‘Interesting.’ He gave a small thoughtful hum, as if concentrating on her words. ‘An eccentric and an intellect. I’ll bet that made for an interesting childhood.’
‘You could say that. To be fair, there are things she gets right. When you first meet her, you wouldn’t think she’s intuitive by the way she acts, but she is. Very. I think her skill is fifty percent observation, thirty percent luck and twenty percent vagueness.’ She gave a small laugh, down-playing her somewhat sceptical belief in metaphysics. It had been hard growing up with such a mother and she’d got used to saying she didn’t believe in it at all – even if sometimes she did. ‘Once, when I was little, she was convinced I was going to get hit by a car if I went outside. I spent the entire day in bed until the signs she saw passed.’
‘Many cultures believe in something spiritual beyond what science can explain,’ Kevin answered. ‘Who are we to say they’re not right? Maybe there’s something to your mother’s gifts.’
‘I’ll tell my mother,’ Sasha drawled, keeping her tone wry to cover her utter surprise at his reaction. ‘She’ll be so pleased.’
‘I haven’t seen proof with my own eyes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.’ Kevin followed her, watching as she made a lap around the room. ‘Case in point, I haven’t seen Mount Kilimanjaro with my own eyes, but I’m pretty sure it’s there.’
‘We have pictures of that.’
‘Some people have pictures of ghosts.’ He gave her a challenging smile, which she chose to ignore. ‘And fairies, auras—’
Her laugh cut him off. Trust him to be able to turn any conversation into an intellectual debate. ‘OK. I’ll admit to the possibility of such things existing though I haven’t seen them for myself.’
Sasha examined his home, trying to get a sense of who he was. Between the window and the kitchen, a softened glow made it easy enough to see by. The brown leather couch with worn edges, the somewhat faded red and gold area rug, the tall, skinny lamp that looked like it twisted apart in segments didn’t tell her much.
‘So, you never really said about the apartment,’ Sasha prompted, changing the subject away from her family. ‘How did a college boy get such a cool place?’
‘I’m not secretly rich, if that’s what you’re thinking. My uncle’s company manages the building. He lets me have the place at low cost while I’m going to school.’
‘That’s nice of him.’
Kevin shrugged in dismissal. ‘Not really. My mother guilted him into it.’
‘How?’ Sasha didn’t know why she pried. The man just seemed so closed and guarded. She wanted to know more.
‘She had a falling out with her parents a long time ago and they stopped talking. She got in touch with her brother and I’m not sure what she said to him, but I help him out with handyman jobs around the place when he needs it.’
‘The owners don’t care?’
‘The owner keeps a mistress on the top floor. He even has a private elevator that goes from her home to the small parking garage downstairs. My uncle keeps an eye on her and discreetly doesn’t tell Mrs Owner about her husband’s side dish. In return, the owner lets my uncle do pretty much whatever he likes with the tenants – so long as order is maintained.’
‘Romantic story,’ she said wryly. Sasha moved across the room, to the thick black frames hanging on the wall. She half expected to see pictures of his family, some hint of where he came from. Instead, the black and white photographs were scenes from the city. Thick white mat boards surrounded them, professionally cut by hand.
‘Are you looking for romance?’ Kevin motioned towards one of the photos. What appeared to be a homeless couple smiled brightly, hugging each other tight from inside a shopping cart.
Sasha laughed. ‘I wouldn’t have taken you for a softy.’
The weight of her messenger bag lessened against her hip. Kevin lifted the strap over her head, taking it from her. She swayed towards him, heavy lids falling over her eyes. Her lips tingled to feel his, but he merely gave her a small smile and pulled away. He set the bag on the couch.
‘Shows what you know.’ His tone was low as he turned his back on her. Before she could ask him to clarify, he went to the kitchen. ‘Wine?’
‘Have you anything harder?’ Wine sounded too intimate. This wasn’t love and she wouldn’t let herself think it was.
‘Tequila it is,’ he said.
She passed a window, seeing a balcony outside. It was accessed from a room to the right of where she stood. ‘That must be some girlfriend Mr Owner has upstairs if it scores you a private terrace. The view from my window is a brick wall.’ The clink of glasses sounded behind her and she smiled, not turning to look away from the view. ‘I always loved how you can see the stars from here in the Village.’
‘Mm,’ was his quiet reply of agreement.
Anticipation wove through her. With each ticking second she knew they crept closer to what they’d come to do – an affair of the flesh, a one night stand, loveless sex. Nerves bunched in her stomach. Her hand shook and she really wanted a drink to steady her resolve. Sasha didn’t do this kind of thing, didn’t take sex lightly, didn’t have casual flings, but nor did she want to stop what was happening.
‘I have a question.’ Kevin’s hand came from behind, holding a shot glass of amber liquor. ‘How long were you dating this ex of yours?’
‘Three years.’ Sasha gripped the little glass between two fingers. ‘Give or take.’
‘I never saw you with anyone.’
‘We, ah . . .’ Sasha quickly took the shot, tilting back her head. In her mind it had been three years. That’s when they went on their first date. It’s the date she kept in her head for just such a question. With their busy schedules and Trevor’s summer vacations in Europe, those first dates stretched over the first year. At the time, it didn’t seem strange, just exciting and new and full of promise. Technically, through the following eighteen months they hadn’t been a couple, at least not publicly. Their love was secret – even from her sometimes. It wasn’t until a few months ago when Trevor had surprised her with the ‘talk’. He indicated he wanted exclusivity. She’d assumed they were exclusive, though secret, from the very beginning. She hadn’t known until that time that they could see other people – not that she did, not that she thought he had.
‘But that’s my fault for assuming,’ she whispered to herself.
‘Assuming what?’ Kevin asked, confused.
She waved off his question. ‘You wouldn’t have seen us together. We didn’t want it known. We’ve kept it a secret. I didn’t even tell my family.’ Out loud it sounded bad. Dirty. Tainted.
Could she really blame Trevor if he wasn’t faithful before that conversation? At the time, she hadn’t asked him for details, choosing to believe he was faithful to her. He never said otherwise and she’d never asked. As far as she knew, they didn’t have secrets between them. Surely, Trevor would have told her if he had another date. He’d told her more intimate things than that, things about his family, his dreams of a future away from the spotlight and the riches. It wasn’t like Sasha was a jealous, shrewish bitch of a nagging girlfriend. She gave him his space, just as she liked to have hers.
‘A secret boyfriend? It sounds a little childish.’ Kevin took the empty shot glass from her fingers, replacing it with his own full one. She felt him walking away from her and still she stared out the window. ‘How exactly does that work?’
Sasha didn’t like the slight mocking in his tone so, instead of answering, she turned to face him, needing to change the subject. Except for tonight, she rarely saw him smile – if the fleeting expressions he gave her could even be called that. All Trevor did was smile, boyish and handsome, always in a playful mood. Kevin tended to be moody. The men were different. Maybe that’s why she was here with Kevin. He couldn’t be mistaken for her ex-boyfriend. Crying over a broken heart was not what she wanted. She didn’t want to talk about Trevor, not with Kevin. ‘I lied.’
‘About?’ He eyed her in amusement.
‘I can read the future.’ Sasha did her best to sound seductive. She took the shot of tequila to steady her nerves, hoping she looked confident.
Her tone and expression must have successfully changed the course of their conversation, because his eyes narrowed with sudden understanding. ‘Oh?’
She pressed the cool shot glass to her temple and closed her eyes. ‘I’m getting something. Hold on.’ She pointed the small glass at him and said, ‘I see you getting me another drink.’
Kevin swiped the bottle of liquor off a low table and slowly twisted off the cap. The kitchen light hit his back, shining subtly through his shirt to outline his toned body. She swallowed a lump in her throat, even as longing continued to unfurl within her. This was a dream, a fantasy. There was no way it could be real. She didn’t do things like this.
‘Do you see anything else?’ Kevin moved with predatory grace.
‘Your shirt is going to get very wrinkled.’ Sasha eyed the snap buttons. Warmth from the liquor filled her, spreading a blessed numbness throughout her limbs. Every muscle relaxed and her mind released some of its normally unrelenting control.
Sasha touched his shoulder, following a navy stripe with her fingertip down his chest to his waist. Up close, the subtle smell of his cologne stirred, carried with the heat radiating from his body to draw her in. Kevin was shorter than Trevor by a few inches, but had broader shoulders. Most women fantasized about eyes or a man’s ass. Sasha liked a strong chest with arms that folded her into a safe embrace.
Every nerve stretched towards him and her flesh ached to be touched. She became aware of where the black jersey of her scoop-neck T-shirt brushed her flesh. How could loose material be so constricting?
Kevin held his hands out to his sides, the bottle clutched in one fist. The motion gave her full access to his chest. She pulled at the snaps along the front of his shirt, slowly undressing him. Beneath the cotton, she found a sleeveless vest. The stark white stood out against the tan of his muscled flesh and molded to each dip and curve of his torso. He maneuvered his arms, switching the bottle from one hand to the other so that the shirt slid onto the floor.
She wanted him. Without pause, she tugged his vest over his head. Sasha traced the tip of her finger over warm skin, mapping a long puckered scar down one pectoral, passing a small nipple.
‘What happened to you?’ she whispered.
‘Boyhood mishap,’ he answered.
Sasha assumed there was much more to the tale, but didn’t know him well enough to push for the full story.
Her fingers found their own path, moving to the bandage taped to his waist. She wanted to see his tattoo, the sexy sweep of black on his firm skin, but left the bandage where it was. Instead, she drew her fingers across his waistband to his zipper. Unfastening his jeans, she discovered tight black cotton boxers. The material molded to the unmistakable form of his arousal.
Her heart beat so hard that the sound of it mingled with their heavy breathing. Together they drowned out the noise beyond the window. It was strange to think there were so many people in the city, surrounding them, because right here in this moment there was only the two of them.
Kevin took a drink straight from the bottle before setting it down on an end table. Almost instantly, his warm hands were on her sides, running a hot trail over her T-shirt to cup her sensitive breasts. The motion pushed the mounds upwards, giving heavy cleavage to the scooped neckline of her T-shirt. Flesh was denied flesh by the boundary of her T-shirt and she groaned with the pure torture of it.
Sasha wanted him desperately, wanted to taste the liquor on his lips, feel the length of his body worshiping hers as he came over her. The couch would do for starters, even the hardwood floor. At this point, she really didn’t care where he took her so long as he took her.
A giggle erupted from within the fog of her brain. Heat scorched its way over her skin, bringing with it an intense tingling. Moisture gathered in her sex and her hips practically jerked at the need erupting low in her belly. She ached to feel him inside her, to feel her muscles constricting intimately around his cock.
Kevin made a light sound and she couldn’t be sure what he meant by it. She looked into his guarded eyes, almost fearful that he would change his mind. Or worse, that he’d laugh at her. What was it about this man that made her feel so unsure of herself?
But Kevin’s actions were anything but mocking. His hands slid round to her back, tugging her into the strong fold of his chest. She moaned, unable to stop the sound of approval and invitation. He didn’t hold back, as he crushed his mouth to hers. His tongue slipped over the seam of her mouth, urging her lips to part. When she obeyed the request, his tongue probed past the barrier of her teeth, instantly massaging up against her tongue. His grip tightened, forcing her body into his.
Her eyes opened briefly and she saw a piercing intensity staring back at her. Kevin pulled away. Without saying a word, he cupped his hand against her cheek. She kissed his palm, holding his gaze. A small smile lifted one corner of his mouth. He tilted his head to the side, motioning towards the short hall next to the living room.
Fingers slid from her face and he turned, leading the way down the hall. He didn’t pull her behind him, didn’t force her in any way. As she took each step she knew it was her decision, her desire to follow. The hall led to two open doors – a bathroom and his bedroom. There wasn’t much by way of decoration in either.
Kevin flipped the light switch and a lamp on the far side of the room lit up, casting the bedroom in a soft glow. A queen-sized bed dominated one wall of his bedroom next to a square brown nightstand. No scrolled woodwork, no decorative end pieces, just plain, boxy mahogany-stained wood with matching wooden knobs on the drawers. A flat-screen television hung on the wall opposite the bed with a small table beneath it with a DVD player and a stack of movies.