What I Did For Love - Chapter 12

Chapter 12: Dreamlover!
 
Dream Lover until then
 
I'll go to sleep and dream again
 
That's the only thing to do
 
Til all my lovers' dreams come true
 
Bobby Darin
 
I sat in the front row in the courtroom, wired on gallons of coffee and punchy from lack of sleep. I'd been sitting there for hours, waiting for Joe to be arraigned, trying to decide if I was going to jump out of my skin or just pass out cold. Either one was a real possibility. It had been three days since Rinaldi and Malfitano had arrested Joe and I was holding on to the very end of my rope by my chewed off fingernails.
 
Yeah, yeah, you're right, I should have expected it. I knew all along that the day would come when Joe would be charged, but that was a reality I just couldn't bring myself to face. When my master plan of turning myself in for Abruzzi's murder had gone south, and my equally brilliant Plan B, offering myself up to Ranger like some kind of virgin sacrifice, didn't work, I had no more rabbits to pull out of my hat. Since denial had always been my BFF, and my head was happily buried in the sand, I was totally unprepared for Joe's arrest when it actually happened and reality came crashing down on me.
 
For the past three days I'd been living on coffee and cigarettes. Well okay, maybe not cigarettes, but you know what I mean. For the first time in my whole life I couldn't eat. It was scary! My mother tried to bribe me with pot roast and pineapple upside down cake, but I just couldn't seem to get the fork into my mouth. Bob got to snarf down the Boston Crèmes that Connie and Lula brought over, and when Big Dog came by with a meatball sub from Pino's, all I could think about was the bologna sandwich that Joe was probably getting for dinner at the prison. Big Dog instantly became Bob's new best buddy.
 
I hadn't been able to sleep, either. I just lay there in bed getting creeped out by all the little house noises that I'd never paid any attention to before. I spent hours watching the little red numbers change on the clock radio before I gave up and just sat in the kitchen drinking coffee until the sun came up. The next night I tried sleeping in the guestroom, thinking that maybe I couldn't relax because I'd been in Joe's bed and he wasn't in it with me. This time I watched little blue numbers change on the clock before I wound up in the kitchen slugging down more coffee. Night number three I tried the couch, and watched the little white numbers on the DVD clock count off the minutes and hours. Well, you know the routine by now … kitchen … coffee … sigh!
 
It never occurred to my caffeine soaked brain that all the coffee I'd been swilling down might have something to do with the fact that I was too antsy to fall asleep. Next time I have a crisis, I'm gonna make sure I buy some stock in Maxwell House.
 
To make matters worse, I hadn't seen or talked to Joe at all since Malfitano and Rinaldi hauled him off. Of course they didn't take him to the jail in Trenton where we knew all the cops and guards and they all knew us. That woulda been too damn easy. Here in Trenton I could have begged, bribed, or blackmailed somebody into sneaking me in to see Joe. But nooooooo! Malfitano and Rinaldi booked him into the Mercer County Correction Center in Hopewell, a real prison, where I had no connections at all. I'm sure it was all that hard *** Malfitano's doing. The SOB!
 
Eddie Gazarra told me their excuse was, that because he was a cop, the Correction Center would be safer for Joe. Supposedly the CC would be able to isolate him from the regular prison population, separating him from prisoners who might not like being locked up with a cop, or who Joe might have put behind bars himself. Sure I wanted Joe safe, but it wasn't like he couldn't be protected in Trenton! I think that rat bastard Malfitano just wanted to make it as hard on Joe as he could. Every time I thought about it, I just wanted to go punch his lights out! And then sic Bob on him!
 
The more I sat around thinking about this stuff, the more crazed I got and the more the walls closed in on me. I had to get out of the house before I went completely nuts. I hated not knowing what was going on, and I hated waiting around to find out what was going to happen even more.
 
Anyhow, even exercise sounded better than sitting inside twiddling my thumbs, so I changed clothes and laced up my sneaks and headed out for a good long run around town. By the time I reached the front door I'd already talked myself out of running, so I grabbed Bob, snapped on his leash and headed out of the house for a jog around the neighborhood. We were only on the front walk when I remembered that the one time I took Bob jogging I'd almost dislocated my shoulder when he stopped short to sniff and pee. Okay, so maybe we'd just power walk.
 
We got all the way to the sidewalk when a police cruiser pulled up to the curb in front of the house and I swear my heart stopped. Oh God! Now what?
 
But when Eddie got out of the cruiser, a big goofy smile on his face, I almost collapsed onto the sidewalk in relief. "Hey Cookie, how ya doin'?" he said, holding his arms out to hug me.
 
I just made a face; he knew damned well how I was doing. "Jeez, Eddie. Give me a heart attack, why don't ya." I snarked, but hugged him anyway.
 
"Sorry Steph, just checking up on ya." Probably Joe asked him to keep an eye on me until he got home.
 
Eddie ruffled my hair, scratched Bob between the ears, then took his leash and slung an arm around my shoulders. We all strolled slowly down the block together. My kind of exercise. Eddie sent me a couple of sidelong glances. "No offense, Steph, but you look like hell. Are you doin' okay? Do you need anything?"
 
I heaved a huge sigh and fought the tears of frustration that stung my eyes. "Yeah," I said bitterly. "I need Joe." I was passed the point of being scared and had moved on to pissed off. I didn't like being scared, but mad I could handle. After all, angry was the natural state of being for a Jersey Girl.
 
Eddie pulled me a little closer and patted my arm while we stood under a street lamp waiting for Bob to finish marking his territory. "I stopped by to tell you that Joe's gonna be arraigned tomorrow. I couldn't get hold of the court clerk, so I couldn't find out what time, just that it's sometime tomorrow. I tried to get the guys over at CC to give me the transportation schedule, but no dice. Those ******* over at County just don't wanna play nice with us city cops."
 
I snapped my eyes to Eddie. "You think they could be giving Joe a hard time 'cause he's TPD?" My voice was probably a little louder then I meant it to be, but I could feel the hackles rise on the back of my neck. I was sick and tired of taking all the crap that had been dished out to me lately and I stood there with my fists clenched, ready to do battle.
 
"Whoa, Steph. Take it easy," Eddie said with a laugh. "You know that there's always been a little healthy competition between city and county. Hell, you've been to our softball games. Weren't you the one who called the County guys the Pansy Patrol?"
 
Okay, so I had to smile at that one. There was always a lot of banter at the games, but it was all good natured fun and County always gave back as good as they got … well, they tried.
 
"Other than a few insults about questionable parentage or sexual prowess that get tossed back and forth over the bar at Pino's," he grinned, "there's never been any real trouble. On the job we've all always treated each other with professional courtesy and respect, and on those rare occasions when we've been 'guests' in each other's facilities, everything's always been copasetic."
 
I chewed on that for a minute. "Okay, okay, if you say so. I guess I'll take your word for it that everything's all right." I still wasn't entirely sure that I believed everybody was all that buddy-buddy.
 
"Look, Morelli's a tough guy, he knows the score and he can take care of himself. The County guys probably got read the riot act by the Attorney General's Office so they're playing everything strictly by the book. The AG doesn't want anybody popping up and bitchin' that Joe got special treatment because he's a fellow police officer."
 
Bob tugged on the leash, ready to continue his perimeter check, so we rounded the corner and waited again while Bob returned a message left on his turf by an intruder. "But," Eddie added seriously, "if we ever find out that anything else went on, I can guarantee that there'll be some righteous County *** kicking!"
 
I nodded in agreement and blew out a heavy sigh. "Tomorrow can't come fast enough. I've been a mess since this whole thing started, Ed. All I really want right now is to get Joe bailed out and bring him home."
 
Eddie just nodded and squeezed my hand. "I know, Steph. We'll get him home as fast as we can."
 
Yeah, I thought as we continued to the next corner, then I'd be able to slip back into denial and pretend that everything was just peachy, at least until the trial started. I absently rubbed the base of my skull where my perpetual tension headache was throbbing. I'd taken so many Advils these last couple of days that probably I rattled like a pill bottle when I walked.
 
"Word on the street has it that you turned down pineapple upside down cake." He arched an eyebrow at me.
 
I rolled my eyes. "Oh, God! Please don't tell me that my mother called you?" I groaned.
 
He put his hands on my shoulders and turned me to face him. "She's worried about you. We all are. You look like you've been on a three day bender, Steph."
 
"Yeah, well, lack of sleep will do that to ya," I crabbed. We'd walked all the way around the block by then, and were standing on the front walk again. "I guess I'm weirded out being here by myself," I said, tipping my head toward the house and shrugging.

 
"Why don't you come over and spend the night at our house? Shirley and the kids would love to see you. We can watch a game on TV, nosh on chips and dip, have a couple of beers. I'll get Shirley to bake a cake or brownies or cookies or something. You can bunk in the guest room. Wadda ya say?" He gave me a hopeful smile.
 
"Ha! You forget that I know you, Gazarra. You're just thinking that Shirley'll let you ditch the diet and binge on junk food if you have company."
 
"Who? Me?" Eddie tried to look innocent, and failed. "Actually, I was hoping you'd volunteer to baby sit the kids sometime." He laughed at the look of horror on my face. "But honest, the invitation's legit. All you have to do is show up at the door. Okay?"
 
"Okay. And thanks for looking out for me, Eddie." He pulled me into a bear hug and then got into his cruiser.
 
Bob and I stood at the curb, waving to Eddie as he pulled away. I turned to go back up the front walk and noticed the big, shiny, black SUV that glided into the curb and parked down on the corner. Big Brother was watching me. Just freaking swell!
 
As upset as I was over Joe being jailed for the past three days, that's how relieved I was that I didn't have to put up with any of Ranger's nonsense. I had been blissfully Ranger free since Tank and Lester and Bobby had pulled us apart in the hall outside Ranger's penthouse.
 
The more I thought about it, the happier I was that I had gotten in that one good punch. So okay, my hand was still sore, but it was worth it. Ranger was always so in control, that nothing shook him or made him react. That stunned look on his face when I connected with his cheek was payment enough for my swollen knuckles. I only wished I'd given him a black eye or broken that perfectly patrician nose of his. You know, the one he liked to look down at everybody. Did I mention that I was glad I socked him? I hope it left a great big bruise!
 
Anyway, after another sleepless night at Joe's, I troweled on concealer to hide the dark circles under my eyes, pounded on Vinnie's front door at the crack of dawn, and dragged his sorry *** out of the house by his tie, which was the only part of him I was willing to touch. I wanted him in the courthouse so that he could post Joe's bail as soon as the judge set it. I didn't want to waste any time getting Joe bonded out of there and back home, and I didn't want to take a chance that Vinnie would be locked in his office playing Old MacDonald's Farm with Joyce Barnyard when Joe was being arraigned. Of course Vinnie made a bee line down to the prisoner holding areas so he could drum up business, but that was okay, as long as I could get my hands on him, so to speak, when I needed him.
 
It was almost 4 o'clock and I'd been sitting in the courtroom so long my *** was numb. The long, hard, wooden pews and the high altar-like judge's bench made the place feel like church. I guess that was the whole idea though, make the prisoners feel guilty, feel like they were standing in front of God in hopes that they'd all fall on their knees and confess their sins so that they'd be forgiven. Ha! The fact that it didn't work out that way is what kept bail bondsmen, prisons, and bounty hunters in business.
 
One after another, the prisoners were brought in from the holding cells on one side of the courtroom, and their lawyers came in through a door on the other side. They met in the middle of the room and stood in front of the bored-to-tears judge to enter their pleas. Amazingly, every single one of them pleaded not guilty.
 
The ADA would ask for either bail or remand, the lawyer would argue the amount, the judge would make a decision, bang his gavel and they would walk out, passing the next prisoner and his lawyer on their way in. After a while, all the prisoners and all the lawyers started to look alike and I was thinking that I wasn't even gonna recognize Joe when it was finally his turn.
 
My caffeine high was beginning to wear off and I'm pretty sure I zoned out for a little bit. I was wondering if Rinaldi and Malfitano would be here for the arraignment and then the courtroom sort of faded away and I was remembering what Rinaldi had said to me back in Joe's living room, after Joe had been arrested.
 
"Call somebody to stay with you," Rinaldi had said softly, his hand on my shoulder, sympathy just dripping off of him. "You shouldn't be alone." He went down the front steps, then stopped and turned back to me. "Remember, this isn't your fault. Don't go blaming yourself." He gave me a nod and followed Malfitano as he escorted Joe to their unmarked car.
 
I watched Rinaldi go down the walk, shoulders slumped, head bowed, as if he hated what he was doing. He opened the back door of the car and put his hand on Joe's head so he wouldn't bump it when he got into the back seat. Joe looked back at me, his eyes just holding mine. He mouth, 'I'm sorry,' as Rinaldi slammed the car door shut.
 
I bolted out the door and ran down to the curb. "Please," I begged. "Can I talk to him for a minute?" Malfitano rolled his eyes in annoyance and muttered under his breath. "Just for a minute?" I swiped away the tears that streamed down my face. Until just then, I hadn't even realized that I was crying.
 
Rinaldi shot his partner a look. "Sure," he nodded at me. "Go ahead." He shoved Malfitano toward the front of the car. Their idea of privacy, I guess.
 
Joe sat forward on the edge of the seat, not able to sit back because his hands were cuffed behind him. I had to squat down next to the car to talk to him. I reached through the open window to put my hand on his cheek and he leaned into it.
 
"I'm sorry…" we both said at the same time and stopped. Any other time we'd have laughed or made some wise crack, but there wasn't anything to joke about now.
 
"I am sorry for what I said, Steph. It was stupid," Joe said softly. "I've been tied up in knots waiting for this to happen," he pointed his chin toward the two cops leaning against the front of the car, "and I took it out on you. I shouldn't have, especially when you thought you were helping."
 
This wasn't the time for a confession. It might have been good for my soul, but right now Joe didn't need to know about my close call with Ranger. He already had enough problems to deal with. Confessing my sins would have to wait for another day, so I just nodded. "It's okay," I choked out.
 
"Please don't cry. Believe me when I tell you that everything's gonna turn out okay. You don't have anything to worry about. A couple of days and I'll be home, and life can go back to normal again."
 
I gave him a weepy smile at that one. When had our lives ever been normal? "Promise?" I whispered, desperate for any kind of assurance.
 
"I'd pinkie swear," he said with a small smile and rattled his cuffs, "but I'm a little tied up right now." Cop humor … SO not funny.
 
"Joe …" I started, but he cut me off.
 
"I mean it, Steph. You don't have to worry about me. Come here and give me a kiss." He leaned toward the window.
 
"Okay, that's it," Malfitano snarked impatiently. "No necking in cop cars. You two are gonna put me into a diabetic coma with all this sugary ****. Hurry up. Say good-bye and let's get this show on the road."
 
I leaned through the window to kiss Joe but Malfitano grabbed my elbow and jerked me away from the car hard enough that I stumbled back and smacked my head on the roof of the car. By the time the stars cleared and I could see straight, they were already halfway down the street.
 
I stood there long after the tail lights had disappeared, not really wanting to go back into that empty house. Even with the black SUV parked down the street, I felt completely alone. And that scared the **** out of me.
 
I had no clue if I'd fallen asleep or was daydreaming or what, but my eyes flew open when I heard someone say my name and felt them pat my knee. I was back in the courtroom and Big Dog was sitting on one side of me and Eddie just slid into the seat on the other side.
 
"Hey Steph," Carl said from behind me, his hand on my shoulder. "We thought you could use a little company."
 
I smiled and leaned my head on Eddie's shoulder for a second. I heard a lot of shuffling and murmuring and turned to look. A steady stream of uniforms and plain clothes and civilian workers from the station, even Joe's Lieutenant and Captain, had made their way into the courtroom, filling the seats and standing along the side and back walls.
 
Tears that I had been fighting all day stung my eyes again. It looked like everybody who wasn't on the clock was here in a show of support for Joe. It would do him good to see that they all believed in him as much as I did.
 
"All rise!" that bailiff yelled and we all go to our feet as a different judge sat down at the bench. I thought I knew every judge and court official in Trenton, but this was definitely somebody I'd never seen before. When we sat back down again I leaned over to Eddie and whispered, "Who's that?"
 
"Probably an out of district Judge they brought in to handle Joe's case." When I raised my eyebrows at him, he explained. "Morelli knows all the Prosecutors and Judges. I'm sure they all had to recuse themselves so there wouldn't be a conflict of interest. They probably got a Special Prosecutor, too."
 
I watched enough cop and court shows on television to know that this could happen, and yet it had never crossed my mind. What else was gonna sneak up on me and throw me for a loop? I didn't have to wait long to find out.
 
This wasn't the first time I'd been to an arraignment, so I should have known what to expect. But when the door opened and Joe came into the courtroom, my throat closed up and I couldn't breathe. Eddie's hand tightened around my fingers and Big Dog put his hand on my other arm, leaning closer to me. "Take it easy, Steph," he whispered. "Everything's all right. This is textbook."
 
Joe shuffled into the room, his hands cuffed to the chain around his waist, his feet shackled. He was dressed in the bright orange jumpsuit that state prisoners wore, NJDC, New Jersey Department of Corrections, stamped across the back. He stood there while the guards removed the cuffs and shackles, then rubbed his wrists as he walked over to meet his lawyer in front of the defendant's podium.
 
He glanced over and sent me a small smile and a wink. I leaned forward, my hands gripping the railing in front of me so hard that my knuckles turned white. Eddie put a hand on my arm and gently pulled me back onto the bench and slung an arm around my shoulders.
 
The Court Clerk called out, "Docket number 0-9-4-1-2-2-6-0, People v Morelli, Joseph Anthony. One count Murder in the first."
 
The judge looked at the file in front of him for a few seconds, then looked up at Joe and his lawyer. "How do you plead?"
 
"Mark Cutler for the Defense, Your Honor. My client pleads not guilty." Joe's lawyer answered for him. "We seek release on his own recognizance or, at most, minimal bail."
 
The judge turned to look at the Prosecutor, a woman dressed in a power suit and heels so high they made my arches ache just to look at them. She didn't look at all like a civil servant, more like one of those plastic TV anchor bimbos, only without the fake smile.
 
"Claudia Montenegro, Special Prosecutor for this case, Judge. The People ask that Mr. Morelli be remanded to the custody of the Department of Corrections to be held without bond at this time." She stood there, studying Morelli's reactions as she spoke. Joe looked straight ahead at the judge, calm and in control. I, on the other hand, was ready to vault the railing and ****** her bald-headed.
 
"Your Honor," Joe's lawyer all but rolled his eyes. "With all due respect to the Prosecutor, Mr. Morelli is a highly respected member of the Trenton Police Department. He's a detective with ten years on the force and an unblemished record. He is a property owner, has family here in the city, and is hardly a flight risk."
 
"Ms. Montenegro?" The Judge turned for her rebuttal.
 
"Mr. Cutler must think that the People haven't done their homework, Judge. Three years ago, Mr. Morelli," she said, sarcasm dripping from her voice, "this police detective with the unblemished record, was also charged with murder. In flagrant disregard for the laws he's sworn to uphold, he skipped bail and was brought in by a bounty hunter. The People see no reason to believe that he won't repeat his past bad behavior."
 
Cutler jumped to Joe's defense. "Detective Morelli was exonerated and all charges against him were dropped. He was re…"
 
"Save it Mr. Cutler," the Judge cut in. "The Defendant is hereby remanded. No bail!" He banged his gavel and that was it. Joe wouldn't be coming home.
 
I was on my feet, the grumbles from the cops in the courtroom sounded like a swarm of bees buzzing around my head, and little black dots danced in front of my eyes. Panic made the bile rise in my throat and the whole room spun a little. I watched Joe's shoulders sag, and when he turned to look at me, I could tell he hadn't expected this either, he expected to be going home too.
 
Joe talked to his lawyer for a minute, the guards standing far enough away to give them privacy. Since the guards were Trenton guys they walked Joe back to the holding area by way of the rail where I was standing with Eddie and the rest of the cops. The guys were like a cheering section. They all encouraged Joe, told him not to worry, that they were all pulling for him, knew he was innocent, and that they'd all take care of me.
 
One of the guards winked at me and stopped to tie his shoe lace, giving us a chance to grab each other's hands. Words stuck in my throat and when I tried to talk to Joe, it just came out as a sob. He wiped away the tears on my cheeks and gave me a kiss, and then he was gone. My knees turned to water and sort of gave out under me when the floor tilted again. I wound up sitting on the bench with my head down in my lap.
 
Somebody pressed a Coke into my hands, probably figuring that a blast of caffeine and sugar would cure what ailed me. They were right, and a few minutes later I was walking out of the courtroom, still a little dizzy and dazed, but under my own steam. Big Dog and Carl pushed open the courtroom doors and I walked out into the hall to find Tank waiting for me.
 
"Hey, Steph. You okay?" Tank asked, concern written all over his face. He took my by the arm and led me away from the crowd.
 
I shrugged. "Seems to be the question of the day, Tank. I'll be all right … eventually, I guess. What are you doing here?"
 
"Checking on a friend," he said with a smile. "And delivering a message." He looked a little embarrassed.
 
I was just too tired to deal with Ranger. "What now, Tank?" Tears were welling and threatening to spill over any second now.
 
"Ranger wanted you to know that he'll be going back to Miami. If you need anything at all, you should call RangeMan." Tank pulled out a neatly folded white handkerchief and handed it to me and I blotted my eyes. "I'm telling you that you should call me. Understood?"
 
I nodded wearily. "Yes sir," I gave him a weak smile. "But you didn't have to come all the way down here just to tell me that. You could have phoned that in, Tank." Tank shuffled his big feet and looked at the floor. "What?" I pressed. "There's something else, isn't there?"
 
Tank was easy for me to read and I could see he was having an internal debate with himself. Must be a moral dilemma. He blew out a big sigh, his decision obviously made. "You have to give me your word that you won't let Ranger know that I told you. I mean it." Tank was dead serious.
 
"No problem, Tank. What's going on?" He was starting to worry me and I laid my hand on his arm.
 
He hesitated for a few seconds. "I was supposed to take care of Morelli's bail if he had trouble making it."
 
I think my eyes almost popped right out of my head. Ranger was going to make Morelli's bail? That was my second biggest shock today. "I'd have bet big bucks that Morelli being locked up would have just made Ranger's day." I was dumbfounded and had a hard time wrapping my head around Ranger's sudden generosity.
 
Tank studied my face. "He wasn't trying to make himself happy, Steph," he said so softly I almost didn't hear him. With that, he bent down and planted a kiss on my cheek, then turned and walked away before I could ask him what the hell he was talking about.
 
I was still staring after Tank when Robin Russell came up beside me. "Come on, Steph. I'm your taxi." She linked her arm through mine. "We're going to get something to eat and you look like you could use a great big drink. I sure know I could." It was useless to argue with her. So I just resigned myself and went along. My car would find its way home, and Bob would be walked and fed, courtesy of the boys in blue. True to their word to Joe, they were already taking care of me.
 
An order of Nachos al Carbon, another of Chicken Quesadillas, and three Mega-Margaritas later, I was feeling nooooo pain. I'm not quite sure how I wound up at my parents' house, but there I was, giggling my drunken head off and crawling up the stairs on all fours. I ******** off my clothes as I stumbled down the hall, my mother right behind me, picking them up. The last thing I remembered was falling face down onto the bed in my old room, my mother yammering, scandalized that I was sleeping naked.
 
Sometime during the night, the drift of fingers up and down my back woke me. "I want you," he whispered in the dark, and I smiled as he pulled me closer. I wanted him, too. His hands burrowed into my hair, lifted it up off my neck and replaced it with his soft lips. He trailed a necklace of kisses over my neck and across my shoulders, sending delicious shivers through me.
 
His hands, feather light, seemed to be everywhere, my arms, my back, my waist, my butt. I had no defenses. Helpless against the sensations he was causing, I could only lie there and let him continue to torture me. His hands slipped around to my breasts, my belly, my thighs. He stroked and kneaded, plucked and teased. Everywhere he touched me he lit another fire until I burned for him.
 
He turned me in his arms and I pressed my lips to his, sighing as our mouths finally settled on each other. Softly, gently at first, tongues gliding, tasting, the kiss slowly grew deeper, more intimate and erotic.
 
Without breaking the kiss, he turned us and laid me back onto the bed, then settled his delicious weight over me, pressing me into the mattress. My fingers curled into his warm skin, my nails bit into his corded muscles. His mouth slid down my neck, tasting and teasing, his tongue dipping into the hollow at the base of my throat making me breathe out a sigh.
 
"I need you," his whispered words floated above me.
 
Desire curled around me like a snake, down to my toes and up to my shoulders, out to the tips of my fingers. He was all I wanted, all I needed. I was hypnotized by his lips and teeth and tongue. Warm, wet kisses, small nips and bites, pleasure bordering on pain. Like a wire strung tight, I quivered with each touch.
 
His mouth closed over my breast, licking and sucking. I could feel each tug echo through me. His fingers slipped into me and I rocked against him looking for release. He brought me to the very edge and left me trembling there. Removing his wet fingers from me, he stroked them over his long, thick shaft and, spreading my thighs, he slowly sank into me.
 
"I love you," drifted out of the dark and filled my heart the way he filled my body.
 
Gently, he moved so gently inside me, taking me higher, winding me tighter with each thrust. He held me teetering on the edge for so long that forgot how to breathe and tears slid down my face. When release finally came, it wasn't with a scream, but with a sigh of absolute joy. It rolled through us like waves, cresting over and over again. I clutched him to me so that I wouldn't drown in the sheer pleasure of it.
 
I was wanted, I was needed, I was loved.
 
Face to face, I could feel his heart hammer against mine. "Look at me, Stephanie," the voice whispered.
 
I tried, but I couldn't lift my eyelids. I just couldn't make my eyes open.
 
"See me. See who I really am. See me, Stephanie … See me …" The whisper faded away.
 
I woke up with a pounding headache and rolling stomach. I sat on the edge of the bed, trying to decide if I should get up or just burrow back under the covers for another twelve hours. My screaming bladder made the decision for me. I wrapped the bedspread around myself, picked up my freshly washed and ironed clothes, thanks Mom, and staggered into the bathroom.
 
It was while I was standing under the blistering hot shower that I remembered the dream. I blamed it on the spicy food that I ate before I started swilling Margaritas. That'll teach me. Too bad my parents didn't have a shower massager; I sure could have used it considering the flashbacks I was having.
 
The bizarre thing was that the dream was so real that I actually checked myself out in the mirror to see if there were any marks on me. I mean, if you look at me too hard it leaves a bruise. But there wasn't anything anywhere.
 
I guess that was a good thing, especially since I realized that I didn't even know who the guy in the dream was. I was pretty sure it had to be Joe or Ranger … I'd had lots of hot dreams about both of them. Of course, I'd had hot dreams about lots of guys so I just tried to shrug it off. Dreams aren't supposed to make sense. Hell, one time I even had a dream about Vinnie and he… Never mind. I'll just make myself barf again.
 
Still, I couldn't get rid of the words that were swimming around in my head. 'See me. See who I really am.' Who was I supposed to see? And why? I chewed on that question while I dried my hair and slathered on some make up. I didn't want to scare my parents.
 
Always the dutiful daughter, I went back into the bedroom to make the bed and that's when I saw it. Sitting there, on the dresser, in front of the mirror …
 
The McDonald's bag.
StephanieManoso StephanieManoso
31-35, F
May 16, 2012