ABOUT THE BOOK:
When 37-year-old Melanie is challenged to find a mate by her overbearing mother, she finds herself in a relationship that pushes her sexual boundaries, and in a place like Sin City, that can be a precarious ride.
An homage to Erica Jong’s Any Woman’s Blues, The Opposite of Love is a psychological/sexual ride through Las Vegas and its local sex scene as experienced by two lovers who will test each other’s ability to accept them as they are, as well as their own ability to accept themselves.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
T.A. Pace lives in Las Vegas, NV, where she is an editor and writer. She can be reached at SexyVegasTA@aol.com or follow her on twitter @SexyVegasTA.
“I don’t remember what kind of wine we were drinking that night, do you?” Melanie asked.
Around eleven, Derek texted and asked if she wanted to have a drink at the Artisan. A nostalgic pang made her smile. She assigned Jen to drive Sarah home. Now she and Derek were sitting at the bar in the same seats as the night they met. It was a minor miracle they’d found seats at all; the place was jumping and a DJ was set up in the corner playing hip-hop and top-40 music.
“Some kind of chardonnay, I think,” said Derek. He ordered a bottle and they toasted the recovering Arts District.
“It must be nice to have the extra income again,” Melanie said.
“You said it. A teacher’s salary is no way to live.” Derek laughed morosely, then brightened. “But if the gallery keeps up at this rate, I’ll be coming to you for investment advice.”
“I hope you do,” said Melanie, but she knew he was exaggerating. “What else has been going on? How are things with Sharon?”
“That didn’t go so well.”
“We split. She was pushing for something serious. I couldn’t commit.”
“Really? Mr. Love-is-everything couldn’t commit? What’s the deal?”
“I can only commit to the right person. We didn’t have as much in common as I would’ve liked.”
“Like what?” Melanie asked. Anticipating that he’d be providing her with ammo she could use in a future debate, she turned in her chair to face him and give him her full attention.
“Don’t get all righteous on me.” Derek shook his head. “But we weren’t compatible in intellect. Or in bed.” He took a swig of his wine and Melanie thought she could see the color rise in his cheeks, although it was hard to tell for sure in the dim lighting.
“I’ll be damned.”
“What?” He still wouldn’t look at her.
“Yep.” He nodded repeatedly. “It matters.”
“So then why am I dating a friggin’ cop with no advanced degree and no apparent limit to the kinkiness of his sexual preferences.”
Derek choked on his wine, struggled valiantly to recover, and said, “Where to begin, Mel?”
“You tell me.”
“Does it bother you that he’s a cop?”
Truth be told, it had at first. In fact, she’d pocketed it thinking it would make a nice exit strategy if nothing else worked. She could always say that his work was too dangerous, that she was afraid of him getting killed. But his job wasn’t even remotely dangerous. He’d only pulled his gun once since he’d been promoted to detective, and even then it was on a dog, and he hadn’t fired. She’d also thought that a blue-collar man was beneath her, but she found that he was smart—even without an advanced degree—smart enough to debate with her, and to occasionally be right. And she also found nobility in his reasons for becoming a cop in the first place. To want to make a difference on such a substantial scale, even in the face of bureaucracy and cutbacks and painfully incremental successes was admirable, and she could see the value in being with a man with that kind of moral virtue and determination.
Derek nodded as she explained her thoughts on James’ job. “What’s this about the kink?” he asked.
“It’s been interesting,” Melanie said. And it was her turn to blush. She spared him the pooling, the spanking, and simply explained that he introduced her to things she’d never really explored before.
“Well, have you ever been to the Green Door?”
“Actually, I have. It’s pretty cool if you’re open-minded about that kind of thing. Place is huge. Like the Disneyland of sex.”
Melanie gaped at him.
“I had no idea you were so…”
Derek laughed. “Hardly. Went there once with a girl I was dating who liked to be tied up. Went another time on my own. That’s pretty much it.”
“Really? Tied up?”
“Yeah. And choked. It was kind of weird. But I’d never done any of that before so I figured, what the hell. You never know what’s going to flip your switch ’til you try it.”
Melanie thought about the spankings she’d been getting, how it turned her on so much that her juices wet the insides of her thighs before James even touched her there. She never would have thought it would be so hot to be the recipient of pain.
“So what did you think of it? Tying her up and choking her?”
“Wasn’t really my thing.”
Melanie was swirling her chardonnay, watching the legs crawl down the sides of the glass, deep in thought about this new side of Derek, the sexually experienced Derek. Perhaps kinky even.
“So I take it you’ve either been already or you’re thinking about going,” he said.
“He wants to go this weekend. I’m nervous. I worry about people seeing me and knowing who I am.”
“If that’s all you’re worried about, definitely go. It’s wild. And if they can see you, you can see them too.”
“That’s what James said.”
“Smart guy. Can’t wait to meet him.”
When Melanie finished her second glass of chardonnay she ordered water. It was almost one a.m. and she’d need to drive soon.
“Have you been here much since we met?” Derek asked.
“Once or twice I think. Still reminds me of that night though.” She smiled at him and he rubbed her upper arm.
“Shall we end it the same way tonight?” he asked.
Her smile disappeared. She had expected the invitation, but she hadn’t realized that there was a dilemma involved until it presented itself. She was dating James now, and they’d both established that they weren’t seeing other people. Semantically, she wasn’t “seeing” Derek, so there was a loophole there. But she knew she and James had both meant sex as well when they’d had the discussion. So in this moment, in the face of this invitation, Melanie was forced to decide what kind of relationship she wanted to have. If she wanted something casual, she could do whatever she wanted, as long as she gave James the same freedom. But if she wanted to have a serious relationship, she could no longer sleep with Derek. It seemed a surprisingly cruel loss to endure.
“Let me guess,” he said, sparing her the explanation. “You and James are monogamous?”
“Yeah,” she said, her tone full of regret. “We are.”
“Hey, don’t be bummed about it. This is really great news,” he said. “That means things are going well, right?”
She smiled at him. Ever the optimist. Silver linings and unicorns.
“I would say things are going well so far, yes. Ask me again after the Green Door.”
He laughed. “I will. Can’t wait to hear all about it.”
They left the bar and headed toward the front door, but Derek pulled her into a small room to the back of the lobby. “Ever been in here?” he said.
There were four wooden pews on either side of a short aisle that led to an elevated platform. Six paintings hung on the wall of the tiny room.
“No. What is this, a chapel?”
“Yep. They do weddings here.”
Drifting slowly around the room, Melanie studied the artwork. The paintings were in the style of 16th century Renaissance art, replete with wistful women and wise infants.
In one, a baby reached its hands greedily toward the mother, while looking at the viewer with knowing accusation; Melanie found herself a bit creeped out by it. In another, a mother held a child in her lap and a cherubic cupid stood on the floor to her right pulling her attention completely away from the infant. But the one that drew Melanie’s attention hung just inside the door of the chapel. A young woman, naked from the waist up, pushed an armed cupid forcefully away from her. The cupid held his arrow expertly, with the coordinated hand of a grown man, the tip of his forefinger against the shaft, aiming it at the woman’s heart. Her hands were on his shoulders, elbows locked out, fending him off. It seemed a strange choice for a chapel, but then they all did.
“You like that one?” Derek asked.
“It’s odd, don’t you think?”
Derek shrugged. “Who do you think wins?”
“Tough to say, since the cupid has the advantage of not being real and therefore not held to the rules of reality.”
“So he’s got tricks?”
Derek laughed. He walked Melanie to her car in the self-parking area and hugged her close, not letting her go after the usual three seconds. “Just because you’re in a relationship now doesn’t mean you have to be a stranger, ok?”
“Ok,” she said. “I’ll call. We’ll have lunch or something. Like normal people.”
Derek laughed and kissed her on the forehead. She got into her SUV and waved to him as she pulled out.
He mouthed to her, “Be safe.”