Sweet Filthy Boy: Chapter 5

LOLA DROPS ME at home. I find my little brothers in the family room playing Xbox, and Dad hands me a glass of wine as soon as I step out onto the veranda.

“To our brilliant daughter,” he says, holding his own glass aloft. He smiles indulgently at me before pulling Mom close to his side, and the sunset behind them creates a beautifully backlit silhouette I’m sure he would be thrilled to see in a framed photograph. “I trust that your last wild weekend was perfect, and, as your father, I don’t want to hear a single thing about it.” He smiles at this little joke, and I would probably find it funny were our history not so perilous. “Here’s to hoping your future from here on out is nothing but focus and success.”

I clink my glass to his halfheartedly and watch his face as he looks me over. I’ve showered twice but still look like death warmed over in my black T-shirt and torn jeans. His eyes move across my mouth, down to my neck, where I’ve tried to cover the bite marks and red splotches with a gray jersey scarf. Dad’s smile turns quickly into a look of disgust, but he doesn’t seem to have noticed my wedding ring. Carefully, I slide my left hand into my pocket to keep it that way.

He places his glass on the outdoor bar and steps away from Mom. “Women who are successful in business are ladies,” he says through clenched teeth, and I feel an odd trickle of satisfaction, knowing how much he’s enjoying this moment. I’ve been nothing but responsible and ambitious over the last four years, making it nearly impossible for him to be constantly critical. But he’s in his element now; my father is much more comfortable delivering insults than praise.

“We went to Vegas to celebrate graduation, Dad. We didn’t become hookers.” No, Mia, you just got married to a stranger.

“You have a lot of growing up to do before you deserve your admission to BU. As much as I disliked the idea of you being a dancer for the rest of your life, at least I admired your ambition. Now, as soon as you graduate from college, you come home looking like you’ve been . . .” He shakes his head. “I don’t even know what you’ve been doing. No man will ever want to work for a tramp who comes to work with bruised lips and hickeys, smelling like days-old booze. Clean up your act, Mia.”

Mom gasps in a shocked breath, and looks up at him as if she’ll object to this absurd tirade. But her energy dissipates as he meets her eyes in challenge. He storms back inside, his mimosa forgotten. Mom stays behind, saying only, “Oh, sweetheart.”

“Don’t, Mom. I’m fine.”

I don’t want her to have to take my side. I’m leaving soon, and life is so much easier for her when she’s squarely Team David. She throws me a conflicted glance before she follows Dad back into the house.

The sliding glass door closes too hard, and I can still hear my dad. Will she ever learn? She’ll throw this opportunity away over my dead body.

I look out over my mom’s perfect yard—immaculate lawn, lush flower beds, pristine white fence—and feel like an unsightly weed in the middle of it. I’ve always felt just a little out of place here. I feel like a complete outsider now.

THE DISCOVERY OUTPOST at the San Diego Zoo is never the biggest draw for the crowds. But behind the Reptile House and past the Wegeforth Bowl there’s a set of exhibits that remain virtually silent even when the zoo is overrun with tourists. It’s always been my favorite metaphor—find the quiet in the chaos—and the place I do my best thinking.

Early Tuesday afternoon, I slip past tourists and families with green plastic zoo-issued strollers at the zoo entrance and turn left past the flamingo exhibit, heading to my secret spot. I need to think about what I’ll pack for Boston, and whether I can organize everything so I can move next week instead of three weeks from now.

I need to think about what kind of job I’d like to get: Waitress. Bakery. Retail. Some sort of business assistant. Maybe a nightclub dancer, just to birdflip my father from across the country. My mind pushes forcibly away from the immediate thought of working as a dance instructor. I turn down the bend and head toward my favorite bench, sitting down and exhaling a long, heavy breath.

I most definitely do not need to think about how at any point today, Ansel could be flying back to Paris.

“You’re right,” a deep, familiar voice says from just a little farther down the path. “This part of the zoo is deserted.”

I don’t believe my ears. I open my eyes to see Ansel walking up the paved walkway. He lowers himself on the bench and stretches his arm across the back, letting it rest behind me. The fingers of his right hand spread across my shoulder.

I’m speechless.

It’s a familiar sensation but for completely unfamiliar reasons. I’m speechless from shock, rather than restraint.

“H-h-” I start, squeezing my eyes shut.

He waits, patiently, fingertips sliding warm and smooth over my skin.

“What are you doing here? How did you know—”

“You told me you come here to think. You said you love this part of the zoo, and I’ll admit,” he says, looking around, “I don’t understand it at all. It’s mostly concrete and sleeping lizards. But I got here maybe an hour ago?” He tilts his head, smiling warmly as if he’s not a terrifying stalker. “And I’m here because I can’t be away from you, Mia. You’re my wife.”

My eyes must go wide in horror because he bursts out laughing, retrieving his arm so he can bend over and rest his elbows on his thighs. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t very nice. I’m in San Diego because I’m flying out of the airport here tonight. Oliver is meeting with the architect remodeling his store, and it’s the last time we’ll see each other for a while. We drove down together last night, and today I came here, hoping it was true that you come here to think all the time. And maybe to do a little thinking myself,” he adds, looking over at me and smiling sweetly. “I promise I was kidding.”

“You still came here looking for me,” I remind him, inching away slightly.

He digs into his back pocket and hands me a sheet of folded paper. I open it and realize it’s a copy of our marriage license. “You didn’t have a copy. You didn’t even know how to spell my last name, I don’t think. I would have called you, but even though I was smart enough to leave you my number, I realized I don’t have yours.”

I feel like a complete asshole. He’s really gone out of his way to make sure I have this, and I couldn’t even text him my number.

“Thanks,” I say quietly.

“Of course.”

I move closer again, putting my hand on his arm, and as the adrenaline in my blood slows to a steady hum, I realize how ridiculously giddy I am to see him. “So, wait, Oliver is opening a store in San Diego?” I absolutely don’t think Lola knew his store was going to be in our hometown.

He nods as he lifts my hand, kisses it. “He’s moving here in a few weeks. Anyway, I just wanted to make sure you had that before you moved.” He nods to the paper I have clenched in my hand, and then stands. “I didn’t want to mail it to your house and have your dad open it.” I swallow heavily, stunned at how thoughtful he’s been. “I’m going to head back to the hotel and relax for a bit. I have a long flight ahead of me.”

“What time do you fly out?”

He blinks away, brows pulled together as he thinks. “Around eleven?”

He pushes his hands into his pockets before I can see if he’s still wearing his ring. He looks at my hands and sees that I am. “My email is just my first and last name together at XMail,” he tells me. “We can coordinate everything in September.”

“Okay,” I say, nodding.

He leans down, kisses the top of my head, and then whispers, “I’ll be at the Hilton Bayfront until around eight. I bought an open, round-trip ticket for you to Paris.” Standing up, he shrugs and lets a huge smile spread across his face as my jaw hits the sidewalk. “What can I say, I’m an optimist. Or insane. Depends on who you ask.”

He may be insane, but that ass looks mighty fine as he walks away.

Sitting in my lizard and concrete shelter for a while, I contemplate going home and immediately discard the thought. I contemplate going to Lola’s and hanging out with her and Greg for dinner, but I’m sure she’s giving her dad the full rundown of our insanity over the weekend. No doubt he’s laughing his ass off, and I don’t really want to be the killjoy who got sentimental. I contemplate heading over to Harlow’s place in La Jolla, but even though some brainless beach time sounds amazing, the genuine love and intense focus of the entire Vega clan would provide too stark a contrast to my own family’s weirdness.

So I drive downtown.

ANSEL PULLS THE door open and breaks into an enormous smile, which slowly fades as he sees I’ve come empty-handed, no suitcase. Nothing but my tiny cross-body bag slung over my chest.

“I can’t come to France with you,” I start, looking up at him with wide eyes. My pulse feels like a heavy drum in my throat. “But I didn’t want to go home, either.”

He steps to the side to let me in and I drop my bag on the floor and turn to watch him. There’s really only one reason I’m here, in this hotel room, and I think we both know it. It’s easy to pretend to be the lover in a movie, coming to the hotel for one last night together. I don’t have to work to be brave when it’s safe like this: he’s leaving. It becomes almost like a game. A play. A role.

I don’t know which Mia is taking over my body, but I’m shutting out everything but how it feels to be so close to this boy. I only have to take one step closer and he meets me halfway, sliding both hands into my hair and covering my mouth with his. Ocean and green and still the lingering scent of me on his clothes.

His taste, oh. I want to feel so full of him that every other thought dissolves under the heat of it. I want his mouth everywhere, sucking at me like he does. I love how he loves my lips, how—after only one night together—his hands already know my skin.

He walks me back to the bed, lips and tongue and teeth all over my cheeks and mouth and jaw. I fall backward when my knees hit the bed.

He pulls at the hem of my dress and unsheathes me in a single determined tug, then reaches behind me, ridding me of my bra with a tiny slip of his fingers. He makes me feel like I’m something to reveal, something in which to revel. I’m the reward at the end of his magic trick, exposed beneath the velvet cape. His eyes rake across my skin and I can see his own impatience: shirt flung across the room, fingers tugging at his belt, tongue flicking at the air, searching for the taste of me.

Ansel gives up on undressing, instead kneeling on the floor between my thighs, spreading me, kissing me through the fabric of my underwear. He nibbles and tugs, sucking and licking impatiently before he slides my last remaining article of clothing down my legs.

I gasp when he leans forward, covering my most sensitive skin in a long, slow lick. His breath feels like tiny bursts of fire where he kisses my clit, my pubic bone, my hip. I push up, leaning back on my hands to watch him.

“Tell me what you need,” he says, his voice raspy against my hip.

With this, I remember weakly that he made me come with his hands and body, but not his mouth. I can sense the need to conquer this, and wonder how long he tried before I grew impatient, pulling him up and into me.

The truth is I’m not sure what I need. Oral sex has always been a stop on the way to somewhere else. A way to get me wet, to make the circuit of my body. Never something done until I shook and sweated and swore.

“S-suck,” I say, guessing.

He opens his mouth, sucking perfectly for a breath of time and then too much. “Not so hard.” I close my eyes, finding the bravery to tell him, “Like you suck on my lip.”

It’s exactly the direction he needed and I fall back against the mattress without thinking, my legs spreading wider, and with this he grows wild. Palms firmly planted on my inner thighs to keep my legs open, sounds pressed into me, vibrating through me.

One of his hands leaves me and I can feel him moving, can sense the shifting of his arm. Propping myself on an elbow I look down and realize he’s touching himself, eyes on me, fevered.

“Let me,” I tell him. “I want to taste you, too.”

I don’t know where these words are coming from; I’m not myself right now. Maybe I’m never myself with him. He nods but doesn’t stop moving his hand. I love it. I love that it’s not weird or taboo. He’s lost in me, he’s hard, he’s giving in to the need for his own pleasure while he gives me mine.

As he kisses and sucks and licks with such uninhibited hunger, I’m afraid I won’t be able to come and his enthusiasm and effort will be wasted. But then I feel the tight pull, the edge of something that grows bigger and bigger with every breath across my skin. I thread my hands in his hair, rock up into him.

“Oh, God.”

He groans, mouth eager, eyes on me wide and thrilled.

I relish the tight swell of my tendons, my muscles, the blood rushing so heated and urgent in my veins. I can feel it build, spread out, and race through my limbs, exploding between my legs. I’m gasping, hoarse and senseless, offering no words, just sharp sounds. The echo of my orgasm rings around us as I fall back onto the pillow.

I feel drugged, and with effort I push him away from where his lips press to my thigh so I can sit up. He stumbles to his feet, pants undone and slung low over his hips. I look up at him, and from the light coming out of the bathroom I can see how wet his mouth is, from me—as if he was hunting, as if I was caught and devoured.

He wipes a forearm across his entire face, and steps closer to the bed just as I lean forward and take him in my mouth.

He cries out, desperate. “Already close.”

It’s a warning. I can feel it in the jutting thrusts of his hips, the tense swelling of the head of his cock, the way he grips my head like he wants to pull back, make this last longer, but can’t. He fucks my mouth, seeming to know already that it’s okay, and after only six sharp jabs across my tongue and teeth and lips, he’s holding steady, deep inside and coming with a low, rasping groan.

I pull my mouth away from him and he runs a shaking finger across my lip as I swallow.

“So good,” he exhales.

I fall back on the pillow and feel like my muscles have been completely silenced after the frenzy of my entry into the room. I’m leaden and numb, and other than the heavy echo of pleasure between my legs, the only thing I can feel is my smile.

The room has turned pink in the late afternoon sun pouring through the window, and Ansel hovers over me on rigid arms, breathing heavily. I feel the rake of his gaze move across my skin, come to settle on my breasts, and he smiles at the same time I feel my nipples grow tight.

“I left marks all over you the other night.” He bends, blowing air across one peak. “I’m sorry.”

I laugh and tug his hair playfully. “You don’t sound sorry.”

He grins up at me, and when he pulls back to admire his handiwork again, I give in to the unfamiliar instinct to cross my arms over my chest. In dance, my small frame was a benefit; my small breasts were an ideal nonhindrance. But in the bare skin world of sex, I can’t imagine my 32Bs cut it.

“What are you doing?” he asks, tugging on my forearm as he kicks off his pants. “It’s too late to be shy with me now.”

“I feel tiny.”

He laughs. “You are tiny, Cerise. But I like every tiny inch of you. I haven’t seen your skin in hours.” Bending, he circles my nipple with his tongue. “You have sensitive breasts, I discovered.”

I suspect I have sensitive everything when he’s the one touching me.

His palm spreads across one breast while he sucks at the other and his tongue begins to move in small, flat, pressing circles. It revives the delicious throb between my legs.

I think he knows it, too, because the hand cupping my breast slides down over my ribs, across my stomach, down my navel, and between my legs, but he never stops circling with his tongue.

And then his fingers are there, two of them pressed flat, and he’s making the same circles in the same rhythm, and it’s as if a tight band connects between where his tongue and fingers are, pulling tighter and tighter, warmer and warmer. I’m bowing up off the bed and gripping his head, begging him in a hoarse voice to please please please.

The same rhythm, both places, and I’m worried I’ll fall apart, melt into the bed or simply dissolve into nothing when he hums over my nipple, his fingers pressing harder, and then he lets up only long enough to ask me, “Won’t you let me hear you one more time?”

I don’t know if I could survive it. I can’t survive without it.

With him, my sounds are hoarse and free, I don’t seem to hold back words of pleasure, and it’s completely without thought. I offer up everything and my sounds spur him on until he’s sucking frantically and I’m arching into his hand crying out—



Three fingers plunge into me, the heel of his hand taking over outside. It’s pleasure so intense it hurts. Or maybe it’s knowing how easy this is and how good, and that I have to either give him up or do something crazy to keep him. My orgasm lasts so long I run through both of these scenarios multiple times during the most intense pleasure of it. It lasts long enough for him to unlatch his lips from my breast and move to my face and kiss me, sucking all of my sounds into his mouth. It lasts long enough for him to tell me I’m the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.

My body quiets and his kisses slow until it’s just the small slide of his lips over mine. I taste like him and he tastes like me.

Ansel leans over the side of the bed to pull a condom from the pocket of his jeans. “Are you too sore?” he asks, holding it up in question.

I’m sore, but I don’t think I could ever be too worn-out to feel him. I need to remember exactly what it’s like. The scattered shrapnel of my memory won’t suffice if I have to let him go tonight. I don’t answer aloud, but I pull him over me, bending my knees at his sides.

He kneels, brows drawn as he rolls the condom down his length. I want to pull out my phone, take pictures of his body and his serious, focused expression. I need the pictures so I can say, See, Mia? You were right about his skin. It’s as smooth and perfect as you remember. I want to somehow capture the way his hands are shaking with urgency.

When he’s done he places a hand by my head and uses the other to guide himself to me. The moment I can feel the heavy press of him, it occurs to me that I’ve never felt so impatient in my life. My body wants to devour his.

“Come back with me,” he says, moving barely in, and back out again. A torture. “Please, Mia. Just for the summer.”

I shake my head no, unable to find words, and he groans in frustration and pleasure as he slowly pushes inside. I lose my breath, lose my ability to breathe or even care that I need to, and pull my legs up high, wanting him deeper, wanting to feel him entering me forever. He’s heavy, thick, so hard that when his hips meet my thighs I hover at the edge of discomfort. He’s the one making me lose my breath, making me feel like there’s not enough room in my body for him and air at the same time, but nothing has ever felt so good.

I’d tell him I changed my mind, I’ll come with him, if I could find words, but with his arms braced beside my head he starts to move and it’s unlike anything else. It’s unlike everything else. The slow, solid drag of him inside me builds an ache so good it’s enough to make me feel a little unhinged at the thought that the feeling will end at some point.

He’s giving me a gentle warm-up, his eyes on mine as he pulls slowly out, even more slowly pushes back in, occasionally ducking down to slide his mouth over mine. But when I scrape my tongue over his teeth, and he jerks forward, sharp and unexpected, I hear my own tight gasp, and it unleashes something in him. He starts to move, hard and smooth over me, perfect curling thrusts of his hips.

I don’t really know how many times we had sex the other night, but he must have figured out what I need, and he seems to love to watch himself giving it to me. He pushes up on his hands, kneeling between my spread legs, and already I know that when I come it will be unlike anything I’ve felt before. I can hear his grunting breaths and my own sharp exhales. I can hear the slap of the front of his thighs against the inside of mine and the slick, smooth strokes of him moving in and out of me.

I won’t need his fingers or mine or a toy. We fit. His skin slides across my clit again and again and again.

Lola was right when she teased about how it would be with Ansel and me: it is missionary, and there’s eye contact, but it isn’t precious or soft-focus the way she meant. I can’t imagine not looking at him. It would be like trying to have sex without touching.

The pleasure climbs up my legs like a vine, building into a flush I can feel spreading across my cheeks, across my chest. I’m terrified I’ll lose this sensation, that I’m chasing something that doesn’t really exist, but he’s moving faster, and harder, so hard he has to hold my hips with his hands so he doesn’t push me off the bed. His eyes rake over my gasping lips and my breasts that bounce with his thrusts. The way he fucks me makes my slight body feel voluptuous for the first time in my life.

I open my mouth to tell him I’m falling and nothing comes out but a cry for more and yes and this and yes and yes. Sweat drops from his forehead onto my breast and rolls onto my neck. He’s working so hard, holding so much back, waiting waiting waiting for me. I love the restraint and hunger and determination in his beautiful face and I’m at the edge, right there.

Warmth rushes throughout my body a split second before I fall.

He sees it happen. He watches, mouth parting in relief, eyes blazing in victory. My orgasm crashes over me so hard, so consuming, I’m not myself anymore. I’m the savage pulling him down onto me, rutting up into him and gripping his ass to pull him in deeper. I’m pure desperation beneath him, begging, biting his shoulder, spreading my legs as wide as they’ll go.

The wildness unhinges him. I can hear the sheets pop away from the mattress and feel them bunch behind me as he grips them for leverage, moving hard enough that the headboard cracks into the wall.

“Oh,” he groans, rhythm growing punishing. He buries his face in my neck, groaning, “Here. Here. Here.”

And then he opens his mouth on my neck, sucking and pressing, shoulders shaking over me as he comes. I slide my hands over his back, relishing the bunching definition of his tense posture, the curve to his spine as he stays as deep as he can. I shift beneath him to feel his skin on mine, mixing my sweat with his.

Ansel pushes up to his elbows and hovers over me, still pulsing inside as he presses his palms to my forehead and slides them over my hair.

“It’s too good,” he says against my lips. “It’s so good, Cerise.”

And then he reaches between us to grip the condom, pulling out and slipping it off. He drops it blindly in the vicinity of the bedside table and collapses beside me on the mattress, dragging his left hand down his face, across his sweaty chest, where it comes to rest over his heart. I’m unable to look away from the gold band on his ring finger. His stomach tightens with each jagged inhale, jerks with each forceful exhale.

“Please, Mia.”

I have one last refusal in me, and I squeak it out: “I can’t.”

He closes his eyes and my heart splinters, imagining not seeing him again.

“If we hadn’t been drunk and crazy and ended up married . . . would you have come with me to France?” he asks. “Just for the adventure of it?”

“I don’t know.” But the answer is, I might have. I don’t need to move to Boston yet; I plan to—soon—because I had to leave my campus apartment but don’t want to move back in with my parents for the entire summer. A summer in Paris after college is what a woman my age should do. With Ansel—only as a lover, maybe even just as a roommate—it would be a wild adventure. It wouldn’t carry the same weight of moving in with him for the summer, as his wife.

He smiles, a little sadly, and kisses me.

“Say something to me in French.” I’ve heard him say a hundred things while he’s lost in pleasure, but this is the first time I’ve requested it, and I don’t know why I do it. It seems dangerous, with his mouth, his voice, his accent like warm chocolate.

“Do you speak any French?”

“Besides, ‘Cerise’?”

His eyes fall to my lips and he smiles. “Besides that.”

“Fromage. Château. Croissant.”

He repeats “croissant” in a small laughing voice, and when he says it, it sounds like a completely different word. I wouldn’t know how to spell the word he just said, but it makes me want to pull him on top of me again.

“Well, in that case I can tell you, Je n’ai plus désiré une femme comme je te désire depuis longtemps. Ça n’est peut-être même jamais arrivé.” He pulls back, studies my reaction as if I’d be able to decode a word of it. “Est-ce totalement fou? Je m’en fiche.”

My brain can’t magically translate the words, but my body seems to know he’s said something wildly intimate.

“Can I ask you something?”

He nods. “Of course.”

“Why won’t you just annul it?”

He twists his mouth to the side, amusement filling his eyes. “Because you wrote it into our wedding vows. We both vowed to stay married until the fall.”

It’s several long seconds before I get over the shock of that. I sure was a bossy little thing. “But it’s not a real marriage,” I whisper, and pretend I don’t see it when he winces a little. “What does that vow mean anyway if we plan to break all the others about ‘until death do us part’?”

He rolls over and sits up at the edge of his bed, his back to me. He curls over, pressing his hands onto his forehead. “I don’t know. I try not to break promises, I suppose. This is all very weird for me; please don’t assume I know what I’m doing just because I’m holding firm on this one point.”

I sit up, crawl over to him, and kiss his shoulder. “It seems I fake-married a really nice guy.”

He laughs, but then stands, moving away from me again. I can sense he needs distance and it pushes a small ache between two of my ribs.

This is it. This is when I should go.

He pulls on his underwear and leans against the closet door, watching me as I get dressed. I pull my panties up my legs, and they’re still wet from me, from his mouth, too, though the wetness feels cold now. Changing my mind, I drop them on the floor and put on my bra and my jersey dress and step into my flip-flops.

Ansel wordlessly hands me his phone and I text myself so he has my number. When I hand it back, we stand, looking at anything but each other for a few painful beats.

I reach for my bag, pulling out gum, but he quickly moves to me, sliding his hands up my neck to cup my face. “Don’t.” He leans close, sucking on my mouth the way he seems to like so much. “You taste like me. I taste like you.” He bends, licking my tongue, my lips, my teeth. “I like this so much. Let it stay, just for a bit.”

His mouth moves lower, down my neck, nibbling at my collarbone, and to where my nipples press up from beneath my dress. He sucks and licks, pulling them into his mouth until the fabric is soaked. It’s black, so no one but us will know, but I’ll feel the cool press of his kiss even after I walk out of the room.

I want to pull us back to the bed.

But he stands, studying my face for a beat. “Be good, Cerise.”

It occurs to me only now that we’re married, and I would be cheating on my husband if I slept with someone else this summer. But the idea of anyone else getting this man makes something simmer in my belly. I don’t like the thought at all, and I wonder if that’s the same fire I see in his expression.

“You, too,” I tell him.


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