The setting sun painted the sky orange over the Chicago skyline as I began my landing at Meigs Field. I wanted to look at the buildings, but couldn’t spare the attention. Instead, I had to deal with a full landing pattern and a gusty crosswind off the lake. I was too high over the threshold, but it was better than the alternative.
After I cleared the runway, I called Ground Control and taxied to the refueling pit by the tower. The wind was just as bad on the ground, and gusts rocked the plane as a heavily muffled attendant filled the tanks.
I was dressed for the relatively mild winter in Knoxville, so tiedown was an arctic adventure, and I couldn’t feel my hands by the time I finished. Daphne stayed in the plane, but her coat wasn’t any warmer than mine, and she was shivering by the time we reached the operations office.
I called a taxi while she sipped hot cocoa and cradled the cup for warmth. The taxi arrived ten minutes later, and the driver suggested a nice hotel. As soon as we passed the airport gate, I pressed my face to the cold window and gawked at the architecture.
The tops of the buildings glowed in the sunset, while lights at street level came to life in the urban twilight. It was a rare glimpse of night and day together, and I looked at Daphne to see her reaction. She didn’t seem impressed, or even interested.
“Have you been here before?” I asked.
“Um… no. Never.”
I was about to say something else when a building caught my eye. “Whoa, stop!”
The driver ignored me, although he looked over his shoulder at the next stoplight.
I pointed to a neoclassical high-rise. “What’s that building?”
“Da Blackstone? ’S a hotel.”
“A hotel? Awesome. Forget the other place. Let’s go there.”
“Whatever, Joe,” the driver grumbled, “you da boss.” He was probably losing a kickback from the other hotel, but I didn’t care. When he let us out at the Blackstone, I couldn’t help but stare up at it, oblivious to the wind and cold.
It was a Beaux-Arts masterpiece, designed in classic Sullivan style, with the proportions of a column. It even had a mansard roof, which actually looked good on a building with enough height to justify it.
“Wow,” I said softly.
“Isn’t it wonderful?” Daphne said, and hugged my arm, as much for the warmth as to share my excitement. “I love the Blackstone,” she added. “It makes me think of someplace far away, like Italy.”
Or Paris, I thought with a quizzical look, which she didn’t notice. Beaux-Arts was originally a French style, and Paris was full of mansard roofs. Then I realized what she’d said.
“I thought you hadn’t been here before.”
“I haven’t,” she said quickly. “I must’ve… um… seen pictures.”
“Of the Blackstone Hotel?” I’d never seen it before, and I was an architecture student.
“Well, sure.” She smiled and changed the subject with an eager look. “Are we going to stay here? Really?”
I suddenly felt like impressing her, and grinned as I escorted her inside. My conviction took a hit when the desk clerk told me how much the room would cost, but I pasted on a smile and pulled out my emergency credit card.
I still didn’t have a card of my own—“Bank rules,” they claimed, because of my age—so I made a note to repay my parents before they got the bill. I also decided to talk to my bank manager about the money I had on deposit. Maybe he’d see reason when I explained that I wasn’t a normal nineteen-year-old. He’d definitely see reason if I had to explain that my money would find a more accommodating home if he didn’t.
Daphne practically glowed with excitement as we rode the elevator to the eighth floor, but I was still brooding about the credit card situation. When we reached the room, she ran to the window and gazed at the traffic below. I looked at the room itself, which was nice enough, but hardly the Ritz. I knew I was being a tightwad, but I’d planned on thirty or forty bucks for a hotel room, not a hundred and forty.
“Isn’t it amazing?” Daphne said. She beamed at me. “I always wanted to stay here.” She sensed my mood and returned from the window. “Thank you,” she said, and gave me a shy look.
It was pure come-on, so I put my arms around her. Besides, she was a welcome cure for my brooding. I cupped her breast and felt her nipple harden in my palm. Her breathing grew heavy as I kissed her. I wanted to fuck her, but we didn’t have any condoms, so I broke the kiss and began unbuttoning her blouse. I peeled the silk from her shoulders and tossed it aside.
I wanted to see her perfect breasts again, and she felt the eagerness in my hands as I popped the catch on her bra. She half-posed so I could admire her chest. I cupped her breasts and squeezed gently. She closed her eyes when I pinched her nipples, and moaned softly as I kissed her again.
“Get on your knees,” I told her.
She sank to the floor as I extracted my hard-on. I pulled her closer and watched as she kissed my shaft. Then she began sucking with short, slow strokes. After two or three minutes, I felt the urge to fuck her anyway, condom or no. I knew I wouldn’t have the willpower to resist for long, so I put my hand on the back of her head.
“You want me to come in your mouth?”
“Then suck it deep.”
She plunged forward, and managed to swallow about half of my cock. She held me in her mouth as long as she could before she had to pull back for a breath.
“Are you getting wet?”
“If you’re a good girl, I’ll fuck you later. Do you want that?”
She let my dick slip from her lips. “God, yes.”
“Keep sucking,” I ordered. “There, that’s better. I’ll fuck you when I’m ready. Got it?”
“Good. Now suck me like you want it.”
My cock glistened with saliva as she began bobbing rapidly. When I couldn’t hold back any longer, I held her head and shot down her throat. My whole body tensed from the pleasure of release. When my orgasm subsided I closed my eyes and breathed through my nose as my dick grew soft.
“Do you want to fuck me now?”
I blinked and came to my senses. Then I felt like a jerk for taking advantage of her. “I don’t have a condom,” I said sheepishly.
Did she want to get pregnant? I felt an instant stab of fear, but mastered it and lifted her to her feet. “Sorry,” I said. “But I can return the favor.”
“That’s okay,” she said with a shrug.
I felt guilty for disappointing her, but I wasn’t going to take the risk. Not again, I reminded myself.
“Do you want to get supper?” she asked.
I pulled her close and felt her bare breasts against my chest. “I want to fuck your brains out,” I said, “but we need condoms.”
She forced a smile.
“So let’s find a drugstore.”
“I’m kinda hungry.”
“Okay, let’s have dinner first, and then find a drugstore.”
Daphne wanted pizza, so the hotel concierge suggested a restaurant with a funny name, Uno’s. Her eyes lit up at the name, and I managed to hide my suspicious look.
If she’s never been to Chicago, then I’m Mike Ditka.
The restaurant was packed, so we had to wait for a table. Daphne and I made small talk, but she seemed nervous. Then I noticed a guy in a leather jacket at the bar who was staring at her. Every guy in the place had given her a lingering glance when she walked in, but this guy didn’t stop. After a few minutes he stood and made his way toward us.
“This is crazy,” Daphne said abruptly. “Let’s just find someplace else.”
“What are you talking about? We’re practically next on the list.”
“I don’t want pizza anymore. Let’s just go.”
“Brandy,” the guy called, and it took me a moment to realize that he wasn’t talking to the bartender.
Daphne stiffened, but covered it quickly and tried to sound offhand. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Brandy?” the guy said again as he drew near. He was several inches taller than me, with a square jaw and black hair. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again,” he said.
Daphne’s shoulders slumped and I caught a brief glimpse of defeat, but then her expression changed completely. She gave the guy a confused, annoyed look. “I’m sorry, do I know you?”
He laughed sardonically. “Yeah, right. Nice try. You owe me five grand.”
I did a double take.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said.
He gave another laugh, this one nasty. “Sure you do.” He looked at me. “Who’s this, your pimp?”
I bristled. “Excuse me?”
“You heard me.”
“I’m her boyfriend.”
“Sure, kid, whatever you wanna call yourself.”
My eyes hardened. “Do we have a problem?”
“I dunno, do we?”
“Come on, Paul,” Daphne said. “He’s just some loser.”
The guy wasn’t going to back down, and I felt a cool buzz as adrenaline flooded my system. We locked eyes and he laughed in contempt.
“You know,” I said matter-of-factly, “I’ve been trying to work on my temper, but I think I’ll make an exception for you.”
“Sure, kid, let’s step outside.”
“Don’t hurt him, Paul,” Daphne said. “He has friends.”
“Him?” the guy blurted. “Hurt me?”
I didn’t want to bluster, so I forced a smile instead—it didn’t reach my eyes. Most fights are half psychological, and I wanted any advantage I could. To his credit, he didn’t even flinch. Then his eyes narrowed as he calculated the odds.
He smirked, and I knew he was going to take his chances before we even got outside. His right shoulder drew back slightly and his fingers curled into a fist. I shifted my balance for an Uki Goshi takedown.
The bar was tight quarters for a throw like that, but the guy would slam into the floor with me standing over him. From there, I could end the fight with a simple wrist lock. I’d seen Glen do the same thing the year before. It wasn’t legal in judo, but real fights don’t have referees, or even rules. So I cleared my mind and waited for him to throw the first punch. Then someone loomed beside us.
“Hey! What d’you think you’re doing?”
“Butt out, pal,” Square-jaw said without looking away.
“I’m not your pal,” the new guy said, “and you better wise up.” He flashed a badge and the tension popped like a soap bubble. “’Cause the first guy who takes a swing in here is gonna wish he hadn’t.” He leveled his gaze at Square-jaw. “Now go back to the bar, sit down, and shut up.”
Square-jaw’s attitude changed immediately. “No problem, detective.” He wasn’t obsequious, but he was all smiles, like it was one big misunderstanding. He gave me a mocking snort. “Nice meetin’ ya, kid.” Then he tossed his chin at Daphne. “She’s a psycho anyway. You can keep her.” He walked away without a backward glance.
The cop turned to me. “You, take your girl and get outta here.”
“Our table’s almost ready,” I said, as politely as I could with all the adrenaline in my system. “So we’ll just wait over there, if that’s all right with you.”
“As a matter of fact, it’s not all right with me. I said beat it.”
“But… that’s not fair!”
“Life ain’t fair. Get used to it. Now, if you’re not outta here by the time I count to three, you’re gonna spend the night in jail.”
“This isn’t right,” I said tersely.
I set my jaw.
“Paul, please,” Daphne said.
The cop raised his eyebrows. “Pretty girl like that,” he said to me, “I’d listen to her.”
“This isn’t fair,” I said. “That other guy started it!” I knew I should just leave, but I couldn’t believe the injustice.
“I don’t care, kid. Now, are you gonna make me arrest you?”
I thought about telling him yes, just to spite him, but the rational part of my brain kicked in. “No,” I said at last.
I suddenly realized that the bar had grown quiet, and everyone was staring at us.
“No, what?” he repeated. From the look in his eye, he didn’t want to arrest me—he just wanted me to acknowledge his authority.
I clenched my fists and tasted bile. I hated doing it, but I swallowed pride. “No, sir.”
“Smart move,” he said with a nod of sympathy. “Now beat it.”
I climbed into the taxi and slammed the door. My emotions were chaotic: angry, relieved, and strangest of all, aroused.
Daphne was practically giddy. “That was amazing! I can’t believe you stared down— that guy.” She leaned close and I felt her breath on my ear. “God, you make me so hot.”
“Where to, bud?” the cabbie said.
My dick sprang erect when Daphne put her hand on it. “Oh my God,” she whispered, “it’s so big.”
“Hey, Joe…?” the driver said impatiently.
Why do they keep calling me Joe? “The Blackstone.”
Daphne moaned softly. “Are you going to fuck me with your big cock?”
I started to fondle her, but then swore under my breath. “Find a drugstore first,” I told the cabbie.
A minute later I leapt out of the cab and dashed into the little shop. After a feverish search I discovered the condoms at the back of the store. I grabbed a box of Trojans and was about to run back to the checkout when something caught my eye. I took a second to find it again and then snatched the K-Y jelly. The cashier smirked as he took my money, but I didn’t care.
Outside, I leapt into the waiting taxi. “Hit it!”
Daphne and I groped like teenagers on prom night, and I’m sure the cabbie got an eyeful. In the hotel we had the elevator to ourselves, so I pinned her against the wall and kissed her.
When we reached our room, I didn’t even bother with niceties like taking off her clothes. I simply unbuttoned her jeans, pushed them down, and turned her to face the wall. She braced herself as I opened my pants and pulled out my erection. I tore open the box of condoms and caught the chain of packets as it flew out. I ripped one open and rolled the slippery ring over my shaft.
Daphne moaned as I entered her from behind and began thrusting. After barely a minute I slammed into her and filled the condom. We panted together, sated for the moment. Then I began to kiss her neck, and she arched her back. I slid my hands under her blouse and cupped her breasts from behind. She moaned when I pinched her nipples through the thin fabric of her bra.
We stumbled toward the bed and fell onto it in a tangle of legs. I pulled off her jeans and panties as she tugged at my shirt. I flung the clothes aside and pushed my boxers down. Daphne spread her legs and I scooted between them. My pants bunched around my ankles, but I ignored them as I aimed my cock at her opening.
I was still wearing the condom, and something tickled the back of my brain about not using it twice. Then I slid into her and didn’t care. She lifted her hips to meet me, and my lips sought hers. I thrust hard and felt her wrap her long legs around me.
Our tempo built at a deliberate pace, until I propped myself on my arms and began pumping in earnest. She gripped my triceps and silently urged me on. Her blouse had ridden up, but it still covered her breasts. I wanted to see them, so I stopped thrusting.
“Take that off,” I said.
She fumbled with the blouse and managed to unbutton it. Then she popped the catch on her bra and the lacy cups sprang aside. I gazed at the perfect mounds as I began thrusting again. She cupped her breasts and tweaked her nipples.
A rush of wetness engulfed my shaft, and she arched her back with a moan of pleasure. I began thrusting hard, driving toward a climax. Her eyes opened abruptly, and she looked surprised. Then she closed them again and opened her mouth in a silent scream.
I couldn’t hold back any longer and buried myself to the hilt. I exploded with a rush of sensation that felt like every ounce of fluid in my body was shooting through my cock. She cried out and went rigid.
Through my own pleasure, I felt her pussy tighten around my shaft. She gripped the bedspread so hard that I felt it shift under my knees. A torrent of heat and moisture flooded around my cock. I even felt it on my thighs and dripping from my balls.
My eyes widened when I realized what had happened: she’d had an orgasm—a real one. When she finally released the spread, I lowered my face and kissed her gently. I thought she’d be relieved, or overjoyed, or even sleepy.
Instead, she clung to me and I felt her body shake. I thought she was still trembling from the strength of her orgasm, but then I realized she was crying. I hoped it was just a release of emotion, so I held her until she calmed down.
I pulled back and gazed down at her. “Better?” I said hopefully. With her red nose and tear-streaked cheeks, she looked more beautiful than ever. I started to say something else, but she put her hand on my chest.
“I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Okay… um… sure.” I climbed from between her legs.
She walked unsteadily to the bathroom and shut the door.
I shook my head in bewilderment and stared after her for a few seconds. Then I rolled to the edge of the bed and puzzled through her actions. I stood and kicked off my shoes, still lost in thought, but snapped out of it when I reached for the condom.
“Oh, shit.” I shot a glance at the closed bathroom door and then back at my dick.
The condom was gone.
After a frantic moment I saw it on the bed, in the middle of a damp spot. I reached for it and silently prayed that it had slipped off after I’d come. A ball of lead settled in my stomach as I realized that the semen in the tip wasn’t nearly enough for two loads.
I sank to the bed and stared at the sleeve of latex. Daphne emerged a minute later. I had no idea how to tell her, so I palmed the evidence.
“Do you want to order room service?” she asked.
I must have hidden my mood better than I thought, because she didn’t look suspicious when I forced a nod.
We found the menu, and I called down to order a deep-dish pizza. Then we watched TV until it arrived. She didn’t mention her crying jag, and I didn’t mention the condom.
I thought I’d be too preoccupied to eat, but my stomach rumbled at the scent of pizza. Daphne seemed oblivious to my mood, and slowly devoured two pieces. When she finished she wiped her hands on the linen napkin and stretched languidly.
Her thin silk blouse outlined her breasts, and the hem lifted to show the wedge of hair between her legs. I was in a funk, but I wasn’t blind. I took a sip of my drink to cover my glance, but then she dropped one of her bombshells.
“Do you want to fuck me again?”
I almost spewed Coke. “Um… yeah, of course. But maybe let me digest first.”
We fell into an awkward silence.
“I can suck your cock. You can come on my face if you want. I won’t dodge or anything.”
I blinked in surprise. “Yeah, sure. But… um… maybe later.”
“Oh. Okay.” She smiled uncertainly and thought for a moment. “Do you want me to dance for you?”
I was too surprised to reply, so I changed the subject. “You should probably call Sara.”
She grew suspicious. “Why?”
“Just to let her know you’re okay. I mean, she’s probably wondering where you are.”
“She doesn’t care.”
I suddenly got the impression that I was a pawn in a lovers’ spat. What is it with me and women? I wondered sourly. Do I have a tattoo on my forehead that says “Screw with my emotions”?
“I’m sure she does,” I said aloud. “You can call her while I run down to the front desk.”
“I want to see if they have a courtesy kit or something for people who’ve lost their luggage.” We hadn’t exactly lost ours, but it was close enough.
“Okay,” Daphne said meekly.
“Are you going to call her?”
“You need to let her know you’re okay. You don’t want her to call the police or anything.”
That got through to her.
“Here,” I said helpfully, “I’ll figure out how to dial long distance.” I picked up the handset and dialed her phone number. I let it ring once before I offered her the receiver.
She took it reluctantly.
“I’ll be back in fifteen minutes or so,” I said, and gathered the rest of my clothes. I tried not to listen to the conversation as I got dressed, but it was hard to avoid.
“Hi, it’s me,” Daphne said. “No, I’m all right.” She glanced at me. “Um… yeah.” She winced at Sara’s reaction.
I felt sorry for her, but wanted to give her some privacy. For my part, I wanted some time to think. On the elevator ride downstairs I wondered why I’d suggested calling Sara.
Part of me wanted to get rid of Daphne as soon as I could, but I felt guilty for even thinking it. After all, she might be pregnant. I wasn’t a cad, so I’d pay for an abortion. I thought about how I’d go about it when my eyes flew wide at a sudden thought.
What if she doesn’t want one?
I already knew that she wasn’t wife material—not for me, at least—but I’d marry her if I had to. I obviously felt something for her, even if it wasn’t love. She was hiding her past, and she was emotionally damaged, but she was a sweet girl. And despite her fake orgasms, I thought she liked me as well.
The ding of the elevator snapped me out of my trance. The concierge had gone for the day, but the night manager gave me two travel kits with the Blackstone logo embossed on the side. At least I was getting something for my hundred and forty bucks.
I tried to cheer myself up on the ride back upstairs, but I couldn’t stop thinking about how my life would change if Daphne were pregnant. I silently prayed that it was the wrong time of the month, but I didn’t know how to ask without starting an argument. Then again, what if she wanted to get pregnant? I didn’t even want to think about that.
I started to brood, but pulled up short when I realized that I’d reached the room. I took out the key and slid it into the lock. Daphne was still on the phone, and she’d been crying. She looked up when I shut the door.
“He’s back,” she said. “Hold on.” She held out the phone. “Sara wants to talk to you.”
“Um… what for?”
I took the phone and cautiously held it to my ear. “Hello?”
“What the hell did you think you were doing, taking her to Chicago?”
“Hi,” I said deliberately. “Nice to talk to you too.”
“Cut the bullshit, asshole. This is serious.”
“Then why don’t you dial it down a notch, sweetheart.”
“I’m not your sweetheart!”
“And I’m not an asshole!”
“Yeah? Well, you coulda fooled me.”
I bit back a nasty reply. “Are you just going to bitch at me,” I asked tersely, “or do you actually have a point?”
“If you’d shut up and listen, dumbass, I’ll tell y—”
“Hey! Enough with the dyke bitch routine. Just move on. Daphne’s with me now.”
“Daphne isn’t with you anymore,” I said, rubbing it in. “She’s with me now.”
“What did she tell you?”
“Nothing. But I’m not an idiot.”
I took a deep breath and mastered my temper. “Whatever,” I said dismissively.
“Listen,” she said, “I don’t know what you think you know, but—”
“Daphne’s bi,” I said, which stopped Sara cold, “and you’re a lesbian. Then again, maybe you’re just bi and really pissed off at men.”
“So what if I am?” she said defiantly.
I goaded her. “Are what? Lesbian? Or bi?”
“What do I care? You’re not the one I’m interested in.”
“The feeling’s mutual,” she said nastily.
I forced a laugh. “Listen,” I said, more for Daphne’s benefit than Sara’s, “I don’t care if you’re straight, bi, or a complete lesbian. Whatever makes you happy. But Daphne’s with me now.” Why in God’s name am I claiming her now, when I was trying to get rid of her earlier? I suppressed the thought and plowed on. “So quit being a bitch and move on.”
“Put Daphne on.”
“I said no,” I repeated. “I’m not going to let you bully her. Got it? Now, time to move on.”
“Let me speak to her.”
“Which part of ‘no’ did you not understand?”
“Let… me… speak to her.”
I kept a tight rein on my emotions. “No. Move on.”
“I can’t,” she screamed. “Don’t you get it?”
“I love her,” she said, and broke down crying.
My heart wrenched at the sound of anguish, and I wondered what I’d gotten myself into. Then my knees felt weak and I sat down abruptly.
“I hate you,” Sara railed. “I fucking hate you. Why did you do this to us?”
I didn’t know what to say.
“I love her,” she shouted, “don’t you understand?”
I waited for her to calm down, which gave me a chance to get my own emotions under control. Then I shot a quick glance across the room.
“How does Daphne feel?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Sara wailed softly. “I don’t know anything anymore.”
I stood and stared at my reflection in the window. Maybe I had that tattoo after all.
Sara eventually got her tears under control. “Are you still there?”
I snapped out of it. “Yeah, I’m here.”
“Will you let her go?”
“Yeah. No. I don’t know. Maybe.” I stopped to gather my thoughts. “I don’t know,” I said at last. “I guess it depends on what she wants.”
“What’s that mean?”
“It means that Daphne has a say in this,” I said deliberately. I could see her reflection in the window, but I resisted the urge to look at her directly. “I mean, she’s with me for a reason. I don’t know what it is”—Revenge? A fling? To get pregnant?—“but she’s here, and you have to deal with it. Okay?”
“No, it’s not okay. I want her back.”
“Have you told her that?”
I wanted to laugh. “You’re as bad as a guy.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means,” I said slowly, “that if you don’t tell her how you feel, she’ll never know. She’s not a mind reader.” I glanced at the ceiling in frustration. “I thought women were supposed to be good at this stuff, but you’re worse than I am.”
Sara started to react, but I cut her off.
“Never mind,” I said. “That was a cheap shot. Sorry. But that still doesn’t change the fact that you have to tell her this stuff. How’s she supposed to know? Is she supposed to know that you care when you go psycho? Is that it? How stupid is that?”
“Yeah, well what do you know about it, asshole?”
“I know about communication!” For all the good it’s done me.
“Well aren’t you special.”
I took a deep breath and controlled my temper. “Listen,” I said, “we can bicker all night, but that’s not going to solve anything.”
“Yeah, well you’re the one with Daphne. In Chicago, of all places! What the fuck were you thinking?”
“Me? It was her idea!”
“How stupid can you—? Wait, what did you say?”
“I said it was her idea. Besides, how was I supposed to know about… that guy?”
I described Square-jaw.
“Oh, shit,” Sara said. “This is bad. You saw him?”
“Saw him? I almost got in a fight with him.”
She mocked me with a laugh. “That would’ve been dumb.”
“Dumb? I’d’ve kicked his ass.”
“Yeah, and his friends would’ve cut your throat and dumped your body in the river.”
“You don’t know who you’re dealing with.”
“You have to get out of there,” Sara continued. “Can you leave tonight?”
I thought about it for a moment, but then shook my head. I hadn’t taken enough night flights recently, so I wasn’t current to fly with passengers after sunset.
“Not an option,” I said, with more bravado than I felt. “Why? Who is this guy?”
“You don’t wanna know. But if anything happens to Daphne, I’ll—”
“Nothing’s going to happen to Daphne.” Or me, but thanks for asking.
“I swear to God,” Sara said, “if anything happens…”
“All right! I get it. I’m not an idiot.”
“Coulda fooled me.”
I stared at the ceiling and huffed in exasperation. “Are you done yet?”
“If anything ha—”
“Christ! Give it a rest. D’you think you’re the only one who cares about her?”
“Like you do,” Sara shot back. “You’ve known her what… a week?”
“What’s that have to do with it?”
“I know your type,” she said contemptuously. “I know what you want. You’re just like the others.”
I started to snap at her, but caught myself. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath instead. “If you’d bother to get to know me,” I said tersely, “you’d realize that I care about Daphne.” A reflection in the window caught my eye, and I saw Daphne cover her mouth. “Besides,” I added, more for Daphne than Sara, “I’m not the love ’em and leave ’em type. I’ll make sure she’s safe. You have my word.”
“Great!” Sara mocked. “I have your word. What good is that?”
“A lot, actually,” I said. “Like I said, if you’d get to know me, maybe you’d realize I’m a nice guy.”
“Whatever,” I said dismissively. “I care about Daphne, and I’m not going to let anything happen to her.”
“You’d better not,” Sara said, and it was more than her usual bluster.
“Do you want to talk to her now?” I asked. It was a peace offering, and I heard the surprise in her silence.
“Of cour— I mean, yes, please.”
There, that wasn’t so hard, was it? “I’m going to take a walk,” I said to Daphne, but for Sara as well, “so you can have some privacy. I’ll be back in half an hour. All right?”
“Thank you,” Sara said, and I could hear the relief in her voice.
I covered the mouthpiece and walked over to Daphne. She stood nervously. She was still nude from the waist down, and her silk blouse clung to her naked breasts. I had to concentrate to keep my eyes on hers.
“I meant what I said,” I said softly. “I think you’re a really nice girl, but I want you to be happy.” I smiled reassuringly and handed her the phone.
She took it, but then threw her arms around me.
I gave her a quick kiss and a hopeful smile. “Good luck,” I said softly. Then I grabbed my coat and left.
I really cared about her, but I wouldn’t come between two people who loved each other.
I looked toward Knoxville.
“Hear that, Trip?”
I spent a half-hour looking at the Blackstone’s interior architecture. I could’ve taken longer, but I didn’t want Daphne to worry, so I headed back upstairs.
She was waiting for me when I opened the door. I didn’t know what to expect, but she still managed to surprise me. She had brushed her hair and fixed her makeup, and wore her white fur-trimmed coat. She let it fall open as I closed the door. She was nude underneath.
“Um… everything okay?” I asked, but my eyes practically devoured her.
She nodded and walked toward me. I barely had time to tear my eyes from her body before she molded herself against me and began kissing my neck.
“So,” I ventured, “Sara’s okay?”
“I knew you were special,” Daphne whispered between kisses.
The word sounded like father-of-my-children “special,” and I barely managed to keep from pulling back in alarm.
“I knew you’d protect me.” She reached for my belt. “You even scared Tony.”
“Hold on a second,” I said, but the little head had other ideas.
“You make me so hot. And your cock is so big.”
It was pure shtick, but the cock in question didn’t know any better, and was getting bigger by the second.
Dammit! I knew what she was doing, but it was still going to work. I gave my erection a baleful look as Daphne sank to her knees and began kissing it. You and I are gonna have to come to an agreement, mister.
It swelled smugly as Daphne wrapped her lips around it.
An hour later we finally rolled apart to catch our breath. We were covered in sweat and exhausted. I’d come twice, but she hadn’t come at all. She’d faked it twice, but I knew better.
I pulled off the used condom and dropped it on the floor. Then I mustered the energy to go down on her. She must have sensed my plans, because she rolled toward me and cuddled my side.
“That was amazing,” she said. “I’ve never come that hard in my life.”
You didn’t come at all, I thought back, but kept my mouth shut. I had a million questions, and I was trying to figure out where to start. Square-jaw? Chicago? Five thousand dollars? Fake orgasms? Her feelings about me? Why she didn’t like condoms? The list went on.
Before I could open my mouth, she burrowed closer and yawned. “You’re hard on a girl.” She giggled at her own joke.
Her yawn triggered one of my own.
“I could go to sleep right here,” she mumbled. Then she made sleepy noises and yawned again.
“Be my guest,” I said, and cracked another yawn.
She’s good, I admitted to myself. Better than me, in fact. I knew she was manipulating me, but I couldn’t do a thing about it.
I managed to grab the sheet with my toes and pull it up, and then turned off the bedside light. I watched airplanes over the lake until I couldn’t keep my eyes open.
I told myself I’d talk to her in the morning. Part of me expected to get some answers, but that was the foolish part.
I woke up as Daphne slid back into bed. It was still dark outside, but I could see the first glimmer of dawn across the lake. I put my arm around her and felt her move closer. When she didn’t immediately go back to sleep, I guided her hand to my nascent erection, and she began stroking gently.
As I came awake fully, I decided that I’d make her come for real. I didn’t know if we’d see each other again, so I wanted the trip to be memorable. Part of it was competition with Sara, but part of it was simple pleasure. Just the thought of Daphne’s body was enough to get my blood flowing. The sight was something else, not to mention the actual feeling.
So I rolled toward her and began sucking her nipples. After a few minutes I kissed my way lower, and spread her legs as I climbed between them. She tasted like a mixture of sweat, urine, and lube from the condoms, but her juices started flowing as soon as I tongued her clit.
I spent at least thirty minutes between her legs, and tried every trick I knew. She moaned and panted. She bucked her hips. She dug her fingers into the bed and gripped the sheets. But she never came. Oh, she cried out and faked an extended orgasm, which left her shuddering and panting, but I knew better.
Unfortunately, my jaw ached and my tongue felt like I’d gone through a million Tootsie Pops, so I crawled from between her legs and held myself over her. I thought maybe she could only come from sex, so I reached for a condom and tore the packet with my teeth.
She whined a protest.
I ignored it and sat back on my haunches to roll the latex over my shaft.
She mewled again to emphasize her point. She’d done the same thing the night before, and the message was clear.
I didn’t like condoms either. They were a pain before and a pain after, but I really didn’t want to have kids yet, much less with Daphne. So I rolled the slippery ring over my shaft. Then I teased her slit with my covered glans.
“You can come in my mouth,” she offered. “Or on my face. Even my hair! Anywhere.”
My temper suddenly flared. Did she want to get pregnant? I started to say something, but then had an idea.
“You wanna do it without a condom?” I said.
She nodded, almost urgently.
“All right, roll over.” I stripped off the latex and moved out of the way. “Get on your hands and knees,” I said, and grabbed the K-Y jelly. I wasn’t in the mood to ask what she wanted, so I simply coated my dick and swiped my fingers along her crack.
She didn’t say a word as I set my glans at her anus and pushed into her. Then I held her waist and slowly worked into her ass. She moaned softly as I began fucking her with short, powerful strokes. She had to brace herself on the headboard, but I didn’t relent. Instead, I began fucking harder, and slammed into her with each thrust.
She lifted her head and cried out. I thought she was in pain, but then she arched her back and went rigid. I felt a rush of moisture coat my balls as her muscles gripped my shaft. The extra tightness triggered my own orgasm, and I erupted deep in her bowels. I collapsed on top of her when it finally subsided, and we panted together, still joined at the hips.
“Wow,” I said at last, and pulled out of her. I flopped to the bed and lay there as aftershocks shivered along my nerves.
Daphne got up without a word and went to the bathroom.
I was worried that I’d hurt her. I’d been angry and rough, but she’d had an orgasm—a real one. I didn’t understand, and she obviously wasn’t going to explain.
I stared at the ceiling and felt my mood slide toward darkness. I felt guilty about how I’d acted, but I couldn’t take it back. I couldn’t even think of a way to apologize without sounding like a bigger jerk.
Gee, I though contemptuously, what a guy.
Daphne was quiet during the flight back to Knoxville. I wasn’t in a talkative mood either, so her silence suited me just fine. We didn’t have much in common, aside from physical attraction. It was a strong attraction, but that wasn’t enough to sustain a relationship.
When I took her back to her apartment, we had an awkward farewell. Sara was barely civil to me, so I left in a weird mood. I couldn’t decide if I was relieved, depressed, or angry.
Part of me was glad to be done with Daphne and her past, dark or not. Part of me felt sorry for her—she was a lonely person in many ways, desperate for attention and affection. But the biggest part of me was angry at Sara for being a bitch.
She obviously thought I’d try to come between her and Daphne. If anything, I was going out of my way to step aside. She was just like Trip, too scared and jealous to realize that I was an upstanding guy.
My mood took a turn for the worse at the thought of Trip. I resented him for taking Wren in the first place, but “resent” didn’t come close to how I felt about his behavior since. He knew I wasn’t the type of guy to stab him in the back. Knew it! Yet he was too stubborn to admit he was wrong.
Not surprisingly, I was in a truly foul mood by the time I reached the apartment. Trip was studying at his desk, and actually looked up when I walked past.
“Hey,” he said brusquely, “we need to talk.”
“Yeah? Well that’s too bad. I’ve had a shitty day, and I don’t need your crap on top of everything else. So keep it to yourself.”
I stomped into my room and threw my keys at the dresser. My heart was hammering with adrenaline, so I took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. Then I closed my eyes and replayed the past minute. I immediately felt guilty for being nasty, especially since Trip hadn’t said a word to me in nearly two weeks.
I went back to the hall. “Look,” I said, “I’m sorry. I didn’t get much sleep last night, but that’s no excuse. What’d you wanna talk about?”
“I don’t want to talk to you at all,” he said, and sounded as surly as he looked, “but Wren said I have to, so we’re talking.”
My jaw fell open. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Why would I do that? I don’t want to have anything to do with you, but Wren’s making me. So I apologize. There,” he said, pithy and insincere, “are we friends again?”
My shaky calm snapped like a popsicle stick. I wanted to cram my fist down his throat and rip out his beating heart—if he even had one.
“Well…?” he badgered.
I was going to kill him, and I didn’t care about the consequences. A red haze closed down my vision, and I tensed for a lunge. Then my stupid imagination betrayed me—I thought about Wren and her reaction if I actually killed him.
I clenched my fists and settled my balance. I stared at him for a long moment and wondered if he knew what I was thinking. Then, without a word, I turned and walked back to my room.
He called after me, but I ignored him and found my sweat suit. I pulled off my street clothes and quickly donned the sweats. If I didn’t leave soon, I really would kill him. He tried to block me in the hallway, but I shoved past him and continued to the front door.
Outside, the afternoon sky was a clear, cerulean blue as I began to run. I didn’t know where I was going and I didn’t really care, as long as I didn’t have to see Trip’s face and hear his voice.
After two laps around campus, I veered down frat row and jogged up the sidewalk to the Kappa Alpha house. A pledge opened the door when I rang the bell.
“Is Glen here?” I asked between breaths.
“Yeah, sure,” the guy said. “C’mon in. I’ll fetch him.”
I closed my eyes and tried to shed my pent up frustration, but couldn’t shake the feeling that I wanted to murder Trip. I was imagining ways to beat his brains out when I heard a footstep.
“Who y’all waitin’ for?”
I opened my eyes and turned around.
“Well, goddamn, if it ain’t Loverboy! Glen said he’d been sparrin’ with ya.” T.J. was all smiles. “So how y’all doin’?”
I finally came to my senses and managed a fake smile. “I’m good,” I lied. “You?”
We made small talk for a couple of minutes, and I did my best not to throttle him. T.J. had an annoying personality at the best of times, and I wasn’t in the mood for his chummy good ol’ boy act. But I kept my cool on the outside, even while I simmered on the inside.
“Sorry I took so long,” Glen said when he arrived. Then he saw me and his eyes widened.
“Hey,” I said. “You have time to practice? I really need a workout.”
“Full of piss an’ vinegar?” T.J. said. “Wanna go a few rounds with me? I’ll teach ya a thing or two.” He dropped into a stance and shadowboxed with me. He was trying to be funny, but I wasn’t in the mood.
“Look,” I said, as calmly as I could, “don’t take this the wrong way, ’cause it isn’t personal, but if you step onto the mat with me, I’ll rip your fucking head off.”
T.J. started to laugh it off before he realized I was serious. Then his expression hardened. “You wanna go?” he said, all puffed up. “I’ll take you on. I ain’t afraid of you.”
“Leave it be,” Glen told him.
“He started it!”
“So? Just leave it be.” Glen looked at me. “I’ll go change clothes. Gimme a minute.” On his way out, he grabbed T.J. by the arm and pulled him away. He returned a few minutes later in his sweats.
“You mind if we jog to the Bubble?” I asked. “I need to work off some energy.”
“Fine by me,” he said, laconic as ever.
We sparred non-stop for nearly thirty minutes—a free-for-all of judo, wrestling, and even aikido when he was hard-pressed. Glen was a better all-around fighter, but I tapped into a deep well of anger and frustration.
I thought he might quit after the first couple of rounds, but he kept his cool, even when I went after him with brutal ferocity. I lost track of how many times we slammed to the mat or tapped to acknowledge a hold.
He still won most of the bouts, but the margin was razor-thin, instead of his usual three out of four. If he’d been smaller or weaker or less experienced, I’d have torn him limb from limb.
After my anger subsided, we gradually slipped into more formal practice, with him showing me throws and holds, counters and escapes. I was a quick student, and the moves came naturally.
“Ma-te,” I said at last, and bent over to catch my breath. I was running with sweat, and my clothes were soaked.
Glen braced his hands on his knees and gulped for air. We’d been on the mat more than two hours.
“Thanks,” I said at last.
He straightened and nodded. “Seemed like you needed it.”
“Yeah,” I said, suddenly conscious that we’d drawn a small crowd of spectators. I didn’t want to be rude, but I wasn’t in the mood to talk to anyone. I grabbed my small pile of things and stuffed my keys and ID into my pocket. Glen did the same, and followed as I headed toward the exit.
Outside, the cold air stung my nostrils, and I could feel the heat coming off me in waves. I was still angry at Trip, but in a detached, almost philosophical way.
“Wanna talk about it?” Glen asked.
“Not really. Thanks for sparring with me, though.”
He nodded in reply. “Gimme a call if you wanna go again.” He gave me his phone number at the frat house. “Any time.”
“Thanks,” I said, and knew that he understood.
We said goodbye and headed our separate ways. I jogged so I wouldn’t catch a chill. Trip was still at the apartment. He stood as I shut the door.
“Well…?” he said, with the same belligerence.
I gazed at him for a moment, more calm than I’d felt all day. I wondered if he knew how close he’d come to death. Had he seen it in my eyes? Had he seen me calculating angles and moves? I doubted it. He wasn’t the type who’d hurt someone deliberately, much less kill them, so he didn’t recognize it when he saw it.
I wanted to laugh, if only to release the tension between us, but I knew he wouldn’t understand. He’d take it the wrong way—like I was laughing at him—so I let the silence drag out.
“Tell you what,” I said at last, “I’ll let you decide.”
He blinked, confused. It obviously wasn’t what he’d been expecting.
“If you’d accept your apology,” I said, “then I’ll accept it.”
His eyes narrowed. “What?”
“It’s simple,” I said, and meant it. “Imagine if the situation were reversed, and I apologized like you did. Would you accept it?” I let the words hang between us. “I’ll go with whatever you decide.”
In my room, I stripped off my rank sweats, wrapped a towel around my waist, and headed to the bathroom. I took a long, hot, mindless shower. Trip was gone when I emerged, so I went to my room and climbed into bed. I fell asleep almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, and slept for ten blissful hours.
Wren caught up with me on Tuesday morning as I finished my run. She must have skipped breakfast, because I normally ran while they were eating.
“You’re a hard guy to find,” she panted.
“I didn’t know you were looking. Besides, you know where I live.”
“Yeah, but I was with Trip.” She held up a hand to cut off my reply. Then she swallowed to wet her dry mouth. “What in God’s name did you say to him? He won’t tell me.”
“And you think I will?”
“If you know what’s good for you.”
I actually laughed at that.
“What’s so funny?”
“I clearly don’t,” I said. “Know what’s good for me, I mean. I let you get away.”
Her eyes hardened, but I didn’t even blink. She frowned when the silence dragged out. “You mean you’re not going to tell me?”
“Nope. Sorry. It’s between Trip and me.”
“But he’s been in a funk since Sunday!”
“He was in a funk before.”
“Well, duh. But this is different. Now it’s like he’s angry… but at himself. So what did you say to him?” When I didn’t answer, she stomped her foot.
I gazed at her calmly, which annoyed her even more.
“Ugh,” she said at last. “Men!”
“Can’t live with us, can’t live without us.”
“Can’t shoot you is more like it,” she said, and stalked off.
In Life Drawing I couldn’t keep my eyes off Daphne. I wanted to avoid her, but my pose put her square in front of me. Worse, she was wearing a white turtleneck that showed off her perfect breasts, complete with little shadows under her stiff nipples.
I thought of nuns playing baseball for the umpteenth time, but it didn’t work. When my shaft began to stiffen, I shut my eyes and imagined the Blackstone. In my mind’s eye, I traveled up the side of the building to the eighth floor, where Daphne and I were—
I opened my eyes and took a deep breath. Then I let it out slowly and replayed my sparring match with Glen. I made it through class without a full-blown erection, but only just. Fortunately, I didn’t have to explain to Wren, who hadn’t come to the office. She probably wasn’t upset, but only wanted to make me think she was. At least, that’s what I hoped.
I didn’t want to dwell on her—or Trip, for that matter—so I thought about something else. An image of Daphne popped into my head, and my dick throbbed.
“Unbelievable,” I muttered, and slung my backpack over my shoulder. “Stupid organ.”
Siobhan was speaking with someone when I emerged from the office, so I slipped past unobtrusively. Then I smelled something familiar and felt a tingle in my groin. Daphne’s blue-gray eyes met mine.
“You’re doing much better, dear,” Siobhan told her. Then she followed Daphne’s gaze and saw me. She smiled with too much understanding. “Just keep practicing,” she said. “I’ll see you Thursday.”
Daphne nodded and smiled, although her eyes never left mine.
I should’ve turned away. I should’ve run. I should’ve done anything but stand there like an oaf.
“Um… hey,” I said. “How’s it going?”
“I’m okay,” she said tentatively. “Sorry about this weekend.”
“No problem,” I said. “I just want you to be happy.”
“Oh, yeah, of course,” she said, and I could hear the hurt in her voice. “If you don’t want…”
“It’s not that,” I said. “It’s just that… I mean… you and Sara…?”
She looked around hastily.
Unfortunately, my dick answered. It used my mouth and my voice, but it was definitely doing the talking. “Do you want to go somewhere and talk?”
“Your apartment?” Daphne said hopefully.
The big head took over again. “Um… better not,” I said. I still wasn’t in complete control, so I pulled her into the hallway and scanned the classrooms. I found an empty one and we ducked into it.
I shut the door and closed off the sounds of people in the hall. I started to say something, but then I saw the look in her eyes. The next thing I knew, I was kissing her, hard, and she didn’t push me away.
I dropped my backpack and pressed her against the wall. She whimpered as I kissed her again. I ground my erection into her thigh. Then I spun her around and bent her over a desk. I lifted her skirt and reached for her panties. They rolled instead of sliding smoothly, but that was good enough.
I freed my shaft, set it at her opening, and slid into her. She moaned as I filled her from behind. I bent forward and grabbed the desk for leverage as I began thrusting.
I didn’t last long, but she came before I did. Heat and moisture soaked my cock as she tensed with pleasure. I buried myself to the hilt and erupted deep within her. I arched my back and grunted from the force of it.
I came to my senses a minute later and looked at her beneath me. I couldn’t read her expression, so I began to worry. Had she actually been willing, or had I forced her? She’d been hot and wet, but I knew the difference between “ready” and “willing.”
I wanted to say something, to ask her what had just happened, but felt too self-conscious. I didn’t want to sound like a jerk, so I took the coward’s way out and kept my mouth shut.
When she stirred beneath me, I stepped back and my dick slid free with a squish. Her pussy and thighs were covered in moisture, and my pants were dark with it. She stood in silence and finished taking off her panties. Then she used them to clean herself. Finally, she slid her skirt down and smoothed the front.
I awkwardly stuffed my shaft in my boxers and closed my damp khakis. I probably looked like I’d wet myself, but Daphne didn’t seem to notice. She was on autopilot, and I thought she might be in shock. When she started to crumple, I leapt forward and caught her in the nick of time. She sagged against me before she could steady herself.
“Sorry,” she said. “I thought I could walk.”
I studied her expression for any sign of anger or fear.
“The perfect gentleman,” she said, and her eyes drooped shut.
Was she being sincere or sarcastic? All of a sudden she opened her eyes, and I almost dropped her.
“Please don’t tell Sara,” she said. “I don’t want to make her upset.” She closed her eyes and her nostrils flared as she took a deep breath. Then she smiled and rested her head on my shoulder.
I didn’t know what to do, so I simply held her, and she clung to me like a castaway.
Maybe she really is a castaway, I thought. Or a runaway.
But what was she running from? The situation with Tony? Definitely, although that wasn’t the only thing. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know more.
Trip was waiting when I got home from class. He was sitting in the middle of a circle of records, but he wasn’t paying attention to them. Instead, he was staring out the window. He turned when he heard me.
“Hey,” he said.
“We need to talk.”
My expression hardened. “I think I’ll pass,” I said snidely, “and go directly to pissed off. It’ll save us a lot of time, don’t you think?” His expression changed and I immediately felt guilty, but I didn’t take it back.
“I guess I deserved that,” he said. “Lemme try again.” He considered his next words, and for once he didn’t look angry. “If you have time,” he said sincerely, “I’d like to talk. If you still want to. Please.”
He was being overly polite and it didn’t suit him, but my temper cooled. “Yeah, sure,” I said. “Now?”
He shrugged. “I guess.” He stood and stepped over the albums. He didn’t even straighten them, which was a sign of how preoccupied he was.
Jeff and Luke’s bedroom door was open, and I could hear the TV. “You wanna go somewhere?” I said.
I felt shades of déjà vu about my talk with Wren, but agreed with a nod.
He grabbed his coat and we headed out. He was silent during the short walk to the grill, and I didn’t make small talk. He was obviously thinking about what he wanted to say, and I didn’t want to slide back into our friendship like nothing had happened.
I still owed him an apology, and I wanted him to look me in the eye as he listened. But just as important, he owed me an apology, and I wasn’t going to let him off the hook. I wasn’t simply being petty, either. Our relationship had changed, and we couldn’t go back to the way things had been before. Not without some serious ass-kissing, on both our parts.
So I kept my mouth shut as we bought Cokes and slid into one of the empty booths. He probably expected me to ask what he wanted to talk about, but I assumed a bland expression and bided my time. If he wanted to make the first move, he was going to have to make it.
“So I guess you’re pretty pissed at me,” he said at last.
“Not really,” I said, which surprised him. “I mean, not at the moment. I was, yeah, but not now.”
I shrugged. “More or less. I’m still pissed off in a general way, but I’m not ready to beat the crap out of you or anything.”
He tried to laugh it off. “I’m pretty sure I can hold my own.”
“No,” I said matter-of-factly, “you can’t.”
His eyes tightened. “Um, yeah… I think I can.”
I shook my head. “You don’t have the killer instinct.”
“Yes I do,” he said, more puzzled than belligerent. My calmness and conviction had thrown him off.
“Maybe in business,” I admitted, “but not for real.”
“What do you mean, ‘not for real’?”
“You’d never kill someone for real. That’s what I mean. You don’t have the instinct.”
“Of course not!”
He waited for the other shoe to drop. “You’re kidding, right?” he said at last.
I shook my head. “I almost killed you Sunday. For real.”
To his credit, he didn’t turn pale, but his Adam’s apple bobbed as he swallowed hard.
“That’s something I discovered about myself,” I said, “and I guess I should thank you for it.” He was still in shock, so I went on. “My first reaction to a lot of things is violent, and that’s not good. Especially when your friend’s being a jerk.”
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Completely,” I said. “I wanted to kill you. I was ready to do it. I would have, too, if I hadn’t left when I did.”
“Then… why did you? Leave, I mean.”
“I guess I thought about it before I did it.” I shrugged and felt strangely philosophical. “So I went for a run. When that wasn’t enough, I found a friend and fought him instead.”
“Wait a minute,” Trip said, “you beat up some other poor guy?”
I laughed in surprise, which only made things worse. “Sorry,” I said quickly, “I shouldn’t’ve said ‘fought.’ Glen and I sparred for two hours.” I paused at the memory. “He’s a really good fighter. If he hadn’t been, I’d’ve hurt him. Bad.”
“But… wait. You wanted to do that to me?”
“No, I wanted to kill you. It wasn’t personal with Glen. It was just working off anger. With you it would’ve been different.” I paused and wondered how much I could tell him. “It would’ve been fast. Hard. Brutal.”
“You’re kidding, right?”
I shook my head. “That’s why I turned away. If I hadn’t…”
He finally realized that I was serious, and we fell silent. “Jesus,” he said at last.
“So that’s what you meant by killer instinct? You were serious?”
I nodded. “You don’t have it. I do, but I don’t particularly like it.” I tried to shrug it off, but it was a hard admission.
“I thought you had more control than that.”
“Why do you think I walked away?”
We fell silent again.
“Anyway, that’s my problem,” I said at last, “and I know how to deal with it. Besides, it’s not what we came here to talk about.”
“How am I supposed to feel about you being some kind of… what?”
He blinked and finished the line: “Run, run, run away!”
It was from a Talking Heads song, and neither of us could keep a straight face, which was what we needed. It was nervous laughter, almost hysterical, but it was better than the alternative.
“Seriously,” I said at last, “I didn’t want to scare you. I just want you to know how I felt. Okay?”
He nodded, although I could see that it would take him a while to get over it.
“Just don’t try to piss me off,” I said earnestly. “And I’ll do the same. For you, I mean. Deal?”
He nodded and we shook on it.
“All right,” I said, “enough about that. We came here to talk.”
He sobered at the unspoken question. “Yeah, I need to apologize,” he said. “For real this time.”
“Same here. You don’t know how sorry I am…”
We talked for more than an hour, about the fight and the weeks since. Part of it was heartfelt apology, but part of it was just catching up. I hadn’t realized it in my anger, but I missed talking to him, and he obviously missed talking to me. We even talked about Wren.
“God, you know how stubborn she can be,” he said with a laugh. “You’ll have to tell her we’re friends again. She won’t believe me.”
I started to laugh and nod—I knew exactly how she could be—but then I thought about it. “Um… no.”
Trip sobered quickly. He probably thought I was being vindictive.
“If I tell her,” I explained, “she’ll just think she has to check up on you.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” His voice had an edge to it, and I couldn’t blame him.
“Tell her yourself.”
“What if she doesn’t believe me?”
“Then tell her she has a choice. Either she trusts you or she doesn’t. If she doesn’t, she needs to be with someone else.”
His eyes hardened suspiciously. “Someone like you, I suppose.”
“No, not me, you idiot!” I was so annoyed that he blinked in surprise. “She doesn’t love me.”
“Yes she does. She—”
“She loves me, yes,” I said, “but she isn’t in love with me. Don’t you get it?” I pleaded to the heavens. “Jeez, and I thought I was slow on the uptake.” To him, “Look, don’t screw up the best thing that ever happened to you.”
“Ah, now you’re starting to get it.”
“You’re not making sense.”
“Yes I am,” I said flippantly. “You’re just too slow to keep up. So listen: Wren is the best thing that ever happened to you. You don’t deserve her, but she loves you.”
He blinked in confusion.
“Yeah, she loves me too, but not like you. Besides, she’s like my sister.” I almost snorted at the irony of that statement, but managed to keep my composure. “You have no idea what I’d do to someone who hurt her.”
“I think I do.”
“Exactly! So you’d better take good care of her. Now, tell her we made up and leave it at that. She needs to decide whether she trusts you or not.”
“What if she doesn’t?”
I sighed in despair. “Have you been listening at all?”
“She loves you, and she trusts you.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“I just am,” I said. “She trusts you. But she needs to know that.”
“Okay,” he said in exasperation, “now you’re really not making sense.”
“Dude,” I explained, “I trusted Gina, but I didn’t know I trusted her”—I thought back to the Vermont trip—“so I doubted her when she needed me most. That eventually ruined things between us. Doubt is like water under a foundation. It seeps in over time and undermines everything. Then one day everything falls apart and you have no idea why.”
“What’s that have to do with Wren?”
“She’s like I was. She trusts you, but she doesn’t know it.”
“And she’s supposed to magically figure it out if I tell her we’re friends again?”
“She will when she sees it’s true,” I said. “Look, it’s not the same as it was with me and Gina—it’s not like you think she slept with another guy—”
“Yeah, but I still have you to worry about.”
“Oh, gimme a break! You need to trust her. And me, for that matter.”
“Yeah, I know,” he said reluctantly, “I trust you.” Then he thought about it for a moment. His eyebrows rose in surprise when he realized it was true.
“See? Doesn’t it make life easier when you trust someone?”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I am! Wren needs to do the same thing, to decide for herself whether she trusts you or not.” I paused to let him soak up the wisdom. Then I thought of a true gem. “Build your foundation on the little things,” I said, “and it’ll last a lifetime.”
He actually laughed, and I realized how pompous I sounded. Then again, I sounded like my father. And Susan. I could do worse, I reflected. A lot worse.
“What’s so funny?” Trip asked.
I realized I’d been smiling long after he’d quit. “Long story,” I said. “But trust me on this one. Tell Wren that we’re friends and leave the rest up to her. She’ll figure it out soon enough.”
I went for my usual run on Wednesday morning and thought about going to breakfast with the gang, but then I remembered Christy. I hadn’t seen much of her since our last encounter, and I didn’t know how I felt about that.
On one hand, I didn’t need the hassles of a princess, or the glares and tantrums either. On the other, I needed to give her something more than a half-assed joke of an apology. I also felt guilty because we’d been such close friends the year before, and I didn’t like the rift that had grown between us.
More like a gulf, I thought sourly, and decided to skip breakfast. Sure, I didn’t want the drama, but I also wanted to give her some peace. After all, I’d already made her upset, and I didn’t want to make things worse.
Back at the apartment, Luke was asleep, and Trip and Jeff were still at breakfast with the others. So I took a long shower and didn’t bother to cover up as I padded back to my room to get dressed. Then I headed to the A&A building to catch up on some drawings for Joska’s class.
Trip and I actually had a good time that night. Wren was off doing something with the girls, so he and I hung out and listened to music. He couldn’t stop talking about some album by Michael Jackson. It wasn’t what I normally listened to, so Trip kept playing it over and over.
“Seriously, dude,” he said, “this is going to be huge.”
I shrugged. “‘Billie Jean’ is pretty good, but the rest…?”
“Are you kidding? ‘Beat It’ will hit number one the minute it gets some air time, I promise you. ‘Thriller’ too.” He flipped the album jacket and read off the list. “Heck, all these are Top 40 quality. Mark my words.”
“Whatever, dude,” I said with a laugh. “You’re the expert.” Still, it was catchy, and I went to sleep that night with “Beat It” going through my head.
I still didn’t want to join the others for breakfast the next day, so I went for my usual run. It was easier than the awkwardness of explanations, and a lot easier than facing Christy’s icy gaze. Wren was waiting when I arrived at Siobhan’s office. She gave me an intentionally bland smile and tried to sound offhand.
“Trip said you guys had fun last night.”
I nodded and kicked off my shoes.
“He said you had a good talk, too.”
She shook her head. “The day before. It went okay?”
“Yeah, of course. Didn’t he tell you?” I was being deliberately obtuse, but she didn’t know that.
She ignored the question. “Is there anything you’re supposed to tell me?”
“I don’t think so,” I lied.
She looked suspicious. “Hold on, if you had such a great talk, why weren’t you at breakfast?”
I suddenly felt sheepish. “I guess I’m avoiding Christy.”
“No, of course not.” I gave her a suspicious look of my own, although mine was completely feigned. “I thought he told you we had a good talk.”
“He did,” she answered distractedly. She was trying to figure out what was going on.
“Maybe he expects you to trust him,” I said, and bit my lip so I wouldn’t smile.
“Of course I trust him.”
She shot me a hard look. “Of course I do. What’s that supposed to mean?”
I shrugged, guileless and innocent. “Nothing, I guess. But think about it.”
I didn’t like manipulating her, but she had to figure this out for herself. She was still deep in thought when I slipped out of the office and headed for the dais. I handed my robe to Siobhan and resumed the pose from Tuesday. It wasn’t particularly comfortable, but it put me looking straight at Daphne.
I stared at her as discreetly as I could. I was trying to tell if she was pregnant or not. Did she look like she was glowing? Was there a little bulge at her waist? I wanted to kick myself.
I can’t believe I didn’t use a condom! And the last time wasn’t an accident.
My little head was making the decisions where Daphne was concerned, and it didn’t have the best track record. I stole a glance at my flaccid shaft.
Behave. Or else!
I flushed scarlet when I saw one of the girls look away and hide a grin. Worse, she probably had a good idea what I’d been thinking.
I finally managed to get my expression under control, but then Daphne glanced up from her drawing. Our eyes met. I tried to smile politely and let my gaze slide away, but something held me. She sensed it too, and her nostrils flared as she drew a sharp breath.
When I felt my dick stir, I wanted to close my eyes in defeat. Daphne’s pale blue sweater wasn’t as tight as the turtleneck from Tuesday, but it couldn’t hide the outline of her body. It couldn’t hide the little shadows under her stiff nipples, either.
She moistened her lips and forced herself to look back at her drawing. I let my gaze wander, but I could still see her out of the corner of my eye. She was having a hard time concentrating.
I spent the last half of class acutely aware of her. My half-hard dick was fully aware of her, but I managed to keep it from standing up and begging.
Wren was still distracted when I made it to the relative safety of the office. She didn’t notice my dick, so I hastily jumped into my boxers. I wanted to hide out until I knew Daphne was gone, but that would be too obvious (and rude).
I finished dressing quickly and hoped Wren would walk out with me. She did, but was so preoccupied that she kept going when I made eye contact with Daphne and slowed to a stop. Siobhan took one look at us and laughed softly.
“Um… hey,” I said to Daphne.
Siobhan quietly withdrew to her office.
“Hey,” Daphne said.
I tried to leave it at that, but my dick took over. “You wanna walk with me?” it asked. “I have another class downstairs.” I wanted to smack myself in the forehead for stating the obvious.
“Sure, I guess.”
We never made it past the empty classroom from before. I pulled her inside and practically slammed the door. Then I clicked the lock and pinned her against the wall. I held her hands over her head and kissed her.
Somewhere in the middle of the kiss, the big head wrested control from the little one.
“We can’t do this,” I panted, although the little head had other ideas. I ignored it and swallowed hard. I had a condom in my wallet, but fucking Daphne again was a bad idea.
“Why not?” she asked.
Before I could answer, someone tried to open the door. Our eyes met, wide with surprise. We hurriedly straightened our clothes and managed to look innocent as the door swung open with a jangle of keys.
“Oh,” someone said in surprise. He was an older professor, although I didn’t recognize him. “I didn’t know anyone was in here,” he said. Then his eyes narrowed in suspicion as he noticed the lights—they weren’t on. “What’s going on here? What were you two doing?”
“We had to check the circuit breaker,” I blurted. “Sorry, have to get a fuse.” I grabbed Daphne and bolted. We didn’t stop until we reached the first floor of the atrium.
“The circuit breaker?” Daphne said, and burst into giggles.
“It was the only thing I could think of!”
Daphne’s giggles turned into outright laughter, and I couldn’t help but join her. It was absurd, after all.
When we managed to calm down, I tried to salvage my dignity. “I couldn’t tell him the truth.”
“I think he already knew.”
I shrugged and tried to look contrite. I needed to tell her that we couldn’t have sex anymore. She and Sara were together again, and I didn’t want to come between them. I wasn’t that kind of guy, and I shouldn’t have to remind myself.
“I want to see you again,” I said, and stiffened in surprise.
Her blue-gray eyes cut through my defenses, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her what I’d meant to say. I settled for a question. “But… what about Sara?”
Daphne’s expression changed, although she tried to cover it. “What about her?”
I arched an eyebrow.
Her cheeks reddened. “I’m not like that.”
“I never said you were. But you’re still with Sara.”
“But I like guys,” Daphne pleaded. “I like you.”
“And I like you too. A lot. But that doesn’t change anything. You’re with Sara.”
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes,” I said deliberately, “you are.” When she didn’t deny it again, I sensed my opening. I pulled her close and held her eyes. “She loves you, and you love her.”
Daphne looked away and gave a little nod.
“I want you to be happy,” I said, “and I’m not going break up a relationship where two people love each other.”
Her eyes closed and she nodded again.
I pulled back and kissed her forehead. It was affectionate but chaste, even though my hard-on wanted to fuck her senseless.
“Do you want me to take you home?” I asked softly.
She sniffed and shook her head. “I should probably go to class. I was supposed to have an exam.”
I looked at my watch and discovered that we were only fifteen minutes late. “You might still be able to finish it if you get there soon enough,” I said.
She nodded sadly and met my eyes.
I smiled and felt something crush my heart. I knew I wouldn’t be able to let her go if I waited any longer, so I gave her a peck on the cheek and turned her toward her classroom.
Her shoulders slumped, but she walked away.
Part of me felt like a jerk, but part felt like I’d done the right thing. Daphne wouldn’t have been happy with me in the long run, and I didn’t see myself with her in five years, or even one. We were too different.
Later that evening, I rolled up my drawings and dropped them into my carrying tube. I’d spent three hours in the design lab, playing catch-up on a project for Joska. Worse, I still had to review two chapters for Interior Design and read forty pages for Western Civ. It was already past eight o’clock, and I wasn’t looking forward to another late night.
I trudged down the stairs toward the atrium and almost ran into someone coming from the art studios. Blonde hair caught my eye at first, but then I saw the ice blue eyes. They hardened into slits. I started to apologize, but Christy brushed past me without a word.
I was too tired to even work up a good pique, so I fell into step about ten feet behind her. We walked all the way to the apartment building like that, and she never looked back. She didn’t even hold the door into the building, which was downright rude.
I started to say something pithy, but then a movement by the mailboxes caught my eye. Sara straightened from where she’d been leaning against the wall. She threw back her chestnut hair and marched toward me. My senses came alert when I saw the look in her eyes.
“We need to talk,” she said.