Panting breathlessly, eventually we come up for no other reason than we need to breathe. Shocked at the intensity of my reaction, embarrassment starts to seep in. I begin to pull away, but Vinny follows, not allowing our contact to break. He nuzzles the side of my face, and I listen to his hard breathing so close to my ear. It’s insanely erotic and I need to put space between us to stop myself from doing something stupid. “I need to see you again, Liv.” His voice is low and rough.
I do my best to pull my thoughts together, but my head is spinning, my mind a tangled web of mixed emotions, some old, some new. “What about Krissy, or Missy, or whatever her name is?”
“Over.” His response is quick, tone clipped.
“Since when, I just saw you together last week?”
“Since right now.”
Shit. I wish I didn’t love his response, but I do. It’s defiant and socially improper, but it’s also raw and honest. And everything that attracted me to him so many years ago. He is who he is, and makes no apology if it’s not what you expect. In a strange way, I was always a little envious of him. The ability to live your own life, truly for yourself, is such an easy thing to say, but such a difficult thing to do.
Saturday morning I go to yoga. I really don’t want to drag my lazy ass out of bed, but I need it. More for my mental well-being than my physical. My brain feels jumbled the entire drive there, my usual morning clarity evading me. Being with Vinny yesterday confused me. I’d been hurt by him once, and it took a long time to get over it. Longer than I care to admit. It wouldn’t be wise to go for a second chance. Missy may have turned into Krissy, and fighting in the hall turned into fighting in a cage, but he’s still the same. The same boy that takes what he wants and doesn’t look back. Except now he’s a man. God, he’s all man.
But that kiss. It was unlike anything I’ve ever felt in my life. Filled with passion and desire, it made me forget where I was. Who I was. Being near him is dangerous. I could easily fall for him again, which is why I know I can’t see him anymore. I’d told him I’d think about it, but my decision wasn’t difficult to make. Once I put distance between us, I was able to think clearly.
I’m more relaxed and focused after yoga, but still not nearly my organized self. I stop downtown to grab some groceries, and I struggle to find my ringing phone in my bag while carrying my packages to the parking lot. I don’t immediately recognize the number.
“Liv?” A woman’s voice. It’s familiar, but I can’t match the face immediately.
“Oh, hi Elle. How are you feeling?”
“Like I swallowed a ten pound watermelon,” she sighs. “Listen, I’m dying for some coffee. Are you busy? I’ll have decaf, you can have the good stuff and describe it to me as you drink it.”
I smile thinking of our first and only meeting. We’d become fast friends and I liked her. I’d described the taste of my coffee that she was so desperate to consume. “Sure, I’d love to. I’m downtown, how about Barto’s?”
“Perfect, I’ll meet you in half an hour.”
Elle and I sit and chat for a while. She tells me how she met Nico while doing some contract work for him. I tell her about the job I’m desperately trying to land and my backup position with the Post in New York. An hour into our chat, she quiets for a minute before looking up at me sheepishly, I can see she wants to say something.
“I have a confession to make.”
“Okaaay.” I drag the word out, unsure of what will come next.
“Vinny asked me to contact you. See if I could convince you to go out with him. Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re awesome. I wanted to get together anyway. But I feel dishonest now, sitting here without full disclosure.”
My initial reaction is to feel betrayed, but I can see Elle feels badly, so I put her mind at ease. I really do like her, feel like we could be good friends. “Thank you for telling me. I appreciate you being honest.”
“Sorry. For some reason, I just can’t say no to that boy. I’ve always had a soft spot for him. I met him when he was only twelve or thirteen. We’ve been through a lot together over the years. Especially with his mom and all.”
I’d always suspected that Vinny’s mom had problems. Every time he got in trouble at school, he’d stood for his punishment alone, his mother nowhere to be found. I feel bad for goading Elle into telling me more. Clearly she isn’t aware that his home life is unknown to me, but I want to find out more for some reason. “How is his mother?”
Elle makes a growling sound in response. “Still high. Still dragging Vinny into her mess on a regular basis. Still a total loser.” She sips her decaf coffee and wrinkles up her nose. “Why can’t they make decaf that tastes more like the real thing? We send men to the moon, images through cell phones to the other side of the world, but decaf still tastes like sour water.”
When two o’clock rolls around, my cell phone alarm goes off reminding me I need to pick up Ally from school. She’d decided to go back to school and start her graduate work and I volunteered to play taxi for her weekend classes since she doesn’t have a car anymore. Elle and I have spent more than two hours at the coffee shop, yet it only seems like ten minutes. “I hate to run, but I have to give my roommate a ride.”
We both stand and hug, laughing at her belly getting in the way between us. “So what do I report back to Vinny?” Elle raises her eyebrows and bites her bottom lip. There’s hope in her eyes. Clearly, she adores him. I find comfort in knowing that Vinny has a woman like Elle looking after him. Especially after what I just learned about his mother.
“I don’t know, Elle. I know you care about him…and, oddly, I find that I still do too. But I just don’t think he’s right for me.”
Elle looks disappointed, but smiles anyway. “I hope we can still be friends?”
“I’d really like that.”
I’ve been on a tear since Elle came back and gave me the news that Liv wasn’t planning on seeing me again. I put in nine hours at the gym today. It’s too much, I know I’ll pay for it tomorrow, but right now I don’t give a shit. Nico locked the place up an hour ago, but didn’t tell me to leave. He knows I need to work something through. Understands how my brain works, leaving me restless, unable to stay still until I work myself to the point of exhaustion. He gets me because he’s the same way. Plus, he knows how I would have handled feeling like this six months ago, so he’s happy to keep me busy in the gym, rather than out partying.
“You wanna talk about it?” Nico lives upstairs in the loft above the gym with Elle, but he comes down to check on me. He gets behind the bag that’s swinging from my kicks and steadies it, giving me a firmer target to attack.
“No.” I throw a few punches at the bag and Nico’s forced two steps back from the sheer force of my hits. Whatever I’m feeling now has me hitting harder than usual. Too bad you can’t bottle this shit and pull it out when you really need it.
“Elle says it’s the girl.” Nico pushes, he always does.
“I don’t wanna f**king talk about it.”
“Watch your mouth.”
I stop swinging and still myself. He can’t be serious. “Are you kidding me? I’m not god damn thirteen anymore.”
“Yeah, I realize that. But you’re down here acting like you are. And you’re also yelling and my very pregnant wife is worried about your sorry ass for some stupid reason and her hearing your foul mouth upstairs is showing her disrespect.”
Give me a god damn break. “You know what, I’m outta here.” I push the bag at him as hard as I can before I storm off. The bag wasn’t doing it anyway. I need to find another way to blow off steam tonight.
Less than an hour later, I’m showered and back on my bike heading to the nearest bar. It’s late and the place will be packed with GIMPS. It won’t take long to find one ready for me.
Downtown’s busy for a Saturday night. I feel like I’ve caught every damn light since I hit the street. I stop as yet another one turns red in front of me, bringing my feet to the ground as I balance and wait. I look around, taking in the high rise buildings surrounding me. It’s a path I often take, but I’ve never noticed the sign on the building I’m sitting in front of until now. Daily Sun Times. Fucking figures. A week ago, I hadn’t seen her in years, now she’s everywhere I damn turn.
It takes less than ten minutes from the time I walk into Flannigan’s for Krissy to find me. She cuddles up to my side, pushing her groin into my leg. I know I can have her now, no extra effort on my part necessary. And she likes it rough. Normally I’d be all over the easy lay, but tonight it’s just pissing me off. I ditch her at the bar, leaving through the back door, not bothering to tell her I’m not coming back after the bathroom.
Back on my bike after less than a half an hour at the bar, I’m pissed that I’m alone, but I have no interest in being with a woman tonight. Except one. One woman who has no interest in being with me. Fucking great.
I work till six on Monday, rushing out the door to try to make a seven thirty yoga class. There’s a mass exodus to the front door, with people lined up waiting to exit through the only two turnstile glass doors. I attempt to dig my ringing phone out of my bag as I push my way around the turnstile, taking the necessary baby steps to keep from banging into the glass. I almost miss the opening to get out as I fumble to bring the phone to my ear while righting the two shoulder straps back onto my shoulder.
His voice stops me in my tracks. Literally. The person behind me bangs into me when I halt unexpectedly. “Vinny?”
“How did you get my number?”
“I stole it from Elle’s phone.”
I smile to myself at his honesty. “Is everything okay?”
“I want to see you.”
I take a deep breath. Just hearing his voice makes my conviction waver. Distance is definitely necessary to keep from falling under his spell. Perhaps even keeping away from the phone might be a good idea. The sound of his voice just melts me. “I can’t, Vinny.”
“I don’t think you have a choice, Liv.”
“Why is that?”
“Because you’re about to walk right into me.”
I practically drop the phone when I look up and find him leaning casually against a Harley, a cocky smile firmly in place.
I stop. “What are you doing here?” Like an idiot, I’m still talking to him through my phone, even though he’s only about fifteen feet away from me.
Vinny smiles and holds up his phone to me, shrugging his shoulders. He looks amused, but lifts his phone back to his mouth to respond anyway. “I wanted to see you.”
“So you come to my job and wait for me?”
“If that’s what it takes.” I watch as Vinny pushes off his bike and stands, tucking his phone into his pocket. He walks to me slowly, almost as if he’s not sure if I’ll run. I don’t move.
I’m still talking into my phone when he closes the distance between us, standing directly in front of me, close enough to touch if I lean forward even slightly. He’s so near I can smell him. God, he smells incredible, it makes me heady and dazed. “But why? Why do you want to see me?”
Slowly, Vinny lifts one hand and tucks a lock of hair the wind has forced across my face back behind my ear. His hand lingers on my cheek and then he gently glides it under my chin and lifts my head, forcing me to meet his gaze. His voice is low and tender when he speaks. “I can’t stop thinking about you.”