“Keep still. And no shouting.” He ran his fingers over me. Even though it was autumn, I was sweating, muscles clenching, nerves firing. My jaw went slack then tightened when he flicked his nails over me.
Without an outlet in movement or sound, I felt everything. My body connected with wires of pleasure, tightening with the orgasm, twisting, my ass clenching, my pussy pulsating for a cock to fill it, grasping for him in waves. The white noise of the freeway was consumed by my own vortex, and any cares about people seeing me disappeared.
His touch got lighter and lighter, prolonging my orgasm. It went on and on. I closed my eyes and got lost in his fingers, my silence, and stillness.
When I finally stopped coming, Antonio removed his hand from under the jacket and got off the freeway.
He put his fingers in his mouth, and when he stopped at the red light, he brushed his pinkie over my lower lip, painting me with our mingled juices.
“You know what made Paulie crazy enough to break everything he worked for?” Antonio asked.
“It was me, wasn’t it?”
“Yes. Partly, it was you.”
We made a few more turns, but I more or less knew the neighborhood after the night Marina had tried to shoot me. We were probably five blocks from his burned-out auto shop. He was committed to the neighborhood, for sure. If I owned a business on the east side and someone set fire to it, I’d never want to cross the LA River again.
He didn’t say much after revealing that I was not only a target for Paulie because of the feud, but the reason for the hostility in the first place. As if he knew I’d need a minute to absorb the new information, he just drove and waited.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“I’m driving around until you ask what you want to ask.”
“I thought I wasn’t supposed to.”
He stopped at a light and twisted to face me. “Go ahead.”
“Can’t you just say what you want without me trying to ask the right question? I’m not the lawyer in the car, here.”
“Apparently. And your hair is a mess. Your lips smell like pussy. Did someone just finger the hell out of you?”
“Antonio! You’re deflecting.”
“I am, Contessa. Mi dispiace. This has been obsessing me, and the only time I don’t feel obsessed with it is when I’m around you. When I’m around you, I want to pretend it’s all gone away.” He drove, but with purpose, not as if he was killing time waiting for my question.
“This is going to be a constant battle, isn’t it?”
He smiled a devil of a smile. His parents had skimmed from the very top of the gene pool to make that mouth. “If you make things into battles, yes. They are battles.” He pulled into a narrow alley and parked in front of a garage.
“Why was he scared of me?”
He opened his door. “Come.” He went around the car, keys jingling, and opened the door for me.
“I’m being really patient,” I said.
“Yes, you are.” He planted a kiss on my lips, and I tasted my sex on his mouth, from the fingers he’d licked. “Women scare him. Especially the wild, unpredictable ones.”
“Me? Wild and unpredictable?”
We put our arms around each other, and he led me out of the alley and to the street. The row of buildings was connected, and flush with the street, in the old tenement style, with storefronts on the first floor and one story of apartments above.
“To Paulie, you are,” he said.
He stopped in the middle of the block. The storefront was empty. A large window had crusty bars in front and cracked glass behind. The door was original to the building, which looked as if it has been built just before the depression and not updated since. On the right of it stood another empty storefront that had been updated in a grotesquely ugly way, with chipped brown stucco and a poorly installed vinyl window. On the left was a store with a purpose I couldn’t divine, with hours posted and the sign in the door flipped to ‘closed’.
“What do you think?” Antonio asked as he unlocked the front gate.
“I think it needs a coat of paint.”
The gates creaked, and he slapped them home with a metallic smack. “What color would you like?” He fingered a bouquet of keys.
“Capo, what’s happening? You can’t turn this into an auto shop. It’s in the middle of the block.”
He opened the door, turned, and flipped on the lights. He repeated a version of his previous question. “What would you turn it into?”
I didn’t answer but stepped past the door, onto a linoleum floor covered in grease and dust. Metal racks lined the right; stacked round tables stood on my left. I glimpsed a dark back room that looked like a place where unpleasant scientific mysteries waited to be solved. “A clean room, first,” I said.
“And then?” He jingled his keys. He seemed relaxed and happy, leaning on his right hip slightly, shoulders sloped, face waiting for something joyful, and I knew what our visit was about.
“Capo.” I took two steps toward him, with my arms out. “Has anyone ever told you that you’re sweet?”
His hands took me by the waist and drew me close. “No.”
His head tilted slightly, and his cheeks got narrow, as if he sucked them in. His eyes were hard and defensive. I remembered who I was dealing with and how little I knew him, but I refused to be scared.
“I don’t want a store.”
“The shop is close. I can watch you. And you’ll have something that’s yours.”
I wanted to protest that I had plenty that was mine, and I did. I had a condo. I had money. I had three-thousand-dollar shoes. And if I wanted a store in one of the worst neighborhoods in Los Angeles, I could have one very nicely arranged without his help.
I tamped back all of my resistance because the store was a gift, and a thoughtful one. Most men gave women flowers or jewelry; Antonio gave buildings. I didn’t need a dozen roses, and I could buy myself a diamond necklace, but I could see the value of Antonio’s gift.
But I didn’t want a store. I didn’t want to be handed a life.
“Can I think about what to do with it?”
“Si! It’s zoned for food, not liquor, but any licenses you want…” He held his hands out and said no more. I was sure I could get it zoned as an amusement park if I wanted.
That store was his dozen roses and box of candy. It was completely useless. Pointless, even. In a moment of peace, he’d tried to give me what he thought would make me happy.