Authors: Lacey Savage
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Erotica
Amber Quill Press
Copyright ©2008 by Lacey Savage
Isabel Warren has never seen water so blue.
The river's azure ripples morph into striking sapphire the closer they come to the orange glow of the horizon. The colors remind her of other vibrant hues, of eyes she can picture so vividly that the faces of the men who haunt her seem real, even now.
But they're not real.
They're mere shells of heartbreaking memory.
A hundred feet directly below Isy, the water shines the color of a robin's egg. When she glances down, she can make out the reflection of the suspension bridge, black and wavering. If she stares hard enough, she can also trace her own mirrored visage, no more than a slash of black across the river's surface.
As Isy watches, the thin line representing her shimmers and pitches forward. She gasps, gripping the railing hard enough to send a jolt of pain into her wrists.
She isn't ready.
Not yet ... God.
Soon. But not yet.
Coward. Lousy wimp. When have you ever been brave? When have you ever lived your life the way you'd wanted to, instead of doing what you thought would keep you safe?
The taunting voice creeping around the edges of her mind continues to punish her as it has during the last seven months. This time, she's ready for it.
The night I gave myself to Connor and Trevor. I was brave then.
For once, the voice of her subconscious has no reply. She'd gloat, but summoning even the slight energy necessary to do that much would take more effort than she cares to give.
She gulps deep, anguished breaths of exhaust-tainted morning air. The streets are no longer as crowded as they'd been in New York's glory days, yet the steady flow of morning traffic still manages to create a wall of noise that shields Isy protectively from a city teeming with anger and loathing. She can almost feel hateful eyes boring into her back, as though the city itself wants to condemn her for behaving in a way that goes against the morals and beliefs of its citizens.
All that despite the fact she's done nothing more dirty or dangerous than follow her heart.
Yet, to the rest of the world, issues of the heart are irrelevant. The only thing that matters is the future of mankind. But Earth's fate is no longer Isy's concern. Her own future vanished seven months ago, like smoke in the breeze.
A wave of dizziness rushes up and pummels her temples, forcing her to jerk her gaze from the tiny speck that is Isy, but soon won't be.
The rising sun's glow dances off the metal bridge railing and hits her eyes, stinging them. She blinks rapidly to banish the surge of unwanted tears. She hasn't shed one teardrop in longer than she can remember, and she won't start now for fear that once she does, she'll never stop.
Since learning the heartbreaking news about Connor and Trevor, Isy has refused to let herself grieve. Her men are dead, and no fit of crocodile tears will bring them back. Loneliness, her constant companion, engulfs her. Endless horrible scenarios paint striking pictures of blood and broken bodies to terrorize her thoughts.
She's made so many mistakes in her life. But the one action she can't bring herself to regret is the one that has cost her the most. She knew what she risked when she gave in to forbidden feelings for a man sixteen years her junior. So did he.
And she was no better off admitting to the depth of her need for another man, one who stole her heart and gave it back to her in shattered pieces. He knew the risks, too. Accepted them willingly to be with her.
The reality of the consequences the three of them have brought upon themselves tears strips out of Isy's soul each time she inhales. She wishes she was brave enough to face each new day without them, but she isn't. Besides, where would she go? She's lost her home, her livelihood, her reputation. There's nothing left here for her now. Nothing but shadows and dust, and more memories than she cares to remember.
Coward. Cow-ard. Coooow-aaaaaard.
, she responds.
Once more, the voice in her head goes quiet.
Her breath comes much too fast, too shallow. The wind kicks up and lifts her hair away from the damp nape of her neck. She leans into the breeze, sucking in a gulp of cool morning air.
Of everything the world has to offer, she's missed dawn most of all these past few months.
While she could do nothing but stare at the dark walls of her cell, she often wondered what Connor and Trevor would have looked like sprawled beside her in deep slumber, their muscled bodies painted gold by the rising sun.
Did I hurt you? I'm so sorry, Isy. I don't ever want you hurt you.
This isn't the maddening voice of her subconscious anymore. It's a different voice now, one she has trouble recalling at times. But at this moment, it's clear, resonating in her head as though Connor had just leaned over to whisper in her ear.
She can't answer him, though she wants to scream to the heavens that he didn't just hurt her. He destroyed her. What was the use of showing her what she could have only to take it all away in the blink of an eye?
Who'd be that cruel? And why?
Those are the questions that haunt her endlessly. Questions with no answers.
And still she can't stay angry at him. At either of them.
Isy's eyelids flutter closed. Despite the chill, she can feel the warmth of Connor's skin as his arm snakes around her waist and pulls her close. Trevor's muscled chest presses against her breasts, stiffening her nipples. For a moment, she can't remember if this really happened or if she's just imagining it.
And then, in a flash, it all comes rushing back. The night they'd made love now seems like a lifetime ago. She remembers, bit by bit.
Connor had pressed a kiss to the nape of her neck. If she concentrates hard enough, she can feel his lips, warm and soft, brush her skin. He'd parted her ass cheeks and slipped his cock inside her tight passage, while Trevor's shaft had pulsed deep in her pussy.
Isy had squirmed in their arms, but they'd held onto her firmly, easing her through the flash of pleasure/pain that brought with it wave after crashing wave of pure ecstasy.
There'd been doubt, too, that night, but by the time they made her theirs it was long gone.
God, she'd been so terrified of the consequences. They all knew it would only take one pointed finger, one whispered accusation, and she'd be painted with the red-stained brush of morality. The world would label her a whore, or worse. Much worse.
A sinner. A miscreant. A depraved beguiler who thrives on seducing men and convinces them to participate in wicked acts of dirty love.
A few decades earlier, it wouldn't have been a crime for a forty-four-year-old woman to take a virile twenty-eight-year-old man and his friend into her bed. A taboo, maybe, in some circles. But not a crime.
Over the past five decades, ever since the outbreak of the S.O.S. virus killed ninety-five percent of Earth's human population in the span of ten months and left most of the surviving males infertile, things had changed faster than anyone could have predicted.
Today, women like Isy, women over the age of forty who fall in love and give themselves over to the emotion fully, pay the highest price to ensure humanity's survival.
Isabel's lower lip trembles. Tightness gathers in her chest and swells up in her throat. She opens her eyes and glances, once again, at the East River stretching out below her.
Sirens wail in the distance. The high-pitched sound breaks through the monotonous traffic noises, the honks and tired motors, and creeps closer with every strangled beat of Isy's heart.
Along the river's edge, old structures stretch their massive concrete heads into the sky. Between two long-abandoned high-rise office buildings hangs a sign. Words have been painted in black streaks on white canvas.
Female? Over 40? Fuck yourself. No one else will.
It doesn't say that, but Isy thinks it might as well. The slogan is much more artfully phrased. “
Celibacy is the gift women over 40 give the world."
She turns her head a fraction and catches a glimpse of the blue nose of an old-style Crown Victoria vehicle. Someone must have seen her and called in city officials. She can't endure another day of interrogation, another night spent in a dank cell surrounded by the scents of mold and rot.
It's just as well. She's dallied here long enough, wasting precious minutes dredging up the past.
So many mistakes...
She was wrong earlier, when she thought she wouldn't change a thing about that night. She would. She'd never fall asleep. She'd cling to her men with the ruthless desperation of a woman clutching life itself. In the morning, they'd still be there, with her, where they belonged.
But she doesn't have any such supernatural abilities, which leaves her only one choice. History, or fate, or whatever universal power propels people down paths etched in stone has messed with her for the last time.
It's Isy's turn to take control of her destiny. For the first time in months, she can make a choice that's hers and hers alone.
The anxiety tightening her chest bears down on her heart. This is more difficult than she expected. Taking that final step toward oblivion takes more strength than she anticipated.
But she can do it. And maybe, just maybe, she's braver than she gives herself credit for.
Nearby, someone in a vehicle slams on the breaks. Tires screech on the pavement. A car door slams shut.
Sucking in one last deep breath for courage, Isy scales Manhattan Bridge's metal railing. Pain shoots up her right knee, but what's one more ache when measured against a thousand others?
The sound of harried footsteps echo hollowly in her ears. A male voice calls out her name. Then another. Familiarity nags at her brain.
. An accent.
No, it can't be.
It's just her mind playing tricks on her, as always.
She spreads her arms, feels the sun warm her face. Connor and Trevor's ghostly forms envelop her, hold on tight. Their voices whisper sweet nothings in her ear.
She was loved once. What more matters?
The uncertain beginning of a smile tugs at her upper lip. Her heart thuds, heavy and laden with sorrow, against her chest. It tugs and urges her
down, down, down
, with every thrumming beat.
At last, she lets the insistent rhythm pull her forward, toward the eternal blue of the bottomless river.
Air rushes out of her lungs. Pain crashes into her chest, squeezes her heart.
Distant, dim echoes of church bells accompany her fall. The sounds penetrate the veil of memories wrapped around her. She can hear their metallic clang competing with the whoosh of wind rushing past her ears.
And then her head strikes the surface of the water, and she can't hear anything at all.
But she can see. Oh, God, in a flash, she can see everything...
Seven months earlier
"You belong with me."
"You don't know what you're saying! We'll be fugitives. You deserve to live a normal life. A life free of prejudice, free of hate. Free of me."
"If you think I'm going to let you go because someone, somewhere, considers you too dangerous to be with me, you don't know me as well as I thought. You're mine. And if we have to live our lives on the run, it'll be worth it. We'll be together. Forever."
Blue and red lights flashed across the stage. The endless whine of a siren echoed through the small theater, setting Isabel's teeth on edge. She gripped the seat's armrest tighter with her right hand. In her left, she clutched a moist tissue. Tears streamed down her face and splashed onto her silk blouse, but she was way past caring.