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Poughkeepsie begins, p.20
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       Poughkeepsie Begins, p.20

           Debra Anastasia
 
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  Two weeks later, on the night of her birthday, she’d thought she heard a rock against her window, but by the time she got the thing opened, all she could hear was a car with loud exhaust pulling away, no lights on. She liked to pretend it had been Beckett coming to wish her a happy eighteenth. But it could have been a gust of wind, a tree branch, or a noisy car lighting her imagination on fire.

  She slipped Beckett’s leather jacket on over her long, pink dress with the tulle skirt, though, because in the girliest part of her heart, she pictured dancing with him at prom to end her senior year. So she was taking this bit of him with her, even if she’d only have it over her arm or hanging on a chair most of the time.

  She’d just come down the stairs and greeted her waiting family when Rettie and Helena pulled up and honked, music pumping. She waved her good-byes quickly, refusing her parents’ photograph requests, and climbed in the back of the car.

  They all sang along with the radio as they left her parents on the front lawn, and once they’d turned the corner, Helena passed her a flask. It tasted disgusting, but Helena kept urging her on. By the time they got to the hotel, she was definitely buzzed. Rettie put herself in charge of documenting the evening, so she began taking pictures left and right once she’d parked the car.

  “Pose!” Rettie flashed her bright white teeth, and she and Helena draped themselves around her while she snapped the shot.

  They strolled into the event space and sparkly blue fabric pretended to be billowing waves above them, transporting them “under the sea” for the dance. They each took their turn signing a giant oyster-and-pearl papier-mâché sculpture while they waited to hand in their tickets, and they posed again wildly for the professional photographer. In every photo Candy wore Beckett’s jacket. When they finally entered the ballroom, a combination of balloons, streamers, and blue lights added to the ambiance.

  The first hour was all about people watching and embracing other seniors who were all dressed up. Even passing acquaintances received exuberant hugs. After a while, the sober Rettie seemed to get tired of her and Helena’s uncontrollable giggles and left them to fend for themselves.

  As the evening wore on, she, Helena, and Buck—a guy Helena had her eye on from biology class—wound up dancing a little bit while shouting conversation back and forth. Then she found herself alone after Helena launched herself at him. Her friend’s bout of courage got her a kiss from a very happy Buck, so Candy moved away to give them some space.

  Her head was clearing a bit from her pre-partying drinks, but the music was crazy loud. How the hotel got away with having people in the rooms overhead was a mystery. She looked around and noticed the ballroom had a few exits that led to a pretty, just-greening-up garden. The cool breeze from the open door called to her, and the twinkle lights looked so pretty. Despite the slight chill, quite a few partygoers were coming in and out, and suddenly it seemed just the place she wanted to be. After grabbing Beckett’s jacket and slipping it over her dress, Candy ventured down the main path, then branched out to a smaller one. She stopped and looked at the stars, thinking of Beckett.

  And as if wishing for him had conjured him up, she felt his voice against her cheek as his arms slipped around her middle. “Happy prom, pretty lady.”

  She turned in his arms, eyes wide. “What the hell?”

  “I’ve been wondering how long it would take for you to come out here. And then I wondered which poor bastard would be stupid enough to take my girl to the dance.” Beckett smiled at her, dimples blazing.

  He looked leaner, but also bulked up in all the right places—jeans and an army jacket looked more appealing on him than any of the tuxes inside. She had a feeling this moment would ruin quite a few relationships for her down the line. She tried to wiggle out of his grip, but he held tight.

  “Wearing my jacket, Candy? That’s quite a prom look.” He insisted she meet his eyes.

  “It’s my weakness.” Being in his presence after wanting him for so long was staggering. And so close. Sitting in her bedroom, she’d pictured an across-the-room situation. She was supposed to have time to prepare before the nearness of him scattered her system. She tried to get some perspective by pushing him away. “No. All this time? You say nothing? No one would tell me anything.” She crossed her arms under her breasts.

  “That’s not true. My brothers told you I wasn’t dead.” His smile faded, but his eyes were still welcoming, as if no time had passed since the last time he’d had his arm around her.

  “Yes, at least I had that. Knowing you weren’t dead clearly told me we were connected. Deeply.”

  “Do you have a date? For this?”

  “No. I came with Rettie and Helena.”

  “That explains the booze on your breath. Helena’s a wild child.”

  “She’s a bad influence, but she has nothing on you.” Candy wanted him to kiss her so much she dug her fingernails into her palm.

  “That’s the truth.” His eyes went from welcoming to sad as he spoke, and she wished she could take it back.

  “Don’t ask me about dates,” she said instead. “Explain why it’s okay for you to show up here at my prom.”

  He took her elbow and pulled her off the main path. She expected his wiseass mouth, but instead he looked her up and down.

  “You, in my jacket, is my weakness, baby. You’re my girl.” He touched the lapel.

  “I didn’t think you had a weakness—especially when it came to me.” She stepped backward. He seemed older to her now, more worn. It had only been months, but his eyes had lost the carefree part of their recklessness.

  “Actually, the fact that I’ve been gone for so long—away from the way you smell, the little purr you get going when I breathe in your ear…” he stepped forward, not touching her, but crowding her personal space, and spoke into her neck “…should tell you more about my weakness than my mouth ever could.”

  Passion flared through her, flowing from her neck to all of the places she wished he would touch.

  She reached out and pressed her fingertips to his. “I missed you so much.”

  Beckett pulled back to look at her face. “Kiss you, miss you.”

  She wanted to tell him she’d known it was him, but instead she sighed as he pulled her to him, resting his hand on her jaw. And then he kissed her, and she drowned. His mouth, his lips—it was more than just kissing; it was wishing too.

  When he finally tapered off, nipping her chin and neck before hugging her to him, she had to ask, “So are you my date now? All this ‘my girl’ talk gets a lady’s hopes up.” She put her hands on his wide shoulders.

  His smile started on one side and widened until she basked in his happiness. “Well, technically Tryler has a pretty enforceable restraining order against me, but I haven’t seen him here this evening. If you want a date, baby, I’m all yours.”

  The beautiful song that had played during their car dance came on, and Candy went to her tiptoes. She was mad—God, she was angry for all sorts of reasons, but none of them seemed to matter at the moment. She wanted a dance with this handsome guy at prom. “They’re playing our song.”

  He tilted his head toward the door. “Yes, they are. I hope Byler keeps the requisite one hundred feet away from my ass. Let’s go.” The mischievous glint in his eyes made him look a bit lighter, less burdened.

  It wasn’t until he turned that she saw him, a huge, towering man close enough to hear everything they were saying. She gasped, and Beckett laughed.

  “Don’t scare her to death!” He pulled Candy over to the man in the shadows, smiling. “This is my security detail. Mouse, meet Candy Cox.”

  Mouse nodded. “Hey, Candy.”

  He stepped forward, and she noticed he was younger than she’d initially thought. His voice was high and squeaky. He made no comment about her name, and that made her like him.

  Beckett slapped Mouse on the arm but missed the look of pure devotion on the man’s face because he’d turned back to speak to her.

&n
bsp; “If you ever see this dude around, know I sent him. He’s safe.”

  Candy held out her hand formally, like her family had ingrained in her. Mouse took it and gave her a gentle smile.

  “Thanks, Mouse. Nice to meet you.”

  He nodded and stepped back, scanning the area.

  “Song’s almost over, baby. Let’s get in there.” Beckett bent down and tossed her over his shoulder. She screamed, and he spanked her on the ass. “We gotta run!”

  She tried to hold on to the top of her dress. When they got to the door, thankfully he set her down.

  “Tits good?” he questioned.

  She laughed and readjusted her dress. “Yeah. You’re an animal.”

  Beckett wiggled his eyebrows. “Especially if I have your skirt as a hat.” He took her hand and led her through the door.

  When they got to the dance floor, he pulled her in for the final strains of their song, laughing as it came to an end. A fast song was up next, and Candy soon remembered that Beckett could dance—like, really dance.

  She felt inadequate next to him, but he was amazing at pulling her into his moves, making her feel better at it than she was. When another slow song piped in, she was finally able to cuddle into him.

  “Don’t leave me again.” She touched his face, smooth from a recent shave.

  “I dropped by on your birthday…” he said suddenly.

  “I thought so! Then I thought I was hoping too much.” She shrugged.

  “People hoping for me doesn’t happen a lot. So thanks.” He kissed her forehead, then her cheek, then her lips.

  “Mr. Taylor, last time I checked you weren’t enrolled at our school anymore.”

  Beckett twirled Candy as he spoke to the assistant principal. “That would be true. As far as I can tell, Candy can bring a date, though.”

  “Yes, if you both have tickets,” Mr. Gold pointed out.

  “You want money, baby? I got mountains of it.” He continued dancing with Candy while pulling out his wallet.

  Mr. Gold shook his head. “Actually, Zyler’s parents just got in touch with me because someone told them you were here.”

  “Nyler’s a pussy.”

  “That may be, but I’d love to have this year end without seeing a cop place you in handcuffs. I’m sorry, Candy.”

  Mr. Gold backed away, giving them space to make their choice.

  “Let’s go. I’ve got hours before I have to be home.” Candy kissed Beckett’s frowning mouth.

  “Sure, just one last thing.” He twirled her out of his arms and bounded up to the stage. Taking the mic from the stand, he tapped it a few times to make sure it was on. “Graduating class of Poughkeepsie East High School, just wanted to remind you to get high and get laid tonight!”

  The crowd cheered.

  “Except for Zyler Merchant. For you I have a message from your hand. It’s exhausted, so you won’t get any sweet, sweet loving tonight!”

  With that he leaped down and found her again. Candy pointed to two girls in the crowd and mouthed that she would call them, complete with making her fingers seem like a phone. They waved back just as she and Beckett ran for it. Mouse was holding the door open when they got there, and Candy laughed as Beckett pulled her through the garden and into the parking lot.

  “Mouse, you have the rest of the night off,” Beckett told him. “I’ve got some things to handle.” He hugged Candy to him and nuzzled her ear.

  “All right, boss. See you tomorrow morning.” Mouse nodded as Beckett held open the car door for Candy.

  She looked fucking delectable. Holy Christ. The pink dress and the flush on her cheeks made him ready to bite her. His dick was as hard as a paddle. God, he wanted to swat her ass with it.

  Her freaking tits were so soft looking, and fuckable as well. What he could do to this girl…She watched as he looked her over, leering at the parts of her he wanted in his mouth first. When he looked at her gorgeous face again she was blushing even more.

  He drove faster. He had a new deal with a hotel in town, and his contact said they’d save a room for him if he watched out for their business. It was the beginning of something beautiful, but expanding Kick’s business into an empire took constant work. And that was okay. He was good at it. And this kid he’d found, Mouse, the numbers he could work in his head were amazing. He was a great asset.

  Candy crossed her legs, kicking up the fluffy bottom of her dress, which had some fancy name Beckett couldn’t bring to mind. When they parked in the lot at the hotel, he dragged her across the seat to sit in his lap and started licking everything he considered his.

  “I’ve still never…”

  She whispered it like a special secret, so Beckett reluctantly stopped enjoying touching the tip of his tongue to her jaw.

  “Never what?” She smelled so good, like sugar.

  “This. I’ve never.” She grabbed his chin and forced him to look at her.

  “Sex? Fucking? Getting screwed?” Beckett bit his bottom lip when she tried to kick him.

  “Yes. And those would be the last three terms a girl would use to describe it.” She pretended to get angry.

  Her tits were still pointed at him, her arms wrapped around his neck, so he knew he was still good. “It’s okay, princess. You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to.”

  She sighed. “Are you going to leave again? For months?”

  He let his exploring hands drop to either side of her hips. “I don’t know. Probably.”

  She put her hands in her lap but didn’t move. “I feel like this is our last time together.”

  His blue balls began to weep. “Honestly, I can’t imagine dragging you into what I’m doing. And I can’t stop now. Things have been put in motion that I can’t stop. I mean…”

  He pictured the night he’d taken Kick’s business and made it his own. He remembered that when he’d gotten to Jagged’s and found Doreen dead wearing a pink fucking tutu, he felt nothing—a drugged-out dead whore at his feet, and he felt nothing. He’d used her death to further his own gains that night instead of trying to avenge her or even feeling anything human for a person he’d known for months. And now more and more men looked at him with fear in their eyes. He’d murdered people—was planning to murder more, with Rick at the top of his list. As soon as everything was in place, he’d put an end to that sorry sack of shit and rip out his—

  Beckett shook his head at this train of thought while this gorgeous, innocent beauty sat on his lap. It would be only a matter of time before someone used her against him. And seeing or even knowing about where he did business would ruin her, ruin the tenderness he saw in her face. He let his hand drift up her leg and fisted her dress, touching her thigh with his knuckles. Candy’s dress was the same color as the tutu DD’s dead body had been wearing.

  “Maybe we could get you a GED, and we could apply to the same college and…”

  She was talking, and he should have been listening, but it was like he was underwater…“Sweetness, I’m not that guy.” He surfaced to stop her. “You know it; your dad certainly knows it.”

  She covered his mouth with her hand, and he kissed it. “I believe you can be more than a drug dealer,” she told him. “I know you can.”

  He moved her hand, and released his grip on her dress. Doreen’s had been dotted with blood. Candy’s was still pristine. He had to push this beautiful girl away. He decided to try by explaining that his current lifestyle was more important than the hole ripping in his chest when he thought of never having her in his arms again.

  “I have power now,” he began. “It’s just a start, but power. Can you understand that? For as long as I can remember, other people have told me what to do, where to live, how to get food to eat, how bad I am.”

  She kissed his lips. “You’re not bad.”

  “I am. I’m so bad and getting worse. You don’t need this.” Beckett pulled her dark hair off her shoulder.

  “I want you anyway.” She was earnest, and shy despite her bold
words.

  This girl was the champagne of making love: a virgin, willing, gorgeous, and brave. God, the night they could have.

  “I can give you me for a few hours—just the way you like me,” he told her with a sigh. It sounded dirtier than he’d meant it to, but she got it. This night was all he could allow.

  He zipped up his jacket on her so no one else got to see her tits in the lobby. They were his. She would be his forever tonight.

  A tear slid down her cheek. “Make it count for me, if this is all I get.”

  Beckett nodded, deal struck. She scooted off his lap, and he opened his door before going around and opening hers too. She held out her hand and he took it, slamming the door once she’d pulled her dress out of the way.

  “Come.” He pulled her behind him.

  She stutter-stepped in her heels for a moment, but kept pace.

  Beckett walked past the front desk and didn’t even bother to wave or explain.

  The elevator opened for him when he pressed the button, and he pulled her in and jabbed the button for the ninth floor.

  As soon as the doors closed, he pulled her close, offering her one more out. “Listen. This, what I’m about to do to you? I’m really good at it. When I’m where I need to be, you will only be able to say yes. The way I can make you feel? The way I will make you feel? It’ll be overwhelming.” He ghosted her shape with his hands.

  She swallowed and nodded.

  “So are you sure? Because once I start, you won’t be able to let me stop.”

  The elevator bell sounded as the door opened on their floor. Beckett held it open and waited.

  “That sounds like an amazing good-bye.” She kissed his lips, and he murmured his assent.

  He led her down to the room he had a brand new permanent key for in his pocket. He held her against the wall by her neck, gently, while he unlocked the door. When her gaze glazed over with want, he knew he had to go all out for her.

 
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