"Hi, honey," Terra bounced into the room, reading the scowl on her cousin's face. "What are you thinking?"
"Oh, I don't know," Nichole sighed. "I'm just in a funk."
"It's about him, isn't it," Terra said softly. "You can't stop thinking about him, can you?"
"I try, but I don't think I'm ready to let go," Nichole said. She pointed towards the big bay window, its light streaming into the kitchen. "It's beautiful out and all I can do is be depressed."
Terra put her arms around her cousin, her friend. "I miss him, too, but Michael died over a year ago. It's okay to move on."
Tears formed in Nichole's eyes. "I know that. I really do. Everything but my heart says the same thing. Today would have been three years since the day."
Nichole buried her face in her hands. Sobs wracked her body. Terra pulled Nichole close and held her for a long time.
"I'm sorry," Nichole said after her tears subsided. She wiped her nose on her sleeve. "I didn't mean to ruin your day."
"Oh, it's not ruined," Terra replied tenderly. "No day with you is ruined."
"Thanks," her cousin managed a smile.
Terra absently ran her fingers through Nichole's hair. The two sat in silence for a while longer. Finally, Nichole sat up and brushed the last of her tears away. "I think I'd rather be alone today."
"Are you sure?" Terra looked worried.
"Yes, I'm sure."
Terra paused for a moment, not sure if she should leave her cousin alone when she was so distraught, so vulnerable. "Okay, but you call me if you need anything."
Nichole walked her cousin to the apartment door. Terra began to chatter incoherently. "—going to the movies later with Gabe and maybe Laurie. We might go out for sushi later. I've got my cell, so call if you feel like going out."
"I will." Nichole wasn't really listening.
Terra stopped just over the threshold and looked deep into her cousin's eyes. "You know Michael would have hated you being like this over him."
"I know. But I can't help it."
"Okay. Call me. Love you."
"Love you, too." Nichole closed the door and heard Terra get in the elevator.
She walked back through her apartment, their apartment, the home she and Michael were making for themselves before fate intervened. She poured herself a glass of wine and settled back into the couch. The afternoon sun warmed her, just as it had on their first "date".
Michael and Nichole grew up together. Their fathers were partners in a local shipping company that supplied fresh produce and groceries to local markets and restaurants throughout Manhattan. They were three years apart in age, but no one could tell by looking at them which one was older. Michael was the first child of three, Nichole was smack-dab in the middle of five.
They all grew up in the same neighbourhood on the lower west side. Their families did business together, they played together, they stuck through hard times together, and they prospered together. For all intents and purposes, the eight kids were brothers and sisters. So having grown up so close none of them ever hooked up; it just seemed incestuous. Which is why everyone was surprised at the company picnic three years ago.
Michael had moved into their parents's shoes. The old men wanted to retire while they were still young enough to enjoy life, and they saw to it that their children were ready to take over the family business, surrounded by faithful subordinates and smart advisors. Michael was not the oldest of the eight, but he had the most business sense. All of the kids worked in either the company offices or the company warehouses when they weren't in school and six of them spent their entire lives employed in the family company, but none of them devoted more time and energy to learning the business like Michael.
Nichole's two older siblings, a brother and a sister, were either too dumb or too smart to take over the company. Nathan was the oldest, and while his heart was as big as some of the skyscrapers in New York, he didn't have the chops for running a company, but he also was humble enough to know where he excelled, which was driving trucks. Emily was a month older than Michael, but instead turned her attention to mechanical engineering and the Air Force; she was literally the family rocket scientist. The other kids fell in after them, and all four held some position within the company, from distribution managers to HR to marketing to IT staff.
That left Michael who, after graduating first from Columbia and then getting his MBA from NYU, was 25 going on 40, poised and groomed to take over the day-to-day operations of the company. Growing up, Michael was a stick in the mud. He preferred the company of adults, didn't have any hobbies, nor any vices. Michael also never noticed girls. He just didn't have the time.
The entire company was closed for only four days every year: Easter, Christmas, Thanksgiving and the last Saturday in April for the company picnic. Nichole's father Ernie liked to throw big parties, and that year was no exception. In addition to their families, every retiree and employee of the company and their families were invited. After almost 40 years in business, that added up to a lot of people.
Some beancounters say that company picnics are bad for business. They cost money and for a seven-day a week business, cost productivity. Ernie had other ideas. He believed that anything that brought family together was worthwhile. They had the best insurance a small business could afford. They had more family sick time than any other shipping company in New York. He personally sent birthday cards to all of his employee's spouses and children. As a result, company absenteeism was near zero and each of the employees would have taken a bullet for their boss.
Each year, the picnic got bigger and bigger. That year the picnic took over a huge chunk of Central Park's Sheep Meadow. There was the finest food, a band and fun and games for everyone. Ernie had only one rule at the company picnic, which stood for 40 years, and still stands today: no talking about business. He and Michael's father John wanted the picnic to be about family and fun, not about money or shop talk.
So everyone had fun except Michael, who was bored out of his skull. That is, until Nichole showed up. They hadn't seen each other for two years. While Michael had been studying economics, Nichole was busy working and going to school herself, only instead of concentrating just on business, she dual-majored in business and Chinese. She did her senior year at Wellesley from China, teaching English part time and helping local missionaries build churches and schools.
She was tanned from working outside and her face radiated warmth and friendliness. Everyone liked her. Nichole had always been tomboyish; she played nearly every sport imaginable in high school and her mission work in China kept her fit. She was also a late-bloomer, which was the first thing Michael noticed when she arrived that the picnic; the small bumps on her chest had become larger bumps, and her muscular soccer legs had become long, slim and shapely.
Michael couldn't take his eyes off her. Maybe it was because she had been gone for two years. Maybe it was because she had become a woman without him even noticing. Maybe it was because on the one day a year he couldn't talk or think about the company, she walked back into his life.
"Hi, stranger," she said, giving him a big hug and a quick kiss on the cheek. He put his arms around her and found that he didn't want to let go.
"Hi, yourself," Michael replied. "What have you been up to?"
"I just got back—," she started and the two picked up right where they left off, as old friends.
For her part, Nichole noticed Michael immediately. He had always been tall, but lanky. Aging had filled him out nicely, and despite the long hours he put in at work, he still managed to find the time to work out and stay in shape. The two really were like brother and sister, but now that they were all grown up, their touches lasted a little longer and were a little more intimate than they had been the last time they met.
Of course, neither Nichole nor Michael noticed how close they were, but everyone else did.
The two unconsciously spent almost all of the afternoon together. It was a warm April day in New York. Between the softball game and the food and the other company contests, there was a lot to do, but Michael and Nichole spent most of their time talking and catching up. Their brothers and sisters watched in mute disbelief. No one said a word to either and left them in their oblivious world of bliss.
By late afternoon, the picnic was winding down. Most folks had left and the clean up crew was taking care of the last little messes. The family patriarchs, John and Ernie sat together with their wives and some of the stragglers. They watched as Nichole and Michael left arm in arm.
"How long?" Ernie asked aloud.
"How long what?" his wife asked.
"Eh? Eight months," John said.
His partner snorted softly. "Six."
" 'Til they're married or engaged?" John's wife asked.
"Married," the two men said simultaneously.
"Loser pays for the reception," Ernie extended his hand.
Not quite six months later, on a cool Autumn day in October, John wrote the check, and the company closed down for five days that year.
Nichole basked in the memories of that afternoon.
The sun was up and her apartment looked out over Central Park West. Her windows were open and a cool city breeze swept through the halls. She picked herself up off the couch and walked to the kitchen and poured herself another glass of wine. There was a picture next to the fridge, taken the night of the picnic. Nichole smiled wistfully and fell back into her reverie.
After leaving the picnic, Nichole and Michael took a long stroll through the Park, a quiet haven among the bustle that was New York. They came out near the Guggenheim. Michael hailed a cab.
"Let's get something to eat."
"That would be great." Nichole got in as Michael held the door.
"Where would you like to go?"
They went to Umberto's, a well-known Italian restaurant in Little Italy. It could have been Fazoli's and it would not have made a difference to these two. They just wanted to share each other's company. They continued to talk and laugh and reminisce. Then, sometime between the biscotti and the salad, or maybe it wasn't until the veal arrived, Michael and Nichole fell in love.
At the end of the meal, the owner of Umberto's, a long-time customer and family friend took their picture, had it framed and sent it to them later. They were sitting in a corner booth, shoulder-to-shoulder. Michael had a big, goofy grin. Nichole was smiling nervously. They were holding hands.
After dinner they walked around some more, which usually isn't a bright idea in New York at night, but they didn't care. Neither wanted the night to end.
A little after midnight, their feet tired from walking, Michael and Nichole stood in Times Square, which bustled even in the middle of the night. Illuminated by the neon lights and surrounded by the sounds of their hometown, the two stood silently as the world passed around them. Michael had his arm around her; Nichole rested her head on his shoulder.
"I guess we need to get you home." Michael said finally.
Nichole smiled mischievously. "I don't think I'm ready to go home yet."
"We could go see what's showing over at AMC. I've heard good things about—"
"Michael," she snickered. "Shut up. Mom said you were living over on Central Park West. Let's go to your place."
He blushed and hurriedly flagged down a cab.
Michael's apartment was on the fourth floor of a seven floor building. It encompassed almost half of the entire floor and had a wonderful view of Columbus Circle and the southwest corner of Central Park. It was spartan, but familiar, even for Nichole, who had never seen the place before. There were pictures of their families on the walls and a beat up couch that they used to play on in the brownstone where Michael grew up.
"This place is wonderful," Nichole said. Michael went to check the messages on his answering machine but she stopped him. "Not now."
He looked deep into her eyes and saw something that hadn't been there when they were reunited earlier. Hunger. Desire.
Michael took Nichole in his arms and held her close. She returned his embrace. Their foreheads came to rest together and stayed like that for a long time. All Michael could hear was his heart pounding. He felt her warm breath against his lips.
She brushed her fingertips against his neck and they kissed. It was awkward at first, but that faded quickly as their passion overtook them. It was wet and sloppy. Delicious.
Michael's hands ran over her back and waist. Her hands grasped his hair and shoulders. She let out a low purr as he kissed his way to her ear, nibbling softly on her lobe. Nichole gasped as Michael kissed his way down her neck, and she dug her fingernails into his back when he got to her collarbone.
Nichole pulled at his shirt and started to unbuckle his belt, but he stopped her.
"Not here." Michael picked her up and nuzzled against her neck. "Bedroom or couch?"
"That sounds good." Nichole pulled him closer.
He took a couple of steps. "Where do you want to wake up?"
Michael carried her into his bedroom. She kissed his face and held him close. Starlight shone through the windows that dominated the apartment.
Michael lay her gently down on the massive oak bed. Nichole pulled him towards her. She pulled his shirt over his head and threw it across the room. Her hands explored his bare shoulders and chest.
Their lips locked together as each undressed the other. Michael's shorts and boxers fell to the floor. Nichole's blouse came unbuttoned and her breasts heaved with each laboured breath. Michael's hands brushed against her erect nipples before coming back to pinch them gently.
Nichole's hands went to Michael's bare ass as he unzipped her shorts and pushed them down along with her panties. He lay atop her, bared physically and emotionally. He could feel her breasts pressed flat against his chest.
She pushed him back and sat up, shedding the rest of her clothes. Nichole took an admiring gaze at her childhood friend, standing there naked in the darkness. The moon illuminated his figure, basking him in a deep blue light. Her eyes settled on his face, almost angelic in its compassion and wisdom.
Michael stared back, lost in Nichole's beauty. She propped herself up on her elbows and pushed herself back on the bed, resting against his pillows. Her hand was extended. Inviting.
With a quickness bourne of lust and desire, Michael lunged at her and she pulled him close, their naked forms melting together. Nichole kissed him deeply, her tongue wrapping around his. Her hands brushed against his back before settling on his buttocks, pulling him close.
Michael's lips left a wet trail again across Nichole's cheek and down her neck to her collarbone, but he didn't stop there. Cupping a breast in each hand, Michael kissed down her chest before settling on one of her nipples. She cried out and pushed her bosom forward into Michael's eager mouth.
He continued to explore her body with his hands and with his mouth. Biting. Nibbling. Caressing. He could feel the warmth of her sex against him. Inviting.
Michael pulled her close and lifted her off the bed. With one hand he brushed some of the pillows to the floor and pulled the comforter and sheets down. He lay her back on the bed, kneeling above her. His cock was fully erect and she took it in one hand, pulling him down with the other.
She guided him towards her, kissing his cheek, breathing in his ear. Nichole rubbed his cockhead against her clit and labia, sending a shiver up her spine.
Michael kissed her deeply again. She continued to rub him against her steaming sex. He was tumescent.
"I need you inside me," Nichole whispered.
"Condom," Michael managed to grunt.
"I'm on the pill," she replied desperately. He pushed his cock forward into her.
She arched her back and moaned with pleasure. Nichole bit her lip as Michael's cock filled her up. Slowly. Deliberately.
When he was all the way inside her, Michael looked down at his lover. Her body glistened with sweat and desire. Her eyes were closed. He pulled back and thrust in again. Her mouth fell open.
Michael built a rhythm, alternating a few hard thrusts with a few soft strokes. Nichole spread her legs so she could take all of Michael's erection inside her. Her hands gripped his muscular shoulders. He held himself up with one arm and cupped one of her breasts with the other hand.
"You ... feel ... so ... good," Nichole managed between strokes. Michael smiled and pulled back so only the tip of his head was inside her. Then, without warning, he thrust deep and hard. Nichole bit his shoulder and dug her nails into his back, not for the last time.
She bucked against him, matching his stride, grinding her clit against the top of his cock. Michael grunted with a primal pleasure on every stroke. Faster and faster. Nichole absorbed each thrust and felt her own orgasm building.
Michael felt his cock tightly in the grip of Nichole's velvety sex. He could feel it contracting around his swollen head. He knew she was close. So was he. Michael pumped her pussy hard. Faster and faster.
Nichole arched her back one last time as the waves of her orgasm overtook her. Michael saw her eyes roll back into her head and then he started to cum with her.
She bucked against him and pulled him deeper inside.
Michael felt her warm juices around his throbbing cock, flooding her tight sex. Then his head exploded inside her. The room started to spin.
They each let out one final gasp, consumed by their passion. He could still feel her pussy squeezing his cock, even as her orgasm subsided. There was a ringing in his ears and he could hear his cock pumping the last of his thick cum into her.
Exhausted, he collapsed on top of her. The room continued to spin and then went dark.
"I love you," she whispered.
Michael didn't know how long he was out. It may have been a few seconds. I may have been a minute or two. He was still inside her. She was absently running her fingertips along his back, top to bottom, then in small circles around his shoulder blades. Her gentle touch gave him goosebumps.
Michael blinked himself back to consciousness. He started to pull himself up, but she held him close.
"Don't leave me."
"Am I squishing you?" he asked.
"No. You feel wonderful right where you are." Nichole's eyes were closed. A slight smile only hinted at the depth of the pleasure she felt from her head to her toes.
Michael stared at her beautiful face, glowing in the soft moonlight. He kissed her gently. Their bodies were covered in perspiration. The room reeked of sex.
She kissed him back before opening her eyes and staring back at him. Neither spoke for a long time.
"What have we done?" he finally asked.
She closed her eyes. A sad look flashed across her face. Then she smiled. "After tonight, we can never be friends again."
"I know. What do—?"
Nichole put her finger over Michael's lips. "Shhhhhhh ... let's talk about that later."
"I'm planning on sleeping through breakfast," she replied. "How about over lunch?"
"Now, come here." She pulled him close again. He felt his cock stir with a renewed passion. She felt it, too. "You must really like me; I know you haven't taken any ED pills today and you're already to go again."
Nichole giggled. "ED. Erectile dysfunction. Viagra."
"Before I'm done, you'll wish I had erectile dysfunction!" he teased.
They fell together again.
The next morning, Michael did something he hadn't done in years: he overslept.
And Nichole woke up in the same place that she would each morning for the next three years: in the arms of the Love of Her Life.
They missed their lunch conversation and he cooked her dinner in bed.
"Oh, god ... oh, god ... Oh ... GAAWWWWWDD!!!!," Nichole buried her face in the pillow as Michael pounded into her.
All he could manage was a grunt.
"Harder ... harder ... do ... it ... HARD ... ER!," she arched her back and felt Michael put his hand on her shoulders. He pressed all of his weight down on her, pushing her into the bed with each thrust. Her breasts were pressed flat against the sheets, and with Michael's weight bearing down on her ass, she felt as if she was being split in two. It was glorious.
With one hand, Nichole braced herself against the headboard and rubbed herself furiously with the other. She could feel Michael's balls slapping against her. Her ass stung with every thrust.
Michael let out a loud moan and she knew he couldn't hold out much longer. Nichole arched her back as their orgasms overtook them. Michael's cock erupted. She felt the familiar warm flood of his cum as it mixed with her own. She bucked against him one final time, trying to milk the last of his cum out of the cock that was buried inside her.
Michael rolled to the side and she turned with him, keeping his semi-erect sex within her soft folds. She glanced over her shoulder and saw his eyes flutter. Nichole smiled and took his hand within hers, then placed it on her breast.
Contentedly, she lay there, spooning with her unconscious lover, holding his arms tight around her.
After a few seconds, Michael stirred. He lifted his head off the pillow. "How long this time?"
"Not long, just a few seconds," she turned her head and kissed him tenderly. She pressed her ass against him and wiggled. "Think you can do it again? Want to go for four in a row?"
Michael groaned. "I'm only one man."
Michael smacked her playfully on the backside.
"Don't start that unless you mean it," Nichole slid Michael's flaccid cock out of her and then turned to face him. He rolled onto his back. She cuddled up against her lover and kissed him again. "Now where were we?"
"I think you were about to rub my neck," Michael said.
"I thought I'd rub something else," she purred. She ran her nails down his stomach.
"Give me a minute, will you?"
"What's wrong, Michael, old age catching up with you?" she teased and kissed him again.
It was a week after the company picnic. Immediately, Nichole and Michael became inseparable. Although she didn't "move in", she spent every night with her new lover, much to the chagrin of her "old-fashioned" grandmother, and much to the delight of everyone else around them.
"They look so cute together", "It's about time" and "Do you see how happy she makes him" were all whispered among their family, friends and co-workers.
Both Nichole and Michael were surprised at how quickly they connected. Neither wanted to settle in; he was too concentrated on his work and she was fresh out of school. It just happened.
That's how love works, isn't it? Nichole thought to herself. It just strikes out of nowhere.
Nichole walked back to her bedroom, a glass of wine in one hand. She picked up a box of pictures sitting on the counter. Terra had left them. At first Nichole didn't want to look at them, but today the good memories outweighed the bad, so after settling on the bed, she began to flip through them. They were from her birthday party.
Three weeks after the picnic Nichole turned 23. Not a major milestone, but since she spent her last birthday in China, her family threw a big party. They were originally going to have it at her parents's house, but things quickly got out of hand and they had to change it to another venue because so many people were coming.
People made excuses that they hadn't seen Nichole for so long, or because they were coming to town anyway to see a show, but mostly, the extended family just wanted to see Nichole and Michael together. Ernie and his wife Carole ended up renting out a banquet room at Central Park's Tavern on the Green, not an inexpensive proposition, but it was worth it. After all, they were in on a secret only one other person knew about.
Nichole knew her parents were throwing her a birthday party, but was happily oblivious to the massive amount of preparation that was going in to in. Instead, she was trying to find a job. Ernie and John made it clear to all eight of their children that they would always have a place in the family business, but given her involvement with Michael, the hand-picked successor, Nichole decided that she needed to look for work outside the company.
She earned a business degree in college and also spoke fluent Mandarin Chinese, passable variations of other Chinese dialects, and conversational Japanese. She quickly found gainful (if lucrative) employment as a translator for visiting Chinese and Japanese businessmen.
Nichole's birthday party was planned for a Saturday night, with a buffet dinner and cocktails. Her sisters Emily and Melissa were charged with keeping her busy for the rest of Saturday. So after waking up with Michael, Nichole went out with them. Shopping and catching up and doing sister things.
Emily was assigned to a joint project with NASA; by nature her work was secretive, but she managed a weekend away. Melissa was three years younger than Nichole and just finished her freshman year at Columbia. Both adored Michael.
When the three arrived, the party was in full swing. All of their family was there, as was all of Michael's.
Nichole mingled with the well-wishers, but spent the early part of the party looking for Michael, who was conspicuously absent. He arrived about half an hour later, with a big box in his arms.
Michael set the box on the gifts table and came over to give her a big hug.
"Where have you been?" she asked.
"Your dad needed me to pick something up and it wasn't ready, so I had to wait on it," Michael replied, handing her a glass of wine.
When Michael went to get some food, Nichole thought she was seeing a complete stranger. Michael was engaging, talking, laughing. Animated. Vibrant. The person who had been a grown-up in a kid's body for all his life seemed so ... so... normal. She fell deeper in love with him.
Just past Michael, she saw her parents holding hands and looking towards her. And Michael. Ernie had a sly smile. Carole looked distant, the corners of her mouth upturned. Her eyes had a wistful look to them. Nichole thought she saw her father wink at her.
When Michael returned, he handed her a plate of food and she started to nibble. Emily and Melissa tagged along with him. Emily carried the box Michael brought to the party.
It was wrapped in white paper with a large gold bow on it.
"Dad says you can open the other gifts later, but this one you have to open now." Melissa took her plate and Emily handed her the box.
The room suddenly got quiet. Discomfortingly quiet. Everyone seemed to be staring at her. Nichole became very nervous. Michael only smiled. Mischievously.
Nichole untied the bow and began unwrapping the present. It was an unmarked rectangular box, two feet high, one foot wide and one foot deep. Nichole looked over at her parents and saw her mother wipe a tear from her eye.
Nichole's hands began to shake.
The lid came off.
Under layers of tissue paper was her gift.
"What is this?" she said, disbelief denying what her eyes showed her. She turned to Michael. "What the hell is this?"
"It's a stuffed animal," he replied, deadpan. Teasing. "An emperor penguin, to be exact. I found—"
"Not that," Nichole lifted the plush gift out of the box. Around the penguin's neck was a black ribbon. Tied to a ring. The gold glistened, and the diamonds sparkled under the lights. "This."
"It's your birthday present," Michael took the stuffed animal from his friend. His lover. His soulmate. He untied the ribbon and the jewel fell into his palm. Michael knelt before her. He took her trembling hands in his own. Their fingers entwined around the gold and diamond bauble. Michael slipped it on her finger. Of course it fit perfectly.
"My love," he said quietly. "My love, I can't imagine a day in my life where I didn't wake up beside you."
Tears welled up in Nichole's eyes. She reached out and brushed Michael's cheek with her fingertips. His eyes began to water.
"I can't remember what it was like before you came back into my life. You make me happy. You make me realise how lonely I used to be. I love you." She started to cry. "Nichole, will you marry me?"
Nichole pulled Michael close. Joyous sobs overpowered her. She buried her face in his chest and felt his strong arms around her. "Yes ... Of course, I will, yes!"
Michael pulled back and lifted Nichole to her feet. She felt as if she were floating. Nichole and Michael held each other, oblivious to the camera flashes, the cheers and the pats on the shoulder.
"I love you," she said in his ear.
"I love you, too," he whispered back. "Now stop crying. I can't stand watching you cry. You're making me horny."
"What's with the penguin?" Nichole asked, not wanting to let go. She dabbed at her eyes. "Do they mate a lot?"
"I don't know about that, but they mate for life," Michael said, and she began to cry again. "See? There are some things on the Discovery Channel worth learning."
She laughed out loud, a euphoric, rapturous laugh. She kissed him on the cheek, at the top of his jawbone. She raked her teeth across his earlobe. His grip on her tensed for just a second. She was sure that if no one else were around, he'd have tripped her right there.
Melissa and Emily practically had to pry the two apart. Both wanted to be the first to welcome Michael to the family. Michael and Nichole were immediately beset by everyone at the party, with "congratulations!" for both and "happy birthday!" for Nichole.
Nichole spent the rest of that night in a daze. The pictures Terra left triggered memories, all of them happy, even though Nichole remembered only bits and pieces herself. Many of them made her smile, but each picture of Michael only reminded her of how empty she felt, even a year later.
The penguin was the first of many Nichole and Michael exchanged over the next two years and it remained her favourite. She fell asleep with it in her arms nearly every night. Nichole held it close, trying to recapture the feeling of Michael's embrace. But stuffed animals don't hug back.
Nichole finished the glass of wine and looked out the windows, their arches framing the spectacular view. It was late afternoon and the sun was beginning to set. One of the last pictures in the box was of the gift table, overflowing with birthday wishes that had unknowingly become wedding wishes. Nichole smiled. Michael had another gift for her after the party.
The party really started after Michael's proposal, and luckily for the couple, took on a life of its own. Michael and Nichole snuck out with the complicity of Ernie and Carole. Of course they knew what Michael was planning. A week before he came to them and asked Ernie for his daughter's hand and for their blessing. Without hesitation, Ernie and Carole gave it.
Right after the congo line started, Ernie waved Michael and Nichole out the back door where Carole and Michael's parents, John and Elizabeth, were waiting.
"Get out of here, you two," Ernie said, fighting for hug time with his three other dear friends. "We love you."
John pointed them towards the street. A horse-drawn carriage waited.
The driver took them through Central Park. Nichole rested with her head on Michael's shoulder. They rode in silence, holding each other tight. In her hands, Nichole clutched her penguin. The driver let them out at Columbus Circle, just across the street from the apartment.
They took the elevator up to the fourth floor. Michael fumbled with the keys.
"I have something else for you."
"What else could you possibly give me?"
He handed her a keychain in the shape of a heart. On one side was the date, the other read, "I love you. —M."
Michael picked her up to carry her across the threshold to his—to their—apartment. "Welcome home."
Nichole kissed him deeply as he stood in the hallway. He tasted her tears.
All the way to the bedroom, she tried to undress Michael, but he wouldn't put her down. Finally, he set her on the bed where she pounced on him. Nichole covered his face with kisses. Soft pecks. Wet. Deep. Sloppy. Her tongue snaked into his mouth.
She pushed him down on the bed and straddled him. She pulled at her own clothes, tearing at the buttons and then set to undressing Michael. His shirt came of, but he wouldn't let her go any further. There was a wickedly pernicious glint in his eye.
He sat up and pulled her close. One hand cupped a wondrous, naked breast. His mouth went to the other. Michael made circles around her nipple with his tongue, causing it to stand up. Then he blew softly on it and it hardened immediately. Nichole shivered. He bit softly and she moaned with pleasure.
Michael kissed his way back her chest, to her collarbone, then her neck and under her chin. He breathed in her ear. "Do you trust me?"
"Of course, I do," she moaned.
Michael put his feet on the floor and stood, still holding his lover in his arms. She wrapped her legs around him and kissed his shoulders. He turned and sat her on the bed, which was just the right height for him if he wanted to have her right then. But he didn't.
"Close your eyes," he whispered, squeezing Nichole's erect nipple.
His hands left her for a second when she felt something around her head, covering her eyes. It was soft. Silky. Michael tied the blindfold and kissed her again. He had something else in his hands. Nichole felt more silk being tied to each wrist.
Michael guided her to the center of the bed and pushed her flat on her back. He placed a pillow under her head. His fingers ran the length of her body, their feather touches causing the hairs on her skin to stand up. Gently, he pulled her skirt and panties down.
She lay naked, fully exposed and blind. Vulnerable. But with Michael, none of that mattered. Her trust in him was complete.
Even if she knew he was up to no good.
She heard him shed the rest of his clothes and felt him cuddle up next to her. His fingers continued to trace lines on her body. Unable to see, the rest of her senses seemed heightened. His touch tickled and aroused her.
"I am going to make love to you," Michael said, kissing her shoulder. "If I do anything that makes you uncomfortable, just say 'stop'. Do you understand?"
"Yes," she moaned softly.
"I understand," she purred.
Michael straddled her chest, his hardening cock resting between her breasts. He took her hands and made Nichole cup her tits, then she squeezed them together around his engorged sex. His hips moved forward ever so slightly and she felt the head of his cock slip out from between her breasts and under her chin. He continued with several short strokes, playing with her nipples.
She felt a hand lift her head forward and found the head of Michael's cock at her lips. They parted for him eagerly. She tried to put her hands on his ass, meaning to draw him deeper into her mouth, but he pulled on the ties around her wrists and her arms fell away from him.
Keeping up the same short strokes in her mouth instead of between her breasts, Michael tied the bonds on each wrist to the posts on his headboard. Nichole lay there, helpless. Completely at his mercy.
Nichole gave a disappointed sign as Michael withdrew his cock from her mouth. Michael lay on top of her, his hard cock wet with her saliva, so near her hungry pussy. She started to grind against him, hoping he would relieve her desire. But she knew he wouldn't. Not yet.
Michael rolled to the side, his body still pressed against her. Propping himself up with one hand, he took the other and turned her blindfolded head towards him. His tongue forced his way into her mouth, penetrating her. Violently. Lovingly.
His hand roamed down her body, stopping to roll her nipple between his index finger and thumb, then continuing down her naked form. His hand forced her legs apart. He ran his fingers in small circles along the insides of her thighs. Her body buzzed with anticipation. Her clit tingled at the nearness of his touch.
Nichole pulled against the ties holding her down. She wanted so much to take him in her arms and feel him inside her. She wanted ... no, she needed his touch to release her.
Finally, Nichole felt a finger touch her swollen clitoris. He pressed against it softly, then harder. His fingertip touch became stronger, more intense. Faster. She bucked against his hand. She felt his cock twitch against her leg. Oh, how she wanted him!
Michael moved his finger faster and harder against her sex, every now and then pausing to dip a finger inside her wetness. His tongue continued to assault her mouth, rough and tender at the same time.
Her lover's strong hand pressed against the nub of her sex, wet from her juices, swollen with excitement. She pressed her chest against him as best she could, frustratingly bound to the bed, desperate to feel as much of his touch as possible.
Michael kissed behind her ear, at the top of her neck. She shivered with delight. A gasp escaped her lips as one finger, then two, penetrated her. His breath teased her neck. Michael left a line of slobbery kisses down her neck to her collarbone, then he traced the same line and blew softly. The coldness made her shudder and she pulled again against her bonds.
"What do you want me to do to you?" he whispered in her ear.
"Not yet," he teased, rubbing her clit again. "What else?"
"I want you to eat me."
"My pussy," Nichole moaned.
"How do you ask?"
"Pleeeeeaaasse," she wailed, pulling again at the ties. She needed to put her arms around him. She needed to force his head between her legs. She needed him to make love to her.
"Please eat my pussy, Michael. Please, God, please," her voice became a whisper. "Please eat me. Please..."