Samantha wasn’t very good at hiding a smile. “I take it that power lifting is what ‘real’ men do.”
He smiled at her as though he had no idea she was making fun of him, but then, with lightning speed, he scooped her and a couple of blankets off the bed, and while she was demanding that he put her down, he opened the door to the terrace and carried her outside.
Samantha had her hands to her side. “Put me down,” she said, doing her best not to touch him.
As though she weighed nothing at all, Mike held her over the rail, then half dropped her.
With a squeal of fright, Samantha grabbed him about the neck, holding him tightly.
“I like this,” he said, nuzzling her neck, and when Samantha’s grip loosened, he let his arms go slack until she again almost fell. She renewed her tight grip.
Samantha liked being in his arms, liked it very, very much. He was big and warm and so very strong. When he put his lips on her neck, for a moment she closed her eyes.
“Samantha,” he whispered.
She had too much self-discipline to give in to his plea or her own desires. “Release me,” she said, her voice serious.
Reluctantly, he set her down and for a moment he put his hand to her cheek. “You want to tell me what’s bothering you?” he asked softly.
For a moment, Samantha opened her mouth to speak but closed it again and quickly moved away from him. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. If I seem unusual to you, I’m sure it’s because I have recently buried my father and gone through a divorce. I doubt if anyone is ‘normal’ for a long time after two such traumatic events.”
“Did you write that little speech then rehearse it?” he asked, then when she started to speak, he put up his hand. “I don’t want to hear any more lies or platitudes. Why don’t you get dressed and come downstairs and make that computer work? Or better yet, don’t dress.”
Although Samantha let out a sigh of seeming frustration, she was glad he was no longer being serious. For a happy-go-lucky guy, he could sometimes be disconcertingly perceptive, which was yet another reason for her to get out of New York and away from him.
Grinning, she tried to match his mood. “I shall wear a white lace gown and—”
“Don’t!” Mike said, his eyes serious.
“I was just kidding.”
Turning away, he went to the door. “I’ll give you fifteen minutes, then I want you downstairs. You can’t stay up here in this mausoleum.” He frowned at the dark furniture and the dark curtains. “You can’t stay in this shrine to your father.” He left the room before Samantha could think of a reply.
Samantha spent the day with Mike. Heaven, she thought, but he was easy to be with. He was as unlike her father and husband as a person could be. Both her father and Richard had been CPAs, and perhaps that’s what gave them their exaggerated sense of order, but both men had always wanted everything in its place—a place chosen by them. Richard’s organization of the refrigerator had sometimes made Samantha want to scream. Her idea of doing something wild had been to put the bread in the milk spot. Once, when he was away on an overnight trip, she had taken everything out of the refrigerator and put it all back in different places. She’d even put the breads on three different shelves, something that would have sent Richard into a rage. Of course she put everything back in its correct order before he returned.
Mike wasn’t like Richard or her father. Mike seemed to have no hard and fast rules about anything. He didn’t eat by the clock, he ate when he was hungry. And he could feed himself! To Samantha this was a miracle. After her mother had died, Samantha had taken over the household chores, and it had been her responsibility to feed her father. She prepared meals at eight in the morning and twelve and at six-thirty, and after she had married, the schedule had stayed the same. Once, at a dinner party in Santa Fe, after she’d had two glasses of wine, someone had philosophically asked, What does it mean to be rich? Samantha was feeling too good to remember her place and control her tongue. Before anyone else spoke, she said, “A rich woman is one who, when she is in the vicinity of a man and that man says he is hungry, does not have a responsibility to feed him. The woman is truly rich.” Everyone at the table had laughed uproariously at Samantha’s comment, but Richard had been furious and after that he’d talked to her about her “tendency toward alcoholism” and had “suggested” that she stop drinking.
Mike wasn’t like the two men she had known, for he didn’t seem to have rules. Except maybe something on the order of, If it feels good, do it. When he saw Samantha pick up two of his shirts where he’d tossed them across a chair and without thinking about what she was doing slip them onto hangers, he snatched the third shirt out of her hands and threw it on the back of the couch. “I have a maid,” he said.
Embarrassed at having performed such a wifely little chore Samantha went to the boxes in the corner of the room and opened them. Pulling the flaps back, she inhaled what has come to be a heavenly smell to modern people: new vinyl. Mike laughed at the look on her face, which made Samantha feel embarrassed again, but she’d already discovered that Mike could take teasing as well as dish it out, unlike her ex-husband who considered himself sacrosanct.
“The smell of new electronic equipment is certainly better than the cheap perfume that you seem to prefer,” she snapped at him, making him laugh.
She had an idea that he meant to sit back and watch her hook up the computer, but she told him she wanted his help. Of course he had no idea how different this was for her. Her father and Richard believed that there was woman’s work and men’s work and that the two of them should not mingle. In the house she shared with her husband in Santa Fe, she had been in charge of computers, and it wasn’t unusual for her to come home from her second, evening job and find Richard in bed asleep, the computer left on, ready for her to save the material he had written that day and turn the machine
Now, it didn’t take Samantha long to hook up the computer and screen and attach the laser printer. It took a little more time to install the word-processing software, make an autoexec.bat, and set up a few other batch files.
Once the computer was set up, she told Mike she was ready to teach him the basics of how to use it. In the past four years she had taught many people how to use a computer, and she’d dealt with some bizarre problems. There was the woman who had stapled floppies to her printouts and the man who had broken the plastic case off the floppy and tried to insert the thin inner membrane into the disk drive.
But not in four years had she encountered anyone as difficult to teach as Mike, for he couldn’t seem to remember anything she told him. In teaching, she’d learned that patience was everything, but after two hours with him, she was losing her composure.
She found herself beginning to shout. “F seven, not the number seven,” she said to him, but Mike once again hit the number seven key, then looked at her with wide eyes.
Ten minutes later Samantha lost it. Clutching his neck with her hands, she began to choke him. “The F seven key! Do you hear me? The F seven key!”
Laughing, Mike pulled her into his arms, and they went tumbling to the floor together. It was then that she realized he had been pretending to be stupid, and she understood that he’d wanted to know how far she’d go before she lost her composure.