Dark Hunger

Page 1

Bang bang bang. Fireworks exploded above her, the dazzling pastels blooming before her eyes in a furious cascade of sparks. As the hot coals showered down like burning rain, Laura jumped when one touched


Bang bang bang! they exploded, the little pieces hitting her face, her legs, suddenly soft and caressing her like –

"Laura!" Bang bang bang. "If I hadn't lost your key I would come in!"

Josie. Wha? Laura opened her eyes and fumbled for her phone. 7:22 a.m. She sat upright in horror.

"Hang on!" she shouted, stumbling to the door, unchaining and unlocking it. Josie stood there, petite and jaunty, peering around Laura.

"So is he still here?" she asked breathlessly. "Is that why you didn't answer?" Josie looked like a chihuahua in skinny jeans.

"Is who still here?" Laura yawned and stood on tiptoe, her muscles desperate for oxygen, blood rushing into her extremities and nearly giving her a calf cramp as she slowly went down to flat feet, rolling her shoulders and stretching her neck.

"Whatever hot, eligible bachelor contacted you last night, because you are on a roll, Baby! One a day, right?" She punched Laura lightly in the shoulder and stormed past her, banging and shuffling things as Laura stared at the back of her front door.

For the briefest of seconds she ran a frantic mental check – had she gone out last night? – and then cursed herself. This was getting out of hand. No, last night she had stayed home and finished up some quarterly reports, watched a few episodes of Mad Men, and gone to bed early. Apparently, she'd needed the sleep. And, apparently, she had forgotten to set her alarm. Now she would be late for work, though she knew her boss wouldn't mind. Last night she had clocked an extra three hours; flex time and a salaried position made it easier to go in a bit late this morning.

Josie didn't have that luxury. As a geriatric nurse, she needed to be on shift on time, every time. At least she only worked three shifts a week, though. Soon her rotation would take her to midnight shifts, which Josie hated. So did Laura; it was hard to get together when her best friend kept a schedule better suited for vampires.

"I took a break from my busy fuckbuddy schedule," Laura yawned, stretching again. Her belly felt cold as her shirt hiked up, and when she looked down her braless breasts hung lower, off to the sides, like small,

smooth animals with the metabolism of a sloth. Josie had a chest like a boy's, if a boy had tight little breasts you could fit in a headphone cover. Mostly, they envied each others' figures, though Laura could never understand why Josie would want these boobs. At this rate, she'd need a wheelbarrow by the age of fifty. Or to marry a

good plastic surgeon. Or a billionaire.

A quick thought of Mike, then a more surprising flash of Dylan, hit her. She couldn't get over Dylan – didn't want to, really. Mike had called her last night. Asked her out again. This time to his cabin up on the mountain. Maybe they could make love without a million uninvited, biting guests. That would be a step up, Laura thought, as she absent-mindedly scratched her ass over her flannel pajamas. She needed some arnica for the bites and kept forgetting to buy some.

"Quit scratching yourself and come have some coffee!" Josie called.

How did Josie know she was scratching? It's like the woman was part psychic. Or heard the scrit scrit scrit of fabric as she scratched. Or watched her reflection in the hallway mirror. Ah – that was it. She looked and

saw Josie's cheesy, overstretched grin as she held up a mug and took a sip.

"Ahhhhh. Coffee tastes so much better at your house, Laura."

"That's because it's free."

Josie sputtered and laughed. "OK, you got me there."

Laura poured a cup of coffee and sat at her little kitchen table, taking deep breaths. "What am I going to do, Josie? Mike asked me out on a date tonight."

"What did you say?"

"Yes, of course. I really like him." She took a sip. "More than I want to."

"What does that mean?"

Laura said nothing, then started to explain, but thought the better of it. "Nevermind."

"You are stuck on Dylan, aren't you?" Josie's tone was incredulous. "Did you ever figure out who that woman was?"


"And has he tried to reach you?"

Laura blew air out her nose, laughing softly. "I have 34 messages from him on the dating site."

"Oh, he's playing it cool, isn't he?" Josie laughed. Then she frowned. “But I thought you blocked him?”

“He created a new account.”

Josie made a low whistling sound of disbelief. “Day-um, Laura!”

Laura smiled wistfully. "Yeah. I just can't go there, Josie. You know how much it hurt when I found out about Ryan..." She had dated Ryan for the better part of a year. They'd shopped for engagement rings. He'd introduced her to his boss, went on double dates, and then one day she got an anonymous message on Facebook. A request to friend.

Someone with Ryan's last name.

His wife.

Funny how he had forgotten that detail.

Laura had a pretty simple morality: don't date people who file taxes with other people as a married couple. Her rule was easy to grasp. Too hard for Ryan, though.

And now she applied the same rule to Dylan: no dating people who were involved with other people.

"If I'm going to be part of a threesome, Josie, it won't be as the invisible third."

"Mmmmm, a man sandwich with Laura in the middle. And those two men..." Josie licked her lips with great exaggeration.

Laura's hands reached out to shove Josie before she could think to stop herself. "Cut it out!" Her face burned, though, with the thought. Josie just cackled.

A threesome. Menage. She'd never done it. But she sure had thought about it. As her breath hitched with embarrassment and arousal she shifted in her seat, now painfully aware of the increased heat in her nether regions.

Regions that had seen more activity – and from more men – in three days than in two months.

"Laura and Mike and Dylan, sitting in a tree – oh!" Josie joked, skittering away so Laura couldn't punch her again. Shaking her head, Laura buried her face in her coffee to hide her expression from her friend, who was about a hair away from figuring out that Laura would welcome the menage.

It was all more than she could even acknowledge to herself, much less admit to her friend. There were lines in friendship. This was one of them. She couldn't take back the words if she blurted them out, and right now she was just too confused and tired to deal with the fallout from admitting what her heart really desired.

Besides, there was that pesky issue of Dylan's girlfriend. Funny, how that put a screeching halt to any sandwich fantasies.

At least she had Mike.

"You still have Mike, though," Josie mused. "Poor Laura. Have to settle for a guy who looks like something out of Asgard. Does he have a tongue like a god, too?"

Laura threw the empty half-n-half container at Josie, who just chuckled as she stood and walked out the door, leaving Laura to get ready for a torturous day at work, the hours before seeing Mike stretching out like years.

As she dressed, though, she remembered her drive home from their last date. For some reason she still didn't understand, she'd started crying as soon as they'd gotten in their cars. At first, she'd almost jumped out of the seat and run after him, just needing something – more. More words? No. More sex? Ah – no.

Just more.

By the time she'd arrived home she had been fine, so whatever triggered the tears seemed to have settled and found its place inside her. Could sex with someone she'd only met a couple of days ago unleash emotions that strong?

Was it deeper than that? Her earring got stuck as she tried to shove the post through the ancient hole, the back of the earlobe grown over. A few layers of skin had closed up the back of the lobe and she worked to center the end of the post over the spot where the lump of scar tissue was thickest. Gritting her teeth, she forced the metal rod through, the hot sting of newly-pierced tissue evolving into a throb.

Her favorite pearl earring dangled nicely. Was it worth the pain?

Sure. For the sake of wearing something that complemented her perfectly.

Maybe Mike's the same, she thought. You had to date a lot of painful jerks before you found the one who complements you perfectly.

Hot tears filled her mouth and eyes.

Aha. Now she understood.

And yet Dylan – she closed her eyes and full drops poured out of her inner tear ducts and down her nostrils. An ache in her throat spread to her chest. Ignoring his messages had been agony. Sheer, unadulterated pain in the form of restraint.

She had held fast, though she had faltered only once. The (gorgeous, incredible, irresistible) idiot had gone and created a completely new online dating account to circumvent her blocking him! How stalkerish and weird and creepy and –




She had almost – almost, achingly almost nearly so close – broken down and agreed to meet him for coffee, just to hear his side of the story – which she already knew. It was a cliché upon a cliché, right?

Holding fast, though, she had simply typed:

Please leave me alone.

And, like magic, he had.

The ache that his respect for her wishes created in her was so contradictory yet so pervasive it made her question her own sanity. Why was she so drawn to this guy? What was so special that she would override her own moral code for him?

Ah, but you didn't, her conscience reminded her.

Oh, how I want to, she retorted.

Dylan stared at the computer monitor, completely unsure and yet painfully, deeply certain of what he was reading. Mike and Laura? Mike was hitting on Laura at the online dating site? What? He scrolled through the history of the chat window and realized that – that the first chat took place the morning after his date with her.

Oof. His stomach twisted and his balls felt like lead. Stretching his neck and clearing his throat, he fought back a tearful rage. Ease up, Buddy. Last time you let your temper flare you had a $400 door to replace.

He'd been a bit confused when he woke up that morning and she had been gone. But he'd had plenty of encounters where that happened – yet he'd expected her to answer one of his phone calls or his texts. She had plenty of opportunities.

While he wasn't quite ready to stomp over to her house and hold a boom box over his head, with Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes blasting from it, he was definitely in that uncomfortable zone where he expected to have a second date with her, anticipated it – really, frankly was excited by the prospect of it and had been stymied by her refusal to talk to him.

Mike had sniped her? This wasn't a rare baseball card on eBay, for fuck's sake.

Even though it had been less than twenty-four hours since he last saw her, and he knew he shouldn't be so eager, it stung. He had an inkling about why she was blowing him off now – some inkling. A 6'5” inkling.

According to the times on the chat window, it looked like within a few hours of leaving his bed, she was planning a date with – Mike?

Mike? Mild mannered, boring old Mike?

This didn't make any sense! Dylan was the one who went out and found someone for them. Dylan had found Jill, who had been their one and only.

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