alec. Their hunger for each other grew with the sensual feeding of samples back and forth across the table, while the room temperature seemed to have risen astronomically from activities carried out under the dinner table.

“Alec, would you think poorly of me if I were to make love to you on our second date?”

“Nicole, you have no idea how badly I want to make love to you.”

“Yes, I do. I feel the same way!”

“Only you will have no trouble walking out of here!”

“Sorry. One look at my face and no one will need to look between your legs to know what is going on.”

“What time do you have to return tonight?”

“Essentially, whenever I want. I’ll return tomorrow morning?”

“Is the Bed & Breakfast acceptable, Nicole?”

“Oh, yes. I can’t wait!”

Nicole got the check and signed. “Thanks, Father.”

Back to Top“Thanks, Monsieur Bocart,” said Alec.

“Please come with me, and Alec took her hand as they began walking slowly, with their almost uncontrollable laughter kept just barely at bay as they moved unsteadily to exit the Tiddydoll House. Once street side the laughter they had suppressed erupted and they held each other as they laughed with unrestrained happiness. Then Alec drew Nicole to him and their navels pressed forcibly against each other. The nighttime glowed with romantic ambience in the spring-like evening, and tingling energy flowed back and forth through their bodies.

The doorman stepped out from the shadows. “Would the gentleman and the lady need a taxi?”

“Oh, yes,” they both said at the same time.”

The doorman waived a taxi forward from the street side queue. Alec tipped him and gave the driver the name of the B & B. Again they were inside one of the lovely, spacious English taxis. Once the taxi pulled away, Nicole and Alec tumbled together in the back seat as they became obsessed with erotic groping. Their intense passion for each other was unrestrainedly powerful when the taxi arrived at the B&B.

They nearly ran past the B & B owner who smiled with a nostalgic expression. Then they were in Alec’s room where Nicole said, “Je t’âme, je t’adore que vous-tu encore. I love you, I adore you, Alec, what more could you want!”

“Nothing more, Nicole. I am complete”

They crashed onto the bed. Shoes and clothes were tossed, and Nicole spoke softly, “Darling, do you have a condom?”

Alec laughed. ”As a matter of fact I do!”

Back to Top“How naughty of you to have foreseen this!”

She stopped and gave Alec a loving glance he would remember for the rest of his life. Then Nicole and Alec became lost in uncontrollable passion.

The next morning they both arose shakily. They had spent the entire night stimulating and loving each other. Nicole was the first to use the shower down the hall, and then it became Alec’s turn. Nicole had already left when he returned from the shower. There was no note.

That evening Alec was sitting alone in his room. His despair was intolerable. He and Nicole had broken their rules of Engagement. Rule number one – They had fallen in love. Rule number two – They had revealed their identities. And they had seemingly summoned the demon of Rule number three: Their relationship was now ended by departure forever.
. . .

Alec felt tears welling in his eyes and he tried to draw in breath but he couldn’t. He was making gasping sounds when there was a loud knock on the door. ‘Obviously, he was upsetting someone.’ He chose to disregard caution and he flung the door wide open to discover Nicole standing before him with a suitcase. The next thing he knew, Nicole was in his arms kissing him passionately.

He choked, “I thought you had left forever.”

“No, darling, I’m back to be with you until you drive away in your new car! Have you eaten today, Alec?”

“No, I wasn’t hungry.”

“Oh, my poor Alec! I would never have believed such a physically powerful man could be so vulnerable!” She hesitated and grinned, “And so untruthful.”

“Go figure, huh?”

“You’re first rate, Alec! And now, we’re going to feed you.”

Back to Top“Okay.”

They went outside and walked to the neighborhood Pub. Nicole suggested Alec order Bangers and Mash, with two forks. He looked at her strangely, and she assured him, “Trust me, you’ll like it.” Then they both selected Watney’s Red Barrel tap draught.

Nicole turned to Alec with a serious expression. “Tell me. What’s she like?”

Alec looked uncomfortable. “It’s best we don’t do this. She’s no longer there.”

“Please. I really want to know.”

He sighed. “She’s very blonde, tall, and athletic. Sally is thoughtful, playful, and considerate. She is an art major. When she is truly upset, she draws the most amazing sketches of horses and wild animals.” Alec suddenly stopped and laughed. “Once she chased me about our apartment with her sketchpad. When I consented, I was later amazed at how good her sketch turned out.”

“You two lived together?”

“Yes, during the last semester of our junior year at the University of Colorado. Then Sally flew to Argentina, and stayed on. I spent the last year of college without her.

Nicole looked into Alec’s eyes for the longest time without speaking. Then she said, “Your Sally is totally different from me. Is her love making better?”

“It was different. Very athletic and well… sort of rushed. It was Zim-Zam and wham it was over.”

Nicole grinned. “I’m better, huh?”

“Assuredly so. Now please tell me about your prince charming.”

“I don’t want to.”

Back to Top“But you will.”

My husband-to-be, Phillipe, is slight and not much taller than I am. He is the son of the man who might become the most powerful politician in France. Phillipe is refined and elegant. We grew up together. It was always expected by both families that we would marry. As you can imagine Phillipe is dissimilar to the man I love.” The blood drained from Nicole’s face. “Alec, that was so Freudian!”

Alec looked at Nicole in astonishment.

“Let it go, Alec. Please?”

“Okay, Nicole.”

. . .

“We need to talk. This will be a very serious talk about a very delicate issue. It must be addressed. What I am going to say is a form of constructive criticism. You could become angry. But we cannot put this off any longer, Mr. Santana!”


“The sexual intercourse we share needs… to be adjusted. You are an incredible athlete. Your body is magnificent. I cannot pinch loose skin anywhere on you. You are beautiful, Alec. Your sexual prowess is magnificent. Despite all this, you are a clumsy neophyte in bed. Your idea of sex is Zim-Zam, Goddamn; get it over as fast as you can! It’s disgraceful! You have this wonderful penis that you employ as if you were a Fireman and you must finish before you’re called to respond to a fire.

“We are greatly in need of a drastic change. Making love is what I want to do with you. Coitus is the delicious dessert after long sensual preparations. The goal is not how quickly and how many times you can explode inside of me. The goal is for us to climax together at the very same time. The arousal process in a woman needs time and great attention to her sensitive erogenous zones.

“Alec, don’t give me that hurt little boy look! I intend to lead you. I promise you will enjoy our love much more. Okay?”

Back to Top“Okay.”

“Were going to play with each other for a time without end. Please listen carefully to what I say. I shall tell you what I’m feeling. I expect the same from you.

The night became day and the afternoon stretched into darkness. When they were drained of energy, Nicole held tightly onto Alec’s penis and said, “I have never been so wonderfully pleased in my life. This has been the sum total of all the magnificent experiences I have ever imagined!” Alec was speechless and he just nodded his head affirmatively.

They embraced and Alec whispered, “I love you with my heart and soul. I have never loved anyone as I love you.”

Nicole replied, “Alec, put those feelings out of your mind forever. I also love you, darling, but what we share will soon end forever.”

An hour later they were in the Pub again. They were shaky, disoriented, clumsy and voraciously hungry. Nicole reached under their booth and squeezed Alec’s penis. “You proved you could do it. Oh, did you ever! And now in this very moment, I am filled with nostalgia. I will soon be saying goodbye to the greatest lover I have ever known. Alec, you are destined to bring pleasure to many lucky women.

“This makes me very angry and jealous. I have this wild urge to lock you up and keep you only for myself. I want more than anything in the world to possess you forever. But that can never be! I am going to free you. I am going to open my hands as if you were a beautiful dove and watch with tears in my eyes as you fly away forever.”

. . .

They were making love. Nicole was astride Alec, sitting upward, her eyes were closed with pleasure and gently she slumped downward into Alec’s waiting arms. In this wonderful interlude Alec whispered,

“Why not?”

Back to Top“Because!” Then Nicole pinched his neck painfully with her teeth.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering.”

“My darling, we come from two different worlds.”

“Is it because I’m not wealthy? Is it because I admittedly know less than you about my chosen career?

“No, my darling. Let’s say it’s because you don’t have a family cemetery that dates back to the fourteenth century.”

“What does that have to do with it?”

“Everything. Alec, you could never fit into my world. I come from a place where customs and traditions have been passed down for centuries. My husband was chosen by my family because of a relationship between the two families that goes back hundreds of years. You would soon grow to hate the world I live in.”

“In other words, you’re rich and I’m poor.”

Nicole took his face in her hands and stared sternly into his eyes. “Alec, you could not imagine my life. The wealth is beyond belief. The possessions are worth more than the combined wealth of many countries. It’s not a question of rich and poor. It’s about aristocracy. It’s about an elite social class that would be unfathomable for you to assimilate with.

“In a very short time, you would hate me. Alec, you would never be accepted in my world, where you would be perceived as my prize stud bull. You would become humiliated beyond belief. Cynical aristocrats would continually make fun of you. It would be horrible, my darling!”

. . .

“Alec, there’s something I must ask. I’d like to know about your friend Tom. What can you tell me about him?”

“Tom and I were roommates in Baker Dormitory our freshman year at the University of Colorado. I had been in the room for preseason football practice two weeks before he arrived. When he met me, my nose was taped onto my face, and I was cut and banged up beyond belief. He walked up to me and said, ‘my name is Tom. I’m majoring in mathematics, and from the looks of you, I think you need someone to pound some sense into you. You are here to expand your brain. The brawn is bullshit. It will be of no use once you leave the campus. I suspect Divine Intervention placed me in this room to keep you focused on what’s important and what’s not.’ You ask me about Tom? He is my very best friend.

Back to TopWhy do you ask?”

“What if I want to take his place in the Austin Healey? We could travel throughout Europe together, just the two of us. What do you say?”

“No, Nicole. That cannot happen. Tom stays. However I have an idea. We could park the two-seater Healey with your parents. Then the three of us would drive off in one of your parents’ cars. How about that?”

“My father would never let you drive his Bentley. He will not even allow my mother to drive it.”

“What’s a Bentley?”

“Bentley Motors makes responsive and powerful 200 mph Grand Tourer that are renowned for quality, comfort and style. They’re exquisite!”

“Okay. How about the gardener’s car?”

“Ah-ha! That would work. The Citroën 2CV deux chevaux is a very small car but it would accommodate the three of us. Many of the students at the Sorbonne drive them. You might call it an umbrella on wheels. The engine is not much larger than a sewing machine. It has a top speed of 60 mph that drops rapidly in the mountains, and it gets 60 miles to a gallon of gas. I think you would hate it!”

“I’d love it! What fun. You could drive while Tom and I push you up big hills. What a blast!”

Back to Top“Ugh! Americans are crazy!”

. . .

The sands were rapidly draining out of the hourglass. The days of love and pleasure were coming to an end. It was evening in Alec’s room at the B&B. There was one remaining day for Alec and Nicole to be together. Then Alec would receive his Austin Healey and begin the drive east toward the Channel and Paris.

Nicole was the most seductive Alec could ever remember. She was all over him, teasing him, delivering painful little bites and following him everywhere. He had lost count of the times they had made love. Nicole was kissing him, hugging him and tormenting him without stop. She was now biting his big toe. “Hey! That hurts!” Now she was nibbling her way up toward his navel. “Ooh, I think I’ll bite it!” Alec quickly slid upward in the bed and covered himself with his hands. “Dammit, Nicole. Stop!”

She slid her naked body upward along Alec’s body and gently bit his nose. “You think you can do it once more?” He groaned, “Maybe in a little bit.” She started rubbing her navel across his penis. “Does that feel good?” “Of course,” he said.

“I’ve been thinking. Alec, you should not work for an advertising agency. I am fearful you might get lost in their corporate culture. No, no, no. That’s not where you should go. There would be long hours and little pay in the beginning. Not for you my love. I’ve just realized where you belong!”

“Nicole, you are talking business at the same time you’re rubbing my penis between your thighs. Are you crazy?”

“I believe that’s the only way to get your attention. Sometimes you have attention deficit problems. What I am going to say is of serious importance. You must listen. The place where you belong is in advertising sales. It’s perfect for you. You are a natural salesman! Your job will be to sell advertising space to advertising agencies and clients. You will make considerably more money. They will give you an unlimited expense account. You will dress in the finest clothes. I can see you, Alec – you will be so elegant! Your job will be to make as many presentations as you possibly can. Agencies will all come to love you. Clients will depend upon you. You will be entertaining clients and prospects in the finest restaurants, you will attend concerts, the theatre, you will play golf and tennis and you will enjoy a life second to none!”

Back to Top“Wow, Nicole. That sounds fabulous! Where should I begin?”

“That’s the hard part. You may have to start at the bottom. Perhaps you might consider a crusty old financial publication like Dun’s. Alec, that’s it. Go there, convince them, and then sell like Hell! Once you do that, get out at once, and move to one of the top consumer magazines.”

“Okay, Nicole, what’s the best consumer magazine?”

“Mon Dieu, you do listen! LIFE Magazine is the best. That’s where you will be the happiest.

“Nicole, you’re crying.”

“So, sorry. I mustn’t do that!” Her face scrunched up with concentration, and for a brief moment Alec had a glimpse of what Nicole might have looked as a child. Then she bit her lower lip in a trembling motion. And in a barely audible voice she said, “Hey, my big, gorgeous, darling man, I’m going to run down to the street and get some fags. We’re out of Benson & Hedges. I’ll be right back.” She dressed slowly, and hesitated at the door to look back at Alec. There was such pain in her eyes, and then the tears really flowed. She shouted, “I love you so much!” and then she disappeared behind the closed door.

That was the last time Alec saw Nicole. He tried to come after her, but she had vanished. Alec knew she was gone forever when he saw the partially full pack of Benson & Hedges on the floor. In his sadness and solitude, he was actually able to smile. There was no way they could have endured the pain of tomorrow and their subsequent parting forever. It was truly better this way.