Honey dripped lazily from the wooden spoon in Nigel’s dark hand onto Jade’s awaiting belly. His full lips and modest mustache followed, oil slick hairs tickling tender skin like the blades of grass in Central Park. They used to spend so many carefree summer days lying in the grass, caught in the rapture of each other.
All those years ago.
“We should just move away. Fuck them all.” He was serious.
“You know that’s impossible.”
“No it isn’t. We could fake our deaths and be immortalized like Makaveli.”
“I’m starting to think you either need to start taking a neuroleptic or you just stopped taking one. This is not funny, Nigel. If Nate already suspects that I’m cheating on him, he’s going to be watching me very closely. I’m probably being followed right now.”
“Relax, Jade. I told you I calmed his nerves. He’s in meetings all day.”
The kisses followed a trail downward, a blaze of warmth on the underside of her molehill belly. Lightening bolts struck, sent current coursing. This man, this man. She didn’t know what it was about Nigel that she just couldn’t resist. He was her addiction. Her vice. A bad habit that she simply couldn’t shake.
“Substance dependence. That’s what this is. You’re my crack.” Nigel said, echoing the sentiments strolling through her head.
The yearning in his tone drowned out any discernible words uttered after as he slid his head further down, gently pushed her legs apart. His lips casually grazed skin on inner thighs until they met with her own below. At the sensation of his warm tongue flickering between her legs, she flinched ever so slightly.
“Nigel … this … is not right. It’s not right.”
“Shhh.” he whispered.
Quiet moans spilled from her before she could catch them, Nigel’s native language she’d become so fluent in. His response was a fervent licking, then a tender tugging of her most private parts.
She wished she could help herself when she was in his presence.
She never allowed herself to submit to Nate like this. Never.
And she’d tried.
She’d tried to love Nate with the same tenacity and unquenchable desire that she thoughtlessly did Nigel. Nothing worked. Her body was like an instrument that only Nigel knew how to play.
No longer the Omni, they’d smartly switched the hotel they met up at. Nate’s revelation to Nigel had left her nervous. Very nervous. She knew she should quit cold turkey, especially with the wavering resolve Nigel had been claiming as of late, but she simply couldn’t stop herself. Even with this paranoia. She just couldn’t.
Nigel’s face, covered with that deep black sea stare that made her heart quake, lifted slowly, made its way back up to hers, kissed her mouth, her essence still lingering in his mustache.
“This is wrong.” If she repeated it enough, maybe she could convince her body. A stubborn jury to persuade.
He stopped for a moment, looked at her. “Do you love me Jade?”
“You ask me that every time you see me.” A sigh released her warm breath onto his nose. She hated this ‘do you love me’ game he insisted on playing.
“I’m waiting for you to say no.”
“You know I can’t say no.”
“Right now, I can’t either. Willpower is a limited resource. It’s not meant to be exercised in love.”
“Love has nothing to do with this being wrong, Nigel. Willpower is meant to be exercised by responsible and rational adults, which we’re supposed to be.”
His eyes caught hers in their snare, trapped her, refused to release their gaze. Heat rose from his skin like steam on lava-hot pavement. His heaviness loomed, then entered her, slowly, strongly.
Her inhalation was sharp, surprising, each time.
“I love that.” His voice was low, a whisper once again.
“You … love what?” She managed.
“That breath you take. That gasp that happens when I push inside you. I love that. That simple gasp is why I can’t break free of you. I want to witness that breath everyday. Forever.”
His deep motions stole her response, carried them off to the place where lost thoughts and forgotten rebuttals go. She pushed apprehensive fingers into his locks slightly, a bashful foot testing out ice cold ocean water. His hip thrust was the current, pulling her under. Her hands plunged in his hair, entangled the rough strands in and out of fingers, grabbed hold. She kissed him like she meant it. She did.
Nate would be beyond hurt, broken, if he ever found out. Completely and irreparably damaged. She knew this. Nigel knew this. But somehow nothing in her could fight the power Nigel held over her.
Not the fear of being caught. Not Nathaniel’s undoubtedly violent reaction. Not the embarrassment sure to come when the media found out the mayor’s wife was sleeping with his twin brother. He’d be ruined. Not even that could stop this affliction.
She shouldn’t have gotten into that cab. She just shouldn’t have gotten into that cab.
The man with the dark eyes was quite charming.
This Nigel character.
“A cab ride is a cornerstone of a New York existence. Figured I’d give you the whole experience.” He tossed her way in that rocky mountain voice of his as she climbed in the back of one of the many yellow cabs lining the busy street.
When she’d disclosed that she’d only been in New York for a month, and had pretty much secluded herself to her tiny apartment during that time, he wanted to show her the city. They talked regularly over the phone, usually during his business hours.
He’d been back up to the club during her later business hours, watching intently, carefully soaking in her details each time.
“So, tell me about this girlfriend you have, counselor.”
He shrugged indifferently. “What do you want to know?”
She cleared her throat slightly. “You can start with her name.”
“Names are informative. They can reveal a lot.”
“Like Jade?” His left eyebrow raised in sarcasm. He thought of all the negative words he could instantly associate with her name. “… Her name is Toni.”
“Ah, of course.”
“Of course … what.” Nigel’s smirk hid a sexy confidence in his eyes. He was a bad poker player who held a full house behind the red paisley cards in his hand. … or maybe he was bluffing.
She couldn’t tell just yet.
“Well, Toni, if I can borrow a stereotype from Girlfriends, she’s probably Extremely feminine, because as it happens, all girls with a male name usually are. Unintentionally snobby. Pretty in a girl-next-door meets Sex and the City way, all the ‘selfs’; self-centered, self-absorbed, selfish, self-important … and demanding because she has at least four letters behind her name, is successful in her field, and doesn’t need you, but she wants you. You’re the last piece in her picket-fenced life picture.”
Nigel chortled. “And you got all that from her name. What if I told you Toni isn’t it?” He didn’t want to admit that she was almost right on the money.
He couldn’t fault Toni for being so full of self though. She was a product of her environment and upbringing like every other human.
“I’d say it would be easy enough to find out. But you aren’t. And regardless, that’s your type of chick. You’ve probably dated a succession of variants of Toni, throughout your life.”
She was entertaining.
Her confidence in a subject she knew nothing about; him, amused him greatly.
His contents were far from what his book cover would suggest.
His pages had been besmirched with many unmentionable verbs. Many lurid but accurate adjectives.
Still, he listened, let her beautiful face regale his night.
“I’ve got to be honest, this is funny to me.” He spoke after a few moments.
She shifted in her little black dress, moved her long, peanut butter brown hair to the shoulder farthest from him. “Funny because I’m right?”
“Funny because you think you’re right.”
“Oh please, Nigel. Don’t act like you’re some anomaly with a law degree. I know your type. And I know your types’s type. Initially you probably thought that she was the greatest thing ever. Probably made your dick hard just thinking about how perfect she was. And then one day you realized, that’s just her. All the time. Sassy became bitchy, cute and pouty became annoying and whiny, ‘Nigel dear’ became some shrill you pretended you didn’t hear when she was in the other room. That’s usually how it goes. I’ve seen it a thousand times.”
He could only shake his head. What he had learned so far about Jade was that she was a talker. One question and his ear was occupied for the next five to ten minutes, easily.
That was most women though.
“Are you always this disenchanted?”
“It’s not disenchantment. It’s reality. The whole facade of one relationship being a happily ever after … they’re all a joke. They don’t last. Do you really think that out of all the people on the planet someone named Toni is the person you’re going to want to have sex with for the rest of your life? It’s a pipe dream. It’s asking life to stand still and keep that snapshot of that person for fifty years. It’s an impossible goal. Forever is a long fucking time.”
“Forever is as long as you make it. Most couples that end up together for life take it one day at a time.” He reasoned.
“Well your forever has you in a cab with me.”
“I’m in a cab with you because I want to push your knees up to your shoulders and make you scream my name like I’ve done so many times in my head.”
His frankness was a little disconcerting. She looked at his dark eyes. His mouth turned up into a small smile.
“Wow. Honest Abe doesn’t have shit on you, huh?”
He shrugged. He’d met her at a strip club. What else could she be fathoming he wanted from her? “It’s what I’m known for. Honesty. I think it’s quite a noble quality.”
“Where are we going?” Her eyes rolled as she shifted again, away from him. He’d just made known what his intentions with her were.
And how could she blame him.
“You just sit back and enjoy. We’re almost there.”
The cab pulled to a stop in front of what looked like a contemporary art museum or gallery, from the outside décor.
An art gallery. How cliché.
He was going to give a little culture to the poor classless stripper girl tonight. She sighed.
Between him blatantly informing her that he was only interested in knowing her below the belt, and bringing her here, she knew what he summed her up to be.
She was being Pretty Womaned.
She walked in next to him and he turned, told her how lovely she looked. His eyes told her what he’d like to do with all her loveliness.
A glance around the big open space they’d entered revealed a collection of work by a group of obviously freakishly talented artists. All different mediums and styles.
She was pleasantly surprised. She had a soft spot for beautiful and eclectic art. Nigel was unaware of this though, and she had no intentions on telling him.
“My sister passed away a year ago. This is her artwork.” He fanned his hand to the wall nearest them, to a beautiful abstract painting of what appeared to be a mother and child in an embrace. Next to it was four other paintings, all abstract, all increasingly technically difficult.
Her face was incredulous as she stepped away from him.
“You brought me to your deceased sister’s art showcase?”
His voice was too casual, his attention was on the crowded room, seemingly looking for familiar faces.
“This is too much Nigel. How does that work exactly?”
“Toni couldn’t make it. And you look nice in a black dress. They don’t require name tags that state your occupation. It’s okay, calm down.”
“Will your parents be here?”
“And who will you say I am? I don’t appreciate you putting me in position to be publicly humiliated on our first date Nigel. What the hell.” She spoke quietly but firmly.
This man was insane.
“Does it matter? They expect this from me anyway. Nobody’s humiliating you.”
“They expect disrespect and total denigration of the fact that this is supposed to be a revered event?
“Something like that. Haven’t seen them in a few years.” He turned to her again, calmly. “You know, you talk too much. Just take in the art and relax. We won’t be here long.”
“Yeah, it’s what I’m known for. I think it’s quite a fucking noble quality.”
“The mouth of a drunken sailor. The grace of a swan. You’re amazing.” Nigel quipped.
She was fuming. This situation had not a modicum of appropriateness.
How dare he.
She tried to calm herself, pasted a fake smile on. Tried to pretend she wasn’t as uncomfortable as she was. Within moments she was lost in admiration for the many brilliant paintings and pieces of art.
“What was your sister’s name?” She asked, noticing the signature and profile underneath her paintings were a simple “T.”
“You do have a thing with names, huh. It’s Terri.”
‘Toni, Terri. It’s starting to sound like you’re just grabbing random names out of 90s R&B.”
This lightened the mood a little. She was here, she might as well enjoy herself. Clearly he wasn’t going to engage her attitude.
And if she was really honest with herself, Nigel confessing his desire to experience her had her wondering about it a little, too. Men who actually wore suits outside of the courtroom usually weren’t so blatant with her.
Nigel gave a slight chuckle, his attention once again diverted across the room. “It would appear that way.”
“So where did Nigel come from? Thought I’d met the whole baby name bank when it comes to black men. You’re a first.”
“Went well with Nathaniel in the two for one special my mom was running.”
“My twin brother. Right over there.” He pointed casually towards a man in a gray top and black slacks, engrossed in conversation with a balding white man.
From his profile, Nathaniel was an exact replica of Nigel. Amazing.
Polished. Professional. Fine.
“Nate!” Nigel cast across the room in a just-loud-enough voice for his brother to hear.
His brother turned around, confirming a face completely identical to his. When recognition reached his expression, it almost turned to a scowl, then as if he caught himself, went neutral.
She saw it though. She was sure Nigel noticed too.
He excused himself from the older man he was conversing with, turned his gait their way. “Nigel. Long time. Didn’t think you’d make it.”
“Why would I miss this? This is Jade. My apologies, I mean Joy.” Nigel said, remembering Jade telling him she would prefer to be introduced as Joy. This woman had secrets he couldn’t bother himself trying to uncover. He wondered if she was a runaway felon, or wanted for some heinous crime.
He’d never know. She was much too argumentative for him, already.
He had no need for another Toni in his life.
“… Nice to meet you, Joy.” Nathaniel’s voice was unintentionally sexy. His stare was the same. There was an ease about him she liked. The stark difference between he and his brother was his eyes. The startling shade of raw honey looking back at her was incredible.
Her long hair swayed, she batted her gray contacted eyes his way.
“Very nice to see he has a better half.” She smiled.
Nathaniel’s smile was polite, but the optic searing he was handing Nigel at that moment told her he wasn’t too thrilled with her presence at the moment. Or maybe it was just Nigel he wasn’t happy to see.
“What the hell, Nigel.” Nate’s annoyance filled the space between he and the mirrored image of himself when he cornered Nigel alone a half hour later.
“She’s just a friend. Chill, brother.”
“What, got tired of fucking Toni for her daddy’s money?” Nate’s ire spilled out as reactionary comments more than he’d like to admit. He’d have to work on that if he wanted to get into any office in the future. He stopped himself, shook his head. Tried again in a calmer tone. “Nigel, you know this is a family event. Why wouldn’t you bring Toni?”
“Well frankly, we’re not getting along too well right now. Would you like her number, brother? Want to call and console her?” Nigel’s face was blank. His glare stone.
Nate took a step back, decided it wasn’t worth it. Nigel was a shit starter. An old shit starter. Tonight was not the night.
“Fuck this.” he said as he walked away. He passed by Joy and dismissed her and her slight smile with a cut of his eyes. Ridiculous. She was fine, as expected. He’d give her that much. Beautiful, gold-digging women were a staple in Nigel’s life and in his bed. But to bring a mistress to his sister’s event was foul, even for him.
“Fam likes me already, aye?” Jade’s tone was annoyed when Nigel made his way back to her. She hadn’t missed the iced over glance Nate had thrown her way.
Nigel’s parents hadn’t even acknowledged him. Or her.
“Is he manstrating or are you just wrong for bringing a strange woman to your dead sister’s art showing?”
Her mouth was tiring. If this was how the night was going to go, he was perfectly fine with it ending early.
“Look, the night just started. But if you want to leave, you’re free to. Just go. You’re an adult. I’m not holding you hostage.” His shoulders shrugged without a iota of tribulation.
A date between them would never happen again.
Furious at him for including her in some kind of sick adult tantrum, she rolled her eyes. Asshole. He was a testament that money didn’t buy class, decency, or any of the other cliched qualities supposed to be a norm among the educated and privileged.
“Fine. Take me home.”
Nigel’s eyebrows lifted towards the ceiling. “You’re now knowledgeable in the art of fetching a cab, my dear. But if you’d still like my accompaniment, that’s fine.”
The nerve of this man. The anger began to course. She would not let him get the best of her. She would remain calm. This was no place for a schoolyard level fit.
“Fine.” She turned, more annoyed at how hurt her ego and feelings were than having to catch a cab solo. This was New York. Of course she knew how to hail a taxi. She huffed out of the exit dramatically, still mad at herself for being upset.
The first taxi slowed, then drove on without her as a passenger when she waved it off. Somewhere inside she wanted him to chase her. To come out in the night cool and apologize.
On cue, she heard Nigel’s voice.
“I’ll ride home with you. Despite what you may think, my mama raised a better man than I’ve displayed tonight.”
She turned her head slightly, sliced her annoyance his way. “Hmph.”
She shouldn’t even care that he’d come out here. He’d already told her what her use was in his life.
The Tonis of the world always got the Nigels’ last name. The Jades got their illegitimate child and discreet hotel romps in the infomercial hours of the night.
“Jade.” He came closer, settled his large hands on her diminutive shoulders. “Why are you so mad? What do you want from me?”
She shrugged, honestly at a loss.
“I want to not be the woman who never wins.”
Nigel chuckled. “Define winning. That’s a highly subjective term where life is concerned.”
A sigh filtered out above Jade’s head as Nigel exhaled. “Toni is expecting me to pop the question at any moment. Forgive me for wanting a little carefree encounter with a beautiful estrogened counterpart for the night.”
“Yeah. For the night.” Her face was marred with hurt she didn’t want him to see.
She shouldn’t have allowed herself to like him.
“Jade. What do you want from me?” His tone was serious again.
She spoke quietly. “I want you to not look at me as just something to do for the night.”
“You don’t even believe in love. Or relationships. What happened to shit doesn’t last?” Nigel’s face was confused.
“It not lasting and not even being considered to be in an ‘it’ are two different things.” She moved away from him, turned to see his expression.
He softened at her beautiful, angry face, vulnerability leaking through the cracks of her concrete exterior.
This woman was insignificant. Just another stain on his already soiled rap sheet. A last hurrah before he surrendered his freedom to Toni.
Somehow though, this woman intrigued him. For reasons beyond him, he couldn’t walk away. He was paralyzed. Seeing her in a different light only served to heighten his arousal. This side of her that he thus far had not been privy to.
Maybe there were more sides to discover.
“Let me take you home.” He said finally.
They slid into the next cab silently. She fought with thoughts of past mistakes and regrets. Shoved them far away to the depths of her mind like a disturbing nightmare.
His hand reached over, soothed hers. “You’re not just something to do for the night, Jade. That’s just what I’ve been trying to convince myself of.”
She noticed his eyes were calmer, gentler. His tone not so matter-of-fact anymore.
He was quite charming, this Nigel character.
As the taxi slowed to a halt in front of her place, she removed her hand, drifted out wordlessly.
The door remained open as she walked away.
“You getting out or what?” The African driver was now impatient, his mind and pockets on the next patron.
“Yeah, you getting out or what?” Jade turned, her body language telling him that was more of a demand than a question.
He glided out of the car smoothly. His mind once again, full of Bliss.