Read The Mystery of Jessica Benson Online
Authors: C.K. Laurence
Cover Art by Zachary Laurence
Author Photo by Steve Martin
Author's Make-Up by Darren of Bal Harbor
All rights reserved including the right to reproduce this book
or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.
For information: [email protected]
Published by Purple Books Publishing
Palm Desert, CA 92260
To begin. I thank Ronni Sanlo, someone who I have
loved and respected nearly all my life, for reading my first novel
and enjoying it enough to call and invite me to write for Purple
Books Publishing. There is nothing so satisfying writing for a
publisher with a purpose--a cause in which I believe, and
working with a friend so dear. It just doesn't get any better than
With love and thanks to my amazing husband Peter, the
very best children Joshua, Abigail, Emily, Zachary, who I am so
proud of, and son-in-law extraordinaire Craig Jenne for their
encouragement and support.
A huge hug and sloppy kiss for my dear friend, Vicki
Penn Zimmaro, who schlepped one hundred miles and gave up a
weekend to help me convert my manuscript. Working with you
was nothing short of pure pleasure--having you for a friend is a
A shout out to the Vikettes--my high school buddies
who have come back into my life to remind me what it's like to
be in high school again. Yoo Hoo Girls, Love you!!
To all of my old friends, always the best, (you know
who you are)--you are the wind beneath my wings and whether
or not we see each other as often as we would like, you are in my
heart and thoughts constantly.
For restoring my mental health and making me whole at
last, thank you to Dr. Tom Bruce. You are the kindest, gentlest
human being and one helluva therapist!
Huge thanks to my Swiss Family, past, present and
future (with extra hugs to Try Thinking, The Baglady, Emeritus,
Absolute Truth, Dredwak, Maineiacgirl and bad boy Smitty) for
keeping me laughing during the last few football seasons when
all I really wanted to do was cry...
small crowd of jocks on testosterone overload surrounded her,
enchanted by her practiced act. She carelessly flirted, laughing
seductively, reminding him yet again what a jackass he’d been
for so many months. Breaking up with her was not simply
option…it was the only option. No, he would not postpone the
inevitable for another day. It was time to pull himself out of the
quicksand that was Jessica Benson. Miserable, he slammed the
door to the den shut and leaned against it.
“Damn!” cursed Kyle Sands, veteran quarterback for the
Miami Demons. Wanting to avoid a scene, the plan had been to
take her out for dinner tonight and end the charade their
relationship had become. With an audience, he thought she
would be less likely to go ballistic. But Jessica already had plans
for their evening.
“Let’s party tonight!” Party, like every other night, this
time at the home of his worst nightmare, Tyrell Utley. Kyle
argued against it, but she was insistent. It was easier to do it her
way one more time. So here he was, imprisoned in the den of his
biggest rival, with nothing to do but a slow burn.
Kyle sat down in one of Tyrell’s trendy but miserably
uncomfortable chairs, and stared at the enormous television
screen set in backlit wall units that showcased the countless
trophies chronicling Utley’s rise to prominence. Framed jerseys
from high school and college, like bookends, testified that #8
was #1 in Tuskegee, Alabama. Arrogant son of a bitch.
Kyle hit the remote, figuring to watch the Miami
Hurricanes whip the Gators in the University of Florida Swamp.
But what he got instead was a DVD of Utley showboating on the
He’s an asshole
, Kyle thought, but he did move
like liquid mercury whether he was throwing a perfect pass or
hustling past some defensive player he had juke-stepped into
giving him the first down.
The creep must watch himself all the
time…and I can’t even stand to watch myself play in the
mandatory game films every week anymore.
Disgusted, Kyle got up, pulled the disk from the DVD
player, and switched on the ‘Canes game. Unexpectedly, it was
all Miami. The Gators looked like they were playing to the
death—theirs. It was only the third quarter and about to get
. He’d been taken by the Miami Demons
in the first round of this year’s draft, and his signing bonus alone
made him a wealthy man. He had more incentives built into his
contract than any other player on the team, possibly in the
league. It was no secret he was being groomed to replace Kyle.
Utley was the league’s latest comer.
Kyle’s fifteen years in the game made him an old man
by football standards, nearly thirty-six, though he figured his
pain quotient put him up around eighty-six. He couldn’t help but
wonder how Utley’s body would withstand the unforgiving
punishment the game held for him in the years ahead.
The reverberating bass of the rap music in the other
room broke through his thoughts, pummeling his brain like a
shotgun blast and slamming his mind back to thoughts of Jessica.
Jessica with the espresso eyes, so large and deep he had almost
lost himself to them.
Six months had passed since the day she showed up at
practice with another player’s wife. They had beckoned to him
from the bleachers and Coach Raymond joked that he’d never
seen Kyle run a faster forty. She touched his arm and said she
was intrigued by his power.
My power…what was I thinking?
He asked her out within two minutes of her first smile
and their relationship escalated rapidly. Everything she did and
said captivated Kyle. For a very short moment he had even
thought about marriage.
I’ve got to cut back on the booze
The first couple of months had been the stuff of fairy
tales. Kyle found Jessica bright, ambitious and always ready to
have a good time. His buddies’ early warnings had not
registered. Hell, who in the twenty-first century didn’t have a
As time went by, the intense burn of infatuation passed,
but what should have been the comfort of familiarity failed to set
in. Kyle grew analytical about their differences. Age, for
instance. His thirty-five to her twenty-five was huge. It was the
gap between the nesting instinct and the need to party, or
appreciating a fine play and thinking theater was a good movie,
or loving jazz and believing it was the prefix to ‘ercize.’
But she had qualities that kept him interested. Jessica
caught on fast and could adjust to most any situation. Her sharp
edges were smoothed by sensuality and a great sense of humor.
And the sex! Spontaneous combustion! But it had all been so
much work. Her moodiness. The arguments. The secrets.
Jessica claimed it had to do with her career. As a popular
model for print and runway work she faced enormous
competition and worked long hours on exhausting commercial
shoots. Yet when it came down to considering their problems,
she blamed Kyle’s demanding schedule as the cause of their
differences. She constantly questioned his exclusivity with her.
No matter that he was monogamous from the day he first laid
eyes on her, she accused him of screwing every female that
looked his way.
And so the relationship had steadily deteriorated, with
Kyle no longer able to justify his loyalty. The truth, as wiser men
than he had preached, hurt. He slowly recognized that the rumors
about her had way too strong a basis in the truth. She was
unfaithful. She drank too much, did too many drugs. When he
pleaded with her to stop, she would look at him with truth in her
eyes and lie through her teeth. His friends and teammates
mocked him and labeled him the poster boy for dumb jock.
The sound of someone or something bumping against
the door brought him back to the present. No shutting out the
racket of this party. It was time to track Jessica down and get out
of here. It would be the last time he faced this unhappy ritual and
the end of the pretense that was their liaison.
Pissed at himself for letting her drag him here in the first
place, he opened the door to the den and stared out at the mass of
gyrating bodies. There she was, tucked comfortably into the
hulking chest of some guy he had never seen before, his big
shaved head nestled into the gentle curve of her neck.
She looked up and gave him her sleepy, sloe-eyed smile.
“Hey baby,” she slurred. “Game over already?”
“Yeah, the game’s over. C’mon, let’s get out of here.”
The thug she was bundled with raised his head and said,
“Get lost, jerkoff.”
Ignoring him, Kyle reached out to her. “Jess, please. My
head’s coming off and I have early practice in the morning.”
“Find your own woman, asshole. Can’t you see this
one’s mine?” He gave Kyle a sniping smile and went back to
smothering Jessica. She was not protesting.
Staring back at Kyle through foggy eyes, she said
nothing and made no attempt to break from the dancing bear’s
Kyle stood fast. The oaf continued. “You deaf or what?
Get lost. Find your own piece of ass.” He then moved Jessica
aside and gave Kyle a solid shove.
Kyle looked back at him with a dangerous grin. One last
flash of sanity tugged at him.
Maybe I ought to walk away and
let the prick have her
, but the thought obliterated when he heard
his own voice challenge, “Actually, asshole, it’s you who’s
“Looks like she’s my date now, dude.” He gave Kyle a
dark stare and took Jessica back into his arms. Kyle, disgusted
with the party, Jessica, the jerk, and most of all himself, reared
back and punched him square in the mouth. The big guy’s eyes
rolled up into his head as he released Jessica and went down with
Kyle pulled Jessica to his side and headed for the door.
Pushing through the stunned crowd, he glared ferociously at
anyone daring to look in his direction. He practically dragged her
outside into the damp night air as he worked at taking back his
self-control. When they got to the car, Jessica finally spoke.
“Ooh, Kylie, I’ve upset you again.” Her words were
fuzzy, but somehow always, managed to sound sincere.
“Let’s get you home and sobered up. Then we’ll talk.”
She giggled. “Not politics again, I hope.” The fresh air
must have cleared her mind some. She was making one of her
weaker attempts to tickle him out of his dark mood. In the past, it
“No. No politics tonight. This time it’s all about us.”
“I like the sound of that!”
Unsmiling, he settled her into his black Porsche Carrera
and clamped her seatbelt shut. The little black slip of a dress she
was wearing exposed the full length of her exquisite legs. Then,
angered by his thoughts, Kyle pulled the hem of the skirt down
in a useless attempt to cover her knees.
The ride to Jessica’s was ice cold and stone quiet. Upon
arriving at her building, she stayed seated until Kyle opened her
door. As though starving for his touch, she threw her arms
around his neck and moaned softly, clinging to him as he pulled
her from the seat. Once out of the car, he stood her on her own
and watched her wobble to the apartment entrance alone.
Muttering, he made the three-flight climb to Jessica’s
studio. As a top model on the South Beach scene, Jessica earned
somewhere in the six-digit range. She chose to spend her money
on the outrageous rent charged in the deco district so she could
live where she worked and played. This was where the in-crowd
could be found. No infirmities here. Elevators be damned.
After watching her fumble with the lock, he took her
key. Her smile mocked him. “Always the gentleman, hmmm,
Kyle? Even when something’s weighing heavy on your mind.”
“Yeah, really.” He guided her into her apartment and
sucked in his breath. “Jesus! It’s like an oven in here. You could
leave the air-conditioning on once in a while.”
“You know I love it hot. It’s never cramped your style
before. Now it’s bothering you? You don’t wanna party. You
can’t take the noise because of your headaches. Early practice.
Too many stairs. My apartment’s too hot. I suppose there’s a
point to all this?” She had somehow sobered herself up, probably
hadn’t been as fucked up as she appeared, and was now in
control of her thoughts and ready to do battle.
Kyle crossed the room and turned the air-conditioner on
full blast. The studio was a twenty-five-foot square with a tiny
galley kitchen and a one-at-a-time bathroom. Mauve walls with
white wood borders around the floor and ceiling housed big
picture windows draped in curly white-ish silky sheer curtains. A
series of sepia shots of Jessica in varying styles of sensuous
lingerie lined the walls. There was a glass and silver coffee table
off to a corner with a deep rose velour love-seat and two
matching benches. A couple of small silver-framed photos of her
and Kyle as well as a Plexiglas-coated publicity shot of Kyle in
uniform were on the table, along with a scattering of fashion
magazines and unopened mail. There was also a bronze figurine
of her likeness that one of her ex’s had cast for her. A small
shimmering crystal chandelier hung from the center of the
mirrored ceiling over her king-sized bed, which was the focal
point of the room. It was a woman’s place.
Kyle dropped into the velour love-seat and watched as
Jessica swayed over to him. She tried to ease herself onto his lap,
but he moved quickly and brought her down next to him. This
was it. He took a slow breath and spoke. “Jessica…” Short
cough. “I, uh, we have issues and I don’t think they’re
God, I sound like an idiot.
She opened her eyes wide and reached to tickle his ribs.
“Oh, you’re so cute when you’re angry with me. It’s about
messing with that guy at the party, isn’t it? Come on Kyle, you
know I was just flirting. Sometimes I just can’t help myself! Oh,
you’re jealous! That’s so sweet.”
Removing her hands from his chest, he said, “It’s got
nothing to do with the guy or the party tonight. It’s about every
night. It’s about us.” He swallowed in an attempt to moisten the
cotton that lined his mouth.
“I don’t want to argue, Jessica. I’m really lousy at this
stuff, so I’m just going to say it straight up. Things aren’t
working for me, no, for us. Okay?
“Our relationship started to disintegrate the day it began.
You still see other men when I’m away…” He pressed his
fingers against her lips as she started to protest, and continued,
“Yeah, I know about them so don’t bother to deny it. Damn,
Jess, even when I’m in town I hear shit about who you’re doing.
You don’t even make an attempt at being discreet anymore. And
the drugs. You know how I feel about that shit. I’m too old for
Jessica stared at him. The smile was still pasted on her
face, but her jaw started to drop. Then she tilted her head as
though she wasn’t getting the joke.
When it became clear that her ploy wasn’t working, she
changed tactics and exploded. “Are you fucking serious? Other
men! And you expected me to do exactly
while you were
away every other week? I don’t recall you putting a ring on my
finger. Oh, and what about you? I sincerely doubt you are under
lock-up on your road trips. Like anyone believes you just play
football when you’re away!”
“Yeah, that’s what I went for and that’s what I
goddamned did. And Jessica, you shouldn’t need a ring to keep a
relationship monogamous. For Christ’s sake, I was exclusive
with you from the beginning, and you couldn’t manage to do the
same because you didn’t have a ring? You seriously don’t expect
me to buy that crap!”
“Well, maybe I do…it’s kind of like a security thing,
“A security thing, huh? We’re not communicating here.
We’re just going back and forth about a situation that’s done.
“I’ve had it, Jess. Time for us to move on. It’s over.”
“So that’s it? One strike and I’m out? Oopsie. Sorry for
using a metaphor from the wrong sport, Sport.” She giggled.
He always got a kick out of her sense of humor, but it
would never be enough to make up for all she lacked. And what
an actress, pouting now, gathering tears. This is where he usually
caved, but not tonight.
“Come on Jessica. You’re always bitching about what a
bore I am. My idea of a great night is renting a DVD and
watching it at home with popcorn and beer. The only thing that
consistently works for us is sex. And as good as it is, it’s not
Her tears started to roll. He was unprepared. She never
actually cried. He often thought she had ice water running
through her veins.
“Jessica, look, I’m right about this and you damn well
know it. We’re both looking for something that neither of us is
capable of giving.”
He stopped, grasping for the right words, anything that
would help her understand, and stop with the tears. “Don’t you
recognize that if you have to see other men, then something’s
wrong? The guts of a decent relationship are missing here.” He
paused for a second and she seized the moment to take the
“Oh, I get it now. You met someone else. You’re
turning it all around to make everything my fault because you’re
a gutless bastard, a shit-eating coward is what you are!”
She was wailing now, which was not nearly as appealing
as the glistening eyes earlier. And she was getting louder.
A note of desperation crept into his voice. “Jessica,
listen to me. Shhh! Calm down.”
He forced himself to take a couple of deep breaths
before he continued, then reached for her hand, which she
violently jerked from his grasp. She stood and began to pace,
bitching all the while about his ‘new girlfriend.’
“Jessica, shut up, damn it!”
“Oh, there you go now. The great quarterback’s calling
all the plays. Get over yourself, huh?”
The cotton that lined his mouth had turned to sawdust
and his chest was so tight it locked. He could feel the deep color
of rage as it spread over his face. He hoped she would recognize
it for what it was and back the hell off.
“It’s not about either fucking game, football or you and
me! I feel old, Jessica. This is probably my last year with the
Demons and I’m getting to a place in my life where I want to
settle down. The parties bore me. There’s not a part of me that
doesn’t ache from the pain of fifteen years of taking hits from
assholes who want to destroy me. My brawling days are behind
me. You’re just getting started. We’re nearly eleven years apart.
I thought I could deal with that, but I know now I can’t.
“I’m not trying to be a bastard about this. When I was in
my twenties I was exactly like you. No time for serious
relationships, just party to party and partner to partner. I’m not
there anymore. So why don’t we make this easier on both of us
and agree to move on…”
She broke into his sentence as though she had missed the
“Give me a break, huh? Tell it like it is. Tell me about
her, Kyle. Is she someone I know? I’ll bet the bank she’s no
older than me, maybe even younger.”
He continued his defense in slow, carefully enunciated
words. “Have not found anyone else. I have not been looking for
His jaw was taut, his teeth clenched. An angry muscle
ticked at his temple. His voice got very low. “Listen to me,
Jessica. We’re finished. I’m moving in one direction and, well,
The two sat in silence for a moment, glowering at one
another. And then Jessica switched gears on him.
“I do understand, Kyle. I’ve really pissed you off, and
truly, truly, I’m sorry. I’ll do better, honey, I promise. No ring
She moved toward him, flashing her most alluring smile.
Her brooding eyes sending the unmistakable signal that she was
ready for some of the sex they agreed was so good between
He actually felt himself growing hard.
, he thought. He even considered one quick lay for the road
before mentally punching himself serious.
What the fuck am I
? Furious at his body’s response and his own weakness,
his tone grew harsh and his voice loud.
“You are not listening. Turn out the lights, Jessica. The
party’s over. I don’t want anything from you including sex.
is past tense when it comes to us!” He stood and started for the
She seemed to be getting it now. The tinge of seduction
was gone and she spat another round of vitriol at him. “You,
you, you sanctimonious prick! Who do you think you are talking
to me like that? You’re right. It’s over. Just get outta here.
There’re plenty of guys who’ll be glad to know you’re out of the
picture.” Her voice had gone shrill and by the time she stopped
for a breath, she was shrieking. Taking his cue and the
opportunity, he opened the door. She was right behind him,
shouting about how he was old news anyway. “And don’t come
around when you’re desperate for a good blow job…”
She was still yelling when he hit the stairs. He took them
four steps at a time, as though it was devil herself chasing him.
Her voice followed him out the front door. His head was
Kyle reached the car just as a meter-maid was slapping a
ticket on his windshield. After a feeble attempt to charm her out
of it, he thanked her and tossed it into the glove compartment
with the others.
Damn, what a night!