She smiled and raised her eyebrows, delighted for me. I couldn’t tell her about my ennui, or the level of protection Antonio felt he needed to build around me. I couldn’t tell her that, from the outside, he deserved every indecent name I called him during sex and that it turned me on. How far he would go, his life on the fringes, the unknowns about him, and even his insistence that I bend to the will of an outlaw turned me on. And I feared that, without those hours of languor in between our meetings, the desire for him to dig out the aching filth inside me would disappear. And I needed it. I needed him to treat me like a rag doll while I called him an animal. I needed to see that animal turn pure, to feel him slowly get gentle, to hear his growls subdued into whispers. Thinking about it in that little room, under a Good Fellas poster, melted my legs into a pool of lust.
“Have you considered this might be a rebound thing? From Daniel?”
“Sure,” I said. “I’ve considered it then dismissed it. If rebound things always felt like this, they’d last longer.”
My phone dinged.
—downstairs in 10 minutes—
I didn’t know why I bothered. I was done with Katrina. She was busy; she had a life, dreams, work. I had appointments.
“Is it him?” she asked, poking at her own phone.
—Eleven minutes. No more—
—Per favore, Contessa bella—
—Flattery is unnecessary—
—So are your clothes—
“What are you smiling about?” Katrina asked, flopping down the lid of her Styrofoam box.
“Not this burger.” I closed mine. “You don’t need me for anything, do you?”
“Just stay in touch. Your notes get a little scribbly toward the end.”
The Maserati came down Cahuenga and parked in front. Otto’s Lincoln must have been dismissed because it was nowhere in sight.
The top was down, and Antonio was in aviators and snug jeans, his boots making a clup-clup on the pavement as he came around to open the door for me. “Contessa,” he said.
“How was your afternoon out?”
“Thrilling.” I sat down, and he closed the door behind me. When he got behind the wheel I asked, “Short notice to give a girl.”
“Ten minutes is enough time to get down the stairs.”
“Maybe I was busy.”
“Were you?” He put the car into drive and twisted to see behind him before pulling out. His leather jacket stretched between his shoulder blades.
“Hardly the point,” I huffed.
“Exactly the point.” He pulled into the street and headed south with the wind in his hair, the sun on his glasses, and his skin a rich olive color. When he smiled at me, I forgot the point entirely.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Back to the east side.”
“You won’t give up over there, will you?”
“It’s mine. I never give up what’s mine.” He turned to me for a second. “Ever.”
“So, if you kept that territory, where did Paulie go?”
He smirked, eyes on the road. I wasn’t supposed to ask questions, but if he expected me to stick to that, he was sorely mistaken.
“Is he a businessman without a business?” I used air quotes.
“There is nothing more dangerous than a man who has lost everything fighting something he fears.”
“What does he fear?”
Antonio pulled onto the 10 freeway. My hair went nuts, spiraling like cotton candy in the wind. He put his fingers on my thigh, pushing my skirt up. I put my hand on it as he moved it deeper, grasping the flesh.
“Tell me,” I said.
“Your legs are closed.”
“I’m in a convertible on the 10.”
“Open them. Adesso. I want to feel if you’re wet.”
“Antonio, really.” A big rig came up on the right. If the trucker had been looking out his side window, he would have had a clear view.
“Pull your skirt down over my hand and spread your legs. One knee touching the door. All the way. Don’t argue, or I’m going to pull over and spank you for every trucker on the freeway to see.”
I was wet. I had to be. I pulled my skirt over his hand and put my bag on my lap. He grabbed his jacket from the back and put it over the bag.
“Good enough,” he said. “Open up.”
I spread my legs. The city streaked by in swashes of grey, blots of billboard colors, and flecks of palm-tree green. The only constant was the flawless umbrella of blue sky.
“You didn’t answer the question,” I said. He changed lanes, blinker and all, and slipped his hand under the crotch of my panties.
“Dio mio, you are soaked. What were you thinking about?”
He rubbed my clit gently, one stroke along the length.
“Paulie’s business.” I opened my legs wider.
“Really?” He leaned back and draped his left wrist over the wheel while drawing sticky circles around my opening with his right middle finger.
“I was thinking about your mouth.”
“Bene. What about it?” A BMW came up close on the right, and I ignored it. If I looked at them, they’d look back. The car was red, and I was throbbing.
“Your lips,” I gasped. “Between my legs.” He moved so slowly I thought I’d explode from the rush of blood.
“Kissing me. Sucking. God, Jesus Antonio. How can you drive and do this?” I could barely see past the nest of hair whipping around my face, but I saw his smirk clearly.
“The left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing.” He grasped my clit between his thumb and forefinger, changing lanes again, so he could blow the speed limit that much better.
“More,” he said.
“And you put your tongue inside me, and rub your teeth on my clit.”
“You are dirty, Contessa. And detailed. Do you want to come?” He let the pinch go and rubbed with the pads of his fingers.
I caught sight of him, between the spaghetti of red hair, glancing my way and smiling.
“Yes,” I said. “Yes.”
“Keep your legs open.” He dragged all four fingers over my hard clit once, twice, the bumps and ridges of his fingertips a pulsing rhythm at seventy-five miles an hour.