“Julia, I’m so sorry for your loss,” Greg says, sizing up Mark even as he pretends to be speaking to me.
“Thanks, Greg. It was nice of you to come.” I manage to behave courteously.
“You remember Sylvia.” He gestures to his wife as she reaches out to shake my hand, her baby bump beaming a bright light in contrast to my black dress.
“No, not really,” I deadpan. Mark’s hand around my waist gives me a little squeeze. I manage to choke a well wish upon them. “Good luck to you both.”
When the last goodbye is said, Mark tells me he took a cab and he intends to drive me home. Gratefully, I hand him the keys, kicking off my shoes in the car, ready for the day to end. He offers to carry me to my apartment, but I manage to walk just far enough to get in the door and collapse on the couch. He sits on the end, rubbing my feet and listening to me ramble about thank you cards, and a trip to the ocean.
“Julia, we really need to talk about Lynx. After today you only have two days left. If we are going to make one last play to keep your magazine from oblivion, it’s now or never.”
“I can’t, I can’t think about that now,” I say melodramatically. His nurturing feels so good and the idea of losing Lynx hurts so bad. “Haven’t I had enough loss today?”
“Yes, you have had enough loss in your life for many days, and I’m trying to keep you from losing any more,” he answers gently, but insistently.
“So, Greg’s married,” I say, changing the subject and sitting up beside Mark. “Nice to know his affair at least turned into something more valuable than a six month fling. I sacrificed my chance at that ring on the altar of Lynx along with any real hope of having a life or friends or—”
His lips lock on mine, stopping my rambling self-pity and enticing me as they continue to press against me and I begin to kiss him back, feeling the tension of the day ebb away in the warmth of his kiss and embrace. His lips move to my neck, kissing and nuzzling me as they make their way to that tender spot right below my ear that drives me wild. I melt into him, holding on for dear life. He rises and takes my hand walking me to the bedroom. He doesn’t ask if it’s okay, too soon, or any other question. He doesn’t speak at all.
Slowly he undresses me, his kisses following his hands, covering my body in his passion for me. I feel as if I am floating on a magic carpet. He turns me on my stomach for a moment, hastily undresses, then straddles me, massaging my back. It is a luscious feeling as he gently works my stiff muscles until they are loose. He then turns me over, positioning himself between my legs and begins sucking on my br**sts.
My back arches for him. I want to say something, give some silly remark or even tell him how much I need his love at this moment, but I can’t seem to get my mouth to function. Mark licks and laps at my ni**les, taking time to enjoy himself while his hand reaches between my legs, rubbing and entering me. I curl around it as if I am drawing myself into a cocoon.
He enters me slowly, pushing his shaft into my body with one long stroke. I feel my flesh open for him and embrace him. He leans up to my ear his kisses making their way up my neck until he arrives again at the spot, this time accompanied by the luxurious feeling of him surging inside me.
“You’re so beautiful, Julia. So beautiful.”
I reach down and drape my arms around his hips, pulling him further into me, thrusting to meet him and feel the full power of his movement inside my core. He takes me gently, in long steady strokes, delaying the moment for both of us until it can be denied no more. I come while he impales me, my body clutching with his steady rhythm, pulsing softly and releasing all the pressure of the day into a long steady pulse. I float beneath him, letting myself go, letting everything go, as tears fall in orgasmic response. He kisses my cheek, gathering my tears on his tongue and presses himself in me for one last thrust, his seed emptying into my body.
He holds me while I cry. I’m not sure who or what the tears are for, me, Dad, Greg, or Lynx, I just know I am safe in his arms and I can let all of it go.
I wake up to an empty bed. At first I feel panicky, and then the soreness and fulfillment of my body let me know that it was not a dream. I shower and throw some sweats on, walking around the apartment to look for a note or evidence of his presence. He walks through the door holding up my spare key and a pizza.
“You’re up,” he says. “I was hoping to be back by then, but I don’t know this area well and got a little lost finding something to eat. Hope you’re hungry.”
“Ravenous,” I exclaim, practically pulling the pizza box out of his hand. “This is just what the doctor ordered.”
We eat mostly in silence, both of us too hungry to let conversation keep us from downing the pizza. He sifts through the papers I have stacked on the table, sorting out the ones related to the closure of Lynx from the others.
“What did your lawyer mean by ‘irregular accounting procedures’?”
“I don’t know and I can’t ask. My retainer for Paul is up and I don’t have the money to rehire him. This analysis was all I got.”
“We’ve got to get the file in Blake’s office,” he says yet again.
“Yes. Yes. Yes!” I snap at him. “I agree. But no matter how many times you put that thought on the replay list we still have no idea how to get that file.”
“I tried the last two days,” Mark confesses. But Blake’s playing pretty close to the chest. Anytime he left, his assistant would be in there. There’s no opening.”
“You work there. You have the keys and the alarm code. Can’t you just sneak in at night?”
“I hate to ruin your view of me as an outlaw rebel, or Mission Impossible type spy, but I don’t have the key to Blake’s office and I don’t know how to pick locks. The only way to get in there is when the door is open.”
“Maybe we’re overthinking this. Why can’t you just walk in, grab the file and run?”
“Because I don’t want to be the warden’s accountant when I’m doing 15 to 20 for theft. Didn’t you ever watch Shawshank Redemption?”
“Okay, let’s think. Can’t steal it. Can’t talk him out of it. Can’t sneak it out. Can’t sneak us in. Can’t exchange it.”
“Wait.” Mark puts his finger up to stop the momentum. “We can exchange it. We can make a replica–it won’t be exact but it will look enough like it that he won’t know unless he looks closely.”