Everything changed after the gunshot.
Food lost its taste, fabric its shimmer. And forget about sleeping – Lily spent the seven nights since sipping tea Clare brewed, jumping at every heavy footfall and slammed door, while paging through the Bible her mother had sneaked into Lily’s steamer trunk. Lily wasn’t sure how she felt about God, but she was willing to find any magic combination of words that might turn back time.
If she hadn’t wanted sex with Charles, he wouldn’t have been shot.
If she were a good girl, he’d still be walking around without a care in the world, and with a pretty girl on his arm, instead of lying in a hospital barely clinging to life. No visitors allowed. Lily’s only news came through infrequent phone calls from Fleur, who was in contact with his family. In short, it wasn’t looking good.
Unfortunately, haunting her apartment didn’t pay the rent, so Lily went back to work, physically unscarred but with part of her heart missing.
Hal cleared his throat, his handsome face concerned.
Pushing her hair behind her ears, Lily handed him the pile of papers he’d requested. She knew Hal meant well, but she wanted to wipe that worried gaze right off. She saw it enough from Clare and Katy.
“Are you –”
“Fine,” she snapped.
He was clearly taken aback. Lily reminded herself that Hal was her boss. Also, he’d done nothing to deserve her wrath. “I’m so sorry,” she said, reaching for a pencil to mask her awkwardness.
“Would you like to have dinner tonight?”
Whatever Lily was expecting Hal to say next, it hadn't been that.
“You and I both blurt things out at inopportune moments, it seems,” he said upon seeing her shock. “I shouldn’t have asked. I apologize.” He blushed, looking down at his freshly-shined shoes before retreating back to his desk.
“Wait!” Lily said, and Hal turned around. She couldn’t deny that going to work took her mind off the tragedy of the week before. She took comfort in the simple routine they had, the tasks she could perform by rote. The sights and smells of the city she still loved, no matter how much it hurt her, as she went to get his ham sandwich from the same deli every day, where the Ukrainian butcher called her “pretty miss.”
And even amid her pain, Lily couldn’t forget that night at Hal’s apartment, his care with her, the way his fingers and later his cock moved inside her…
Stop it, Lily. Your desires have already hurt one man.
“Yes,” she said, and Hal’s face lit up.
She’d never seen tablecloths so white.
The restaurant had an air of simple elegance. The polished wood of the tables and chairs gleamed, the chandeliers glowed from above, and the soft chimes of forks and knives on china complemented the tinkle of live piano music in the background. As the maître d’ directed them to a table, Hal offered Lily his arm and she took it, feeling the crispness of his dinner jacket under her glove. Somewhere inside her, a flicker of excitement sparked.
“The steak Diane is the best in the city,” Hal murmured, lips brushing her ear. Lily shivered in anticipation of the evening that lay ahead.
“This is my apartment,” Lily said, several hours and cocktails later.
She wasn’t drunk, but the gin sneaked into their drinks at the restaurant (Hal had friends in high places, of course) made her bold. Dinner had been wonderful in every possible way. She was more relaxed than she’d been all week, and it wasn’t just the alcohol. Not only was Hal attractive and kind, he really listened when Lily talked. (Though she didn’t mention Charles, or that night in Hal’s apartment. Lily was tired of talking about the former – it didn’t make things any better – and discussing the latter after so much time had elapsed, could only lead to awkwardness.) After evenings filled with grief and days of barely holding herself together, this lovely dinner was just what Lily needed.
She blushed, biting her lip as Hal looked around the apartment, the piles of clothes, the hurried note from Clare (“gone to Katy’s for the night”) tacked right into the wall alongside pages torn from movie magazines. Lily could see her home through his eyes. It was a working girl’s apartment, a far cry from his marble floors and deep bathtubs.
But when Hal smiled, Lily’s embarrassment promptly faded.
“Come here,” he said softly, and only feeling the slightest pang of guilt over poor Charles, she rushed into his arms.
The way he kissed her was a prelude of what was to come, his hands sliding down the bare back of her dress in the most delicious way. He tasted of gin, his lips soft but demanding, asserting his presence. Before she came to Chicago, Lily had no idea what it meant to be weak in the knees, had in fact laughed it off as a silly expression. Here in Hal’s arms, kissing him softly but deeply in her front entryway, clad in the silky red dress Fleur gave her after they slept together, she could very well collapse into a lusty pile, ready for anything – and everything – he could give.
Lily murmured against his lips, “Let me show you my bedroom.”
She didn’t know Hal had it in him.
Yes, their previous encounter had gotten downright primal, but the way he unzipped her dress with his teeth, lips featherlight against her skin, sliding it down with his hands, made Lily so very wet. And when she turned around, wearing nothing but her stockings, his snarl of approval made her nipples stand at attention. Slipping her hands up her stomach, she tilted her head back and cupped her breasts, pinching her nipples to give the slightest bit of relief, which elicited a groan from Hal, whose trousers were looking very tight.
Advancing toward her, he bent her backwards until she was lying on her bed before kneeling on the floor, and burying his face between her legs.
“Ohhhhhhhh,” Lily cried. His tongue circled her sweet spot, lightly at first then with gradually increasing pressure, his mouth knowing just what to do. Their one night together, in his tub and then in his bed, had been satisfying, explosive at times even, but his gentle yet confident lips and tongue were simply heavenly.
Coming up for air, Hal played with her hardening nub with his thumb, before sliding one finger in, then two. Lily threw her head back with a sigh. The sheets were cool under her nude body and she loved that he was still fully dressed. While his fingers moved in and out, Hal added his tongue again, and she circled her hips slowly, torturing the both of them. Every time she circled away from his mouth and stayed there, he used his fingers to play with her, diving in again when Lily couldn’t take it any longer, bucking into his face as his tongue began to move faster.
Now Lily wanted, needed that climax from Hal’s mouth, his hands, his face growing wet with her. “Please don’t stop!” she begged, looking down at him. For a second, their eyes met, his gaze burning into hers as he licked her excruciatingly slowly, and that was all Lily needed to reach her peak, fucking his face over and over, crying out until the waves became small tremors and his tongue slowed, lapping at her sweetly, bringing her down to his level once again.
“Attagirl,” he murmured, with the widest grin Lily had ever seen, after she sat up and lunged toward him, tasting herself in his mouth as she kissed him deeply.
“Come here,” she growled, wanting all of him, hard and thrusting inside her. She pulled Hal toward her on the bed and was unbuttoning his shirt in between frantic kisses when–
The floor’s shared phone, down the hallway.
“Ignore it,” Hal whispered, voice rough.
The phone rang again.
Probably not for her, but what if Clare needed help? What if – she didn’t dare entertain the possibility . . .
“I have to get that,” she whispered, hurriedly wrapping herself in her bedsheet and padding out of the apartment, leaving behind a very confused Hal.
“Hello?” Lily said breathlessly, pressing the receiver to her ear.