Chapter Nineteen

Park Avenue and McMechen Street

Bolton Hill

Baltimore, Maryland

June 15, 12:53 a.m. EST

The bedside phone began ringing at precisely the wrong moment. Circe O’Tree was naked, covered in sweat, painted by candlelight, and on the verge of screaming as she moved in a frenzied pace up and down. Her black curls danced above her bouncing breasts as the rhythm drove her up and up and up toward the crest of climax. Beneath her, drenched and straining and grimacing with the beginnings of his own orgasm, Rudy Sanchez growled out her name over and over again.

The phone kept ringing.

They ignored it. They were only aware of it on some distant level, their immediate need transforming the intrusive sound into a mere component in the symphony of sounds and sensations. The music from the speakers, the sounds from the street outside of Circe’s window, the creak of the bedsprings, the urgent slap of flesh against flesh, and their marathon panting breathing were all parts of something much greater.

“Oh, God!” cried Circe as the orgasm reared above her like a dark wave of velvet beauty, and she screamed incoherently as he came too. Together they spun to the edge of the precipice and plunged over, crying out each other’s names, saying meaningless words, making sounds provoked by sensations that were beyond even the most precise articulation.

The phone rang through to voice mail.

Circe collapsed onto Rudy, showering his face with many small, quick kisses as beads of crystalline sweat dripped from every point of her onto his skin. He gathered her in his arms and kissed the hot hollow of her throat and her cheeks and her eyes and finally her lips.

The phone began ringing again.

They ignored it.

It rang five times and stopped.

Circe could feel Rudy’s heart beating as insistently as hers. She clung to him, her body wrapped around his.

“I love you,” she whispered.

“Te quiero,” he murmured.

Then his cell phone began ringing.

They both glanced at it.

“Let it go,” she said.

“Yes,” he agreed. They did not move as it rang through to voice mail.

There was silence. Circle let herself fall off of him in delicious slow motion, his arms around her to catch her fall and keep her close. Rudy looked at her. Lean and yet ripe, tanned skin a shade lighter than olive, and eyes that held more mysteries than he could count. She was the most beautiful woman he had ever touched; the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Movie-star beauty coupled with a fierce intellect and a personality as complexly faceted as a diamond. He took a strand of her hair and held it to his nose. It smelled of incense and wood smoke and sex. He wanted to tell her all of this, but in more poetic terms, and he fished for words that would convey what he felt without sounding like lines cribbed from old movies.

“I-” Rudy began, and then her house phone started ringing.

And her cell.

And his cell.

All at the same time.

“Damn,” Circe said.

Rudy cursed quietly in Spanish as he stretched an arm over and picked up both cell phones. Circe took hers and answered first.

“Dr. O’Tree.”

“Where are you?” asked Mr. Church.

She closed her eyes and mouthed the word “Dad.”

Rudy looked at the screen display on his. It said TIA. Aunt. Aunt Sallie.

He nodded to her.

“I’m home,” she said.

“How quickly can you get to the Warehouse?”

“Why? I’m off this week. I have to do revisions on the chapter on-”

“That can wait.”

“But it’s important.”

“Not as important as this,” said Mr. Church.

Circe sighed and considered smashing the phone against the wall.

Then Mr. Church said, “Bring Dr. Sanchez with you.”

Before she could ask a single question, he disconnected.

All of the phones went silent.

“What?” asked Rudy, and Circe told him. Then she buried her head against his chest.

“I hate this,” she growled. “I hate that he can just pick up a phone and ruin a perfect moment for me.”

“I expect,” said Rudy, “that he hates it too.”

She looked at him for a moment, reading his eyes. She sighed again and nodded. “Damn it.”

Five minutes later they were in Rudy’s Lexus breaking speed laws all the way to the Warehouse.