Musings in the Dark: February 2011


Shortie: Her

        You ever have the feeling that you’re competing with another woman?  Real talk, ladies.  I mean you know that there’s another woman, but you can’t prove it?  How many women know what I mean?  Well, that’s how I feel.  And the stupid thing is that I know that my husband has never ever stepped out on me.  I trust him and I know he hasn’t.  He’s a wonderful husband and provider, and truth be told, I know he loves me.  Our sex life is good, healthy, and relatively frequent.  He comes home to me every night.  Our anniversary is never forgotten, nor birthdays and major holidays.
I know he has feelings for someone else.  I know it.  I know her.  That’s not to say that she has done anything at all to jeopardize our marriage.  She has not.  I mean that I know who she is, and what’s bad is that I like her.  She’s intelligent and funny and reliable.  She always sends gifts to our children on their birthdays and holidays and has always been supportive of my family.  She isn’t married, isn’t even dating from my understanding, and I have never known her to make a move towards my husband.
They’ve been friends for twenty years.  I heard about her on our first date.  Her talent, her accomplishments, her responsibilities.  When he talked about her then, there was a look in his eyes that made me think at that time that date would be our last.  He never talked about her so much as to make me uncomfortable, but I always knew what was going on with her.  And when I met her, she was ebullient and quite pleased to meet me.  It seemed that I was meeting her to get her approval, and if I didn’t put my best foot forward, I wouldn’t, and would lose him.
I didn’t lose him.  We got married a year and a half later, six months after the birth of our son.
She was there from the beginning.  She’s always been there, a silent presence hanging over my husband.  A reminder of what might have been.  He has always stressed that they were friends, but the light that comes in his eyes when he speaks of her or to her in their monthly phone conversations makes me think otherwise.  I know that their friendship has never crossed physical boundaries, but…
         But, but, but…
She had a lot of emotional baggage that kept her out of serious relationships for years.  He had been there for her as friends ought.  We began dating right before her father died of bone cancer, and I had a regular report of her actions and state of mind.  Our relationship at that time was casual and even then I wondered if I was merely filling space or killing time for him.   Now, seven years and three children later, I’m sure that I was.  Even though our relationship is solid and strong, I know that if she had been mentally ready for a serious relationship, he would have left me years ago.  Before I got pregnant.
I know what you’re thinking.  That I got pregnant on purpose.  Honestly, I did not.  It was one night, a great evening, heated exchanges and we went for it.  I was on the pill, and apparently that one percent failure rate included me.  I got pregnant and he decided we would get married.  Hindsight being what it is, I know he did it to do the right thing by me and our son.  He loves me.  But I don’t think he’s ever been in love with me.  I believe in my heart of hearts that he is in love with her.  That light in his eyes is reserved for our three beautiful children and her.  I’m not a recipient, never have been.  Not even on our wedding day.
She’s a research chemist at the CDC, specializing in toxins.  She’s the director of her unit, accomplished and well paid.  She’s single, childless and successful.  She has average looks and an average figure, not bad.  One would think that the way my husband is about her she must be a Beyonce or a Zoe Saldana, or some equally beautiful starlet sexpot.  She isn’t. 
I want to hate her but I cannot.  She appears to be genuinely happy for us.  She has never indicated otherwise, but I wonder how she truly feels about me.  When she calls our house, we chat for several minutes; she asks about my career and the children, asks if they need anything, and asks about everything.  I can hear the feeling in her voice and I know she’s sincere.  Maybe the feelings were one-sided.
One night I accosted him about the true nature of their friendship.  He told me that they had been friends for years, nothing more.  He appreciated her talent and her solidarity.  She was the same with him.   There had never been any untoward feelings on either’s part.  I heard him, listened to him, but still I can’t help feeling that but for Damian’s appearance, he would have been with her.
I happened to have met, by accident, one of his other ex-girlfriends.  She was nice and to the point, and shared interesting sentiments:  1. He raved about some other girl he didn’t even date.  2.  She had to meet the girl; he brought her to the girl’s house and introduced them.  And, he had done that with every girl he dated.  3.  She wasn’t even pretty.  4.  If she had been in position, he would have been dating her instead.  5.  The ex felt as if she was merely filler while he waited for his friend to get her head right.  She decided that she didn’t want to compete with another woman that wasn’t even the other woman and broke up with him.
Am I settling?  I don’t know.  I love my husband and I don't want to consider breaking up my family.  But I don’t want a love I can live with; I much prefer a love I can’t live without.  I deserve that.  A man is only as good as his options, and perhaps she would have made him the best man he could possibly be.  With me, he’s just a good man.
I’m afraid to bring it up again.  I feel like I might put a strain on our marriage that we can’t recover from.  He’s given me no reason to distrust him, and if he thinks I do, he might leave me.  There’s no doubt in my mind that he would go to her if he did.  Do I rock the boat?  Should I put my heart and my family on the line and demand something from him that maybe he’s already giving me?  I shouldn’t have to share my husband with another woman.  Mental adultery is far more painful than physical adultery, because while you can stop sleeping with another person, you may never ever stop thinking about them.  It’s in the mind where cheating starts.  She’s been with him longer than I have; could it be he thinks he’s cheating on her with me?  A woman could go insane thinking about this.
I have three children.  My children love their father and he loves them.  He provides a safe and happy home and we have a good life.  I don’t want for anything.  Other women see me and want what I have.  Is our relationship tenuous at best?  If it isn’t, then why am I scared that I could lose him if I said anything else about her?  If I could lose him, then was he ever really mine?  Am I better without him? 
What do I do?  What would you do?



So one year ago this week, I'm ensconced in the dark quiet of my sitting room (named Tahiti), pouring out my heart and soul into a Spock/Uhura fanfic that recently won the 2010 S/U Best Smutfic. I wrote "Sexy Beast" at a feverish, breakneck pace; posting 5000-word chapters almost every day.  I wrote it from the void, in the dark, out of time and space. It consumed me to the point where I didn't sleep, barely ate, and could focus on nothing but the next chapter. I wrote a third of it with tears streaming down my face. It was a catharsis; an emotional rollercoaster of a regurgitation of feelings, thoughts, heartaches and pain buried underneath years of self-denial. Subconscious secrets, dreams and desires surged forth and I was able to speak those things out loud. It took me six weeks to finish and when I did; it was like a weight off my chest. I could breathe again and the tears dried up. And I began to transform.

It’s because of that infamous fic that I’m sitting here, blogging. A year ago, blogging was something others did. A year ago, I didn’t own a business. A year ago, the only work I edited was my own. A year ago, I would have never considered posting pictures of myself on the web, or creating an alter ego through which to express and exercise my overwhelming creative spirit. But a year after the conception of Sexy Beast (of which I have to thank Gerri Grant for), I’m a blogger, a business owner, and an editor. You’re reading my blog. I co-own a publishing house, Middle Child Press, with my friend and fellow lunatic, Ankhesen MiĆ©. And I edited my very first anthology, The Sultry Court. Not to mention the fact that I met some extremely wonderful women: Noob, Neets, Gerriv and Ankh to name a few. All within a year.

I’m a woman of faith. I always knew that I would be published one day. I knew that my particular gift was God-given and it was meant to be shared. I also knew that there were priorities and other considerations that kept it from happening when I thought it should. But God delivered me from my awesome responsibilities and put my dreams (and then some) in my hands all in one fabulous year. Instead of facing (again) the arbitrary hurdles of getting a author contract, I can now publish my novels any time I want and I don’t have to deal with the standard publishing bullshit. I can interact with like-minded individuals who share my vision. The decades spent honing my craft and dealing with the industry can be of benefit to new and struggling writers to keep them from going down that exact same path. I’m an author, editor, and a businesswoman. And, as the blog informs, a Dark Dreamer.  That particular description is a subject of a future post.

The most important thing in all of this is that I am transforming into the woman I’m supposed to be.  I am becoming, finally, the woman that I saw in my mind so many years ago.


The End of a Love Affair (7/7)

I didn’t move when he kissed me.  I couldn’t move. I didn’t want to move.  I just stayed where I was, my body on fire in a dozen different places and my heart was pounding and my brain was screaming and my crotch was liquid fire.  I knew right then that I would not do anything to stop him kissing me.  It was as if my body was reminded that I was a woman, with a woman’s desires and a woman’s needs.  As if every cell in me was awake, alive, and screaming for a man’s attentions.  His kiss was bliss infinite and I wanted him to know I wanted it; parted my lips and invited him in.  Oh, it was nice, very nice.  I needed this, needed someone like him around me, with me.  I was aware of the fog that penetrated my brain…why someone like him?  Why not him?  And that thought persisted above all others, even after that magnificent kiss.  He pulled away first.  I think my eyes were still closed and my lips were still parted.
“Zuri,” he murmured, caressing my face.
I opened my eyes.  “Oh,” I said, smiling, blushing.
“I’m not sorry I did it,” he said, apparently thinking I was going to be angry.  I had to let him know immediately that wasn’t the case.
“I’m not either, Kit.”  I said, very slowly.  “I’m not.”  And I made sure he saw this in my eyes as well as heard it from my lips.  God, I wanted more…but his way of proceeding was so much better than mine.  Years of pent-up frustrations and unrequited love…I could want this man before me, very easily.  No.  I did want this man before me. 
He brought his knuckles to my face and kissed the tip of my nose.  “I should go.” 
Kit being the gentleman he was, I knew why he’d said such a thing.  He was aroused and I could feel it pressing into my belly.  It was completely fair; for I was horny too.  A thought fled through my mind: how long had it been since he’d had sex?  That thought did nothing to quell what was going on inside my own body.  However, he was a grown man and I’m a grown woman and I did not want Kit to leave.  I wanted him to stay.  So I didn’t let him go.  “No.”
“Zuri, I…”
“No.  I want you to stay with me.  I think we have to talk.”  I stared into those gorgeous eyes of his, suddenly and fiercely possessive of him.  “If you leave, this will be left out there and I don’t know when I’ll see you again.  I don’t want you to walk out of my house without knowing where I stand with you.  I mean, we’re standing here holding on to each other.  Don’t you feel like it needs to be addressed?”
“Zuri, are you sure?”
I kissed his lips and savored the feel of his mouth.  In seconds, his arms were around my waist and mine were around his neck.  To his credit, his hands remained on my waist, but I would not have minded if he chose to slide them down.  I needed to have my ass grabbed and my breasts felt up.  His hair, silky soft, grazed my forehead and cheeks and it made me want him more.  When I pulled away, we were both breathing a little heavier.
“Stay with me, Kit.  We’re adults; we can handle this.”
“All right.”  He sighed, smiling at me.  “I guess you see how easy it is for you to have your way with me.”
“Is it?” I teased, running my hands over his shoulders.  His body was firm and hard just the way a man’s should be and part of me just wanted to rest in him.  I was not about to let this burgeoning closeness between us be destroyed or halted.  I wanted to cement what I thought was happening and slap the cards down on the table.  Especially before Jelani woke up.   “Let’s clean the kitchen and talk.  I want to be near the baby.”  I wasn’t a bit worried about sinful transgressions.  I knew Kit Eastman would go as far as I allowed him, but a wicked part of me felt like he should be the one that was worried.  I locked up the house and he helped me straighten the kitchen, no words between us.  I got a small pitcher of ice water, juice and one glass and we went into my bedroom, mindful of my sleeping baby, who, if I had the time right, would wake up in an hour or so, demanding to be fed.
Kit stared at me as I sat the juice and water on my nightstand.  “I like to stay hydrated.  Jelani’s greedy.”
His eyes dipped to my chest.  “I would be too, if you don’t mind my being blunt.”
“I don’t.”  Then I smiled at him.  “Get comfortable.  I’m going to wash up a bit, and you can if you like.  I’m not afraid of this,” I said.  “Don’t worry that you’ll step over the line, Kit.  We’re adults.  We’re going to get in my bed and talk about this.”
He nodded.  I dipped into the bathroom to wash my face and rinse my mouth.  I put on my sleeping attire and exited the bathroom.  Kit went in behind me and I turned back the bed.  I took a long drink of water and checked on Jelani, who was sleeping peacefully.  I hoped he’d sleep for the next three hours, but I knew he wouldn’t.  I got in bed.  Kit came out of the bathroom.
 “Zuri?  Do you mind if I take off my jeans?  I, er…have on shorts under here…”
I smiled.  Boxers or briefs?  I hoped boxers.  I primly closed my eyes and he laughed softly.  I heard him unzip and wondered how he looked naked.  Probably fantastic.
I did not need to think about that.
“Zuri,” he said again.  When I opened my eyes, I saw that he wore a Marines T-shirt that just…fit…and blue boxers.  I swallowed to keep the drool in my mouth.  He got in beside me and pulled up the covers.  I turned down the lamp. 
            He was warm.  I sat up, suddenly nervous.  Kit and I were in my bed.  We were actually in bed together.  I took a deep breath and sighed.  As if sensing my consternation, he took my hand and slid his fingers through mine.  “Zuri, I want you.”
I paused, not able to halt the smile that broke across my face.  “Good.”
“I’ve wanted you for a long time.  But I thought you were in love with J_____.”
“I’ll always harbor affection for him, Kit, but I don’t love him anymore.  I have no more room in my life for uncertainty or one-sided relationships.  I need more than what J____ is able to give me.  I never thought I could walk away from him.  I wasn’t that strong.”
“You are now.  You have left.”
“Because of Jelani.  My son deserves a focused, happy mother.  I couldn’t be that if I were still stuck under J_____.”  I squeezed his hand.  “I want you too, Kit.  I don’t even know when it changed for me.  I’m tired of acting like I don’t want what other women want or have.  I want someone in my life.  I need someone in my life.  Someone who makes me feel beautiful and cherished, someone who loves me and will love my child.  I need someone I can depend on and trust to take care of me in the ways I require.  I think that it could be you, Kit.  I haven’t felt anything but that from you since we really started working together.”
He remained quiet.  I rambled on, now afraid of what he thought.  Had I assumed too much?  Oh God, please let me have guessed right!  Had I said way too much?
“Zuri,” he said, his voice quivering, “I want to be…I will be…I am…if you want me…”
“I have given you no reason to like me, Kit.  Not after my treatment of you when you were assigned to me.”
“Zuri, you were angry and upset over J___.  I understand perfectly.  And that was a long time ago.”
“And then I shut you out.  I shudder to think of what would have happened if you hadn’t tracked me down when I foolishly got myself stuck in that mess in Virginia Beach…”
“Don’t worry about it now, Zuri.  I admit, I was damned irritated that you disrespected me like that, but it doesn’t matter now.  All that is over with; it’s water under the bridge.  I’ve moved on from it and I want you to do the same.”
I squeezed his hand again.  “I do want you, Kit.  I want you in my life.”  What woman wouldn’t want a charismatic straight-from-the-hip gentleman like Kit Eastman?  Not to mention the benefits that came with him…like a great body, those eyes, his hands…masculine with a rough edge.  Kit had man’s hands…and I had to stop thinking about his hands if I expected to get anything else accomplished tonight.  “I want to be with you and see where this goes.  Can you accept the fact that I’m a mother?”
“Why wouldn’t I?  I mean, it’s obvious, isn’t it?”
“Well, some men would consider a kid excess baggage.  You’re not Jelani’s father.”
“Zuri, I knew you were pregnant shortly after I started working with you.  I know you have a son, and I’m not put off by it.”  He paused for a moment.  “My son died when he was two.  He was very sick and his immune system wasn’t strong enough.  He died in my arms.  My wife and I couldn’t stay together after that and we divorced a year later.  I miss my son.  Not a day goes by when I don’t think about him.  I’d hoped to have a chance at fatherhood once more.  I never thought I’d get the chance.  I would love to love your son.”
“So you’d be okay with this?”
“Zuri, I can love Jelani as much as you’ll let me.  I was there when he was born, remember?”
My heart was light with happiness.  If Kit could accept and love my son, then he had me.  I leaned against Kit’s shoulder and took a deep breath.  He smelled so good.
“I don’t want to throw this in his face, Kit.”
He didn’t need to ask who I was referring to.  “And you think I’d do that?”
“No.  If he finds out about us, then he finds out.  But I’m not going to tell him.”
“I don’t plan to do so either, Zuri.”
I shifted, brushing my leg against his.  I wanted him fiercely.  I wanted Kit’s hands on me.  I wanted him to touch me.  I needed touching.  I needed everything, truth be told. 
“Zuri,” he said, letting go of my hand, “I need to touch you.”
“I’m a mess,” I blurted out, amazed that he’d read my mind.
“I don’t think so,” he said.  “Come and get in my lap.”
I straddled his thighs and looked at him.  I wound my fingers into his hair and slid them through the silky mass, over and over as his head pressed into my chest.  His hands moved over my back and he sniffed me.     
“Zuri, you smell so good,” he said.  He slid his fingers through my hair and sighed as he worked his way to my scalp.  I wore my hair in a natural and it was thick, kinky spirals that I didn’t bother to try and tame.  And then he was stroking my scalp and I threw my head back to allow him further access.  Then he slipped those strong fingers down the column of my neck and captured the back of my throat before spanning my upper chest and flitting across the dimple at my neck’s base.  Kit sniffed me again, then pressed his forehead in my cleavage and I sighed, my own hands coming up to cradle the back of his head and stroke his hair.
            He did it right, slow and sure, never once needing to clarify which parts of me were off limits.  He knew…after that kiss, there was no part of me denied to him.  His hands slid down my arms, to my waist, and then over the curve of my belly.  Jelani left my abdomen soft and round.  I couldn’t help but say to Kit, “I haven’t been able to completely lose all the weight from the pregnancy.”  To which he responded, “What weight?”
Kit moved his hands underneath my tank top and his eyes met mine.  In a flash, I granted approval and off my top came, sailing over the back of my head to who knew where and who cared.  My breasts were enlarged, heavy with Jelani’s milk and he just stared at them, taking one in each hand and gently massaging them.  My nipples hardened in spite of myself and I found myself unable to breathe, which lasted until he gently kissed my nipples and I let loose with a rush of warm air between my teeth.  Ah, that felt so good!  His kisses were the right amount of tender and tense and in a moment, I was breathing hard and my fingers curled into his shoulders.  “Kit,” I moaned, squirming in his lap as he occupied himself kissing my breasts. “Kit, oh God…”
“Zuri,” he whispered.  “Zuri…” He burrowed his head between my breasts and his arms came around me.  Could we really lie here in my bed and not have sex?  Was it possible that I could stop Kit from making love to me?  Did I even want him to stop?  The answer to that was a qualified no.  He could get all of this tonight if he kept on touching me.
He kissed my nipples again, and then his kisses turned into something sweeter and evocative of all the primal feelings that had lain dormant for so many years.  I gasped.  He had me and he hadn’t even gotten to the lower half of my body yet.  I moaned my delight…I couldn’t hide it and I held on to him and he held me and we were like that and I was deep in the fog when I heard my baby crying. 
“Damn it,” I hissed.  Jelani would wake up now!
I looked at Kit and even though a thin sliver of moonlight illuminated the room, I knew he was smiling.  At Jelani’s interruption, sure, but more so from what he just did to me and made me do.  I got out of bed and picked up my baby, and then got back into my nice warm bed and adjusted his head so that he could nurse.  I leaned close to Kit and he put an arm around me and the other hand on Jelani’s head.
“You know this is where it starts,” he said to me.
“What?”  I said.
“A man’s preoccupation with breasts.  This is where it begins.”
I smiled.  “You’re a wicked man.”  Then, cradling my son closer so he could hurry up and feed, I said to Kit, “Hold that thought.”
“We don’t have to rush, Zuri.  I want to take my time with you.  Take care of your baby.  I’m not going anywhere.”
“I hope not,” I said.  “Not after I just put myself out there.”
He kissed my temple.  “We’re adults, remember.  We both know what we want, and we both want this.  And this is more than sex.”
I nodded.  “Yes.  I don’t play games with my heart or body, Kit.  You wouldn’t even be in my house if I didn’t think you were worthy.”
Jelani took an inordinate amount of time to be sated and then he wanted to play.  Kit and I played with him well into the night.  When he finally went back to sleep, I put him back in the crib and got back into bed.  Kit drew me into his arms and instead of what we’d been doing earlier, we went to sleep.  That was just like him.  He wasn’t in it for the short run…he was making a major investment and he had been from the day he stopped by my house.  I just didn’t know it.  We slept together without making love and morning came and we had breakfast and played with the baby.  It was so natural and easy between us that I chided myself for my previous blindness.  That first night was the beginning of a beautiful thing for both of us.  And it was a very long time before J_____ realized Kit and I were in love.

J____ visited my office at Quantico every now and then and sometimes stopped by the house when Kit was gone, never seeing the glow in my cheeks or the happiness plastered on my face.  Jelani was a beautiful, healthy baby and I had a wonderful man who worshipped both me and my son.  J____ made wry comments as to how nothing seemed to irk his partner, who rarely ever worked overtime anymore.  I never bothered to comment because there was a wistful sadness in my former partner’s eyes whenever he talked about Kit’s preoccupation with “whoever she was.”  I guess J____ knew that he would forever be denied that form of security.  His unquenchable need that drove him and fueled him shut him off from what could have been a complete and satisfying life.  I still care about him; he’s my friend and I’ll do what I can to help him.  But that twisted, skewed love affair we had was over.  Done.  Ended.   


The End of a Love Affair (6)

My baby is a blessing.  When I came home from the hospital with Jelani, I hadn’t received his furniture yet due to him being about three weeks premature.  My mother sent a crib for me to use until his furniture arrived, which was just dandy fine with me because he was sleeping in my room, not two feet from me.  And I was nursing him. My mother also told me that she and my father would be coming down to stay for a couple of days to help me out.  I was happy yet irritated.  Happy for the help and for my parents to see their new grandson.  Irritated because my mother would absolutely try to tell me how I should raise my son.  She was also hinting around at meeting Jelani’s father.  That was going to be a disappointment….and an argument.
            I shed most of the weight from the baby, and six weeks after Jelani’s birth, I was back to my size sixteen with the exception of my chest.  Needless to say, I had a set of casaba melons up top and all I could do was sigh.  Jelani eats so much and he has grown and changed so much.  When I nurse him, I find myself at peace.  It was during one of these times when I thought about my offer to Kit.  I really wanted to have my friend over for dinner.  Even though I was an utter shit when we met, he has been nothing but extraordinarily nice to me and extremely considerate under the circumstances.  He had taken care of me, looked out for me, and helped me bring Jelani into the world.  A home-cooked meal would never be enough to thank him for that.
            Kit had told me that he had something to tell me.  But he and J_____ got busy with old cases and new ones, and I hadn’t had a chance to really talk to him.  He would call and check on the baby and me, and I found our conversations lasting longer each and every time.  When my mother and father visited and got on my nerves, I found myself calling Kit to vent and gripe about their interference.  He always took my calls, but I made it a point not to call him so much.  He was so easy to look at and to talk to.  He had a beautiful smile, an arresting gaze, and a pair of wonderful, strong hands with clean nail beds.  I’d never seen him with his hair down.  I’m not at all sure what was contributing to my pleasant thoughts of Kit Eastman:  my newfound maternal insight, my disappointment in J____, or plain old feelings of like and dislike.  I liked Kit.  I did.  I really liked him.  After being around Kit for most of the year, I have come to see what a good man he is.  I’d be a fool not to recognize it.
As I nursed my son, changing breasts, I also chided myself for being a fool and not recognizing what I was sure Kit felt about me.  The times when I caught him looking at me had been revealing. I was sure he didn’t realize that I recognized the look in his dark eyes.  And truth be told, I was hungry.  Starving.  I was in desperate need of sustenance.  I’m a flesh and blood woman with needs and desires, and they had not been attended to in years.  J____ had been a fairly decent lay; I climaxed, but I know I’d gotten a better peak if I’d chosen to ride Kingda-Ka in New Jersey.
Was Kit good in bed?  I admonished myself.  All that had ever been between us was friendship and some stolen looks.  That did not a relationship make; much less a sexual one.  After J____, I wasn’t about to be another friend with benefits.  The point was that I did want to know more about Kit.  What would it be like to be with him?  Would he be interested in dating a single parent?  Could we date?  We no longer work together, so it was possible.  I sighed.  There’s nothing wrong with me wanting someone in my life, someone worthy to be around Jelani.  I knew I could be everything for my little boy, but I am not a man and Jelani needs a good father figure.  I knew better than to think that J____ would step up to the plate.
            I made up my mind to invite Kit over for dinner the next day.  It would be Friday and he could relax and enjoy a good meal and some conversation.  And even though I was no longer with Violent Crimes, the cases would always hold my attention.  Some were too weird not to.
            I put Jelani down and flipped through my recipe box to look for a fast and easy meal. Chicken, no…beef, no….hm…fish.  Fish.  I haven’t had fish in a dog’s age….fish would be good.  I reached for my cell and dialed Kit’s number from memory.  After a couple of rings, he answered.
            “Agent Kit Eastman.”
            “Agent Eastman?  It’s Zuri.  Zuri Troy.”
            “Agent Troy!”  I can hear the smile in his voice.  “As if I could forget you.  How are you?  How’s that fat little joker?”
            I secretly liked the nickname he’d given Jelani.  Jelani was a fat little joker.
            “We’re fine.  Can you come for dinner tomorrow night?”
“Did you forget?  I owe you…from being in the delivery room.”
“Agent Troy, you don’t owe me anything for that.  It’s I who owe you.”  A pause.  “It was beautiful to see.”
“Kit,” I smiled down at my baby, who was looking up at me with his big brown eyes.  “be at my house at eight o clock sharp.  I’m preparing fish and vegetables.  I hope you like fish.” 
“I love fish.  What kind?”
“Salmon and rainbow trout.”
“Agent Troy…”
“And I thought I told you my name is Zuri!  Eight sharp and be casual, please.  I’m wearing jeans, so don’t you dare dress up.”
“Zuri,” he paused.  Breathless, it seemed.  “Are you sure?”
“I’ve never been surer of anything else.  I want you over for dinner.  Kit, please come.”
“Okay.  I’ll be there.  Can I bring anything?”
“Well…no champagne or wine because I’m nursing, but anything else is welcome.”
“Okay.  I’ll see you later, Zuri.”  I could hear the smile in his voice.  He was as happy about that as I was.
“No later than eight, Kit.  Jelani will be very upset if you are late. So will I.”
This time he did laugh.  “Okay.  Good night.”
I hung up, smiling down at my baby.  For the first time, as a woman, I felt whole.  This was right.  I wasn’t setting Kit or myself up for anything, but he was turning out to be a really good friend.

The next day, Jelani’s furniture arrived.  Unexpectedly, of course.  I directed the driver to bring it into the spare bedroom.  However, he was not under any obligation to assemble my son’s bed, and being that I was his last stop and he was ready to get off work, he was not the least bit charitable.  So he left me with an unbuilt baby bed and all I could do was sigh.  My gurgling baby appeared to be amused with what his mother was having to put up with on his behalf.
“S’okay, you’re sleeping with me again tonight, little joker.”  I kissed his head.  I love my son more than life itself.  I hadn’t given the job or my transfer a thought.  I didn’t have time to put the bed together tonight; I wanted to nurse Jelani and take a leisurely bath before I started preparing dinner.  But as it stood, Jelani was seven weeks old and slept whenever the mood took him and I’d learned to sleep when he did.  So we both zonked out for a few hours and when I woke up, I realized it was seven-thirty and I’d not yet begun dinner.  The baby was still sleeping and I took that opportunity to take a quick shower.  I came out and slid into my old comfortable beat-to-hell jeans and slipped on one of my tank tops.  I was not about to get all cute, not when I’d just had a baby, was nursing, and was comfortable like I was.  I didn’t think Kit would mind; he’d always seen me look very chic and professional, except the day he came by my house.
I fluffed out my dark, kinky spirals and looked at myself.  I’d gotten more than my fair share of figure back.  My hips were curvy and my boobs had their own gravitational field.   I glared at the mirror.  Wonder if I’ll actually keep this shape after Jelani stops nursing?  I hope so.  I was a curvy, sexy little thing, so unlike I was before my pregnancy.  I wiggled my toes.  I’d been painting my toenails dark purple since being on maternity leave and they were freshly done.  I laughed.  J____ would never believe this.
Jelani awoke and wailed a moment and I picked him up.  I started cooing to him and playing and he began gurgling and smiling and I lost all track of time.  I’d forgotten I was supposed to be starting dinner when the doorbell rang.
“Damn!” I said. Dinner was supposed to be on the table and the fish hadn’t even been seasoned.  I went to the door, Jelani in my arms, and opened it.  Right on time, standing outside my door in a white shirt open at the throat and a pair of dark blue jeans, holding a bottle of what appeared to be wine was my partner.
His hair was down and he stared at me like I was something to eat.  My nipples sprang up as if they wanted to be his snack.  “Kit!” I said.  He just looked at me.
“Kit?  You okay?  Come in.”  I moved out of the way and he entered.  His stride was confident and he was wearing the hell out of those jeans.  Every bit of woman inside me woke up at once.  “What did you bring?”
“It’s sparkling white grape…no alcohol for you, Mom.”  He handed me the bottle.  “And is this the fat little joker?”  He gave me a look.  “Is it okay if I hold him?”
“Sure.  He weighs a ton and I gotta admit, he and I took a nap and I haven’t started dinner…so, do you mind?”
“Naaah, give him to me.” 
I handed him my son and Kit took him, holding him like he was a pro.  Jelani gazed up at him, wiggling and gurgling.  He reached for Kit’s nose and his tiny fingers slipped over the tip.  Kit chuckled softly and began cooing to the baby.
I watched him for a second and then I really got a good look at him with my baby.  No, I couldn’t have possibly noticed this before.  Not what I’m seeing now.  Even when he had on that hospital gown, it didn’t make him look like this.  I guess it’s the single woman in me finally clamoring for attention.  I stared at this man in front of me, belatedly realizing that he was…handsome, to be general, and fine as hell, to be specific.  I was looking at his jeans and I guess I was staring.  Why didn’t I notice this earlier?  I cursed myself for being too professional to pass up ogling opportunities like this.  And so close!  I fanned myself.  It had to be the sight of him holding and playing with my baby like he’d done it before.
I wondered if he had.  Then I coughed.  “Fish okay with you?” I finally said, getting my hormones under control.
Whatever you cook is alright with me.  I’ll eat anything.”

            I walked past him into the kitchen to begin cooking and he followed me.  I have bouncy baby seats in every room for Jelani bounce in while I do what needs doing.  One sat on the far kitchen counter.  Like a pro, Kit laid him in the chair, bounced him, and turned to help me.  I’d gotten out the fish and a box of wild rice and he actually washed his hands and began washing the fish.  I was too stunned to stop him; I wasn’t used to having a man in my kitchen.
            Kit patted the trout and salmon dry and I put the rice in the rice cooker with vegetable broth.  I told him to season the fish with salt, pepper, dill and lemon and pats of butter.  He followed my instructions while I beat up muffin batter.  Then he leaned back on the counter, glancing ever so often at Jelani, who was dozing, but watching me.  I felt it too.  I kept moving around the kitchen, pulling down seasonings and dishes, warm in spite of myself. I don’t know what it was that was making him stare so hard…I’d never felt like this before.  It wasn’t uncomfortable, but erotically pleasant, in ways that I’d never felt for years.  I didn’t want to fidget, so I lightly sprayed my popover pan and poured the batter into the deep cups.  Kit watched me and his eyes were like hands; fingers, touching me all over.  I could feel his breath against my neck and the heat of his body behind me.  It was like he was right up on me, when in actuality he was across the room.
I took a deep breath and as I looked at the pot of boiling water.   I unconsciously stood on one foot, which is what I usually do while waiting for my coffee to brew in the morning.  And I could feel his gaze all over me and I finally recognized the churning in my stomach for what it was.  I was hoping he approved…anticipatory of what he was wondering as he looked at me.  I put two bags of frozen vegetables in a colander and slipped it into the boiling water.  I didn’t have to wonder long.
“Zuri,” he said.
I put my foot down and exhaled.  “Yes?”  I couldn’t look at him.  I was nervous…yes me, a trained Agent and an expert marksman, nervous.
“Zuri…you’re beautiful.  You’re so damn beautiful.”
I turned to look at him and knew it was the truth, just by looking at his eyes.  “What?”
“I said that you’re beautiful.  Motherhood definitely becomes you.”
I looked down at my chest and hips and was about to fire off a sassy comment to squelch the tugging sensations going on in my crotch when he read my mind.
“And I’m not talking about your…curves…either, though they’re beautiful too.”
“I can’t help but look at you.  You should know that by now.”
“Kit, I…”
“I’m sorry if I’m offending you, Zuri.”
“You’re not.  I just thought…”
“I just thought you were thinking something else.”
“Do I want to know what?”
I grinned.  “Not unless you want me to tell you.”  I tested the veggies and stirred the rice.  Kit picked up Jelani, who was bouncing happily in his chair, and took him into the living room.
He thinks I’m beautiful.  My crotch sang its happiness.  Isn’t it amazing what having a baby will do for you?  But clearly, he thought that all along, even before he knew I was pregnant.  And watching him with Jelani was wonderful in itself.  Jelani isn’t used to anyone but me and Mom and Dad, and yet here he was gurgling at Kit.  Probably captivated by those sexy dark eyes.  From what I know of the secretary pool, those eyes could stop traffic. 
When dinner was ready, we ate at the table with Jelani on one side.  Kit told me about working with J_____ and how they would never be friends.  He said in no uncertain terms that J____ missed me and even A. D. Brady missed me.  The field office was rife with gossip, and people tried to get Kit to talk, and he wouldn’t.   J_____ was doing an MIA since coming to see me in the hospital.  I didn’t care anymore that he hadn’t been around to look in on me.  He called from time to time, but he’d allowed himself to become sucked back into those violent cases and I know how he is.  I was fine with it.  Whatever we had was at an end.  I used to love him, but not anymore.
            There were others to consider now.
Jelani began to cry and I knew why.  He was hungry.  I picked him up and sat on the couch, adjusted my tank and began to nurse him.  I’d left Kit sitting at the table and when I nurse my child, I tend to forget about everything else except him.  So I didn’t notice when Kit got up to go stand over by the wall to watch me nurse my son.  I was humming as Jelani fed.  I was hoping he’d go to sleep so I could clean up the kitchen, and spend time talking to Kit.  I stroked his forehead, smiling at the spattering of soft brown fuzz on his head.  He smelled so good, better than chocolate, fresh air, everything.  I smelled his head and adjusted him so that he could feed from my other breast.  When I switched arms, I noticed Kit standing over by the wall watching me.  There was a tenderness in his eyes, a sweet seductive pain and our eyes locked.  I didn’t notice that my milk had started to spray in Jelani’s face.  Jelani wailed and I attached his lips to my awaiting nipple and, suddenly embarrassed that Kit saw my naked breast, looked for something to cover me. 
“Don’t…please.  If you’re uncomfortable, I’ll go in the kitchen, but don’t…”
I looked at him.  I wasn’t uncomfortable, but you know, my breast was kind of on display for him to see…
“My wife used to breastfeed our son when he was a baby and I loved watching her with him.  I’m sorry if I’ve made you uncomf—“
What he’d said was news.  “You’re married?”
“I used to be.  We divorced five years ago, after our son died.”
“Oh,” I said.  “I’m so sorry.”
“She would let me watch her nurse our son.  I didn’t realize how much I missed it until just now.  But if my staring bothers you…”
            “I’m not uncomfortable, Kit.  I’m at home.  I didn’t want to make you feel awkward.”
“I’m not.  That’s just…beautiful…to me.  Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing.  Come sit down beside me.”  With my free hand, I patted the sofa cushion. He eyed me warily and ran his fingers over his left brow.  Was he nervous? Was I?  I did a mental reconnaissance and decided I wasn’t and I wanted him to sit with me while I cared for my baby.  We’re both adults and from what he just told me, he’d seen this before.
            “Do I have to come and get you?  Sit down.”
            “Yes ma’am,” he said, smiling and coming to sit on the other end of the couch.  I glared at him. He looked at me and there was no trace of a smile or grin in his voice when he said, “I’d better sit here, if it’s okay with you.”
Our eyes met and his expression told me what his voice was not able to articulate for fear of embarrassment or anger.  I shivered unconsciously, waking my baby who’d finally drifted off to sleep.
Kit’s eyes went from mine to my son.  “You woke him up.”
I looked at my son.  “I see I did.”
Jelani stuck out his little tongue and scrunched up his face.  A minute later, I smelled
something foul.  Kit looked at my face and laughed.  “What’re you feeding that kid?”
I laughed back.  “Breast milk.”
He shook his head and I eyed him as I began to rock Jelani.  “Don’t you say another word!”  I would have never thought that he and I would be able to engage in bantering such as this.  It was so fun and soooo relaxing to verbal spar with a man other than J_____.  I got up and went to go change my son.  Not surprisingly, Kit was there to help and he saw the pieces of Jelani’s bed lying all over the floor.
“Troy…Zuri, why didn’t you tell me the bed needed building?”
“Uh, it arrived right before you did.”
He looked at me; those eyes of his penetrating right through me and my crotch gave a yell I’m sure he heard.  I sighed.  Without a word, he bent down, giving another fantastic view of his denim-clad ass.  I shook my head.  It’d been two years, seven months, two weeks and three days since I’d had a really good lay.  And without the least bit of doubt, I had a strong feeling this man would give me way more than that.  I grabbed Jelani’s diaper bag and carried him out of the room to change him.
After he was freshly changed, I sang him to sleep.  My little joker was all tuckered out and I put him down in his crib, turned on the monitor and shut the door.  I adjusted my tank top and ran my hands over my jeans and went back into the bedroom where Kit was assembling the baby bed.  And I was not surprised to see him almost done.  How’d he do it so fast?  Must be an old pro.
“Need help?”
He turned to look at me.  “Not really, but your company would be nice.”
I grinned.  He began screwing in the upper rails and eyed me.  “I heard you singing to him.  That wasn’t ‘Rock-a-bye-Baby,’ wasn’t it?”
I rolled my eyes and dropped down next to him to help him.  “No.”
“So?”  His eyes twinkled and I decided that I really did love his eyes.
“Okay, it was an Al Green song, all right?”
“Al Green?”
I blushed.  I’d been Al Green fan for years and to get Jelani to sleep, I usually sang to him “Still In Love With You,” or “Tired of Being Alone,” which is one of my favorites.  Jelani liked the melody.  I liked Al.
“Yes.  And what’s wrong with Al Green?”
“Nothing.”  He tightened the rails.  “You mind playing him for me?”
            I loaded Al’s Greatest Hits into my cd player and hit play.  Sure enough, that wonderful melodic intro came on and I found myself swaying with my eyes closed.  And I began to sing along to “Still in Love With You.”  I LOVE this song!
When I opened my eyes, Kit was lounging in the doorframe, smiling at me.  Unashamed at all (did I mention how liberating having a baby is?), I held out my hand to him.  He came forwards and took it, coming close enough to slide his other arm around my waist.  The glimmer in his eyes told me more than I’d ever expected.  His mouth said, “I never thought I’d ever see you like this, Agent Zuri Troy.”
We began to dance to the music, eye to eye.  I was damn comfortable too, I don’t mind saying.  He fit so well with me, chest to breast, my hips aligned with his, as if we were parts of a puzzle.  “I could say the same myself, Agent Kit Eastman.”
“Well, that basement office doesn’t leave much room for dancing around, you know.”
I nodded.  “I do.”
And we danced and I couldn’t help singing along at my favorite part, “When I look in your eyes/you let me know how you feel/when it hurts so, to let you go/seems to me that I’m wrapped up in your love/baby don’t you know that I’m still in love with you/sho’ nuff in love with you…”
Kit was looking at me funny.  I had to explain.  “Jelani likes it when I sing this to him.”
I felt his arm around my waist tighten and pull me closer.  He wasn’t smiling anymore and his eyes were wavering limpid pools of black and were focused on my face.  I found I didn’t want to breathe.
            “He’s not the only one,” he said, his voice low.  I stared at him, knowing my mouth was parted and I looked stupid, but the kicker came when he said to me:
“You’d better slap my face, kick me out, shoot me or something, Agent Troy.”
“Why?”  I breathed, knowing the answer.
“Because of what I’m going to do next…”