She meets a man full of mystery, until she finds out…
My first night in my new apartment, I decide to throw a huge housewarming party for all of my old friends- and my new neighbors. It’s a great bash, and being newly single, I’m eager to get some action and christen my new bedroom.
On my own after a nasty breakup, I’m ready for some single-girl fun. My best friends, Mandy and Chris, are here to cheer me on, get me drunk, and introduce me to all the available guys in the vicinity.
“What about the guy with the ponytail?” Chris asks, yelling to be heard over the blaring house music.
“Ew, no! You must be drunk,” I tell her. “He’s ancient. And, FYI, Chris, that’s a comb-over, not a ponytail.”
“You’re cut off,” Mandy teases her, taking away Chris’s beer and swilling half of it herself. “Beer goggles, beer goggles, beer goggles,” she chants, downing the rest at a go. I laugh as they continue to fight. They fight like sisters- with much humor, and great love for each other.
“You two work it out. I’m going outside for a smoke,” I tell Mandy.
“I thought you quit,” she says, narrowing her green eyes at me in an evil glare. “Is this a drunk cigarette, or are you starting again?” she asks, hands on her hips.
“It’s definitely a drunk cigarette.” They both give me suspicious looks, which makes them seem more like sisters than ever. “It is. I’ve got two left in my emergency pack and when they’re gone, I’m quitting again.” I give them both big hugs and say, “Find someone cute for me to flirt with.”
I slip outside on a warm wave of party-laughter. The porch is crowded, so I edge past them and down the stairs to the little courtyard below. It’s beautiful in the moonlight, with pepper-trees and rose-vines bordering a small labyrinth of white stones.
A chill breeze blows over me as I open the gate and enter the deserted little courtyard. There’s a little gazebo under the boughs of an ancient pepper tree near to hand, and I venture inside for shelter from the wind. I’m hoping to get out of the wind long enough to light my cigarette. It’s dark in there, all overgrown with rose-vines, and I take a seat in one of the wrought iron chairs. I dig through my purse, finally locating my emergency cigarettes. But I can’t seem to to find my lighter. Not even a cheap pack of matches from a bar. Nothing.
“Damn it,” I mutter, cigarette bobbing between my expectant lips.
“Need a light?” I look up, startled, and see a dark figure emerge from the shadows beneath the pepper tree. Although his voice is quiet, it is oddly penetrating. I can hear every word clearly, in spite of the howling wind.
“I’d love one,” I tell him, beckoning him into the gazebo with me. “Come in out of the wind,” I tell him. “Aren’t you cold?” I ask him, shivering. He’s not dressed for this storm, wearing only a red T-shirt and a baggy pair of torn-up jeans.
He shakes his head no, and lights a wooden match from a box in his pocket. I smell sulfur and damnation on his fingers. Where his hand touches mine to shield that bright little flame from the wind, I notice that his skin seems to be radiating heat. Touching him only makes the rest of me colder. I button up my sweater all the way to my neck.
“Could I bum one of those?” he asks. I nod, and hand over my last emergency cigarette. He sees it’s my last one and thanks me- tries to give it back, in fact.
But I insist. “No. Take it. My friend Mandy will be thrilled. I promised her I’d quit when this pack was gone.” He holds it up wordlessly, one more time, making sure. But I wave it away. “It’s all yours.”
He lights up, the flame revealing dark silky hair and a serious, intent face. His eyes are hidden in the shadows. His skin exudes a sort of ruddy good health; and he’s got a wicked smile. We smoke in silence for a moment, and then abruptly he says, “You’re my new neighbor. Caitlin, right?”
“Right. But how did you-” I begin.
“I saw your flier in the laundry room. I’m Damian. Damian Hirsch.” He puts out a hand for me to shake. Again, I’m struck by how warm he is. His skin feels like a brick that’s been baking in the sun all day- he’s that warm.
“Caitlin O’Rourke,” I say politely, hugging my sweater close around me. The warmth and liveliness of my housewarming party seems suddenly very far away. I realize no one knows where I am, and this frightens me a little.
“Poor thing… you’re freezing, aren’t you?” he asks sympathetically.
“It’s a little windy, is all,” I say, teeth chattering out the words in short staccato bursts like machine-gun fire.
“Wait right here.” He leaves the gazebo and disappears beneath the shadows of the pepper tree, returning with a beat-up leather jacket. Cut for his broad-shouldered frame, it fairly swims on me- but it’s warm, and it keeps the wind at bay.
“Thanks,” I say, when my teeth stop chattering.
I finish my smoke and say, “I should get back to my party. Stop by later, if you want,” I tell him, knowing somehow that he won’t come.
“Not my scene,” he laughs. “Why don’t you come over to my place when the party’s over? I’m downstairs, in 2-C. I stay up late,” he tells me, with a wicked grin. “See you later?”
“Maybe,” I shrug, trying to play it cool. “If I can sneak away.” He smirks and turns to go. “Wait- your jacket!”
“Keep it,” he says, walking away. Before I can say any more, he vanishes into the deep realm of shadows beneath the vast old pepper tree.
It’s a cold night, windy and superstitious. I dig my hands deep into the pockets of Damian’s coat. I feel something in the left pocket- a little book, maybe, or a notepad. Curious, I pull it out, stopping under a streetlight to investigate. It’s a small, rectangular object, wrapped in a cloudy grey silk scarf. I untie the complicated knots, revealing a battered old deck of cards, oddly warm to the touch. They smell like him- sulfur and ashes; smoke and sweet, sweet sin.
I look at them wonderingly, realizing it’s a pack of Tarot cards. The Tower, The Hanged Man, The Moon, The Devil, The Lovers… I recognize the images, but the words are in a language that’s unfamiliar to me. Did he mean to give me this deck of cards, as well as his coat? I decide that a gift like this was never meant for me- he must have left them in his pocket accidentally. I wrap them back up in the scarf, and put the pack back in my pocket. I shiver a little, staring at the moon peeking out from behind a cloud. I decide to go up to his place later and give his coat back. I won’t even mention the cards.
All through the rest of the night, I think of Damian- his dark eyes; his serious face. I want him; there’s no doubt about it- but he’s my new neighbor. And there’s something dark about him, something that frightens me. This makes me hesitate- it could be an awkward situation, if things don’t work out between us.
It makes me hesitate… until about three o’clock in the morning. After that, all bets are off.
Lonely and horny, I put on a fresh coat of lipstick and clear the last few drunks out of my apartment. Then, I change into my lucky red dress. When I’m wearing this dress, I look so good I get whatever I want. I slip his jacket on over my silk dress and let myself out. I hurry downstairs, looking for 2-C.
It’s not so hard to find- it’s the only place on the second floor that’s still got lights on inside. I knock softly on the door, hearing a torch-singer wailing about how her man done her wrong. There’s no answer. I knock a little louder, and clear my throat self-consciously. Damian opens the door, smiling. There’s no need for words. He kisses me, and pulls me inside.
I take off his leather jacket and hand it to him. He tosses it over a chair without taking his dark, intense eyes from my face. I can see my own desire reflected in his gaze. He kisses me hard, and holds me close, running his hot hands down my back. He grips my ass, squeezing hard, and grinds his hips against me. I can feel the hard curve of his cock through the thin silk skirt of my dress. In the hallway, which is painted red to match my dress, he shoves me up against the wall.
“Don’t make me wait-” he says. He’s already reaching for his belt, unbuttoning his fly, slipping a condom over his swollen cock. I push my panties aside and he lifts me up, grabbing my ass. I wrap my legs around him; feel his hard hot mushroom tip nudging against me. Damian moans, grinding harder. I put one finger to his lips, signaling him to wait. Then, as he holds me against the wall, I put my hands between my legs and guide him inside.
He’s huge; and it hurts a little at first, but it doesn’t take me long to get used to his girth. He starts slowly, building to a quick, driving rhythm when he senses I’m ready for a change of pace.
“It’s so hot inside you…oh, yeah…that’s what I need,” he says into my hair, biting gently at my earlobe, nibbling my throat. Rocking his hips faster, he thrusts deeper and deeper inside my tight little box. I’m wet and aching for it; it’s been ages since I’ve come this hard. I tear off his shirt, and bury my fingers in his hair. I kiss his neck, his chest, his shoulders- anything I can reach. He fucks me madly, with a wild, lush abandon that soon has me crying out loud and waking the neighbors.
I come again and again, shrieking out his name. I can’t help myself. I’ve never been fucked like this before. I didn’t even know this kind of fucking was possible, outside of porn films. Damian is tireless; even though we’ve been at it for hours and the pale dawn light is beginning to creep around his thick curtains, he still hasn’t come.
When we take a break to change positions, I have to ask: “Am I doing something wrong?”
“No. It’s great- fucking wonderful. Why?”
“Well, you haven’t…uh, you know…” I close my eyes in embarrassment. “Never mind.”
“No, no. I have very good control. And I want you to be satisfied; happy-“
“I’m so satisfied I’m about to pass out,” I tell him. He roars laughter and fucks me with renewed vigor and determination. I scream again and again, and claw bloody furrows in his back.
“Oh… oh Caitlin…” he cries out, arching his back, and then reverts to a language I’ve never heard before. It is low and guttural, and sweetly melodic, a dark croon. He comes hard, and collapses on top of me. Holding me close afterwards, Damian’s so warm it makes me feel claustrophobic. When he falls asleep, I free myself from his embrace. I dress silently, and tiptoe out of his apartment with my shoes in one hand.
In the shower, I see Damian’s marks on me- love-bites, all over my throat and breasts; little bruises shaped like his fingertips. Touching the crescent-moon on my shoulder from his teeth, I immediately feel hot and wet again. I dress quickly, then walk back downstairs. I want a quickie before I go to work, and if we hurry, there’s just enough time.
But when I arrive at Damian’s apartment, he’s not home. In fact, it looks as if nobody’s lived there in a long time. There’s a pile of aging newspapers moldering in front of the door. No curtains in the window; not a stick of furniture inside. Strange. In fact, it’s impossible. I was only in the shower for ten minutes. I can still taste his kisses. I check the apartment number again, sure that I’ve got the wrong place. But this is 2-C, all right.
I don’t really have time for detective work, but I’m curious- and a little uneasy. I have to know. So I knock on the super’s door. Mr. Johnson answers, still in his ratty orange robe.
“What can I do for you?” he frowns.
“Well, I had a question about…about one of the apartments,” I say, which is not exactly a lie. “2-C. Is it vacant? One of my girlfriends is looking for a place, and I told her I’d ask.”
“Yeah, it’s empty. You wanna take a look?”
“That would be great,” I smile. I’ll be late to work, but fuck it. I have to know. Johnson sighs, and slams the door in my face. When he opens it again, he’s jangling a big key-ring in one hand and muttering to himself. I follow his wide ass up the stairs, and he opens up 2-C.
“Has it been vacant long?” I ask, tracing my finger over the thick layer of dust on the windowsill.
“About two years,” he grunts. “Hard to rent a place with a history.”
“What do you mean?” I ask, frowning, wondering if it’s got anything to do with Damian.
“You didn’t read about it? It was all over the fuckin’ papers. This kid moves in with his girlfriend a couple, three years ago. At first it’s all good, but then the neighbors start to complain. I’m getting calls two or three times a night about them fighting, or fucking. They’re so loud that somebody eventually calls the cops. After a couple weeks of this, there’s a little bit of a change… things get quiet. Too quiet. You know?” he asks me. Not wanting to interrupt the flow of his story, I nod.
“One night… one crazy night, they had the worst fight I’ve ever heard, and she left him. The next morning, one of his neighbors found him down in the courtyard, under the pepper tree, dead as a friggin’ doornail.”
I gasp. “He died?”
“Oh, yeah. Woulda been pretty fuckin’ weird if he hadn’t. She stabbed him, see? Right in the chest. Kid left a trail of blood all the way down the stairs… it was a bitch to get it out of the carpet,” he says, gesturing to the bedroom floor. “Had to replace it all. It’s brand-new now.”
Glancing into the room, I see a little piece of paper in one corner- right where the bed was last night. “What was his name?” I ask the super, but I’m afraid I already know. I step into the room and pick it up, turning it over in my hand.
“Damon? No… Damian. Damian Hirsch,” the super said. “And I haven’t been able to rent the place since. You think your friend might be interested?”
Gazing down at the object in my hands, I feel pale. I say, “Now that I know the story… I don’t think so. She’s, uh…she’s pretty superstitious,” I tell him, and thank him for his time. I bolt out the door, and run back upstairs, call in sick to work.
I sit down shakily on the couch to study the object in my hands, my mind a knotted tangle of questions and fears. It is, of course, one of Damian’s Tarot cards- The Lovers. If I stare at it long enough, the dark-haired young man on the front of the card seems to smile and wink, as if promising we’ll meet again.
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