Warning: Mature Content
Aria paused on the threshold between the kitchen and dining room. Andre sat at the table, greedily consuming the carefully prepared breakfast of pancakes, hash browns, breakfast steak and eggs. For just an instant, the early morning sun illuminated his handsome face and felt a shiver course through her. Aria thanked God for providing her with such a good man.
“You want some more coffee?” She asked, already topping off his cup. She automatically added his preferred sugar and cream. He leaned back in his chair and smiled up at her in satisfaction.
“Why are you so good to me?”
“Oh, that’s easy, honey. I love you.”
“I love you too. Sometimes I feel like you’re the only good thing in my life.”
“Are you all right?” Aria asked, concerned about the serious tone in his voice.
“I’m fine baby,” Andre seemed to shake off his malaise. “But you know, if you keep feeding me like this,” Andre said, pointing to the half empty platters set before him, “I’m going to get as wide as Big John. Without the muscles.”
“Ah Dre. Why’d you have to bring him up?”
“What do you mean? What is it?”
“It’s nothing, really,” Aria pouted, as she wrapped an arm around his neck and squirmed her bottom onto his lap. “It’s just what he represents. A bodyguard. I can’t believe that you think you need one of those.”
“I’m not taking any more chances, what with the limo, emails and phone calls I keep getting from that House of Peace group. Yesterday, I opened the front door and someone had left a pile shit burning right there on the porch.”
“Why can’t the police do more? We knows who’s behind it, just arrest them.”
“It would be nice if it were that simple. But they’ve been careful. I can’t prove it’s them.”
“I can’t understand why anyone would want to hurt you. You’re such a good man, baby and you work so hard serving the public, always keeping the people’s welfare at heart. I really admire you.”
Andre pulled Aria’s head down to meet his in a passionate kiss. He pulled back and rested his forehead on hers and held her eyes for a long moment. “Thank you.”
She smiled his thanks away, got up from his lap and began to clear the table.
“You’re looking awfully good this morning. I love that dress. Is it new?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.” She twirled around to give him a better view. “You like?”
“Yes, definitely. It makes my ass look good.”
“Yeah, all that junk in your trunk, that’s mine.”
She giggled and then walked back towards the kitchen, exaggerating the sway in her hips. “Well, it’s not yours yet. At least, not until the wedding in December.”
“Well, I’ve already put down equity.” Andre got up from the table and followed her into the kitchen. He reached out and lightly touched the engagement ring. “So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s already mine.”
She laughed again and then pretended to struggle when he grabbed her from behind and nibbled on her neck. She loved this man. That is, as much as she’s capable of loving anyone. She would make him a good wife.
“Sweetie, I’ve got to go. I doubt that I’ll come back tonight.”
“But Andre,” she whined.
“It’s just not a good idea, me being here. I would never forgive myself if something happened to you. I want to keep as much of that away from you as much as possible.”
“Well, what am I supposed to do if you’re not here?”
“I don’t mean I won’t see you at all. We just need to be more careful. Come on, baby, you understand. Besides, we’re having dinner with dad and Eula tomorrow night, remember? C’mon, Aria, don’t pout. You know I hate when you pout. Forgive me?”
She looked at him for a long moment before throwing herself back in his arms. “Of course I forgive you. I could never resist you.”
They both turned at the unexpected knock at the door. Aria hoped she masked the rising panic tip-toeing up her spine. She released a sharp gasp when Andre reached for her arm and massaged away the gooseflesh.
“I didn’t mean to make you so nervous with my talk of threats and violence. It’s just Big John. I told you he was riding with me until the election. Remember?”
“Of course, I’m sorry. I’m just being silly. Please be careful, promise me?”
“I promise.” He declared, then left to answer the front door. Aria held her breath until the muffled baritone confirmed that it was indeed Andre’s security guard.
“I’ll call you tonight and tuck you in, okay?” He planted another deep kiss and then left the apartment.
Aria watched him from the door. He gave the security man an instruction then paused before climbing into the back seat. He waved at her once again.
Aria closed the door and then fell against it in relief. She chastised her overreaction. She was about to push away from the door when she heard another knock on the door. She stood upright and then opened the door without thinking.
“Did you forget something, ba . . .?” The words sputtered away. Aria stared in disbelief at the man leaning against her threshold.
“I thought you were Andre. What are you doing here? What if he had seen you?”
“Not a chance. I waited until the limo drove off. You gonna invite me in?”
“I thought we’d agreed we were going to chill. You know I’m engaged.”
“I just wanted to talk to you. I miss seeing your face. C’mon, invite me in.”
“Caleb,” Aria said as she grabbed his arm and pulled him inside. “Get in here before someone sees you sniffing round my door.”
“You have quite a few places I’d like to sniff that have nothing to do with your door.”
Aria smiled at him as the door closed. As soon as she heard the audible click, she jumped into his arms. Caleb barely caught her in to keep them from slamming into the hardwood floor.
Aria and Caleb cuddled on the floor in the pile of discarded clothing. Aria noticed that Caleb seemed to have trouble catching his breath. She rested her head on his chest, idly soothing his damp chest hair. She maintained the gentle caress until she heard his heart rate slow to its normal rhythm.
“What are you doing here, Caleb? I thought you had plans? Something Jacquee had for you to do.”
“I wanted to see you.” For Caleb, Aria knew, it was just that simple. But Aria felt the need to remind him that her situation was much more complicated.
“Why do you stay with that woman?”
“I don’t know. I’ve been thinking about that a lot myself lately.” He ran a caressing hand down the back of her head and then lifted up to plant a kiss on her forehead. “Maybe I’m just waiting for you to come to your senses, to take me away from madness.”
She laughed and then playfully tweaked his nipple. “You are seriously twisted.”
“And you’re going to get more than you bargained for if you touch my titties again.”
“Like I said, twisted.” Aria laughed again but sensed he had drifted away.
“You’re not catching feelings for me, are you Caleb?”
He didn’t respond. She lifted her head for a better view of his expression. The sadness she saw reflected there distressed her in a way she didn’t fully understand.
“Caleb, I thought we had an understanding. This is just a casual thing, right?”
“Right. No. Have you ever thought about it, though?” He pulled her up and then turned to look at her with not a little urgency. “Y’know, everything being equal, no Andre, no Jacquee. Just you and me. Surely you’ve at least thought about it?”
Aria took a stab at humor. “Caleb, if you had to live with me on a full time basis, well let’s face it, I would drive you absolutely nuts. One of us would kill the other within a year.”
“Why would you say that?” Caleb asked, sounding genuinely confused, even hurt.
“Because it’s true and you know it. You can’t afford me. You tell me all the time that I’m careless with money and everybody knows you’re a tight wad. If you give me one more of those disapproving glances, just because I like to go shopping, I’m going to scream. We’re too different, Caleb.”
“We don’t feel all that different right now.” He reached down and slid two fingers on either side of her still-engorged clitoris. She initially flinched at the contact and then her hips lifted, seeking after more. “In fact, at this moment, we feel very much in sync.”
“Stop trying to distract me.” She said as she swatted away seeking fingers.
“What do you like about Jacquee?” That cooled his ardor quite a bit.
“What?” Caleb turned away and started searching for his clothes among pile.
“No, answer the question. What do you like about her? Why are you with her? All I’ve ever heard you do is complain about her. She’s fussing at you about this, she’s cussing you out about that. Every time I look around, you’re looking for another opportunity to get away from her. What is it? What keeps you there?”
“I don’t know. I just don’t believe in jumping in and out of relationships.” She lifted a well-arched eyebrow in his direction. “Well, you’re the exception. She’s always been there for me. We’ve been through a lot together. It’s just not something I want to casually throw away.”
“Then why don’t you go to counseling or something. Since you’re so committed to her, why won’t you marry her?”
“Well, we’re ready for that step.”
“Caleb, listen to yourself. Boy, move.” She pushed against him and leveled herself to her feet. He stood up with her and tried to capture her hand. “How can you even consider suggesting that we hook up our futures together? You can’t even figure. . . no. You know what? The best thing for us is to just be friends. Keep it light and friendly.”
She reached down and caressed him, stroking up and down. “This is where we work, it’s what we’re good at.” Aria whispered against his ear. She continued to stroke him until she felt him grow under her palm. She smiled in feline satisfaction. “Let’s just stay friends, okay?”
She lifted one hand to her mouth and licked the beaded moisture from her fingers. “With benefits.”
It was barely nine o’clock and Aria stepped out of the shower, for the second time that morning. Her body hummed and she knew she would ride that high for the rest of the day. Caleb always put a smile on her face; this morning had been no different. Imagine him talking about a relationship between the two of them. Jacquee must’ve really been playing with his head this morning.
She finished dressing and re-applied her makeup. She was scheduled to meet with the wedding planner that morning and if she didn’t hurry, she would be late.
She secured the door to the apartment, ran past the elevator and took the stairs to the first floor. She stopped by the bank of mailboxes and collected yesterday’s mail. She paused at the sight of the large yellow manila envelope. No return address, that’s curious. She wasn’t expecting any packages, but she opened the clasp with one perfectly manicured nail.
Aria peeked inside. It was filled with color photographs. She eased them from the envelope and held a stack of 8×10, full color, glossies. She sifted through them quickly. She had flipped through the third or fourth picture before it registered exactly what she was looking at.
Her thoughts felt mired in quicksand but she finally connected the dots and recognized her fiance’s face repeated in each of the nine or ten photographs. Andre’s likeness had been captured in various candid and un-posed sexual poses and positions.
The photographer used a telephoto lens that allowed him to get very close. There was no mistaking Andre’s identity or his activities. Her vision blurred over the HD quality pictures of Andre, head thrown back in the throes of passion while some stranger gave him a blow job. Then another of Andre, captured right in the middle of a downstroke, sweat glistening off his face and back as he appeared to pound mercilessly into his partner.
Aria paused and almost cried in outrage at the picture of Andre performing oral sex. He had always refused to go down on her, giving her a lame ass excuse that “it’s just something I can’t do.”
Aria didn’t recognize anyone else in the pictures; she had eyes only for Andre.
After the initial shock wore off, turned the pictures over and sifted through them more slowly and with care. Each of the pictures carried a date and time stamp. She calculated that on several of these occasions, Andre had cancelled plans with her and told her he was working late. She couldn’t believe that she was now caught up in that tired old cliché that the woman was the last to know.
She inspected the envelop again and wondered who had been so thoughtful as to try to fuck up her relationship. Was it an enemy of Andre or hers? It didn’t matter. She would find out, one way or another.
As for Andre? Aria knew men and knew that one was more likely to cheat than he was to tell the truth. Andre was her ticket out and no one would mess that up, not even Andre himself.
I can’t wait to hear your thoughts.