It all happened when Audrey and Sue, both 42, took a trip to England completely paid for by Audrey's cheating millionaire boyfriend. “Cougar” describes older women on the prowl for much younger men, and although they didn't begin the trip on the prowl, somehow they became members of the pack.
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Morgan St. James-Author
Author Morgan St. James says the story of how she became a "Cougar" is one that begged to be told. Names have been changed, but almost everything else is true.
It all happened when she and her girlfriend, both 42 at the time, took a trip to England completley paid for by Morgan's cheating millionaire boyfriend. Cougars, also known as pumas or mountain lions, excel at stalking and ambushing their prey. They are beautiful but deadly predators.
St. James says: "However, in modern times, “Cougar” is also a common term used to describe older women on the prowl for much younger men, and I confess, I didn't begin the trip on the prowl, but somehow I became a member of the pack. "Did I consciously choose to join? Never! It snuck up on me during this extraordinary trip to Europe. And oh what a thrilling adventure it was, filled with steamy, torrid affairs—but hold on, I’m getting ahead of myself.
By the way, there was lots of humor, too. Did the fact that my boyfriend was six years younger than me qualify me as a "Cougar?" Definitely not. I dated lots of younger men back then. But thanks to some wonderfully sexy young guys in England, what happened there definitely did .
A sign posted over the ticket booth stated: Last ticketing 4:30 p.m. At that point a little old French woman was our only obstacle to entering the castle. Unfortunately, she was involved in some sort of dispute with the ticket seller. From her gestures and the few English words mixed with French, she apparently wanted a discount. The woman operating the ticket booth kept trying to tell her there wasn’t one.
As we had already experienced, the English don’t bend rules easily—if ever. The woman finally plunked down the correct amount, snatched up the ticket and stomped away. We stepped up, asked for our two tickets and quickly discovered another rule that wouldn’t be broken.
The woman behind the counter knitted her bushy brows and said, “No more tickets today. It is past half-four.” As she pointed to the sign above her to emphasize the hours the booth was open, Sue whispered, “That’s how they say four-thirty.”
Sue started to say something, but the woman interrupted. “Selling tickets after the closing simply is not done. It is now thirty-eight minutes after the hour! The closing hour is clearly stated there.” I pictured the brochure we’d left in the car. Why hadn’t we made it a point to note the hours? We certainly could have skipped browsing in the antique shop. Now we’d driven all this way and we wouldn’t get to see the castle after all.
“Please,” I said, being as polite as possible, “can’t you make a tiny exception? We’ve come all the way from Hollywood in America (I was a quick study) and have to leave tomorrow. We’d really hoped to see the castle.”
Okay, that was a slight stretch of the truth, the part about leaving the next day, but what the heck. Maybe it would work.
“Sorry, no tickets after closing.” I could have sworn I caught a gleam in her eye.
“Well, this is crazy. We were in line before four-thirty, and if you hadn’t spent so much time with that other lady, we’d have had plenty of time.”
This time the mention of Hollywood was to no avail, and my indignation didn’t help. Instead of breaking the rule and selling us the tickets, she shouted, “What is it you Americans don’t understand?” Then the angry woman jabbed her finger in a pointing motion toward a clock on the wall behind her and shouted even louder, “NO tickets sold after half-four, and that’s final. Mind the posting.”
Between the maitre’d from the Holiday House and this woman, we were beginning to get used to what we perceived as rudeness, but that didn’t mean we liked it. It seemed whenever we wanted something slightly outside the “rules,” it set off a firestorm.
The woman’s eyes flashed as she pounded her fist on the counter. “That is the end of this discussion.”
What was it with them, anyway?
When I glanced toward the long line still waiting for access to the castle, I spotted two bobbies headed in our direction. Apparently, the shouting had been loud enough to attract their attention. They purposefully strode up to Sue and me. Great! Now we’d be dealing with the cops on top of not being able to see the castle.
The one nearest to us said, “There appears to be a bit of a problem here, eh?”
By that time I was simmering. Oh yeah, we had a problem, alright. The bitch in the booth wouldn’t let us buy tickets. If it hadn’t been for the French lady, we wouldn’t have a problem. I knew my voice was bound to be laced with anger, so I didn’t trust myself to be the one to answer.
It didn’t seem to ruffle Sue, though. She casually leaned against the kiosk, looking very sexy with her elbows drawn back which made her breasts strain the buttons on her blouse. I knew it to be one of her favorite negotiation poses.
“Oh, officers, perhaps you can help us. This is our last day in your country. We go back to the States tomorrow and the thought of not seeing this beautiful castle is devastating. Is there anything you can do to help us?”
Well, the officers solved our problem, but in a way we never expected. The taller one said, “Come along quietly, please.” From the tone of his voice, I was afraid we were being arrested for disturbing the peace or something, although the only thing we’d done was to ask for admission after ticket sales were over for the day.
I looked back at the woman in the kiosk. She stood there with a dour expression, her arms folded over her chest.
As the four of us walked toward the castle, neither of the officers said anything. I glanced at Sue, and for once she looked concerned as well. I thought, maybe we really were in trouble, but once we were out of the woman’s line of sight, they looked at each other, then broke into laughter.
The one closest to Sue said, “My name is Randy.” He winked and added, “Of course we’re goin’ to help our…cousins from America. All the pity you gettin’ here late, but not to worry. We’ll show you how we treat lovely tourists like you ladies. Come along now.”
Sue had a mischievous glint in her eyes when she looked back at me. It was almost as though she was saying, “You’d have to be blind not to notice how good looking these fellows are.” Still guiding us, the one near me had now moved his hand from my elbow to the middle of my back. I wondered what they were up to, because we were led right up to the ticket taker’s stand just inside the main entrance.
The woman on duty beamed at our two escorts. “Hallo, Nigel. Haven’t seen you and Randy comin’ inside for a while. Wha’ brings you into the castle?” She threw us a curious glance.
Nigel tipped his fingers to his helmet. “Ah, Amelia, you’re lookin’ more fetching than ever.” Amelia was seventy-five if she was a day, and not a very attractive seventy-five at that. A glorious smile broke across her face. “Just applied a wee bit of extra powder, my lad.” She patted her tight gray poodle-like curls. “And who do we have here today?”
“Meet my cousins from America. Didn’t figure they’d need tickets for us to show them ’round the castle.” He extended his hand toward me and it was clear we were to introduce ourselves. After all, he had no clue what his cousins’ names were.
Quick to pick up the hint, I said, “So pleased to meet you. I’m Audrey and this is Susan. We can’t wait to see the castle. It’s stunning. Cousin Nigel insisted we had to tour every bit of it.”
Amelia grinned from ear to ear. “Lovely cousins you got there. Even prettier than the cousins visiting you last month.” She held her hand over her mouth to hide a giggle. “Be off wi’ ya, now.”
Once inside the castle, I said, “So, we’re not your only attractive female cousins. Thanks for getting us in, though. Good show.”
Nigel and Randy began the tour. As we took in the magnificence surrounding us, Nigel said, “Don’t build ’em like this now.” He tapped on one of the walls. “These walls are ’bout a third of a meter thick. Solid, they are.” He tapped it again.
Drawing upon my background as an interior designer, I figured the ivory-colored stucco covered what had probably been just stone back in olden times. The soft color emphasized the Gothic arched windows framed in rich dark wood. Next we ventured down a hallway paneled in the same wood and eventually came to the Queen’s bedroom and gallery. My theory was confirmed when Randy said, “When the castle was built, all the walls were bare stone.”
Elegant red brocades draped the bed, canopy and side curtains with accents of deep forest green. The colors were similar to the color scheme in Harry’s cottage, but that’s where the resemblance ended. I noted that the bed was much shorter than our beds today. As we wandered around the King Henry VIII banquet room, I closed my eyes and imagined the lords and ladies whose portraits dotted the wall sitting around the table in their wigs and fancy outfits. Then I looked down at my jeans, thankful that times had changed and women didn’t have to endure being laced into corsets so tight they could hardly breathe. I couldn’t imagine wearing the layers upon layers of petticoats they wore back then.
Nigel led us to another corridor, where we came upon paintings and armors belonging to knights who had graced these halls. I stopped before those of Lord Fairfax. After three years of singing, “Hail to thee Lord Fairfax” in high school, I was amazed to see that, like all the other knights in this hall, his armor was so small the waist almost could be called tiny. I’d always pictured him as a big guy, like the knights you see in movies or picture books.
Without thinking I pointed to what looked like a metal torture chamber and said, “Wow! With armor like that squeezing their waists and balls, no wonder some of the knights were reputed to be so nasty.” Nigel couldn’t suppress his guffaw, and I laughed too as I realized what I’d just said. Ouch. Just the thought of what one of those armors could do to a well-hung knight made me wince.
We walked through more enormous rooms, each one with bare stone walls, or draped with fabrics like silk and brocade, and stopped to admire priceless paintings and furniture. The more we strolled, the closer our new cousins inched toward us. Nigel’s arm snaked around my waist and when I looked over at Sue, Randy’s arm was draped over her shoulder. I was used to admiring glances from men my own age or a bit younger, but with the attention we’d been getting for the past few days, I’d begun to wonder if we held some special allure for these good-looking young guys.
When this castle had been in its heyday, a forty-two-year-old-woman would have been considered aged. Now, thanks to eating well, exercising and taking care of ourselves, age can be just a number. Between the VIP treatment that day and admiring looks from two very attractive young men on each of the past two days, age didn’t matter and I decided life couldn’t get much better.
After touring the inside of the castle Nigel and Randy led us through the incredibly lush grounds to a glass-like lake dotted with black and white swans. Dusk had fallen and a slight chill accompanied the breeze that moved the tree branches in a graceful dance. The sweet aroma of roses permeated the air. I spotted a large maze made of trimmed hedges, but unfortunately, it had gotten too dark to walk it. We were about to thank our new cousins for a wonderful afternoon, when Randy asked, “Are ya stayin’ ’round the castle or goin’ back to London to be near the airport?”
A reasonable question—after all, they’d been led to believe we were leaving the next day. Well, since we had each packed a small bag, this was an invitation we could accept without having to go all the way to Scotland.
Sue jumped in and said almost what I’d been thinking. “We were hoping to find a room in this area. We have a late flight tomorrow. The majority of our luggage is at a cottage in Surrey but, quite frankly, I’d rather not drive back in the dark. We could leave early in the morning and still have plenty of time.”
“Then you’re with the right chaps. Nigel’s real cousin manages a lovely Victorian hotel in Maidstone, only a few kilometers from here. I can assure you that if there are vacant rooms, he’ll be pleased to give them to you with a big discount, won’t he Nigel?”
Nigel nodded, then slipped his arm around my waist again and gave me a little squeeze. He was tall, well over six feet, and I neatly tucked into his shoulder and inhaled the pleasant aroma of his light citrus cologne. There wasn’t a doubt where this was going.
He said, “Look, you and Sue follow us and we’ll see if Bradford can accommodate ya.”
The two of us piled in the Mini and followed their car. After only a few kilometers, they pulled up in front of an enchanting Victorian building. On its roof, a tasteful sign indicated the “Maidstone Manor.” We followed Nigel and Randy into an elegantly appointed lobby. As they approached the front desk, we could barely contain our excitement, anticipating what might happen next.