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About a Quarter to Nine

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The ride home is interminable. Of all the thousands of cabs in the city of Chicago, we get the only one whose driver obeys speed limits.

This is the tenth circle of hell.

By mutual unspoken consent we sit as far apart as possible in the back seat. If I touch her right now my skin will ignite.

Kerry stares straight ahead, her expression tightly closed. But then she looks over, her eyes locking with mine. Her pupils are so dilated that black very nearly obscures changeable sea-green. The flush of her lips and cheeks owes nothing to cosmetics. Beneath her coat her chest rises and falls rapidly.

I wink, and a little of the tension dissipates. She laughs silently with a small crinkle of her nose, then resumes examining the back of the driver's head.

His license states that his name is Moustafa G______. Moustafa, whom I will gladly strangle if he stops for one more traffic light just as it changes to yellow. I speculate on my chances of pleading temporary insanity:

"I'm sorry, Your Honor, but deceased's actions were clearly impeding my opportunity to jump my girlfriend's bones for the first time."

Hmm. Not even Johnnie Cochran could work with that. Anyway, homicide is such a bad career move. Gut it out, Legaspi.

I'm digging through my wallet before he even makes the turn off South Lake Shore. When he finally rolls to a stop in front of my house I practically throw the twenty at him, scrambling out of the cab and yelling over my shoulder to keep the change.

My hands are shaking so badly I drop the keys twice. On the third try, a small hand closes over mine, steadying it enough to turn over the bolt. I fumble the door open, standing aside for Kerry to pass.

She hangs up her coat and purse in the kitchen and regards me, head tilted slightly to one side, with an attitude I would classify as predatory.

Oh, boy.

I haven't felt this gangly and awkward since I shot up to my adult height in eighth grade. There is a brief interlude as I tango with my coat, which has somehow gotten snagged on my scarf. One sleeve turns partly inside out and I wind up with that arm pinned behind me. "Um. Help?"

Laughter bubbling just under the surface, Kerry moves toward me, reaches out -– and tugs the other sleeve down so that now both of my arms are trapped. She pushes me backward against a wall, then masters my protests with a stupefyingly tender kiss.

With great reluctance, and not a little difficulty, I pull away. "Kerry, wait a minute. Don't you think we should discuss this first?"

My head swims as her lips work their way down my neck, stopping at the base of my throat as though to take my pulse. "So talk. Tell me what you're going to do to me." The tip of her tongue outlines my collarbone, dipping into the hollows behind it.

"That wasn't quite what I meant." Teeth nibble at the juncture of my neck and shoulder. "I guess what I was trying to say was, uh, we won't do anything you aren't comfortable with."

"Like hell." Kerry straightens up abruptly and scowls at me.

I blink. "What?"

"I want the full benefit of your purportedly vast experience."

She has a point. Besides, she's really cute when she's mad.

"Unless, of course, that's all exaggeration," she continues. "I mean, for all I know, you could be the most vanilla lesbian lover in existence."

Now, wait a minute. I raise an eyebrow. "I can produce references and testimonials, if you like."

Kerry frowns and for a few seconds appears to be considering that seriously. I have a sudden image of her poring over my address book -– the one with the underlinings and cross-outs and private shorthand symbols -– taking notes and making lists.

"Well," she says finally, "we'll waive the interviews for now, pending approval of your performance on a trial basis."

Cheeky little snot. I long to wipe that smirk off her face, but it's getting hard to breathe in this position and my shoulders are feeling the strain. She finally frees me from my impromptu straitjacket, then wraps her arms around my waist, clinging tightly.

It's the first indication Kerry's given tonight that she's still a touch uncertain, needs some reassurance. I hug her in return and brush a kiss on top of her head.

"Know what I really, really want to do right now?" she murmurs into my chest.

I shiver; her voice has a growly, breathy quality I haven't heard in it before. Visions of candle wax, leather, chains and handcuffs flit through my head. "No, what?"

"Take a shower."


"Want company?" I try not to sound too hopeful.

Kerry smiles bashfully up at me. "Not... just yet."

My heart turns over. I can't resist that look.

I am so in trouble.

"There's a spare bathrobe in the linen closet. Let me know if you need anything, okay?"


Kerry goes off, humming. She's a little off-key but the tune is unmistakable and I find myself singing along under my breath:

I get no kick from champagne;
Mere alcohol doesn't thrill me at all.
So tell me why should it be true
That I get a kick out of you?

Champagne? No, she doesn't care for it, calls it thin and peevish. I agree; we both prefer big meaty reds. Speaking of which... I head over to the wine cellar and scan labels.

There they are, the remaining stash: seven bottles of the 1998 Chateau Le Pin Pomerol. According to my ex-Margot, had it existed in Biblical times it would have necessitated an eleventh commandment.

Of course, she also says that I'm not supposed to touch it until after 2010. Margot does try so very hard to civilize me.

I decant a bottle to let it breathe and nearly swoon at the aroma. Decadent, that's the only word for it.

What next? Fire, to start with. Firelight has a marvelously aesthetic effect on Kerry's skin. Or what I've seen of it, at any rate; I've only imagined the rest.

Kerry must be in a Cole Porter mood; now she's belting "Always True to You in My Fashion." Fine, as long as she doesn't follow it with "Just One of Those Things."

Music. Ella would be too obvious, and anyway I have a feeling it might embarrass Kerry to know that I've overheard her. It's irrational but for some reason people who sing in the shower never seem to realize how their voices carry.

Aha. Those'll do. I slot six discs into the changer and set the controls to randomized play, lowering the volume, cranking up the bass and hitting Pause.

Kerry launches into a slightly wobbly rendition of "Miss Otis Regrets." I glance at the mantel clock; she's been in there nearly half an hour. Okay, so she's a clean-freak. Glad I showered at the gym after work.

Wonder if she's changing her mind?

Don't think about that. Busy, keep busy.

I'm getting hungry, Kerry must be, too. I go back to the kitchen, opening cabinets and scoping out the contents of the fridge. Hmm. Not exactly prepared to entertain.

A hand smacks me on my backside and I nearly tumble into the refrigerator, bumping my head on the corner of the freezer door. "Jesus!"

"Sorry." She manages to appear contrite and naughty at the same time. "Couldn't resist. Nice ass, Legaspi."

"Nice concussion, Weaver." I narrow my eyes at her in a mock glare as I rub my brow but quickly drop the pretense. Damn. She looks good, and she knows it.

The bathrobe is miles too long; the effect would be comical were it not for the fact that the light blue terrycloth is wrapped so loosely she's décolletée nearly down to her navel, emphasized by the angle at which she's leaning on her crutch. Her face, scrubbed clean of the minimal makeup she wears, glows with a rosy flush under her creamy complexion. The look in her eyes, shy yet eager, sets my heart racing.

"Here, I'll kiss it and make it better." Kerry sits me down and takes my face into her hands to press her lips softly to the sore spot.

She smells of cinnamon-scented soap; the heat of the shower emanates from her in waves. "Tell me, Kerry, is this how they're treating patients in the ED these days?"

"Is it working?"

As she bends over the opening of her robe affords me a captivating view of the valley and an expanse of flat stomach. "Oh, yeah."

"Guess I'll have to institute a new protocol."

"People would never leave. Know what that would do to your efficiency rating?"

Kerry chuckles. I pull her down onto my lap and hold her close, burying my mouth in her hair.

She sits bolt upright. "Kim!"

"What? What is it?"

"That's a six hundred dollar bottle of wine," Kerry says almost accusingly, staring wide-eyed at the Pomerol on the table.

"Erm... yeah."

Actually it goes for a bit more these days. I distinctly remember choking at the price when I bought the case but it's since appreciated steeply. Or it would, if I could keep my greedy peasant hands off it, as Margot says.

I reach over and pour us each a glass. "Which means you've got about a hundred bucks' worth right there. Don't spill it."

"We shouldn't be drinking this, Kim. Wine like this is an investment." She holds hers to the light, admiring the dark ruby highlights.

"To what end? So I can cackle over the hoard in my old age? Someone's got to drink it at some point or it's not worth anything at all. Why not us, and why not now? And besides," I add, watching her swirl her glass and inhale deeply as the legs flow down the sides, "taste it and tell me that's not the closest thing to an orgasm in a bottle you're likely to find in this lifetime."

Kerry takes a sip and lets it roll around on her tongue, sucking in a stream of air. Her eyes close as she lets the wine slide down her throat, her mouth parting slightly as she exhales.

"Oh, wow," she says, opening her eyes at last to catch me watching her.

This little preview of Kerry Weaver in the throes of passion is enthralling. "Funny, that's what most of the professionals' notes say, too."

"Ha. Here, tell me what you think." She takes another small sip, then reaches up to kiss me. Her tongue teases mine, softly probing, exploring the sensitive inner surfaces of my lips.

My heart is pounding so hard I can feel the pulse in my eyeballs. "Um... incredibly rich, wild and voluptuous."

"Are we still talking about the wine?"

"Mmhmm." Coherent thought is starting to desert me.

Supporting her with one arm, I let my free hand roam, stroking her hair, tracing lightly the fine scrollwork of her ear, the arch of her cheekbone, the angle of her jaw. She sighs when I reach her throat, brushing against the deep scars there -– must remember to ask her about those sometime -– her breath quickening as I run my fingers along the taut tendons of her neck.



"Unless you were planning to seduce me on the kitchen table, don't you think we should move someplace a little more comfortable?"

"What's wrong with the kitchen table?" I kiss her eyelids, which tickle me as they flutter shut.

"Actually, I'd prefer the dining table; I've been having fantasies about it since the other evening. But it's kind of cold for that just now."

I laugh, resting my forehead against hers. "Sorry. I can't seem to get anything right tonight."

She nips me on the tip of my nose. "Oh, I wouldn't say that." She teeters as she gets to her feet, grabbing my chair for balance until she can reach her crutch.

My own legs are pretty unsteady. "There's a fire going in the study. Should be nice and warm."

"Perfect." Kerry hugs me again and I revel in the soft, solid feel of her. "Don't forget to bring that with you," she says, indicating the decanter.

"Damned right. We're only two hundred bucks down."

She grins wickedly over her shoulder. "Come on, then. Don't you want to get your money's worth?"

How do you possibly refuse an invitation like that?

You don't, of course. Unless you're six kinds of idiot.

I take a sip from my glass. The wine is as splendid as I remember, but now it lacks the added sweet complexity of tasting it on Kerry's lips. Obediently I grab the decanter and follow her.

She's standing in front of the fireplace. All the other lights are off and it takes a few seconds for my eyes to adjust.

Stopping by the stereo I hit Play, filling the room with the blood-stirring sound of drums. When I look back over at Kerry my jaw drops.

The bathrobe is puddled around her feet. Her skin gleams in the dimness as though lit from within. She laughs, pleased at my reaction.

I approach, awed, circling her as though admiring a work of art. Lovely arms, the right one subtly more developed than the left, terminating in strong shoulders. High, nicely shaped breasts, with the merest suggestion of yielding to gravity. Beautiful back, long planes fitting together into a flawless curve. Outstanding ass, flat for a handspan below the small of her back but then flaring into muscular rounds. Compact, well-defined and very shapely legs. Interestingly, there is no sign of atrophy at her left hip.

"Who is this?"

It takes a second to realize she's referring to the music. "Kodo. Sort of a reinterpretation of traditional Japanese performance arts."

"Reminds me of Yoruban drummers, the way the rhythms shift and interplay between the instruments. I like it."

"Kerry. Anybody ever mention that you talk too much?"

She smiles at my deliberate echo of her words. "Anybody ever mention that one of us has entirely too much clothing on?"

Damn. I yank the tails of my shirt out of my jeans.


I freeze.

"I want to watch."

My heart starts beating again.

Kerry drapes herself over an arm of the sofa, settling into the cushions. Ingres' Odalisque comes irresistibly to mind. "Okay."

I undo one by one the buttons of my shirt, leaving it hanging open so she can see I'm not wearing anything beneath it. Next I unfasten my jeans, remembering to kick off my shoes before letting the worn faded denim slide down my legs. My socks wind up somewhere across the room, my underwear behind the desk. Finally, I slip the shirt from my shoulders, dropping it to the floor.

Her gaze travels leisurely, lingering a little here, zig-zagging there. I've been told often enough by enough women -– and plenty of frustrated men -– to be confident that the body she sees is pleasing to the eye, alluring; but it matters to me only that she finds it so, that of the thousands of naked female forms Kerry has examined in her lifetime, mine is the first she's regarded with desire.

She crooks her finger at me and I am drawn as though by an invisible thread. My fingers tremble as I pass them down her neck to the softness below, caressing the undersides of her breasts, the texture there so satiny the globes seem to elude my touch. She cries out when I draw one pink nipple into my mouth, alternately suckling, biting, and licking its pebbled surface. Its mate stands sadly neglected, so I lavish attention on it to rectify the situation.

Kerry is astonishingly vocal, I am enchanted to discover. She is also characteristically direct, steering me insistently downward. Her internal rhythm is geared linearly, undeviating from arousal to quickening to release.

We're going to have to work on that. Slow it down, Legaspi.

Allowing my hair to trail over her skin, my lips follow the same paths my fingers have blazed, then move upwards to breathe in the scent that is just beginning to bloom under her arms. I kiss their tender insides, all the way down to her hands, nipping gently the mound at the base of each thumb.

Fingers twine themselves around my head, stroking, grasping, guiding me back to her breasts. I bite down harder, the half-moon marks standing out scarlet against cream.

"Where the hell do you think you're going?"

"I need a drink." I retrieve my glass from where I left it by the stereo, then return to her side. Carefully I tip my hand, filling her belly button.

Kerry giggles, sending a blood-red drop coursing. I corral it with my tongue, pursuing its shining track back to its source. She laughs harder as I plunge and swirl to excavate every trace of wine.

I move down, paying homage to the tiny swell of her lower abdomen. She is by no stretch of the imagination overweight, but she has that little feminine softness there that I always find delightful.

Her thighs spread apart of their own volition and it takes all my willpower not to delve into the glistening folds right then. Why, I do believe you like me, Miz Kerry, you really, really like me.

I kiss down along the inside of one leg; she shrieks when a strand of my hair accidentally brushes her crotch. Reaching her foot, I plant a kiss on the instep and then suck and nibble each toe in turn.

" ... and this little piggy - "

Kerry grabs the back of my head. Hard. "This little piggy," she grinds out, "is going to cause you serious bodily harm if you don't let her come soon."

Maybe we should accelerate the program.

Cautiously untangling her fingers, I make my way up the inside of the other leg, moving with considerably more haste.

I sit her up on the sofa, piling more cushions beneath and behind her. Draping her thighs over my shoulders, I take a moment simply to appreciate the sight and scent of her arousal. The swollen outer lips of the pink crevice converge neatly, framing a clit plump and red as a berry. The inner lips of her nether mouth whicker at me, begging silently to be kissed. Parting the damp darkened hairs with my hands, I dip my tongue into her heat-slick wetness.

Kerry practically levitates at the first touch; it takes all my strength to keep her thighs braced apart with my elbows. I concentrate on the less explosive zones, tugging lightly at her labia and massaging her perineum until she settles down from a rolling boil to a simmer.

When I pass my tongue over her asshole, however, she erupts again, hissing, squirming and thrusting blindly as I stroke and probe the delicate rosy pucker. Whoa! When found, make note of...

Her cunt weeps copiously, soaking the lower half of my face with sweet-salty musk. Any idea I might have had of prolonging her torment is abandoned as an animalistic rumbling begins deep within her chest, wordlessly urging me on.

Oh, hell.

With my fingers I draw out her clit, pinching it between my tongue and upper lip, licking it slowly on either side, timing the pressure to the pumping of her hips. She gasps and whimpers, clutches at my hair, her thighs slapping haphazardly against my ears, her pelvis jerking increasingly out of control. There is a moment of unbearable tension, a gathering of forces, and then an inhuman cry rips from her throat, her legs flailing and convulsing for minutes on end.

At last Kerry lies still, unresisting, limp as a ragdoll. I sit on the floor with my arms around her waist, my head pillowed on one thigh, listening as her jagged breathing deepens and slows. Fittingly, the massive beat of Zoku crescendos to its thunderous climax, giving way to the joyful flute harmonies of Irodori.

A hand runs gently through my hair. I turn my face to look at her.

Her smile is beatific, if somewhat blurry. She starts to laugh, and reaches to pull me up, wrapping herself around me and burrowing into my neck.


Kerry proves to be a quick study, demonstrating her much-vaunted focus and attention to detail.

Not to mention her propensity for research.

"Where the fuck did you learn to do that?" I ask when I'm able to talk. I'm still collapsed bonelessly on the floor, contracting around her wrist like a second heartbeat.

"The staff at Good Vibrations were extremely helpful," she says matter-of-factly. "And the Blowfish people had some intriguing suggestions as well."

If she's getting advice from the Blowfishies, I'm really in trouble.

I can't wait to find out how much.

Just as soon as my legs work again.

Around midnight we wind up in the kitchen, naked, eating fat pastrami on rye sandwiches dripping with mustard and sacrilegiously swilling the last of the bottle of Pomerol.

"Kim, do you mind if I ask you something?"

We've spent the past three hours cheerfully violating one orifice or another and she still feels the need to be polite? I swallow a bite of pickle. "Sure."

"Why do you have condoms?"

Ah, so she hadn't just been checking out gloves and bottles of lube. I shrug. "Makes toy clean-up a lot easier."

"Toys?" Her eyebrows fly upward.

"In the bottom drawer of the large dresser."

Kerry drains her glass, dumps her plate in the sink and heads to the bedroom to investigate. A few seconds later, she pops back in the doorway. "Well? You coming or not?"

"Guess that's up to you." I get up and toss the remains of my sandwich into the trash.

I'm starting to expect that mischievous glint. "You got that right."


"Good lord!"

I look to see what she's found. Oh... hrm... "That's an -– "

"I know what it is." Kerry eyes me appraisingly.

"Oh, no. Don't you even think about it."

' "Never underestimate the elasticity of the anal sphincter,' " she intones, evidently alluding to some private joke.

"I can assure you that this sphincter cringes at the mere sight. That's not even mine. It belonged to my ex-Barbara."

"Your ex-Barbara?"

"Some people have ex-husbands, ex-wives or ex-parrots. I happen to have an ex-Barbara. We dated for a couple months, a few years ago. She was a real size queen when it came to... accessories."

"So why did she leave it with you?"

"Um... she didn't, exactly."

"Acrimonious breakup?"

"No, we're still friendly."

"You mean you kept it? What, as a souvenir?"

Kerry does have a way of cutting to the heart of the matter. "Well, it was one of her most salient traits," I say lamely.

She gives me a sardonic look, then goes back to poking through the contents of the drawer. "Now, this is interesting. Belong to any of your exes?"

"No, no, that's definitely mine."

"Care to find out if the equipment performs satisfactorily under experimental conditions?"


"I'm new at this, remember? I'm still trying to figure out if I even have salient traits."

You most certainly do. "In the interests of science and the furthering of knowledge, by all means, let's."


My stream of consciousness is a jumble of thought and sensation. Kerry is sprawled over me, an arm flung across my midriff. When I shift position a fraction, she comes awake, her entire body stiffening until she remembers where she is.

"Sorry, didn't mean to disturb you."

"It's okay. What time is it?"

"About 3:00."

"I should get going."

"Stay. Please?"

It's not much of a struggle. The air is freezing and her limbs are heavy with the need for sleep. "For a couple more hours, anyway."

"Okay." I scritch my nails lightly up and down her back; she sighs and is soon breathing deeply and evenly once more.


At 6:00 I acknowledge the futility of remaining in bed and, holding my breath, carefully extricate myself from the small warm body. She doesn't stir.

I grab a T-shirt and a pair of sweats, dressing as quietly as possible in the bathroom. Even though I've only catnapped through what was left of the night, I feel strangely energized and absurdly happy.

Closing the bedroom door softly, I go downstairs to the study, picking up articles of clothing and various and sundry accoutrements. In the kitchen I wash up the dirty dishes, then remember I have nothing to offer Kerry for breakfast.

Setting a pot of coffee to brew, I pull on my shoes, not bothering with a coat to run the block and a half to the corner grocer's. I return with frozen bagels, half a dozen eggs, frozen concentrated orange juice. Not ideal, but that's what I get for being too lazy to go down to the Co-op on 55th.

I peek into the bedroom. She's still asleep, though now the covers are thrown back and she's clutching my pillow.

I sit on the bed beside her, shaking her gently by the shoulder. "Kerry, honey, I think you need to get up."

Her eyes fly open and for a moment she stares wildly, disoriented. Then, with a movement almost too quick to follow, she reaches down and pulls a sheet over herself.

After last night this display of belated modesty is more than a little amusing.

"Kerry, it's almost 7:00."

"Oh." She scrubs at her face. Her hair stands up drolly in irregular tufts. "Guess I overslept. Um... can I borrow a blouse or something?"

"Sure. Take whatever you need. I'll be in the kitchen."

" 'Kay."

I leave, humming.

Birds flying high you know how I feel
Sun in the sky you know how I feel
Reeds driftin' on by you know how I feel
It's a new dawn
It's a new day
It's a new life for me
And I'm feelin' good