Chapter One

 

 

MY BEST friend, Reyna, and I sat at the Barking Shark, celebrating Friday. Every week, like clockwork, we sat perched on tall barstools by one of the round tables in the corner, eating bar food for dinner and drinking beer. I had tucked my silk tie into my jacket pocket as I tried to keep stray bits of food off my starched dress shirt. I kept toying with the ends of my hair as I listened to her latest tale of woe.

“Azurri’s an asshole.” Reyna lifted her beer bottle and sipped, marking the top of the bottle with her red lipstick. “He’s a fucking asshole,” she elaborated somewhat, shook her head in disbelief, then patted her lips with a napkin. Her chestnut-brown eyes flashed in the dim light of the bar. “Of all the bosses I’ve ever had, he’s the rudest, nastiest, loudest sonovabitch I’ve ever worked for. He has absolutely no ability to delegate, he gives me the most boring grunt work imaginable, and then he complains over having to stay late.” I watched my best friend belch, covering her mouth delicately in discreet affectation. Her fingers, graceful and strong, hovered over a bowl full of complimentary nuts and pretzels. She stirred the contents with a long, red nail until she found a cashew, picked it out with precision, and ate it. She was crushing the nut between her teeth in an act of determined, stubborn catharsis. Her face was flushed, her scowl accentuated by severely plucked and angular eyebrows. I’ve always admired her waist-long, crimson hair that threatened to escape her ponytail and barely disguised a realistic tattoo of a life-size banana spider on the nape of her neck. It exemplified her “no guts, no glory” attitude I knew and loved back in college. If I weren’t into guys, I’d have asked her out on an official date a long time ago, but we’ve established that being best friends is our ideal relationship.

“Sorry, girlfriend.” I hummed, waving for another round of Belgian Lambic. “At least you have an interesting job description. You work with major accounts. What you do matters a bit more than just putting advertisements together.”

I pressed my lips into a tight line, suppressing a sigh. Two years out of college, I still cultivated the youthful air of innocent fun, every inch of me a bachelor, my sense of purpose still being somewhat fuzzy around the edges. My outward manner and appearance, which my critics described as “a mere air of civilized decency,” didn’t always correspond with my private endeavors—endeavors that were much aided by my five-foot-eight-inch athletic body. I am a creature of the night; when she was still alive, my mother used to say I should be wearing sunscreen because I tend to break out into wicked freckles. I am good at all kinds of things, but none of them seem to matter: I know climbing, lock-picking, and good beer. Aside from these important personal facts, I’d also like to share that my job is meaningless. After all, nobody gives a damn about advertising unless a video goes viral on YouTube. The product of my hard work becomes trash as soon as it’s removed from the mailbox, billboards get tuned out, flashy magazine ads are cut up for children’s school projects, and TV commercials get muted. My job is worse than watching moss grow.

Maybe that’s why I enjoy breaking into people’s houses so much.

Life can be incredibly boring at times, and in order to make it worth living, I need a bit of zing to spice up my dull routine. I’ve always been like that, and besides, I have always been able to talk my way out of anything. My mother used to say I’d make her go prematurely gray with my wild skateboarding antics. After a while, skateboarding wasn’t enough, and I started rock climbing. Small risks turned to bigger risks, except I didn’t want to endanger my climbing buddies by doing something really crazy on the rock face. Instead, I discovered the thrill of occasional and strictly recreational break-ins. Two years ago, I took my first souvenir. I knew it would be missed, which made the experience even more thrilling. Heightening the risk heightened the excitement. Last year, I wore a distinctive ring for a few days. I got away with it, which was almost disappointing, because it was a Superbowl ring. I ended up wiping my prints off and sending it to the local TV station, and its return made the news because anything having to do with the Steelers makes the news. I rode that high for almost a whole month.

I always prepare for my B&E with meticulous care. It has become a soothing ritual by now, and I don’t deviate from it, because without careful planning and execution, I wouldn’t be able to get away with my occasional adrenaline fix. I also have a strict code of conduct, and I adhere to it on every job:

Never take sentimental items (and keep them).

Steal only from the rich.

Don’t get caught.

I guess the last rule would be the most important one, and I’m pretty darn good at what I do, since I’ve been burgling for almost ten years and haven’t been caught yet. It all started in high school with my dog-walking job: I had been given the keys and unsupervised access to many a house in our Pittsburgh neighborhood. Taking the dogs out to do their business and burn off excess energy using a tennis ball and racket had given me unmitigated pleasure, along with much-needed extra cash. I’d been so good, so painfully responsible—until one time when I had forgotten to bring my client’s key. I had heard the dog whining by the door, his bladder full to bursting, but going back home would have taken at least half an hour. As luck would have it, I had been in the midst of reading Lawrence Block’s mysteries at the time. Since his protagonist is a burglar who moonlights as a soft-spoken bookseller during the day, I was no stranger to the idea of picking a lock. I had in fact been practicing at home using my sister’s hairpins, and my dog-walking predicament had seemed like a natural opportunity to try out my new, hard-won skills. If Bernie Rhoddenbar could do it, well….

I had chosen an awl from my Swiss army knife and my sister’s hairpins, which I carried around “just in case.” It had taken me ten long, focused minutes to make the simple lock click open. My muscles had trembled from exhaustion, but the thrill of victory had sent chemical happiness coursing through my veins. It had occurred to me at that moment I didn’t need a dog with a full bladder on the other side as an excuse to experience that heady, exhilarating feeling of victory again.

This formative experience allowed me to discover that there was no better way to get that awesome adrenaline rush than casing a place of residence, learning when it would be empty, and finding an illicit way of entry. Sometimes I just need to pick the lock to the front door. In other cases, more inventive means of breaching the fortress are necessary.

Another firm rule: No cat-burglar stuff. Cat burglars are people who break into homes while people are still there, preferably asleep. That’s not only creepy, it’s also dangerous. It’s a good way to get your chest ventilated with a pistol the resident inherited from his grandfather and still keeps around for sentimental reasons.

“…so he’ll be out of the office next week. Yay!” Reyna squinted at me. “Hey, Wyatt. Are you even listenin’? Azz-hole’s going on a vacation for a week, so he’ll be off my back.”

Vacation. A successful stockbroker’s going on a vacation.

Hmmm….

I knew I shouldn’t have even formulated the thought, but there it was: suddenly I was possessed with an overwhelming urge to break into Mr. Azz-hole’s chateau. Of course, that would break another rule: don’t steal from people you might know, even if only through other people.

“Maybe he’s just grumpy from his commute,” my mouth said, seemingly detached from my body.

“Nah,” Reyna said, tossing her head to get her long hair out of her eyes. “He walks to work. He lives right on the corner of Bellefonte and Espada Way—you know, right where that coffee shop is? I had to deliver some papers one day when he made me stay late, that jerk.”

Now, I knew better than to pursue this train of thought, but I have always had a curious fascination with knowing how other people work. Nothing gives me more insight into a person’s psyche than having a chance to walk through their private domain, to breathe the air they have breathed, and to rifle through their personal possessions. Just by looking through his drawers, I would be able to tell why Mr. Azz-hole is the way he is. His taste in books and clothing would most certainly be very different in private than in public. Much like my beloved literary protagonist, I also felt that extra frisson of excitement run through my body when I found the difference between my victim’s private self and the public persona they put on for our benefit.

I even know why I am so curious: my family and I aren’t terribly close anymore. I’m on my own, an adult child of a dysfunctional family, and peeking into the lives of strangers fills me with a sense of temporary satisfaction; it’s as though I belong again. My father won’t talk to me because I dated his arch-enemy’s son; my mother died on the operating table—under his arch-enemy’s scalpel—and my brother and sister are off in college.

No, I should stop.

Stop now. Go back. Take a trip out of town.

“What’s his place like?” my mouth asked Reyna while I sat aghast in my body, along for the ride.

 

 

MY TWISTED sense of curiosity led me to spy on my new target at his Shadyside address within a day after I found out about his impending absence. Then, after keeping an eye on his third-floor apartment over the weekend, I was gratified to see him—the bane of my best friend’s existence—exit the front door with an overnight bag in his hand. I shifted from foot to foot, thinking about having to use the bathroom exactly as my stomach began to squeak for lunch. Just about then he got into his taxi and left.

When somebody gets into a taxi with a piece of luggage, it generally means they’ll be gone for a while, but relying on this truism is unwise. It is always prudent to call before breaking in. And once you approach the residence, it’s imperative to ring the doorbell. This prevents the burglar’s unexpected contact with dogs, house sitters, irate spouses—and the local police department. I took a deep breath and went home to eat lunch. As I walked away, I began to formulate a plan. I knew what I would wear and what I would bring along, as well as how long it would be safe to stay. And, of course, I had to call his home number first to make sure he was really gone.

Jack Azurri’s apartment was in a turn-of-last-century apartment building lush with neo-classical embellishments chiseled into its stone façade by long-dead Slovak immigrants who made Pittsburgh their home. Typical for this part of town, it was five stories high, with wide parapets connecting the adjacent windows along each floor. Its façade was covered with a vining Art Nouveau floral motif, and its chased-brass-and-glass door pointed to the importance of its residents. In my professional career as a burglar, I have learned to assess the inner characteristics of buildings by examining their external architectural elements. Just looking from across the street, for instance, I could already see the ceilings would be tall. That could be both good and bad—it meant a longer rappel off the roof and a possible lack of an elevator. It could also indicate a resident population flush with cash and collections of small, easy-to-fence objets d’art they would never realize were missing. I’d take just enough to feel Reyna was properly avenged, and my profit would contribute extra funds to our best-friends tropical vacation.

 

 

THAT afternoon, nervous yet excited, I called the number for Mr. Azz-hole’s residence. Nobody picked up. If you want to break into a place, your best bet is to do it during the day while wearing a service uniform. People will remember the uniform, not your face. As for me, looking like a computer-repair tech with a messenger bag full of tools lent an air of verisimilitude to my disguise. The plan was to just walk up to the door and knock. If anybody opened, I would just pretend I’d gotten out on the wrong floor.

My dark blond locks and tendrils were temporarily tamed under a dark, microfiber skullcap. The repairman hat I wore over it had a sewn-in half wig with short, dark hair attached around the perimeter. My blue-striped shirt sported a tag embroidered with the name Lloyd and a logo for my supposed employer, WTF Service. Clad in navy chinos and black, crepe-soled shoes for a quiet approach and a fast getaway, I sauntered in, striving to look tired. Three in the afternoon on a Saturday, and to all uninitiated observers, I was stuck working.

The building’s doorman sat behind a chest-high marble counter, trying to follow a ball game on a portable television.

“Hey. What’s the score?” I asked, pitching my voice a bit deeper than usual.

He uncoiled his long body, carded his stringy black hair with his fingers, and spared me a glance. “Three-two, bottom of the sixth, bases loaded.”

“Oh man.” I let out an exasperated moan. “I coulda been at that game. Had to give the tickets away—just when the Pirates might actually win!”

“No shit?” The doorman, a Mr. Haus according to his name tag, turned toward me.

“Yeah. Then a client called. Wants to have a virus removed off his system and new RAM installed. Can’t get a thing done now. Poor jackass.” I blew out some hot air. “Sucks working Saturdays, but a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.”

“Yeah.” Haus’s eyes flicked back toward the game. “Strikeout! Shit!”

“Wow, damn. That coulda been sweet. Three more innings, though.”

Haus glanced my way. “They shouldn’t have benched Gonzalez. Here, you sign in here. Where’re you goin’?”

I signed my fake name and time of entry. “Mr. Azurri. Third floor.”

“He’s gone.”

“Yeah. He told me in no uncertain terms he wants the system running like a Swiss watch by the time he’s back, too. Loud bastard. He gave me a key.”

“He sure is a loud bastard.” Haus nodded with a sneer, his eyes on the game again. I peeled away from the counter and headed toward the elevator. Nobody attempted to stop me.

Azurri’s door had a regular lock and two dead bolts, which told me he knew a bit about not putting all his eggs in one basket. I knocked on the door and rang the doorbell with the knuckle of my finger, mostly for the benefit of his neighbors. Nobody opened the door to see who was in the hallway. I snapped on latex gloves and reached for the picks in the bottom of my tool bag. The regular lock was butter soft and turned almost on command. The deadbolts took a bit more convincing. After a bit of patience, I felt rather than heard a sharp metallic sound, and a tendril of thrill ran up my spine as the tumblers turned and aligned, and the mechanism yielded to my desires.

 

 

AS SOON as I was in, I locked the door again so nobody would disturb me. Then I did a quick walk-through. The apartment had two bedrooms, two bathrooms, a huge dining room, and a living room separated into what at first glance seemed to be a junkyard jammed with yard-sale goods with only a small, modern oasis of order with a flat-screen TV.

I’ve said before that I can judge the character of a person by the way they keep their dwelling and belongings. Looking around, I’d have guessed Mr. Azz-hole suffered from a split personality disorder. His kitchen was immaculate. His freezer contained not only five gourmet frozen dinners but also the fairly common stash of cash. Lots of people hid their emergency funds in the back of their freezer, thinking it was so clever and original.

Frozen assets: about five grand.

Not much for a successful stockbroker. I palmed the icy Ziploc bag and slipped it into my cargo pocket. The act of theft sent familiar, spine-tingling warmth across my shoulder blades, wrapping me like a warm hug. I was focused and my hearing sharpened to a point where I filtered out even my own heartbeat and the hum of the refrigerator. I froze for a second, halted by the sound of the elevator opening and closing again. A few moments of stillness passed before I dared to exhale and examine my surroundings with a keener eye.

One of the bedrooms was right over Bellefonte Avenue. The room’s dark, elegant furniture was complemented by several Tokugawa-era Japanese prints. The nightstands, the bureau—all clean. Azurri’s personal effects must have been minimal. How surprising, then, that the second bedroom—the one with a window onto the alley and the fire escape—was cluttered with boxes piled on top of one another, with full bags of material ensnaring my feet. I didn’t even bother wading in because I didn’t care for bruising my shins on odd pieces of furniture. I felt a brief sense of relief that I chose not to enter via the fire escape. Had I tried to climb in through the window on the other end of all that junk and make my way across in the dark, I’d have sounded like two raccoons fighting in a garbage can.

The bathrooms were both clean. The first was empty of towels and toiletries altogether; the other held personal items and first-aid supplies. A plush, black cotton terry robe hung on the door, waiting to wrap its owner in warm comfort. Its pockets were free of diamonds, cash, or contraband. So were all other potential hiding places in both bathrooms: the toilet tanks held only water, there was nothing terribly valuable in the cabinets, and the plumbing access contained only pipes and a dead spider.

The dining room, on the other hand, had every single surface covered with collectible objects of various sizes. There were four half-opened cardboard boxes on the floor.

How did this seemingly neat and tidy individual amass such a wealth of knick-knacks? I walked through, not spending much time. Only a few items caught my attention. There were four English silver candy dishes, circa 1820s, and since their design and quality varied, I picked one of medium value; the nicest one would have been the first to be missed. I found a fabulous carving of a tiger, probably an antique ivory piece with ruby eyes, but the way it was displayed told me its absence would be noted, so I left it.

Thirty minutes had passed and I knew I had to get out soon. Computer maintenance wasn’t all that complicated these days, and the guy downstairs might start to get suspicious. I looked around, frantic to find the magical third secret treasure to satisfy me. One more thing… just one more little thing.

My eyes fell on a midsize painting centered over the dining-room sideboard. The subject matter was neo-classical, but the quality… awful. I peered a little closer. A decent frame was being wasted on a cheap print with a paint-like acrylic layer on top. Mr. Azurri might have been an asshole, but judging from his other decorations, he was a man of taste when it came to art, so why would he display such fake trash in such a prominent location?

The frame seemed a tad thick. I jostled it with a gentle hand and almost jumped when it swung to the side on a column of piano hinges and revealed a small wall safe.

Bingo!

Safecracking was something of a hobby of mine, and my fingers itched with the desire to turn the dial and make the mechanism sing for me. Time, however, was not on my side. I closed the painting. There would have to be another visit.

 

 

TWO days passed since my illicit adventure. Tuesday at work paled in comparison with the thrill of the untouched safe in the wall, and I was aching to get out of the office. My venture had earned $5,380, mostly in hundreds—enough for a Caribbean getaway for both Reyna and me. The antique candy dish of wrought silver sat on my dining table, where I could admire its fine workmanship.

As I sipped my tea that night and ate chocolate-dipped orange peel out of my newly acquired and soon-to-be-fenced silver candy dish, I thought back to the apartment. I could never get in the same way again. And next time, it would have to be a night job. The summer was pleasantly warm, and it wasn’t unusual for people to leave their windows open. I had eased the locks of the old-world type casement window frames in the bedroom just so I could push my way in later tonight.

 

 

ELEVEN o’clock could never come soon enough as the far-away wall safe kept crooning its siren song. I barely resisted biting my nails. My microwave clock showed I still had ten minutes to go before departure when, impatient, I pulled on my lightweight, dark green jacket and a baseball cap, hoisted my black backpack, and headed out the door. I walked, using the next twenty minutes to calm down and control my adrenaline levels. I still could back out. I didn’t have to go through with it. The idea died young: it was like paying the entry fee to a public swimming pool and then talking myself out of getting into the water. There was no way I wasn’t getting inside that apartment tonight.

Two blocks away from Azurri’s apartment, I ducked inside an entryway and stuffed my jacket and baseball cap inside the bag. I caught my hair up in my black skullcap, hiding every single strand by feel alone. The black hood of my sweatshirt covered my head as I continued to my target area.

The windows in the corner of the third floor were dark. I dialed the number on my cell phone anyway, but nobody picked up. I sucked in a deep breath.

Shit. I was really going in. I did my phone-check routine, making sure it was on vibrate and the camera flash was off. I also set it on redial, just in case someone was home and I had to distract them—even though that never happened. As a last step, I covered the phone’s screen with three strips of electrical tape. That way, if I had to use it in the dark, I wouldn’t make a target out of myself.

The service entrance in the alley wasn’t equipped with an alarm, and the lock wasn’t hard. Somebody must have miscalculated, thinking there was no point protecting a self-closing door next to a Dumpster. I slipped in like a shadow and took the service elevator all the way up. There was a narrow staircase from the fifth floor to the roof. I took it to an unlocked door. It creaked only a little as I pushed it open, but even that little sound almost made my heart stop. I scanned the flat, asphalt roof and the vents and chimneys to my left. The edge of the roof was to my right. Working fast, I reached inside my backpack and slipped a climbing harness over my black cargo fatigues. I slid my silenced phone into a secure side pocket. The other pocket held my flashlight. I pulled a coil of climbing rope out of the backpack and fastened it to a sturdy chimney. Before I knew it, my feet were anchored on the rim of the ledge and, with the rope wound behind my butt and through my self-belay device, I leaned back over the abyss.

I grinned as the thrill of being suspended over a street threatened to overcome my senses— alone in the dark, unseen. Slowly, I slipped my soft black shoes down the side of the building in careful steps as I fed extra rope through my harness. The soles of my feet felt every contour of the vines and flowers carved into the acid-rain roughened stone, giving me extra purchase. I descended past the glowing fifth-floor window and the dark fourth-floor window, and I had just started to breathe a bit harder when, finally, the third-floor window appeared. I stood on the generous parapet and unclipped myself and let the rope hang by my side. Slowly, I pushed in the glass panes.

Lights from the streets illuminated the Spartan bedroom interior as I slipped in, landing in a crouch. The white carpet gleamed pale amber, reflecting the sodium lamps outside. I look around and froze.

The bed was occupied.

At this point, I should have climbed out the window and back up the building and gotten out of there. Yet I stood here, conflicted between running away and getting a little closer. The bed’s owner was sprawled naked on his back, his head and shoulders shrouded by the shadows. The stark city glow, barely impeded by sheer curtains, accentuated the shady contours of his trim abdomen and his well-muscled legs. I stopped in my tracks, feeling as though a Grecian marble statue from a nearby museum had been placed on this stranger’s bed, displayed for my eyes to feast upon. He was incredible, beautiful in the unearthly glow, and I felt like a lost man, captivated by the sight of his physical beauty. Even if I weren’t into guys, I think I would have gotten hard.

He stirred. I broke from my stunned reverie and looked around fast. The dark corner of the room to my left was my only hope, and then I realized a closet was there, with its door cracked open. I ducked into the shadows, moving fast. I blessed my luck and slipped inside, not making a sound. My breathing came in short, shallow breaths, and my heartbeat felt like a drum against the wall of my chest. I fought to maintain absolute silence. I heard Jack Azurri stir. His bed creaked. Then there was the soft patter of his feet, almost muffled by his lush carpet.

I hope he won’t kill me on sight.

I swear I’ll never do this again.

I heard him piss in the bathroom next to me, and I breathed a deep, silent sigh of relief. Maybe, just maybe, I didn’t have to voice any rash oaths just yet.

He flushed and washed his hands.

More footsteps, this time in my direction. Once again I began to negotiate with the powers that be.

“Fuck, it’s hot.” The low, sexy growl shot an arrow of heat down my spine.

I heard him draw the curtains aside and open the window even wider. The heavy evening air stirred, and even more light poured in from the street.

My heart sang in relief.

The mattress creaked as he got back in bed. So far so good. I’d have to wait until he was asleep before I could make my exit out the window, which he, being such a considerate gentleman, had opened even wider for my convenience. I didn’t dare attempt cracking the safe with him there. In fact, I barely dared to breathe. I waited, wondering why the hell he wasn’t on a vacation like he should have been.

Light snoring reached my ears, and I pushed the closet door to the side a little more, just enough to get out comfortably. With painful slowness I peeked around the wooden panel.

There he was, now fully lit by the dramatic glow from outside, legs spread apart, sporting a significant boner. You would think I would be no stranger to that part of male anatomy, but being single, it had been a while since I had seen a full-grown specimen. Also, I had never seen one from someone’s closet while hiding in there, trying to avoid detection. This situation had all levels of awkward written all over it, and as my mouth went dry, I felt a hot blush rise up to my cheeks. All the same, I wasn’t quite willing to look away.

Light pollution was the burglar’s enemy under ordinary circumstances, but right now I felt grateful for its ubiquitous, eerie glow. This guy, no matter what Reyna had to say about his personality, had the goods. Neon lights, flashing from outside, reflected off the smooth planes of his muscles as he twitched, giving a slight moan.

Sleep, dammit.

Sleep didn’t come to him easily that night. Soon, I saw his powerful thighs tense up as his hand crept to his groin. He reached his fingers to skim his stiff shaft. I heard him gasp and knew that even though he might have looked as though he was in the dream world, he wasn’t even close to being asleep. I sucked in my lower lip, working hard to control my breathing. Before me was a Greek god come alive, parts of him veiled in shadow, mysterious and beautiful. He was a gorgeous specimen of a man and— Well, I’d been raised better than to intrude, except I’d never seen a man as perfect as him laid out on display like this.

Blood rushed to my dick and I bit my lip as I struggled not to whimper with desire. Damn but was he ever so beautiful. He was a gorgeous specimen of a man, and I’d have done a lot to go out there and join the party—except I wasn’t keen on him introducing me to the local police department.

Slowly, my hand crept down, past my raging hard-on and inside the cargo pocket of my pants. I flipped my phone open and turned the camera on. There was just enough light for the device to record what was going on before me. Fighting not to touch myself, I kept my phone trained on the bed.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, a little voice nagged, reminding me of my solid upbringing. Surely taking a video of someone in such a delicate moment was beyond the pale. I had no words for it, no justification. I was a thief, though, and I’d never have this man—no chance of that. I could keep this little personal memento, though. An insignificant souvenir to be played a few times and then erased. I just could not avert my eyes as my breath turned into short, shallow pants.

Azurri slid a neck roll under his hips. He reached for something on the bedside table, and I heard a familiar click of a lube bottle. When he touched his delectable specimen of a dick again, I heard his hiss of pleasure. I wanted to be the one doing the touching. He undulated his hips in thrusts both small and intense as his slick fingers did the grab-and-twist around his shaft. Then he spread his feet apart and reached his other hand down to his ass. I saw him stroke around his hole as he let out soft, delicate gasps of pleasure. When I saw his finger plunge through the tight ring and heard him moan in reaction, I wanted to be the one that made him make sounds like that. Another digit… he gasped, panting and cursing, his two fingers embedded and pulling at his opening, his slick hand pumping his engorged cock. I hoped he’d come soon. I had only so much self-control, and my phone had only so much memory left…yesssss.

His voice was a growl and a moan and it resonated as thick ropes of jizz briefly luminesced in the neon lights outside. He pulled again and his hips rose off the bed in a spasm of pleasure so hard, it yanked the fingers out of his ass. More pearlescent liquid came out in an arc, then more again, and just when I thought he would either levitate entirely or throw his back out, his body crashed down onto the sheets and all I heard was the sound of his loud, raspy pants. A few minutes later, he sat up on the bed, still playing with himself. His eyes were closed and his mouth pulled back in a languorous smile, and all of a sudden, I wanted to know whom he had been thinking of as he came. I wanted it to be me, but there was just no way we would ever even meet. He was beautiful and relaxed, and I really wanted to toss the phone and