“You got that right,” Rémi said, touching the brim of her hat. Ever since her family took her to Montana to play with horses, an eleven-year-old Rémi had decided then and there that she was a cowboy. After that, she never left the house without a cowboy hat, spurs, boots, boot-cut jeans, and chaps, or some other cowboy paraphernalia. Never mind that she was deathly afraid of horses and would rather go surfing than riding on the range.
Nuria ignored Rémi’s comment. Her fingers traced the strip of skin between Dez’s blouse and slacks, before settling on the fold of cotton that hid the zipper. Dez chuckled, helpless to the twitch of stomach muscles and the clenching a few more inches down.
“Careful, baby. I’m only human.”
“Why do I have to be careful?” Nuria pouted again. “You just got back into town after, what, eight years of playing hard to get?”
“I never play those games. You know that by now. I always deliver.”
“For damn’s sake,” said Sage, the smallest of the group. “Here we go again. Cool it you two. It’s been less than five minutes and you’re already starting the same old shit.”
“I’m just getting my lovin’ in while I can. As soon as all the easy girls in Miami know that The Good Time Twins are back together again”—she gave Rémi and Dez a sly look—“I’ll have to fight the crowd just to be able to kiss her . . . ring.”
Dez laughed out loud as she untangled herself from Nuria. “Don’t be jealous, Sage. I was coming to you next.”
“What’s up, man? Long time.” Sage drew back from their hug, her penetrating stare belying the casual words.
“It has been a long time. Sorry to say. What’ve you been up to?” Dez squeezed her shoulder.
“This and that. A few new inks, a new girl, nothing too dangerous.” Her Jamaican accent, softened by her ten years in America, made the words sound almost like a song. She smiled wide, showing off her gorgeous enamel and the small gap between her two front teeth. “It’s really good to see you.”
A flash of black ink at her wrist from just beyond the cuff of her striped long-sleeved shirt caught Dez’s eye. The tail end of one of her many tribal tattoos. Another swirl of ink only a few shades removed from her deep brown skin peeked from within the shirt’s collar. Sage’s tatt artist certainly had been busy since Dez last saw her friend.
“We hoped that you would come around to see us. Those postcards and two-minute phone calls didn’t count for shit.” Rémi’s mouth twitched—not quite a smile, but not a snarl either. “So you were fucking the boy. Then he left you for some red-haired bitch. Then what? Why didn’t you come straight to us? We would have made you feel better.”
“Yeah, much, much better.” Nuria gave her most innocent smile. Which wasn’t.
“If I’d only known.” But it wasn’t as simple as that. She met Rémi’s eyes and was surprised by her friend’s slight smile of understanding.
“Come dance with me, baby.” Phil took Sage’s hand. “I think the boys need to catch up.”
Nuria waited only a moment before following her friends in the general direction of the dance floor.
“Those two seem cozy,” Dez said, watching her two friends move easily together on the dance floor. Phil stood almost a foot taller than Sage in her stilettos, but their looks complemented each other: bright and dark, slim and curvaceous. Sage’s hand settled on Phil’s snaking behind.
“They ought to be.” Rémi sat down, making room on the low couch for Dez. “They’ve been a couple now for almost as long as you’ve been gone.”
“Seriously?” That was the last thing she expected to hear. Then again she was sure that the news about her and Ruben hadn’t been the usual fare either. “Are they supposed to be monogamous?”
Rémi gave her a look. “You know better than that.”
“Just thought I’d ask. Things change. People change.”
“True.” Rémi nodded. She leaned forward with her elbows on her knees, her hands clasped loosely together before her. “So, how have things changed for you? You seem different. Is something going on?”
“Can I tell you later?” Dez hated the pleading tone in her voice, but with her friend, the one she’d told so many secrets to in the past, she couldn’t help herself. Not even her mother had been there for her the way that Rémi had.
“All right, but you have to call me, or I’ll track you down. I’ll give you three days or I’m coming for you.”
“You are so full of shit. You can’t even wait three days for pussy.”
“Exactly, so you better call me soon.”
“Are you two done yet?” Nuria sashayed over, a pink drink in hand, a pout sitting prettily on her mouth. “I’m already bored looking at the same old tired faces at this damn party.”
“We’re finished,” Rémi said.
“And even if we weren’t, Rémi and I could always think of something to do with a girl like you.” Dez playfully tugged the flirtatious woman closer.
“Flattery will get you absolutely anywhere,” Nuria leaned in with a purr. Her breath was awash in a cocktail of peaches, vodka, and oranges. Dez wrinkled her nose and turned her head to kiss Nuria on the cheek just as Phil and Sage tumbled back from the dance floor, laughing and holding each other tightly.
“Are you all going to stand around feeling each other up?” Phil asked. “As far as I know, it’s not that kind of party.”
“You never know, baby. The night is young.” Dez chuckled and squeezed Nuria’s waist.
“Are you taken for the night, honey?”
They all turned around.
“Damn . . .” Sage whistled, not quite under her breath.
Phil glanced at the woman, an eyebrow arched in mute appreciation.
But the object of their collective lust only had eyes for Dez. She was eye-catching in a peach-colored dress that covered her walnut skin from throat to ankle. It was a late nineteenth-century gown with pearl buttons at the wrist and throat, one that barely hinted at her curves, focusing instead on the elegant lines of the body beneath it. As the woman stepped closer, Dez caught the scent of champagne on her lips. Her arm slid from Nuria’s waist.
“I could be,” Dez murmured, immediately intrigued by the woman’s boldness. The topic of the previous discussion fell away from her brain.
The woman’s smile was sweet and teasing. It warmed her pretty, doll-like face even more, stretching the small rosebud lips into a wet promise. “I’m Lylah.”
Dez’s body was paying attention. She wanted to slide her hand in Lylah’s headful of curls and pull her closer, feel those lips under hers to see if they were as soft as they looked.
pleased to meet you.” She heard her friends’ laughter, the vague noises of their conversation as they moved away and deliberately lost themselves in the crowd. “So what do you have in mind?”
“I have the key to a room upstairs. Interested?”
This was just the thing she needed to get her body distracted from its memories of Ruben. Dez allowed her to lead the way, content to hang behind Lylah and watch the sway of her graceful shape under the dress as she slid through the crowd, then up the stairs and into a large bedroom.
“I haven’t seen you around here before,” Lylah said, locking the door behind them. “Are you new to the scene?”
“Something like that.” Dez shrugged off her jacket and dropped it on a chair near the door. The room reminded her of a suite at the Hyatt—simple, nondescript, yet functional with its wide bed and bathroom just beyond. There was a TV and a DVD player too.
For extended hours of fun
, Dez thought with a wry smile. She reached for Lylah. “So how do I get you out of this thing?”
“You let me worry about that.”
Their lips met with a firm, wet sound. No preliminaries. Lylah knew exactly what she wanted. Dez’s hands slid into the tempting curls and stroked their softness that reminded her of rougher curls down below that would also feel good on her fingers. The woman moaned deep in her throat and reached for the button at Dez’s slacks.
Dez had done this countless times before, gone with the instinct of her body and shared it with anyone that it felt the inclination to. Unthinkably, she’d been faithful to Ruben. Two years without the smell of another woman’s cunt on her hands. Two years without the quick, anonymous sex that she and Rémi had perfected in tandem all over Miami and a good part of the world. She’d missed it.
There was a rhythm to this sort of thing that she fell into now, the not thinking, the indulgence in pure sensation that made nothing else matter. Only the blind rush of her own body to possess and share pleasure. The rush that made the woman incidental, accidental. Did it matter that her name was Lylah or Diane or Keisha or Vivian? Or that she crocheted when she was bored or read aloud to herself or had a husband waiting for her in the Keys? No. All that mattered was the soft thighs in their pale gold garters and the stockings that framed the shaved pouting pussy. The scrape of short nails against her naked ass as she pumped against her, riding the wetness like she was running a race to see who could come the fastest. Lylah’s nipples were wide and hard under her mouth. Her pussy was wet and welcoming. The gasping words of delight—
Faster. Fuck me. Yes. Harder. Make me come
—weren’t unique, but they were enough. Here, that was all that mattered. Dez didn’t try to make any more or less of it. She simply buried her senses in it until it was over.
“Thanks.” Dez’s breath was harsh in her throat. She collapsed back against the bed, thighs trembling still.
Lylah stood up and smiled, licking her fingers. “Any time.” She brushed those same fingers over her face and through her pressed dark curls like she was anointing herself with perfume. A quick motion of her body smoothed the wrinkles in her dress. “And thank you for saving me from boredom tonight.”
Dez quickly pulled on her pants and jacket before straightening the rest of her clothes. “You’re more than welcome.”
Lylah smiled then winked at her before she opened the doors to let in the sounds of the party that was still going strong. “See you around.” She didn’t look back. It was time to go. Dez straightened her jacket again and headed out to find her friends.
She found them one by one, each trying to pick up a little something to take home for the night. She caught each woman’s eye, letting her know that she was done and still in the mood for any more interesting options the night might provide.
ive me the usual, Gina. To go.” Dez passed a twenty-dollar bill to the waitress and claimed an empty stool at the restaurant counter.
Her friends had invited her to go along with them to Novlette’s Café in the morning for a late breakfast, just like old times, but exhaustion set in at the thought of it. Too much closeness too soon. She woke up feeling the same way.
After a slow ride around South Beach and her first cigarette of the day, she felt like being around other people. With the wind pressing at her face and chest, she’d headed for what had quickly become her new favorite restaurant by the pier.
The waitress palmed the money and counted out her change, all without looking up at Dez. Her head, bald except for an abstract black tattoo of a winged woman, winked under the light as she finally met Dez’s eyes and smiled. The two of them had been carrying on an intense flirtation for the past week, but after Dez got drunk and uncharacteristically spilled half her life story in Gina’s lap, they’d both backed off. Some mistakes were easy to see beforehand.
“Your gorgeous brother is here.”
“Is he?” She smiled at the puckish waitress, not particularly concerned with her brother at the moment.
Gina nodded at a point beyond Dez’s shoulder. “He looks pissed off right now. Before you came in he was actually happy.”
Since the waitress seemed intent on setting up a reunion, Dez turned around. Sure enough, there he was. Derrick sat on the restaurant patio looking vaguely annoyed, with his eyes shaded from the afternoon sun by dark glasses. Dez turned from her brother’s frown with a noncommittal noise.
“Did he say anything to you?”
Gina arched a pierced eyebrow. “And why would he do that?”
“Sorry,” she grinned. “Had a brain fart.” Dez looked over her shoulder again. “Wrap it up and bring it outside for me, would you?”
“For you, anything.” She winked and turned back to the cash register, dismissing her. Dez took it all in stride, giving Gina’s body the obligatory leer and smile before making her way out to the patio.
“Slumming, Derrick?” she asked, straddling the empty chair at her brother’s elbow.
Her more masculine incarnation spared her a brief glance from behind his custom Ray-Bans. Derrick Nichols topped off at six feet six and was gorgeous enough to make even Dez feel a twinge of envy. She liked to think that if she had been born a boy she would have been blessed with identically good looks. As it was, she did the best that she could.
“Nice to see you, too, Desiree,” he said.
“You shouldn’t lie and chew at the same time, Derrick. Bad for you.”
A long time ago she and Derrick had been very close. They shared a lot of the same habits, the same style of dress, even an interest in the same girls. They had even gone out on a triad date with a hot little girl who couldn’t decide if she liked girls or boys. That was in the seventh grade. They didn’t hang out too much these days.