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Another night of signings and meetings, another lonesome night away from home. Chicago is a busy city on a gorgeous June day and an even more spectacular evening, like tonight. People zipping by in cars, striding swiftly through peoplejams with the same practiced ease as New Yorkers.
I wanted to be home with my family instead of here. Obligations be damned. Fame and fortune weren’t worth it when it took you so far from all you loved. I’ve been on the road for the past month, book signings, meet and greets, meetings with other publishers and the like.
Talking to my old man on the phone nightly wasn’t making me feel any better. Since my book hit the best seller list, and the money started rolling in, my old man’s been binge-ing, on anything he could get his hands on, booze, pills, and other “recreational” drugs.
Thank heavens, my youngest, our son, was visiting his grandparents back home for the summer, and wasn’t there to see his father’s speedy decline into addictdom. I wasn’t either, but I had no choice. I’d heard a female voice in the background last night, knowing he was cheating even as he denied it. Just friends my ass.
Tired beyond tired, I glanced at the clock over the doorway, saw I had barely ten minutes left in this session and then I was free. I laughed to myself. Free? To do what? Go up to my room, alone, and what? Be a good girl?
Fuck that. I was feeling an incredible need for an alcoholic beverage, and as soon as I finished I was going straight to the hotel’s bar to indulge. I wished my bestie, Jazz, was with me this trip. Hell, I was wishing anybody was with me this trip.
I signed the last copy, shook hands with the last of my fans and let the book store manager lead me out to the limo that would take me wherever I wanted to go. I asked Jake, the driver, to take a cruise before going back to the hotel. I sat, alone in the back of a twenty something foot limo, smoking out of my pipe, getting stoned, relaxing, trying to forget just how alone and lonely I am here in this huge city. Finally, Jake pulled up in front of my hotel and let me out.
Instead of going directly to my room, I detoured into the bar, got a Washington apple and moseyed into a dark corner to watch the few other patrons.
The bar sat beside the pool area, a lighted pool, and shimmery water. I went out, wandered along the pool edge, giving myself a ration of shit for wearing these ridiculously high heels, for wearing this slinky dress, for a frigging signing no less.
I wasn’t paying much attention to my surroundings, I know, but I thought I was alone. Until I hit the water. I came up sputtering out water, steaming furiously. A hand reached out to me. I looked up into a face that was familiar and stunned.
I barely heard his apologies over the roar of fury in my ears. I took his hand and let him help me from the pool. One of the staff rushed out with warm, fluffy towels, which he carefully wrapped around me, apologizing over and over.
“I can’t tell you how sorry I am…” I held up my hand, hoping to stop his words, which it did. I looked again at his face, saw his chagrin, saw his sincerity, saw his friend elbow him in the ribs, and caught his friend’s mumbled, “Way to go, Champ.”
Another staff person hurried out with a fluffy, white robe. I tried to rise from the lounger, realized I’d lost one of my shoes, sat back down, looked into the blue water, spied my shoe, glittering at the bottom, sighed, closed my eyes.
I slid my shoe off, thinking this was just THE most fucked up night of my life, and why hadn’t I just gone to my room, when he interrupted my thoughts.
“Is there anything I can say, or do, to make this up to you? I never saw you, until I bumped you.”
“I’d really appreciate my other shoe.” I said quietly, without looking at him. I figured he’d ask one of hotel people to fish it out with the strainer or something. I didn’t think he’d jump in for it, until I heard the splash and looked up.
His battered hat floated beside him as he crouched, fishing around for my Jimmy Choo. I felt the frown on my face melting slowly as I studied him.
He has dark honey hair that curled over the collar of his shirt, curling over his forehead, dripping wet. His face tanned, strongly chiseled cheek bones, leant him a Native face, complete with warm chocolate eyes, which were smiling at me. I felt the heat rising to my cheeks, but held his gaze. He looked away first, finding my shoe.
I let mind drift down over his shoulders, into the water, over his back. He held up my shoe with a sheepish grin, waded to the edge where I sat, pushed himself up in one smooth motion. My eyes took in how his shirt clung to his broad, muscled chest, almost flat plane of his abdomen, how his jeans sculpted his massive thighs, his toned calves. I looked up to see him offering my shoe.
“Thank you.” I took it, set it beside its twin, rubbed my totally ruined hair with a towel. I stood barefoot before him, intending to go change, when he stopped me, again.
“Would escort ataşehir you join us for dinner? I’d really like it if you would. Please.” His voice was soft, gentle. A skittish colt flashed through my mind, giving me a small smile.
“Alright, I will but I need to change. I’ll be back in a little bit.” I let the towels drape, loosen, fall around my feet. His eyes streaked over me.
The foolishly slinky dress I’d been wearing was plastered to me like a second skin and it was itching hideously as it continued to tighten. I heard his sharp intake as I bent to gather the towels, looked up at him, saw his eyes darken, heat up. I piled the towels on the lounger, collected my ruined shoes and walked away, feeling his eyes on me, feeling a shiver of something, anticipation, nerves? Something.
I rode up to the fifth floor, went in my room, stopped in front of the mirror, seeing what he’d seen.
“Shit.” Slinky had shrunk, it barely covered my ass now, and snugged my boobs almost out. I yanked it over my head, feeling the rats nest of hair on my head move. I ran for the shower, scrubbed, shampooed, conditioned, buffed, and polished.
I dried off, searching through my case for something comfy, picked out a pair of jean shorts and my favorite shirt, emerald green, silk, low cut. I tamed my mass of dark chestnut, walnut hair into a decent do, left a few wisps hanging loose. I slid my Croc sandals on, sighing after all the walking on spikes I’d done today.
I went back down to the pool, picking up another Washington apple on the way. They were both back out there, so I joined them. He stood when I approached, showing off his dry clothes.
“Where would you like to go?” His friend asked, standing beside him. His friend was more my height, while he towered over us.
“I’m not familiar with Chicago, so I haven’t a clue.”
“Do you like ribs?”
“Sure.” I shrugged. They exchanged a grin.
“Southside, Elwood’s Place.” He suggested. His friend nodded. He offered his elbow, which I took, and led us through the hotel, to the valet station. His rental car was a Chrysler 300, black and angry looking. I climbed in the front beside him as his friend took the back.
He drove through the insane traffic like he’d been doing it every day. I heard the flick of a lighter, smelled the pungent, skunky aroma, and peeked over my shoulder to see his friend offer me a fat joint. I took it, dragged deep, passed it to him, watched as he took a hit. I finally let myself realize just what had happened tonight, and couldn’t help laughing my hit out. “What?”
“I just don’t believe this day.” I let out another laugh. “It’s been shit, all day. And where am I now? I’m heading out to dinner with Kian McDaniels and Tom Hanley, somewhere on the south side of Chicago.” I shook my head. “It can only go up from here, I think…unless there’s another pool?” I asked, taking another hit, passed. Kian grinned and Tom laughed in the back seat.
“No swimming pool at Elwood’s, just a pool table.” Tom laughed. “I think the Esther Williams portion of tonight’s festivities have been concluded, and quite spectacularly, if I might add.”
I had to laugh…who was I to argue with whatever Fate had in store for me? Take it as it comes, enjoy it if you can, see and learn the lessons. I looked over at Kian, seeing him squirm, still uncomfortable with the events so far, seeing an apology lingering in his eyes. I gave him a smile, letting him think he was forgiven.
“Wow, Tom, this is some potent shit!” I said, exhaling another hit.
“It should be, it’s home grown, by me.” Tom replied, a small smile playing on his lips, as I passed it back to him. “My farm in Alabama has two little niches where it grows big and lush. It keeps me supplied year round. Only damned thing that makes this arthritis bearable some days. It really should be decriminalized and made available to people as an alternative to chemical treatments.”
“Tom, not tonight, please.” Kian said, glancing in the mirror. “No discussions, debates or arguments. I’d really hate for her evening to end in your death.”
“Alright, I’ll behave and we’ll give our beautiful girl one hell of a night to remember.” I saw the look on Kian’s face, and raised an eyebrow. He looked back at the road.
Hmmm, I thought. Wondering why an obviously married man would be looking at me like…nah, cut it out. He tossed you in a frickin pool, remember? Just put THAT out of your mind. Dumb ass. I passed on the next round, letting Tom enjoy the rest alone. Kian pulled off the highway onto side streets, navigating the area with ease.
“Been here a lot?” I asked, watching him drive through narrow streets and clogged roads.
“Chicago is where my current owners have their offices. I’m in and out of here three four times a month, when I’m not touring. Someday soon, I’ll build my own company…”
“And watch out world!! Kian’s been roughly abused by his recording company as of late. Revenge is a dish best served cold, dead cold.” kadıköy escort bayan Tom piped up from the back seat. Kian pulled into a space along the street. I could see the awning for Elwood’s Place a little ways down.
“Wait a second.” Kian asked, putting his hand over mine, as Tom scuttled around to get out. “Usually there are a couple of photographers hanging around…”
“I know how to deal with them.” I answered.
“But, hang close to Tom, for my sake, please.” I gave him a quizzical look, but nodded.
When I opened my door, Tom stood waiting, like the true gentleman he is. I took his offered arm and let him lead me into Elwood’s. As he’d expected, a couple of paparazzi took shots as we entered.
Once inside, the owner, a petite woman, with frizzed out ginger hair and the energy level of ten three year olds hyped up on chocolate and mountain dew, gave Tom a big hug and led us back to a more private room. Sheila Branigan, was her name, she said when Tom introduced us.
“I’ve run this place for the last twenty seven years. I figure as long as the food’s good, the drinks stout and my wait staff polite and friendly, this is the way it should be. It’s worked this long!” I was wedged into a horseshoe booth with Tom on my left and Kian to my right. She gave us the special menus for this room and left us in Matt’s capable hands.
“Two Bud Lights…” Kian began.
“I’d like a Washington apple and a Sprite, please.” I added, feeling Kian’s knee brush mine.
I could just catch a whiff of his aftershave, something woodsy and intriguing. Tom kept us entertained with some of his fishing stories as our drinks, then our appetizers, were ordered and delivered.
With every passing moment, I could feel the weight of the world falling off my shoulders, and really began enjoying my evening. Kian would either tease or corroborate Tom, with almost every story.
It was coming clear, that these two not only were great friends but had a long history together. The promised ribs were finally delivered, with fresh drinks as well.
Amid much shared laughter, we devoured the pile of ribs along with the bowls of sides. Before they were gone, Kian had shifted closer beside me, our bodies touching from hip to knee, his arm casually draped over the top of the booth, around my shoulders.
I could feel his heat, the alcohol buzzing through my brain, and a full, happy belly. Stuffed to the gills, I leaned back, feeling Kian’s forearm under my head.
“Wow! I don’t think I’ve ever had better ribs.” I sighed, wiping barbeque sauce from my face.
“One of these days we’ll all have to check out Monte’s down in Memphis. I’ve heard tell of ribs so tender and delish, they almost jump off the plate into your mouth.” Tom said with a sigh as he sat back, stretching out his belly.
Matt, our incredible waiter brought coffees and more wet naps, along with our bill. “Well, Boy, what’s our next stop? Henry’s Juke Joint to dance our girl’s feet off?” I saw the merry twinkle in Tom’s eyes and knew I was going wherever they went until they decided to go back to the hotel, and I knew I would enjoy every second.
“Sure, Pops, glad to hear you’re up to dancing our girl’s feet off. I thought your trick knee was acting up again?” Kian teased with a grin.
“Now, Boy, you know I can out dance you any other time…”
“Yeah, yeah, Pops, I’ll be dancing her feet off for you. That is, if she can dance?” Kian turned the teasing to me. I shrugged non-committedly.
“You’ll have to judge for yourself, Cowboy. I might just surprise you.”
“A white girl that can dance, this I’ll have to see.” Kian teased, leaning close enough for me to taste his breath. Tom’s snicker egged me on.
“You’ll see. And you’ll be so amazed…” I trailed off when his lips brushed mine.
“I already am.” He whispered against my lips. I blinked up into his deep caramel eyes, seeing the golden flecks warming, seeing him wanting me. “C’mon, Pops, can’t dance here.” They both tossed bills on the table as we went to leave.
Tom stopped to whisper something in Sheila’s ear, which made her laugh bawdily. We watched as she gave him a sweet kiss and a warm hug.
Kian took my hand in his as we crossed the restaurant to the exit; I did notice that it pretty much swallowed mine. Outside, darkness had fallen and streetlights shone down in yellowy cones of light. Just past the awning, he stopped in the shadows and kissed me again, as we waited for Tom.
“Kian? What’s going on?” I had to ask. I wasn’t all too sure what was going on. I knew my body was going haywire thanks to his attentions, but I just couldn’t picture myself in “the other woman” role.
“I guess it’s fair to ask. I’ve been separated for the last two months. She’s getting paperwork together and I’ve been sleeping in Tom’s spare bedroom, when I’m not touring.”
“Can I ask why?”
“She’s got herself a new lover and this one, she wants to, how did she put it? Oh, yeah, she wants to be free to take care escort bostancı of him. Good riddance. I’m sorry it’s been a really rough year for me.”
“You’re keeping it a secret? That you’re getting a divorce?”
“It’s the Owner’s idea. I’m not too thrilled about it…” He trailed off as Tom joined us.
“Did I hear you mention the Owners again?”
“Yeah, giving our girl a rundown about my marital status, and hopefully putting her at ease.” Kian said, unlocking the car.
“His ex, the Bitch, is no longer in the picture. The recording company wants him to keep his almost squeaky clean, family image, so no mention of the D word. No extra ladies until its final, I think is how they worded it. Bullshit, Boy, total bullshit.” Tom said as he climbed in the back seat again. “I say, live your life. Fuck them in their faded vinyl tower.”
I caught Kian’s gaze before he pulled onto the street, smiled with understanding, took his hand in mine, gently trailing a fingertip along his skin.
He drove with ease and precision, threading through traffic clogged roads with minimum fuss. Tom had another fatty burning and was passing it forward. This time, Kian joined in. By the time he found a parking space near Henry’s, the car was fish bowled. I could see Kian’s eyes just by their redness and grinned, making him grin back.
We walked up the sidewalk to the line waiting at the door. The bouncer recognized Tom and Kian and ushered us inside with glad handshakes and a warm welcome back.
The owner, Henry, met us at the bar, hurried our drinks up, and led us to another more private area. Tom, Henry and Kian caught up on gossip and other topics until bar matters took Henry off.
Tom had already attracted the attentions of his favorite waitress and was catching up with her, leaving Kian and I facing each other, wondering. I heard one of his songs pour through the house speakers, saw his grimace.
“What’s that look for? It’s one of yours isn’t it?” I asked, resting my hand on his forearm.
“Yeah, it is but…it was supposed to be different. The owners wanted it this way and that’s how it came out.”
“That sucks. I kinda know how that feels…having an editor, changing shit that shouldn’t be changed, rewrites.” I sighed, feeling the alcohol finally kicking me in my ass.
“C’mon, white girl, let’s see if you can dance.” Kian grinned, pulling me to my feet. I kept up with him, hung on when he spun me around, got lost a couple times in his eyes when he held me close. Nothing feels better to a body than to have another appreciate, ensnare and enthrall you.
Kian’s hands were gentle but relentless, travelling from my shoulder to my ass, caressing and squeezing, driving me mad. With every whispered comment in my ear, he drove me on, higher, hotter. His lips occasionally brushed my throat or just under my ear, when he’d mention something else, making me shiver in anticipation, growing need.
The music picked up tempo, changed to faster dancing, and Kian lead me to the bar. Lenny, the bartender, put two shot glasses before us, holding the Blue Tarantula tequila bottle for Kian’s inspection, before he poured. I lost track of how many shots we shared, but I knew just enough to slow down, back off before I was totally fubarred.
Another slow song finally played, giving Kian a reason to have me in his arms, again, which he did quickly and easily, draping my arms around his shoulders and holding me tight against him. I buried my face in his chest, dreamily inhaling him, imprinting the feeling of his body in my brain, enjoying feeling this wanted.
He tipped my chin up with a soft fingertip, making me gaze up at him, seeing his want in his eyes, feeling it against my belly, tasting it when his mouth took mine.
I felt him plaster my body to his, feeling his hardness everywhere, feeling his huge hands, stroking and kneading. His mouth was hypnotizing me with every nibble, every moist, hot meeting. I felt a slow burning through my body, following every touch, every trail his fingers branded.
“You’re humming.” He mumbled against my lips.
“No, that’s purring. You’re making me purr.”
“Hmmm, I like it, no matter what you call it.” He’d found one of those spots, at the base of my neck, that just made me melt in his arms.
Neither of us noticed the song change, the other people jostling us, the rest of the joint in entirety. I felt a wall against my back, realizing he’d maneuvered us into a shadowy, out of the way spot.
“Dari, I’m not sure exactly what’s goin’ on, but…” He rested his forehead on mine, breathing heavily, “…it’s been some time…will you join me tonight…in my suite…in my bed…”
“…Yes…mmm, yes, I will…” I was barely able to think, with the buzzing ache he’d set ablaze. I looked up, seeing his caramel eyes deepen, darken with lust, want, need, seeing him lick his lips as he focused on my mouth. I could feel my bottom lip quiver under his gaze, could feel that quiver throughout my body.
Neither of us noticed the guy taking pictures of the two tender, almost lovers, kissing passionately, groping, hunching together in a shadowy corner in a known den of ill repute. Tom came over to our spot and gently broke us apart, mentioning the guy with the camera phone.
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