Authors: Holly Hart
You'd think the first thing I wanted after I got out was a fuck. You'd be wrong. The first thought on my mind was revenge; and until I saw Cara, a woman's touch hadn't even crossed it.
But now it was all I could think about. I snapped my menu shut, and the green leather binder closed with a crack. Cara flinched, startled.
"Burgers it is," I grinned. I glanced around for a waiter. One met my eyes and scurried over.
"No!" Cara hissed, looking like she wanted a bottomless pit to open up beneath her and swallow her up, anything to carry her from the gaze of the crowd. "Don't you dare place that order. How do you think it'll make me look?"
I let my eyes wander around the restaurant. The waiter neared us, and I held two fingers up to stall him. "You know that the second you walked into this room," I drawled, enjoying my date's discomfort, "there wasn't an eye left looking at a plate."
Cara blushed. "You don't need to lie to me to distract me,
," she said, throwing my own words back in my face. She looked down and indicated herself with a casual flick of her wrist, dismissing herself. "I know I'm nothing special. Two years working two jobs twelve hours a day, my skin's a mess –"
"Don't!" I reached out on instinct and grabbed her wrist.
She paused mid-sentence, her eyes flicking to her wrist like my touch burned. The blood pulsated in my ears as I fought myself for control. I wasn't used to this, all this
crap. My world was simple. At least, it used to be. Either I wanted you dead – and you died. Or I never knew your name at all.
Cara was the exception that proved the rule. I'd realized that the second I made the choice to save her, and let my father's man escape instead of putting two bullets in his brain. But hearing her talk about herself like she didn't realize how goddamn beautiful she was, hurt.
"Don't," I repeated, more softly this time, releasing her with a soft caress. I couldn’t help it
"Don't talk about yourself like that. You know, Cara, I haven't touched a woman since our…" I trailed off, unable to finish the sentence. Cara's gaze re-emerged out of nowhere, her green eyes widening with surprise – and doubt.
The flush warming her cheeks now threatened to overwhelm them entirely. She cleared her throat and glanced to her right. "Um, Val…"
My voice came out a full octave higher than normal when I answered,"Yeah?” I cringed as I heard the strangled sound that had escaped my lips.
What the hell's happening to me?
She jerked her head to one side; "The waiter?"
I turned to look at him, and as I did I felt movement underneath the table. Cara's foot came to rest against mine, so lightly that for half a second I wasn't even sure it was there at all. If I hadn't been sitting down, my legs might have given way entirely. I'd been burning up for an hour at her every touch, when she took the menu, or reached for water but this was different. It was sexual, but barely so. It felt tender, filled with longing, and a long suppressed ache to be fulfilled.
The waiter approached and added his contribution to our awkward cacophony of cleared throats. "May I have your order, Madam?
"We'll have two burgers: bacon, cheese, and a heap of fries," I replied, to hide Cara from the embarrassment licking red at her cheeks. "And you know what? To hell with it – cancel the champagne, too. I think the lady here would prefer a beer, and I would as well."
"Ah, sir…" The waiter trailed off, briefly closing his eyes as he searched for the right words. I knew what he was going to say: Michelin star restaurants don't just cater to every whim and whimsy of their clientele. I also knew the battle that was going on in his mind. Was he really going to deny one of his newest, best,
I didn’t think so.
I raised my eyebrow in challenge. He slumped forward, beaten.
"Two burgers it is."
As he turned to leave, trudging towards the kitchen and, no doubt, a tongue-lashing from the chef, Cara piped up with unexpected humor, an impish smile playing on her lips. "Don't forget the fries…"
"Or the beer," I added, deadpan, resolving to double the browbeaten man's tip. I only did it to see my woman smile.
And her foot began to rub up and down my leg from my ankle.
By the time the burgers came I was burning up inside. Every time Cara spoke I imagined planting a kiss on those pinks of hers. Every time she reached over and brushed me with a nervous touch my skin crackled with an electric spark of longing. I couldn't wait for the waiter to set them down and leave us alone. The longer he stayed the more the tension in the air seemed to build, and the more the air itself began to heat up and spark, like the leading edge of a forest fire.
I didn't know if Cara felt it too. I thought –
The way she licked her lips, and the faint raggedness to her breath told me she did.
Or is it all just in your head?
"Is that –?" The waiter started, but only just before I cut him off.
"Perfect, thanks," I replied firmly. He took the hint.
"They look… Amazing," Cara whispered. I stared at her delicately made up lips. They seemed to move in slow motion, taunting me. I wondered what she'd do if I leaned over the table and pressed my mouth on hers. "I almost don't want to eat it, you know?"
I could have left the food well alone, but for a completely different reason. The burgers weren't the thing I thought looked amazing, that was Cara. The only thing
wanted to eat – again, it was Cara.
I reached over and plucked a fry from the generous heap between us. It was crunchy to touch, and hot enough for my first reaction to be to drop it. I blew on it instead, masking a wince of pain.
Cara raised her eyebrow. "Good?"
I glanced at it and reached over the table. "You tell me…"
Cara looked left and right nervously, as if she was worried someone was watching.
"Do it," I laughed. "Who cares what they think?"
She leaned over, and her lips moved closer to me. She closed her eyes and her cheeks flushed with blood. I teased the fry with ketchup and held it out to her, watching as her lips closed on it, and listened for the crunch as her teeth bit into it.
Cara nodded. I let out a deep sigh and surreptitiously spread my legs apart. Believe me, I needed to. Just looking at her was enough to stoke fires inside me I never even knew existed.
What the hell's she doing to you?
She giggled. "I can feed myself, you know…"
I smiled and chewed my lip. "I know. But I like my way better."
Cara cocked her head to one side and nodded. "Okay then. I kinda like your way, too."
I plucked a fry from the stack and started again. Cara did the same, closing her eyes as if she was preparing to unwrap a Christmas gift. I reached out the fry, but my eyes got stuck on those glorious lips of hers, the way they complemented that long red hair, those excited cheeks and the freckle on her nose. I sighed, a sigh of two years of frustration. Seconds ticked by.
"Are you –"
I dropped the fry and stood up. I couldn't resist it a second longer. I leaned over and planted my mouth on hers, smothering her words and running my hand down her cheek. Cara winced with surprise and almost jerked back, but she couldn't resist it either. Her lips melted against mine. Time stretched out and I could have stayed there forever.
"Val!" Cara whimpered, pulling back and glancing around the room. "Not here, please." She looked down with a playful, flushed expression on her cheeks, and pouted. "And you've gone and dropped that fry all over my new dress!"
I settled back into my seat with an arrogant, hungry swagger. "I'd do it again."
Cara raised her eyebrow. "I bet. Stay right here, I'll be right back. I need to go and clean up
"I'm not going anywhere."
, what you need in life, you can't have. Sometimes it's a want and not good for you; sometimes it's not there at all.
Sometimes what you think is good for you, isn't; and sometimes, you just don't know.
The one thing
know, I clung to like a life raft. I knew that I wanted Val; wanted him with every breath in my body; needed his touch on my skin and his taste on my lips.
I knew that he wanted me, too. I saw the way he looked at me, and glared at men who stared at me, and I could tell that he was burning up inside. The flames of desire licked at his skin as they did mine, and I knew I wasn't imagining things.
I was old and young, all at the same time; young in years, but old with tears. I'd lived long enough to know that Val was bad news. He was a good man, but he had a plan, and that meant trouble.
I'm not like one of those girls whose letters you read in a magazine, begging an agony aunt to explain why her relationship didn't work out. You read on, and see she hooked up with a drug dealer, had his kid, and then he disappeared without a trace.
Or the girl who shacks up with a Rock Star, and gets surprised when he leaves her for a younger model.
It’s an easy lesson to learn. When you play with fire, you’re going to get burned. I'm old enough to know that; and old enough not to care.
"Get a grip, Cara," I muttered out loud. "Just because a man takes you to dinner doesn’t mean he’s aching to fuck you. He could have any girl in this city."
And any of them would be prettier, and come with less baggage.
It was the truth, but the truth hurt.
Remembering where I was, I nervously cast a quick, surreptitious look around the bathroom, checking for the tell-tale red signs that indicated a cubicle was engaged. The last thing I needed was for some high society lady to find me falling apart.
Usually, my go-to move would have involved searching for any ankles on show under a stall door, but that wasn't going to fly in a place like this, with its sophisticated individual bathrooms.
Light classical music tinkled from speakers so artfully disguised in the ceiling tiles that I couldn't have picked them out to save my life, and in between rows of sandalwood-scented bathroom products stood wicker baskets stacked high with monogrammed cotton hand towels.
I let out a nervous breath; all clear. I eyed myself up and down in the mirror, searching for any hint of what Val saw in me. Whatever it was, if it even existed, I couldn't see it. My traitorous brain picked out all of my worst features: the sallow shadows under my eyes; the dozen extra pounds that haunted my stomach; and the lines already starting to mar my forehead.
A horrible suspicion began to brew in my gut that this was all some kind of sick joke. That I was a pawn in a game he was playing for a reason known only to himself. Perhaps I was just a punch line, or the result of a bet.
That doesn't make sense
You saw his face when you turned that corner
You were the last person he expected to see
Val's admission that he hadn't touched a girl since we had our fling had shaken me to the core. I wanted to believe, wanted so much to believe it was true – but I couldn't. No, wherever Val, with his full six foot two height, line-backer shoulders and wolf grey eyes – that seemed to pore over every crack and crevice in my soul – had been, I knew that he must have been swamped by eager suitors.
There had to have been women trying to catch his eye, dressing tighter, shorter, working out more in the hope of winning the lottery. I knew it was true because I couldn't keep my own eyes off of him. Just the sight of him was a drug, a siren song, that compelled me to take him inside my veins.
I pressed my legs together, and my eyelids flickered shut as the memory of his touch swamped my brain. Our hurried teenage relationship, with him fleeing his father's baleful glare, and me mine. The stolen kisses we shared; brief, passionate trysts in hotel rooms; or on a beach by the sea. The way he tugged the hair at the back of my neck as we lay together; the feel of his stubble, already thick at seventeen, brushing against my ear lobe. My legs clenched together unbidden, and my cheeks glowed with heat.
"Jesus, girl," I groaned, opening my eyes to the sight of a woman whose skin was red with lust. "What's the plan here? Are you going to go into that stall and take care of yourself?"
I cocked my head. In all honesty, that didn't sound too bad…
Pull it together
I splashed water on my face – half expecting to hear it sizzle – careful to avoid my makeup. The last thing I needed was a streak of black mascara running down my face to scream out how ill-suited I was to this place.
It helped, some, to hide the redness on my cheeks. It did nothing to salve the budding heat between my legs, nor the two nubs of fire that sparked into life on my chest every time I so much as breathed.
"You're going to go out there, thank him for dinner, and go home," I said, shuffling my bra as I spoke. The words sounded plaintive and unconvincing, even to me, so I tried again. "He had a gun in his hand when you saw him. You really think that's what you need in your life right now?"
I adjusted my bra strap one last time, cursing inside my head the plainness of my underwear. It was matching, at least, and black – but nothing quite as seductive, nor as silky as the suspender sets that I imagined most of the women dining in the restaurant tonight were wearing. Mine was only matching in the sense that I got a five dollar set on sale at Wal-Mart, for just three bucks. The bra wire was already threatening to rub free, and the less said about the state of the lace, the better…
But he's never going to see it, right? So it doesn’t matter…
I ran a towel over my face, tossed it in an empty basket, and returned to the table.
As the bathroom door swung closed, and I entered the restaurant proper, a quiet hum of conversation caressed my ears. It sounded different to the room I'd left a couple of moments before – softer somehow. As I approached Val, guided by his enormous, muscled back that peeked over his chair, I saw why.
Every woman in the place had her eyes glued to my date, while a dozen boyfriends, husbands and, perhaps, clients, were left twirling pasta moodily around with their forks, or else left pushing food around their plates – ignored. It mattered not whether the women, beauties all, were paid to be here, or if they were here for love. None could keep their eyes off him.
That was until I joined him. Then their hungry gaze turned on me, as one, and became something uglier – envy. A dozen faces sneered my way with the same message:
you're not worthy
A burning sense of outrage filled me.
What makes you any better than me?
I wanted to scream.
I'm not with him, but why the hell couldn't I be?
Right then, internally cheered on by a mix of bitter anger and long-unfulfilled desire, I reached a dangerous decision. I was going to show these women what they were missing.
I came to a halt behind Val's chair, felt him stir with apprehension, and then relax into his chair when he realized who was sneaking up behind him. I eyed a woman in a floor-length red silk dress, no doubt shipped in from Italy, or purchased from New York for more than I paid the whole of last year for food.
I held her jealous gaze contemptuously, and lowered my head to Val's neck. She couldn't break her eyes away from me, I felt the flicker of heat from the envy burning her up inside though I stood a dozen yards away. I won't lie; I liked the way it felt.
For the first time in my life, someone was jealous of me, instead of the other way around. Hell, it wasn't even that. I hadn't even had the energy to covet other people's lives, not after working two shifts and then coming home to cook and clean for a man who'd beat me if I didn't do things his way.
It just felt nice to be desired. I could tell that's all any of these women really wanted, but I was the only one who really
it, and they hated it.
I ran my hands from the top of Val's muscular neck, separated at the shoulders, then stroked down the side of his torso. I saw his eyelids flicker shut, and a heat began to build inside me. I knew nothing would sate it now, save absolute satisfaction – so no matter how crazy, or how stupid, or how dangerous this was – satisfaction was what I was going to get.
I lowered my lips to his ear, my voice a soft husky sigh. "How about we skip dessert?"
* * *
anything as much as I wanted the elevator ride to finish; to finally fall into Val's arms. An old couple, white-haired, in their late sixties and dressed for a night at the theatre joined us for the ride up. The elevator car was mirrored on all three walls, but I held my eyes dead straight ahead. I dared not look at Val, for fear I might be compelled to jump him right then and there, and to hell with the fact that we had an audience.
The slit between my legs was burning hot, already wet, and desperate for release. Every time my eyelids blinked shut, even for the briefest half-second, my mind filled with the most graphic images of what I wanted Val to do to me, of his naked body, and of the things I
to do back to him. My legs shook with suppressed tension, which seemed to join with and magnify even the slightest vibrations from the painfully slow elevator, fanning the raging fire at my crotch.
"I told you," the elderly wife began in a quavering, croaking voice, "to bring your pills. But you never listen, do you, William?"
The man heaved out a sigh. "Dorothy, believe me, the day my heart finally gives out it'll be your nagging the does it, not forgetting my pills."
"You know I'm only worried about you, dear…"
The elevator door pinged open, and the elderly couple stepped out. Val and I glanced at each other, barely-suppressed smiles growing on our lips. Before the doors slid shut, however, a motion dead ahead made me glance forward. The old woman had turned back, and she fixed me with a frank, appraising stare. I felt like a young girl again, about to receive a tongue lashing from my grandmother.
"You take care of him, you hear, girl?" Dorothy grinned, with unexpected, playful vigor. Her eyes danced up and down Val's chest, and an irrational pang of jealousy lanced through me. Irrational, because she was hardly competition!
"Um, excuse me?" I murmured.
She jerked her thumb at her departing husband's back. "Oh, you know what I mean. Make the most of it, because before you know it, you'll be wrinkled like us. Not that it stops us. That's what the heart pills are for, you know?"
The elevator doors leisurely slid shut. My jaw fell open in astonishment at the same slow pace. A silence filled the elevator for a few seconds, weighing down on my shoulders. A hot flash of embarrassment filled my cheeks, and I dared not even look at the man who stood so close to me that his body heat half-burned my arm.
Finally, Val broke the silence – and the tension. He chuckled. "Well, you heard the lady…"
I turned, and punched him on the arm, except the arm was gone, and his hands reached out to yank me towards him instead. Then our lips were locked, my body pressed against his, with his hardness pressed against my thigh.
For the first time, I allowed myself to truly believe that this wasn't just a dream. But even if it was, I was going to make it the best damn dream I'd ever had, or ever would have. Val's hand ran through my hair, mussing it up, until it looked like a lion's mane.
I groaned, and the sound hid the ping as the elevator came to a steady halt. I pulled myself from Val's embrace, desperately pulling my hands through my hair to return it to some semblance of order.
But as the doors slid open, there was no one on the other side. I hung my head with relief.
"Not into people watching, eh?" Val grinned. "We'll have to see if there's something we can do about that…"
"You can't be –" I croaked, but before I had a chance to finish the half-formed thought, Val tossed me over his shoulder, lifting me as easily as a sports bag. I squealed, and pulled my short black dress down to cover my ass, but I didn't complain.
As he strode down the carpeted hallway, his muscular body moved beneath me, his muscles all firing in synchronized harmony, his thick shoulders rubbing against my skin, taunting me, teasing me, and throwing fuel onto the fire of my desire.
He threw me down on the bed, and the impact knocked half of the air out of my lungs, but I didn't notice. Nor did I open my mouth and suck in a mouthful of air; instead, I pressed my lips against his as he lowered his body onto mine.
I kissed him hungrily, messily – the sloppy work of a woman who hadn't touched a man in years; not like this, anyway. I didn't care, and neither did he.
His hands roamed my body – probing, touching, stroking – but never stopping. One moment his thick, huge right palm caressed my ankle, the next it slid up the back of my leg. No sooner was my attention focused there, than his left was pressed hard against my stomach, then pawing at my breast. I arched my back as two tongues of fire soared down my body, and he pressed his in closer.