“Hey, you alright? Come on, buddy…” The voice was quiet, but insistent. Fraser groaned and turned on his back… at least he thought it was his back.
“Argh—” The pain was forced in a gasp out of Fraser’s lungs.
“Easy there, take it easy.” The voice was now accompanied by a steadying hand on Fraser’s chest.
It took a little bit of effort, but Fraser managed to open his eyes. Ray’s blurry face came into view above him. The looming face stretched into a grin.
“Hey there,” Ray said and Fraser tried to come to terms with what just happened.
The bomb! Ray—Stella—the Alderman—”Ray, is everyone alright?” Fraser struggled to sit up, but Ray’s firm hand on his chest didn’t let him.
“Everything’s under control. How do you feel?”
That was a fair question. His knees hurt and his back was aching in a way that was beyond pain—agony. A point to the side of his head was throbbing, so he had probably collided with the concrete floor in a rather direct fashion. Apart from that, he seemed unhurt.
“Alright,” Fraser answered. After all, it could’ve been much worse.
“Liar,” Ray grinned at him. “At least, I hope you’re lying ’cause if that’s you when you’re alright, I don’t wanna see it when you actually hurt, that cannot be a pretty sight.”
“What about—” Fraser started to ask, but was interrupted by a sigh from Ray.
“Yeah, what about the others. Got it. Everyone else comes first,” Ray glared at Fraser for a second. “Stella is fine, the Alderman didn’t get so lucky, though. The shockwave must’ve slammed him against the car behind him and he must’ve hit his head pretty hard. I guess he tried to get further away instead of cowering behind the car. He’s still out for the count.”
“What happened to the bomber?”
“Well, since you got a savior-complex or something, you more or less covered him when the thing blew. He hit his head and got a mild concussion in return, but otherwise he’s fine. The paramedics are looking after him and Stella. Orsini’s already at the hospital.”
“How long have I been unconscious?” Fraser asked, trying to take everything in.
“A while,” Ray said, and there was a flutter of something in his voice.
“I swear, when you jumped at him and knocked the bomb out of his hands I thought I was gonna watch you blow into pieces.”
It was clear from Ray’s voice that there was little in the scope of his imagination that could be worse.
“Ray, I knew I had at least two seconds until the bomb would explode.”
He remembered the moment the bomber had pulled the bomb out. Hand-made. Exactly three wires; red, yellow, and blue. Controlled by a computer circuit board, very unusual. Taking into account the natural delay between pressing a button and its function, a computer algorithm would have to be completed as well. Really, it had been clear that this would buy him at least two seconds.
Ray bared his teeth at him. “Fraser—! You threw yourself at the guy the moment he pushed the button. I did not know that—and you couldn’t be sure—that it would take another second for it to blow up—”
“On the contrary, Ray, you see—”
“No I do not—you could’ve died, Fraser!” Ray’s voice rang out over the parking lot.
“I knew it would buy us a better chance of survival if I could at least get that bomb a few meters away from us at the time of the detonation. Otherwise we all would’ve died with certainty.”
Ray gnashed his teeth. “Alright, alright… come on, let’s get you over to one of the guys with the shock blankets and the little light to shine into your eyes.”
Fraser let himself be pulled up with some difficulty. “I really don’t need to seek medical attention.”
Ray hung his head.
“Will you at least let me check you over? Just so I can go to sleep tonight and not wake up in the middle of the night thinking you died from interior damage.”
“So that I didn’t die from internal damage,” Fraser repeated.
“I hope for your life expectancy that this translates into something like a ‘yes’.”
Fraser took a look at his friend before conceding.
“If you insist, but I can guarantee you—”
“Nope, sorry. We won’t accept any more guarantees for today. We are full. We are over-booked. You’re letting me have a look at you or it’ll be a check-in at the next hospital.”
Ray’s grin came out like the sun after a long rain. Really, if it made him feel better…
I don’t even know where to start, Fraser admitted to his notebook that night, smoothing over the yellowish paper in an attempt to bring his thoughts into some semblance of order. Maybe I should start with the end, with what I realized after this day. I found more than a friend in Ray Kowalski. I found a partner. Someone who trusts me to cover his back… someone whom I can trust to do likewise. It was… astonishing. I hadn’t expected to find someone like Ray, even less had I anticipated someone I could work with. I’m told – and I think I can understand why – that I am ‘a pain in the ass’. Those are Ray’s words, obviously.
Ray, I mean Ray Vecchio, and I, we worked a long time together and I never took the trust between us for granted. But I hadn’t thought that someone else could be as trust-worthy… or as trusting. I believe in the good of people, I believe that I can trust a lot of people to do certain things, I believe that I can predict what some people will do, but I don’t think that I actually believed until now, that there was someone who would throw himself into the line of fire because he knew that I would be there to have his back.
Oh, Ray was furious, no mistake here. He told me that he wouldn’t be there to ‘save my ass’ whenever I felt like throwing myself in front of a bomb because of something I had seen MacGyver do – some piece of American television I’ve been informed. I don’t think I’ve ever broken into a smile before when I realized that someone lied to me.
Half without conscious thought, Fraser raised a hand to push a strand of hair away from his face. He winced when his fingers touched the bandage that covered the gash on his forehead. Despite the pain, a smile crept onto his face.
Ray’s fingers had been exceptionally careful when he had tended to Fraser’s wound. He had been cursing all the time, muttering expletives, and berating Fraser for his recklessness… but his touch had been so gentle, completely at odds with his harsh words.
Human touch is a luxury for me. Especially the selfless touch of a friend, Fraser continued his narrative. I hadn’t known how starved for touch I was until I felt Ray’s hands upon me. He has very able hands; I don’t think I could move at all now if it hadn’t been for his help. The force of the detonation had been hell on my back and by the time we had reached Ray’s apartment it had stiffened up completely.
It had surprised Fraser when Ray passed the intersection that would take them to the consulate without a second glance. Upon inquiry, Ray had only laughed and asked if Fraser really thought him such a bad friend.
Ray’s apartment was a charming extension of his idiosyncratic personality. Cluttered and stuffed with all kinds of things Fraser couldn’t even begin to fathom how they might come in handy. A bicycle on a stand, a string of glowing chili-pepper lights over the kitchen counter, coffee stains on the newspaper on the table. And yet… it was oddly comfortable. The cushy armchair in front of the window and the assortment of objects with purely sentimental value that were scattered over the surfaces, and everything bathed in the warm light from a lamp in the corner. It was very homey.
Ray’s touch had been so self-assured. Not the least bit hesitant – or even uncomfortable. His hands had been so warm; the warmth had seeped effortlessly through the soft material of the Henley, helping my muscles to relax. It was an act of intimacy for me, who is so little used to the experience of a comforting touch. But Ray had been very kind; he didn’t act as if there were anything the least bit unusual about it… and maybe for him it isn’t. He is so very direct in his approach, not the least hesitant about touching.
We talked a little about the case and about Ray’s and Stella’s relationship—well, Ray did most of the talking. I’m afraid my back didn’t put me in a particularly talkative mood. What Ray said about letting go and loss… I kept thinking about it even after he had dropped me off at the consulate. He said that you had to try, that you needed ‘to get back in the saddle’ because otherwise you would never know if you could do it again, fall in love, be with someone else.
When I said that I don’t think I’m ready yet he asked ‘how would you know?’ and I didn’t have an answer for that. Maybe he’s right. Maybe I shouldn’t let her Victoria control me any longer than she has. Ray Vecchio had been right, but I don’t think I ever truly believed it, that not every dark-haired woman is trying to kill her lover.
And I see how bravely Ray Kowalski is trying to cope, not afraid to get hurt again. He said it didn’t matter if he ever found love again; all that mattered was that he didn’t give up.
The next week, Ray was busy with a murder investigation and Fraser didn’t expect to see much of his friend. All the more pleased was he when a phone call came in on Tuesday afternoon.
“Hey, you busy?”
“Good afternoon, Ray,” Fraser smiled. Ray wasted very little time on social niceties. “I would like to claim that my work at the consulate is sufficient to fill my workday, however, I already straightened the supply closet and my daily report is already awaiting the Inspector’s approval on her desk.”
“Greatness. I’ll be there in five.”
It turned out that Ray was at a dead end with his current investigation and Fraser was only too glad to offer his assistance. Ray was filling him in during the drive to the victim’s house.
“I was wondering, Ray, wouldn’t working with a partner help you with your investigations on your cases? I always found a second pair of eyes and ears most helpful,” Fraser glanced at Ray’s profile. From the start Fraser had been puzzled by Ray’s apparent refusal to work together with a partner.
A slow smile spread over Ray’s lips and he pushed his sun-glasses up to throw Fraser a look that very clearly said that Fraser was obviously from a different planet.
“Fraser, I don’t need an official partner. After all,” Ray’s lips twitched again and he concentrated his attention back on the road again. “I got you. Don’t I?”
He patted Fraser’s shoulder for a moment.
Fraser felt a sudden flush of gratitude. Partners then, he thought. So it hadn’t been his fanciful imagination alone that had come up with that idea – his imagination was a trifle unreliable at times.
“So, what do you make of it?”
Fraser thought about the information Ray had just given him.
“If I understood you correctly, the victim had been a street vendor all of his life and there seems to be no apparent motive for his murder?”
“Who’d kill a pretzel vendor?”
“Point taken. It isn’t a profession that inspires grudges. Any known enemies, gambling debts—”
“Nothing. The guy lived a pretty quiet life together with his wife. The house is nice, but it’s no castle. The wife’s got some kind of nerve disorder so she’s mostly at home. No big social life, no debts. Nothing was taken from the body, so robbery is not a possible motive.”
The visit at Mr. Tucci’s house was also not a very helpful one. His wife was grief-stricken and a neighbour was staying with her at the moment. No one could think of a reason why anyone would want to harm the old man.
Ray sighed and shook his head. “It was worth a try. We could see if any of the witnesses check out?”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
The first two on Ray’s list turned out to know nothing more than that a shot had been fired which had brought them to the side of the crime. They hadn’t seen anyone run from the crime scene or even noticed the victim before the shot fell.
The next address was around the corner. Ray rang the bell and the door was opened only a short moment later.
“Yes?” The woman who stood in the doorframe asked.
Fraser waited for Ray to explain the reason for their visit, but Ray kept quiet. Confused, Fraser looked at his friend. Ray stood there with his eyes fixed on the woman and appeared to be completely speechless.
“Ah, M’am, we are investigating the murder of Mr. Tucci,” Fraser explained instead of his friend.
“Come in,” the woman stepped back to let them enter.
Ray shook his head as if to clear it.
“Mrs. Russell can you tell us what you saw?” Ray’s voice was business-like, but he still seemed unable to tear his gaze away.
“Of course. Even though I am not sure how much help I’ll be. I was on my way home from a friend— I know it’s dangerous but it’s much faster—and I passed the pretzel vendor right after the turn that leads to the pond.”
She had a dark, smoky voice that captivated Ray with almost hypnotic force if Fraser was any judge of the intensity in his friend’s eyes.
“I had almost reached the next bend when I heard the shot. I turned around, but Mr. Tucci—that was his name, you said? – he was almost out of my sight already. I saw him crumple on the ground and—I’m sorry, I know I should’ve run over there to help, but I was terrified. I was frozen to the spot. A small crowd gathered and I drew hesitantly closer. The police were on the scene a minute later. I’m afraid that’s all that I can tell you.”
“No, that’s very helpful, Mrs.—”
“Please, Miss is fine. I’m not married or anything.”
Ray flashed her a smile. “Did you notice anything as to who shot or from where the shot came from?”
She shook her head with an apologetic look. There was something frail and delicate about her. She was beautiful in a way, Fraser supposed.
“No, I only turned around after I heard the shot and I was so shocked I don’t remember anything besides the dead man on the street.”
“I’m sorry you had to witness that. Here,” Ray scribbled something in his notebook and tore the page out to give it to her. “This is my number. You can call me should you remember anything or should you, you know, need anything,” Ray appeared slightly embarrassed, but her smile was appraising and she took the offered slip of paper with a knowing expression.
“Do you have anyone to stay with you?”
She shook her head. “No, but I will be fine on my own. Thank you, officer—?”
“Kowalski. Uh, Ray Kowalski.”
Fraser felt a kink in his neck and cracked his neck to get rid of it. He cleared his throat. “Ah, Ray, we had better be going. We still have a few other interviews to conduct.”
Ray frowned at him. “Yeah, alright.”
Fraser breathed a little easier outside. He supposed it had been a little stifling inside, probably from the sun beating down all morning and maybe the A/C hadn’t been working.
“Are you alright there, buddy? You seemed a little quiet.”
“Of course I am alright,” Fraser answered tersely. “I should ask you the same thing.”
“Me?” Ray asked, surprised.
“You seemed very captivated by something there for a moment.”
Ray grinned. “Frase, you did look at her, didn’t you? Because if you had you would’ve noticed that she’s stunning! Drop-dead-gorgeous.”
“This is hardly a professional statement,” Fraser replied stiffly.
Ray snorted. “Lighten up. There’s nothing wrong with appreciating a beautiful woman. Besides, she’s not a suspect or anything. She isn’t even directly involved in our investigation.”
They let the discussion drop and Ray was his usual self in the other interviews. Even though the witness statements themselves weren’t terribly helpful.
Ray looked through his notes on the way to the car. He sighed and scratched his head. It put his hair into an even more experimental state than it was without any outside influence. Fraser smiled a little.
“So what do we got? ‘A skinny guy’… and then we got ‘a fat guy with skinny legs’… ‘a fat skinny guy’… and ‘dark hair’ – at least that’s something they all agreed on. But that’s not a very definite description, is it? Gee….” Ray muttered, annoyed.
“I’m sorry, Ray. I’m sure we’ll make some progress tomorrow.”
“Yeah… yeah… should I drop you off somewhere?”
“If you would be so kind.”
“No problem… I guess I’ll have another chat with Luanne Russell.”
Fraser started. “Why?”
Ray shrugged, slightly embarrassed. “I just want to make sure she’s alright.”
“…of course,” Fraser answered, but it sounded strained to his own ears.
This newest case seems to be quite the mystery. The witness descriptions are indeed odd. I can find no possible explanation for the inconsistency between skinny and fat. We are also still short a motive. Mr. Tucci had been a very respectable man as far as I can tell and no robbery had been attempted.
I’m also a little uneasy about Ray’s involvement with Miss Russell. It is clearly not a very professional approach to the investigation and can hardly lead to an objective evaluation of her statement. I am well aware that Ray thought it was high time that he got back in the romantic game, but this appears to be a rather rushed effort on his part. I don’t think that Miss Russell’s visual qualities alone can be enough to claim a romantic interest. It is of course entirely up to Ray and it is none of my business, but I don’t think that this is the right way to go about it. I’m sure that Ray simply needed the encouragement and the spark of mutual attraction to make himself feel better and that he won’t pursue anything more permanent. After all, what could they possibly have in common?
“Hey, Fraser, you think this love at first sight thing is legit?” Ray asked over lunch the next day.
Fraser’s tea went down the wrong pipe and trying to dislodge it sent tears to his eyes.
“Easy,” Ray thumped him on the back until Fraser’s coughing fit had subsided.
“Excuse me?” Fraser asked with slightly watery eyes.
Ray looked a little abashed. “Well, you know, that moment between Luanne and me? You think there can be this instant spark between people and then you just know?”
Dief yipped agreement from under the table. Fraser looked reproachfully at him. “It’s different for wolves,” he said tartly. Dief’s answering grumble left his disagreement on this point without a doubt.
“See, Dief agrees with me!” Ray said smugly, chewing on slightly stale French fries.
“I hardly think love is just a question of mutual attraction,” Fraser explained carefully.
“But it’s a good place to start.” Ray grinned victoriously.
Over the course of the next few days, Fraser learned a lot more things about Luanne Russell – more than he had ever wanted to know.
“She works for some kind of paper—she doesn’t like to talk about it, says nothing she ever brings is ever good enough for her boss,” Ray told him while they were poring over maps of the park in which Mr. Tucci had been murdered.
“Ah, I see,” Fraser replied non-commitally.
They returned to Mrs. Tucci’s house. She was again in the company of the neighbor, a non-descript woman in her thirties with keen eyes behind black-framed glasses and hair of a run-of-the-mill blond that reached her shoulders.
“Mrs. Tucci, I’m sorry for the intrusion, but could we bother you again? We have a few more questions.”
Ray looked pointedly at the neighbour, but Mrs. Tucci nodded and said “Oh, please, Mr. Detective, Mrs. Harker can stay. I feel better with her here.”
Ray didn’t like it, but the old woman was set on her decision, so Ray shrugged and consulted his notebook.
“Could you take a look at this map?” Ray showed her the map of the park. They had traced the route Mr. Tucci had taken and circled the spot where he had met his death.
Mrs. Tucci looked the map over and began shaking her head.
“No, no. This is not possible.”
“You must be mistaken. This is not Franco’s route.”
Fraser’s brows drew together and he approached the map. The route was corroborated by the witness statements.
“Are you sure?” he asked.
Mrs. Tucci nodded emphatically.
“Here, I’ll show you. This,” she drew another set of lines on the map, “this is his route. It has always been the same without fail for all those years.”
Ray and Fraser were still puzzling over the change in routine when they left her.
“Okay… I’ll ask the witnesses again. Maybe someone knows something about it. I’ll see Luanne later anyway; I can ask her if she noticed anything unusual.”
Fraser refrained from answering. He simply didn’t understand how Ray could be so besotted with a woman he hardly knew. Of course, Ray might be following some baser needs, he might have some… needs… but Fraser had thought that his friend was trying to find a little more than simple relief.
That evening, Fraser tried to find some peace, but neither his trusted notebook nor ironing his hat helped him with that endeavor. Dief began to whimper after Fraser’s third bout of pacing through his office.
“Yes, you know what? You’re right. I can go out and be social myself. I don’t have to wait for Ray to fill my time. He can spend his evening with Miss Russell all he likes; he is free to do what he wants with his time. I can meet people, too.”
Decisively, Fraser changed out of his uniform and into jeans and a blue shirt, put on his hat and left the consulate.
After aimlessly walking around for half an hour, he realized that he had no idea where to go. He didn’t frequent bars and he never actually tried to meet people as a regular of the crowd. Where was he supposed to start? A little overwhelmed at the possibilities of Chicago’s nightlife, he stopped at a hotel to enquire after a suitable bar.
It wasn’t far and Fraser had no problem finding the ‘Lotus Room’. Upon entering, Fraser at once remembered why he usually didn’t like to frequent bars. The music was too loud, it was stuffy and half of the other patrons were well on their way to being drunk.
He ordered a water at the bar and looked for a quiet spot somewhere. He already regretted his decision in coming here, but he had made his bed and now he would lie in it.
Tomorrow, he could tell Ray about his exciting evening at a regular bar.
He looked around. It was a little classier than the usual pub and at least it was a lot more comfortable than the high-end bar that Stella and her date had frequented. The drunken laughter of the group at the next table chafed on his ears. He didn’t have to stay long. Just long enough to finish his water… and prove a point.
There was a shout of triumph and Fraser looked to the left, half behind the bar, to see two men giving each other a high-five. He smiled at their antics and was just about to turn back when—
“Ray!” Fraser exclaimed in sudden pleasure. Fraser was about to leave his seat to go over and say hello when he noticed that Ray wasn’t here alone. Fraser’s whole face froze as he realized that Ray was having a very intimate conversation with Luanne. She had been almost hidden for a moment by one of the men who had raised Fraser’s attention in the first place.
Of all the places, Fraser thought almost bitterly. For a moment he had almost made up his mind to leave and to end this disastrous evening before it could get any worse. But his body wasn’t moving and he couldn’t tear his eyes away from Ray’s experimental hair that caught the light of the bar, his long fingers that pushed a strand of hair behind her ear, and the smile that lit up his eyes.
Ray leaned closer to her and suddenly their lips met. Fraser stared mesmerized. He knew it was rude, but he simply couldn’t look away. They were a stunning pair. Ray’s fierce features and her fragile beauty. Ray cradled the back of her head to keep her close and she looked so small and vulnerable in his embrace that Fraser couldn’t stop staring.
The kiss turned heated and Fraser saw a possessive streak in Ray that he had only known in a bigger context so far. To see it condensed in such a little thing, just a kiss… it sent a shiver down his spine. Her cheeks were flushed and every kiss seemed to fuel them more and Fraser felt a distinctive warmth in his ears.
It startled Fraser how sexual it was, the way they kissed, the way Ray’s tongue plunged into her mouth, the way her fingers gripped his shirt.
They parted grudgingly and Fraser could see Ray’s quickened breathing from across the room. His arousal was almost palpable. She asked him something and Ray’s smile broke over his features in a hungry flash. He nodded and together they made their way towards the exit. They were walking so close they were almost pressed together. Ray’s hand had vanished underneath her shirt, stroking softly over the small of her back, and Fraser’s mouth was suddenly dry.
He had no idea how much longer he sat there, staring at the exit, but all of a sudden he broke out of his reverie and stumbled out of the bar. He made it back to the consulate in a haze and he ignored Dief’s inquisitive yipping. Sleep. He needed sleep. Ray was probably spending his night with very little, but that didn’t matter. He didn’t need to know what Ray did. Did he?
Ray followed her into her bedroom. There was only a dim light coming from a smallish lamp in the corner, but Ray liked the way it painted shadows across her skin. He took her in his arms and walked her backwards. Her lips were soft and she gasped softly when Ray broke the kiss. With a hungry look, Ray’s fingers sneaked underneath her shirt to lift it over her head. She raised her hands to help him and Ray’s hands wasted no time to explore her skin.
Ray loved the way female skin felt. Silky, smooth, so smooth, and his fingertips followed the dip of her stomach to the waistband of her skirt. He felt her shiver slightly under his touch and suddenly he needed to kiss her again. Her lips opened easily to his touch and Ray’s hands came around her to pull her close.
His hand roamed over her back, hooking into the strap of her bra for a moment and she gave a quiet little moan and pushed closer against him. With nimble fingers, Ray unhooked the bra and pulled it off her shoulders. She pulled her mouth away from his then. “Ray…” she whispered, and if her voice had been fit for a bedroom before it was positively smoldering now.
Ray couldn’t quite keep the smile from his lips as his hands cupped her breasts. Her hands were fisted into his shirt and her wet mouth was pressed against his neck. Her breasts were soft, small, and perfect, and Ray couldn’t resist twisting her nipples lightly. She cried out softly and Ray murmured against her ear. “Responsive, I like that…” She bit her lip and Ray bent down, unable to keep his mouth away any longer.
“Please,” she moaned quietly as Ray’s lips closed around the little nub. It was firm and of a beautiful pale rose color and Ray pressed his lips tighter together around it, flicking his tongue out as she gasped for air.
He pulled back to look at her. Her face was flushed and Ray winked at her before taking her other nipple between his lips. He bit down lazily, grazing it with his teeth and she shivered and moaned and Ray bit down tighter until her moan turned into a gasp. Leisurely, he painted a pattern with his tongue around the abused flesh, breathing on it to expose it to sudden cold and she shivered. Her hands fisted in his hair as Ray kissed along her breasts, along her collar bone, to bite down lightly into the soft flesh of her shoulder.
She drew him closer and Ray delighted in the way her naked body felt against his clothes. Luanne tightened her hold on him and leaned backwards until gravity pulled her to the bed. Ray landed on top of her and moved to kiss her again. His tongue teased her lips as his hands ghosted playfully over the bare flesh of her thighs.
With a moan, she raised her knees, pulling her legs up, and Ray’s fingers skirted over the soft skin of the inside of her thigh. Her scent was enveloping him, drenching him in the heady, powdery, and yet natural, smell of warm skin.
“Ray… oh, Ray…” she murmured as his fingers moved underneath her skirt. Her hips pushed up, meeting his teasing palm and the tantalizing slide of his fingertips. He chuckled dryly. Her panties were of a slick, cool fabric, and Ray’s fingers moved along the edges where skin met cover.
She whimpered and her fingers curled tight into Ray’s shirt. Ray’s almost noiseless laugh puffed moistly against the warm skin of her collar bone. “Let me go, I wanna taste you,” Ray murmured and gripped his shirt at the collar to pull it over his head. Once it met the ground, he slithered further down. The only other sound in the room was her rapid breathing.
With a determined hand, Ray pushed her legs further apart to find a comfortable position between them. Luanne’s breathing stopped on an anticipatory gasp. Ray smirked.
He moved closer and inhaled deeply. He loved the way women smelled. Warm. Sweet with a hint of musk. Wet. The way he thought electricity would taste like. With the flat of his tongue, he licked a wet stripe over her panties. The dark, purple fabric darkened another shade.
Luanne’s whole body moved with Ray’s tongue. She pressed herself closer, trying to force more of herself onto Ray’s tongue. But Ray didn’t take any notice of it. As if he had all the time in the world, his tongue explored the soft crease where her thigh met her pelvis. He tasted the salt there and the slight hint of vanilla that seemed to be part of herself.
“Don’t be a tease,” Luanne’s smoky voice held the glow of hot coals. Ray bit the inside of her thigh. “Wouldn’t dream of it,” he murmured.
He pushed her skirt further up, only to pull her panties down. Their eyes met as Ray slid the silky fabric off her legs. She bit her lips and Ray winked. He kissed his way down from her navel again. She had the most perfect bellybutton.
He licked softly over the smooth skin of her pubic arch before dipping between her lips. She cried out, writhing against the sheets, but Ray held her hips down. Her fingers curled into fists into the sheet as a groan was torn from her throat. Ray’s tongue dove in, savoring her taste, and she pressed her sex even closer against his face.
Almost tenderly, Ray spread her open with his fingers. His tongue explored her lips, the soft, delicate inside flesh, before it darted softly over that little nub that was already flushed and swollen. Luanne couldn’t keep quiet anymore. “Oh, oh God… oh, Ray…” Her toes curled up, gripping the sheet between them. But now that Ray was right where he wanted to be, he showed no mercy. He sucked on it before giving it quick licks until her hips were moving up to meet him. Ray’s fingers spread the slick around until she was thoroughly wet. Then he pushed two fingers in as slowly as he could stand.
Luanne’s cry might’ve raised the whole street, but Ray didn’t care. Again and again, his fingers delved in, spreading her open, as his tongue flicked over her clit in an almost cruel pattern. He loved the way a woman could drip from sheer want.
Ray pressed his tongue against the little nodule and he could feel Luanne convulse around him. Her legs pressed tightly against him and they were shaking from the strain with which she gripped him.
Reluctantly, Ray released her. He nipped at her hole once more, enjoying the way it tried to pull him in, before pressing gentle kisses along the inside of her thigh.
“Ray… Ray, please…” Her voice was more of a hoarse whisper. She reached out for him and pressed something in his hand. As his fingers closed around it, the plastic crinkled. Hurriedly, Ray opened his jeans. He took himself out and tore the condom wrapper open.
Luanne stretched her hands out for him. Her legs came up to wrap around his hips, and the next moment Ray was engulfed in glorious heat.
“Ha…” Ray gasped as he moved inside of her.
Luanne’s fingers were leaving red streaks upon his back, but Ray didn’t care. He pushed into her again and again and her hips rose up to meet him with the smack of flesh on flesh.
“More… please, more…” Luanne gasped and Ray picked up speed. She would probably be sore tomorrow, but he didn’t care. And, apparently, neither did she.
Ray fused their mouths together, sharing a violent, desperate kiss, before he needed to break for air. His breathing was loud in the almost darkness of her room.
“Harder—” her voice broke in the middle of her plea and the sound Ray made was almost a snarl. He pulled out and turned her around in a flash, only to enter her again from behind. She moaned and pushed up on her knees, her fingers gripped the headboard tightly as Ray slammed into her.
Ray gripped the creases of her skirt in his fist as he pushed in as deep as he could. The pleasure was turning everything around him to white noise. Luanne was gasping open-mouthed. “Ray—I—I’m so close—please—” she sobbed and Ray gritted his teeth.
His own climax was approaching in a big knock-out. Ray wrapped his arm around her and moved his hand between her legs. It didn’t take much. His middle finger rubbed over her clit in a small circle as she suddenly cried out and everything pulled tight.
Ray moaned hoarsely as he pushed into her a last time. He rested his sweaty brow against her back, breathing hard….
—Fraser woke with a start. His sheets were twisted around his legs and he couldn’t get any air. It was too hot, almost asphyxiating, and he needed to get out. With erratic efforts, Fraser managed to get the sheet away from him.
The alarm clock showed that it was still almost an hour before he had to get up. He fell back against his mattress with an exhausted sigh.