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Authors: Cara McKenna

Curio (6 page)

BOOK: Curio
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“What are you imagining now?” I asked.

“I don’t need to. You’re right here, already testing your limits. I love that I’m showing you these new things.”

“What things do you think I’d be afraid to do with you?”

“It is too soon to tell. And there are too many things you want but have denied yourself. I want those, first. What does it mean to you, to watch me now?”

“I guess… I’ve never seen this in person. I never thought I might have anything to do with a man being this excited. It makes me feel sort of…full of myself.”

Didier smiled. “I like that. I want you to feel that way. When I come, I want you to know that it’s from you, only.”

“Show me.”

He nodded and looked to his hand, drawing my attention down with his.

“You’re so big.”

“I haven’t felt this way in ages, this hard. You’ve kept me so close, for so long. It hurts, I want to come so much.”

My chest swelled with pride, to imagine this was true.

“Do you like that you’ve done this to me?” he asked.

“Yeah.”

“I wish you could feel how hard you’ve made me.” His strain was audible, the uttered words harsh and hoarse. “Fuck.”

I squeezed his broad legs and slid my palms higher, mere inches from his cock. I gasped as his free hand covered one of mine, holding it tight against his warm, damp thigh.

All at once, he lost control. I could see the unraveling of him, in his jerking arm and twitching hand, his clenching muscles and wild eyes.

“Caroly.” His breathy voice matched his disbelieving face.

I shuffled closer, my arm brushing his as I reached out to touch his stomach, to feel that most coveted landscape of male beauty.

“You’re so strong.”

“No,” he groaned. “I’m helpless.” The hand covering mine clasped my fingers, the muscles beneath my other palm clenching. His perfection ripped apart at its seams, mouth trapped in a silent gasp, gorgeous face flushed and contorted. He let go a final moan, and his hips bucked as he gave in. I took my hand away as the come streaked his belly, white against his flushed skin, more with each body-quaking spasm. I wished he might draw my trapped hand up to touch it, but his intuition was long gone with his composure. His body went slack, arched back relaxing against the covers.

He let my hand go and reached for a cloth on the side table, wiping himself clean. He folded it neatly and set it aside, closing his eyes. For a minute our breathing was the only noise.

“Thank you,” I finally said.

He swallowed, blinking hazily. “And thank you. For asking me to be the first man who showed you that.”

“You’re very different when you’re like that. All worked up.”

“I’m sure.”

“It’s fascinating. You’re so… I don’t know, graceful, I guess. I liked watching you come apart.”

“Just as I like fantasizing about a woman, aroused by the things she most denies herself. So much of taboo is in the contradictions.”

I smiled at him. “That’s very philosophical.”

Didier laced his fingers together atop his ribs, gazing up at the canopy.

“I’d like to stay a little longer,” I said quietly. “Unless that’s awkward now.”

“Not at all. I’m yours until the dawn. Just give me a moment to collect myself.”

“No rush.”

No rush indeed. I reclined a few inches to his side and we lay in companionable silence for a half-hour or longer. Eventually he dressed and we returned to the living room, along with the candles. We finished the wine and chatted for another hour, until I knew I had to catch the Metro before the real weirdos emerged from their holes.

As Didier bade me goodnight, my nerves returned. I opened the door to the hall, but more than I feared being spotted in a known prostitute’s threshold, I was enlivened merely to be associated with this man.

“I’d like to see you again,” I managed to say.

He smiled. “I would like that too. How is Sunday for you?”

Sunday was awful, as I had a staff meeting first thing the next day. But I also knew I’d be high as hell from whatever would come of that evening, and nothing would be able to touch me come Monday morning. “Sunday is fine. Seven?”

“Perfect. I will cook you dinner, if you like. And if you bring the wine.”

I laughed. “I’m a bit terrified to pick wine for a Frenchman.”

“And I’m a bit delighted to force you to be brave, so I insist.”

“Okay, fine.”

“You know the way out?” he asked.

I nodded.

“You have a safe trip home. It was a pleasure to meet you.”

I was prepared to shake his hand, but Didier clasped my shoulder and bent to exchange kisses on each cheek. I waved lamely and headed down the hall for the stairs, not hearing the gentle click of his door until I was well out of sight.

Sunday

The Second Visit

 

The wine was chosen at the urging of the pushy man who runs the liquor store near my flat, a dry red that cost slightly too much for my comfort. But I’m a simpleton when it comes to wine. The higher the price, the more adamantly I’ll convince myself I like it.

Gone were my work clothes, for my second date with Didier. I wore a dress this evening, a patterned boat-neck that’s more quirky than elegant, and forgives my broad shoulders and flatters my long neck and gangly arms. I felt positive, if not confident, as I walked up Rue des Toits Rouges. Excited if not prepared.

I rang Didier’s bell ten minutes early, no longer ashamed of appearing eager. He buzzed me in and my nerves felt different as I mounted the steps. On Thursday they’d had me edgy and dry-mouthed, but this second night I was giddy, even bubbly, blood gone from my veins and replaced with champagne.

His door swung open at my knock and Didier was as tall as I’d remembered, even more handsome in his familiarity. “Good evening, Caroly.”

“Good evening.” I handed him the wine and followed him to the threshold of his kitchen, watching as he slid my offering from its twisted bag to examine the label.

“Very nice. You spoil me.”

“I asked for a Portuguese one, and that’s what the man at the store suggested.”

“This is very fine, I’ve had it.”

“Oh good.”

“I have not started dinner, so I hope you’re not starving.”

I shook my head. “No rush.”

“Have a seat.” Didier beckoned me inside his small kitchen, pulling up a stool to the butcher-block-topped cabinet that serves as a center island. He set a glass before me as I sat, and uncorked the wine. I breathed it in, that dry, warm aroma, and studied him as he filled his own glass. He was dressed in his understated but stylish way; a crisp, cream-colored shirt rolled up to his elbows and unbuttoned to mid-chest.

“Did you ever live in Portugal?” I asked.

“No, but I visited when I was younger. Quite young, perhaps eight or nine.”

“Which part?”

“On the coast, not far from Cascais. Very pretty. Very different after only having known Paris.”

“You didn’t leave the city much?”

He shook his head. “My mother detested the countryside, even the suburbs. She was very much addicted to Paris, all the noise and excitement and crowds and attention of it. Cheers.”

I joined him in clinking our glasses and tasting my offering. “Oh, that is nice.”

He nodded. “A very good choice. I only hope my cooking does it justice.”

“You cook a lot?”

“Oh yes, though nothing too fancy. Is there anything you do not eat?”

“I’ll try anything.”

“I was going to make pasta. A friend came by with sausage from a Sicilian butcher this afternoon, the best I’ve ever had. That with tomatoes and basil and bread.”

“That sounds wonderful.”

Didier prepped ingredients and sautéed onion and garlic and the meat in a pan, then gathered flour and other things, setting a metal, cranked contraption on the island.

“You make your own pasta?”

He nodded, eyeballing measurements. “It’s not so hard. I enjoy cooking. It’s the hobby I indulge the most these days.”

“What else do you like to do?”

“I read a lot. Sometimes I take things apart and put them back together. Watches, clocks. My hobbies are quite simple.”

I nodded, sipping my wine, watching this fascinating creature at work. “What did you want to be, when you were younger?”

“I always thought I might be a writer, but no matter how often I try, it never gives me the joy I expect it to. It never feels quite so romantic as it seems it should.”

“That’s too bad. I bet your memoirs would be very eye-opening.”

He drove his fingers into the dough, flour puffing up to settle on his forearms. “What about you? What did you want to be?”

“I wanted to be an artist, but I never got very far beyond imitating other people’s work. When I went to college I fell in love with art history, and that’s what led me to curating.”

“Who is your favorite artist?”

“I couldn’t pick any one favorite. But I probably love Klee and Miro best.”

He nodded. “Miro was fascinating. I heard he was an accountant, and that he suffered a nervous breakdown and that is how he came to art. Is that true?”

“I believe so.”

“You must know the Louvre inside-out, after two years in Paris.”

I nodded. “That’s not where I work, though. I work at the smaller museum, just a couple blocks east. But I was lucky enough to get a summer internship at the Louvre when I was twenty. It was heaven, seeing all the works I knew from books in person.”

“Yes, it’s much different.” He fed dough into the pasta maker and turned the crank, a nest of noodles gathering on the floury wood.

“In a book you can’t move around, see the way the light hits the brushstrokes from all the different angles,” I said.

“Or smell the wood or stone or paper.”

“Exactly. It changed my life, that summer.” I sipped my wine as Didier cooked, studying him in the cool dusk light, my very own work of art for the evening.

“What’s it like, seeing yourself as other people’s art in galleries?” I asked.

“It’s humbling.”

I smiled, unseen, liking his answer.

“It does not feel like me, in their photographs. Just some man I resemble. Though I’ve always been poor at reducing people to their outsides.”

I pondered that, wondering if it was the willful habit of a man sick to death of being objectified, or perhaps one merely enamored with minds.

“Have you heard of that disease where a person cannot recognize faces?” he asked.

“Sure. That disorder Oliver Sacks has.” I frowned. “Do you have that?”

“No, but I understand it. I’ve always been terrible with faces and names, even worse with places and buildings. I get lost very easily.”

I smiled at that notion, at the visual of Didier’s perplexed expression as he stared at a street sign, a dozen arrows pointing every which way.

“As a child,” he said, “I only remembered how to get to places by counting the blocks. Three blocks straight, one block left, two blocks right. That was school.”

“You couldn’t just look at, I don’t know, a fountain or something, and remember where you were?”

“It’s odd, I know. If I passed the fountain I would ask myself, do I see that on the way to school? Or was that somewhere I went on the weekend with my mother, the post office, perhaps?”

“Weird.”

“Indeed. I got better, if only at memorizing street names and writing notes to myself. And later I grew quite fond of taxis, letting directions be someone else’s burden.”

Didier switched on the lights as the daylight died, and before I knew it he was dragging over a second chair, clearing the island and setting dinner before me.

This was a date. A meal, drinks, the promise of foreplay if not sex. I didn’t let myself diminish it, knowing I was paying for his company as surely as I’d purchased the wine we were enjoying. He’s extraordinary, that way. He doesn’t trick you into believing this is something other than what it is. He merely makes what it is a thing of substance. I’m buying Didier as I might a gourmet meal or an evening of live music, a fleeting indulgence. Does it really matter that I paid for any of them, that I didn’t prepare the food or compose the music; that others could enjoy the pleasures if they too were willing to pay for them? Was it really all some New World hang-up, the demand for permanence and ownership and exclusivity? I hope so. My parents were such a cautionary tale against two people staying together, it’s no wonder I’ve never pined for commitment.

Didier spoke after a long silence. “You look rather thoughtful.”

“I feel rather thoughtful.”

“You are not sad, I hope.”

I shook my head. “Not at all. I’m having a lovely evening. Everything is delicious. Thank you.”

He lifted his glass. “And thank you, for sharing it.” Didier is as smooth as I’d expected a Frenchman to be, but not in the cloying, coercive way I’d feared. His seduction puts you at ease, like a slowly sipped cocktail or a hot bath.

Didier is a fine cook, and the bite of the tomatoes brought out the tang of the grated cheese, the sweetness of the onions, the tartness of the wine. I will never be able to eat linguine again without thinking of him, his hands and mouth and voice.

“What else would you like to do tonight?” he asked.

“I hadn’t thought too much about it. Just drink and talk, like Thursday. See where that goes.”

“That sounds perfect. And if you are interested…if you enjoy music and you grow weary of my voice…”

Fat chance.

“I have a phonograph and some records. I know that’s old-fashioned…”

“No, that’s cool.”

He smiled. “Good. I love old things. Typewriters, gas lamps. Those things that are trapped between history and the present. What we used to call technology, now antiques.”

“That’s interesting. What other sorts of things?”

“Toys fascinate me, like wind-up tin animals, miniature railroads, slot cars, music boxes. When I was a child I would get lost for hours in my grandparents’ attic. My grandfather had nearly all of the toys he’d grown up with, board games too, and so many photographs.”

“Wow.”

“Yes. I would fantasize about living in that time, between the wars. I have a cabinet full of things I’ve collected, if you’d like to see, after dinner.”

BOOK: Curio
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