Poughkeepsie, p.24
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       Poughkeepsie, p.24

           Debra Anastasia

  “I know what you do to me,” Kyle said, finding his eyes. “It’s everything right, honest, and good.” She stood on her tiptoes and kissed his lips.

  “Kyle, I’m intense and devoted, and I need a lot of direction just to get through my day.”

  “Cole, I’m impulsive and devoted and hopeless. I have a filthy mouth, and I don’t see it cleaning up anytime soon.”

  “I would like to make love to you. Here. Right now,” Cole said, continuing his confession. “But I’m afraid I’ll lose you, that you’ll leave your body and go somewhere else. Will you stay with me?”

  “I’m your shadow now, Cole. I’ll be where you are.” Kyle set her jaw, determined.

  “Okay,” he said. “This is how it’ll go. I’m going to give you pleasure. And you’re going to take it. No reciprocating.” He instantly saw doubt in her face. “Please, this time—which will be the first of so many—let me make you happy. Let my touch cleanse you. When I’m done, I want your body to belong just to us.” He could feel himself smiling, just thinking about it.

  Kyle nodded and bit her lip. She looked nervous as a virgin. “This feels like jumping off a cliff,” she finally said.

  “I’ll only do this if you want me to. Do you want me to?” Cole took a step back.

  Kyle reached around and unzipped her sundress. She held her arms out like a sacrificial lamb.

  “Say it, so I know for sure.” Cole’s eyes glowed with lust and reverence.

  “I want you to.” Kyle watched him.

  Cole gently took one of her outstretched hands and kissed it. Every place he christened on her skin became theirs. His lips took off layer after layer of mistake.

  When he got to her dress strap, he watched her eyes as he slid it off her shoulder. She smiled her unquestionably Kyle smile. Still present. When the other strap left its perch, her sundress became a gentle puff of air around her ankles.

  Now they were chest to chest. Skin to skin. Cole could see Kyle forcing herself to stay still rather than reach for him. She clasped her hands together behind her back.

  In Cole’s hands and mouth, Kyle’s breasts were so much more than erotic tools. They were beautiful, able to sustain life. She moaned at his attention to them. He checked her eyes.

  “I’m still here,” she said in a playful voice. But she was. She was still there.

  “Kyle, will you come to my bed?” Cole would take this so slowly.

  “I will.” Kyle followed as he led her to his simple twin bed, covered in a plain tan comforter.

  The sun spilled onto the bed through his window, making sharp angles that wouldn’t hurt at all. Cole kissed the standing Kyle until she was sitting. He nuzzled her neck until she lay on her back. Cole checked her eyes. She winked. Still there. When Cole’s kisses lingered on her belly button, she crossed her legs.

  “Are you okay?” He appeared instantly at her eye level, worried.

  “I’m fine. I just, I never let a guy…um, well, they never wanted to. It’s not what I do.” Kyle’s eyes looked everywhere but his.

  “Is it because you don’t think you’d like it, or you don’t think you deserve it?”

  Cole waited with patience that would have made him an excellent priest.

  She bit her lip and looked away again. He saw her answer.

  “You do deserve it,” he said fiercely. “Can I give it to you?”

  She accepted with a nod, and he slipped her panties down the smooth muscles of her legs. His kissing started at her ankles and moved up ever so slowly. By the time he could finally taste her, she’d gathered the sunshine and the bedspread in her hands.

  Her thighs cradled his face, and when he added his fingers to explore with his mouth, her legs dropped open.

  Cole felt her begin to shake as he increased the pressure of his persuasion. She arched her back when the inside-out magic he’d granted hit her. Then she relaxed, panting as her skin glistened.

  Cole tucked his very proud self around her now-relaxed form. “Did you deserve it?” His voice was husky.

  She sighed and tried to talk, but nothing came out. She just nodded.

  Cole tilted her chin so he could look deeply into her eyes. “Kyle, you are my heaven. Will you come with me?”

  “I will.” Kyle snuggled deeper into his chest, gently tracing his Sorry tattoo.

  Cole’s heart beat like the pounding of an angel’s wings.


  Feed Him

  LIVIA PUT THE CAR in gear and drove back to her home. She peeked at Blake and the ski mask on his head as he fiddled around in the passenger seat, touching her radio and the brush she kept in the cup holder.

  “What’s up?” she finally asked with a smile.

  He looked up from his exploring. “You’re so real. You have a bedroom and a brush. All the times I waited for you, I could never picture where you came from—what had made you so extraordinarily different. But you made you different.” Blake ran his hand along his neck, smiling shyly in her direction.

  “There are a million girls just like me.” Livia almost hated to point that out.

  “No. There’s only you.” Blake looked away from her and squinted into the sun.

  Look at him looking into the sunlight! Livia reached in front of him and popped the glove box. She handed him a pair of her sunglasses. He looked so grateful as he slid on her oversized shades that Livia had to stomp down on a flicker of disappointment.

  Livia refocused her attention on traffic lights and tricky turns. All she really wanted to do was study his face. Finally, parked in her driveway, Livia realized they’d beaten her father home from work. Odd. He usually books it home after an overnight.

  The shade of the giant oak on the front lawn formed an umbrella for Blake, and he made it around the car in time to hold her door open and close it behind her. He kept his hand on her lower back as they headed for the house.

  Halfway up the walk, she could take the tingling no longer. She whirled and hugged him. He squeezed her back and whispered something into her hair. She listened to his breathing and relaxed in the circle of his arms.

  “Should we get inside before your Dad pulls up and finds me ravishing you on this cement path?” he said, more clearly now. She could hear the snicker in his voice.

  Blake took the keys from her hands.

  “The silver one,” Livia said.

  Blake held her arm with one hand and unlocked the door with the other. “I remember.”

  His attentions made Livia feel cherished. Blake removed his mask hat and took Livia’s huge sunglasses from his face.

  He takes his hat off indoors. Dad’s going to love that.

  Livia pointed to the catchall table in the foyer, and Blake set his hat and the sunglasses down. As before, he hung her keys on one of the three hooks by the door.

  She stepped into him again, needing the contact to keep her heart rhythm steady. Blake rubbed the center of her back. It was a long, comforting moment before she was able to think of anything other than his strong fingers.

  “Can I make you something to eat?” She watched his lips for an answer.

  “I wouldn’t want to trouble you.” Blake smiled.

  He knows I won’t give up. “You’re my favorite kind of trouble. Please?” Livia batted her eyelashes and pouted elaborately.

  “Yes, tempting Livia, you may feed me. Thank you.” He touched her lips with a single finger. “Can I help?”

  “No.” She led him to sit at the kitchen table. “I want you to relax.”

  The fridge was disappointing. Grocery shopping had not been on the front burner of her mind. She could see eggs and cheese. Frittata!

  Livia set a pot of water to boil for pasta and combined the simple egg mixture. After a few minutes she drained the noodles. As she added and stirred and poured into a skillet, Blake wandered over.

  “Smells good,” he said.

  Livia flipped the frittata over to cook on the opposing side, exposing the golden pasta.

  “Wow. I
think I just went into a frenzy.”

  Livia grinned. He peeled his attention from the sizzling meal and put his hands on the counter behind her, trapping her.

  Livia held her spatula as Blake whispered in her ear. “I see us just like this a hundred years from now, old and deaf. I’ll be the luckiest man.”

  Emotion caught her—this was all she wanted. Simple, beautiful frittata moments with this man.

  “Someday, Livia, I’ll be man enough to buy the food,” he continued. “I’ll give you an oven. I’ll try so hard.”

  Livia leaned up and stopped his proclamations with her lips. After tender kisses, she gave her mouth enough room to promise back. “Blake, I’ll never care if I have an oven. Just you.”

  The smell of the food roused them both, and she plated the meal as he sat again. He pulled his piano out of his back pocket and smoothed it. His fingers began flying.

  Livia was certain it was a happy song. Uplifting. She slid a wedge of fritatta in front of him with a fork. She poured them ice-cold glasses of water and carried her plate to the table.

  He stood and held out her chair, but he never put his fork down. He was so ready to eat. As they started, Livia felt her soul curl up around the edges. He ate so fast. He ate every crumb. He was hungry. She hopped up and plopped seconds on his plate as he shook his head no.

  “Livia, I’ve imposed enough. I don’t need to take any more of your food.”

  Livia shook her head as well. “Yes. Yes, you do. You really do. I need to see you eat until you’re full. That will be a gift to me. A pleasure for me. Be full—that’s all I ask in return for making you this meal.”

  He stood and held out her chair again.

  Blake ate the entire rest of the frittata without objection.

  “I’m full. It was so very delicious,” he said when his plate was empty again. “She’s beautiful and can cook. Every man’s dream.” He set his fork on his plate and cleared the dishes to the sink. “Can I put these in the dishwasher for you?”

  Livia nodded. Seeing him puttering around in her kitchen, turning on the familiar faucet, solidified her feeling of destiny. She knew, staring at his back, that he would not go hungry again. She would have him, warm and safe, with her every day. It was perfectly clear. She would need to talk with her father. It was time for her to be on her own.

  Livia looked down to wipe a happy tear. Her gaze fell on his cardboard piano. The piano!

  “I’ll be right back.” Livia sprinted upstairs. For her fourteenth birthday, she’d wanted a key-lighted keyboard. She was convinced it would help her learn to play. Her father pulled through like the champ of a dad he was, and she had it in her hot little hands on her birthday. After numerous hours of listening to the preset songs and watching the pretty light show that corresponded to the notes, Livia knew her talents would be best applied to turning on the radio. She dug under her bed until she found it.

  She dusted it off and prayed it would still work. She slid the button to on. Nothing. She popped out the corroded batteries and replaced each with a fresh D from her dad’s endless battery stash in the hall closet. She hit the button again, and the keyboard flickered to life.

  Livia almost fell down the stairs in her rush to bring it to him. She clattered into the kitchen and held it out, breathless.

  He checked her face first to see if she was all right, then dropped his eyes to the keyboard. It was like someone had plugged him in. His eyes widened, his mouth dropped open, and he stretched his fingers.

  “Will you play it, Blake? Will you?” Livia almost jumped with excitement.

  Blake covered his smile. He nodded. Livia plopped the keyboard on the kitchen table, which was still moist from where he’d wiped it with the kitchen sponge.

  Blake kissed her and then spoke solemnly. “I’ll play it for you.”

  He studied the keyboard for a moment and then sat behind it. Livia leaned against the counter.

  “What would you like to hear?” He seemed sheepish and nervous.

  He has no idea I’ve heard him before.

  “The happy one you were just playing on your piano, if you want.”

  He brightened. “Okay.”

  After trying a few buttons he turned off the key-light guide. He rolled his eyes and shook his head at her playfully. Then he began.

  Listening to him play was like discovering an eagle in the wild. It was tumblingly bewitching. She could feel and hear genius—she knew it.

  “Blake.” She didn’t have to say more.

  He locked his emerald eyes on hers, and she could not look away. Not for anything. He let his happy song trickle into a more intimate one. Blake’s fingers moved as he held her gaze. “I wrote this one while we danced the other night,” he said softly.

  The music washed over her. It changed her. Refreshed her. Made her more than she was. Blake stood and twisted the keyboard around, still playing with one hand. He motioned for her with the other. She nearly ran. He scooped her up with one arm and set her on the table next to the keyboard.

  “This is what nibbling your ear sounds like.” Blake created a soundtrack for his teeth.

  “This is what looking into your eyes sounds like.” The notes were deep and beckoning.

  “This is what my mind hears when my tongue is in your mouth.” The kiss sounded steamy and delicate. The rhythm was her heartbeat as he sampled her mouth.

  “But when you smile. When you smile it’s…” Blake scooted the keyboard around behind her. He needed both hands.

  She put her hands on his face and smiled in amazement as the music exploded. She couldn’t imagine how her simple facial gesture could inspire such a majestic sound.

  He smiled back. “One thousand nine hundred and ten.”

  “So many? Really?”

  “Yes, really. And it’s not nearly enough. I want to lose count, Livia. Make me lose count.” His hands left the beautiful music and grabbed handfuls of her hair.

  His kisses were so mind-numbing that when Blake said, “Car door,” it took Livia a few seconds to remember she spoke English.

  “Dad. Oh. My dad’s home.”

  Blake backed up and helped Livia off the table. He grabbed his cardboard piano and rolled it. He seemed to need it for confidence.

  “Don’t worry. My dad’s a really great guy. He seems gruff, but he has a great heart.” Livia rubbed Blake’s back.

  “You must take after him then.” Blake eyed the door. “I just hate being inside before I’ve met him.”

  “It’s okay. I’m allowed to have friends visit.” Livia went to meet her father at the door.

  She looked out the window beside the door and saw that he’d brought a squad car home, which was a rare occurrence. She looked back to Blake. He’d set his cardboard piano on the coffee table in the living room. He wiped his hands on his pants and practiced his handshake with an imaginary, friendly Livia’s father. Her actual dad was headed down the path when Livia opened the door.

  “Hey, Dad.” She smiled as widely as she could.

  Her father wasn’t to the house yet when he started in. “Livia Marie McHugh, you and I need to have a serious sit down. A homeless guy? What the hell?”



  CRAIG NEEDED TO MEET with his contact again. After two years of frustration at having his construction teams cockblocked, it was time for definitive action. He knew that. He just needed a little encouragement.

  At the root of it, this was not what he wanted. He didn’t even think it was a good plan B—he just couldn’t think of anything else. His phone beeped. The contact wanted to meet at a nearby fast food joint. Craig smoothed his hair and dusted off his suit. Either shit or get off the pot.

  When asked, Craig described his profession as “investment dealer.” It was a broad, sweeping term of his own creation that just barely defined what he did. He’d started as a realtor, but after buying a rundown building, he became a landlord, and his license to sell lay dormant. Landlording to mostly low-end cl
ients tapped into Craig’s darker talents. He could be a hell of a bully. His tactics for acquiring payments, when necessary, bordered on illegal. Luckily his renters had neither the knowledge nor the money to fight him. They just moved out, and he had more bait move in.

  When the housing market heated up, he dusted off his real estate license and began flipping homes in his spare time. He became an expert in mirages. He could paint over the flaws in a house and hire his shady inspector to whitewash over shoddy repairs. At his disposal was a group of contractors who did exactly what he said and collected their money. End of story. He’d worked hard to cultivate a crew that had no concern about whether their creations would stand the test of time.

  While his money flowed freely and his ego was limitless, Craig also invested in the part of town no one else wanted. He was certain he could revitalize the crappy, drug-riddled rubble—at least on the surface. It was within walking distance of the train station, for God’s sake. Someday it would be “Soho in Pough”—a hipster-friendly selection of bistros, bookstores, and antique shops that currently existed only in his mind. Tourists would seek it out to dump their money into Craig’s pocket.

  Near as he could tell there was one, and only one, wrench in his plan. Beckett Fucking Taylor. His broken-down strip mall sat dead center, like a lead weight in “Soho in Pough’s” potential. Any time Craig sent in his contractors to tear down a building in the area, they’d not only fail to complete the job, they’d refuse to ever return—no matter what tirade of disappointment Craig unleashed on them.

  Then when the housing market bottomed out, the rest of Craig’s luck went with it. Two lawsuits in particular had proved tough to shake. The duped owners of his flimsy rehabbed houses just had so much proof. Then the city condemned his building full of renters, and complete financial ruin loomed before him.

  Before the downfall of his empire, Craig had had the luxury of waiting. He’d been willing to bide his time until the inevitable death of Beckett Taylor, whose lifestyle was bound to catch up with him. But Taylor wasn’t cooperating. He had more lives than a bucketful of cats, along with a distinctly devoted staff of assholes. And Craig was out of time. He needed Soho in Pough to start happening now—before he no longer had the last of his money to finance it.

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