Lake had come in the back. Straight into the kitchen without knocking like it hadn't been two years. She stopped inside the doorframe, hands behind her, easing the creaky screen door to a close without a slap.
"I'm so pissed off at you I could smash every dish you've got."
"That's one way to say hello," Mace replied cautiously.
He was standing at the counter in a pair of jeans and a T shirt – no shoes. She'd picked the hottest night of the year. He'd been pouring bourbon in a glass but stopped when he heard the door.
"Aren't you going to invite me in?"
"You already are. Want a drink?"
"Yeah. Maybe that'd be good."
"You're not gonna pitch the glass, are you?"
"I'm not gonna pitch the glass."
He nodded as if he believed her. Maybe she would, maybe she wouldn't, but he got another glass down from the cabinet. He poured into the empty one while she stepped over to the counter and leaned against it. She looked at him sideways. He turned away and got some ice out of the freezer. He dropped a cube into one of the glasses. She picked up the one with the ice and sipped.
Still facing the counter, left hand resting on the edge, he took a light pull off his own and tried to keep his eyes off her.
"You got highlights."
"Since about a year now."
There was a spate of silence filled with mutual whiskey sipping. She finger brushed hair behind her ear. In a tight, dark blue T shirt and jeans, she had exactly the same, compact profusion of curves Mace had always known. The shirt turned her heavy breasts into a statement of offhand excess. Taking a sidelong glance at the vicious stretch of her V neck under their weight, he lifted his eyes to her face before she caught him gazing, only to realize she already had.
He watched her mouth, hoping she'd say something soon so he could watch her lips move. It was something he'd done back then, before Juna came along. Her mouth had this way of moving around words as if she were kissing them out into the air. Her tongue would move behind them and he would watch until he was hypnotized. He didn't know what to say next, but he needed to see that wet, agile muscle in motion again.
Remember it, Mace, remember it, he thought.
"Whatever. Might as well be ten," he said. "Why now?"
She paused. Took a breath. Lifted her glass to her mouth and took a long, slow pull, leaning her head back as she drained it, exposing her throat, pushing her collarbones out. Mace's lips remembered the satin brush of that skin like a house remembers a fire.
"Because," she finally replied, setting the glass on the counter between them, "this is the first time since you married my proper, overachieving sister that she's let you out of her sight. Not that I should blame her, I suppose, what with me being the black sheep whore of Babylon and so forth."
Mace couldn't help smiling. "That'll be the day."
"How do you know? You haven't seen me in two years."
"Not quite." He tilted the bottle into her glass again. "More ice?"
She shook her head. "Too much ice and my nipples'll get hard."
He topped off his own glass. "Who'd know, with those bulletproof bras you wear?"
"At least you remember my tits."
"Pretty impossible to forget. But I remember everything, Lake. Everything."
"That your memory would be so sharp. Not quite two years, and not so much as an email or text message. You'd think I just dropped off the face of the Earth."
"Oh, okay. Thanks for clearing that up. I thought it might've had something to do with marrying my sister."
Mace took a long, cautious pull on his drink. Then he topped it off again. Buying time. He let his breath out slowly, still losing the battle against taking those sidelong glances at her face, the sloping profile of her body.
"Why are we having this conversation?" he finally asked.
"Honestly ... I don't know. Not exactly. But what did you think was going to happen? I mean ... did you think we were all just going to live happily ever after?"
Mace felt the hair at the base of his skull prickle. He steadied both hands on the counter and took a deep breath.
"So this is how it's gonna be? Just show up like this and get right down to it?"
"Yeah," she nodded. She moved to face him, balling her small fists on the flair of her hips. Her breathing was pronounced, forcing her magnanimous breasts into a distracting see-saw sway. There were shadows of injury in her eyes as they narrowed on him. "This is how it's gonna be."
"Okay," he said, measuring his calm, knocking back the rest of his drink and then refilling it. "So you take off and I figure maybe almost happy is as good as it's ever gonna be. So yeah. Juna was there. Steady. She was the right thing to do. And I figure sooner or later I'd quit pretending it wasn't about her reminding me of you, and she'd be able to quit pretending not to notice. So whatever you came here for..."
He turned to face her, too, as if they were squaring off, but he looked at her face and ran out of gas. Ran out of whatever had been making his bones shudder. She became that pair of melting chocolate eyes that had paralyzed him from the start. Heaving breasts and damp lips that had never left his soul in peace. And her laugh ... the way she'd throw back her head and expose her throat.
" ... whatever," he finally trailed off, deflated.
"Yeah, well I just stopped by to give you something." She was practically vibrating, beginning to look like she could spit fire.
"There's always the post office."
"This is more of a special delivery item."
Then she cocked back her arm and punched him square in the chest. After, she looked as shocked as he felt. A look of remorse crossed her face while his surprise turned to disbelief, and then to something he couldn't name. Anger mixed with heartbreak and the kind of love that walks you all the way to the river.
Mace hastily grabbed the sides of Lake's V neck and pulled at the material until it started to rip. He pulled it open until she was standing there in the sleeves with her ripe, breath-tossed breasts straining at a pale lavender bra. She was looking back at him with that level of disbelief that almost came off as amused. He was every bit stunned by his actions as she, but everything thickening the air between them started to morph into remembrance. As he watched her eyes narrow and glaze, he knew she had to be thinking of it, too.
"So ... it's like that, is it?" Her voice turned husky and her head tilted as she regarded him.
He'd seen that look before, remembering it as clearly as if it had been yesterday. It was taunt and invitation rolled into one, and it made him angry to see it now. Heartbreak and the hunger for payback swarmed in his chest. The need to taste and smell her skin was just as deep as his desire to make her feel sorry.
Without taking his eyes off hers, he reached to fumble open the egg carton he'd left out on the counter. He extracted an egg and held it just above her breasts while he crushed it in his hand, letting the viscous fluid drip over his fingers and onto her chest. He flung the pieces of shell at the sink and rubbed the raw yolk into her skin, over the upper curves of her breasts. She stood and took his gesture almost stoically, except for the hitch and deepening of her breath.
"You just fucking disappeared," he said, reaching for another egg. "And you're just going to do the same thing all over again."
He rubbed more egg over her chest, until her skin was slick and glistening. Then he slid his hand inside one of her bra cups, squeezing the dense, heavy flesh with egg coated fingers.
Her nipple was growing hard under his palm. He reached for another egg with the other hand and just squashed it onto her chest underneath her collarbone. The hand under the bra cup slipped out and smeared the fresh egg down onto the other breast, sliding under the other cup of her bra. Bits of shell were sticking to her skin, slightly scratchy under his hand.
"I suppose you think that one time we had together was enough to flip my brain over permanently," he told her, his face just shy of breaking into a sneer.
The other nipple was thickening now, too, and he slipped his hands free and pushed the ruined T shirt over her shoulders. Once the sleeves cleared her hands, the shirt fell to the floor around her feet. He pulled the bra straps down, pulling the cups off her breasts. He fondled and kneaded them with both hands, steadily keeping his eyes on hers.
"And you probably think I don't remember what it was like trying to look at you like this ... faces inches apart ... trying to keep my eyes on both of yours at the same time..."
"Mace..." She squirmed her hands behind her and flipped open her bra straps. Stained with raw egg, it slipped down her arms and landed on the T shirt.
" ... but not being able to because our faces were too close together ... and your breath was like this tide of whispers washing across my mouth..."
" ... dammit ... Mace..."
His fingers sank deeply into the meat of her breasts.
" ... or maybe you thought you could just walk in here and slay me with a look..."
He caught her swollen nipples and squeezed. Then again, harder.
" ... Mace ... no..."
.... There is more of this story ...