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Cactus Flower


Title: A Man Who Lies, or I Read It In a Fortune Cookie  

Author/pseudonym: Tinnean  

Fandom: Cactus Flower  

Pairing: Igor Sullivan (Rick Lenz)/Julian Winston (Walter Matthau)  

Rating: NC-17  

Disclaimer: Not mine. This belongs to Columbia Tristar, Barillet and Gredy, who wrote the play (ah, those Frenchmen!!), and Abe Burrows who wrote the American version.  

Status: new/complete  

Date: 5/2003  

Series/Sequel: This is a companion piece to Madly, Wildly, Desperately.  

Summary: Igor Sullivan has come to the Big Apple to become a playwright. He finds something, some… one he'd rather do more.  

Warnings: m/m, implied m/f, implied f/f, major spoilers for the movie  

Notes: Many thanks to Tim for allowing me to pick his brains regarding etiquette in the Baths. This one's for him, and the young man  who wore English Leather. J Thanks also to Gail for finding out about the sheets, for the handholding and for the comprehensive beta. I could never have done it without you!  

A Man Who Lies,

or I Read It In a Fortune Cookie  

Part 1


I tapped on the door of my father's study, and he looked up from the case file he was working on and removed his glasses, observing the dress clothes I still had on. Graduation had been a few hours earlier, and Yale Class of 1962 was history.  

And then he smiled. "Have I told you how very proud you've made your mother and me?"  

"Thanks." I could  feel the heat in my cheeks. How long would they feel that way if they knew the truth about me? "Um… would it be all right if I… Could I speak with you for a minute, Dad?"  

"Certainly, Igor." He put the papers aside and waited as I entered and shut the door behind me. His eyebrow rose.  

"This is just between the two of us, all right?" I waited until he nodded. "Okay, Dad, here it is. Mom is dropping hints about me getting married and starting a family, but I'm not even seeing anyone!"  

"You mean you're not seeing any girl."  

"Excuse me?" I felt myself become as pale as I'd previously been flushed. I had thought I'd concealed my true orientation successfully by going out with any number of girls, although none of them for more than a date or two.  

"Sit down, son." He looked sad. "I'm aware you haven't dated a girl seriously since your junior year in high school."  

"Yes, I have," I lied.  

"'Seriously,' I said. You've dated many, to keep you safe from one."  

"That sounds like a quote from a play, Dad. I know it isn't Shakespeare. Miller? Inge? Williams? Which one is it?"  

His eyes crinkled in the smile that told me I wasn't going to get away with trying to change the subject.  

"How did you…?"  

"I may be your father, but that doesn't mean I was born in the stone age. Just between the two of us," he echoed my words back at me, "and this goes no further than this room, please. I know the ruses and excuses used by young men of your bent."  

I managed to sit down before I fell down. "How, Dad?"  

"Oh, not because I swung that way, Igor, but my best friend when I was your age did, and I saw the torment he went through, first to prevent his family from learning he was gay, and then when they did and disowned him." He rose and crossed to the sideboard, and poured us both a drink. "Your mother has no idea that there are men and women who prefer the company of their own sex." He smiled wryly. "Her parents kept her extremely sheltered. I don't know how she would react if she ever realized that." He handed me a scotch.  

"What should I do? I can't marry some girl from the country club, not even for Mom. I really can't, Dad!"  

"No, I wouldn't ask that of you. You're going to have to leave home, son." He raised his hand to forestall my protest. "You aren't being banished."  

"Then why does it feel like that?"  

He came to me and hugged me. "You'll be welcome here whenever you choose to return for a visit. But a visit is all it can ever be, do you understand?"  

I felt as if there was a gaping hole in my chest where my heart had been ripped out, although I knew he was right. If I stayed in New Haven , I'd always be worrying that I'd be seen with someone I shouldn't be seen with. I'd come to hate myself, and hate the world that wouldn't allow me to be what I was. My hand tightened on my glass. "What will we tell Mom?"  

He tugged on his lower lip. "Suppose we tell her that you've decided to see something of the world?"  

"That's fine for the time being, but I can't spend the rest of my life traveling from one country to another."  

"Well, then, there's your degree in Fine Arts that cost us so much. That sheepskin should be good for something," he teased, but he quickly sobered. "Eventually, I  imagine, you're going to want to put it to use?"  

"Become a playwright, you mean?"  

"If that's what you'd like."  

"And after a while, I could move to New York . I always wanted to live there."  

"That sounds like a good idea. You'd only be a train ride away from home. I'll send you a check every month. Will a thousand be enough?"  

It was more than most men made in a couple of months. "Dad…"  

"I won't have you living in a tenement, Igor."  

I surrendered, although I knew I hadn't put up much of a fight. "Thanks, Dad."  


I'd seen the world. I'd seen the country. And now I was ready to settle in New York .  

I snapped open the city edition of the Daily News to the Apartments For Rent page, and matched the address that I had circled on the page with the address on the building. Yes, this was it.  

Eight steps led to the front door, which opened on a small lobby.  Twelve mailboxes butted neatly against one wall in three rows of four. On the box labeled 1A was the name D. Jackson.  

I pressed the bell and waited. No one answered, and I peered through the glass panes of the inner door, but a gauzy white curtain obscured the interior. The doorknob, when I tried it, turned easily.  

"Hello?" I called as I took a few steps into the dim corridor. I heard a clang from the apartment on my left. "Is anyone around?"  

"Motherfucker!" There was a loud bang of metal on metal, followed by even louder cursing. "Shitpissfuck!"

I shifted uncomfortably. No one in the town I'd grown up in used language like that. Suddenly the door to 1B flew open, and a compact man in a pair of faded Levis and a dirt-and-grease streaked tee shirt stomped out of the apartment.  

His gaze raked over me. "Yeah?" He had a wrench in his left hand and he was vigorously shaking his right. Bright spatters of blood rained onto the floor. "Fuck!"  

"I'm looking for Douglas Jackson?"  

"That'd be me."  

"Mr. Jackson, I called earlier about the apartment you're renting? I'm Igor Sullivan." I automatically extended my hand.  

"Call me Doug. Mr. Jackson is my old man. Sorry I can't shake your hand. I think I busted a knuckle," he groused good-naturedly. "Lemme just wash up, and I'll take you up to 3D. You may as well come with me. No need to hang around in the vestibule."  

Doug opened a door on the other side of the hall, and I followed him through it. "All the apartments in this building have basically the same layout. The ones on the left side," he jerked a thumb over his shoulder to the apartment he'd just left, "are studios, and the ones on the right are one bedroom. What can I tell ya? It's a small building."  

He reached back over his shoulders and yanked his tee shirt off. I observed the sculpted muscles of his back. They tapered down to a narrow waist and hips that begged to be held in a bruising grip as he was taken.  

My dick twitched. //Not this one,// I told the Little Playwright. //As edible as he looks, we don't want to get involved! Trust me on this!//  

"You say something?"  

"No." I gave him my most charming smile, knowing that even if he was as gay as Liberace, I still wouldn't take him to bed. I had learned the hard way, when I was living in San Francisco , not to sleep with my landlord.  

"Okay." He disappeared into the bathroom.  

I tried to distract myself by studying the combination living/dining room, but it seemed to be furnished in early Salvation Army. I shuddered and turned away from the overstuffed sofa and the table covered with cigarette burns. "So… er… what is 3D?"  

The water had been turned on, and a steady stream of curses came from the bathroom. "Son of a bitch, that stings!" He came back out, drying his hands with a towel that had pinkish smudges on it. "Sorry, whadja say?"  

"Is the apartment that's for rent a studio or one bedroom?"  

"It's a studio. Here, do me a favor and put this Band-Aid on for me, wouldja?"  

I stared at his chest. It was covered with a dense pelt of dark curls that were made to be carded through inquisitive fingers. I swallowed and dropped my gaze to his knuckles, and swallowed again. The worst was oozing blood again, and I began to feel faint. Somehow I managed to get the bandage out of the wrapper and on his injury without disgracing myself.  

"Thanks…"  He went into what I assumed was his bedroom, and when he returned, he was tugging on a clean white tee shirt. "…what did you say your name was?"  

"Sullivan. Igor Sullivan."  

"Well, thanks, Igor Sullivan. Okay, c'mon, it's this way." There was no elevator. He led me to a staircase that hugged the far walls, circling around to the top floor, and we began to climb. "I may as well let you know what's allowed, just so's you don't fall in love with the place and then decide you can't live by the house rules." 

"That sounds logical. What are they?"  

He ticked them off the hand that had uninjured fingers. "No pets. No loud music after 10. You want company to stay over, fine, as long as you keep the noise level down." He gave me the once over. "I don't care if your company is male or female. I'm a pretty relaxed kind of guy; what you do behind that closed door is your own business. But the cops come once, just once, and your ass is out the door. That's it. Got it?"  


"Good. Okay, this is 3D." He unlocked the door and let me walk in ahead of him. "Utilities are included, gas, water, and electricity. I get first month's rent in advance, and a month's rent for security."  

It wasn't a bad-sized apartment as studios went. In one corner was the kitchen, with a small stove and refrigerator and a rust-stained sink. A curtained space revealed a shallow pantry. In the other corner was the rest of the apartment. There was enough room for either a single bed, a small table and maybe a dresser, or a double bed. I'd have to choose what I wanted more.  

There were two doors. I opened one to find a bathroom that contained a commode and a shower stall. The other door revealed a minuscule closet with a shelf for sheets and towels.  

"That window over there," the landlord was pointing to the one opposite the front door, "gives you access to the fire escape. You just have to climb out and swing a leg over." He watched as I crossed the scuffed wooden floor to examine the bookshelves that had been built into the sill just below the rear windows. I ran my hand over the smooth-grained wood, then looked through the windows, down on the teeny-tiny back yard, three stories below. "That shed down there is for storage, and I don't charge extra for that, but it is on a first come, first served basis. The tree next to it is a fig tree, and everyone is welcome to the fruit." He gave me a few minutes as I continued to explore. "Well, what do you think?"  

"I think I'll take it." Those bookshelves had sold me. I pulled out my checkbook. "When can I move in?"  

"Whenever you're ready." He took the check, folded it in half, and stuck it in his pocket. "About your neighbors. Across the hall in 3A are Mr. and Mrs. Wilson. He works security at night at the Met; she's a housewife. There are two brothers in 3C, Joe and Pat Schutt. They teach school over at St. Francis Xavier on 23rd Street . Toni Simmons is in 3B. Pretty girl. Nice one, too. She's been datin' a dentist for the last six months now, just so's you know." 

"Thanks for filling me in, Doug." We shook hands.  

"My pleasure, Sullivan. Well, I need to finish fixin' Mrs. Martini's bathroom pipes." He gave me the key and went back down the stairs, whistling a jaunty tune.  

I looked around the apartment again. It wouldn't take long to make the move. My parents would be happy to learn I was finally settling in New York and would begin work on the great American play, as soon as I bought myself a typewriter and a large supply of paper. I hadn't decided yet if it would be a comedy or a tragedy.  

Meanwhile, my landlord might be off limits to me, but I could still see what New York City had to offer. I'd pay a visit to the Ansonia Hotel, where the Continental Baths were located.  


A few weeks after I took up residence in the apartment in Sheridan Square , I realized that there were too many distractions during the day. At least, that's what I told myself, so I started doing my writing during the night, when the only distraction there was came from the apartment next door, when Toni Simmons had her boyfriend over.  

I'd sort of seen him once. He'd been coming up the stairs, while I'd been going out to pick up a six pack and a pack of cigarettes. The staircase had been too dark to see his face clearly, but he was wearing a navy blue suit and carried an overcoat over his arm. I could make out the vest beneath his jacket, which was hanging casually open, and my dick got interested. I'd always been a sucker for a man in a vest. As I passed him I caught the scent of his aftershave, British Sterling, and beneath it a hint of something else, and my dick got hard. I came to a dead standstill.  

Sometimes I thought my sense of smell was direct-wired to my dick.  

"Shoot!" I muttered just loudly enough for him to hear if he was listening, and patted my pockets. "I can't believe I forgot my wallet! Is that dumb or what?" I turned around to go back to the third floor, and he didn't seem to realize I was right behind him.  

His ass! My god, that sweet, sweet curve that was obscured by the cut of his jacket! My mouth went dry, and I watched avidly, hoping the jacket would move enough for me to get a clear view of it. I stared the entire way up to 3, my fingers itching to reach out and touch what was under the material of his trousers.  

Whoever he was, he was oblivious to me. He crossed to 3B and knocked on the door, humming something vaguely operatic. "Toni, darling," he called.  

Locks were twisted, deadbolts were thrown, the key was turned. I caught sight of the blonde who flung open the door and threw herself joyously into his arms.  

"Darling!" she squealed and dragged him into her apartment, pushing his jacket off his shoulders. They were broad shoulders. And that vest… "You were able to get away!" The door was kicked shut.  

I let myself into my apartment, yanked off my jacket and tossed it in the general direction of the closet. There was no need for me to press my ear to the common wall that Toni Simmons and I shared; it was so thin I was often able to hear her as she sang along with her radio while she prepared dinner,  or while she spoke on the phone. Now I felt that if I stretched my ears the least little bit, I'd be able to hear the sound of her palms sliding down his back, maybe even reaching between them to fondle his erection.  

Although it was early winter, a drop of sweat trickled between my shoulder blades. I laid myself out on the bed, and unzipped my pants and took out my dick. I wanted the man in the front apartment.  

I couldn't have him; he was straight and in love with the woman in 3B. But I could have my fantasies, and the sounds of their passion burrowed into my mind. I closed my eyes, licked my palm, and began to jerk off with long, slow strokes. I pictured his hands on me, a thumb pressing down hard on the slit at the tip of my dick, gathering the drops of pre come, while the fingers of his other hand pinched and squeezed my nipples. My breath was coming in harsh pants as I imagined him rolling my balls and sliding a lubricated finger past the ring of muscle that guarded my hole. It was my own finger that found my prostate and tormented it unmercifully, pumping in and out, rubbing it, rubbing it, until I came with a muffled yowl.  

Abrupt silence fell on the apartment next-door. "What was that?"  

Those damned thin walls! I held my breath until I heard Toni giggle, "Must be the Siamese in 3A. That cat is a sex fiend!"  

Masculine laughter joined hers, and I laughed softly myself at the thought of being mistaken for a horny feline. And  then groans and whimpers and bedsprings squeaking started again, building to a crescendo. Cries of satisfaction dropped to sleepy murmurs.  

I blew out a breath, aroused in spite of the fact that I'd just had a pleasurable orgasm. "Looks like we've got someone new to fantasize over, Big Guy," I whispered to my dick. "What say we take a quick shower and get you cleaned up? Think that will give you enough time to recover?" My dick quivered in happy agreement, and we went into the bathroom. I washed away the come that had splattered over my groin and chest, and dried myself off, then slid naked between the sheets.  

I woke up early the next afternoon, and that started my new routine, working during the night and sleeping during the day.  

Toni's boyfriend was over at least three nights a week, and on those nights both my neighbor and I had great sex, although my 'date' was just with my hand.  

I tried to find out more about him, but aside from the fact that he was a dentist, no one knew anything else. Even Mrs. Wilson, the building gossip who was guaranteed to have the buzz on everyone who lived here, didn't know his name.  

Toni was playing it really close to the vest, but that was okay; he was ours.  


I'd been working on what I laughingly called 'my play' for six months. For every page I wrote that I was pleased with, at least a couple of dozen would wind up in the trash, and I was beginning to think I'd never get past the first act. After all, what did I know about the kind of guys who hung out in a blue collar bar?  

It was almost three in the morning. I banged away at the typewriter keys, then took a deep drag on my cigarette. I knocked the line of ash off, and balanced it on the ashtray. As smoke dribbled out of my nostrils, I stared at the dialogue on the page.  

Junkie: (sweating and shaking) I'm cool, man! I'm cool!  

Bartender: (brandishing a shotgun that he keeps behind the bar) If you don't get out of here, you're gonna be air conditioned!  

No, that wasn't how I wanted my male lead to phrase it. I tore the page out of the typewriter, balled it up, and lobbed it into the wastebasket. None of this was working the way I wanted, and I was drawing a complete blank.  

I swung my feet up onto the corner of the desk, stacked my hands behind my head, and contemplated the ceiling.  

Something else was bothering me. It had been almost a week since Toni's boyfriend had come by, and earlier I'd heard her muttering to herself and sniffling. I wondered if the bastard was cheating on us.  

I reached for my cigarette, to find it had burned down almost to the filter. The crumpled package of Marlboros was beside the ashtray, and although I knew it was empty, I tore off the top and peered into it anyway.  

"Damn." I'd have to go down to the all-night deli around the corner and get another pack. Good thing Ben, the proprietor, had decided it was worth while to keep it open during the night.  

I had a pocketful of change. It didn't much matter if I forgot my key. The lock was so ancient that all I needed to do was pull the door toward me and smack it about six inches above the keyhole, and I was able to get back in. I shut the door behind me and sauntered toward the stairs.  

An acrid odor brought me up short, and I sniffed curiously. It smelled as if someone… I sniffed again, locating the source, Toni Simmons' apartment. Had she forgotten to shut off her gas? I went to her door and tapped on it. "Hello? Is everything okay in there?" I rattled the doorknob and knocked again, harder this time. There was still no response. I pressed my ear to the door but could hear nothing, and the odor seemed stronger.  

I bolted back into my apartment, threw open the window and stared at the space that separated it from the fire escape. I swallowed, then climbed out and swung a leg over the railing. I didn't look down.  

Gaily patterned curtains covered Toni's window, but they were parted, and I was able to see her lying on her bed, face down. The National Anthem played on the radio as the station signed off for the night. I tried to open her window, but it was locked, so I backed up a step, raised my size fourteen foot, and shattered the glass.  

The smell of gas came flooding out of the studio apartment. I reached in and slid the catch to the side, and managed to get the window up. Inside, covering my nose and mouth with my hand, I ran to the front window. In a matter of seconds, I had it raised. Then I shut off the burners on the stove and struggled with the locks on her door. One deadbolt. Another deadbolt. A hook and eye, a slip-lock, and finally the key. I turned the knob and threw the door open, then raced back to the body on the bed.  

Pressing my cheek to her back, I could feel the faint rise. I flipped her over, tipped her head back. "Breathe, Toni!" I gulped a breath and fitted my lips over hers, blowing oxygen into her lungs. "Breathe, goddamn it!"  

Languidly her arms came around my neck, and her mouth softened beneath mine. "Julian," she whispered against my lips. "Julian!"  

So that was his name. I rolled it around in my mind, liking it. But I still had to make sure my neighbor was all right. "Toni…"  

I may as well have held my breath. She sighed voluptuously. "Kiss me, Julian."  

I'd rather have kissed Julian myself. "I'm not Julian."  

Her eyes opened. "You're not Julian. Why are you kissing me?"  

"I wasn't kissing you; I was giving you mouth to mouth resuscitation. You left your gas on." I rose to my feet.  

"What?" She rolled over and stared at the oven door as if it would explain the situation. "Oh, no! I blew it! I blew it!" Abruptly she sat up. "Who're you?"  

"I'm Igor Sullivan. I live in 3D." The radio was emitting white noise. I found it and shut it off.  

"You're the writer? You're the writer! You keep me up all night pounding on that typewriter. You make me crazy!"  

"Sorry. I didn't realize it was disturbing you." I should have. If I could hear her and… Julian… "Next time, just bang on the wall and I'll stop. By the way, you went about it all wrong, you know. You're supposed to stick your head in the oven."  

She scowled at me and flopped back on the bed. "It's a second-hand stove. It didn't come with directions."  

"Good thing. You want to tell me why you tried to kill yourself?"  

"Julian." She murmured his name, as if that explained the whole thing.  

I frowned. "He doesn't beat you, does he?" She shook her head back and forth on a pillow. I hadn't heard anything that would make me think so, but something had driven her to this point. "Does he drink? Do drugs? Cheat on you?"  

"Worse than that."  

What could be worse than… "Oh, he's married!" I'd been involved with married men, but they'd come to me to get what their wives couldn't give them, a hard cock up their ass, and it had been strictly physical, at least on my part. "Maybe he'll divorce her?"  

Her expression was forlorn. "He's got children! I knew this going in. He was honest with me from the very beginning. I hate when people lie to me, Igor. They've been doing that to me all my life. My mom never told me my real dad had taken off before I was born, and that the man I thought was my father was really my stepfather. And then there's all the guys I dated in high school. They'd be seeing other girls on the side, and would lie about it!" She ground her teeth. "I really hate lies!"  

"I can see that."  

"Anyway, I thought we'd have a gay, carefree fling. And then I went and fell in love with him!" She sat up and tucked her legs under her. His picture was by the bed. She took it and cradled it in her arms.  

"I don't understand. If you've known all along that he was married, what drove you over the edge tonight?"  

"He broke another date with me." Her lower lip quivered. "The others didn't matter so much, but this was our anniversary. We met a year ago today… yesterday… at Stereo Heaven. That's where I work. He's been breaking more and more dates, lately."  

I was aware of that. "How come?"  

"He says it's to meet with colleagues. Last night it was supposed to be an Australian dentist. But I know it's really to be with his wife."  

"So you decided to end it, by… ending it?"  

"Yes." Toni brushed the hair out of her eyes. "How come I'm telling you all this?"  

"I have a very sympathetic face. And I don't lie to women, I promise."  

"You remind me of someone." Her brow wrinkled in concentration as she studied my face. "I'd swear I've seen your face before."  

I'd heard that more than once. Although I'd never seen the resemblance, I had an aunt who insisted I looked like a young Jimmy Stewart. "Probably passing on the stair," I assured her easily.  

"Oh, yeah, that must be it. Well, I knew you had to be a nice guy, Igor. Generally I'm a good judge of character." Her lips tilted in a sweet smile. It froze, and she smacked herself in the head. "Oh, no! I sent him a letter!" She dropped the picture on the bed, jumped up and grabbed a man's overcoat, obviously Julian's, from her closet. "I have to get it back!"  

I blocked the door. "How do you plan to do that? With string and chewing gum? Toni, you've already broken the law by attempting suicide. You don't want to mess with the Federal government!"  

Her shoulders slumped. "You're right." She hung the coat back up and shivered. "Where's that draft coming from?"  

"The windows. Watch the back one; I had to break it to get in, and there must be glass all over the floor."  

"Well, shoot. I can't have a broken window, Igor. It'll be getting warmer soon, and I'll be invaded by bugs! Ugh! I'll have to get Doug Jackson to fix it."  

"Listen, Toni. People get strange when they hear you tried to kill yourself. Let's keep this just between the two of us, okay? I'll replace the window for you in the morning. You can sleep in my apartment if it's too cold in here for you. I promise I won't try anything."  

"That's okay, my comforter will keep me warm enough. And why won't you try anything? Aren't I pretty enough?" She picked up her lover's picture and gazed at it helplessly.  

"Toni, you're adorable. You're just not my type." I took the picture from her and placed it on the table.  

"What, you like them tall, dark and busty?" She tossed the throw pillows off her bed.  

I grinned at her. She had two out of the three. "You could say that. Is there anything else I can do for you?"  

Toni was muttering to herself as she climbed into bed. "I've got to get up for work in a few hours… I'll look like a dishrag… I know I'll have a headache, lack of sleep always does that to me…The heck with it, I'll take the day off.  What?"  

"I said, is there anything else I can do for you?"  

"You're so sweet, Igor. How come you don't have a girlfriend?" Apparently it was a rhetorical question, because she didn't wait for a response, which was a good thing. Most people didn't react well if they learned I was happier with a boyfriend. "Um… Call Julian tomorrow and tell him I'm not dead? Even though he's broken my heart, I wouldn't want him to worry like that."  

"Aw, that's nice."  

"Besides, he might call the cops." She pulled up her blankets.  

That was my neighbor, nothing if not practical. I closed the front window. "What's his number?"  

"He's in the book. Julian Winston, DDS. 5th Avenue."  

"All right. Goodnight, Toni."  

She smiled, and in spite of what she had tried to do, there was a hint of mischief to it. "Good morning, Igor."  


Part 2


I returned to my apartment after rescuing Toni Simmons from her suicide attempt, even less in the mood to write than I had been before I'd run out of cigarettes, so I decided to go to bed early. It was a little after 3 A.M. , but when a guy was in the habit of hitting the sack around the same time that the sanitation crews began making their morning rounds, any time before that was early.  

My dreams were restless. I'd be kissing the dentist, my hand on his dick, making him gasp and moan, and just when I'd be about to spin him around and slide into him, the amorphous figure of his wife would appear. He would saunter away with her, with a torrid, backward glance toward me. I woke, a sweaty mess, tangled in the sheets and blankets.  

I pushed the hair off my forehead and managed to crack open an eye to see what time it was. The clock on the small stand that fit beside the bed was reading the ungodly hour of 9 A.M. , and I would have tried to go back to sleep, only I'd promised Toni I would call her married lover and tell him she was still alive.  

I rolled out of bed and hit the cold linoleum of the floor. My toes curled in protest, and I hopped from one foot to the other until I could get my slippers on. I rubbed my head vigorously to jump-start the old brain cells, visited the bathroom, and, finally, filled the stainless steel coffee pot my mother had given me when she'd come for a visit.  

While the coffee was perking merrily, I thumbed through the Manhattan phone book. There were quite a few Winstons listed, and even a number of J. Winstons, but fortunately, only one Julian Winston, DDS, on 5th Avenue .  

I dialed the number, and a perky female voice chirruped in my ear. "Dr. Winston's office. How may I help you?"  

"I'd like to speak with Dr. Winston, please."  

"If this is in reference to making an appointment, I'll be able to do that for you."  

"Um… no. I just need to…"  

"Then I'm afraid you'll have to call back later. The doctor is not in right now."  

Before I could get another word in, she hung up, and the dial tone hummed  in my ear.  

"Well, shoot." I took a shower, poured myself a cup of coffee, and called again, figuring enough time had passed for the dentist to have gotten in.  

"Dr. Winston's office. How may I help you?"  

"Is the doctor in yet? My name is Igor Sullivan, and I really need to…"  

"The doctor is with a patient just now. If this is in reference to making an appointment…"  

It was rude, but I interrupted her. "It's not about making an appointment. I have to speak with the doctor."  

"Well, then, I suggest you call back later." And she hung up on  me again.  

I growled at the receiver, slammed the phone down, and took an incautious gulp of my coffee. "Son of a bitch! " I sucked in air, hoping to cool the burn I had just inflicted on my mouth.  

With exaggerated care, I set the cup down and dialed for what I promised myself would be the last time. Then I'd go uptown to his office, tell Julian Winston face to face, and wrap the phone cord around that insufferably cheerful woman's neck.  

"Dr. Winston's office."  

"Listen, just tell the tooth jockey that Toni is alive."  


But this time I hung up on her. I started singing, "The only one who could ever reach me, was the son of a preacher man…'" as I samba'd over to the closet to get a pair of corduroy trousers and a shirt, and then to the bed. I had wound up selecting a captain's bed, which was almost as wide as a double, but instead of a frame, it sat on a platform that contained built-in storage compartments.    

I knelt down to open a drawer and pulled out shorts, socks and undershirt, then began to dress, planning what I would need to get in order to repair the damage I had done the night before.    

Toni's window had the same measurements as mine, so I'd go to a hardware store over on 8th Street that stocked glass panes. It wasn't too distant a walk. And I'd stop at the deli around the corner to buy the cigarettes I'd never gotten the night before, and set out.  

It was a pleasure to be out of doors this beautiful spring day. The winter just behind us had been miserable, with one of the worst snowstorms in a decade shutting down the five boroughs. I was pretty sure the mayor would lose the upcoming election over it.  

I strolled through the streets, taking my time. The trees that grew along the curbs had sprouted their pale, yellow-green leaves. The air carried the scent of spring, and I inhaled deeply, relishing it. It wouldn't be long before exhaust fumes from buses and taxis, and steam rising from the subway grates would become overpowering, and spring would be just a sweet memory.  

The hardware store had just opened, and while the manager cut the pane of glass to the measurements I'd given him, I browsed through the aisles, finding a can of caulking, a spackling tool, and a few other things I'd had no idea I needed.  

I chatted with the manager for a while, getting his advice on how to place the glass, and then started home, a paper bag in one hand, and the pane cushioned in cardboard under my other arm.  

By the time I got back, it was a quarter of noon . I'd missed breakfast, and I was hungry, so I dropped back into the deli to get a sandwich. "Hi, Ben."  

"Igor! You need another pack of Marlboros already? Man, the way you go through cigarettes, you oughta buy stock in Philip Morris!" He grinned and flipped the knishes he'd been frying.  

"Not this time, Ben." I displayed the still-full soft-pack. "I only smoke when I'm working." I'd gotten up to three and a half packs a night. Not healthy. If I didn't overcome my writer's block soon, my lungs would look worse than an Appalachian coal miner's. "I'm here for some lunch."  

"Sure thing. You just beat out the crowd, y'know. What can I do you for?" He wiped his hands on the white apron that was fastened around his substantial waist.  

"Let me have a pastrami on rye. On second thought, better make that two." I wasn't sure if Toni was awake, and I didn't know if she had any food in her apartment, but I didn't think she'd want to go grocery shopping after the night she'd had.  

"You got it." He put the pastrami in the meat slicer and began to shave off long strips. Then he put them on the griddle, and as I listened to them sizzle, he got out the seeded Jewish rye. "Mustard?"  

"Ben, I may be a WASP from Connecticut , but even I know with pastrami, you have to have mustard!"  

"Just testing. What else you want with this?"  

"A dill pickle, please." I went to the refrigerated case and took out a couple of bottles of Coke.  

Ben sliced the pickle into four lengthwise strips and wrapped them in waxed paper, then did the same for the sandwiches he put together. My mouth started to water as the smell of the mustard mingled with the pastrami. I took out my wallet and paid him.  

"You gonna be able to get all this home?"  

"Oh, yeah!" I moved things around in the bag from the hardware store, put the sodas on the bottom, and stuffed everything on top. After I put away  my change, I gathered the bag in my arm again, Ben slid the pane of glass under my other arm, and hurried to open the door for me. "Thanks, Ben. See you."  

"Bye, Igor."  

Mrs. Wilson was just coming out of our building when I arrived there. She was a plump, matronly woman who always dressed in floral outfits that seemed to add thirty pounds to her diminutive frame. Her shoes had three inch heels, and it never failed to amaze me that she managed to stay upright. She had her Siamese cat, Wang Chung, on a leash. He looked bored.  

"Igor, how nice to see you! Let me get the door for you."  

"Thanks, Mrs. W."  

Her eyes glittered. "Toni's young man is here. Well, he really isn't young, is he?" She leaned close to me, and I could smell the stuff she used in her hair to lacquer it in place. "This is the first time anyone has seen him, you know. There's something a little odd about that, don't you think, Igor?"  

Julian was here? He never came in the daytime, not that I was aware of. "I never gave it much thought. I have to go before I drop all this. Have a good day, Mrs. Wilson."  

"Oh, but your mail…"  

The inner door shut behind me, and I was able to pretend I hadn't heard her. Otherwise she'd forget what errands needed to be run in the all-encompassing sport of gossiping. If that ever became an Olympic event, she would take the gold. I bounded up the stairs. There would be time to pick up my mail later.  

By the time I reached the third floor I was panting, only partly from the gallop up the stairs. Because my hands were full, I kicked lightly at Toni's door, and she opened it almost immediately. "Hi, Igor." She was barefoot, wearing jeans and a man-tailored shirt knotted at her waist, a potato chip in one hand.  

"Hi, Toni. I brought some lunch." I pretended I didn't see the man standing by the front window. "We can eat first, and then I'll fix the window. You really shouldn't be going around without shoes on; you don't want to get glass splinters in your feet." I leaned the pane of glass against the wall and put the bag on her little table.  

She glanced from me to her lover and back, then made the introductions. "Igor, this is Julian."  

"Hello, Julian." I was finally able to see him in the light, and my voice was sultry in spite of myself. Julian Winston was a bit taller than my six feet, and broader through the shoulders as well. He was very nicely built, confirming what I had seen that night on the stairs. His hair was sable, tipped with pure white at the temples, and his eyes were the color of aged sherry. I always loved that shade in eyes. A ring of gold surrounded the brown, emphasizing the darker flecks of gold that were scattered throughout the iris. His face was craggy, and he had a beak of a nose.  

I inhaled British Sterling and felt my knees go weak. If only he weren't straight!  

"Who are you?" he asked suspiciously.  

"Igor's my neighbor." Toni picked up a brown bag, walked stiff-legged back to her lover, and thrust it into his arms. "I was just telling Julian we're through, Igor."  

Julian stared down into bag, dismay on his face. "We can't be through! We're so happy together!"  

I could see the frame that held his picture jutting over the top of the bag.  

"You're so happy!" She sniffed and gazed at a spot just beyond his right shoulder. "I'm tired of sharing. I want a man of my own."  

I bit back a snort of laughter. I could have said the same thing, but I behaved and didn't. "What's he doing here anyway?"  

She hunched a shoulder, looking put out. "I told him there was no need for him to come running over."  

"I guess he didn't get my message," I mused as I took the sandwiches from my bag.  

"What message?" he demanded.  

"That Toni wasn't dead. Get some plates, okay, Toni?"  

"What… what do you mean? She really…?"  

"Tried to kill herself? Yeah, she did. Want half my sandwich, Julian? It's pastrami. I'm willing to share my Coke, too." I gave him an innocent smile.  

"I don't want any pastrami, and I don't want to share your Coke."  

"I'm sure Julian has things to do, like have lunch with his wife," Toni sniped. She unwrapped her sandwich and placed the two halves on her plate. "He was just leaving, Igor."  

"No, I wasn't! And I really resent you two talking about me as if I weren't in the room!"  

She ignored him. "Ooo! Kosher dills! I love them! Thanks, Igor."  

"How does he know you love Kosher pickles, Toni?"  

"Lucky guess?" I offered. I picked up a spear and bit off the end.  

His eyes narrowed. I made a production of licking the pickle, and the glare he sent my way was scorching. "What are you doing here, anyway?"  

"He's going to fix my window, Julian. He had to break it to get into my apartment last night."  

"You really tried to kill yourself, darling? I'm such a bastard!" He turned from her to me and barked impatiently, "Listen, you…whoever you are…"  

"I'm Igor. Remember?"  

"Get out of here! I need to talk to my girl in private."  

I told myself to stop teasing him. "Toni?"  

"Oh, all right." She sounded a sulky sixteen. "You can go, Igor. Julian and I do have some things to discuss."  

"Okay." I shrugged. "Knock on my door when you're ready for me to fix the window. It was nice meeting you, Julian." I held out my hand, and he automatically accepted it.  

His eyes widened, and I wondered if he'd felt that same little zing when our palms had touched. He would have been perfect for me, I thought regretfully. I took my sandwich and soda, gave him a little smile and left. Toni could share hers with him if she chose; after all, he was her boyfriend.  

Once I was back in  my apartment, I leaned my ear against the wall, but I couldn't hear anything above the low murmur of their voices.  

My stomach rumbled, reminding me it hadn't had anything substantial since the night before, and I unwrapped my sandwich, popped the bottle cap on my Coke, and sat down to eat.  


There was a tap on my door, and when I opened it Toni stood there, dressed in a casual outfit of hot pants and a Nehru jacket. She looked cute, like a Radio City Music Hall version of a 19th Century British soldier. "Julian's taking me out for the afternoon, Igor."  

"You're not breaking up, I take it?"  


"Listen, do you realize he's old enough to be your father?"  

"Only if my father got my mother pregnant when he was fourteen!" Her lower lip thrust out in a pout. "I know how old Julian is, and if it doesn't matter to me that he's thirty-five, then it's no one else's business."  

"Okay, okay." I wasn't about to tell her that Julian Winston was lying through his teeth about his age; there was no way he could be thirty-five. If I judged correctly, he was at least ten years older. "I just hope you know what you're doing." 

She peered at me from under her ridiculously long lashes. "He's asked me to marry him, Igor."  

That pulled me up short. "You don't seem too excited."  

"Well, there's still his wife. I need to be sure she's okay with the divorce. Look, I have to go. Here's my spare key. I really appreciate you taking care of the window. I'll give you the money for the glass as soon as I get paid."  

"My pleasure, Toni, and don't worry about paying me back. There's no rush."    

"Thanks, you're a sweetie. I'll see you. Julian is waiting."  

I glanced toward the stairs where her lover stood. His eyes were intent on me, almost as if he were trying to see what I looked like under my clothes. "Have a…" I swallowed and licked my lips. "… a good time."  

I closed the door and leaned against it. My dick was pushing insistently against my fly. I gave it a hard rub, tempted to take it out and jerk off, but if I wanted to get any writing done that evening, I'd have to see to Toni's window.  


Our landlord most likely would have completed the job in half an hour, but Toni and I had agreed that the fewer people to know the reason behind the broken window, the better.  

I never was the most handy of men, and by the time I finished replacing the pane of glass, darkness had fallen. 

As I went back to my own apartment, the Schutt brothers were leaving theirs. They nodded to me, then returned to arguing about which movie they wanted to see.  

"The Wild Bunch."  

"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The Wild Bunch is too violent!"  

"Well, I don't want to watch Paul Newman and Robert Redford make goo goo eyes at each other for almost two hours!"  

"All right, then, how about that Ingmar Bergman retrospective?"  

"You know I think he's too pretentious!"  

"There's just no pleasing you, Pat! We'll go see The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes…" Their voices faded as they went down the stairs.  

I could hear the television playing in the Wilsons ' apartment across the hall. 'Here's the story of a lovely lady…' The Brady Bunch was on, and Mrs. Wilson watched it religiously.  

I was sweaty and grubby, and… hungry for someone in my bed. And I had no desire to write, so I took a shower and splashed on some English Leather.  

It was Masquerade Night at the Baths, and I packed a small bag with my costume, which consisted of a mask, a gun belt, cowboy boots, and a white Stetson.  Then I took a cab up to West 74th Street.  

I might be a fool to lust after a straight man, but there were plenty of gay men who wanted me.  

I paid the $25 dollars to get in and  went to the vending machines, got a supply of KY, and then changed.  

Some of the men wore full face masks; Batman was a popular choice, as were Butch and Sundance. There was even a Nixon and a Kissinger, and I made a mental note to avoid them. I opted for the kind of mask that the Long Ranger favored, only mine was made of black silk. The white Stetson was tipped back on my head, and black boots minus spurs were on my feet. The towel I wore was held in place by the gun belt, the holsters riding low on my  hips, framing my sex. They carried, not six-shooters, but the KY, and I knew I looked good. I sauntered through the halls, blasé and cocksure.  

I noticed someone with a mask similar to mine staring at me. Instead of a towel he wore a breechcloth decorated with beads and fringe, and leather moccasins that lovingly encased his calves. A feathered headdress flowed down his back. Heat pooled in my groin as I imagined the feel of those feathers on my body. I took a step toward him, but a pudgy man dressed in an Elizabethan doublet and a hat with a curled foxtail touched his arm, and the 'Indian' turned away to speak to him. The movement caused his feathers to ripple in a fall of color and texture. I shrugged. There were plenty of others to choose from. I strolled in the other direction, intending to see if there was any action by the pool.  

A warm body pressed up behind me, and I could feel a dick nudging the crevice of my ass. Hands came around to stroke over my torso, and I swallowed a moan as my nipples were pinched. "You're smooth," he whispered. "I like that."  

I turned my head. It was the Indian. My eyes dropped to study his chest. "You're not." Hair covered his chest, arrowing down in a slim line to vanish beneath his breechcloth. "I like that." I also liked that he was wearing British Sterling.  

The feathers of his headdress grazed over my nipples, teasing them to diamond-hard points of sensation, and I shuddered. "You're mine for the night, kemo sabe."  

"You think so, Tonto?"  

He reached under my towel and stroked my dick with his fingertips. It had been half hard, and now it swelled, in full agreement with his, "I know so." His low laugh tickled my ear. "Come on." He led me to one of the small rooms, which was dimly lit, and once we were inside, I lost my towel very quickly. With  languid, indolent fingers, I unbuckled my gun belt. I plucked out a tube of KY as it fell to the floor, and his eyes glittered through his mask. "A quick draw! I'm impressed!"  

I grinned at my companion before I tossed it to him. My dick was hard against my belly, and I let my fingertips dance over the shaft before I leaned back against a wall, my groin thrust forward, posing for him. "Now what, Tonto?" I reached for the ties of my own mask. "Want me to take it off?"  

"No," he whispered. "Let's keep the masks on."  

"Okay." It would make it easier for me to fantasize that it was Julian having me.  

"Now that we have that out of the way, kemo sabe, on the bed, on your hands and knees," he ordered, still in a whisper, and I shivered and straightened away from the wall, and obeyed him.  

His palms were soft. This was not a man who did manual labor. They grazed over my buttocks and down the line of my thighs to the backs of my knees. While the fingers of one hand toyed with the join of hip and thigh, the fingers of the other traced the crack of my ass. He must have opened the tube of KY, because his fingertip slid easily across my puckered anus, dipping in a bit before ghosting over the skin behind my balls.  

"Down." He pushed steadily on my shoulders until I folded my arms and rested my head on them, leaving my hips high in the air. "Yes." The bed dipped as he climbed up, and a slicked finger teased into me.  

"You don't have to baby me." I spread my legs as wide as I could and rocked back to take more of him. "I'm not made of glass!"  

"All right." His low voice sounded strained, and there was a pause. I glanced around to see him coating his dick with the gel, and smiled and lowered my head once more, anticipating his next move.  

Blunt and hard, his dick pushed against me, demanding entrance. I pushed back, and the crown popped through the ring of muscle. He was big, and he stretched my passage. The friction, the burning sensation were just what I'd been looking for, just what I needed. And then I was impaled on his dick, possessed by him,  his balls flush against my ass.  

His first strokes were tentative, tantalizing, as he searched for my prostate. Once he knew from my breathless moan that he'd found the right angle, there was no more hesitation. The hair that covered his chest brushed repeatedly against my spine, and I was slowly driven crazy. I hadn't been taken like this in… I couldn't remember how long.  

My Indian pounded into me while his left hand played my nipples like a virtuoso, squeezing, scraping, twisting.  

His right hand… jesus god! He pulled back. "I can see where we're joined, kemo sabe. You look good spitted on my dick." His whisper had become hoarse. "Take a breath. I don't want to hurt you!"  

"What…" And then I yelped as a finger slid into me, and I was being fucked by his finger as well as his dick.  

Filled. I'd never felt so filled. I forgot to think of Julian. All that I could get past my lips were pants and groans and the demand that he never stop.  

"Stretch your arms out." He took his finger out of me.  

I did as he said, my cheek now directly on the sheet beneath  me, and his palm stroked over the muscles of my arm until he came to my hand, and he lay on me, our fingers entwined.  

He pulled his dick almost all the way out, leaving only the crown keeping me open, and then he slammed back into me. His hips moved faster and faster. I shivered under him. He got his hand on my dick and smeared pre come over my shaft, jerking me off in rhythm to the pounding of his dick in my ass.  

It was all over for me. I felt my balls draw up tight. Heat engulfed my body, flowing into it from each extremity, and with a gasp I started to come. I filled his hand, splattered semen on my chest, I even managed to get some in my mouth, and I gave a huff of laughter.  

My Indian wasn't done with me, though. I never knew a man with his stamina. He squeezed the nerve at the base of his dick and he continued to drive into me, and I just crouched there and let him have me.  

Finally, though, he couldn't delay his climax any longer, and his blood-hot semen flooded me, scalding, soothing my well-used back passage. He sagged onto my back, his breath whistling in and out like a runaway freight train.  

"You okay, Tonto?"  

"Give me a... a minute to catch... catch my breath," he panted in a gravely whisper.  

"No rush. Geez, you were amazing."  

"You were pretty goddamn amazing yourself."  

"Thanks. Listen, I'd like to see you again. Outside of here."  

"I don't think that would be a good idea." He pulled out of me and got off the bed. I reached for him, but he was bending to retrieve his breechcloth and didn't see. All I captured was a handful of feathers. "I don't do this, not very often."  

"Sure. I understand. Maybe some other time…" But he was already gone.  

I opened my hand and stared down into my palm at the feathers, and I sighed.  

Someone poked his head into the room. "Hello there, my fellow American. I just have this to say about that: want to play?"  

I smiled ruefully. "Sorry, Mr. President. I'm done for the night."  

I stood up and winced as muscles protested. The ache deep in my ass would remind me of this night for some time. I wrapped the towel around my waist, gathered up the pieces of my costume, and limped to where I'd stored my clothes. It was time to go home.  


A pounding on my door brought me out of a dream that was a replay of the night before, where my dick was hard, and I was on the verge of a very nice climax. "Shoot. Who's there?" I mumbled.  

"Igor, it's Toni."  

I swung my legs out of bed, rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, and staggered to the door. "What time is it, for Pete's sake?"  

Toni was wearing the little pink baby doll nightie she'd had on the other night. "Good morning, Igor! It's seven o'clock ."  

I groaned. She was so chipper, I wanted to puke.  

"I'm sorry to bother you, but I need to borrow a razor."  

"Huh?" I massaged my scalp.  

"I have to work today, to make up for taking yesterday off, but I need to shave my legs, and my last razor is so dull I'll cut them to ribbons. Can I borrow yours?"  

"Yeah, sure, but it's electric."  

"That's okay."  

"Okay. It's in the medicine chest. You mind getting it yourself? I'm going back to bed. I had a late night."  

Toni walked to the bathroom. "I wish I could say the same." She came out with the shaver in her hand. "I insisted I wanted to see Mrs. Winston."  

"Yeah, I remember you said you wanted to be sure she was all right with the divorce."  

"Yes. Well, Julian kept hemming and hawing, and finally he said he'd try to arrange something. He had to go back to work; he's so dedicated to his patients; but we were supposed to have dinner and then go dancing. I waited for him at Marietta's, that's the Italian restaurant over on 38th Street , it's kind of our place, you know?"  

"I've been there. Good fettuccine Alfredo. They put bacon and chicken in the sauce."  

Her eyes lit up. "They have the best pasta!" She quickly sobered. "Julian was running late, and when he showed up, he was really… He was in such a strange mood. He said his wife was being difficult about meeting me, and he was so upset because of it that he didn't have the heart to go to The Slipped Disc. After we finished dinner, he brought me home, and then he left. He didn't even stay the night."  

"How rude." I yawned hugely. "Sorry, Toni, I didn't have much sleep the last couple of nights."  

"No, I'm sorry. You go on back to bed. Thanks for the loan of the shaver, Igor. I'll get it back to you tonight. Oh, and thanks for fixing my window. You did a great job."  

"Okay, Toni. That sounds good. Have a good day at work." I shut the door behind her, fell into bed, but before I fell asleep, I thought of Julian Winston, and the fact that he and my Indian both wore British Sterling.  


Part 3


I kissed Julian Winston.  

I patted some pre-shave on my throat and cheeks, plugged in my Remington electric shaver, and began running it over my jaw.  

The picture played over and over in my mind, him standing there in that navy blue suit with the white shirt and grey tie, and me in my teal towel, watching his lips move as he berated me for being in his fiancée's apartment, and then winding my fingers in that grey tie, reeling him in and taking that mouth in a kiss I'd been dreaming of. 

And the words chased after the images. //I kissed Julian Winston!//  

I paused and stood there with the shaver buzzing merrily away, staring in the mirror, a smug smile on my face. "You saucy devil, you!"  

I kissed Julian Winston!  


Saturday night I had sat on a pillow and banged out twenty-five pages of dialogue, and not thrown a single one into the trash.  

I woke up on Sunday, still feeling that ache deep in my ass, and I was ready to slay dragons and rescue young men in distress.  

A shower was in order. I stripped out of my pajamas and ran a hand over my chin. The stubble teased my palm. But first I needed a shave.  

I peered at my face in the bathroom mirror. I really needed a shave. Toni had my shaver, and I'd have to get it back. I wrapped a towel around my waist and was about to leave my apartment when I spotted the piece of paper on the floor. Toni had slipped a note under my door.  

'You didn't answer the knock, and I have to run out for a little while. Thanks for the loan of your shaver. I left it on the table in my apartment. You have my key. Get it whenever you want. ~Toni~'  

Now where had I left her key? I had to do one of those back tracking things. //Okay, Igor, what did you do first?//  

//Well, after I fixed Toni's window, I gathered up the can of caulking, the spackling tool, and other assorted odds and ends, and left her apartment. I locked her door, put the key in my pocket and…//  

The pocket! I dug the corduroy trousers I'd worn on Friday out of the hamper and fished through the pockets, finally finding the key in the last one I searched.  

Holding it in triumph, I poked my head out the door, making sure the hallway was free of neighbors. At that time of day, however, no one was around, and I hurried to Toni's door, unlocked it, and let myself into her apartment.  

The shaver was where she had said it would be, on the little table. I picked it up and turned to leave just as there was a knock on the door, and I froze. It wouldn't look good for a half-naked man, who was not Toni's boyfriend, to answer her door.  

"'A bravo Figaro, bravo, bravisimo…'" A baritone voice was singing the song from the opera, The Barber of Seville.  

This was too good to resist. I opened the door. "Good morning, Julian."  

His jaw dropped. "Igor!" He remembered my name. How nice. "What are you doing in my fiancée's apartment? In a…" he swallowed, "… a towel?" He stared at the towel longer than was strictly necessary, I thought.  

"Toni borrowed my shaver, and I needed it back."  

"You came here in a towel? You went out of your apartment, across the hall in broad daylight, wearing that?"  

"And a smile." I gave him an exasperated look. "What, I should dress to shave?"  

Julian suddenly appeared flustered, as if he had just realized that I was naked under that towel. His lips parted, and his tongue slid out to moisten them. "Why did she borrow your razor?" he asked gruffly, abruptly changing the subject.  

"Shaver." I dangled the cord before him. "So she could shave?" I asked logically.  

"I still don't see why she had to… Well, you have your shaver, now go! There's no need for you to stay in my fiancée's apartment any longer."  

"You keep calling her that, but you aren't even divorced yet. And you've lied to her, Julian."  

He paled. "What do you mean? What are you talking about? I never lied! If she assumed…" Alarm was in his voice.  

"Julian." I took a step toward him. "You lied like a rug." He sputtered, and I took another step closer. "You…" I leaned forward, ran my nose along his cheek, and inhaled. "are…" British Sterling . My dick started pushing against the towel. "not thirty-five."  

His upper body angled away from me, although his lower body remained exactly where it was. "That is baloney! And it's none of your business how old I am! Now I want you out of my fiancée's… out of Toni's apartment, or I'll…"  

I wrapped my hand around that elegant tie and pulled him up against me. There was no way he could not feel my arousal. My other hand curved around his neck, flexing in the hair that curled there, and I kissed him. It started as chaste, nothing more that a light pressure of lips against lips, but then his lips softened and seemed to cling to mine, and I lost my head and slid my tongue into his mouth, stroking it along his tongue, tasting the cigarette he had smoked, the coffee he had drunk.  

"Ah, Julian, I'm better for you than Toni," I murmured against his mouth.  

"Are you?" His tone was dreamy.  

"I can give you what you want."  

"Can you?" He nuzzled the hinge of my jaw, and I relaxed into the tiny caress. Abruptly, he pulled away from me. "What are you talking about?" He'd become panic-stricken. "What are you doing? I don't want anything from you!"  

"No?" I wasn't going to let him off the hook so easily. He'd kissed me back. He had. "Tell me something. Am I circumcised?"  

He stared down in dismay. His hand was under the towel, on my dick, and his thumb was rubbing little circles across the crown. He snatched his hand away as if it were burned. "I'd like to have you in my chair for just five minutes!"  

"Yes, Julian? And what would you like to do to me?"  

"I… You… We…"  

And then the cavalry came to his rescue. Well, not exactly the cavalry, but a fair representation. Toni walked in.  

"Hi, Igor. Is that a new towel? Hello, Julian." She was cool toward him.  

"I just came to get my shaver, Toni."  

"Yes, and now that he's got  it, he can go!"  

"Why are you here, Julian?"  

"Toni, darling, I want to take you out for brunch. Then I thought we could spend the afternoon together, maybe go to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art."  

She glanced at him from the corner of her eye. "Where were you last night, Julian?"  

He wasn't with Toni? I raised an eyebrow, and we both waited to hear his response.  

He turned bright red. "I… I was at home, of course. We didn't have a date. Did we?"  

"No, but I thought it might have interested you to know that I met your wife yesterday, so I called to tell you. You didn't answer your phone. I figured you were probably in the shower."  

"Yes. Of course. I was taking a shower."  

Sounded to me like he was jumping at an excuse.  

"That must have been a very long shower. I'm surprised you don't look like a prune today. I tried every twenty minutes for three hours."  

I'd never seen anyone splutter before. I'd heard of it being done, I'd even written it in the stage directions, but I'd never seen it. It was an interesting phenomenon. Julian couldn't get an intelligible word out. Finally, Toni took pity on him.  

"Don't lie, Julian. You were with Stephanie, weren't you? Did she tell you we'd met? She came to Stereo Heaven yesterday."  

Julian was now as pale as he'd been flushed before. "She… What… Um… what did she say?"  

"What did you expect her to say? She's willing to go through with the divorce. It's for your sake, Julian. She still loves you."  

"That's preposterous!"  

This was better than one of those screwball comedies of the 30s that my mother loved. I leaned back against the table. They were so distracted they had forgotten my presence in the room.  

"No, it isn't! She talked about those sandwiches she made for you, and…" Toni gazed off into space, and said so quietly I didn't think Julian heard her, "I wish someone would make chicken and egg salad sandwiches for me."  

"Those damned sandwiches! How dare she bring them up? The witch!"  

"Julian! I'm shocked at you! She isn't a witch! She's gracious and charming and very brave!" She turned away from her lover. "And I can't take you away from her."  

"Toni! Darling! That's nonsense! Er… you won't be taking me away from her!"  

"I won't?"  

"No, sweetheart. You see, she's… uh…seeing someone! She already has a boyfriend!"  

"She does?" She blew out a breath. "That makes me feel so much better, darling." Toni walked up to Julian and tiptoed her fingers up and down the tie that was still wrinkled from my grip on  it. "I want to meet him."  

Julian had been relaxing into her touch, a complaisant smile on his face, until she said that. "You want to what?"  

"Now, Julian, be reasonable. I want to make sure she isn't with some low life just because she's on the rebound. And don't forget, there're the children to consider also." She stared at his tie, suddenly seeing the condition it was in. "Why don't you take this off, and I'll iron it for you. I've never known you to wear a tie that was this wrinkled."  

"Oh, I… you…we…Would you, dear?" he finished weakly.  

"I feel a draft," I remarked, bringing his attention once more to the fact that I was clothed simply in a towel. "I'm going home. I'll see you, Toni. Bye, Julian." He pointedly looked away.  

She undid his tie and stripped it off, then pulled the ironing board out of the wall. So that's what that little cupboard was. "Bye, Igor. Thanks again for the shaver. Now, Julian, are you going to arrange something so I can meet Stephanie's boyfriend?"  


The phone was ringing when I stepped out of the shower. I wrapped the towel around my waist and skidded across the floor to answer it, leaving a trail of wet footprints behind me. Could it be Julian, calling to compliment my legs? Could it be my Indian, interested enough to track down my phone number? "Hello?"  

It was my mother, calling to invite me home for a couple of days.  

We chatted for a few minutes, while I dripped puddles on the floor. I agreed to catch the two o'clock train to New Haven . Dad would meet me at the station at 3:30.  

She made kissy noises and said good-bye.  

I went back into the bathroom and patted some pre-shave on my throat and cheeks, plugged in my Remington electric shaver, and began running it over my jaw. Instead of thinking of the upcoming visit with my parents, I had something else on my mind.  

I kissed Julian Winston. And he had kissed me back.  


Why was it a train trip that only took an hour and a half to New Haven always seemed twice as long returning to New York?  

I got off in Penn Station and took a cab back to my apartment.  

Dad and I were going to have to have a sit down with Mom real soon. I'd arrived home to find she was having a tea party. The tea was actually an ambush. I was the only unattached male, and the majority of the guests were single, attractive, and alas, female.  

Still, her heart was in the right place, she was my mom, and I loved her. And I'd have to get her a hostess gift.  

I went to Stereo Heaven.  

"Igor! Hi! I haven't heard your typewriter the last couple of days."  

"Hi, Toni. No, I was out of town. I guess I can't win. I disturb you when I type; I disturb you when I don't type."  

She giggled. "Say, can I read your play sometime?"  

"There's only the first act so far, but sure. I'll bring it over later if you'd like."  

"Far out! So. What can I do for you, sir?" she asked, all business. Her manager was standing nearby, watching us.  

"Do you have Callas in Aida?"  

"Sure." She pulled over a ladder and climbed to the upper shelf where it was displayed. "Want me to wrap that for you?"  

"Not just yet, I'd like to listen to it first."  

"Certainly. The booths are over there." She waved toward the rear of the store.  

I went to one of the booths, closed the door, and put the record on the spindle, then dropped the needle into the groove. Maria Callas' lush soprano filled the small, glass-enclosed room. I glanced around and happened to see Julian Winston walk in. He was carrying a long, shallow box. Toni's face lit up, and she took him into a back room where I knew the stereo equipment was kept. On days when I wanted to distract myself from how poorly my play was coming along, I'd go there and play with the tweeters and woofers.  

I cranked up the volume and leaned a hip against the table the turntable was on. What I really wanted was Julian. And maybe my Indian.  

Oh, hell, there was no sense moping about it. I put the album back in its sleeve and went up to the counter to buy it for my mother. She loved Aida, and she loved Maria Callas. I couldn't lose.  

Toni and Julian had come out of the back room. Toni looked a little disappointed, and Julian looked satisfied.  


His expression darkened. "What do you mean by that?" he snapped at me.  

"I'm dressed this time," I said innocently.  

"I'll see you tonight, darling," he said to Toni and turned to leave. If I hadn't been staring after him I would have missed his backward glance. His eyes seemed to be fastened on a spot below my waist, and I looked down, wondering if he could see my arousal. And then he was gone.  

I sighed and turned back to Toni. "What's in the box?"  

"Oh, Julian bought me a mink stole!" The name on the cover of the box was of an exclusive furrier whose shop was on the Avenue of the Americas . She pulled the stole out of the box. "Isn't it gorgeous?" She rubbed the soft fur against her face.  

"My Aunt Bertha has one just like it." The stole was what an older woman would wear. A young woman like Toni would prefer…  

"I really wanted black leather slacks."  

That was what someone her age would want. I made commiserating sounds, but my mind was on something else. If Julian didn't realize that, maybe he wasn't as committed to the relationship as he claimed.  

"Hey, Igor, I've got a great idea!" She pulled a box toward her and removed the record album that had been within it. "I was going to send Steph… Mrs. Winston this Horowitz album, but I'll send her the stole instead!" Enthusiastically, she stuffed the mink into the box.  

"I don't know, Toni. What makes you think she'll accept something like that from you?"  

"I'll put this in there too." She showed me the appointment card. On the back was scrawled, 'As ever, Julian.'

"Toni, do you really think this is a good idea?"  

"Yes." Her voice became so soft I could barely hear it. "She'll think it's from Julian, but I'll know it's really from me."  

Wait a second! What was that about?  

"Oh, did you want the Callas, Igor?"  

"Uh… yeah. Send it to this address, please?" I gave her my parents' address in New Haven , paid for it, and went home, mulling over what had just occurred. Did Toni simply want to do a good deed, or did she… like Julian's wife? Like as in the way  I liked Julian?  


I knew Toni had gotten home from work a few minutes earlier. I was hoping if I waited a bit longer, Julian would be by to pick her up for their … I swallowed as if I'd bitten into something sour… date.  

Sure enough, within a quarter hour, I heard Julian humming the Sextet from Lucia. I gave him a minute to get into her apartment, then crossed the hall and knocked on her door, which was ajar. It swung open.  

"Oh, sorry, Toni; I didn't realize Julian was here," I lied. "I have my play for you. You can look at it whenever you want, there's no rush."  

"Thanks, Igor. Gee, you look kind of down."  

"No, it's nothing…"  

"Julian, let's take Igor to dinner. He's depressed and needs to be cheered up."  

I'd be whatever I had to be, if it got me dinner with the sexy dentist. "The writing really hasn't been going well," I blithely perjured myself, trying to look pathetic, and crossing my fingers behind my back in hopes I didn't jinx myself.  

Julian didn't believe my act. Well, I was a playwright, not an actor. "I'm sure Igor has other things he'd rather be doing."  

"Not if you're buying dinner."  

"I don't think…"  

"I'll just go put on a jacket and tie." I met his eyes, thinking of that grey tie he'd worn on Sunday, and I knew he was thinking of it also, and the kiss.  

"Don't forget your love beads," he sniped.  

"Now, Julian, be nice," Toni said.  

I was back before they could miss me, looping the tie around my neck and tying a Windsor knot. "So, where are we going to eat?"  

"Yes, Julian. Were are we going?"  

"Well, I had thought our place, but ..."  

"Great! I love Marietta's."  

"Why aren't I surprised that you know Marietta's is our place?" he grumbled.  

"Damned if I know," I said cheerfully, surprising a reluctant smile from him.  

"That was a rhetorical question, Igor."  

"It's too close to dinner time for rhetorical, Julian. I'm starved. Feed me." I started down the stairs.  

"I know what I'd like to feed you."  

I nearly stumbled at his softly spoken words. I stared back at him in shock, but he was frowning, and I realized I must have misinterpreted his tone of voice.  

"Better watch your step, Igor. You wouldn't want to fall and break anything important."  

Toni looked from Julian to me. "What are you talking about, Julian?"  

"Nothing, dear. Let's go, shall we? We wouldn't want Igor to waste away."  


We were having after-dinner espresso. "Where would you like to go dancing, Toni?" Julian asked.  

"How about The Slipped Disc?" she suggested.  

"After what happened last night, I don't think that's a very good idea."  

"Julian, after what happened last night, that's the best place to go! There's no chance your wife will be there with her horrible boyfriend." Toni shook her head. "I can't believe someone as smart as she is could settle for such a yutz!"  

"I beg your pardon?"  

She blushed. "Well, he is, Julian. You can't tell me he isn't cheating on Stephanie with that bimbo he tried to pass off as a client's daughter!"  

"'Sponsor's' daughter."  

"Am I missing something?"  

Julian ignored me. "I'm sure Harvey Greenfield is a perfectly nice man."  

"And why do you keep sticking up for him?" Toni demanded, glowering at her lover. "Anyone would think he was your best friend."  

Julian looked suddenly uncomfortable. He cleared his throat. "Well, darling, if the man is going to become stepfather to my children, it's only right that we all try to get along."  

"You'd better put your foot down and tell Stephanie he's no good for her!"  

"Toni, Stephanie is an adult woman. I have no right to tell her who she should go out with."  

Toni's mouth pursed as if she weren't happy to think of Julian's wife with someone else. I signaled the waiter for the bill. They continued to bicker and didn't notice. I glanced at the total, pulled out some bills and handed them to the waiter. "Keep the change."  

"Thank you, Mr. Sullivan!" he said effusively.  

"He knows you?" Julian seemed surprised.  

"I come here at least once a week. Would you like more coffee?"  

"Uh… no. I thought you were a starving playwright."  

I smiled.  

"Let's go."  

We walked out, and he handed the ticket stub to the valet parking attendant. When his DeVille had been brought around, I got in the back, and Toni rode in the front with Julian. Oh, well, at least I could study his profile unobtrusively.  

I was lost in a fantasy of having him under me on his back seat, while we made out like teenagers, when he pulled up to the curb and turned off the ignition. Toni got out of the car while Julian ran around to get her door, and I heard him say, "I wish you'd wait for me to open the door for you."  

"Why? I'm perfectly capable of opening my own door."  


I pushed the seat forward and climbed out, narrowly avoiding a sign that read, No Parking on Weekdays after 9 P.M.  "Uh, Julian, you might not want to park here."  

He spared a glimpse at the sign. "Igor, don't worry about it. I know a cop in this precinct."  

"Okay." I followed them into the discotheque, to a small table on the far side of the dance floor. I glanced around, admiring the way hips and groins were swaying, wondering if any of the young men gyrating to an instrumental version of The Monkees' I'm a Believer might be inclined to pay the Baths a visit.  

"Come on, Julian, I want to dance! Igor, order me a Seven and Seven, and Julian a gin and tonic?"  

"Sure thing, Toni." But they were already on the dance floor. I stood watching for a few seconds. Toni's body flowed with the music, but Julian's wasn't as comfortable with the expansive movements.  

A waiter approached me. "Can I get you something?"  

I gave him the order and sat down. Julian needed to dance with someone who would show him how to do the moves. Someone who'd put a steadying hand on his hip and caress it as I urged it first to the left, and then to the right while our lower bodies brushed and we drove each other to the heights of passion.  

There was a heated flush in my cheeks. I could feel it. I glanced up from the intriguing sight of Julian Winston shaking his tail feathers, and met his eyes. Overcome by a wicked impulse, I slid down in my seat, onto my spine, and unbuttoned my jacket, casually brushing it aside as I slid my hands into my pants pockets. I spread my legs, bringing his attention to my lower body. My dick was a hard bulge in my cords.  

He licked his lips, leaned close to hear what Toni was saying, but never took his eyes from my crotch. Other people might temporarily block his view, but once they had danced out of the way, his gaze would still be fixed on me.  

The waiter brought our drinks. I sat up and crossed my legs, and reached for my beer. A final glance toward Julian revealed wild color which made his cheekbones stand out.  


"Your ice is melting," I told Julian as he came back to the table, leaving Toni dancing with a very attractive brunette in a blue evening gown.  

He bared his teeth at me, sat down and grabbed his drink.  

"You were making a spectacle of yourself, do you realize that? Sitting there with a hard- on visible to all and sundry!"  

"No one else seemed to notice, Julian."  

His only response was to grind his teeth.  

I took a swallow of my beer. "Who is that Toni is dancing with?"  

"My secretary!" he snarled. Abruptly he turned pale. "I mean, that's my wife."  

"Your wife used to be your secretary?"  

"Yes. No. Listen, why don't you go up and dance with her?"  

"I'd rather dance with you, Julian," I muttered under my breath.  

"What did you say?"  

"The Fox-trot might come back some day." I could feel his eyes on my back as I went out onto the dance floor.  

I was in time to hear Toni grumble, "Men can be such babies."  

"Hey, I resent that!" I might have it out of context, and it might very well be true, but I had to stick up for my sex.  

"Hi, Igor! Stephanie, this is Igor Sullivan, my neighbor. Igor, this is Stephanie, Julian's wife."  

I used the moves of the dance to circle the brunette and smiled. "Well, well, I must say the tooth jockey has excellent taste in his women." She was very soignée. If I were inclined that way, I'd certainly make a move on her, even if she was a few years my senior.  

"Igor!" Toni's voice was petulant, which surprised me.  She was never petulant. "That's not his real name, you  know."  

"Oh, my first name really is Igor, but I changed my last name to Sullivan." It was a gambit I often used, like telling people I was writing the great American tragedy, or comedy or whatever the flavor of the week was, which frequently brought me success.  

Not with Stephanie Winston, however. Her eyes ran over me, and she seemed to smile to herself. "Really? I understand you write plays."  

"I lean toward Pirandello," I remarked as I slid between her and Toni.  

Stephanie apparently couldn't care less. She studied the way I moved my hands, swayed my hips, pivoted on my feet. "What dance step is that?"  

"This is the Uptight. And this is the…"  

Another man danced up to us. "Hi, Sergeant!"  

Toni's eyes narrowed.  

"Hi, Harv!" Stephanie responded cheerfully, and Toni began to look decidedly put out.  

"…Boogaloo," I concluded, demonstrating the movement. I didn't know why I bothered, none of them paid any attention to me.  

"We have to use the ladies' room. Come on, Stephanie." Toni's fingers closed over Stephanie's forearm, and she began dragging her away.  

"We do?" The older woman widened her eyes, but I could see the amusement in them.  


Part 4


A small man wearing a tuxedo with a ribbon of some order or other across his chest sighed gustily. "I may as well have brought my wife!" He gave me a rueful smile, a small bow, and a click of  his heels. "Arturo Sanchez, at your service, young man. I see you accompany my dentist."  

"Julian Winston is your dentist? In that case, yes."  

"I had hoped to have the good fortune of perhaps becoming better acquainted with his secretary, the so lovely Miss Dickinson, but this does not seem to be my lucky night."  

Was ' Dickinson ' Mrs. Winston's maiden name? Had she reverted to it? And was one of Julian's patients dating her?  

This was confusing. I glanced over to the table where I'd left Julian, to find he was gone. An emotion I was reluctant to identify clutched my chest. He couldn't have left, not with Toni still here. I scanned the room quickly, wondering if perhaps he'd gone to the men's room. And then I spotted his dark head at another table. 

"If you'll excuse me, Señor Sanchez?"  

"You go to speak with Dr. Winston?" He tapped his chest. "I go with you to pay my respects."  

"Yeah, sure." I made my way off the dance floor and to the table where the man I recognized as the one Stephanie addressed as Harv was seated. With him was a woman whose tits looked like they were about to spill out of her snug bodice and Julian Winston. Julian was leaning forward, speaking earnestly.  

"I'm telling you, it's a nightmare, Harv. It was simpler when I didn't want to marry the girl, when we were just having an affair!"  

The buxom woman stared in shocked disapproval at Julian. "Rotten, rotten!" she muttered. Her censorious gaze went to Arturo Sanchez and then to me. "His wife's boyfriend! His girlfriend's boyfriend! Rotten, rotten, rotten!"  

Behind her back, Harv shrugged and circled his finger by his temple, indicating she was a little nutty. I thought that was rude. Señor Sanchez ignored him completely.  

"Good evening, Doctor," he murmured politely to Julian.  

"Good evening, Patient."  

"What's a nightmare, Julian?" I ran my hand over his shoulder. If he'd been standing I'd have been severely tempted to reach down and squeeze his ass.  

"Hmm? What?" For a second I would have sworn he'd leaned into my touch, but maybe it was just wishful thinking. "Oh… er… nothing, Igor. This is Harvey Greenfield, my… um… wife's friend, and his friend… er… Georgia ?" He smiled weakly.  

Greenfield winked at me. "Looked like you were trying to make time with Julian's… Ow! Jules, what'd you do that for?"  

"I don't know what you're talking about, Harvey ." He rose to his feet, irritation in every line of his body.  

"You kicked me in the shin! I swear I'm never doing you a favor again!"  

We went back to our table. "Stephanie's friend, hmmm? For someone you only met last night, you seem rather… chummy… with him, Jules."  

"I don't know what you're talking about."  

"You're repeating yourself. Is that a sign of a guilty mind?"  

"I have no intention of getting into a battle of wits with you, Igor."  

"Y'know what I find interesting, Jules?"  

He peered down his nose at me, and for some reason I found that so arousing I wanted to kiss him. Maybe he saw that in my face, because he glowered at me. "What makes you think there's anything about you that I'd find interesting? And stop calling me 'Jules'."  

Oh, now, that was interesting! How had he come up with that?  

He realized his slip. "I mean… I mean… what makes you think that I'd be interested in anything you found interesting!"  

"Of course. What else would you think I'd think you meant?" He looked totally confused, and on him, that was an adorable look, if a man with his craggy features could be called adorable. The corner of my mouth kicked up in a grin. "What I find so interesting, Julian, is that you always call me by my first name."  

He hmmphed. "I definitely am not getting into this with you, you hippie!" The last resort of a cornered man: name calling! "Did you wish to see me about something, Señor Sanchez?"  

"Only to ask if you had any objections to me seeing the beautiful Stephanie after office hours."  

"Why would I care who the dratted woman sees?" It was Julian's turn to do petulant.  

"She isn't your ex-wife yet, Jules," I whispered in his ear, wanting to kiss the moue from his lips.  

All Señor Sanchez heard was 'wife'. "You are right, of course, my wife would not approve." He sighed once more and returned to his table.  

"Just make sure that mink stole doesn't get damaged!" Julian called after him. "They don't grow on trees, you know!" So he realized it was the one he had given Toni. I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall when she confessed what she'd done.  

"Si, si."  

"Julian, I wonder if I could interest you in …"  

"Oh, look, Toni is back!" His relief was palpable. I was only going to offer him another gin and tonic. What did he think I was going to do, proposition him?  

"Are you sulking again, Julian?" Toni demanded, sounding a little sulky herself. She was flushed, and her lips seemed swollen. Had something happened in the ladies' room?  

"Men do not sulk, Toni. I grew tired of dancing with Señor Sanchez while you were dancing with Mi… um… with Stephanie!"  

"You were going to say with your wife. Don't try to deny it, Julian! You still have feelings for her!"  

I glanced across the room, seeing Stephanie making her way to the table where Señor Sanchez was guarding her mink. Maybe it was time to call out the big guns. I left Julian arguing with Toni, and went to the woman he was thinking of divorcing for her. I liked what I had seen of Stephanie, but I wouldn't have minded if he'd divorced her for me.  

The music had switched to something eminently suitable for holding your partner close and rubbing yourself up against him. "Dance with me, Stephanie." I took her in my arms and began to dance slowly. "Shhh," I murmured when she would have protested. "Relax," when she tried to pull herself out of my loose embrace.  

Her posture remained somewhat stiff, but at least she was moving her feet now. "Igor…"  

"Stephanie, is Julian looking this way?" I didn't dare risk a look myself. I wanted him to see me with my arms around his almost ex-wife, and wonder what they would feel like around him.  

"Yes, he is."  

"Groovy." I rubbed my lips over the soft skin of her throat, which was so different from the skin of a man's throat.  

"Would you mind telling me what you're trying to do?" She sounded like an adult trying to reason with a child. I nipped her ear, taking care not to get a mouthful of earring.  

"Isn't it obvious? I want to make him jealous." I was tired of  the mixed messages I'd been receiving from the man. Maybe this would jolt him into realizing he'd be better off with a male lover… better off with me.  

"Igor. Julian couldn't care less what I do. Any longer." She didn't sound as if it mattered much to her. Apparently, when the feelings were gone, they were gone.  

"But maybe he'll care what I do."  

"I beg your pardon?"  

I had spoken without thinking. Being in lust with Julian Winston was making me stupid. I never made a slip like that! "I've shocked you. I'm sorry."  

She leaned back and stared into my eyes, studying them intently, then gazed over my shoulder. Her eyes took on  a wicked gleam. "Let's give him something to think about!" She brought my face down to hers, and we kissed, trying to make it seem more passionate than it actually was, but there were no sparks. I hoped we were the only ones who knew that. After a short time, she pulled back, gazing over my shoulder again. Her shoulders slumped in disappointment. "It didn't work. They're leaving."  

I had to see for myself. I turned her, making it appear that I was nuzzling her throat. "No, wait!" I whispered in her ear. "They're looking back!" I kissed her again, brushing my lips gently over hers, sucking her lower lip into my mouth, nibbling on it, putting everything I had into that kiss.  

But it wasn't enough. Not for her, and not for me. And when I looked again, he was gone.  


I woke up on the beach at Coney Island , lying next to Stephanie. Her mink stole was a warm cushion beneath us. I'd never slept with a woman, but if that was as close as I could get to Julian Winston… "Why don't we go back to my place and make mad, passionate love to each other?"  

"Didn't we have this conversation last night?"  

I was afraid that the night before I'd spoken of more than her joining me in bed. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I had the uneasy feeling that I'd talked about my feelings for Julian. I'd had so many Mexican Missiles that I couldn't remember. Or maybe that was just a convenient excuse.  

"Ah, well, you can't blame a guy for trying."  

I helped her to her feet and whistled up a cab for her, then slipped a piece of paper with my address into her hand. "That's where I live if you ever want to find me, beautiful Stephanie."  

She gazed back at me as I stood at the curb, my hand raised in good-bye, but somehow I didn't think she was seeing me.  


The pounding on my door was keeping time to the pounding in my head. "Go away," I yelled, and flinched as pain racketed through my skull. "Oh, god, just go away and let me die in peace!"  

"Igor, I know you're home, and I need to talk to you!"  

Why had I never realized what an annoying brat Toni Simmons was?  


Damn. I crawled out of bed, idly marveling that I'd at least  had the sense to put on pajamas before I'd gone to bed earlier. I staggered to the door, still more asleep than awake.  

I didn't have as many locks on my door as Toni did, and it only took a second to unlock it. "Don't you have to be at work? Why are you bothering me so early in the morning?"  

"It's not morning, Igor. I've been to work, and now I'm home. Do you have a hangover?"  

"No, thanks, I have a hangover already."  


"Huh?" I stared at her blearily, but she seemed confused. "Toni… I need something to drink."

"I'd say you had more than enough to drink!" Spiteful little witch.  

"I meant a cup of coffee. You want a coke, Toni? I may have one in the fridge. And the church key is in that drawer next to the sink." The coffee in the pot was god knew how old, but I didn't have the patience to brew a new pot. I turned on the burner all the way to reheat it. The sound of the pilot light igniting the element had me flinching. "I need a Bufferin." I went into the bathroom and took the bottle out of the medicine chest, shook out two tablets and swallowed them. After a moment, I shook out another two, and swallowed them as well. "Okay, you want to tell me what's up?"  

"I might ask the same of you, Don Juan!"  

"What? Toni, I'm not in the mood to play games."  

"I want to know what happened between you and Stephanie. I mean, I have a right to know!"  

"Oh, yeah? How do you figure that?"  

"She's my fiancé's wife."  

"You think that makes you practically related? Listen, Toni…"  

"I saw the way you kissed her neck last night, Dracula!"  

I went to a cabinet and took down a cup. "I don't think this is any of your business, Toni."  

"Well, I just think it's in very poor taste for you to sleep with the woman who happens to be married to my fiancée!"  

She was accusing me of poor taste, when she was dating a married man? That was something I had never done, I assured myself righteously. I may have taken them to bed, but I had never dated them!  

"She wouldn't let you, would she?" Toni probed.  

"Hey!" That was too close to the truth. "Maybe I didn't want to!"  

"You're a man, Igor. Of course you wanted to. Anyone would want to." Her expression became unexpectedly wistful.  

"She's a lovely, appealing woman." And I'd had a fun time with her the night before. I was pretty positive.  

Suddenly Toni's face twisted, and she looked as if she were going to cry. "Did you sleep with her?"  

"She's a lady, Toni." I poured my coffee. I'd let it boil, and now it was too hot. I sighed; I'd have to wait for it to cool.  

"Hmmph! A lot you know!" She started tearing at a cuticle. "So you're telling me she didn't try to seduce you, too?"  

"Me too?" I was glad I hadn't taken a sip yet. I'd have choked on it.  

"I mean…" For a second she didn't look as if she knew what she meant. "I mean, look at all the men around her last night! And Julian said…"  

"Oh, yeah, we have to believe everything Julian says, don't we? Look, Toni, you can't have it both ways."  

"I don't know what you're talking about." She had wandered over to my back window, and she seemed to find whatever was going on in the yard below fascinating, although it was so dark outside I was surprised she could see anything.  

"Don't you? You can't be pleased that she didn't sleep with me because she didn't want to, and then be upset she didn't sleep with me because I didn't want to." I blew on my coffee and turned away.  

"Oh, you're giving me a headache, Igor! And my feet hurt! I had to walk all the way home from The Slipped Disc last night. Julian's car got towed, and he had to go after it…"  

The rest of what she was saying went unheard, as I indulged myself with the image of Julian Winston running down 45th Street, chasing after his Cadillac as it was being towed away. And the cop he knew in the precinct nowhere to be seen.  

I was gazing into space with a broad smile on my face when Toni poked me and snarled, "It's for you, Casanova!"  

Julian Winston's wife was standing in my open doorway. "Stephanie! Come on in. "Toni was looking at the other woman as if she wanted her, covered with whipped cream, maraschino cherries strategically placed, and I couldn't resist testing a theory. "Did you decide to take me up on my offer? I can get rid of Toni, and we can make mad, passionate love to each other."  

It was successful. Toni's expression changed to shocked disbelief.  

"No, Igor. I actually came to talk to Toni." Stephanie wavered between consternation and amusement. "I tried your apartment first, Toni, but obviously you weren't home."  

"Obviously." Mulish obstinacy really wasn't an attractive look for Toni.  

I huffed in irritation. In that space of time it had become obvious to me that Stephanie had feelings for the younger woman. I was tempted to take Toni over my knee and paddle some sense into her.  

"Igor, would you mind leaving us alone?"  

I looked from one woman to the other. "If you're going to have a cat fight, can't I get to watch?"  

"Igor, you're such a male chauvinist pig!" This from a woman who was dating a man old enough to be her father. I scowled at her, and she scowled back at me. "You can wait in my apartment."  

"I never get to have any fun." Julian wasn't going to be there. Not at this time of the day.  

It wasn't until I was out in the hall that I realized I was barefoot, still in pajamas, and holding a cup of coffee that was so bitter and so scorched-tasting that I lost all desire for it. Toni's door wasn't locked, and after I entered her apartment, I poured the coffee down the drain and left the cup in the sink.  

"Toni, you really shouldn't leave your door open." Julian. I was able to observe him before he realized I was there, and I drank in the sight of him. His hair was neatly styled. He was wearing a dark suit, white shirt, and that grey tie. He came to an abrupt halt when he saw me. "Good grief, Igor! Why is it I always find you here? Don't you have a home of your own?"  

"Don't you have a practice?" I shot back. The Bufferin was starting to work, but only just. "What are you doing here?"  

It's … it's none of your business if I want to pay Toni a visit! What am I explaining to you for?" His eyes suddenly bulged and his jaw dropped as he took in my attire. "You're in pajamas! You're in my girlfriend's apartment, and you're wearing pajamas! Did you spend the night here?" I opened my mouth, but he jumped in again. "No, that's right, you couldn't have, you spent the night on the beach with Stephanie. On my mink stole!"  

"I don't know, Julian. You really think mink is you? Personally, I'd like to see you lying on chinchilla." Naked. "Now that's a rich fur." I inhaled, just to see if he was wearing British Sterling. He was, and predictably, my dick got hard and tented my pajama bottoms.  

"You… you young…"  

"You know something, Julian? You may prefer your lovers young enough to be jailbait…"  

"Toni's not jailbait!"  

I ignored him. "… but I'm not a boy; I'm an adult. Too much of an adult to continue playing games with you. You know something else? I've had it! This is it! I'm going back to the Baths and I'm going to…" My mouth was dry, and I needed something to drink. I opened Toni's refrigerator and stuck my head into it, "…find my Indian!" I groused to myself. I took out the carton of milk.  

"You go to the Baths?" He shook his head. "Never mind. Where is Toni?" He snatched at the container of milk. I wasn't about to fight him for it, but he didn't realize that, and yanked harder than was necessary to take it away from me. The milk spilled all over the floor, splattering over my bare feet as well.  

I found myself breathing hard. I couldn't take my eyes off his mouth. I needed to kiss him in the worst way. "Fuck." Who was I trying to fool? I'd play any games he wanted. I wrapped my fingers around his upper arms, pulled him to me, and covered his mouth with mine. For one long second he stood there like a block of ice, cold, unresponsive. And then he moaned.  

The kiss had no finesse. It was raw and hungry and desperate. And he was kissing me back the same way.  

I released his arms and buried my fingers in his hair, kneading his scalp mindlessly as  my tongue explored his mouth, as his tongue dueled with mine. Needy moans and little whimpers were the only sounds in Toni's kitchen, and harsh breathing, and cloth rubbing against cloth as we tried to climb into each other's body.  

He tore his mouth free, and his teeth scraped down over the curve of my adam's apple to sink into the spot where neck and shoulder joined, biting through the material of my pajama top. My dick jerked, and he slid his thigh between mine. I grabbed his ass and held on while I rode his thigh hard. "Julian!" I whispered. "You're going to make me come! I haven't come in my pants since I was fifteen!"  

The sound of Toni at the front door broke us apart. Julian stared at me for an instant, his face flushed, his lips swollen. I ran my tongue over my lips and tasted his kiss, and his flush deepened. He whirled around and opened the refrigerator, letting the chilled air cool his cheeks.  

I  snatched up some paper towels and went to work mopping up the milk that had spilled.  

"Thanks, Igor." Toni took in the tableau before her. "You can go home now." She seemed a little perturbed, and I wondered what had happened with Stephanie.  

I waited to see if Julian had any objections, but he found the contents of her fridge too interesting. "Okay, Toni." I left them in her apartment.  

"Igor! Isn't it rather early for pajamas?"  

"Oh, er… Hello, Mrs. Wilson . Hi, Wang Chung." The cat glared at me with that supercilious cat glare. I knew better than to try and pet him. "Um… costume party?"  

She shook her head and wagged her finger at me playfully. "This younger generation!"  

I gave her a weak smile and fumbled at my door.  

Once inside, I pressed my ear against the wall and heard Toni say, "What are you doing here, Julian? I thought you weren't coming over until later tonight?"  

"I wanted to see you, baby. Aren't I allowed to spend some time with my best girl?"  

I didn't want to hear any more. It didn't matter that he enjoyed my kisses. It didn't matter that kissing me had made his dick so hard it could have drilled a hole in my hip. He was going to divorce his wife and marry Toni.  

I glanced down at the front of my pajamas. My dick was still hard. I groaned. I was going to take a shower. A cold shower.  

I stripped out of my pajamas and was just about to step into the shower when I heard banging on our shared wall. Toni had agreed that if she ever needed me, she would do that. I yanked a towel off the rod in the bathroom and knotted it at my hip as I headed for the door. I skidded to a stop when I opened it and saw that Joe Schutt had been waylaid by Mrs. Wilson and her Siamese, who sat at her feet, his tail whipping restlessly. Joe cast me a hopeful glance until he saw my state of undress, and then he resigned himself to having to listen to all the latest gossip.  

"Sorry, Joe," I mouthed and slammed the door shut. The last thing I needed was to get into a discussion as to why I was wandering the halls of my apartment building in the altogether. I thought quickly and went to the window that gave access to the fire escape. The night air was cool, and I shivered, refusing to look down to the alleyway three stories below. I kept my eyes on Toni's window, and swung over to it.  

Letting out a breath of relief, I slid up the window I had broken only the other day, and climbed in.  

Julian was lounging on Toni's daybed; his jaw dropped and he bolted upright. "What do you mean coming into my fiancée's apartment through the window?"  

"Well, I can hardly go through the hallway dressed like this," I told him reasonably.  

"You didn't let it stop you the last time!" Julian was looking… hurt?  

I looked to Toni for an explanation, but she just shrugged.  

"I just hope the two of you will be very happy!" Julian walked stiffly to the door. "You've destroyed my marriage, you've alienated me from my children." He turned and was looking directly at me when he said, "You've broken my heart! Thank god I still have my integrity!"  

That was a valedictory speech if ever I heard one. "What was that all about?"  

"He lied to me, Igor! A man who lies, cannot love!"

That sounded like something from a fortune cookie. "So what got his shorts in a bunch?"  

"I told Julian we were lovers."  

"You what? Toni…! Julian! Fuck!" I tore open the door and raced after him, totally ignoring the couple who stared at me. "Julian!" I hopped on the banister at the center of the staircase and slid down one flight, skidded across the landing and repeated the wild ride down to the second floor, and then to the first. It was a good thing I had that towel on, otherwise I'd have got a nasty burn on my ass. I caught him at the lobby door. "Julian, wait!" I was out of breath.  

He faced me, his hand on the doorknob. "I'm going to the nearest bar. I'm going to order a dozen Mexican Missiles, and I'm going to get plastered!" He tensed and raked his gaze over me. "Igor, you're in your towel."  

"Yeah, so?" I panted.  

"I thought you didn't want the neighbors to see you like this."  

"The hell with the neighbors. You're more important then they are."  

"I am?"  

I ran a hand through my hair. "Look, you're right, I can't stay down here like this, if only because I can feel this knot slipping. Come back up to my apartment."  

"Isn't your girlfriend going to object?" I looked blank. "Your girlfriend, who was formerly my girlfriend."  

"Julian, Toni is nothing more than a friend to me. I feel responsible for her because I saved her life. I thought you realized from the way I kissed you that I… I'm more likely to have a boyfriend than a girlfriend."  

"And do you have a boyfriend?"  

I thought wistfully of my Indian. "No. Now, please. Come upstairs with me?  

"Are you going to kiss me again?"  

"I promise I'll keep my hands to myself."  

"In that case…" He started to walk out the door.  


He turned and grinned, and I realized that he was teasing  me. I let out the breath I'd been holding, and we began the upward climb to my apartment. When we reached the third floor, the corridor was empty. I guessed Pat had come to his brother's rescue.  

My door must have locked when I slammed it before exiting out the window. I smacked it about six inches above the keyhole and turned the knob. It opened, and Julian looked impressed. "It's an old door," I shrugged. "Come on in. I'm sorry, all I have is beer. But if we drink it warm, we can get plastered on that."  

"Never mind, the moment has passed." He approached my desk and idly flipped through some pages of notes.

Well, I could use a beer. I went to the fridge and got a cold one. "Are you sure?" He shook his head. "Okay, Julian, so tell me something. What happened? I thought you and Toni were solid. What caused her to tell you she and I were lovers."  

"I told her my wife is refusing to give me a divorce."  

"Oh." I sat on the corner of my desk, not realizing the towel was exposing the length of my thigh until I saw him staring at it. "Um…"  

He raised his eyes to mine. "I told her she and I could still see each other."  

"So you aren't going to marry her. I guess she got annoyed."  

"Annoyed?" He gave a little laugh. "That's putting it mildly."  

"I still don't see how I got involved."  

"She said the situation was fair, that I'd have her and my wife, and she'd have me and you."  

"And you believed her."  

"Not until she banged on the wall, and you came in through the window."  

"Well, isn't that a kick in the head?" I took a swallow of beer. "Now that you know there really isn't anything between us, will you take Toni back?"  

"There's one small complication. You see… The thing is…" He took my beer and brought it to his lips for a healthy swig. I was going to save that bottle for posterity. "Igor, I'm not married. I've never been married."  

"Son of a bitch!" I thought quickly. "So who is Stephanie?"  

"She really is my secretary. Was my secretary."  


"She walked out this morning. Quit, just like that." He snapped his fingers. "I can't imagine why."  

"Then there isn't anything to stop you from marrying Toni."  

"Actually, there is."  

I became exasperated. "I mean besides the fact that you don't want to get married."  

"That's not exactly why. Igor, you're what's stopping me from marrying her."  

"What?" My voice was a couple of octaves higher than normal, and I lost my balance and slid off the desk. "What? Oh, fine, blame me because you've got cold feet! No wonder why you're forty-five and still unmarried!"  

"Uh… Igor, the reason I'm… how old I am, isn't because of cold feet. It was just that I couldn't… um… decide who I liked better."  

"So you'd flit from one girl to another? You know something, Julian? Your kind of guy gives love a bad name."

"You know something, Igor? For a writer, you talk a lot of nonsense! I meant I couldn't decide if I liked women or men better."  

"Women or…" The light went on. "Oh."  

"Yes. Oh."  

"But you gave off such mixed signals. You made me crazy with your mixed signals!"  

"And you enjoyed coming on to me, admit it." He waited for my sheepish nod. "We've established, I think, that I'm a tad older than you."  

"A 'tad'?"  

"Bastard," he said without heat, a smile in his eyes. "As I was trying to say, you've had the benefit of the sexual revolution, but that was slightly after my time. Um… you want to get off the floor, Igor? I'm getting quite a show here."  

"No kidding? I was hoping you'd notice." I stretched up a hand, and he took it and pulled me to my feet, using enough force to bring me flush against him. "Oh!"  

"Like that, do you?" The fingers of one hand were fondling the flesh of my thigh, while the fingers of the other toyed with the knot at my hip.  

I nodded and licked my lips. I wondered if he was doing this on the rebound, then I decided I didn't care. I'd just have to show him I was better than any woman he'd ever had, that he could ever hope to have. Maybe I could even get him to play dress up. "Julian, what do you think of the Lone Ranger?"  

"I was always partial to Tonto, myself." Suddenly his stomach rumbled.  

I realized I was hungry also. "I'll get dressed and make you some dinner."  

He grinned at me. "Igor, you don't have to get dressed on my account."



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