Chapter 22: Feeling Safe

 (( warning: r18+ ))

Sylvia stared at Dominic’s letter, waiting for his footsteps to fade into the living room, before gripping the bathroom counter behind her and panicking.

It was such a thick envelope, too, with three or more pages sealed in it, at least. He’d written a thesis for her, someone who, by her accounts, he still disliked very much. How much hatred must’ve been inked onto these papers.

She peeked down the hall to make sure he’d truly left before slipping out towards the foyer. Everyone was now in the lounge and she didn’t know if she’d be able to hold a conversation with such information weighing her down.

Was this a favorable letter? A hateful one? “If you can read this by tonight.” How on Earth would she find the time to read it tonight without people seeing? And why the time limit? What would happen if she didn’t read it by midnight? Would she be gunned down? Put on a list?

She hid in the foyer and found Vincenzo fiddling with the garland on the front tables, finished with dinner and unsatisfied by the festive placement.

“Oh, Sylvia,” he said. “Can you tell me if this looks right? I can’t be certain if it’s centered.”

“Not right now. Look.” She handed him the letter. “Dominic just gave this to me. He said he wanted me to read it by tonight.”

Vincenzo took the envelope like it was laced with poison. “Dominic doesn’t write letters.”

“I know. I’m scared of what’s inside.”

“He’s such a dramatic fellow. Do you want me to read it instead?”

“Let’s read it together,” she said. “He never said you couldn’t read it.”

“Let’s hope that’s the case, because I can’t take him going dormant for another week,” he said, and pulled out the first page.

 


To Sylvia-,

I want to address this first and foremost: I’m not a forward man.

I’ve never been. I find it difficult to express myself and hate being accepted by people like you. I find that kind of acceptance unacceptable.

I don’t mean to sound rude. I know we share similar paths. I just can’t be caught straying off the path people expect me to take. I’m not like your or your friends. I can’t be caught again.

Here’s the truth:

In my final year of college, I was sent to prison for sodomy.

His name was Thomas. We met in one of my art classes. I understand why you people congregate at the Black Kitten. It feels safe, and welcoming. I found that with Thomas. We had a sort of connection—we knew the other was different, as if each of us had signs pointing to our shameful fixations in our hearts. Sometimes, I dreamt of marrying him, as if a world like that could ever exist. It was foolhardy that I pursued him for 2 years. I know that now.

One night, he climbed into my bed and held me. He was solemn—he kept apologizing for nothing. I didn’t understand his sentiment. I’d thought he was apologizing for loving me.

Later that evening, my door was unlocked from the outside, and the two of us were arrested.

He testified against me. To save himself, he said I’d taken advantage of him due to me being two years his senior and that he was too afraid to leave me in fear of being expelled. He explained our nights together in detail. He exposed every secret I told him to a room of strangers. I was mortified. I felt ripped open, the feeling of hollowness remaining with me to this day. For two hours, I watched as my world disintegrated through my fingers and was washed away in the coming tide.

When it was my turn to testify, I came up to the podium and wept.

He graduated from Yale with honors while I endured hard labor for five years in prison. Supposedly, his parents had found out about us and did everything they could to make sure Thomas would be spared the humiliation of being with me. I have not spoken to him since that trial. I don’t know how much of that was true.

When I was free, my life had become irreparable. My family had disowned me, I’d been expelled from Yale. After struggling to find work, I moved from Connecticut to New York in hopes of restarting from scratch. And I found that new path with Campo. He expunged my past from my records and never mentioned it to anyone. He gave me a chance to restart.

Then Vincenzo brought me to the Black Kitten, and my world was shattered all over again.

This’s why I can’t be like you. I can’t boast about my love for the same sex without feeling the shame and guilt tarnishing my heart and filling my head with hate. I want to feel normal again, and that means dousing out these feelings until they’re extinguished for good.

But I don’t think I can hide from Laurence any longer.

I hope you understand where I’m coming from with this. Again, I apologize for stooping so low and writing to you about my feelings. I thought you’d understand it better this way. When you finish reading this, come find me, please. I think I’ll be too afraid to come to you.

Best regards—

Dominic Scordato


 

Sylvia lowered the letter after Vincenzo leaned back and sighed, “Fuck.”

Tears formed in her eyes, ruining her eye makeup for the night. His story was a tale she’d heard countless nights at the Black Kitten. Of betrayal, of the humiliation they faced in some form or another as a result of being their true selves in public. She’d never been arrested, but, oh, how many close calls she’d faced. Laurence himself had once been arrested for dressing femininely. He’d served six months, though his time hadn’t been as breaking after he’d romanced the officer in charge of him.

“Oh, Vincenzo.” She lay her head against his. “What shall we do?”

“I don’t know. I never knew about this. I never pinned him as…” He read over the middle of the letter. “We should, uh, support him.”

“Agreed.”

“Nothing but encouragement.”

“And nothing out of the ordinary. We need to tell him he’s loved without being forthright because he’s—”

She turned as quickly as Vincenzo did, for the wooden steps behind them creaked loudly and slowly, announcing Dominic’s arrival.

He bowed. “Excuse me. Luis was asking if Sylvia could play for us, on the piano.”

“Oh, of course,” Sylvia said, trying hard to relax her hurting face. The letter was still in her hands.

He gave another low bow before leaving as quietly as he came.

“I should’ve said something,” Sylvia mumbled.

“I should’ve told him everything was okay.”

“What do we do now?”

“What’s there to say, really? ‘I’m sorry for your traumatizing past that’s still lingering over you’?”

“‘Join the club’?”

Vincenzo, fretting through nervous tics, slowed to a stop as he looked up questioningly at her.

Sylvia waited for him to say something before saying herself, “Oh. I meant for me.”

“Oh.”

“I mean…”

“No, I understand, We share…similar circumstances.” He smoothed down his hair. “I’ll go get everyone drinks.”

She let him go and prepared herself to face her friends, but that look he’d just given her, it was the same look Dominic had given her before giving her his letter: something more needed to be said, but he was stopping himself from saying it.

Why oh why were these gangster boys so secretive with their feelings? She knew why, what with their work practices and all, but goodness, she was going to tear her hair out. She was a bit of an open book, occasionally a blabbermouth when she got too excited. She only hoped her friends would be able to tell her everything without silencing themselves in fear of getting hurt. She figured it was something too difficult to describe.

Like something his father had done.

Or that he liked boys as well as girls.

That’s what she always figured, that his preferences swayed both ways. She’d act surprised if he told her that.

She earned a hoot for Luis when she entered the room. He’d been the first one to pop open Vincenzo’s liquor stash and had a half-finished bottle at his feet.

She took her seat at her piano. After a sip from Vincenzo’s offered glass, she better relaxed enough to make up delightful piano melodies. Soon, it began to snow, and up against the window with their bellies full of Christmas dinner, tree twinkling like the night sky, it made her soft. The ups and downs she’d been through this month leveled out into a peaceful flat she could rest on for a minute.

She wished people like her didn’t have to extinguish their lights in order to live like everyone else. She wished she could’ve told Dominic that, but she now knew that he didn’t take well to confrontation. He was a reserved man for personal reasons, and she’d accept that and have to find new ways to show him how much she loved him.

Maybe she’d bake him cookies. She’d have to ask Nonna for a recipe.

Upon reaching the end of one song, she arched her stiff back and took a sip of her tequila cocktail. Vincenzo was talking with his Nonna, who looked asleep on her rocking chair, and Luis was cuddling with his wife and child while Bobbie was getting up for more dessert.

When Sylvia started a new piece from scratch, Dominic got up, walked around Laurence’s couch, and tapped his shoulder.

Only Sylvia saw it, and Vincenzo. They were keeping an eye on him in case he ran.

Laurence, unreactive, took a sip from his coffee mug, wiped his lips, then got up and followed Dominic into the kitchen.

Both Sylvia and Vincenzo looked at one another, wondering and waiting for if and when. None of it might’ve been their business, but that didn’t stop them from being ever so curious about their friends becoming more than friends.

She slowed down her song, Vincenzo promised to get Nonna’s some cookies, and, like Laurence tethered to Dominic, Sylvia left alongside him.

Their hushed voices lured them into one of the kitchen corners that held one small table and a chair beneath a telephone and a cross mounted to the wall.

Dominic was sitting at the table while Laurence was playing with the hair around his ear, too affectionate, she felt, for either man.

Vincenzo held Sylvia’s hand as the two of them listened in.

“So you told her?” Laurence asked.

“With the letter, yes.” He took his hands. “I ran from them. I should’ve explained myself.”

“No, you told them, that’s all the matters. What you dealt with in your past was traumatizing and no human being should’ve gone through what you did. Having the strength to tell others who’ll understand will make you feel less alone.” He placed his lips against his head. “I’m proud of you.”

Dominic turned his head but didn’t make an effort to push him back.

“Was that too much?” Laurence then asked. “Nobody’s here.”

Sylvia took cover around the corner just before Laurence noticed her. Vincenzo pressed his lips together, silent.

“Look around. You’re safe. And it’s not like anyone here will persecute you.”

“That’s what you think.”

“Don’t worry about that woman in there. She—”

“It’s not just Ana. I have this paranoia that people are always watching me, waiting for me to slip up. It’s why I have so many curtains and locks. It’s why I don’t speak up.”

“Well, I better have the keys to some of those locks now.”

A pause. Someone touched another’s shirt, running their hand down their back.

“Shouldn’t I?” Laurence asked.

“I’m not sure,” Dominic said. “Nobody’s had my keys since college.”

“I’ll be different, you know that.”

“I know. I’ll…I’ll think on it. Is that okay?”

“Take your time, baby.”

Dominic chuckled, and then, after the shuffling of feet, Sylvia heard two pairs of lips smacking together, quietly, in fear of someone listening.

Her heartbeat skipped. She should’ve left them during such an intimate scene, but hearing them from the shadows stirred something strange inside of her.

Vincenzo had had enough, though. Getting up, he lifted her up and stepped away. He went further down the hallway so they were far enough away. Then, cupping his hand around his mouth, he called out, “Dominic, where’d you go?”

In seconds, both men came out of the kitchen, folding down their dress shirts with new flushes on their faces.

“Oh, there you two are. Did you want to open presents now?”

“Uh, sure,” Laurence said, and Dominic nodded along with him.

Vincenzo, too ready to run away, got to the Christmas tree first and organized the presents, leaving Sylvia alone with Laurence and Dominic in the hall.

She folded the letter in her sweaty hand. She had to do it now. She needed to be there for him. She…

Stepping in front of him, she took Dominic in her arms and hugged him.

He tensed up for the briefest of moments before taking her back in his arms.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

“Nothing was your fault. I simply hope you can understand where I’m coming from now.”

“Oh, I do, I do. I’ll be here for you now, in whatever way you feel safest.”

“Thank you. You’ve always been there, I was just scared of taking the next step.” He hugged her tighter, showing her his true strength. “Thank you.”

“Oh, darling.” She kissed his scratchy cheek. “We’ll be here for you. Vincenzo and I both. He read your letter. I hope that was okay.”

“I was hoping you’d do that. I couldn’t imagine telling him in person.”

“Have more self-confidence. We’re your friends.” She smiled. “Not that I’m one to tell anyone that.”

“You’d be surprised. You’ve given me a lot of confidence.”

“Alright, alright.” Laurence, jokingly placed his hand between them. “Mits off.”

“Oh, are you already claiming him?” Sylvia teased.

Laurence gasped and gently hit her. “Stop that! That doesn’t leave this house, do you understand me?”

“So it’s true? When did this develop?”

“It…still is, technically. It’s a long story, Sylvia. Leave us be to sort it out. Quietly, I might add. No blabbing about it to the press.”

“Never, dear, but might we cut your cake to celebrate this coupling?”

“Spare me, please,” Dominic said, and finally cracked that lovely smile of his.

They all migrated closer to the Christmas tree with their bowls of ice cream and brownie mixes. Nonna turned on the phonograph and played a lovely classical piece by her rocking chair. Sylvia tapped her heels to the song, mood now lighter and happier than ever, now that all of her bridges had been rebuilt. Dominic and Laurence were now sitting side by side, fingers almost touching. She pictured flowers and ribbons on that bridge.

Vincenzo became their Santa while Dominic and Luis acted as his elves. They passed out presents and bags and stockings full of candies and boxes of jewelry. They slowly discovered Mezzanotte hiding beneath the tinseled tree, tail flared at the sound of so many people now staring at her. She darted up the stairs when she was discovered.

Crisp foil soon mountained around them. Boxes built up at the fireplace for Dominic to shovel into the fire. Nonna, who had no interest in her presents, rocked in her chair until she dozed off.

Luis and Laurence were the most expressive with what they received. Luis, ecstatic at his new watches, shoes, and books. Laurence, taken aback and almost insulted that he was given a fur jacket, beautiful golden jewelry, and a record with someone’s signature on it.

“I-I didn’t know if you liked him,” Dominic stuttered. “I’ve had this one in my collection for a while, and I know you like singing his songs at the Kitten.”

“I like him?” Laurence repeated. “Like him? Are you—This’s Earl Hines’ signature! Is this real? Are you playing me?”

When he shook his head that no, that it was real, Laurence squeaked and gave him a hug. “You’re incredible! Earl Hines, really? Now my presents are mere pennies compared to yours.”

 “I wouldn’t, uhm…” He couldn’t form another cohesive word until Laurence let go, which took two more present openings and a sip of champagne.

“Look at that, you tongue-tied him,” Mitsuko teased. She ripped open a box from Vincenzo. “What is this now? Some record signed by my favorite artist? I doubt you got Leyendecker’s autograph.”

“I think you’ll like it,” was all he said.

“Oh, will I now?” Taking out one of her blades, she tore open her gift and slid out the box.

It was a fancy box with swirly patterns around the edges and calligraphy describing a type of knife inside. The blade itself looked bigger than her usual one, but the metal was wavy, the handle, a mix of wood and polished gold.

“It’s an Italian brand I found in Manhattan,” Vincenzo explained. “I thought you’d like it.”

She tested the opening and closing mechanism of the blade, twirling it around her thumb just like a professional. “Feels nice. Thanks.”

“And you like that?” Ana asked, then added, “Not that I’m judging.”

“Clearly,” Mitsuko said. “What you find in cooking and Sylvia finds in playing piano, I find with knives. They feel safe.”

“And that’s fine by us,” Luis said, and gifted Bobbie a bottle of alcohol from the 1840s. He marveled at the date and kept spinning the bottle to read its ingredients, eyes sparkling like a newly poured glass.

Sylvia tried opening her presents slowly. She knew she clearly had the most amongst the family. While Ana received baby clothes and Dominic received cash and suspenders, Sylvia found a necklace made of real Japanese pearls, three new dresses, a new fan, a set of heels, a journal, fountain pens…

She hid the pearls before anyone noticed them. She felt the weight of each bead against her thigh.

Vincenzo frowned at her reaction. “You don’t like them.”

“No, I do.”

“Sorry. You don’t have to open any more if you don’t want to.” He took away one of her bigger presents.

Sylvia scratched one of her ribbons until it spiraled into a curl. She couldn’t imagine not being able to show someone how much she loved them. She wrote it down, she expressed it, hugged them, kissed them. But if she couldn’t do any of that, and if she had the means to buy extravagant things…

She put on the necklace. “It’s beautiful. I just didn’t think it’d go with my outfit.”

Vincenzo’s smile was shinier than any of the diamonds he received, how his lips crinkled in the corners and how his eyes glistened. She couldn’t help herself as she leaned forwards, and he couldn’t, either. He leaned up and into her kiss.

She tried timing herself and pulled back when she found herself losing breath. If they were alone, she would’ve kept going until her knees hit the floor.

“I’m glad I came,” Dominic said. He was surrounded with records and suits and expensive shoes, and Laurence, who’d found a way to get closer to him without physically touching him. “Back at the Kitten, you know, I was worried something might’ve come up.”

“Did something not come up?” Mitsuko said playfully, relaxing into her pile of boxes like a queen.

“Just with the men that came in, I mean. I don’t know if they saw me. I was concerned that they might’ve found me out. I don’t want people knowing.”

“What men?” Vincenzo asked.

“The two shadow creatures,” Mitsuko said. “You don’t remember them?”

“Shadow…” He uncrossed his legs. His tone dropped. “What men?”

“I believe their names are Drago and Luca,” Dominic said. “They’re friends of your father. They were looking for you.”

 Sylvia remembered no such men at the Kitten, but whoever these men were, they scared Vincenzo enough for him to go statue-like still.

“They tried getting at you,” Mitsuko added. “They wanted to talk with you, but I shooed them away. They looked inhuman, the way they were sizing you up when you were drunk out of your mind, like prowling dogs looking for an easy kill. I tried telling you about them when I drove you home, but you weren’t making sense. I thought you’d remember that.”

“And I chased them out before they could do any harm,” Bobbie said. “They were in and out like a flash. I didn’t even see their car leave.”

Vincenzo stared into the floor with swimming eyes, trying to remember such an event but being unable to. Before any of them reminded him of more, he got up and started closing the blinds around them. A snap of his fingers and Luis and Dominic were up and tending to the doors, making sure they were locked tight.

“Vincenzo?” Sylvia asked.

“Those are the names of my father’s henchmen,” he said. “They do his dirty work when he doesn’t want to get his hands dirty. What did they say they wanted?”

“You, I think,” Mitsuko said.

Vincenzo clicked his tongue as he tested the locks on the front door. “I want all of you to stay here tonight. My father’s not man enough to do anything dangerous this close to Christmas, but I’m not risking your lives on that gamble.”

“Are you serious?” Mitsuko asked. “Is this turning into a sleepover at Vincenzo’s house? Again?”

“That’s right.” Killing off the joyous mood, he ordered Dominic and Luis to shut the rest of the blinds and to make sure all the windows were locked upstairs.

“Where’re we all to sleep?” Bobbie asked, trying to clean up the living room before Nonna did.

“Upstairs. I have four extra bedrooms you can use. Sylvia will stay with me, Nonna will stay in her room. Luis, you and Ana will stay together with Sophie. Mitsuko and…” He blinked once, processing. “Mitsuko and Bobbie can stay in one bedroom together, while Laurence and Dominic, if you don’t mind sharing a bed, you can have a room to yourself. That, or one of you can take a couch.”

“Thank you,” Laurence said for both of them.

Almost everyone had little enthusiasm to open the rest of their presents. Vicnenzo left to make a phone call. Sylvia thanked Dominic for the perfume he’d bought her, Bobbie tried his new cigars. When they all reached Sylvia’s letters—many of them had saved them for last—they read through her love quickly and thanked her.

After they cleaned up the living room, they each said goodnight and left to their separate rooms. Vincenzo put Nonna to bed before taking a head count of each of his friends. He kept staring down the stairs to the front windows, almost expecting someone to arrive late to the party.

Sensing someone was watching him, Vincenzo turned and got snagged on Sylvia’s eyes.

“You okay?” she asked.

“Do you remember the men who came to the Kitten?”

“I do not.”

“I don’t, either. I was so drunk, I don’t remember almost…” He sighed. “I’m tired.”

“Let’s head off to bed. You’ve been working hard, planning all of this together.”

“I don’t think I’ll be getting any sleep tonight,” he forewarned.

In their room, Vincenzo took his hands and pushed out on his face, stretching his features as he groaned in annoyance. “This’s aggravating. My father, sending his lackeys to monitor me like I’m a child? I have to go to Campo about this. I can’t keep putting it off. This week, without a doubt. He can’t keep subtly threatening me like this.”

“I’m sorry,” Sylvia said on instinct.

Hearing her apology, Vincenzo touched her cheeks. “It’s not your fault. It’s the reason why I’m not seeing them this Christmas. My father is so…controlling and hates everything I do. I can’t stand knowing he’s now trying to spy on me, like…” His touch fell. “You know, knowing the type of man he is, it’d be foolish to think he wasn’t the man attacking our homes.”

“You think he’s the one who attacked me in my apartment?”

“And the one who tried breaking in here a few months ago.” He dropped his forehead onto hers. “Dominic was right. It’s like everyone’s watching and waiting for us to slip up.”

“I understand, but like Laurence said, we’re alone now. Just the two of us.” She traced up his arms. “We’re okay.”

The kiss he gave her, either from the realization that’d just dawned over him or from the night they had, sent her back into bed. Different than his shyer kisses, he kissed her like he’d never kiss her again. She hoped that wasn’t the case. It was nice to be kissed like you’d be missed.

Mezzanotte meowed at them, trying to secure her spot at the end of the bed. Vincenzo shooed her away.

Sylvia fell on her back, mind racing about what he wanted to do with her. Titillated, she gave up her vulnerability and let her arms go slack around her head.

His breathing tickled her lips. “I need to…relax. For two minutes. No more drama. No more prep or sudden circumstances. I just want to be.”

Sylvia tapped her heels together, then kicked off her shoes and hoped this daft man would take a hint and tear off the rest of her clothes.

He didn’t. “And now I’m in no mood to do anything. I’m too mad to play, too nervous to relax. I’m built up. I want to release.”

Sylvia gulped.

“And,” he said, “I think I can only do that with you.”

She sighed into a heated moan, twisted her fingers deep into his thick hair, and yanked him down to claim his lips.

He braced atop her with both hands, keeping himself from falling on top of her. He smelled of sugar cookies and cologne and all she wanted to do was devour him and every bad feeling he was feeling. She had no memories of these men that tried to get him, but she saw how upset it was making him. If only she could use her talents to get his mind off of things for twenty minutes. If only he’d let her.

Vincenzo licked her upper lip to end the kiss. “Can you…go into my bathroom and wash up?”

She rubbed her thighs together. Did she have enough time to fully wash up? Wouldn’t it have been obvious to the whole house if she took a bath before bed? Did he have any prophylactics, lube?

He seemed to catch himself and faltered. “I mean, your face, and your makeup.”

“Oh. Yes.” She walked a little awkwardly into his bathroom and almost shut the door on Mezzanotte’s tail, she who insisted on following her now that she liked her.

What was he planning to do? More than oral? With her? Would he really do that so close to Christmas? With the option so plainly presented to her, she didn’t know what to do next.

She sat on the toilet seat, thinking it over. She did want to have sex with him. She’d wanted to ever since their first date, when he’d asked so many questions about her, none of which pertained to who she was before finding the Kitten. He simply wanted to know about her favorite flowers, her favorite size of diamond, her music choices, her drinks. She hadn’t met a man like that before.

Mezzanotte hopped onto her lap for pets. Why was she so nervous all of a sudden? He’d tasted her twice already, surely this wouldn’t be anything different. Maybe he didn’t want to have sex with her. Maybe it was a miscommunication. He was different, after all. He might never enjoy it as much as she did.

Turning on the sink, she peeled off her eyelashes, rinsed her face, and wiped down her heavy eyelids without reddening her skin. Not only was it too romantic, it felt too impossible. She thought what she had with him was enough. This felt like too much of a step forward.

She pulled up. Some of the makeup was still underneath her eyes and in her brows, but she’d basically gone back to her base self. She debated whether or not to take off her necklace. She didn’t want to insult him, and she couldn’t deny their beauty.

Tugging on them, she stepped back, gave herself a twirl, and left.

Vincenzo’s nose was pressed against the door. He took her hand before she dropped it from the golden handle. “Hi.”

“Hi,” she said back. “Eager, aren’t we?”

“I’m not sure yet. Is it odd to be excited about it, even though I don’t…actively search for it?”

“It depends on what you’re talking about.”

He licked his lips as he gently pushed her down into bed.

He got to work with her, like always, quickly. Disrobing her, making her feel warm and melty with only his hands and mouth. He’d gotten better at it; he used less teeth when pleasing her, and he used his tongue more effectively around her sensitive areas. It almost negated his inability to look her in the eye when he sucked her off.

She was naked save for her black garterbelt. Thank God she wore the pair without many runs or tears. It made her feel better about herself.

“This okay?” he asked.

“It is.” She touched his shoulders. “If you’re still nervous, I can wait.”

“I don’t.” It sounded like he was forcing the words out of his mouth, jaw clenching as he spoke. “I want to…push myself as far as I can go with you. I don’t want to be scared any longer.”

“You’re scared?”

“I’m a mafia boy, Sylvia. We’re all scared.”

She played with his hair. “That’s quite comforting to hear, actually. It almost makes us equals.”

“Were we not equals before?”

She didn’t want to put herself down any more than usual, so she said, “In certain cases.”

“Certain cases…” He dipped and licked a line down her chest.

She covered her mouth with the back of her hand. She’d been right. He was getting better. He even flicked his tongue over her breast, attaching onto it and melting her willpower into a puddle.

“Did Laurence tell you about me?”

She opened her eyes. “Huh?”

“Just tell me if he told you or not.”

“Told me what?”

He looked up, past his curly bangs, finally meeting her eyes.

She covered her crotch. Those dark eyes would make her do anything. “Laurence hasn’t told me anything.”

“We’re equals now,” he reminded her. “We don’t keep secrets.”

She wasn’t familiar with this kind of ill-defined flirting, but he hadn’t pulled away. He was waiting for an answer to information she didn’t have.

She lifted herself up on her elbows. “I have no information on anything Laurence has told me about you. If I did, I’d tell you. But Vincenzo.” She held him. “I’ll support anything you do. I know your work profession and still love you. You might be upset and I’ll love you, you might be happy and I’ll love you. Whatever you want to tell me and whenever you want to do it, I’ll be here to listen and I’ll still love you all the same, because you love me and treat me well. That’s all I can ask for from you.”

He blinked up at her, taking her in sentence by sentence, mouth slightly open to tickle the hairs leading up to her belly button.

Sylvia stilled her breath. There was still a conversation he was keeping from her, this secret he thought Laurence knew but she didn’t. She wanted to know it, of course, but she didn’t believe that they weren’t allowed to keep secrets. Just like with Dominic, she needed to show her comradery with his anxieties.

Vincenzo lifted himself up and touched her face, lips specifically. His thumb pressed into her mouth until he opened it for his liking. “I’m not going to undress for you tonight.”

“Oh.”

“But I am going to fuck you.” He kissed her hard. “So get on your knees.”

The raw bluntness of his words froze her. She knew he swore. She never expected him to say that to her.

He pushed his way into her. He’d kept his promise and never shed his inner layers, but he did take off his shoes and socks. Fighting through whatever he was feeling, he took off his jacket and tie and rolled up his sleeves to his elbows.

Even knowing what she was about to get, Sylvia honed in on his arms above all else. She’d never seen them bare like this. He slept in long sleeves and only wore sweaters or coats. Seeing the dark hairs over his tan skin set off something primal in her. Suddenly, tasting his fingers and wrists were more salacious than tasting his cock.

Doing as told, Sylvia got on her knees and spread them out to give him the best view. She felt her stockings stretch over her ass and hoped it was everything he wanted.

“Wow.” His hand rounded her bottom, ring finger tickling her inner thigh.

“Here.” Hooking a blind finger around her stockings, Sylvia unhooked the garterbelt and let her lower half hang free.

“Looks…different,” he scrounged up, “from the rear.”

“But good?” she asked. “Is it good?”

“Wonderfully so,” he said, and his tongue, shy at first, lapped her up in a way she’d never experienced before.

She moaned and dropped her head into the pillows. She heard him breathing and moaning wetly into her. She was tempted to push into him, to touch herself as he worked, but all she managed to do was keep conscious and savor in the feelings he was creating inside of her.

He pulled back and swallowed, then pushed his front against her.

Her eyes snapped open. What she felt and how warm his crotch was, it came and went but lasted lifetimes for her.

Three adventurous fingers pushed into her mouth, and a surprise moan escaped her throat.

“Shh,” he purred, slicking his fingers with her tongue. “Someone’s gonna hear you.”

Her eyes rolled back as she tried keeping quiet, but he didn’t tease her long. Scooping up her spit, he took away his fingers and pushed them deep inside a new hole.

Mezzanotte hopped onto the bed to watch more closely. Sylvia didn’t care. The room disappeared and was replaced with only him. His fingers, curling inwards. His lips, kissing her upper back and neck. They rolled over for easier access. With a free hand, he played with her front and kept his lips on her neck, capturing her.

Fuck,” she moaned. “Oh, fuck me.”

“You want more?” he asked. “I’m already trying so hard, and you want more?”

Her answer got eaten up by a kiss. If she revealed how much she wanted to destroy him, he wouldn’t see her as such a good girl anymore. She wondered if he’d care.

The pit in-between her legs grew into a fever she could no longer ride out. She’d been teased for too long. Her back arched up without knowing, she pushed into Vincenzo’s hand. Her mind went blank as she shamelessly came over his fingers, fast and messily and still perfect in every way.

Her eyes fluttered closed. She could’ve fallen asleep here. The wet, feathery feelings submerged her into a drug-fueled stupor. If Mezzanotte hadn’t bopped her face, she would’ve dozed off in Vincenzo’s dirty hands.

He rolled her sluggish body onto her back and kissed her. “How wonderful,” he said. “That really calmed me down.”

“Did it? If you want, we can do that every time you’re stressed. Every day, preferably.”

“Don’t tempt me.” He tugged his dress pants away from his crotch. “I’m gonna…I need to take care of this.”

“Want me to do it?”

He paused for a thought, then left for the bathroom. “Perhaps another time.”

“That secret’s under lock and key, isn’t it?”

He turned to her with a warm smile, eyes half open. “Ten minutes. Be right back.”

When the door locked, Sylvia sat up like she had two dumbbells on her shoulders. She cleaned off her sticky thighs, then tossed the soiled napkins in the waste bin Vincenzo kept by his bed.

She took in the stillness of his room, the night bugs singing, the world and their situation coming back to her.

She fell back and kicked her legs in the air, silently squealing her happiness into her hands.

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