When I woke, I found my body exquisitely sore and the bed very much empty.
I waffled, trying to decide if I really wanted to get up and look for him or if the warmth of the covers was too enticing to move. His voice drifted in from the living room, and my ears perked up. But he was too quiet to be talking to me, so I decided he must be on the phone. I glanced at the nightstand clock—it was almost three. Was he ordering more food?
Then I noticed his tone had an edge to it that I’d never witnessed in my carefree lover. A mixture of curiosity and concern pulled me to investigate.
Still naked, I crept out of the bedroom, not wanting to disturb him, and stood back at the mouth of the room. He’d thrown on his boxer briefs and was pacing the room, his ear pressed against his cell. I could hear the faint buzz of the other person on the line—a man—who was doing most of the talking. Occasionally, JC would interject with an “Uh-huh.” Even in those short syllables his irritation was evident.
After a few seconds, he stopped suddenly and said, “Yeah, I’m pissed.” It sounded like the response to a question. Something like, Are you mad? “And no, it’s not because you called me at three in the fucking morning, though that isn’t helping.”
I knew I shouldn’t be listening. Despite my guilt, I couldn’t move. I was frozen—captivated by this glimpse into JC’s other world. The world that was his real world and had nothing to do with me.
The other guy said something to which JC responded, “People don’t just vanish without a trace. And I’m paying you a shitload to keep an eye on him.”
A chill ran through me. Where I could usually separate myself from interest in JC, I suddenly was very intrigued. Who was he paying? What was so important to disturb JC in the middle of the night? Who was JC watching and why?
The questions maybe should have made me fearful of the man I’d been sharing a bed with once a week, but oddly they didn’t. Whatever JC was involved in, it had nothing to do with me. But now I had a glimpse of the reasons he needed to escape from his life. The reasons he came looking for me.
Most of all, I could tell he was upset. And I had an overwhelming desire to make it better.
“Listen,” he said into the receiver now, his voice eerily low and controlled. “I don’t want to hear any more excuses. Whether there’s enough to hold anything against him means squat if the guy is MIA. Either you track down the motherfucker or I’ll find someone who can.”
He didn’t bother pushing the button to end the call, but the call was over. For a moment, I thought he was going to throw his cell. Instead he swept an arm across the desk and knocked the ceramic lamp and a clear vase with flowers to the ground, where both shattered.
I jerked in surprise.
That was when he noticed me.
His eyes met mine, his hands in tight balls at his hips, his chest rising and falling as he tried to get control of his anger. Fortunately, it didn’t appear as if any of his rage was directed at me.
The light on the floor flickered on and off. On again. Then off for good. I took a step into the dark room, now only lit by what came through the windows. “Wanna talk about it?”
He shook his head.
“Do you want me to leave?” I didn’t want to go. I wanted to tug him back into the haven of our bed and help him forget whatever was bothering him. Just like all the times he’d done that for me.
But that wasn’t what we were supposed to be for each other. We weren’t comfort—we were distractions. And if a distraction wasn’t what he needed right now, I would respect that.
The lamp on the floor flickered back on suddenly. JC said nothing, just continued to stare at me, his eyes wild in the blast of light.
He suddenly looked as sad as he was angry. As tormented as he was frustrated. Again, I had the urge to soothe him. It pulled at me from deep in my chest, much higher than the region of my body that feelings regarding JC usually originated.
It unnerved me more than anything else I’d seen or heard in the last few minutes. And with JC’s continued silence, I made the decision myself. “I’ll go. Just give me a minute to—”
“I have another idea,” he said, cutting me off. He stepped over the lamp and found the jeans he’d abandoned on the floor earlier in the evening. “Get your bra and panties on. And grab one of the hotel robes from the bathroom.”
“We’re going on a little field trip.”
When I came back from dressing, JC had put his jeans on but was still shirtless. It was a good look on him—his boxers peeking out, the deep lines at his hips that disappeared beneath his pants, the trail of light hair that dusted his perfectly taut abdomen. He wasn’t wearing shoes, so I didn’t bother with any either.
Without a word, he opened the front door and led me out. We often spent time with each other without speaking, but the silence between us was never tight and tense as it was now. I wasn’t sure he really wanted me with him. I wasn’t sure that I even was with him. I walked right next to him. I matched his stride. But not once did he look at me. We could have been strangers who happened to be going down a hall together.
In many ways, that’s exactly what we were—strangers.
I should have gone home. What was I even doing with this guy in the first place? I didn’t want to be wrapped up in his drama, which he obviously had, but I also didn’t like being purposefully left out of it.
Usually, he made me feel wanted. Right now, I didn’t feel that in the least. But what I did feel—the reason I followed him despite the tension radiating off his body—was needed. He needed me. Maybe only for tonight, maybe only for this hour. But I knew that sure as I knew anything.
We took the elevators down but got off on the meeting rooms level. The corridor was empty, but I still felt strange walking around the hotel half-dressed. I wrapped my robe tighter around myself and read the signs as we passed by—Salons A&B, The Sutton Room, The Boardroom. We went through another set of doors and turned left into a pre-function room. At the Madison Suite, he stopped.
JC tried the door handle. It didn’t turn. Then he pulled his hotel keycard from his back pocket and slid it in the seam of the door.
My entire body went rigid. “What are you doing?”
“A trick. This door has a faulty lock so if you—” There was a click, and this time the knob turned. “There we go. Come on.” He opened the door and stepped aside for me to walk in.