I’d laid out all of the justifications for him in a scrumptious little buffet that he hadn’t even had to prepare himself.
He was on top of me, spent but still planted deep inside of me, his hips between my thighs, pinning me to the mattress.
He’d tied my hands, but he was already undoing the restraints, his mouth on my neck, tongue on my skin, while he worked at the knots with his agile fingers.
“I shouldn’t have come, either time,” he murmured, his voice rumbling into my flesh with every word. “What I’m working on right now—it’s very sensitive—I don’t have the right to be doing any of this, but none of that mattered enough, apparently, because here I am. Again.”
“Well, for what it’s worth, I’m glad you came,” I told him just as my hands came loose. I wrapped my arms around his head, cradling him to me.
“This can never be what we want it to.”
That sounded ominous, and I felt myself stiffening. “We?” I asked him. “We’ve never talked about what we want this to be, so how can you know that? How can you know we even want the same thing at all?”
“I think we do,” he said simply.
He was nuzzling his way down my body. He paused when he found one soft nipple. He rubbed his lush lips back and forth, once, twice, until it puckered for him. With a groan, he sucked it into his hot mouth.
My hands stroked over his hair as his rough hands pushed my breasts together, and he let go of one sensitized nipple and kissed his way to the other.
“What is it you think we want?” I asked him, a needy quaver in my voice.
With a gasping sigh, he pulled himself out of me, took his lips away, and just lay on me, low on my body, his cheek pillowed on a soft breast. He was so heavy that his flat abs, pushed high between my thighs, were pressed flush against my sex.
I kept stroking his hair. I was struggling to breath under his great weight, but not wanting him to move so much as an inch from this very spot.
His body was trembling on top of me. “I want you and you want me. It’s that simple. Every time I get to be with you, I’m better for it. Every single time.”
For Heath, a man of few words, this was as good as a declaration.
With the way he was laying, ear to my chest, I knew he could hear how my heart rate went wild at those words.
“Just when I think I’ve given up on you completely, you say something sweet like that,” I whispered, kissing the top of his head.
“Like I’ve said before, I’m not sweet, not even close, so if I said something that was, you should take it to heart.”
I did. Once again, I took it all to heart.
And then he ruined it.
“This is the last time I’ll be here to see you,” he told me. “It has to be.”
“Why so final?” I kept my voice surprisingly even.
“I have to leave. Have to go somewhere far from here, and I can’t say when I’ll be back. Too long to ask you to wait for me, certainly.”
Something in his voice was asking me to anyway. Like he knew it wasn’t fair, knew he couldn’t ask it, but some part of him couldn’t help but try.
“Days, months . . . years? Can you tell me that at least?”
“I can’t.” At least he sounded like he regretted that.
But still, regret was not enough. I needed more. I deserved more.
Just give me some information, I wanted to say to him.
Give me an excuse, any sort of explanation, and I can work with you, I almost told him.
Tell me you’ll be back someday, just make me that paper thin promise, and I’ll wait for you, I almost said.
So many things were on the tip of my tongue to say to him, but they never quite came out.
And so we both had regrets.
I wasn’t bitter about any of it, I swear.
Not then at least. Later, I’d find my bitter (with some help), but it was not my first inclination.
I went through stages after he left. Which was surely bizarre when I thought about what a short time we’d actually been together.
I mean, what did we have, really? We’d spent mere days together, mere hours. And it was a fact that most of that time we were in bed, and some part of him was inside some part of me.
That did not a love story make.
But no matter what I told myself, he’d made an impact, left an imprint, on every part of me he’d touched. When I took inventory of just what that meant, there was very little he’d left of me unscathed.
Even so, I found myself trying, more than anything, to just make peace with his leaving.
I was good at making peace with things I couldn’t control or change. I always had been. It was what made me a great photographer, and hell, even a good dental patient. I could hold still, without complaint, as long as it took until the job was done.
I had a bit of a temper, but it usually burned out fast, and in its wake, I always found peace. Heath had been right. I was an inherently peaceful woman.
The peaceful stage didn’t last long, but then, it had help in its exit as it was forcibly removed.
It was ten p.m. when my doorbell rang.
Of course I assumed it was Heath. I wasn’t expecting anyone else, and though he’d said he wouldn’t be back, it was a strange hour for a random drop in from someone who was not my mysterious lover.
I guess it was excitement that had me not so much as glancing in the peephole or bothering to put on more than the thin tank and tiny panties I’d been about to wear to bed.
I’d had what felt like endless hours after to regret the things I hadn’t said to him, hadn’t tried to get him to say to me, and so even if this was just another goodbye from him, I wanted it, if only to get a few things off my chest.
I flung my front door open without a thought toward caution.
I was just so sure it was him.
It was not.
It was a woman, a stranger. She was very young and staring at me with wintry eyes and a bitter twist to her mouth.
I was about to learn that that bitter was contagious.
She had short, dark hair, and a lean muscular build that was apparent under her tight navy shirt and tighter jeans.
She was very pretty, but I doubted she was called that often. There were too many other things about her that stood out. The pretty was far from one of her dominant features.
She looked hard. Not in an unflattering way. Not hard as in brittle, but hard as in carved stone. Soft just wasn’t an option for this woman. I knew that at once.
“Hello, Lourdes,” she said. She had a husky voice, the kind of raspy tone men talked about.
Sexy. Another word she’d be called long before you ever got to pretty.
“I work with Heath,” she added when I just kept staring at her. “May I come in? I’d like to speak to you. It won’t take a minute.”
The way she spoke had me reassessing her age, because I’d had her pegged as very young, but with a few words I was guessing closer to twenty-five than, say, eighteen.
“Um, sure, okay,” I said, stepping back.
She came inside briskly, and I noted with surprise that she was actually shorter than I was when she swept by. She wasn’t short, more like average height, but something about her had made me assume, at first impression, that she was tall.
She struck me as a badass, I decided, and in my head badasses were just always tall.
“Let me go put on a robe,” I said, feeling awkward in just my minuscule top and lacy panties.
She’d been headed into my living room, but at that she stopped and snapped around. Her eyes raked me, top to bottom. “Whatever you prefer, but don’t cover up on my account. I’ve seen it all.”
It felt like a dare, or an insult, an insinuation that if I did cover up, it was because I was self-conscious or maybe even ashamed of my body.
I was not, and by now I could tell this woman was not here for a friendly visit, so I stayed how I was.
Let her see that I was proud of my body. I was forty-one, a mother of two grown men, but my skin was smooth and flawless and not one thing on me sagged. I was toned, but still shapely in all the right places. Due to countless hours of hard work, my body was as killer as it’d ever been, and this seemed like a situation where it suited me to use it.
She pursed her lips and strode into my living room. She didn’t sit, but faced me, arms crossed over her chest, eyes level on my face.
There was another quiet spell while we just studied each other.
She was very attractive, in a tough girl kind of way, a way that women perhaps appreciated more than a lot of men. Girl crush material would have been a good way to describe it, if she’d been more pleasant.
“I’m not sure what Heath has shared with you,” she began. “But he and I are close. We’re partners, but I see he didn’t tell you about me. No matter. Doesn’t change why I came here. I have some things to share with you, about Heath that I think you need to hear. He and I are very similar, so I can give you some good insight into why he acted the way he did with you. He shouldn’t have left you hanging like that, and I’m here to correct it.”