Read Just about sex Online

Authors: Ann Christopher

Just about sex (page 16)

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Outside Shirley’s door, Simone smiled at him and rubbed his arm. “I’m so glad Mom found you,” she told him. “She’s a lucky woman.”

He winked and grinned. “I’ll be sure to tell her you said so.”

Laughing, Simone slid the key in the lock and opened the door. But the second they stepped over the threshold into the foyer, she felt an irrational and overwhelming feeling of dread.

She had no idea why. The silent apartment, crisscrossed with late afternoon shadows, looked the same as always. Still, she knew something was wrong. But what?

Shutting the door behind them, she waved at the stove. “Why don’t you put the soup over there.” She moved into the living room. “I’ll just—”

Simone heard it then. The sounds coming from the bedroom down the hall. A man’s low, earthy moan followed by whispers and a woman’s throaty laugh. The rhythmic, slightly muffled thump of a headboard against a wall.

Comprehension and horror slammed through Simone at the same time. Running a clammy, shaking hand over her forehead, she desperately tried to think of a way to get Mr. Howard out of here before the poor man realized what was going on.

“Mr. Howard,” she began, “why don’t we—”

But it was already too late. He froze, listening, his head cocked to one side. Bit by bit the smile melted away from his face the way an icicle melts in the sun. Finally his disbelieving gaze swung back to hers.

Shaking her head—as if she could stop this train wreck if she simply denied its existence—she reached out a hand to restrain him. “Mr. Howard—”

His face twisted with rage. Swerving around her, he ran down the hall at a speed she wouldn’t have thought him capable of. Simone, too sickened and heartsick to move, heard the door crash open, her mother’s surprised scream, and the enraged, shouting voices of both her mother’s lovers.

 

“I’m leaving, Mom.”

Shirley raised her head from her hands and stared at Simone with dazed, unfocused eyes, beneath which mascara had collected in wet puddles. She sat, feet curled under her, on the sofa, a blue cashmere throw on her lap, a half-empty bottle of champagne and flute on the coffee table in front of her.

“You’re leaving me?” Shirley asked disconsolately, as if Simone had dropped her off in the Arctic in the dead of winter with no supplies.

“Yeah. Things have quieted down and you don’t need me.” Simone found her purse and keys and moved toward the door, trying her best not to actually look at her mother.

Maybe if she didn’t look at Shirley for a while, Simone could erase a few images from her brain. Like that of Shirley rising—naked, sweaty, and with sagging breasts flapping—from bed with her still-erect lover number two. Or that of two grandfathers coming to blows over a woman.

Maybe if Simone left right now and breathed some fresh night air, she could erase the tangy-sweet smell of sex and her mother’s perfume from her nostrils.

“Goodbye,” Simone said.

Galvanized, Shirley threw aside the throw and leapt to her feet. The flaming red silk robe she’d tied over her nude body gaped open in front, treating Simone to yet another unforgettable view of her mother’s body. Simone looked away.

“You can’t just leave me!” Shirley shrieked.

“Sure I can.”

Shirley ran to stand between Simone and the front door, blocking her. “Why won’t you look at me? Do you think this ismyfault?” She jabbed at her own chest with a red-taloned thumb. “I’mthe injured party here!I’mthe one who’s wound up alone!”

Simone gaped, horrified, at her mother. Never in her whole life could she recall being so disgusted with another of God’s creatures. If she could, she’d drain every drop of her mother’s blood from her body and start anew with blood from a donor. Still, Simone tried to remain calm. This apartment had already seen more than its share of theatrics tonight.

“No, Mom,” she said. “I think maybe Mr. Howard’s the injured party.”

Shirley sneered. “Well, if he was a little better at laying pipe, I wouldn’t have had to invite Earl back, would I?”

“I can’t believe—” Simone staggered back a step and put a hand to the wall behind her for support. Bile surged up her throat, and she clamped her lips together for fear she’d vomit. For the first time in her life, tonight, this very second, she felt as if she was really seeing her mother. And what an awful person she was.

“Oh, myGod,” she said.

Shirley stormed up to her and caught her chin in a painful, squeezing grip. “Don’t you judge me, missy! Don’t you dare judge me! I won’t stand for it!”

Simone jerked away from that tainted, filthy hand. “I don’t care what you’ll stand for!” Stepping back, she swiped her arm across her chin to erase the touch. Alex’s face flashed before her eyes and she clapped her hand to her forehead.

“I’ve been so blind. Soblind,” she said on a sob.

“You? Little Miss Perfect?” Shirley taunted.

“Yes. Because all this time I’ve been scared to death of men. I’ve thoughtmenare bad! But you know what?Menaren’t the problem!You’rethe problem!”

Shirley’s eyes widened, and she laughed a raw, ugly, hysterical laugh. “You think you’ll have better luck with men than me? Well, go ahead and try!Go ahead and try!”

Shirley threw her head back and collapsed on the sofa, her robe riding open to reveal bony bare thighs. She was still laughing as Simone jerked open the door and raced out, running as fast as she could to get away from her mother’s insidious poison.

 

At six o’clock the next night, Saturday, Simone rang Alex’s doorbell. Laurel’s car sat in the drive, as she’d expected it would, and the street teemed with early summer life.

Two couples, with their respective strollers, had met while walking in opposite directions on the sidewalk. Three pink-helmeted girls on orange bikes rolled slowly past, their parents bringing up the rear. From several houses over came the tantalizing, smoky smell of hamburgers cooking on a charcoal grill.

This was exactly the kind of neighborhood Simone had always wished she’d grown up in, and she could almost think she’d died and gone to heaven.

If she wasn’t so terrified.

Last night, staring at her mother, she’d experienced two epiphanies of Newtonian proportions, minus the apple. First, she’d been so determined not to turn out like her mother that she’d never lived. She’d never taken a risk, never gambled on anyone and never really trusted anyone, especially men. She decided ahead of time that men would only disappoint and hurt her, and had never had the guts to test this theory.

Until now.

That was the other epiphany: that despite everything, shedidtrust Alex anddidbelieve that, whatever he’d said to the reporter, he hadn’t bragged about sleeping with Simone. He wouldn’t. Because he loved her.

Muffled footsteps approached on the other side of the door, and Simone locked her quaking knees into place so she wouldn’t fall. Then the door swung open and Alex was there. Her heart, dead since their last ugly confrontation, surged to life with a tremendous jolt of electricity, as if someone had zapped her with defibrillator paddles.

“Oh, God,” he said when he saw her, echoing her thoughts exactly.

Chapter 26

Words seemed to be beyond both of them, and they just stared at each other. He looked the same, but different. His features hadn’t changed, but there was a new sadness and vulnerability in his eyes that she didn’t like and would try to erase as soon as possible. He wore khaki cargo shorts and a white T-shirt, and looked good enough to eat. His gaze, hot and intent, scanned over her face again and again, and then slipped over her ice-blue halter dress, which she’d worn because it brought out the color in her eyes.

She managed a tremulous smile that couldn’t possibly begin to convey how glad she was to see him again.

Finally he sucked in a strangled breath. “Y-you’re here.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I want to have dinner with you.” She held up the boxed German chocolate cake she’d made this afternoon, which she’d forgotten until now. “I brought dessert.”

His eyes widened and he looked like he wanted to smile but didn’t dare. Maybe he thought he’d heard wrong. If he was afraid of breaking the spell between them, she couldn’t blame him.

Laurel appeared at his shoulder and peered down at Simone on the stoop. “Simone!” Grinning delightedly, she nudged Alex aside, stepped onto the porch and, careful of the cake, gave Simone a shoulder hug and smacking kiss on the cheek. “It’s so good to see you!” she cried, retaining her hold on Simone’s shoulders as if she wanted to keep her from escaping. “What are you doing here?”

Simone’s heart soared. At least one member of the Greene family was openly glad to see her. “I’m trying to have dinner with you, but Alex won’t let me in the house.”

“Oh, I’ll let you in,” Alex said, springing to life. Never looking away from Simone, he held the door open for her.

Laurel steered her into the kitchen, which smelled delightfully of barbecued chicken and fresh, hot bread. On the table sat two half-full glasses of some sort of white wine, and a colorful tossed salad. An apple pie, oozy with caramelized juice, cooled on the counter.

“You’re just in time,” Laurel told her, taking the cake and putting it down. “We were just about to sit down—”

“Yeah,” Alex interrupted, peeling his gaze away from Simone long enough to give Laurel a significant look. “Too bad you just got that emergency call to pick up Keith and have to leave.Right now.”

Laurel blinked, her smile freezing into place. She shot a longing look at the table. “Yes, but—”

“So you’ll have to see Simone the next time. Okay?” Planting a hand at the small of Laurel’s back, he propelled her from the room, pausing to snatch her purse from the counter and shove it into her chest. “Say goodbye, now.”

Simone’s innate good manners warred with her desperate desire to be alone with Alex. Need won out in the end, so she kept her mouth shut and didn’t try to convince Alex to let Laurel stay. She would, hopefully, see Laurel soon enough. Tonight was for her and Alex.

Spluttering, Laurel cast a last, desperate look over her shoulder at Simone and the food. “Bye, Simone! It’s good to see you! Have a great ni—”

An abrupt silence, punctuated only by the open and close of the front door, followed. Alex immediately reappeared and hovered in the kitchen doorway. An anxious frown marred his smooth forehead. “Are you really here?”

“Yes.”

“Are you leaving again?”

“No.”

A shaky smile, his first of the evening, curved his lips and then disappeared. He crept closer—within touching distance—but not nearly close enough. Neither of them seemed to breathe. “Do you forgive me, Simone?”

“Yes,” she said without hesitation, tears welling in her eyes.

Alex went perfectly still, as if he didn’t dare move for fear she was a mirage that could disappear at any second. Seconds pulsed by, and she forced herself not to reach for him,to wait.

He took a deep breath. “D-do you love me?”

“Yes.”

He cried out, hoarse and triumphant. One or the other of them moved, she didn’t know who, and then they were laughing in each other’s arms, holding on as if they’d never let go.

 

Alex lost all control, as he invariably did whenever he spent more than thirty seconds in Simone’s intoxicating presence. After pausing to stare into those wet gray eyes—bluer than he’d remembered, but maybe that was only because she’d been crying—he took her face in his hands, stroked his thumbs over the satin of her cheeks, and caught her dewy lips beneath his own. She was eager and submissive, a delightful, whimpering moan escaping from deep in her throat.

Just like that, he was lost. With no finesse whatsoever, he clamped a hand on top of her silky, fragrant head and tilted it until he could kiss her like he needed to: hard, hot and deep.

He didn’t have enough hands to touch her everywhere at once the way he wanted to. Nor could he keep her still. Her fingers clutched and clawed at him, skating over his head, neck, shoulders, butt—anything she could reach. Before he knew it, she’d swept his shirt over his head, and her delicate fingers stroked over every inch of his feverish bare chest.

She writhed and undulated, rubbing her breasts and hips against him until, crazed, he slid his hands under her skirts, planted them on her butt and ground her against him. Crying out, she went limp, as if her legs couldn’t hold her.

His own legs weren’t doing so well, either—probably because all his blood had been diverted elsewhere. The hot, soft pressure of her sex against his did nothing to relieve his painful, throbbing ache. If anything, it made it worse.

He drove her backward until they hit the refrigerator with a thunk, and the magnetized dry erase board and marker clattered to the floor. Overcompensating, they ricocheted away. This time Alex bumped into the island and the granite countertop cut him across the kidneys.

Sanity made a brief return, and he managed to untangle his mouth from hers. “We need to get out of the kitchen.”

“Okay,” she gasped, her eyes glittering and unfocused.

“Okay.”

A plan in place, he backed toward the entrance hall, towing her along with him. But before they’d gotten three feet he noticed two things: her wet, kiss-swollen lips, and her hard, distended nipples, prominent through the triangular cups of her dress.

“No bra?” he squeaked, running his palms over her heaving breasts and catching her mouth in another long, deep kiss.

She pulled away and pressed her hands on top of his, making him give her a rougher, more urgent caress. “I hoped I wouldn’t need a bra.”

Alex’s breath choked off in his throat and he jerked his hands away from the grapelike dark nipples before he lost it in his pants like a twelve-year-old. “Upstairs,” he barked.“Now.”

“No.” She pressed her face to his chest, nuzzling and licking over him like a cat. When she bit his nipple, he was so enthralled he didn’t realize she’d also unzipped his shorts and reached inside.

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