We slept in because of our late night, but we couldn’t stay in bed all day, Zan had to go back to the gallery. His opening was tonight, and he needed to finish deciding where he wanted his paintings hung.
We missed breakfast, so we had an early lunch, and then Zan took me back to bed to make love again.
It was after one o’clock when he finally got up, kissing me gently on the head. “Stay in bed angel,” he teased with a wink. “I know I wore you out.”
I couldn’t help smiling. “Zan.” I said exasperatedly.
His eyes moved slowly across my body and he grinned, leaning over to press a kiss to my lips. “Besides,” he purred, “I like thinking about you in bed all warm, and naked, and satisfied.”
I stretched languorously. “You always make me feel wonderful.”
With another rake of his eyes over me, he pulled the sheet up, covering me. “I can’t have you tempting me angel, or I’ll never leave.”
He took a quick shower, and dressed hurriedly, and I watched it all from the bed. My eyes followed him around the room, greedily taking in every movement, every muscle flex and bunch. He was so beautiful.
When he was ready, he came back to the bed and sat down. His hand stroked over my arm, and I could see the desire in his eyes. “My agent Steve is sending a car for us at seven, but I’ll try to be back early.” He winked, “So we can continue what we started.”
I reached for him, pulling him down for a kiss. “Mmmmm, that sounds perfect.”
“I’ll hurry, baby.” He kissed me again, and then gathered his wallet and keys before heading out.
I felt a pang of longing as soon as I heard the front door close. It was one of those days when I didn’t seem to be able to get enough of him.
We’d made love when we woke up, and my body still tingled from our activities just moments before. But I still wanted more.
Unfortunately I’d just have to wait.
Rolling over in the bed, I stretched again and settled in a more comfortable position. A smile curved my lips as I thought about our activities last night.
After we made love at the gallery, Zan actually did take me to dinner, which was a good thing because I had worked up quite an appetite.
We went to a restaurant where live jazz bands performed. The interior was dark, with just a few candles on the tabletops for light. There was a small stage, and the booths and tables were arranged around a dance floor where couples were lazily swaying to the soft, slow music.
The hostess took us to a booth at the side of the room, and we sat with our bodies pressed together, neither of us wanting to lose the closeness.
Zan’s arm rested around my shoulders, stroking my arm, as he nuzzled my cheek. I leaned into him, letting my hand wander across his hard stomach and ribs.
After we ordered, Zan offered me his hand, silently asking me to dance with him. With a smile I placed my hand in his, and he led us onto the dance floor.
One of his hands rested at the small of my back, and the other took my hand, holding it over his heart. Slowly we started to move to the leisurely beat of the music, bodies pressed together from chests to knees.
His wiry beard tickled my cheek as he whispered in my ear. “Did I tell you how beautiful you look tonight?” he rumbled.
“Yes,” I whispered back, “but it’s always nice to hear. Thank you.”
I stroked the back of his neck, just below his hair. “You look pretty incredible yourself. Those pants really show off your great ass.”
Zan’s warm chuckle washed through me, making me shiver with desire.
“I’ll have to wear them more often,” he teased.
“I don’t know if that’s a good idea,” I teased back. “We might not ever get out of bed.”
His hand tightened on my back, pressing me even more closely against him. “I’m willing to risk it, angel,” he growled.
I kissed his neck. “I thought you might be.”
We danced to two more songs, and then our dinner was brought to the table. By that time we were both so hungry we hardly spoke as we started to eat. But Zan’s desire-darkened eyes lingered on me, and his hand slipped under the hem of my dress, caressing up the inside of my leg.
As we ate, his soft touches slowly moved farther and farther up, completely blocked from the other patrons and wait staff by the long tablecloth. I spread my legs wider as he approached my core, inviting him to touch me.
His burning gaze roamed over me almost like a touch, lingering on the valley between my breasts exposed by my dress. Then his eyes met mine, and the breath was knocked from me by the pure desire I saw in them. Slowly, one corner of his mouth raised in a sinful, knowing grin.
He finished eating quickly, and then concentrated all his attention on me. His arm wrapped around me, holding me close, and he nuzzled and kissed my neck. He slid his hand up to the juncture of my thighs and inside my panties, and with a feather’s touch, stroked over my clit.
My body automatically arched back with the sudden pleasure.
“That’s it baby,” he growled, “I know just how to touch you.”
He started rubbing my clit in slow circles, drawing a soft moan from me. “Zan,” I breathed, “that feels so good.”
Sucking hard on my neck, he instantly he increased his rhythm.
Zan could do the most amazing things with just his fingers. My legs spread even farther apart and I clutched at his shirt, gasping again. Moisture was pouring out of me and my breath was coming in pants. “Oh Zan, you’ve got to stop. I’m . . .”
He cut me off before I could finish. “I’m not going to stop,” he growled in my ear. “I’m going to make you cum right here, angel.”
“But everyone can see,” I breathed.
“It’s too dark for them to see anything,” he assured me.
He kissed my neck again. “Just let yourself go, baby,” he purred, “and cum in my arms.”
With Zan touching me, there was nothing else I could do. He was right. He knew exactly how to make me come.
I leaned my head against his as he once again increased the rhythm of his strokes over my sensitive nub. My whole body was tightening, and I could feel my inner muscles starting to pulse. I was so close.
As much as I had wanted him to stop a moment ago, I’d do practically anything to get him to finish now.
“Zan, please” I gasped, my hand fisting in his shirt. “Please.”
“I won’t stop, baby,” he growled. “I want to see you cum.”
His fingers moved even faster over my clit, rubbing it in quick, small circles. The pleasure inside me kept building, and building, and I wondered if I would ever reach climax. Then suddenly every muscle in my body tensed, and I flew over the edge.
Zan held me tightly as I shook from the sensations, and gently kissed my cheek. “So beautiful,” he rumbled.
I settled my head on his shoulder as I came down, inhaling his fresh scent. Eventually I was able to release his shirt that I held in my tightly balled fist, and rested my hand on his chest, but it made me more aware than ever of his hard, warm body pressed to mine.
My breathing and heartbeat slowed after long minutes, as he stroked my hair.
Even though it had been a wonderful orgasm, it only made me want more. I ached to feel Zan’s body against me, his hands on me, his hard length filling me.
His fingers brushed my clit again. I gasped, and he rumbled in my ear. “I want you so much, angel.”
“I want you too,” I whispered.
“I want to fuck you right here and now,” he growled. “I want to take you fast and hard.”
“Yes,” I breathed. I wanted him so much I could hardly think.
His eyes left mine and flicked around the room, and I could tell his mind was racing, trying to think of a place for us to go.
Suddenly he looked at me again, his eyes sparkling, a wicked grin lifting one corner of his mouth. He obviously had an idea.
I smiled too. Zan would be inside me in soon.
He tossed a few bills on the table and we headed out the door. I thought we would get a cab, but the pressure of Zan’s arm around my waist directed me to the side of the building.
The alley was fairly dark, only lit by a couple of dim streetlights, but it was still light enough to see. I couldn’t imagine it was our final destination, but simply a shortcut to where ever Zan was taking us.
But I was wrong.
What I had failed to notice was a staircase almost completely hidden in the shadows, which led down the side of the building.
Carefully Zan helped me down the dark steps. I thought he must know about somewhere inside, but when we reached the bottom, he pushed me up against the wall, kissing my neck. The stairwell was deep enough that the walls rose a few feet above our heads, and we were completely covered by the darkness it created.
“What is this place?” I gasped, as he pulled my dress up.
“Delivery entrance,” he breathed into my neck. “Only open in the morning.”
I started to push down my panties, but Zan was too impatient and ripped them off with a jerk.
“I’ll buy you new ones,” he growled.
With a single motion he grasped my ass, lifted me up, and plunged inside.
I cried out, but the sound was cut off almost immediately as Zan’s mouth met mine. He kissed me hard as he started to move.
Wrapping my arms and legs around him, I grasped his head, holding him close. It felt so good having him inside again!
We ate at each other’s mouths as our bodies moved together, finding a fast rhythm. But after a few moments we were forced to break the kiss, needing air, and I was amazed that even though his face was inches away from mine, it was so dark I could hardly see him.
He pumped into me hard, our skin slapping together with the force of his thrusts, and it felt wonderful, but I still wanted more. I wanted to move, but in my position I had no traction.
I extended my legs, bracing my high-heel encased feet against the wall behind Zan, and on his next stroke, I angled my hips to meet his thrust. His entire length sank into me, and he groaned with the sensation.
“Oh shit baby!” he said harshly. “Fuck, that’s good!”
He surged into me even harder, and I kept up with his rhythm, arching into each stroke.
Vaguely I could hear noises from the main street as we moved together almost silently. There were the sounds of car motors, footsteps, voices, even music, and all of it worked to mask what we were doing just a few feet away.
It didn’t take either of us long to reach the end. The earlier activities had built us both up until we were ready to burst.
My muscles strained to keep up with Zan’s fast pace, the soles of my shoes sliding on the concrete wall as my legs shook. My breath was coming in quick pants, and I couldn’t seem to stop my body arching like a bow. I buried my head in the crook of his neck, and dug my fingers into his shoulders, determined to meet him stroke for stroke to the very end.
Zan thrust into me again and again, his velvety length filling me so perfectly, and my inner muscles started to flutter around him. Growls escaped him, that sent shivers all along my skin. I seemed to have no control over my body, every inch of me tightening. Then I felt his cock jerk inside me, and instantly I came.
With another loud growl Zan followed me a moment later, his hips pumping into me a half-dozen more times as my core clenched around him.
For long minutes neither of us moved or spoke. We rested together, both taking great gulps of air to catch our breath. I closed my eyes, simply savoring the sensations of being with him.
At that moment there was nothing else in the world; no city, no cars, no other people, just the two of us. I felt like we were floating together, our only concern each other. And we had expressed our love in the most perfect way, by giving and receiving the gift of incredible pleasure.
I’m not sure how long we clung together, a few minutes, maybe longer, but gradually Zan began to stir.
He was still inside me, pressing me against the wall, and his hand smoothed over my hair, as he kissed me so gently. “You’re amazing, angel,” he breathed against my lips, and then kissed me again. “Thank you for celebrating with me tonight.”
I smiled. “You’re welcome. But the real celebration isn’t until tomorrow.”
He stroked my cheek, pressing his forehead to mine. “No angel, tomorrow is only a show for the press. The real celebration is tonight, right here, just the two of us.”
Tears pricked at my eyes, and I didn’t bother wiping them away.
Afterward, we had fixed our clothes, and taken a cab home. We were both exhausted so we just went straight to bed.
Zan was so gentle with me, so tender it was almost as if he expected me to break. He held me, stroking my hair, and placing soft kisses on my face, until I fell asleep.
I smiled. It had been a wonderful night, and it had continued when we had woken up, making love again and again, until Zan had to leave.
I rolled over in the bed feeling restless, wishing he were with me. Remembering what we had done last night made me want to be with him even more, so we could do it all over again.
I had arrived at the gallery over an hour ago, and I was supposed to be deciding where I wanted my work hung. But I moved around in a daze, not really caring where I was putting the paintings. It just seemed so unimportant.
Finally I sat down on the bench where I had made love to Liz, and let my thoughts take over. It seemed an appropriate place to think, especially since it was Liz that occupied my mind.
Last night had been wonderful, making love, then dinner, dancing, and more sex. I couldn’t have asked for a better evening.
After we went home I’d settled in bed with Liz and held her until she had fallen asleep. But my mind was too active to allow me to sleep.
The evening had been excellent, even better than I planned, but sometime during our activities something suddenly solidified in my mind.
I had been uneasy for a while. I felt restless, incomplete, like a drawing that was only half finished. I’m not sure exactly when it started; a week, a month, maybe longer.
I hadn’t been able to pinpoint a specific source, it was simply a vague, unformed feeling. Being with Liz always made it better, so of course I spent as much time with her as possible. I would have done it anyway, I always wanted to be with Liz. But given the added effect of settling my uneasiness made me want to be with her even more.
But last night something was different. As the evening passed, I felt a jolt in my gut every time I looked at Liz, and finally I realized what had been troubling me was our relationship.
I couldn’t place exactly when I realized it, maybe when we were dancing, maybe at dinner, maybe on the ride back to the loft. But by the time we had gotten home I could hardly think of anything else.
Silently I slipped out of bed, and went into the other room, grabbing my sketchpad before returning to the bedroom. I sat in a chair facing the bed and started to draw. It was what I always did when I was feeling troubled.
I sketched Liz as she slept, my hand automatically moving over the paper, filling in her form. She looked so peaceful and relaxed. I envied her the worry-free sleep, but I was glad at the same time. It meant I was taking care of my angel, protecting her.
Flipping to a new page, I started another sketch of her.
I perfectly remembered the first time I saw Liz. Every detail was burned in my mind, because it was one of the best days of my life.
It was hot afternoon, and I’d been sitting in the shade drawing, when I heard someone approaching. I’d actually been annoyed that I was being pulled out of my concentration, but I had gotten the shock of my life when I looked up. There was an angel walking toward me.
I couldn’t take my eyes off her. I’d never seen anyone so beautiful. She was small, at least eight inches shorter than me, wearing shorts and a tank top that exposed much of her perfectly formed body. Her dark hair was pulled up off her long, elegant neck, and she had deep, soulful eyes that were wide with the surprise of seeing me.
From her shy smile, and the light blush that spread across her cheeks, I could instantly tell she was innocent. I could also tell she was as deeply affected by me as I was by her.
Immediately I knew she was the one I had been waiting for my whole life. It was like lightening rushed through me, awakening every nerve in my body. I had to have her, and I’d do anything to make that happen. I wanted to grab her right there, and kiss her senseless, but her obvious inexperience made me proceed cautiously.
I moved slowly for two whole weeks, getting to know her in an environment she was comfortable in, and planning to ask her on a real date, but my need for her got the better of me. I coaxed her into my bed, and into my life in one night. Afterward, I’d worried that I’d moved too fast, and hoped I wouldn’t regret my impatience.
But incredibly Liz loved me, as much as I loved her, and our life together was wonderful.
It was the first time I’d lived with a girlfriend, much less been in love. Sure I’d had relationships in the past, but for me they were mostly about sex. I never wanted anything long-term, and I had no illusions that the girls loved me.
When I was young they wanted me because I was tough, or had a good body, or because I was good in bed. Some wanted me because I was an artist, and then after I’d had a bit of success, of course they just wanted my money.
But everything was different with Liz.
I knew instantly that I was in love with her, and there was a lot more than just sexual attraction between us. We could talk about anything, she had a wicked sense of humor, and she was so beautiful I could barely take my eyes off her. I asked her to move in because I knew, sex or not, I wouldn’t get enough of her.
Liz stirred in bed a little, her hand reaching out, perhaps looking for me, and I felt another jolt in my gut.
If I were honest with myself, I had to admit that I’d had feelings of unease about our relationship for a while. Maybe it had even started as far back as the moment Liz had moved in, but in my mind it had been getting steadily worse.
Basically the problem was that I wanted more from Liz.
I knew it was ridiculous. Liz loved me, lived with me, slept with me, but still I wanted more. I wanted her, body, mind, heart and soul. I wanted something permanent, a commitment, a legally binding ceremony with my ring on her finger.
I never thought I would get married, never even believed in it, but that is exactly what I wanted with Liz. I wanted to share our lives, the good times and the bad, and be together always.
Before it could happen though, Liz deserved more from me too. I had to come clean about my past before I asked her for a lifetime commitment.
She had been so understanding about keeping my past in the past, and she would probably marry me with the limited facts I had given her. But it wasn’t fair to her. She deserved to know exactly who I was, and what she was getting into. And she deserved to hear it from me.
The appearance of Danny in our lives had made me think a lot about my past. And as much as I would like to leave it behind, I finally realized that it wouldn’t always stay there. So tonight, after the opening I would tell Liz the whole ugly truth, and hope she still wanted me.
And if she didn’t… Well, I would face that if it happened. And I would do anything I had to do to get her to change her mind.
Yes, it was dangerous. There was the chance I might ruin everything we had worked to build between us, but it had to be done. It was the first step to the future with Liz.
I was moving quickly, I knew. We hadn’t been together six months. We hadn’t even known each other six months, but I was doing the right thing. We were perfect together, we belonged together, and I wouldn’t be truly satisfied until I made Liz my wife.
Actually I didn’t stay in bed very long after Zan left. I took a leisurely bubble bath and then pulled on a t-shirt and sweats before drying my hair. Since I wasn’t in school I didn’t technically have any homework, but I was eager to continue reading my new textbooks.
I had just settled down with a cup of tea, opening my book to the place I had left off, when the door buzzer sounded.
I certainly wasn’t expecting anyone, so I was a bit surprised. We don’t get many unannounced visitors. It must be a mistake, or solicitor who didn’t take a hint from the large sign on the outside door.
Slightly annoyed I put my book aside and went to the door to push the button for the speaker. “Hello.”
“Hey, um, is this Liz?” a male voice asked.
I was about to answer, but the visitor continued before I could press the button.
“This is Danny. Remember, we met the other day.”
“Hi Danny,” I said, surprised. “I’m sorry, but Zan isn’t here. He won’t be back for a couple of hours.”
“Oh.” The disappointment was obvious in his voice. He continued after a moment. “Well, how about I come up and keep you company, and we can get to know each other better.”
I really wanted to read my book, but it would be rude to blow him off when he seemed so down. Plus, I was interested in what he could tell me about his time with Zan.
“Sure,” I said. “I’ll buzz you in, and then just get in the elevator, and I’ll bring it up. We’re on the top floor, and you can’t get up without a key.”
“Okay,” he agreed.
I pressed the buzzer for a handful of seconds, and then went out and waited a moment, until I thought he would be in the elevator to press the call button.
A minute later he was in front of me, a smile lighting his face. “Hi,” he said, extending a hand. “We weren’t properly introduced. “Danny Logan.”
I smiled as I shook his hand. “Liz Parker.”
His eyes lingered on me longer than I would have liked, taking in my whole body before returning to my face. Maybe he didn’t realize it was rude and demeaning. I tried to shrug it off, and motioned to the door. “Come inside and I’ll get you a beer.”
We went into the loft and I crossed to the fridge and got a beer for Danny. I turned back to hand it to him, and he was looking around. I assumed he had been to the loft before, but the way he was taking everything in, it was obviously his first time inside.
He took the bottle from me, and tipped it up for a long drag as his eyes moved around the loft. “Fuck,” he said finally, “you have the whole floor. This shit must have cost a fortune.”
His words made me uncomfortable, and I didn’t answer, just shrugged. But he really didn’t seem to be expecting an answer, because he didn’t even glance in my direction.
“So how long have you been with Zan?” he called over his shoulder, as he wandered through the living room.
“About four months,” I said.
Stopping suddenly, he turned back to me. “Well, I can see why Zan choose you,” he said, as his eyes raked over me again. “You are fine.”
“Um, thanks,” I said, and quickly changed the subject. “So what about you and Zan?” I asked curiously. “How long have you known each other?”
Danny shrugged, taking another drag of beer. “The Johnsons always had a bunch of foster kids coming and going all the time. I was there about a year before they brought Zan,”
He continued around the loft, looking at everything, running his hand over every surface he came to. “The two of us lived there together for about four years.”
“That’s a long time,” I said, surprised. “You must have gotten to know each other well.”
“Well enough,” Danny said blandly. And then he smiled. “Zan never told you.”
“No,” I admitted. “He doesn’t like to talk about the past.”
“I’ll bet,” Danny said.
He stopped at Zan’s worktable and put his beer down, reaching for one of Zan’s sketchbooks. It wasn’t one with pictures of us. Zan kept those out of sight, but I knew he wouldn’t want anyone flipping through his books.
“Danny,” I said, moving forward to the table, “Zan doesn’t like people looking at his sketches.”
He looked at me, surprised. “Well Zan isn’t here. So how’s he going to know?”
My brow creased, as a funny feeling started to settle in my stomach. I put my hand on the sketchbook. “I’m here,” I said steadily. “I’ll know.”
A cruel grin crossed his face suddenly, and then was gone. He shrugged. “So you’re Zan’s protector. I wonder if it really is Zan you’re protecting or the great life you’ve made for yourself here with all his money.”
I shook my head incredulously, completely at a loss for words.
“Zan always was a lucky bastard,” he continued more loudly. “He was smart and he impressed people with that bullshit art of his. Fooled a lot of people. Always had girls hanging all over him.”
His eyes focused on me, and I could suddenly see hatred for Zan in them. “I mean big fucking deal,” Danny growled, “so Zan can draw. You would think he was a fucking prince or something, the way people treat him. What a fucking asshole!”
He stepped closer to me, anger making his face red. His eyes raked over me again, and he motioned to my textbooks, “You’re a college girl, not some stupid ‘ho from the ghetto. So are you with Zan because the artist thing turns you on, or did he buy you?”
I was getting mad myself, and I held his eyes. “I don’t care about Zan’s money,” I said softly but fiercely. “I love him.”
“Love,” he scoffed. “Zan doesn’t know shit about love.”
“Don’t get me wrong,” Danny sneered. “He fucked every decent girl in the neighborhood when we were growing up. Even stole a couple from me, but he never loved anyone but himself. He was the tortured artist. People ate that shit up. You would have thought he was a fucking saint.”
He looked at me again, his eyes hard and penetrating. “I’ll bet you are just slumming, huh princess? And I bet Zan fucks you real good.”
Taking a step nearer to me, he laughed. “A smart, prissy bitch like you must think it’s fun and dangerous to have a reformed bad boy.”
I shook my head, incredulous that he had changed so quickly, and at the amount of insults coming out of his mouth. He had obviously hidden his hatred of Zan for years. “I…”
He cut me off, his smile widening. “Would you still want Zan though, if you knew how bad he really was?”
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said angrily.
His smile widened. “You name it, precious Zannie did it; women, booze, drugs, stealing shit, bustin’ heads. Nobody could party like Zan.” He laughed harshly. “How do you think Zan learned to fuck so good? He had about a thousand bitches to practice on.”
With a wink, he laughed again. “I could tell you some stories.”
It was obvious Danny was enjoying himself, and I’d had enough of him. “You need to leave now,” I said coldly.
Ignoring me, he motioned around. “Just once I’d like to have some of what that asshole Zan always had. Girls throwing themselves at me, shitloads of money, able to buy anything I damn well wanted.”
“Get out,” I said louder, pointing to the door.
A bark of laughter escaped him. “You’re a little spit-fire, aren’t you? I just can’t pass it up.”
Before I realized what he meant, he lunged forward and grabbed my upper arm hard, yanking me forward into him.
His lips closed over mine, kissing me roughly.
Immediately I started struggling, pushing with both hands against his chest, and wrenching my head away.
After a moment he released me with a smirk. “You look like a frigid bitch, but I knew there must be some fire in you. I’ll bet you are a fine piece of ass in bed. Zan isn’t the type to live like a priest.”
Again he reached for me, but this time I was prepared for him, and quickly stepped back, staying out of his reach.
He laughed again. “What’s the matter, spit-fire? I watched Zan leave, and I bet he ain’t coming back for a while. So we don’t have to worry about him walking in on us.” He winked at me again. “Lover boy will never know.”
Obviously he thought he was funny. “Get out Danny,” I ordered.
“Think you’re better than me, huh?” he hissed, his face reddening again. “I’m not rich enough for you? You’d jump me in a second if I had a shitload of money.”
His eyes narrowed. “I bet you make Zan pay plenty spit-fire. I bet you charge him for every roll in the hay.”
He moved toward me again, and I stepped back. I was worried he would make another grab for me, but he laughed again. “Yeah, he pays plenty alright.”
Pointing to himself with his thumb, he smiled. “If you want a real bad boy, you don’t have to look any farther.” With a wink, he grabbed his crotch. “I’ll even give you a decent fuck.”
Picking up the beer bottle off the table he smirked at me as he raised it in a mocking solute. “You know where to come for the whole story about Zan.”
His eyes raked over me again. “See ya later, spit-fire.”
I resisted the urge to run to the door and lock it as Danny stalked out, and instead walked calmly and made sure he got on the elevator. Only after the doors had slid shut did I close and lock the door.
Immediately I started shivering, and absent-mindedly rubbing my arm where he grabbed me. I was rushing with adrenaline, and I felt dirty because Danny had touched me. I couldn’t believe those things he’d said about Zan, how much he hated him. And how was I going to tell Zan that Danny kissed me?
Danny was the closest thing Zan had to family, and he’d just been betrayed by his brother.
Tonight was Zan’s opening, and it would ruin the evening if I said anything. Maybe that is what Danny intended. Maybe that is why he had come to the loft today, and waited outside until Zan left. He’d probably planned the whole thing.
I didn’t like keeping anything from Zan, but I could wait until after the party to tell him what happened.
I returned to the bathroom and scrubbed at my teeth with my toothbrush for long minutes. Then I stripped off the tainted clothes and stepped under a hot shower. I washed my face over and over again, attempting to get the feel of Danny’s lips off mine.
Tears pricked at my eyes as I thought of Zan. Already he had bad feelings about his past, and this would make them even worse. He had so much pain in his life, and he didn’t deserve any more.
How was I going to tell him?
The rest of the afternoon seemed to take no time to pass, but at the same time it seemed to take forever. I was so upset, but I didn’t want Zan to know. Tonight was his opening, and if I told him before, it would ruin his night. He’d be so angry, he might not even want to go. So I’d decided not to say anything until after we got home. It was just a couple of hours, and it would give me a little more time to figure out what to say.
I kept moving around the loft to dispel my nervous energy, my eyes returning again and again to the clock. Zan would be coming home, expecting to make love, and I’d never be able to hide my feelings from him. Being so near to him, I’d never be able to convince him everything was normal.
But five o’clock passed, and then six, and six-thirty. Zan was running late. I felt almost weak with relief, because we wouldn’t have time for sex, but at the same time I wanted to cry. It was the first time I’d been glad we couldn’t make love.
I started to get ready, but noticed a nasty bruise was forming where Danny had grabbed me. The dress I had chosen would show the mark, so I quickly dug in the closet for another dress with longer sleeves that would cover it. I put it on, feeling a bit better when the bruise was out sight. There is no way I would have been able to explain it to Zan, not without telling him the whole story.
I tried to keep calm, concentrating on getting ready, and I was just finishing my makeup when I heard the front door close. Immediately I started shaking.
Zan came hurriedly into the bedroom. “I’m sorry baby. It took longer than I expected.”
He wrapped his arms around my shoulders from behind, and pressed a kiss to my cheek. “It just gives us something to look forward to later.”
I tried to smile as I met his eyes in the mirror, but I saw a frown cross his face.
“What’s the matter, angel?” he said with concern. “You’re shivering.”
“I’m just a little cold,” I said truthfully. At the moment I felt like I’d never be warm again.
“We can fix that,” he said softly. He knelt down in front of me and took me in his arms, fitting his body to mine. I laid my head on his chest, wrapping my arms around him, clinging to him. For long moments he held me, rubbing his hands across my back. His warmth flowed into me, pushing the worries to the back of my mind, and eventually I did stop shaking.
He kissed my forehead. “Better baby?”
I nodded, not trusting myself to speak. I felt as if I might start crying any minute.
“I’m going to grab a quick shower,” he said softly, “and you should find a jacket.”
I nodded again and folded my arms across my chest as he left me. Immediately I was cold again, and I got up and crossed to the closet to follow Zan’s suggestion to get a jacket.
He was quick in the shower, emerging from the bathroom minutes later, a towel wrapped low around his hips. With a wink he smoothed product into his hair, and pulled it into his customary spikes.
Zan grabbed some clothes and dressed quickly. For once he didn’t flirt, and I was glad. I didn’t know if I’d be able to pull it off, without him seeing my true feelings.
When he was finished buttoning his shirt, he crossed to me, cupping my face. “Tell me what’s wrong,” he said softly.
I shook my head, and forced a smile. “Nothing,” I said quickly. “I’m a little nervous, I guess.”
His too perceptive eyes searched mine, and I wasn’t sure he believed me.
The doorbell rang at that moment, announcing Steve’s arrival, and drawing Zan’s attention from me, and I practically sighed with relief. I was glad to get going. If I were alone with Zan very long, he would see too much.
The next hour passed in a blur. We went to a restaurant, and I couldn’t have said what I ate. There was conversation, but I couldn’t have said what we talked about.
Several times I felt Zan’s eyes on me, and I tried to give him reassuring smiles.
Finally we left to go to the gallery. Zan put me into the limo and sat close to me, wrapping his arm around me, making me wince slightly when he touched my bruise. He slid his hand into mine, and squeezed it, as he kissed the side of my head. “Are you sure there’s nothing wrong, angel?” he whispered.
I smiled weakly. “Everything is great,” I tried to reassure him.
“Okay,” he said, kissing my head again.
It was a short ride to the gallery and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw the reception Zan received. There seemed to be hundreds of people who had come to view his work and I felt a rush of pride.
I was doing the right thing acting like nothing was wrong. Zan deserved the evening.
It seemed like everyone wanted to talk to him, and congratulate him, and we were pulled into one conversation after another. We moved around the gallery, and Zan kept me pressed close to his side, his arm tight around me. I knew he was concerned about me, obviously I hadn’t been hiding my feelings as well as I’d hoped.
After we had been there about an hour, I leaned into Zan so he could hear me. “Zan,” I said softly, “I’ll be fine on my own. You don’t have to stay with me the whole time.”
His eyes searched mine for a moment, and then he nodded. “Okay angel.” He kissed me briefly and moved away.
I’d been alone for less than fifteen minutes, when a familiar voice called my name. “Liz, the spit-fire.”
I whipped around, not believing he was really there. “Danny,” I gasped. “What are you doing here?”
Danny smiled. “I thought I would come and check out Zan’s art.”
My eyes narrowed suspiciously on the large glass of strong alcohol in his hand. Was he trying to ruin Zan’s night? “That’s funny,” I said sarcastically. “Why did you really come?”
His smile widened. “I came for another kiss.”
Automatically I took a step back. Feeling guilty, I quickly glanced in the direction Zan had gone, but I couldn’t see a thing. I was too short.
My attention was drawn back to Danny by his chuckle.
“You didn’t tell Zan did you?” he laughed. “Now why is that?“ He winked at me as he stepped closer. “Is it because you really wanted me?”
I stepped back again. “Stay away from me Danny.”
He shook his head. “You’d better be nice to me, spit-fire, or I’ll tell Zan what a little slut you are.” He tossed down half of the glass of amber liquid in his glass. “I’ll tell him you came on to me.”
“Zan would never believe that,” I said confidently.
“Are yous sure, princess?” he mocked, slurring his words slightly, and pointing a finger at me. “I’ve known Zan for more than ten years, and you’ve known him four months. Who do you think he’s going to believe?”
I shook my head, but he cut me off before I could speak again. “There is the man of honor over there,” he motioned vaguely with his glass. “I’ll go say hello.” He winked at me again. “We’ve got a lot to talk about.”
I didn’t want him near Zan, but I couldn’t think of a way to stop him. It seemed like anything I said would just make him more determined.
Even though I was halfway across the room from her, every few minutes my eyes kept returning to where Liz was standing. There was something wrong with her, no matter what she said. And she must be lying about it because she didn’t want to ruin my evening.
But what she didn’t understand was that she was more important to me than any opening. I’d stay for a while, so she didn’t think she was the reason we had left. Then I take her home and get her to open up about what was going on.
My name made me turn, and I smelled the whiskey before I saw who it was. Somehow I wasn’t really surprised.
“What are you doing here Danny?” I asked, my voice sounding bored even to my own ears.
“Now is that a nice way to greet an old friend, a brother?” he said, slapping me on the shoulder. “Especially one you owe so much to?”
Of course, I thought, now comes the truth. “What exactly do you think I owe you? And why after all this time?”
Danny grinned. “I’d heard stuff about how successful you’ve been, but I never thought I would see you again, man. It was really lucky I just happed to catch you on the street, it made me start thinking.”
I met his eyes. “And what have you been thinking?”
He took another drink. “I’ve been thinking that you’ve got a pretty good set up, Zan.” He motioned around, “Shitloads of money, all these rich people worshiping you, a fine piece of ass in your bed. You’ve got a lot to lose.”
“Right,” I said, as understanding dawned. “And that brings us back to what I owe you.”
“You catch on fast, bro,” he said, motioning to me with his drink, a few drops spilling over the edge. “I know a lot about you, man. A lot of things that you wouldn’t want to get out.
I almost laughed. The bastard was trying to blackmail me. Didn’t he know my career was promoted on my ‘bad boy’ rep? If my agent heard I was being blackmailed, he’d probably want to add it to my bio to give me more ‘street cred’ with the art collectors.
I refrained from telling Danny however, curious to find out exactly what he wanted. “And what do you figure I owe you?” I said with gritted teeth.
“There is that little matter of a key of heroin you stole from me,” he said.
I was genuinely surprised. “You really want to bring that shit up?”
He ignored my comment. “I figure you owe me for the smack, plus nine years interest.”
“Fuck off, Danny,” I snarled.
He smiled. “You should be nice to me, Zannie-boy. And you should do some thinking, because I’ll be back, and you’d better have something for me.”
His eyes moved across the room to where Liz was standing. “I could ruin your perfect life with just a few words.”
I felt the overwhelming urge to punch him. I couldn’t believe he was threatening me, threatening Liz.
I took two steps closer, putting us nose to nose. “You’d better keep your fucking mouth shut, if you know what’s good for you, Danny,” I growled, poking a finger into his chest. “And stay the fuck away from us.”
His smile faded, and for a moment I thought he might start some shit, but he turned to leave.
I wasn’t stupid enough to think I’d seen the last of Danny. I just didn’t want to deal with it tonight. He wouldn’t leave this alone until I made him. And the best way to do that was to make Danny see I wasn’t the only one with something to lose.
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