I had seen him at the club before - in fact, the first time I'd noticed him he'd had a bloody nose. My girlfriends and I had gone dancing at the club, jumping to the pulse of heavy bass beats blaring out of hidden speakers, pushing away from some of the guys who crept up next to us, and cozying up against some of the others. We looked good; we attracted attention with our short skirts and our long hair. And we rarely went home on an early Sunday morning without at least three phone numbers stuffed into our purses.
The low rumble of a confrontation began somewhere near the bar, but it was hardly enough to draw people out of the spell of the music until someone bellowed "Fucker!" and a bottle crashed. The music kept playing, and the guy whose arms I was in didn't stop swaying back and forth as I craned my head over his shoulder to see what all the commotion was about. Others were turning their heads in the direction of the bar as well, stretching up to see what was happening - who was getting the better of whom. And then I saw him, between the heads and limbs of the gathering crowd: his teeth bared, his upper lip smeared with blood, his dark hair shiny with sweat, his brown eyes open wide in controlled rage. I watched with fascination as he very deliberately gripped the broken beer bottle in his hand and then lunged forward, driving the shards of broken glass at the end of it into his adversary's face. I couldn't see the other man, but a collective gasp rippled through the crowd as two bouncers lunged for the guy I'd noticed, each one grabbing an arm. He struggled only briefly, dropping the busted bottle to the floor, and then snarled a grin down at the man he'd felled. He shrugged and shook his head, smiling wickedly, lifting both hands on either side of him as if to say, "You asked for it, you got it." Then he spat on the floor, on the punk lying there, and was pulled out of my sight.
My dancing partner chuckled in my ear and said, "Alvarez. That crazy fuck."
The next Saturday I looked for him again, casually, without mentioning it to my girlfriends. He was nowhere to be found - probably, I realized, banned from the club until the sharp edges of the beer bottle were long forgotten by the proprietors. The next weekend, I had totally forgotten about him. And the next Saturday after that, I spotted him again.
The club was insanely crowded by eleven o'clock, wall-to-wall sweating bodies milling around the dance floor and the tables lining the edges. The crowd around the bar was four deep, and three bartenders worked behind it as fast as they could. I gave up on having a beer as soon as we got there, and retreated to the back of the club to scope out the prospects. I picked out three or four guys who had slipped me their numbers in the past few weeks, following their movements closely. One of them was necking with the girl he was dancing with, one of them was standing in line at the bar, and another of them was yukking it up with his friends at a booth. A bunch of tired jokers. Suddenly I remembered the look on the face of the crazy fuck named Alvarez - the calm, focused, concentrated mask of hatred he'd worn right before he had thrust the broken bottle into another man's face; the dark, mocking, satisfied smile he'd granted him once it was all over and he'd won. Before I could begin to process the reasons why the memory of it sent a shiver through my bare shoulders, I saw him.
He stood against the wall at the entrance of the short hallway that led to the restrooms, holding a bottle of beer in one hand. He reclined against it lazily, one foot crossed in front of the other, watching with a bemused smile as girls walked through on their way to check their hair and their makeup. He stood between two other guys, obviously his buddies, who leaned close to talk to him. They would mutter to each other and then break into laughter, but a different sort of laughter than the guffawing pricks I'd danced with employed. Alvarez's was a self-assured laugh of quiet power, of serene self-confidence that told anyone within glancing distance that he was at home where he stood - he was /in charge/ where he stood. I only knew his last name, and I'd only seen him twice, and from afar both times, but he had the kind of huge, dark eyes that betrayed everything he was feeling. From fifty feet away, through the forest of swaying bodies, I could see he was impressed by, but not particularly taken with, the girls who walked past him. I could see the way he glanced around the club, wondering if he'd be met with retaliation for his deeds a few weeks ago. And I could see in the brevity of his laugh and the dark weight of his gaze that his soul was full of sadness, and the only time the sadness gave way to some other emotion was when he was moved to violence.
I suddenly decided I needed to check my hair.
I stepped away from the wall, moving for once without my girlfriends. I pushed and prodded my way through the crowd, telling myself I really did have to use the restroom and that was all, while at the same time I silently prayed he wouldn't choose this moment to change his vantage point or leave the club altogether. I watched him as I grew closer: he wore a white sleeveless undershirt, a black leather belt, and baggy khaki pants; his index finger was deep inside the mouth of the beer bottle. His head was turned to the side, and I could see traces of blue ink slinking over the ripples of his right biceps, but I couldn't make out the design. As I came closer, he took his finger out and raised the bottle to his mouth, tilting it up to take a swallow, and his eyes met mine.
I smiled slightly, letting him know yes, I had been looking at him, and yes, I wanted him to know that. His expression never changed, but his huge brown eyes softened and his eyebrows raised slightly. I didn't break the gaze but kept watching him as I grew closer, rolling my hips now with the sexiest stroll I could muster. His eyes lowered to take in the little black dress I wore and my legs, and then back up to my face again, blatantly looking at me. I flicked my hair back over my shoulder as I passed him, feeling the electricity crackle between us as I waited until the last moment to break my gaze from those round, wet, sad eyes. Halfway down the hallway, I turned my head slightly with a smile and caught him and his friends peering through the doorway at me with appreciation.
In the bathroom I checked my hair in the tiny space of mirror not occupied by other carousing females and savored my victory. He'd noticed me. He'd looked at me. And as far as I could see, he had liked what he'd seen. I definitely had. Up close I'd noticed the definition of his muscles through the thin cotton material of his T-shirt - square abs lying flat against his belly, his wide, rounded shoulders, and the wiry, thin strength of his arms. The tattoo had been a series of circles forming a cross, right at the swell of his biceps. And his eyes were even darker, even larger and more beautiful up close, framed by impossibly long dark eyelashes. His body was optimized for battle: all long, sinewy, lean muscles with powerful capability. But his eyes had betrayed the emotional cost of being born a warrior. Something about the way he looked at me told me he was tired of the fight. And that was a direct contradiction to the dark mask I'd seen him wear when he scrubbed another man's face with broken glass, which said he lived for it - or, at least, wasn't sure how to live without it.
At the door, I drew in a deep breath and then went out, down the hallway toward them again. At the mouth of the hallway, there was some sort of hold-up; I waited behind another woman to go through. I couldn't see Alvarez, but some other guy who looked to be drunk had noticed me. I was basically trapped as he stood on the other side of the man in front of the woman in front of me, licking his lips at me and saying, "Hey baby. Hey mommy." I tried to ignore him, rolled my eyes and turned my face away, but he persisted. I was almost sorry when the woman in front of me pushed through and the knot of people loosened; sure enough, as I passed by him, trying to ignore him as I worked my way down to Alvarez again, he cupped his hand against my ass, under my skirt, laughing maniacally. I jumped, spun around with my hand covering my backside, and yelled at him, "You asshole!" He laughed at me and tried to grab my arm, but I stepped back and yanked away from him. I started to walk away, but someone was pushing at me from behind. In a second they brushed past me, and I realized it was Alvarez, moving in a white and beige blur.
In one fluid motion, he shoved the asshole against the wall with his forearm and drew a glittering sliver blade out of his pocket. The drunk guy slunk down the side of the wall as Alvarez held the blade against his neck, leaning into him with all his weight. I watched in amazement as a thin red line emerged around the blade.
"You tell the lady you're sorry," he murmured softly, peering into the asshole's dazed eyes. He began to pant, his chest heaving and quivering, but Alvarez stood placidly, his hands steady as he pressed the blade in closer.
"I, I, I..." the asshole stuttered, grimacing down at the blade that was slicing him as I stood there.
"Tell her or I'll slit your fucking throat," he urged quietly.
"I'm sorry," he said. "Jesus Christ, I'm sorry! Don't cut me, man!"
Alvarez turned his eyes on me, imploring whether that was good enough for me. I nodded silently, and he let the asshole who'd grabbed me sink to the floor. Alvarez stood over him for a long moment, the blade resting point-down against the guy's shoulder. Then he closed it, glancing at me briefly with what looked like embarrassment, and moved slowly back to his place against the wall, between his two friends.
I looked down at the drunk guy, at the thin line of red blood that oozed slowly down his throat. I don't know what was going through my mind. I just knew I loved seeing him crumpled there, bleeding from the neck, one moment past getting his throat slit. For me.
I snapped myself out of it and looked over at Alvarez, who stood against the wall with his index finger deep inside the mouth of his beer bottle, looking at the floor. My heart beat hard in my chest as I strode over to him. The whole world suddenly seemed to move in slow motion. He glanced up when I stopped directly in front of him, searching my eyes with his own. Even closer, they were deep pools of black, the pupil indistinguishable from the iris. He didn't speak, and neither did I. His friends watched conspicuously as I leaned toward him, placing my hand on his bare shoulder. The skin there was hot and slick with perspiration. His eyelids fluttered closed at the last moment as I planted a soft kiss in the hollow under his high cheekbone, feeling short stubble brush my lips. Up close he smelled like hard work and soap, and under it all a long, soft note of musk. As I pulled away from him, I drew my hand down his arm, and he opened his eyes again and gave me a sad, gentle smile. I smiled back and turned away, feeling my face grow hot. I took a step back slowly, and then felt him encircle my wrist loosely with his fingers. I took another step away, never turning back toward him, and our arms stretched out straight between us, our hands entwined. I took another step and our hands fell apart, and I walked away.
As my girlfriends and I gathered our things to leave around three thirty, my heart was pounding. He'd been watching me the rest of the night; when I danced on the floor to a fast song, I would turn to see his eyes on me, moving up and down the lines of my body. Sometimes he would look away, sometimes he wouldn't; sometimes he would be smiling, and other times his eyes would be intense. He never came onto the dance floor, never danced, never made a move toward me for the rest of the night; but something told me he'd be waiting for me outside. Somewhere.
I waved away all the ink-stained napkins offered to me by various guys who'd tried to hit on me that night. I shook my head to all the slipshod, drunken suggestions about having breakfast at some guy's house. We stumbled out of the front door of the club into the parking lot, laughing about something, moving toward my girlfriend's car. I surreptitiously glanced around, hoping to see him, hoping he couldn't see me looking for him. Finally I glanced him leaning against a brand-new, liquid- black Cadillac Eldorado, his hands stuffed deep in his pockets, his feet crossed one on top of the other, looking over at us. A thrill ran through my belly and I smiled, swallowing hard. My girlfriends had moved to the car, but I stood in the middle of the parking lot, looking over at him.
"You coming, Suze?" one of them asked, and then followed my line of sight down to where Alvarez stood against his car.
None of them said anything, just grinned at me. "Call me," she said, and the three of them disappeared into the car.
I strolled over to him, stopping just in front of him. He raised his eyes to my face again and shyly tilted his head to the side, peering out from under his eyelashes. He leaned back on his hands so that his shoulders were hunched up around his neck. Long veins looped around the muscles under his ivory skin and a deep crease ran down between his pectoral muscles. His eyes shone bottomless under the security light in the parking lot.
I thought maybe he would speak first, but he just stood there silently, considering me. I smiled and said, "Thanks for that, in there."
He smiled back and said, "You're welcome." His chest rose and fell gently under the white cotton of his shirt. The night was a little chilly, but warmth radiated from him. I longed to lean forward and smell his neck; the intoxicating scent of him had tortured me all night. I cleared my throat, trying to push those thoughts from my mind. He seemed, compared to me, completely relaxed.
"You waiting for me, or you waiting for him?" I asked with a grin, and he smiled back, lowering his eyes and showing me his white teeth.
"What do /you/ think?" he asked quietly, lifting his chin. His eyes were hooded, concentrating on my face. The air between us vibrated low and warm.
I changed the subject. "My girlfriends left me," I murmured, hypnotized by his eyes.
"I see that," he told me. "You need a ride or something?"
I wrinkled my nose. "I don't really feel like going home."
He pushed himself away from the side of the car and opened the passenger door for me. The interior of the car was all black leather and pile carpet, completely spotless, and it looked obscenely comfortable. He gestured with his head for me to get in, and I did, tucking my legs inside carefully. He closed the door beside me and for a moment I was alone in the silent interior of his car, cradled in the soft leather of the bucket seat. I watched him walk casually past the front of the car to the driver's side. He got in, closed the door, and settled in behind the wheel. Without speaking, he put the key in the ignition and started the engine, its digital dash glowing to life at the sound of the hushed, powerful purr under the hood.
Looking out the windshield, he said, "Wherever you want to go, that's where we'll go." Then he turned those eyes on me again, looking for an answer.
"Take me where you go," I said.
"Where /I/ go." The edge of his top lip curled up in a smile.
"Yeah," I said. "Where you go."
He shrugged and turned his head away again. "All right," he said, and then threw the car in gear.
I knew that no one who took such good care of his car would drive it unsafely, but I was unprepared for the speeds at which he drove through the empty streets: thirty-five. Forty. He coasted to a stop at streetlights, used his signals when changing lanes, followed behind other cars at several car lengths. The Cadillac rode like it was floating on a cushion of air, and he drove smoothly, fluidly, sliding low to the ground through the pockmarked streets of the city. He was heading out of town, west, toward the country roads and wide expanses of open spaces. I wasn't an idiot; I knew getting in a strange car with a strange man - especially one I'd seen act out his violent tendencies both times I'd lain eyes on him - wasn't the smartest thing for a girl to do. But despite the fact that I'd seen him slice one man's face with a bottle and another's neck with a knife, I felt safe with him. Better than safe: charged. Electrified by the danger I knew lay right under his skin, in the potential and strength of his muscles. And boldened by the certainty that he wouldn't hurt me. Not physically. Unless I wanted him to.
We drove for several minutes down an unlit, two-lane road before he spoke. Finally, he asked me, "What's your name?"
"Susan," I answered.
"Susan," he repeated softly, nodding as he glanced out the window to his left.
"Yeah," I said, and then, when I realized he wasn't going to volunteer the information, "And yours?"
"Miguel," he said.
"Thank you for defending my honor, Miguel," I said with a grin.
"No problem," he said.
He turned down a hidden drive between two hilly pastures. It occurred to me that if he forced me out of the car and drove off, I'd have no idea how to get back home, but that possibility didn't even prompt me to blink. He seemed a little surprised by my lack of concern - or by complete trust in him. He stole a glance at me as he turned onto the hidden drive, and then said, "If you want to go back, just tell me."
I didn't answer; I was too busy taking in the rows of dense evergreen trees lining the side of the narrow paved lane. The headlights illuminated more trees, shrubbery, and bends and curves in the lane as we climbed a steep incline. He took the curves carefully, maneuvering the wide car through the maze of trees. Finally, the headlights cut through a clear place and the road leveled off and turned to gravel crunching beneath the tires. He turned off the headlights and rolled slowly to a stop. He put the car in park, and then took the keys out of the ignition. Then he cracked open his door and said, "Come on, I wanna show you something."
I climbed out of the car and closed the door behind me, teetering uncertainly in the gravel under my high heels. He walked past the grille of the car about five feet and then stopped. I followed him, kicking off my shoes. I picked them up and carried them in one hand as I approached the edge of what I realized was the steep back of a hill. As I faced east, the view spread out in front of me: the lights of the city, beginning with the sparse gas lamps and flickering windows of the suburbs, gathering slowly into the glowing white lights from the windows of downtown buildings, and then finally, in the distance, a golden-yellow carpet of lights, topped with the rosy-glow halo produced by a thousand streetlights. The red taillights of cars flickered brightly, racing down streets lined with tall lamps that cast spotlights in circles on the pavement.
"What do you think of that?" he asked me, standing perhaps five feet away. The city below us illuminated his face, reflected in his dark eyes as they drank it all in.
"It's beautiful," I said simply.
"There's a reason it's a cliche," he said with a self-conscious laugh. He scratched his forehead with his thumb and then backed away from the edge, moving back towards the car. Then he did something that really shocked me: he sat down on the hood of the car and put his black boots up on the bumper. Taking that as my cue that it was okay to sit there, I picked my way through the gravel on my bare feet and lifted myself onto the hood by my arms. I sat close to him - the three or so inches of space between our bodies was palpably warm. I wanted to be close enough that it wouldn't take much effort for him to reach over and take my hand. I wanted to feel his hand around my wrist again, the touch of the tender balls of his fingers.
"So this is where you go," I said conversationally.
He crossed his arms over his knees and leaned forward on them. "Yep."
I noticed more dark blue ink snaking out from under the right edge of his undershirt; his shoulders were broad and straight, and his collarbones ended in knobs at the peak of them. My heart started to beat hard as I realized I'd nearly raised my hand to touch the tattoo without even knowing it. I swallowed and tore my eyes away from the inverted V of his back, wrapped tight in long, thin muscles.
"You look down there," he said quietly, "you can see why the streets have so many chuckholes."
"Why's that?" I asked, watching paired headlights and taillights pass each other, like conflicting currents, in patterned lines below us.
"Every morning, eight o'clock," he said, staring down, "everybody gets in their cars and drives the same streets on their way to work. Then come five o'clock they all go out and drive those same streets on the way home. Five times a week. Fifty-two fucking weeks a year, back and forth, back and forth. Passing the same old buildings, looking at the same old signs. They live their whole lives straight down a ten-mile stretch of road, or twenty, or thirty." He shook his head with a bitter laugh and reached down to mess with his shoe.
"I don't wanna live like that," he said, looking up at me. The eyes captured me again, drawing me in - they plainly displayed every emotion, all the fear, all the anger, all the sorrow, down to the very core of him. I felt like I knew more about him than I knew about myself - having been enlightened by a pair of dark-brown eyes that cursed his soul by betraying everything.
For a moment I thought sure he would lean forward and kiss me, and it wasn't until he broke the gaze and looked back down at his shoe that I realized I must have been staring into his eyes for a full minute. I took a breath, watching him reach for his shoelaces with slender fingers, and then felt my heart kick-start hard, thumping so harshly against my ribs that I thought sure it was audible. I could feel the muscles in my legs tremble with adrenaline. I wondered what the fuck could be wrong with me that a pair of eyes had such an effect on me.
The moment seemed to pass when he propped himself up on his elbows again and sighed through smiling lips. I cleared my throat quietly and looked back down at the blinking lights of the city. He leaned into me, bumping my arm playfully with his shoulder. I laughed a little and bumped him back, waiting for the new, lightened mood to calm the nerves jittering under my skin. It never happened.
He slid off the hood of the car and walked back out to the edge of the hill, stooping to pick up a few rocks. He lazily tossed a couple down the side of the hill while I watched him, outlined against the brightened, hazy sky. I sat very still, balancing my weight on the bumper, my knees tucked together demurely. He turned again to face me.
"I knew that guy," he said. "The one that grabbed you." He threw another rock sideways, into the brush off to the side of the car, avoiding my eyes. "He's an asshole."
"Yeah," I said. "I figured that out."
He smirked and threw another rock, standing there silently as crickets chirped behind us and city sounds drifted up from below us. I suddenly realized he was stalling for time - debating, in his mind, whether to go for me or not.
"Come here," I said, and my heart thudded hard as I comprehended what I'd just said.
He moved slowly, sidling up to me, looking everywhere but into my eyes. He stopped directly in front of me, his hands dangling next to his pockets with concentrated casualness. Then he raised his eyes up to mine again, thrilling me with the desire within them. His eyebrows were raised and slightly knit, his eyelashes low and heavy, his brown eyes of infinite depth - and both their meaning and his intent to communicate it were perfectly clear: he was asking permission.
I tilted up my chin, desperate to taste his mouth.
He leaned down and kissed me gently, using his fingers to tilt my chin a little higher. The instant he touched me, I lost my breath, clinging desperately to composure as he opened his mouth against mine and touched my tongue with the sweet texture of his. His fingers stroked my neck, and I stretched tall, wanting to taste more of him as he pulled away slowly. I felt pulled tight like a string, from my hips up the length of my spine - my arms were limp. My eyes fluttered open and he was watching my face with heavy-lidded eyes while we kissed.
His other hand crept into my hair as he lowered himself closer, kissing me more deeply, exploring my mouth with his quick, nimble tongue. My arms found some strength and I touched his face, reaching up to run my fingers through his short, silky hair. Stubble on his chin scuffed against my cheek, and I trailed my fingers down his temple to his face, feeling the strong bone of his jaw with my thumb. He exhaled slowly, pulling my lower lip between his teeth as he pulled away again. This time when he opened his eyes, they barely emerged from behind his lashes. I moved my hand down to his chest and I could feel his heart beating hard against the palm of my hand.
He knelt down a bit so that our faces would be more level, bracing his knees against the bumper. I leaned forward and kissed him, cupping his face in my hands and pulling him toward me so that he would know I wanted this, wanted him. He came eagerly, propping himself on one hand as the other moved down the back of my head, massaging my neck briefly, and then stroked my bare back and shoulders. He traced lines on my skin delicately with one finger as his tongue imitated the movements inside my mouth. My arms broke out with goosebumps and I shivered with pleasure, flexing my shoulders.
My hands had become idle so I moved them down his chest, trailing them over the slope of his pectoral muscles to feel the hard square muscles of his belly through his cotton shirt. The smell of him was wonderful, warm and musky and so present, reinforcing the weight of him hovering above me. I gasped, rushing air out of my mouth as he kissed me, too close to murmuring something I didn't mean. The tenderness of his touch, the delicacy with which his fingers brushed my skin and his lips moved against mine, left me breathless: it was a stark contrast to the raw power and casual confidence of his body. I'd seen him assault two men with controlled ferocity, and now he was teasing shivers through me with complaisance. I reached for his face again, pulling him closer to me, opening my mouth wider against his, trying to tempt passion from the bottom of the well of his eyes.
He leaned in closer but his legs bumped against my knees. I parted them slowly, feeling him slide into my arms as he moved closer to me, pressing his hips against mine with excruciatingly firm pressure. I heard him murmur in his throat as his arms wrapped around me, crossing behind my back, under my hair. He kissed my cheek, then my jaw, gathering my hair in fistfuls as his breath whispered across my skin. I felt him bite my earlobe gently, and on reflex tilted my temple against his. I inhaled deeply from his shoulder as he placed fragile kisses down the side of my neck to my collarbone. As he drew his tongue along the skin of my shoulder, I felt his fingers move to the zipper on my dress.
His hand graced the bones of my spine and sent shivers through me as he slowly unzipped it. The spaghetti straps fell off my shoulders and down around my arms, and I felt his breathing quicken as he kissed my chest, moving lower and lower as my dress loosened around me. Dizzy with passion, I rested my cheek against the top of his head and raked my fingernails through his soft dark hair. I arched my back against his mouth and caught a glimpse of his pink tongue draw across the tight bud of my nipple. The sensation rippling down my belly made me clutch him closer and gasp. He responded by applying more pressure, working his mouth slowly over my breast while his fingers slid over the skin of my leg. He had me throbbing, completely lost to the world except for the feeling of his mouth on me, his hands on my skin, his narrow hips between my thighs and pressed close against mine; and the smell of him, his solidness under my fingers, his hard, savage strength tempered by his supple touch. I wouldn't say it, but I was desperate to feel him inside me, to have him fill me, to make part of me some of that tragic sadness and angry passion.
He lifted his head and kissed me, quicker and more deeply, while he ran both hands down my legs, around the backs of my calves, and back up to my hips, sliding them smoothly up under my skirt. His fingers found the waistband of my panties, and he opened his eyes to search mine for any sign that I might not be willing. I answered his unspoken question by pulling his T-shirt out of his pants and pushing it up around his chest to feel the satiny surface of his bare skin with my hands. With one hand he reached down and pulled it off over his head, dropping it to the ground.
He pressed my shoulder, urging me to lean back on my elbows on the hood of the car. He looped a finger around each side of my panties and pulled them down slowly; he scraped his short fingernails against my skin as I lifted my hips. He ran both thumbs against my inner thighs, then over my kneecaps and down my calves, and then off of my feet and away. He didn't drop them on the ground, but instead kept them in one hand as he looked down, his eyes full of hunger, at me, draped over the hood of his beloved car, my dress barely on me. Then he reached down and unbuckled his belt, then unbuttoned his pants, and then leaned down over me again.
His elbows on either side of my body, he cupped my face in his hands, kissing me earnestly as if this were one last checkpoint, as if he needed one last reassurance. I snaked my hands down the curves of his chest, around his sides and down his belly, until I found him, hot and thick and hard as steel. I guided him in, holding my breath as he stopped kissing me and turned his face against my ear. He moved his hips, sliding in slowly as we both tensed up, grinding our teeth against the overwhelming, excruciating sweetness of the moment. I felt him shudder as I encompassed more and more of the length of him, and some words in Spanish rolled off his tongue into my ear. In me up to the hilt, he drew out again, emitting a shuddering, hot breath that fanned my hair against my face.
I clutched his hips and pulled him to me again, and he obliged, starting a real rhythm that from the beginning had a life and a power all its own. I didn't even try to keep quiet as he pushed into me, harder and harder, rocking forward on his elbows with each stroke. I clutched his shoulders, his back, tilting my head back against the hood of the car as he tuned me up another notch, pounding hard and long, deep into me. He was everything I knew he would be: powerful, focused, full of ferocity and tamed, controlled passion. The same legs that had propelled him into the face of another man were now driving him into me; the same hands that had held a blade against a man's neck were now wound up in strands of my hair. The thought of that made me come instantly; I arched my back away from the car, into his belly, as the muscles in my womb contracted, sending thudding, pulsing waves through my body, punctuated by his strokes. He didn't stop, drawing me out until I thought I would go crazy, digging my nails hard into the skin of his shoulder blades. And then he came too, shuddering over me as he plunged in involuntarily a few more times, moaning softly with his eyes closed. Droplets of sweat fell from his face to my skin, and I drew my fingers across the bulging vein on his forehead to wipe it off. He gasped a final time and lowered himself down over me, pressing his ear between my breasts and the length of his chest along my belly. I wrapped my arms around him and drew my hand up and down the long plane of his back.
"Shit," he hissed, and sighed heavily, fluttering his eyelashes against my skin.
"You all right?" I asked him, pulling his hair between my fingers.
"I'll tell you in a minute," he said. After a pause, he raised his head and leaned up to kiss me. "You're crazy, girl," he whispered quietly, smiling at me, his eyes deep and soft.
"Me?" I asked innocently.
He laughed and kissed me again, then dangled my panties over my chest with one finger.
"These yours?" he asked.
"I think so."
"I kept them warm for you," he told me, and I snatched them away from him. I tried to lean up to put them on, but he pressed me down again, kissing me deeply.
"Where you going?" he asked me, pressing his forehead against mine and working those eyes, round and moist and puppy-dog.
"I have to get home," I told him gently, touching his cheek.
"Oh, you got to get home to your man," he said.
"I don't have a man."
"Then you don't have to go home," he said, reaching for me again. I kissed him back, feeling myself stir again, wanting him, but the exertion had reminded me how exhausted I was. By the way he was acting, this wouldn't be the last time I'd see him, and I wanted to sleep. The sky to the east was lightening, turning gray, and the lights below us no longer looked as bright or impressive.
We kissed a final time and then he slid away from me, kissing my chest and the fabric of my dress over my belly as he stood and pulled his pants back up. I sat up on the hood of the car and held my head in my hands, scrubbing at my scalp with my fingertips. My hips were weak and the muscles in my legs were spent and shaky. He bent over to pick his shirt up off the ground, and then walked to the edge of the hill again, surveying the landscape below him. I pulled my straps back up and put my feet through my panties, then slid off the hood of the car and pulled them up, smoothing my skirt down. I walked over to where he stood and said, "Zip me, please," turning my back to him so he could. He zipped up my dress with one fluid motion, then ran his fingers through my hair and kissed me behind the ear. When I turned around to face him, he was pulling his shirt back on.
"So this is where you go," I said for the second time that night.
"Yep," he said with a nod.
"You messed up," I said, bumping him with my shoulder. "Now I know where to find you."
"You think you're gonna have a hard time finding me?" he asked, bumping me back.
"You're a man, aren't you?"
"Girl, after what we just did, you're gonna have a hard time getting /rid/ of me." He pulled me close against him and kissed me on the lips.
"I suppose that means you'll call me tomorrow."
"If I die before tomorrow," he said with a crooked grin, "I'll call you from heaven."