Chapter 9 for monica

Chapter Ten

* * * * *


     The rain hadn’t let up at all.  There was talk of flooding in Brooklyn if it kept up much longer, and some talk that the first games of the Yankee’s season would have to be cancelled.  Mr. Lowbridge was beside himself with worry over the whole mess, and consoled himself and everyone in the shop by reading aloud, for the third time, the entire play by play of the season opener in Boston two days previously.  Unfortunately for Sophia, the rain had let up in Massachusetts just long enough to allow the Red Sox and Yankees to battle it out a couple of times.  She loved baseball, really she did, but she couldn’t bring up a single lick of enthusiasm for the tale of “our boys’” 12-11 win over the Boston.  Especially when George Lowbridge was just trying to forget the 7-8 loss to the Red Sox that happened the next day.  He hadn’t bothered to read that play-by-play aloud.

The droning voice did cover up the echoing dreariness of the shop, but Sophia was in no mood to appreciate the gesture. Alan was hiding downstairs after another argument with his brother over his various research projects. Not to mention the lack of time he was spending on the upkeep of the still, which had thrown a fit this morning and lost them a couple of barrels of rotgut.  Sophia wondered if George Jr. would be half so disapproving if he knew that Alan’s main research project at the moment went by the name of June and was pretty enough to stop traffic if you could get her to smile.  Alan seemed to be doing that, if his frequent disappearances and remarkably vivid blushes seemed to be any indication.

She would be happy for him but she wondered deep down if she still remembered how to be happy.  It was possible to paste on the makeup and the clothes, the dancing and the booze to make you think you were happy.  How long has it been since I’ve really, truly been happy?

Her life was dancing in clubs.  Minding this store and a few patrons here and there who still liked old fashioned herbal medicine.  Huddling in her apartment and trying not to dream.  Dreaming would force her to remember how empty she really was.

George Sr. closed the paper with a rustle, “Boy those fellas can play some mean ball.  Here’s to hoping tomorrow’s game looks more like this one!”

His enthusiasm was met with silence.  Sophia tried to flash him a half hearted grin, and he shook his head sadly.  “You need something to cheer you up dear.  If the Yanks were playing at home and it wasn’t pouring out, I’d swear we should play hookie and let Georgie take the store for the afternoon and go take in a game!  Crackerjack and a couple of homers from the Babe or Iron Horse do a soul good, my deary!”

This time, she gave him an honest smile and half a laugh and he grinned and walked into the back room to fill a couple of orders. George Lowbridge was a piece of work.  He loved the money he got from that still, but he wasn’t a bad sort really.  He did care about people.  It was too bad his sons had taken on opposite aspects of his personality.  As soon as the room was empty, George Jr. came back in from his lunch break and passed behind the counter, making sure to bump into her and give her ass a pinch.  She growled low, but didn’t have enough energy to put up much of a fight.  Junior must have sensed this and didn’t move on past, instead shifting closer to her and breathing hot down her neck.

“My dear girl, you know you are looking far too glum lately.  Are you sure I couldn’t escort you to the Cotton Club for an evening of fun and frolicking?”  He raised one eyebrow and ran a hand through his greased down hair and she shuddered.  She didn’t know which was worse, the offer, or the thought that a few years ago she had been out on the town with smarmy idiots just as bad as George Jr.

She stiffened her spine, unwilling to be that person any longer, “Sorry Georgie!  I’ve hit my quota for cavorting with rats this year.  Maybe next year you’ll get your chance.” 

He glared at her, “I’m sure, my dear girl, with an attitude like that you won’t be here next year.”  He stalked off and she looked at his retreating back as he swooshed into the storeroom.

No, I don’t think I will be here much longer.

She wasn’t sure where she would go, but this city was draining her dry.  It had moments of stark beauty and effervescent joy, but it writhed in pain and chaos too.  There were too many things to feel, too many lives to sense.  Either she had to leave or risk losing herself completely to cold apathy.

Strangely enough, she didn’t want to lose herself anymore.  That night when Daron had left her was seared in her mind.  Not the abandonment that turned her body from scorchingly hot to icy cold in a moment, though that was bad enough.  It was the image that he’d left her with.  She wasn’t sure if it was a glimpse of how he saw her or her own construction of how she wished she could see herself, but it was a vision more tantalizing than all the fleeting pleasures the anonymous city could ever offer her.

She could be strong.  Use her powers, not deny them.  Be happy and content, have a partner and children to love and be loved by.  She could be beautiful.

Sitting perched on her stool behind the till, she gazed out the front window of Lowbridge & Sons into the endless gray drizzle.  Every person tromping by through the rain was a font of potential, the bright sparks of their essence calling out to the random passersby searching for friends, lovers, companions – it was beautiful and heartbreaking all at the same time.  On the corner, she saw a plain girl with a blue umbrella, just like every other navy blue umbrella and a white cap just like half the girls in New York wore.  That girl stood still, letting the world pass her by in her loneliness.

But then there was a man in a tan trenchcoat, just like a hundred thousand other tan trenchcoats in the city, who swept in and embraced that girl.  Her face transformed from plain to pretty as her smile lit up the pervasive gray and the fire of her heart turned for a moment brilliant in reunion with her love.  Sophia found tears in her eyes, watching a play that took place a hundred times a day on the corners of the city.

Could she embrace life like that once again?          

* * * * *

The subway was ridiculously crowded, as it had been every frigging day for the last week.  She was jostled around between a crotchety old woman who stomped on her toe and a leering rotund bald man who smelled far too strongly of onions and liverwurst.  She half-closed her eyes, letting go of her consciousness for a bit and letting the Lexington Line carry her toward her flat.  It should be home, but it wasn’t.  Not really.  It was where she slept.

She pictured a home sometimes, a little cabin in the woods with whitewashed walls and the shade of tall trees.  The warmth of cocoa in the cold winter and sitting on the porch on a blistering summer afternoon.  Making love on the kitchen table.  Rocking a fussy baby in Grams’ rocking chair.  She’d had it all planned out once, but for all she’d tried, Jimmy had never really fit into this picture.  Her partner was always someone without a face, just a comforting presence that would fill up her heart.

Daron made the picture complete.  She could see him in the rocking chair with a black haired little boy.  See him chopping firewood for the winter, sweat dripping down his broad back.  She could feel her nipples dragging across the polished oak surface of an old wooden table as he pounded into her from behind, the scent of dinner burning on the stove.

She sneezed and her legs quivered for a moment as she was again brought into the reality of the damp and stuffy subway and some inconsiderate asshole lighting up a cigarette not three feet away in the packed crowd.  She watched with jaded eyes as the lights within him scattered and went dimmer with each puff the dumb sap took.  Small vengeance for the whole car having to breathe the stuff in the heavy, wet air.  Sophia was happy once again that she had never succumbed to the temptation to take up the habit.

Finally, after managing to force her way past the bald mountain of onion breath, and giving a discrete elbow to the smoker to set him into a coughing fit, she got out at her stop on 86th.  Longing to take a good deep breath, she hurried up the stairs, unfurling her umbrella and standing for one moment on the sidewalk, breathing in the taste of the rain.  There was wetness on her cheeks. 

It’s just the weather, I’m not crying.  I’m not.

People brushed past her, hurrying to get home to their families.  Sophia walked slowly, having nothing to return to but some cold sausage rolls and a dried up apple.  She hadn’t been out to the clubs or heard more than a passing note of music from some rich swell’s radio.  She should probably try going out tonight, but it was likely she’d end up staring at her ceiling, thoughts swirling in her head as she tried to face the cold reality of who she really was, and who she wanted to be.

She walked into her building, folding her umbrella and nodding at the doorman, Todd.  Turning away from the carpeted hallway to the elevator and instead opened the service doorway to the basement flats.  She looked down at her feet as she descended the familiar stairs, sighing at the state of her boring but sensible half boots, almost soaked through from all the rain they’d seen lately.  They’d have to snuggle up to the radiator tonight while she wrapped herself in her blankets and tried to lose herself in sleep that rarely came.  The pounding in her head would not let her thoughts come to a rest.  Nothing she could think of had kept the horrible pressure from inside her skull, not booze, not aspirin, not music or crying or screaming.  She had no doubt that the one thing outside of death that she knew would give her peace was no longer an option.  To be in the arms of Daron West.

Her eyes half closed and her actions were prescribed by habit as she dug through her clutch purse for her keys.  She was shocked when she bumped into a body standing in front of her door.   Jumping back, alarm flashed through her as she gasped her surprise.  Cold eyes full of accusation stared back at her, and her heart leapt to her thought as the energy of the woman in front of her flared scarlet in the heat of her righteous indignation.

“Are you happy now, you floozy?” hissed Irene Whitfield, cold and superior in her camel trenchcoat and cashmere scarf.  The child she’d held the last time Sophia had encountered the woman was nowhere to be seen and hence there was no maternal softness to cushion the sharpness of this ex-Patriot from high society.

Shocked for more than a moment by the rage seething off the woman, Sophia found that rather than a witty retort, the truth escaped her lips in a harsh whisper.  “No.  I’m not happy. I’m actually rather miserable.”

Irene blinked for a moment, the momentum of her diatribe stolen by this unexpected candor.  Her hands, covered in fine grey kidskin gloves, opened and closed at her sides, as though searching for something to grip.  Sophia wondered if the woman was about to slap her silly and whether she should bother to defend herself from the blow. 

Instead of lashing out with physical violence, Irene folded her arms in front of her chest as though she was about to chastise a child. “He’s miserable too, you know.” Sophia nodded, her eyes threatened to flood with sudden hot tears.  Her nose burned with the effort to keep them back but she barely managed it.

“He’s going to leave soon, I’m sure of it.  He’s not saying his goodbyes in an upfront way, but he’s withdrawing in his own way, making sure that all of us are doing well enough to carry on when he’s gone.” Irene’s voice was touched with a tinge of desperation, she looked off into the distance, her eyes vaguely unfocused. 

“I owe him more than I can ever explain, much less repay.  My son, my life…”  a smile flickered over her face and Sophia found herself suddenly jealous, anxious to know such love as this hard woman had for her sweet baby.  Irene snapped back suddenly, eyes flaring again with a kind of maternal protectiveness that made Sophia worry for the life of any girl who would tamper with the affections of Michael Whitfield.  “I always knew he would move on someday, it’s in his nature, to look until he finds some kind of anchor.  He’s the kind of man who’ll give you unending loyalty, but deals with heartache by running.  This time if he runs, I’m not sure he’ll ever be able to trust anyone ever again.”

The tears burned down her cheeks, but Sophia couldn’t muster the courage to say a word. Irene would not let tears slow her down, “He’s been drained, Miss Hunter.  You left behind a pitiful shell of a great man.  Was that your intention or are you just the world’s biggest fool?”

Sophia snapped, yelling as fury and sorrow battled for dominance in her chest, “What the hell do you know?  He’s better off without me!  I’m nothing but a curse, I’m nobody!”

Irene screamed back, her hands whipping out and clutching at Sophia’s shoulders, the nails biting even though the kid gloves she wore and all the layers of fabric between them.  “Then be somebody, damn it!  Be somebody who deserves him, even if you have to dredge her up out of depths of your dreams.  Figure out something, because if you don’t I’ll make sure that you’ll be miserable for as long as you stay in this city.  I’m not afraid of whatever powers Nana Mary claims you have.  Money talks, sister!”

With that, Irene swept past Sophia, darting up the stairs and back into the world of the upper-middle class that held apartments above street level in Yorktown.  Sophia wasn’t sure whether to laugh or shake in fear. 

Habit took old and she put her key in the lock, entering her apartment without conscious thought.  Her body seemed to know her routine without her mind interfering, because she found herself soon enough sitting at her tiny table, her sausage roll and her last apple propped in front of her, her hands shaking a bit as her poured herself a glass of water from a pitcher.  She taken off her coat and her sodden boots and had slipped on the comfortable clogs she’d had since she was sixteen, the same ones she run through the woods in with Jimmy.

She chewed without tasting and drank her glass of water slowly, not quite ready to rush into the decision that was bubbling beneath the surface of her consciousness.  Filled with a sense of budding purpose, she rose suddenly, leaving her half-eaten dinner on the table and stood in front of her crackled cheval mirror. 

I look like crap.

There were dark smudges under her eyes and she’d never seen her skin so pale.  Her hair was pathetic, she hadn’t styled it past brushing in days.  Her work clothes did nothing for her figure, her skirt was still wet from the rain. 

I don’t care.

She grabbed her coat and her purse and ran out the door.  Emerging past Todd who raised an eyebrow at her haste, she rushed out the door and cursed for a second that she’d forgotten her umbrella.  Until she stopped and stared up at the sky, realizing that the rain had finally stopped. 

Smiling slightly, she started the long walk between 86th and 118th Street, wanted nothing to do with the subway again today.  Maybe on the way, she’d figure out what the heck to say to him to get him to take her with him, wherever he was going.  She knew that where he was, that was where she wanted to be.

* * * * *

It had taken her hours to walk the twenty blocks between her flat and this building, but she felt better for the fresh air and the time to think.  She barely missed getting splashed by a white panel truck zooming around the corner and through a puddle.  She decided to let go of a city-dweller’s perennial resentment and figured the badly drawn and garish advertisement for carpet cleaning was revenge enough on the driver.  Squaring her shoulder, she went into the building determined that he’d have to at least hear her out. By the top of the stairs, she was beat. True, she could dance the night away in Morningside or Harlem but she still huffed and puffed by the time she arrived on the top of the sixth floor.  She walked down the hall, looking at the ceiling in the semi-darkness until she spotted the ladder on the wall and the hatch at the top.  She started to climb up and cursed her clogs as one got stuck on a rail and fell to the floor. 

She shrugged.  What the hell?  Kicking off the other shoe, she continued her climb and pushed at the trapdoor opening a window to the sky.  Pulling herself up and sitting for a moment on the tar surface of the roof, she gazed up in wonder.

The sky was orange, something only possible in this greatest city, the clouds so close she felt she could reach out and touch them.  The rain that had let up for a few hours had left the clouds behind to serve as a reminder and the lights of New York at nighttime reflected back on a city shimmering and clean.  It was a beautiful sight, something utterly unique to city life, where so many people lived so close together and lived life to its fullest at all hours of the day and night.

She lowered her gaze and looked around, seeing the wall encircling the roof of the building.  There were pipes and vents, buckets and a stepladder, all the kinds of things you’d expect to find on a rooftop where the maintenance man lived.  But there were also the shadows of flower boxes and sturdy stems reaching for that orange sky and waiting for the sun to break through those clouds someday soon.  She wondered what the place looked like during the day, if those plants were bright red geraniums to brighten up the grey skyline or if they were the beginnings of tomato plants or something sensible.  What would a man like Daron West plant in his rooftop garden?  What was his favorite color? What did he wear to sleep?

I don’t know, but I’d sure as hell like to find out!

There was a small shed on the roof, a bit beat up but in decent condition from what she could make out in the dark.  She went to get up on her feet, when she noticed one of the shadows that surrounded her move ever so slightly.  She quickly suppressed the urge to scream, instead taking a deep breath and rising, pacing slowly across the damp tar on bare feet toward the man in the shadows.

“Hello.” Gotta start somewhere.  I think just kissing him might be a bit too aggressive.

“Hello, Sophia Hunter.  What do you want from me?” His voice was taut, not quite hoarse but far from welcoming.  She would have been much happier if he had called her “ashavi” again.  Then she would know that he still wanted her.  Her stomach clenched, as though it wanted to turn and scuttle away, find a safe place to hide and not deal with the messy prospect of feeling anything ever again. 

Standing straighter, she willed the fear out of her voice as she answered as truthfully as she could.  “Everything.  I’ll take everything, as long as you’ll take the same from me.”

He stepped closer and she could see that he’d not weathered the last few days any better than she had.  His eyes looked like they’d seen far too little sleep and his hair was no longer tamed into confinement.  Still, in the ever present twilight reflected off the clouds above, his face was a thing of stark beauty.  Beauty she knew she would never grow tired of, if given the chance to spend fifty years watching the subtle changes of age.

The silence stretched on as he looked into her eyes, searching for something.  His closer presence had increased her power with ease and gradually she saw him illuminated from within, his eyes formed of emerald fire.  She had thought of a thousand things to say on the long walk here, only to have them evaporate when she needed them most.

I should be nervous.  Agonized even, from waiting to see how he would respond, what he would ask of her.  But all she felt was peace.  The pounding of the millions around her, the ebb and flows of their lives, had been blocked out.  Her world was limited to herself and to him and that was enough.

Peace was not calm though.  Memory and fantasy merged to tickle the back of her brain with desire.  She wanted to see all of him again, every single inch of him.  She wanted to strip him bare and lick his skin, feel him pulse under her tongue until he exploded for her and she tasted his essence.  She wanted to bare herself completely and see his eyes light with desire as she lowered herself on to him and joined their bodies as one.  Lust pulsed within her, hotter and stronger than anything she’d ever felt before and mixed with the sharp intensity of something indescribably sweet.

He still said nothing, but held out a hand.  She placed her hand in his without hesitation.  Gasping, she was flooded with the chaotic tumblings of his mind.  Anger and hurt was there, desire that magnified her own until she could barely restrain herself from tearing off her clothes from the heat she felt within.  But behind the primal instinct, there were stronger, truer feelings.  It was those feelings which could give her peace. She swallowed, finally acknowledging to herself that what he felt was love. Love that was deep and abiding, more than a match for her own.

Tears came unbidden as she closed the gap between them and slid her free hand up his simple linen shirt and behind his neck, pulling his face down to meet hers.  Their lips met and soon their hands roamed, removing any hindrance to touch until they were both naked, the cool air a welcome relief from the heat they generated.

Her nipples were hard, the sensation was on the edge of painful but she escaped his efforts to capture one between his teeth. Instead she kissed her way down his chest, running her hands through the thick black hair above his cock.  She nibbled on his hipbone as his fingers threaded through her hair with the gentlest of touches, as though he still didn’t quite believe that she was here, that she would run if he pushed her too hard.

How to prove to him that was foolish?  She ran the very tip of her tongue along the underside of his gorgeous engorged cock, from the base to the tip, where she planted the lightest of kisses.  She relished the slight shiver she felt running through him.  Her hands were wrapped around his strong thighs, her knees cushioned by their discarded clothes. 

She was not terribly confident in her abilities to drive him as insane as he had driven her in the past.  Most of her experience in giving lavish attention to the male organ had been to appease the drunken begging of her partner of the moment or to satisfy her own intense curiosity.  Without the forgiving blankness of inebriation, she had more of her imagination to call on.  That meant she could think of ways she could disappoint just as much as she could think of things she was eager to try to please him.  Whatever she lacked, she could learn.

Sliding the engorged head past her lips, she savored the flavor of him, pushing her tongue gently into his slit and then sweeping slowly down over the glans.  Her hands drifted up to caress firm buttocks that tensed with her actions, trying to fight the urge to thrust into her mouth.

She smiled around him and took him deeper into her mouth, rubbing the head of him against the top of her palate, stroking the back with her tongue.  He pulsed harder and let out a low groan.  She looked up at him and the intensity of his eyes sensed a shiver up and down her spine, pooling heat and wetness in her core until she was aching for him.  She sucked hard, creating pressure to add to the actions of her tongue.  His fingers pulled her hair tightly before he purposefully relaxed trying to be gentle.

Gentle was surely wonderful, but she needed to show him she wouldn’t be scared off so easily.  He tasted too good, and he was leaking just enough of his spicy essence to make her hungry for more.  Smoothing a hand over his hip and down his thigh, she cupped his sac in her hand, stroking the balls inside with subtle pressure.  When she was sure he was caught up in this new sensation, his eyes closed and with his hands stroking small circles in her scalp, she took a deep breath and swallowed the length of his cock. 

Her mouth was watering for him, it was simple to fight any reflexes and take him all in.  He cried out, thrusting against her until they learned a rhythm.  Her tongue pressed against the back of him as he slid within her mouth and farther and his pleasure radiated to her.  His pleasure was her pleasure, and one hand circled the base of his cock and her other hand dived down to stroke her own clit, hard and tight and aching for him.  Her juices painted his skin as her hands came up to grip his hips and with a hissed breath and a shout, he came hard in her mouth.  She held him fast, forcing him to let her drink him all in, swallowing his essence and taking all of him.

When she finally relented and let him fall from her lips, her tongue sneaked out to lick one last time at his slick skin.  He knelt in front of her, holding her face in his hands and pressing slow light kisses on her lips, breathing in her breath and tasting his essence on her tongue.

She had lost count of the men she’d been with when it had reached more than she could count on her fingers. But she had stopped not too long after that, knowing that the empty pleasure was only cutting her off from an aching wound, not sealing it.  They had used her and she had used them. Her enjoyment of the act had probably been more her body’s memory of what things should feel like, rather than the truth of it. 

This was different. 

She could feel something new and vibrant living within her.  The impenetrable heat of his gaze, the goosebumps that followed the light trails of his fingers against the fine hair of her naked arms.  She felt utterly alive for the first time in her adult life. The shades of color of his skin against hers, the rainclean scent of him, the brush of his lips on hers went straight through her like cleansing fire.

He pressed forward and she leaned back upon the pile of discarded clothes, loving the feel of his weight upon her as he settled between her legs.  She shuddered when he drew the tip of his tongue down her neck and gasped when he bit the dip where her neck met her shoulder.  His hair cascaded over them both, black flame against the orange fire of the sky.  The scent of him filled her as the taste of him still lingered on her tongue.

He breathed softly across the skin of her breasts, making her nipples ever harder and she arched her back in response, trying to get closer.  With the lightest of strokes, he laved her nipples and whispered something she didn’t understand in a gypsy language, “Buut guli, ashavi.”

He pulled back for a moment looking into her eyes as his lips curled into a devilish smile.  “You are very sweet, my love.”  Then he dove back to her breasts, sucking her nipples into his mouth, one and then the other, biting them, pulling them between his fingers until she was practically screaming, her hands twisted in his hair forcing his head tight against her chest.

She felt like lightning was prickling under her skin.  With her eyes closed, she could see it, her body white hot with energy swirling to pull his in, to join them together and satisfy her deepest longings. She moaned incoherently, unable to speak anything but his name.

He gave her a respite, his hands drifting over her ribs as his lips and tongue caressed her stomach.  She laughed softly, gratefully, happily and she could feel his answering grin just before his tongue swept into her navel and she laughed long and loud.  It seemed a natural part of loving this man, to be filled with laughter.  Most men would probably take offense at laughing in the midst of sex, but he chuckled with her, their sparkling joy contagious.

His lips trailed over her hip, his fingers drawing circles on the underside of her knees as her legs fell apart.  He inhaled deeply and smiled that sinful smile that she could see in her minds eye and feel against the bone of her hip.  She knew he knew how much she wanted him.  She knew that her smell was something he craved.  Her labia were swollen and parted, revealing all to him. His tongue darted out to touch one of her lips, stroking the flesh and causing her to hiss with impatience.

His voice floated up to her, although she was never sure if he had spoken aloud or somehow she heard him in her mind. “Let it happen, ashavi.  Don’t think.  Let go of your tight hold on the world and feel.”

And something within her unfurled, like the first opening of a bud as it became a flower.  His mind was hers, his feelings were her own. All of him flooded into her, the thrill of his blood through his veins, the incomparable flavor of her, the hot scent of her filling his nostrils, the incredible pleasure he gained from her soft sighs and the subtle movements of her hips toward his tongue.  He lapped at her clit, the flat of his tongue rasping against her then darting into her entrance to taste the heady fluid that made her ready for him. In that moment, he wanted nothing more than to worship her, to reveal the divine within her, and learn everything about her, body and soul.  With that knowledge, that deep confirmation of his very being, she lost the hard callous she’d worked to acquire since the death of the boy she had loved.  As he thrust a finger inside and sucked her clit into his mouth and she came, her legs shaking and tears leaking from her eyes.

His face was again hovering over her, his fingers brushing her hair from her eyes.  His own eyes were still filled with the hint of question and she rolled her eyes and pushed at him, rolling them over until she could rear up over him.  His hardened cock trapped between them as she sat astride his hips, her hands planted firmly on his chest  as she tried to catch her breath.

To convince him of her eagerness, actions spoke louder than words. As soon as she had the energy to wrinkle her nose at him and smile, she impaled herself on his cock, wincing slightly as he filled her completely.  It was a good pain. Her head fell back as she relaxed all her muscles, letting his welcome invasion come as deep inside as possible.

His hands came up to grip her hips and he lifted her up and thrust back inside of her, making her let out a sharp scream.  He slowed for a moment and she barked out a harsh, “No!” She gripped his bent knees behind her and circled her hips in forceful patterns meant to drive them both just a little bit mad.  She stared at his face, still shadowed in the dim light, his teeth glowing white with his feral look of fierce concentration.  His fingers dug into her hips just a little too hard and she liked it, loving the fact that he was approaching the edge. 

He trusted her now. She wanted to take him over again, drive him past the point where he couldn’t fight the inevitable peak.  But he felt too damn good inside her.  He was just long enough and just wide enough as though he’d been molded exactly for her.  At the end of each stroke, as she thrust down and he thrust up to match, he hit someplace that made her breath catch in little pants and stars flash in front of her eyes.

She clenched around him, wanting to feel every inch of him as she came closer and closer to falling over the edge, held on the brink by only the tiniest thread of sanity.  Her knees were scratching against the tar of the roof and she should be blue with cold but she felt nothing but pleasure thrumming in her veins. The night was bright as day from the power swirling between them.  She couldn’t even close her eyes and escape this, even if she had wanted to.

He reared up off the ground, sucking one of her nipples into his mouth as his thumb found her clit at the same moment.  She slammed down on top of him twice more and then shattered, biting her one lip hard enough to draw blood as bliss poured hot through her.  She wrapped her hands around his neck and held on for dear life as spasms wracked her body. 

Blinded by the brilliance of her pleasure, she was completely disoriented when she was roughly flipped over, her back pressed against the cold tar roof and he reared above her once again.  With a loud groan, Daron pulled out of her almost completely before thrusting back into her hard. “Oh, yes, oh God, yes!” she cried, not quite believing it was possible to have the pleasure build back up so quickly.  She wrapped her legs around him and he pushed his hands under her hips, hauling her up against him as he knelt before her.  Her internal muscles fluttered, gripping him hard as he tried to withdraw for another stroke, unwilling to let him escape.  But he would not be denied.  He plunged into her again and again and she became locked in to bright green eyes, watching him as he gave her pleasure and took his own.

For one long minute, it seemed like they were made of light, that they could fly around the world and never touch the ground.  His arms tensed for a moment and he released her hips, falling forward onto his elbows he held himself above her, the change in angle being exactly what she needed to take off and soar.  She wrapped her arms around him, dragged her nails down his back as his cock grew impossibly harder within her.  With a shout in her ear, he came, taking her with him.  The world was drowning in blistering light, silver and copper and every other color and shade.  Light strong enough to invade all the dark places in her soul and banish her nightmares.

When they kissed, sharing their breathless awe, shudders still wracked both of them, body and soul.  The salty taste was more than their fluids, more than their sweat.  The taste was of tears of joy.

Chapter 9 for Monica

Chapter Nine

* * * * *


The rain had started the next morning and it hadn’t let up since. It didn’t help that the stream of water from the heavens reminded him constantly of that damned shower and made it almost impossible not to pick up the emotions of everyone around him.  

He knew he was being a bear, complete with growl and vicious claws.  He’d sat dejected through a merry dinner on Wednesday.  He’d found Alan in the hallway outside June’s apartment, holding a wilting bouquet of daisies and a large bag.  Reluctantly, he rounded up June from Ixchel’s room where she was helping with the mending and opened up June’s apartment.  Alan entertained Hester for a half an hour before June showed up, dirty from work and wet from the weather.  It didn’t take someone with Daron’s powers to know that the man was a knife’s edge away from falling in love.  Strangely enough, June’s face lit up when she saw Alan, but she’d asked Daron to stay and Alan had pulled out boxes of take away fettuccini and breadsticks from that bag he’d been holding.  Serving as chaperone to a budding love affair did not improve his mood. The next day, he’d even barked at Hester when she’d come to watch him repaint the walls on the fourth floor where the Giacomini boys had decided to practice their A-B-C’s and F-U-C-K’s.  He’d not wanted clever Hester to read what had been scrawled there, but he’d yelled far too loudly and sent her scurrying.

Not even his sister Simza would have put up with how he’d snapped.  She’d have sat him down and scorched his ears in four languages until he was thoroughly chastised and impressed by the breadth and eloquence of her vocabulary of oaths.  He missed her more than he would have ever believed.  Part of him wondered if he should just get on the next ship he could back to France and live out his lonely existence working his brother-in-law’s little winery, forgetting he’d ever met a little American strumpet.  Ah he could almost feel the sharp kick Simza would have given him, calling his ashavi such a name.  If only he could talk to her.

Everyone had their own problems.  Irene had Michael to deal with.  June had Hester.  Carlos and Ixchel dealt with living on the fickle tourist trade and worked too many odd jobs to count.  Giuseppe may have listened, but his English only went so far, and Daron’s Italian wasn’t good enough to bridge the gap.  He didn’t want to burden anyone.  It was a tale that he’d told no one of his little clan.  They all held fast to an older path, one older than the written word.  But he’d not told anyone of his heritage.  Only Sophia.  And she’d rejected it completely.

He felt empty.  Hollow.  Something he’d never really believed he was missing managed to hurt so deeply it was as though he had lost a limb.  There was an ever present ache in his chest and his teeth hurt from where they ground together, even in his sleep.  He looked out the front door of his building, out into the downpour that had people dashing around under umbrellas and cast the world in a pall of damp gray.  It was Saturday, and Harlem came alive on the weekends.  Couples walked by hand in hand, on the way to some house party or one of the clubs.  Daron just wondered if it was worth it to walk in the rain to find which bar Tommy had installed himself in and how much it would take to get drunk enough to find some nameless woman to sate his need with.

One of the passing umbrellas paused in front of his building, its bright yellow a glowing contrast to the navy and black that dominated the majority of floating domes passing by.  The owner turned and with a stately grace, made her way up the steps and into the hallway he’d just finished mopping clean.  Closing her umbrella, Mary Pinckney, grandmother, root doctor and formidable priestess, fixed him with a determined stare.

“You, mister, you be needin’ a change of surroundins, and I be needin’ an escort for de evenin’.  Do ya gots any bettuh britches?  Dem rags won’t be fine enough to see my granchil’ do his moco.”  She swept back her coat, revealing a regal dress in a dark purple. 

He stood blinking for a moment until she began tapping her foot. 

“We don’t gots all day, boy!  De Savoy gets full up righ’ quick.  Go gets your dancin’ shoes ‘fore I ‘ave a mine to drag you ovah my achin’ knee!”

He laughed.  Taking his mop and bucket, he turned up the stairway to do as he was bid.  Why the hell not?

* * * * *

He’d never been in a place like this before, one with thousands of people packed into a building solely for the purpose of dancing.  There had been large gatherings of the Romani and the Sinti, huge colorful meeting where serious business was done and serious celebration the result.  But those were still out in the open, under a vast sky and lit by countless fires.  But as a Magi, he was always an outsider, whispered about as he walked past.  Here, in this massive building the length of a city block, he was anonymous.  The walls of mirrors, the elegant curtains and the polished wooden floor, all of this was devoted to dancing every day of the week from morning to deep into the night.  This was purely American.

The floor shivered under his feet, pounding out the rhythm of a couple thousand dancers swaying to the brash brass of the band.  Daron didn’t know if his father would have covered his ears in terror at the sound or have been eager to learn the new style of “Swing”.  His mother though, she would have been right at home, twisting and turning, learning each new step and making up her own, feeding off the surging energy of the happy crowd and feeding back to it her brilliance.

Mary whistled next to him, perched primly on her chair, a purple hat set jauntily over her ear.  She might be old but there was rhythm in her blood and she would not have missed the chance to see her grandson’s first show as a clarinet player with the Savoy Bearcats.  Daron had been proud to escort her and puzzled that she’d asked him instead of one of her children or grandchildren.  He supposed it was high time he saw this aspect of the city, this crazy exultation of the throbbing life of Manhattan.  And the Savoy was the place to do it.   It had just opened a month earlier, Daron remembered cleaning up the handbills from the sidewalk in front of his building.  Everyone who was anyone was welcome to dance at the Savoy and everyone seemed to be there tonight.  It took all his powers of concentration not to lose himself in the waves of emotion coming off of the dance floor, as wild moves gave way to wilder impulses.  This was the first place where every skin color, white, brown, black, green or purple was allowed to dance the night away.

Mary had been exultant when they walked in the neon lit entrance and up that marble staircase under that giant chandelier to the second floor, where the ballroom stretched as far as the eye could see.  The cold wet April night was left behind in memory and the heat skyrocketed.  Dancers coasted around the floor, buoyed by vibrant energy and music that made your feet want to move.  Charlie, Mary’s youngest grandson was blowing his clarinet with a fire and passion that Daron could easily recognize from Mary.  She was proud and rightly so. 

Still, Daron had no real idea why she’d insisted that he escort her tonight but Mary had a talent for timing, for knowing just when to be in the right place at the right time.  When he’d first been in New York, a bit shell shocked by the overwhelming freight train that was The Big Apple, he’d taken refuge in Central Park, meeting the sun’s rise on Midsummer’s Day as he had every year of his life, with an offering of fire.  Next to that small campfire, burning the sage leaves he’d bought in a grocer still blinking sleep from his eyes, he’d seen her dark figure step up out of nowhere, as though called from the heavens by his offering.  She’d taken an interest in him ever since, helping him to find his job as apartment custodian and introducing him to Giuseppe and Carlos and Ixchel, other people who remembered the old ways, even if they used different names for the forces of nature.

He could feel primal forces in the air of this place, the push and pull of the fire of energy and the heavy breaths of thick air, the water of sweat and the pounding of the earth under the shoes of the revelers.  He was tempted, more than tempted to take off his gloves and pass through the crowd, stealing bits and pieces of excitement and joy until it filled up the hollow ache inside.  But it would be temporary.  It would all drain away, leaving him even more empty than before he’d stolen happiness that was not his own.  It was the eternal temptation of his power, one which he utterly rejected.

It would be better just to pick out one of the countless girls in the crowd and dance the night away with her.  Or pick three, rotating between that redhead with freckles who was smiling at him with a gap in her teeth, that sexy black girl with the green velvet dress, or even that beautiful Chinese girl he saw shimmying with abandon in the crowd.  There was no reason not to go and have a good time.  Not when he was so cursed.

But he didn’t move.  He felt a finger poke him in the ribs and he turned incredulous eyes to Mary, who was drinking discretely from a little silver hipflask in this definitively dry club.  No one would deny a woman not a day younger than eighty her whiskey, no matter what the law might say about the evils of alcohol. 

“Git out dere, Daron West.  Git out dere ‘fore I’s ready ta tip your chair ovah.  You needs to dance.”

He grimaced.  He crossed his arms over his chest and looked sullenly back at the crowd.  The he felt his chair move, and before the thing fell he was on his feet, his jaw slack with dismay. 

“Git!” Mary pointed at the dancing maelstrom. 

He sighed, defeated.  He rolled up his sleeves over his blue suit jacket and tread out on the dance floor, prepared to try and lose himself for a while.  The song was fast and loud and having a partner seemed thoroughly optional at this point.  People were stomping back and forth, moving their arms in sinuous patterns.  The latest dance craze no doubt, something to replace the Charleston. He moved into the crowd, trying to imitate the rhythm of the crowd.  He’d only skirted around the edge of the mass, testing the waters for finding a partner, when he’d seen her.

Sophia Hunter was dancing not five feet away, laughing with some man that Daron instantly wanted to throttle.  Her skirt was short, showing glimpses of her knees and the long sweep of her calves down to those dainty feet that were trotting along in quicktime.  There was a fine sheen of sweat across her skin and the top of her chest glistened in the low light of the chandeliers high above, forcing his eyes to take in the low neckline of the dress as shining skin transitioned to pink shimmering silk the color of a ripe raspberry or a woman’s most private flesh.  He snorted at modern American fashion, which forced a woman to try to flatten her breasts.  He had memorized every sweet curve, from the shape to the weight to the taste of her.  It was a travesty to try and cover them up but at least the rest of the slavering males drawn to her brilliant, unquenchable vigor had no idea of the treasures underneath that silk sheath.

With the flare of his lust, the barriers that he’d built against her started to crumble and he could see the darkened room light up with the sparkling energy of thousands of souls.  He could see her steps falter, her eyes flare open into swirling silver pools as she looked around searching.  He retreated, hiding behind the crowd and leaning against one of the dark orange pillars separating the massive dance floor from the refreshment lounge.  It wasn’t time to be found.  He wasn’t sure it ever would be.

He probably should have taken her that night in her apartment.  Sweeping her up in passion and flowing over her until she had no choice but to stay with him.  He knew the connection they would share would be undeniable, as intense as an addiction to a drug.  He could already feel the lure of her, just feet away inside the throng.  He was half hard, picturing her glistening wet, her hair plastered to her neck and the flower of her sex earthy rich under his tongue.  Once he’d felt her envelope him, once he’d known how they would fit together and soar, he knew he’d be powerless in her presence.  And she would likely be the same.

He could break her, make her need him.  But it would be a sorry excuse for a mating.  She was wild and opinionated, skillful and passionate and he wanted her whole and willing or not at all.  He bent over, the breath knocked out of him with the thought that he could likely lose her completely if he left things as they were.  Hands on his knees, staring at the painted orange and blue chevrons of the lounge floor, he wasn’t ready for the appearance of strappy heels, silk stockings and a long length of leg to lure his eyes steadily upward.

Her arms were folded across her flattened chest, her hair starting to curl in the humidity of the ballroom.  Her head was tipped to one side and she looked at him, her lips pursed in an affected moue.  The band changed the tune from a fast beat to a slower number and Sophia bent forward, grabbing his gloved hand in hers.  She made to pull him on to the dance floor, but turned, giving him a hard look before yanking off one glove and then the other, leaning into him and stuffing them into the pockets of his second hand jacket.  The shock of sensation was briefly overwhelmed the sweet earthy sent of her, lavender and rose and something distinctly her own.  But then her bare hand was in his and the rawness of her need became all too evident.  She was angry, intrigued, sad, scared and every bit as full of desire as he was.  He was pummeled by waves of confusion, the rhythm of the crowd and the blood draining from his brain to his cock.

Then she was close to him, moving with slow precision their hands linked and their bodies forming the patterns of the slow foxtrot, their feet performing the steps when their minds were wrapped up in layers of conflict.  Daron thanked the heavens he’d had some dance lessons and Hester for her repeated requests to watch Daron perfect his technique with a then heavily pregnant Irene.  He’d never have thought afternoons spent coaxing laughter out of a hardened Irene and entertaining Hester with silly antics would result in this. 

Sophia fit perfectly in his arms, her cheek brushing his chin, her hand on his shoulder.  Her back was warm under the thin silk and he longed to touch the bare expanse of it, knowing it was softer than the fabric covering it.  He wanted to run his fingertips over it, watching her skin shiver in reaction to the lightest of touches.  Wanted to span his fingers around her waist as he thrust deep inside, watch her back arch as he rubbed her clit. He shook himself, barely catching himself in a misstep and pushing the surge of lust away before he tried to take her in the middle of the dance floor.

 Letting his body lead in the dance, he found that they glided over the floor as though they’d been dancing for a lifetime.  There was no question here that they were meant to be partners.  The sweet sound of the clarinet was all the conversation they needed.

He knew what she was feeling but he wasn’t sure that she understood it at all.  When they were together, he could see swirling energies as she did and he still couldn’t interpret half of what he saw.  If she couldn’t see past her one swirling emotions, he doubted she could read his own past the desire he felt for her and his frustration that she was not yet his.

He felt her surge of surprise that he could dance and dance well and he enjoyed being able to shock her just a bit from her expectations of the uncouth gypsy.  She was remarkably light on her feet and threw herself into the dance with almost total abandonment.  Losing herself in the moment to escape from the weight of her Gift. She would be like that in his bed, so full of passion that it would flow out of her in waves that he would gladly drown in.  He could be her anchor and he would do it gladly.

But not against her will.

He tried to pull away from her, tried to clear his mind and ignore the persistent throbbing of his aching cock.  His body and his soul clung to her presence too tightly and even as he managed to back away a few inches, her hand wrapped around his neck and pulled him back down, close enough that their lips brushed for a moment.  Need arched through him until he couldn’t tell if it was hers or his.  He kissed her there out on the dance floor, hard enough that they stumbled to a sudden stop and the dancers swirled around them, hollering and whistling at the intensity of the public kiss.

The band played on and somehow she led them through the teeming mass, until they came out at the other end of the lounge.  The orange and blue floor swam in front of his eyes he could see nothing but the sweep of Sophia’s back, the way the fabric caressed her skin.  The dress dropped in the fashionable way to provide a straight silhouette, giving him no indication of the beautiful ass he’d held in his hands a few days ago.  He wanted her out of that dress, he wanted inside her, within her, until he knew every inch of her inside and out better than she knew herself.

Lust burned in him so that he barely noticed when he was pulled through an inconspicuous doorway behind the refreshment bar and went from the low light of the dance floor to the heavy blackness of a recessed staircase.  When he knew for certain they were completely alone, he pulled on her hand, stopping her for a moment in her mad dash down the stairs and pressed her against the wall.  His hands stroked her hips through the silk as his tongue stroked against hers.  He gripped her ass in his hands and yanked her up the wall until his cock pressed against her cleft through the inconvenient layers of their clothes.  She moaned and circled her hips against him before pushing him away for a moment and listening for any sign of noise. 

He blinked for a moment, trying to remember why he felt the smallest stirrings of warning when the rest of him was more than satisfied to have her willing in his arms.  He nibbled on her neck and she whimpered. “Not here!”  At least someone was still thinking.  She caught hold of one of his roaming hands as it pushed the fabric of her tiny dress upward past her garter.  Pushing past him, she led them down another floor’s worth of staircase.  At the bottom, she opened two doors down the darkened hallway before finding one to her liking.

“I know the owner,” she whispered as she closed the door behind her, ”Moe won’t mind if we borrow a storeroom for a while.”

She threw her arms around his neck before he could form the hint of a question and drew him back into a world where nothing existed but the hot, sweet taste of her.  The room was dark except for the red glow of the neon sign outside of the tiny basement room.  Her skin seemed licked by flame as he pulled down the tiny sleeves and pushed the silk bodice down.  Her breasts were trapped under a ridiculously tight camisole and she squeaked in mild protest when he ripped the thing with his bare hands.

Free of their prison, he bent to worship them, caressing them with his fingertips and laving them with his tongue.  She tasted deliciously salty, a savory feast who was eager to be consumed.  He sucked the curve of her right breast tight against his teeth, tasting a hint of blood and marking her.  She shouted, demanding more even as her knees gave out and he hitched her thighs around his waist and set her on a wooden shipping crate.  The rhythm of the music pounding down from two floors above grew faster and the pulse of his blood grew more demanding.  He ground his cock against her, sliding one hand up her thigh from smooth stocking to soft skin as the other hand fisted in her hair as their lips met for another feral kiss of teeth and tongues.

Her hands were busy as he teased the sensitive softness of her inner thighs.  After unbuttoning his shirt, she pushed his jacket down, trapping his arms for a moment and catching his lower lip between her teeth with a low growl.  He gave in just long enough to pull his arms out of the sleeves and let the thing fall to the floor.  His hands were back on her thighs in seconds, running his fingertips under the edge of her garters and following the strip of fabric up the back up her leg and over the sweet curve of her ass.  There was the thinnest of fabric covering that lushness and he came very close to ripping it as he had her camisole.

She laughed a deep, sexy sound that made his trousers seem tight enough to cause pain.  She wriggled her hand between them and plucked at the ribbons holding her bloomers closed and a long slit opened up in the fabric, allowing his hands better access to her center.  Her ass, on the other hand, he would have to investigate another time or spend a fortune replacing the whisper thin garments. 

Before he could delve into the sweetness of her sex, she’d parted his shirt, running her nails over his nipples and causing him to shiver in response. Her breathing was heavy and her voice low, “You’re pretty daring, Mr. West.  No undershirt!  Shameless!” She leaned forward, depending upon his hands on her thighs to hold her weight as she ran her tongue from his breastbone to the base of his neck then sank her teeth into him, marking him as he had marked her. 

Her actions made him groan and his fingers tightened on her thighs hard enough to leave marks but her words sent a heavy weight into his stomach.  He wasn’t a jealous man, but this woman was different.  She was his.  She’d known the touch of other men and he wanted to drive out the memory of anyone else.  He wanted to fill her with so much pleasure she couldn’t remember the concept of fulfillment before he’d taken her there.

His fingers stroked her swollen labia, then brushed her clit with a touch so light she practically fell off the crate trying to increase the pressure of his touch.  They both laughed for a moment, their eyes meeting each other for a long moment as he pushed her firmly on to the crate with his hips, trapping his hand between his cock and her slick folds.  He could barely think, working on instinct and the barest thread of restraint as he thrust two fingers into her heat and watched her pant in need as her eyes slowly closed.

He felt her walls clamp against his fingers as he tried to withdraw to tease her, to try and draw her pleasure out as long as possible.  Swallowing at the thought of how fucking good it would feel for her to do that as his cock slid inside her, he was unable to fight as her hands reached down to flick at the buttons of his trousers.  Soon he was helping with one hand and his cock was free, brushing against the tantalizing skin of her thighs.  His fingers were still inside her stroking against the front of her sheath as his thumb brushed her clit.  He wanted her to come around his fingers, shuddering with pleasure before he entered her.  Her spasms would pull at him as he entered her for the first time, reminding him that he needed to hold on to his control until he could give her that over and over again.  She deserved all that and more.

But she didn’t seem to agree.  She squirmed against him, her hands gripping at his arms.  Finally, she slid her fingers around his cock, stroking him firmly and making no doubt about what she wanted.  He eased his fingers out of her and let her position the head of his cock at her entrance as he continued to swirl the pad of his thumb around the sweet bud above.  She circled her hips upward, trying to force him inside.

“Damn it!  Fuck me already, won’t you!”

He raised an eyebrow at her words, so impatient and American, but when he looked at her face something was wrong.  She didn’t wear a look of expectant pleasure or wanton desire.  Her beautiful flushed face glowed in the red light filtering in through the windows, but her eyes held the unmistakable mark of fear. 

He wrenched his consciousness away from his demanding cock and pulled away from her, putting his hands on both sides of her face before she could turn aware or cover the truth of her emotions with annoyed bravado.  Again, their eyes met but this time he called up the resources of his powers and hers, delving past the physical passion they both felt to reveal the emotions underneath.

She was terrified.  The silver white of her essence was dimmed visibly by a fear so deep she couldn’t face it.  She wanted him to leave, to fuck her, use her body and leave, just like every other man had ever left her.  He could feel the fear like a clawing monster in his mind, stopping every other sensation from passing into the depths of her soul. She thought if she could cure them both of the lust they felt, she could retreat behind her walls and deny that such a thing as love ever existed.

A cold chill enveloped him.  He backed away from her, leaving her blinking at him in shock.  Her dress was pushed up around her hips and down around her waste, leaving all of her loveliness on display and calling to him, but her heart and her mind were still untouchable and aloof.

He pulled up his trousers and grit his teeth against the swelling anger against her for not trusting him and himself for still wanting her body, regardless of the circumstances.

His voice was rough, full of that repressed anger and colder than the winter wind. “I want all of you, ashavi.  All or nothing.  A quick fuck is not going to cure you of this, and it won’t send me on to my ‘next conquest’.  Make up your mind, Sophia Hunter.  Do you wish to be the woman you were meant to be?”

He stormed out the door, leaving her unsatisfied and completely alone.  It was the hardest thing he’d ever done.