By the time evening rolled around, the heat had died down. I still didn’t hear the whir of the air conditioning but at least the temperature outside had cooled enough to be bearable.
I’d wanted to change into something lighter but only had a pair of pink athletic shorts I had from high school that were clean. I ended up keeping my work blouse on and tying my hair in a ponytail as I carried my dirty clothes to the laundry room located in the basement of our building.
As a precaution, I brought my necklace and hid the taser within the pile of clothes. If Marty decided to show up and hurt me, I could easily subdue him or at least keep him at a distance long enough for me to call the police. That’s if he decided to hurt me. He’d hurt me in the past but I still didn’t know why he was showing up at my doorstep now. Was he here to say he changed? Did he want us to try again? He hadn’t left a message with Riley or given any reason for his surprise visit. He had just asked to see me. The mysterious circumstances worried me.
After putting two loads through the washer and dryer, I was relieved I didn’t have to use the protection items. There hadn’t been anymore Marty incidents since Monday and I was hoping it would stay that way. By the time I got back to the apartment with the last batch from the dryer, the air had cooled. It was still warm though and I brought a glass of ice water into my bedroom for refreshment as I folded my laundry on my bed.
Riley had moved from the couch to her room, following through with her plan to sleep early.
I’d just finished folding the last garment when my laptop chirped. A window popped up indicating there was a Skype video call from V. Sorenson. I took a seat at my desk and clicked “accept”. Moments later, Vincent’s stunning face appeared on my computer screen. He was thousands of miles away but now right in front of me. I missed his spicy scent but just seeing him still had a strong effect. Sometimes I hated technology for making my life more complicated—emails, social media, always being connected to work—but this time I loved it.
I turned the volume high enough to hear Vincent but not enough to wake up Riley in the next room. She was a heavy sleeper and I doubted even a blow horn would wake her.
Vincent was in a gray dress shirt without a tie and the top button undone. His face had a bit of evening stubble. The ruggedness contrasting with his elegant attire was startlingly attractive. He looked tired from a long day but seemed excited to see me.
I smiled at him. “Hey,” I said cheerily.
“Hey,” he responded with enthusiasm of his own. “Can you hear me? Is the video coming through?”
“Crystal clear. Your handsomeness is transmitting in its full high definition glory. Am I coming through for you?”
He smiled. “Yes, but nothing can compare to the real thing. How are you, Kristen?”
“Good, just finished some laundry. How about you? How’s your trip going?”
“Not bad. Business as usual.” He paused for a moment. “I’ve missed you.”
I blushed. The words weren’t unexpected but it was still surprising to hear them out loud. “I missed you too.”
His dark eyes were scanning my surroundings. “You’ve got a nice bedroom. I like the stuffed animal in the background.”
I laughed. I’d seen it so often, I’d forgotten it was there. I got up from the desk and went to retrieve the stuffed bird from my bed to give Vincent a better look at it. And an explanation for why a grown woman in her mid-twenties had a kid’s toy.
“I also like those shorts,” he said. “I couldn’t agree more.”
I turned back to Vincent. “What do you mean?”
“It says ‘juicy’ on the back.”
“Oh God.” My face heated. “I didn’t have anything else to wear. I got these when I was in high school. A lot of girls wore them at the time and I caved to peer pressure. I should’ve thrown them out.”
He grinned. “I’m glad you didn’t. Suits you well.”
Hoping to move on to a less embarrassing topic, I picked up my bird and brought it back to the desk. “On the other hand, I’m never going to throw this out.”
“Why do you have a plush penguin?”
I squeezed the soft rainbow beak, posing its adorable face for Vincent. “It’s a puffin. It looks like the offspring of a penguin and a parrot if they ever mated. I used to be obsessed with them when I was like five. My parents got me this during a trip to the museum. That was back when I had a better relationship with them. I’m not as into puffins now but this guy still has a lot of sentimental value.”
“I can see why you like it. It’s cute.”
“Well I’m glad you and Mr. Waddles get along.” I wiggled its nubby feet at Vincent. “His approval of you means a lot to me.”
Vincent smiled in a way that was both charming and cute. If only I had a plush version of him to snuggle with on nights when he was away on business.
“Spunky on the outside, soft on the inside. You’re quite the combination.”
He continued as if another thought just occurred to him. “I know I’ve said this before. But thinking about you is making it difficult to concentrate on business. I don’t expect you to understand but it’s hard to focus on work when you’ve got an erection.”
“Well. . . I don’t know what to say.” I really didn’t because I’d never had an erection before but I could at least imagine the dilemma. I offered the first suggestion that came to mind. “Why don’t you just watch p**n like a regular guy?”
His brows knotted and his lips frowned. “Wouldn’t work. You make p**n look bad.” He opened his mouth to say something further but closed his eyes and sighed deeply instead.
“Something’s bothering you. What’s wrong?” I asked.
His elbow on the desk, he ran a hand through his wavy hair but stopped halfway so that he rested the side of his head in his palm. He looked weary. “I wished we didn’t have sex.”
Nerves shot through my system and my grip on Mr. Waddles tightened. Why would he say such a terrible thing? Was it because I dumped my baggage on him and now he regretted being involved with me?
“Cause it made me want you more. I can’t stop thinking about it. You in a blindfold. Your gorgeous body. . . It’s so damn frustrating being so far away from you.”
Relief washed over me like a cold shower in this summer weather. “You scared me for a second there. I thought you were going to say you didn’t like the sex.”