Table of Contents
Books by Fiona Zedde
BLISS A TASTE OF SIN
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
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Copyright © 2006 by Fiona Lewis
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xcuse me?” Ruben flinched at the sharply hissed words but didn’t stop stuffing clothes into his duffel bag. “I said I’m leaving. Caitlyn is waiting for me in the car.”
Dez backed up and crossed her arms, a precaution against the sudden urge toward violence that bubbled up inside. He was leaving her. For another woman. If this wasn’t some surreal, fucked-up shit. She focused on her anger. It kept her attention away from the pain that started a few seconds ago when she had walked in on him dragging clothes out of the closet and flinging them into his bag.
Their argument yesterday hadn’t prepared her for any of this. He was spending too much time with that girl, the stranger they picked up in Santa Fe a week ago on a whim. Yesterday, nothing was said about leaving, about dumping Dez in the middle of the desert like trash. This was coming way the fuck out of nowhere. Wasn’t it just three days ago that they were trading body fluids on the stairs leading up to this very room, their hands tight over each other’s mouths to stop their noises from waking the people down the hall? The whole time when they were fucking was he thinking about the other one—Caitlyn—as his dick moved inside her, as Dez’s fingers moved inside him, making him shudder and quake and almost bite her fingers off when he came?
She took a deep breath and fought for calm. “Why are you doing this to me, Ru?”
“Dez, what we had was casual. Neither of us wanted anything permanent so I’m not doing anything to you. I’m just giving you the room you need.”
“Room? Are you fucking kidding me? For two years you were ten feet up my ass looking like you wanted to stay there for life and now you’re talking about
“She doesn’t know.” That, too, came out of nowhere. He made his voice soft as if Caitlyn could hear him through the walls.
“Doesn’t know what? That you’re as much of a queer as I am? That I fuck your ass every night and you love it? Shit.” Her voice rose in a wail, dragging out the last word until she clamped her lips shut over it.
He didn’t have anything to say. Dez watched him finish up, zip the bag closed, then rush into the bathroom for something that sounded like his toothbrush and the oversize Ziploc bag full of condoms. The bag that Dez had just filled. He came back into the room and looked at her briefly, his eyes skittering over her stone face.
“Sorry.” Then he was gone.
She squeezed the bridge of her nose. Fisted her stinging eyes. Breathing deeply, she tightened her eyelids until dark spots danced behind them, but when she opened them the pain was still there. Beyond the window, the taillights of Caitlyn’s powder blue Ford Thunderbird flashed to life. Ruben jumped into the convertible and they coasted down the drive.
Dez turned away from the window in disgust. There was no point in staring after them like some lovesick little bitch. There were things to be done. But when her gaze raked the room, she couldn’t think of a single fucking thing that she wanted to do. Not one. At the desk near the door lay a scattered heap of letters she’d gotten from the mailbox in Albuquerque earlier that day. With relief she grabbed the one with her mother’s handwriting, the rectangular business-sized envelope with the pink valentine stamp. She ripped open the letter, needing comfort badly. She glanced at the sheets of paper with their flowing green script, then blinked when the print blurred before her eyes. Shit. Dez flung the letter down and grabbed her jacket. She had to get out of here. As she tugged the jacket on and headed for the door, her cell phone rang.
“Ms. Desiree Nichols?”
“Yes. Can I help you?”
The official-sounding voice on the other end asked politely if she knew where her mother was. She battled her impatience long enough to be courteous in return and kept walking. Then the woman mentioned a biopsy and test results and Dez stopped walking. All thoughts of Ruben and his red-headed fucktoy disintegrated and blew away on the breeze like ashes. She paused in the middle of the hallway. Her hand lifted and fell against the pink and green floral wallpaper. The hardwood floor seemed to stretch out for miles beyond her feet and suddenly the white banister leading downstairs seemed very necessary for her to stay upright. Dez cleared her throat. She pressed the phone to her ear, listening carefully for anything that would tell that this was some sort of stupid prank, that she was on
or something. The voice continued. No one jumped out from behind the wallpaper to tell her that it was all a joke. The woman wanted to change Claudia’s appointment and needed confirmation that she would be there. She wasn’t answering any of her numbers in Miami, and Dez was listed as next of kin on her forms. It was very important that Claudia show up for the appointment. Could Dez guarantee her presence? Through the pounding in her ears, she said yes, finessing more information out of the woman until all she could do was hold the phone against her ear and stare at the closed door at the end of the hallway. Ovarian cancer. As soon as the woman hung up the phone, Dez called home.
“Ma, your doctor’s office just called. They need you to come in on the second of next month instead of the eighteenth.” She stumbled over the rest, unable to maintain coherence with the unresponsive voice mail. After she hung up, Dez turned abruptly back to her room to start packing.
laudia wasn’t home. Dez stood in the middle of her mother’s house feeling another flood of panic. She glanced at her watch: 2:47 A.M. Barely three minutes since the last time she looked at it.
Where was Claudia? Was she back in the hospital? Had Derrick even tried to reach her?
Her mother’s Audi TT sat in the garage, the engine cold and silent. The kitchen was equally quiet, with only the hum of the refrigerator to distract Dez from her panic. Fear turned her fingers cold.
The kitchen was spotless, with everything neatly ordered and put away. Copper pots winked at her from their place above the kitchen island. Nothing was out of place. Dez focused on that with desperation. If Claudia had gotten sick again, no one would have taken the time to do this, and certainly Claudia wouldn’t have been able to.
Dez dug out her cell phone and called Derrick. She didn’t realize that she was crying until she heard her own broken voice.
“Mama. Where is she?”
There was a pause, a moment of recognition, before her twin spoke. “Mexico. She took off with the McAllisters on their boat about three days ago.”
She cried silently with the phone pushed hard against her ear. The back of her head slapped an unconscious rhythm against the wall. “When will she be back?”
“On the fifteenth, in time for her birthday party. Are you all right?”
“I’ve been better.” Her voice cracked but a quick cough cleared the emotion from her throat. “I’ll call you back later, okay?” Eleven days. Her mother would be back in eleven days.
“She’s all right, Dez. That whole mess is almost over. She already had the surgery and came through the chemo all right. In a few weeks she’ll have a last checkup and we’re expecting an all-clear.”
“Okay. Thanks. I’ll talk to you later,” Dez repeated. “Okay.” She never knew. All the time this was going on, she never knew.
Her mother was gone and no one told her. What the fuck was Claudia doing in Mexico on a boat if she’d just had chemotherapy? She carefully put the phone away before leaving the house the way she had come.
In the driveway, Dez took a deep lungful of crisp spring air and blinked the grit and wet from her eyes. The crickets played their particular empty music as the last bits of blue bled away from the sky under the silvery blade of the moon. She shoved her helmet on and straddled the bike. The black cherry Ducati 749 roared to life and she sped down the drive and away from her mother’s silent house. Barely a mile away, she cruised up to her own gate. The house used to be a church, one she used to pass on her way to school every weekday for years but never entered. Now the sprawling two-story stone-and-glass building was hers, bought and paid for with her dead aunt’s money. She’d bought the house a year ago just because she could, figuring that it was the closest she’d ever come to actually going into a church. Dez keyed in the security code at the gate and rode up the long drive and straight into the garage. As she turned off the bike, Dez thought briefly about calling her friends, especially Rémi, to let them know that she was back in town. But her mind shied away from it. She was too raw to face them right now. Even over the phone. Later, sheltered in her new queen-sized bed under cool Egyptian cotton sheets fresh out of the package, Dez slept. She didn’t dream.