Gallo saved the document and shut down his notebook pc. He'd had
enough. Deadline or no deadline, he'd had enough. He needed a beer.
He needed several. But he'd waited too long to go out.
were closed for the night and now he'd have to put off until tomorrow
what he needed to do today-to find a dark corner at Paddington's
On Main and watch Erin Thatcher pretend he didn't make her sweat.
to feel that edge, that cutting, biting awareness that he'd learned
when living on the streets and honed during his years in lock-up.
It was what kept him alive and kept him going. Fueled his high-performance
artistry. Jump-started the creative bitch of a muse currently giving
A hell separate
from her usual attempts at rewriting every word he wrote. No, this
hell was harsh and demanding, a foot-stomping insistence that he
set aside what she considered an unhealthy concentration on the macabre
to write the book aching to break free from his heart. That's when
he had to remind her that he didn't have a heart-the very reason
he and Raleigh Slater got along so well.
and Raleigh had more than a thing or two in common, but it was this
latest obsession with a mysterious woman that was going to cause
the both of them more than a man's fair share of trouble. Raleigh's
problem was easily taken care of. Backspace. Delete. And his fictional
world was set dead to rights.
to Sebastian's well-ordered life required more than fancy finger
work. He needed sleep but was afraid his mental gears were wound
too tightly to shut down. The cigar hadn't helped.
music, the blues, usually soothing in a macabre sort of way, had
done nothing but speed up the beat of his heart, pumping blood into
parts of his body that remained on edge no matter the intensity of
his physical work-outs. Or the long hot showers that followed.
he'd heard her voice. After the music had stopped and before he'd
put out the cigar and moved away from the window to reread the pages
he'd written before restlessness set in. The sound had crashed around
him like lightning. White hot electric jolts had nearly taken him
out of his skin.
later, he wasn't sure if what he'd heard had been all in his head,
a sound from the city street below, or the cry of a woman in the
throes of pure bliss
laughed under his breath, muttering a curse that had nothing to do
with the woman living below him and everything to do with his obsession
instead. He shucked off his sweater, scratched the ball of black
wool over his chest before tossing it to the floor at the foot of
his bed where it skidded up against the clothes he'd worn yesterday
and the day before. One of these days he'd have to find time for
laundry. And, he cringed, for the dishes in the kitchen sink.
came next, the metal buckles hitting the hardwood floor with a sharp
clatter. He released the button fly of his jeans and headed for the
shower, stopping only to scratch Redrum behind the ears. The black
cat lay curled in a ball of sleep and fur on top of the room's high
touch, she stretched, yawned and returned to ignoring him which she
did so well. He chuckled before leaning down and, in a voice husky
and rough from rarely speaking to anyone other than his agent or
the cat, purred into her ear.
You do your job well." A job that entailed nothing more than reminding
him of his invisibility, the condition once a hardship but now a
cold shoulder was easy to laugh off without causing Sebastian any
grief. Or distracting his creative muse as Erin Thatcher had managed
to do. It was all Sebastian's fault that she affected him any way
at all. His obsession had actually taken him to the mailroom where
he'd discovered her name. She had no idea she'd picked up a stalker,
though he, at least, did his stalking in his mind.
Slater stalked women between the pages of the NYT best-selling horror
novels Sebastian wrote under the Ryder Falco pseudonym. But in Sebastian's
world, a solitary existence of his own making, an isolation nothing
like the years he'd spent forcibly confined by the courts in juvenile
hall, the only real stalking was done by Redrum.
cat did her damndest to sneak up on the pigeons that fluttered on
and off the loft's windowsill. Rats with wings, to Redrum's way of
seeing things. To Sebastian's, too.
the bathroom enclosure-the dressing area and separate custom-designed
shower space nearly half the size of his bedroom, he shucked off
his jeans and long-legged briefs, scratching all the body parts needing
scratching before stepping beneath the blistering spray that rained
down from three separate shower heads on three separate walls.
past sixteen years, since his release at age eighteen from the lock-up
where he'd spent his formative years, Sebastian had considered his
showers as much about relaxation and clearing his mind as about cleaning
his body. When he'd finally convinced himself he could deal with
permanence, he'd made sure to allow the money and the room for the
bathroom he needed to accomplish those goals.
many years he'd been allowed but a fifteen minute shower four times
a week, a shower shared with other boys considered a threat to society
or to self. At least one out of each week's four soap-and-self-defense
sessions resulted in a fight, a near riot . . . or worse. Sebastian
had managed to escape unscathed and undetected.
the day he'd been taken from the street where he'd lived alone since
the scrappy age of eleven, he'd made a promise to himself, a promise
that he would never look to another human being for security or sustenance
to himself, wondering if he'd really been eleven at the time he'd
been picked up by social services. Or if he'd been closer to twelve.
He'd changed his age with the changes to his body, finally deciding
on sixteen when his voice dropped and his balls dropped and the hair
on his face began to grow as thick as that in his crotch.
given a damn what age the courts declared him. He'd made up his own
mind, relying on remembered images of candles and crushed cupcakes
and little toy trucks and counted forward.
he had no idea how old he really was. All those ages and dates were
as much a part of his imagination as Raleigh Slater.
Or as much
as the fictional fantasies he wove of Erin Thatcher.
reached for the bar of soap and ran it over his chest and armpits,
working up a lather before stepping back beneath the spray to rinse.
He kept his eyes closed, the hazy fog so thick he couldn't see much
of anything. He could barely even breathe. His skin burned from the
stinging heat of the water. And from the mental picture of Erin.
A picture of her sharing the heat and the steam. A steam that intensified
as blood pulsed through his veins.
out from under the shower, moved to the back of the spacious enclosure
and reached again for the soap. Suds slid down his slick skin, through
the hair growing low on his abdomen into the thatch cushioning his
sex. His hand was warm and soapy when he took his dick in his hand.
He leaned his forehead on the forearm he'd braced on the wall and
spread his legs.
his back and his buttocks as he began to stroke away the tension
he'd had building for days. Eyes screwed up tight, he imagined Erin
on her knees, her short sleek auburn hair slicked back, her big silver-bright
eyes looking up into his, her mouth forming the perfect 'O', her
lips plump and pink and wrapped around him.
to get her on her knees. He wanted to see the cherry ripe tips of
her breasts pucker and pout. He wanted to know how much of her body
she shaved and how her baby bare skin would taste when he sucked
her into his mouth.
threw back his head and silently roared, straining beneath the release
that grabbed hard between his legs and jerked his lower body forward.
He thrust hard, thrust repeatedly, spilling himself into the soap-scented
steam when he wanted more than anything to spill himself into the
welcome warmth of Erin Thatcher's body.