fishhooks. She wanted to do a little dance.
Maybe later, when her legs recovered.
“You said you’d take me
my belongings. You promised.”
“I thought you meant a duffel bag. Possibly a suitcase.”
“I meant an Airstream trailer.”
She smiled. “I know.”
And because she wanted to rattle him some more, she made a monumental effort and flung her arms around his neck. It hurt her shoulders so badly, she thought she might die, but she rose up on her toes anyway, ignoring the inevitable leg cramp, and kissed him smack on the lips, hard.
Nice juicy lips. But even nicer, the intensification of everything horrible in his expression. His eyes had gone to slits, and his nostrils were all Minotaur-like. And he was spotty all of a sudden, his lovely brown skin covered in dark, fuzzy-edged blotches that …
Actually, no. That was her vision.
“Buddy,” she said sweetly, as the clapping hands returned, “you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
And then she fainted, and he caught her.
Ashley tussled with consciousness for what felt like an eternity. She groped at it in that timeless, unending way of dreams, her need to emerge from sleep manifested as an empty ache between her legs, a yearning for her dream-lover that she couldn’t slake because,
, she’d been trying forever, but she couldn’t figure out how to get his zipper down and his jeans off.
And then the jeans were history—
—and she was blinking futilely at the elastic band of his underwear, trying to remember what to do next. Incapable of pushing her own underwear either down or aside.
Another magical removal left them skin to skin below the waist, dark to light, her lover perched above her on his elbows and her eyes on the condom he held out to her. They passed it back and forth a few times, utterly baffled. Her frustration reached a fever pitch and held there, back arched, hips lifting, until finally,
he moved inside her, and she saw the understanding and the rapture break over his face at the same moment he spoke.
“Carmen,” he said, and Ashley woke up. “It’s Roman.”
It was Roman between her legs, inside her head.
No. It was Roman speaking on the phone from the other side of the room.
Ashley squeezed her eyes shut and opened them again. Fuzzy avocado green. A splash of orange. She knew this couch. It sat in the low cinder-block building that served as Sunnyvale’s office.
And the only way she could’ve gotten from the palm tree—the last place she remembered being—to this couch—where she most assuredly was
—was if Roman had carried her.
She’d passed out and woken up having a sex dream about her arch-enemy.
Worse, she kind of wanted to go back to the dream, because she could still
him. That hot, thick slide. That moment of heavy-lidded, hazy recognition. Her whole body singing
yes, yes, this
“No,” he said. “No, no, no, that’s not going to happen.” He paused. “I know. Right, I know, but the thing is—”
He stopped speaking.
Ashley sighed, too, as if in echo, and registered her surroundings more completely. Roman on the phone by the front window. Her bare, aching legs stretched out on the couch. The soft brush of the chenille throw against her cheek, her exposed hip, her calf.
He’d carried her in here. Spread her out on her side, put a pillow beneath her head, covered her up.
How long had she been out?
“Sure. Yes. I’ve had a few wrinkles here, but nothing I can’t handle. I’m not going to make it to New York, though. I’ll have to ride out the storm here. Give me a call when you get in, or I’ll call you guys once I’m able to. It might be a few hours. All right. Bye.”
He turned around just as she sat up, which meant he saw her wince and press her fingers to the space between her eyebrows in a futile attempt to contain the throbbing pain in her head.