Kandy and Miguel #6: The Park, Part Two.

“What’s the other one?”

“The other situation with the mirror?”

Miguel knew she understood what he was referring to, but indulged her by nodding rather than correcting her for trying to stall for time. With a slow pull of air in through her nose, Kandy rubbed between her collar bones for a moment whilst still holding his gaze.

If he was going to stare at her, she was going to stare right back. There had been times when Kandy wondered if perhaps Miguel had his own special little talents. If they were anything like hers, he had played it off very well that the information either was easily sussed out like she had just done or instead hadn’t registered or resonated with him at all. Considering the situation they currently found themselves in, she reasoned it would be better to wait for a time when he was less defensive to ask him directly about it. What he did with food was beyond just culinary skill and absolutely counted as a gift in the kitchen. But the more time went on, the more Kandy felt like her aloof and alluring Scorpio was keeping a few things from her.

“Tell me, conejita.”

Yea, Kandajha, tell him. You wanna run your mouth to him about all the things you happily would let him do to you — tell this grown ass man what some of those things are.

“No me hagas repetir la pregunta, conejita.” As playful as the cadence in his speech might have been on the surface, it was understood that it really was more of a warning. He wanted to know and she was going to enlighten him one way or another.

Part of her did want to make him ask it again, if nothing else just to see what the punishment would be. What would he do or what would he deny her? Though his stare was steady, she knew that behind all that seriousness was a curiosity fuelled by lust and perhaps also something else hidden away. She knew he wanted confirmation in great detail that she was truly open and accepting of his tastes or at least the ones she had been able to piece together so far. But there was more to it than that, more to him in this. In a way, this was a very careful negotiation of sensitive information about each other all because he was still concerned he would be judged negatively. If she could just get him to a stronger place of feeling free enough to talk about these things rather than making her rely on her intuition. Maybe that was the other half of it, measuring how well she could use those gifts she had or how strong this connection was they shared.

“This one happens before the bathtub. It makes more sense that way. It’s like an introduction or a 101 into the other. I’m not sure where you would prefer us to be. Knowin’ the mechanics of it —  we could be on the floor near a door or wall. On a couch near the arm of it, the side. Maybe a bed if it had a footboard or headboard.”

He squinted, “Why those places?”

Looking up at him, Kandy was silent for a moment. The position she would have to describe to him was quite graphic and for some reason she felt slightly bashful about discussing it. Taking a breath, the little brunette smirked and shrugged. “Because I’m loungin’ back against your chest and you have my legs spread wide apart. They’re hangin’ over your knees so that I can’t close them. The mirror you use has to rest against somethin’ for me to see what you want me to watch.“ It was replaying in her head as she gave him an overview of their position when Kandy stopped suddenly and covered her face with her hands to hide her grin. “Oh my God.”

That certainly wasn’t the reaction he was expecting. Miguel began to feel like he was about to find himself in another hot pan. Had she seen a little more about the hotel than before? Was it because part of his brain was obsessing over how to tell her what happened, but in a way that wouldn’t dissuade her from seeing him again? Or had she stumbled over something else about him entirely?

Kandy was sitting there staring at him trying to figure out how he knew what the mirror in her bedroom looked like. She was racking her brain trying to remember when, if at all, she had thought of or visualized the standing wardrobe mirror she kept in the corner of her bedroom. And then it hit her like a Mack truck: when she was fixing her lipstick in front of him. 

After he had instructed her to reapply the colour fully to her lips, she had briefly thought back to standing in front of the mirror like she always did to put on her makeup in the morning. In the scenario she saw from him, they had to have been on her bed across from the mirror. The reason she didn’t immediately recognize it was because when she was standing in front of the mirror she was also blocking the view of the bed. He couldn’t see enough and didn’t know enough of what her bed looked like from her memory to picture them on it clearly in his imagination. Instead it came out as a hazy white surface forcing her to guess possible locations.

“Kandajha?”

Blinking a few times, the brunette looked up at him with lifted brows. She wasn’t ready to reveal her hand to him and what she knew, or thought she knew. Despite the pieces of the puzzle coming together, she still wasn’t quite sure what she was looking at when it came to the picture that was his abilities as a whole. He had to be aware of it as it required crafting together something from her thoughts and his. Unless he was truly unaware that he was harvesting images from somebody else and instead wrote it off as his own imagination. The latter, though a possibility she couldn’t completely rule out at this juncture, didn’t feel like the truth.

Kandy uncrossed her legs the moment she noticed him walking up to her while she sat on the cement half wall across from him. One hand emerged from a pants pocket to hook a curved pointer finger under her chin to lift her head. Her eyes naturally closed while she enjoyed the gentle touch, but to avoid even the slightest chance of him catching a hint that she was aware of what was going on, they remained shut. 

“What did I make you watch, mi conejita?” Despite the warm smile and happy sigh she gave him, Miguel was suspicious of the lack of eye contact. Was it paranoia kicking in or was she actually trying to hide something from him?

Kandy was eager to get back to that scenario he was dying to know about as he had absolutely no clue about the extra bits she added to it herself with her own imagination. “The first part, it’s your fingers and you using a toy to —”

Up went an angular brow before the pair settled low over those hunger filled dark eyes. “Describe it to me.” By now, his thumb had passed once or twice over her lower lip as he requested more detail.

She raised her hand and held her pointer finger four inches or so away from her thumb. “It’s bigger, but like a tube of lipstick and it has on top with the three smooth little metal parts.”

“I know the kind.” He nodded and returned to caressing her jaw. “You got one of those, Kandajha?”

It didn’t matter what else was going on between them. Venturing back to thoughts of them together in her head would always trigger the same surge of passion and desire. She could feel the warmth of his chest on her back as she was propped up against him on the bed. There was the erotic sense of liberation from her thighs being held open by his folded legs granting her an unobstructed view via the mirror of everything his hands were doing. The only aspect of it that was more arousing than watching a few of his fingers occasionally disappear inside her was witnessing how her very own body responded to his touch and the things he whispered in her ear. 

Kandy blushed from how his churning fingers could change the state of her body both in her imagination and also back in the real world. When it got to be too much, she opened her eyes and immediately looked down at the ground causing him to grip her chin to bring her gaze back up to meet his. 

“Yes, I have one.”

Those skeletal fingers disappeared into her hair as he held gently the side of her head to keep her positioned to look up at him. “Every detail, conejita.” And before she could finish entertaining a thought of protest, his fingers tightened in her hair causing her to groan softly, “Every detail.”

The peculiar smile that crept across her face made him inadvertently loosen his hold on her hair. Kandy knew he was trying to get her to describe what she saw so that he could ascertain how much of what he imagined made it to her versus how much she had to create herself to make it a full scene. It was the first nearly complete idea he had for them, her first exercise as his submissive, and he wanted to know what she’d change if left to believe it was her own creation.

“You had me do my full routine before bed, a bath, my hair, moisturizer, all of it. No clothing allowed, no panties. All in front of you. You watched it all, every part of my body, every section of my skin.” Kandy laughed a little bit and noticed how focused he was on listening to her part of the scenario she had to put together. “You’re always real sly though with some kinda angle or line to use that doesn’t tip me off that you’ve got somethin’ in mind for me. I enjoy that about us though. You knowin’ me well enough to make sure whatever we do is fun and safe without needing a two hour strategy meeting that kills the surprise. That kinda connection builds both ways too.”

“Always, huh?”

It was Miguel’s turn for another round of dejavu as he looked down at her. She, again, was talking in terms as though they had been together for years, like they had been around each other long enough to know each other’s behaviours and preferences. Though he played it off as a flighty idea, it did very much turn him on to contemplate whether they had in fact known each other previously in a different time, different place, different life. 

This wasn’t a conversation they should be having in public though. He wanted her on her knees, naked, recounting this imagined experience to him. His hand buried in her hair like it was now and kept ready to pull her forward to su–

“Papi?” Kandy bit her bottom lip and took advantage of his mind being somewhere else by running her hand up his thigh. Finding him through the front of his dress pants, his mischievous pet rubbed his length with her palm through the fabric. “Earth to Papi.”

She was getting a bit aggressive in her massaging whilst trying to pull him back to the present and only stopped when he regripped the roots of her hair. Standing close enough to the cement wall she was sitting on that the toes of his shoes pressed up against it, Kandy was at the perfect height to enjoy the problem in his pants she had resurrected. But, alas, not enough privacy.

“Continúa.” Another tug on her hair and he issued her a command to get back to describing the scene. 

Miguel watched as she obediently folded her hands in her lap, but took an extra few seconds staring at how hard he was in those pants. Up went the amber eyes to meet his gaze and he saw that rebellious side of her. Her mouth was watering at the thought of having every inch fed between her purple lips to stroke over her tongue. He smirked while feeling her try to tempt him into losing control with that unwavering stare. In fact, he could almost hear her voice purr into his ear about how close the Mercedes was, how good it would feel in that cool dark backseat as she alternated between deep throating his length and locking her lips around his head to suck and tease the tip with her tongue.

Wrapping his hand up in a few more inches of her hair, he pulled it again right up at the scalp. “My punishments aren’t meant to be enjoyed, conejita. They’re meant to correct and are the opposite of whatever the fuck it is you be wantin’.”

His tone, posture, demeanour, his stern and clear warning, all turned her on. He wasn’t playing around or casually assuming a role as some passing turn on or fantasy. In other words, Miguel was the real deal and not a lightweight she could push around or an amateur she could manipulate. And as tempted as part of her was to make a wise remark about face fucking, the little brunette instead sat back and adopted a more serene expression.

“Yes, Papi.”

Having gotten a better look at the other side of her, Miguel knew he definitely wanted more time to play with her. He had all different methods to work out those wrinkles of insubordinate behaviour. This was really a testament to Kandy’s chemistry with him. She knew just how far to test him to learn the limits of his patience, but also to get him more fully engaged. It had been a while for both of them when it came to participating in this kind of dynamic and the two were not just getting familiar with each other, but getting reacquainted with themselves in their respective roles. His little witch was reminding him of all the different facets of being a Dom — her protector, her teacher, her confidant, her disciplinarian, her ultimate authority, her Papi. The extra layers of communication, trust, stability, acceptance, and respect that he brought in with him were all the things she needed and missed in life. It was more than just love and romance. Taking on the responsibility of having her as his sub required a significant commitment that she knew he understood fully. 

After a few seconds of silence between them, she gently covered the back of his hand with her palm. “Please sit down with me, Papi.” Her amber eyes implored him along with her deferential tone.

In a blink, all the love and respect she had was present and at the surface. Seeing it never failed to shake him and he instantly released her hair and touched her jaw. Miguel understood that she likely needed more contact from him when asked to be so vulnerable in their conversation, so exposed. After all, it had only been how long? Taking a seat next to her, he patted his lap for her to move over and take her rightful place. Instead of being on one side and letting her legs bridge across, Kandy took the liberty of stepping over both his lap and the cement allowing her to straddle him and sit face to face. Effectively locked into place, he smirked and looped his arms around her waist. Give her an inch and she’d sneak a mile. Protocol was something they definitely would need to work on. If only he knew…

One might have thought that being so up close and personal would have only exacerbated her nervousness, but the feeling of safety and security he provided her in such close quarters was exactly what she needed. The change in her was nearly immediate beginning with a giant sigh of relief and a relaxing of her body as her arms folded behind his neck. There was nothing in what she felt from him that came off as malicious or devious, nor had she expected there to be.

“You were sitting back from the corner of the bed behind me. Your legs were split because of the mattress sides. There was enough room that when I sat down to lean against your chest you were able to bend your knees and put your feet on the bed.” She squinted for a moment and looked at him. He nodded indicating he understood the position, which he already knew about because he thought it up originally. “I think the first thing you did after wrapping me up was you said I forgot part of myself when I was putting on the moisturizer.”

Kandy blushed a little bit and looked up at the sky rather than directly in his eyes. “You grabbed a little scoop from the jar, spread it over your palms and –” Her lips parted for a moment with the faintest of grins playing over her mouth.

“And what, conejita?” His tone had softened considerably and gone was the grip in her hair. Instead his mouth was hovering over her ear occasionally nuzzling her.

She shivered and rested the side of her head against his. “You lifted my legs up one at a time over your thighs and you slowly brought your knees up making me spread more and more. It was a little uncomfortable, but you took the time to massage me, really rub my muscles down in towards –”

He felt her thighs grip against his flanks and gave her a second to enjoy what she was seeing, which now also happened to be what he was seeing in her head. There was no way he was going to stop her narration.

“Towards what?”

“My pussy.” She cuddled against his jaw and purred as he closed his eyes to listen to her describe what she was remembering and he was watching. “The position you had me in made this section of my muscles pull and it felt so good when you rubbed them. You knew it would take time for me to get used to it, but you made sure to relax them so I wouldn’t cramp. By then it was pretty fuckin’ obvious you had plans for me that night. This wasn’t some five or ten minute rub down. Your hands eventually moved on and met in the center. That’s what you do though. You take your time. The massage to the left and right halves felt so fuckin’ good. But when you started petting me with your palm, just strokin’ up and down on my folds — never has anybody ever touched me like that. And then that’s when the real lesson began.”

“Did you pay attention in class, conejita?” Miguel kissed her neck just beneath her ear quite thankful she had the foresight to sit on his lap the way she was. There was no way he’d be able to hide the effect of what was happening and he’d rather have her straddling his lap than cuddling up to her book bag being used to conceal his uncomfortable yet pleasurable predicament.

She smirked a little bit as he lifted her up and placed her higher against his pelvis causing her weight to press down against his hardened length still contained by his dark blue pants. “You mean did I pay attention to how you used your fingers and that toy, and then my fingers to edge me for hours? What was that pattern you kept tracing though?” 

“My initials.” Miguel barely got the last syllable out and he felt her sit up to look him dead in the eye. When was he going to learn that he couldn’t keep shit from her like she couldn’t hide anything from him? He saw her arched brows and knew he definitely was caught.

“Now tell me how you know what my bedroom mirror looks like. I know you can do it, I just don’t know how.” Kandy had slammed the brakes on their little playful conversation and pinned him into a corner to get answers to her own questions. As he had done her earlier, she preempted whatever he was about to say. “I can feel when your imagination stops and mine starts.”

Miguel closed his mouth and ran his hand down his jaw to his neck. He wasn’t quite sure if this was better or worse than having to explain to her about the hotel room, but he was sure he’d find out later. His arms moved away from her figure for his palms to pat the outside of his thighs pensively as he quickly chased down the few ways this conversation could go.

Kandy rolled her eyes at his quick attempt to run the numbers in his head for the best outcome and lightly slipped her fingertips under his jaw sweeping his chin up the few inches she needed to comfortably kiss his lower lip. It was hard to concentrate on much of anything when that pillowy soft pout of hers was giving a quick and soft suck to half of his mouth. When she transitioned to kissing his upper lip, his palm was brought up to cup the back of her head and reorient her for a proper kiss. Following his lead, she refocused her efforts and began pouring everything into it whilst maintaining the deliberately dreamy pace and feel. Her warm hands swept along his scarred shoulder line and around to the back of his neck for her fingers to find the longer layers of his jet black hair. 

There were only four things that Miguel could hear: his heartbeat, hers, the breeze rustling through the palm tree off to the side of them, and the sound of the waves coming onto the beach in the distance. Gone were the sounds of traffic, all the people, the rapidly filling bars and restaurants, the always bustling marina, the music from all the different talent performing for whatever cash passersby offered. His arm bearing the scorpion and rosary encircled her waist and reeled her in up against him. 

Right then was when she started to feel that sensation from earlier, that he was giving into her and what she elicited within him. Heading in the direction opposite of what would have resulted in groaning and groping, Kandy steadily slowed down and deepened that kiss as much as possible to gain access to that other pool of emotions. His brujita was determined to slip into the heated dark waters he kept fiercely guarded and swim through as much of his depth as she could reach. She knew that to get all the way there she’d have to let go of the present and drift into that liminal-like state where their pre-existing familiarity originated and the magnetic attraction between them thrived.

Miguel found himself wanting to be inside of her as they kissed, feeling her velvet warmth conform to and hold him, to touch the deepest part of her possible, and to remain there as long as he could. Wherever Kandy was taking him, somehow he was managing to follow her. For however much time it had been, seconds could have been minutes for all he knew, it felt like he was on top of her, buried as far within as her body would allow him. And then something happened. Something was pulling him back up to the surface and with a rather painful jolt to his shoulder blades and lower back, his eyes opened just in time to see Kandy brace her fall into the grass next to him with her left hand and leg. A couple hops and she managed to avoid landing directly on top of him, which likely would’ve compounded the discomfort already present in his body.

Laying there on his back in the thick sculpted grass of the park, Miguel stared up at the clear blue Florida sky. From what he could gather, the pair had gotten so caught up in each other that one or both of them forgot they were sitting on the narrow cement half wall. Thankfully they had fallen backward onto the elevated greenspace rather than forward to the pavement. Not ready to lift his head, his eyes rolled down as far as he could see and spotted his pants suit encased legs and polished dress shoes hanging over the wall they had been sitting on just moments ago. 

“Oh my God, Miggy, are you okay?!” Kandy scrambled over to him on her hands and knees before coming to sit on her legs at his side.

His dark eyes focused in on her as she flopped her long tresses over one side of her head to get a better view of him. With the sun having progressed further toward the horizon, it illuminated most of her face as well as the faded purple streaks that had once vibrantly coloured sporadic sections of her curls. He reached up and lovingly cradled the back of her neck to urge her down for a short, but sweet kiss. After it was over, the illustrated bony hand of his left side curved a section of her curls, which had fallen down, to behind her ear.

“Did you feel me?”

Idly rubbing his chest, Kandy laughed a little and looked around them to see if anyone had noticed. Satisfied that no-one was going to be running over to them, her weight shifted allowing her legs to fold out to the side with her body supported by her other arm. Give her a tail and a clamshell top and she would’ve been more beautiful than any of the mermaids or other water creatures he had read about to rebuild his creativity after the accident. The scorpion and rosary tattooed hand was groping his pants trying to find his phone to take the photo of her, but she had moved by the time he had freed it from its pocket. 

“I have a blanket.” Kandy reached over the cement and plucked up her bag, which had been knocked off to the ground in all the commotion.

His brows lifted as Miguel slowly began sitting up to avoid any dizziness that might come from a sudden change in position. “Why do you have a blanket?”

“I had two goals for today: an achievable one, which was parkin’ in the lot and actually gettin’ out of the Jeep.” She unzipped her bag pausing to briefly gesture back over her shoulder to where his Mercedes and Zo’s Jeep were. “And the Reach for the Stars one, which was comin’ over here to be outside, get grounded, read, whatever.”

His brows went up as he tried to see what might be in her bag, “What you bring to read?”

She inched up the corner of a rather weathered looking book about tarot symbolism and correspondences across a few different types of decks. “Nothin’ too sexy.”

Seeing the subject matter, Miguel smirked and realized how easy it would be to go shopping for her for holidays or special occasions. The titles and topics on her shelves likely would yield enough gift giving ideas for at least the next ten years. This was definitely a special part of the journey he looked forward to, watching her discover and grow more into who she was. 

Once Kandy was sure the camera was okay, she stood up with a pink hibiscus flower patterned blanket and gave it a few shakes so that it unrolled to its full length. Taking a gander at the palm tree and the way it blocked the sun, she took a few steps over toward it and fanned out the fabric so that they had a spot to lay in without always having the light directly in their faces. It also kept them close to a cozy curve of a higher section of the cement half wall for a bit more privacy on their side. The nearest people were a couple and an older woman off on her own, both about 100 feet in the opposite directions.

Watching her silently, Miguel was looking for any hint of her anxiety returning, or worse that she was actually upset with him over the mirror incident. He knew she was eventually going to return to the subject, but at least if she wasn’t mad there was reason for him to think it wasn’t likely to turn into a big blow out. He had seen enough glimpses of her own temper to understand that if that spark wound up getting lit, it wasn’t going to be a passive aggressive cold war like he was used to with Irma. Instead, there would be a confrontation.

“Are you cool with bein’ out here?”

Kandy had placed her bag down on one corner and was in the process of pushing off her shoes when she heard his question. It goes without saying that she had surprised even herself with how unbothered she had been as they strolled around, navigating both traffic and other pedestrians. While it was unlikely that the fire brigade were going to go roaring by, the brunette made it a point to position them near one of the walls to give herself a buffer if need be.

She shrugged and placed one shoe each in a corner before tossing her keys in the fourth. “I seem to be. I honestly was more worried we broke your other fuckin’ hip.”

The unamused Scorpio gave her a very unamused look before managing to stand up and brush off some of the dirt that had gotten on his dark blue suit pants. To combat his grumpiness, his little witch stretched out on her side on the blanket much in the same way she had done in the restaurant’s office. With his hands back in his pockets, he walked right up to the edge of the colourful tropical printed material she was laying on and watched her for a moment.

“Come on, Papi. Don’t you wanna get a little closer, a little more comfortable?”

Though she would be hard pressed to pick one particular expression or posture Miguel had that turned her on the most, she couldn’t help but feel again what she felt in his Mercedes back on the bridge. His pensive silence and watchfulness made her ache just as much as when he looked at her with that mischievous-borderline-deviant grin. Catching the raise and drop of his chest from a sigh, she knew he was ready to say whatever it was he had been mulling over whilst standing in front of her on the grass.

“I didn’t like what you were thinkin’ about yourself when you looked in the mirror. And I wanted to change all that shit.”

The hand that had been patting the section of the blanket for him in front of her lifted to rub between her collar bones. That was a heavy declaration. Kandy stared up at him squinting partially out of, again, surprise that he cared about something like that or even naturally was upset about it. The other part of it was how she felt inside knowing that somebody else was aware of either her mother’s words she used against herself or at the very minimum her less than positive self image. Rather than it only being a scene practicing dominance and forced climax, Miguel added heaps of context to the things he whispered to her whilst making her face herself in the mirror he referenced. 

He took the fact she wasn’t ranting or crying as a good sign and decided to finally pull off his shoes and neatly place them to the side before taking a seat on the blanket next to her. Something about his watch was bothering him prompting him to unlatch and place it next to her bag out of the sun. The moment it was off his wrist, his arm felt a thousand pounds lighter. A curious thing.

“You’ll know when you need to go.” Easing down to lay flat, she stretched out her arm along the blanket and rested her head upon it much in the same way she had done on the desk.

Miguel smirked and followed suit, laying on his right side with an arm folded beneath his head for support. There was such a relief in removing his watch that he didn’t doubt at all her interpretation of the symbolism. Reaching out to her, he pet her cheek again and then moved one of the thicker sections of curls back off of her neck and jaw to see the shapes more clearly.

“Did you really feel me, mi brujita?”

“Of course. That was a place meant only for us.”

Inching his shoulders and upper body closer to her first, his hips and feet followed after a few seconds just to make sure she was okay with him shrinking the gap. “Where was that?”

“I dunno. Somewhere between here and I guess wherever it is we dream.” Hiding her cute smile for a moment behind her other forearm, she, too, inched herself toward him causing him to smirk. “I read about it in a book. It felt like something we needed to do, to connect, be close, away from all this bullshit.”

“It’s not somethin’ you do normally?”

He was back to asking his questions, which now told her that it probably had more to do with him assessing her familiarity with what came easily for him. “I never had anybody I wanted to go see. My grandmother talked about it here and there. She said she used to visit my dad sometimes in his dreams. To make sure he was okay.”

“Does she ever visit you?” Miguel regretted asking the question before he finished speaking it as the expression on her face was enough for him to know. 

In a blink it all was swept away and in its place the contrived smile and nonchalant shrug appeared, “No need for her to, I’m okay.”

The only thing that rivaled the emptiness in her eyes was the hollowness of her words. It was as though she had flipped a switch and turned off any real emotion. If it hadn’t been for the fact he had seen her up close during the times she had previously decided to be vulnerable with him over such sensitive matters he might have fallen for the pitch perfect voice and unfazed superficial demeanour. He could see how people wouldn’t have questioned her further, but to him it was like watching one of those animatronic puppets at Disney’s Hall of Presidents.

“You know that shit don’t work on me, querida.”

Kandy was motionless for a second and then shrugged with a somewhat defeated sigh. “She didn’t call me for my birthday this year. We haven’t spoken since last winter. It’s been like that for a few years, more and more time in between reachin’ out. She’s at the end of her life and I’m sure she wants to try and have some relationship with her only child. If I’m in the picture, my dad won’t be. If my grandmother’s final wish is to patch things up with him, who the fuck am I to get in the way of that? Who wants to die alone either?”

There were a lot of things Miguel wanted to say about her father and, to a lesser degree, her grandmother. He wanted to tell her that she was wrong, that her grandmother had more than one kid to care about, but it would’ve only highlighted the cruelty of the growing detachment. As strong as the urge was to rant about their neglectfulness and disregard for her feelings, he quelled that anger knowing that she was the only one who would ever hear it. He was learning that she had to frame things a certain way in order to not let them wound her. Pointing out where those people in her life let her down and weren’t deserving of her would only unravel the protective wrapping she tied up those truths with. There were other ways he could validate her feelings and acknowledging them without inserting his own upset into the mix. 

Raising up, she leaned forward and kissed him, also taking the opportunity to wiggle her frame nearer to him, which made him laugh. Laying down again, Kandy smiled as he hooked his skeletal arm over her hips and brought their bodies up against each other ending their endearing charade of maintaining a respectable distance in a public space. While it made kissing her forehead a much easier task, it also gave her quicker access to his neck without him realising it. Rather than acting on it immediately, she closed her eyes and inhaled the scent of his aftershave.

“Does your abuelita visit you that way?”

He scratched his jaw while hesitating, “The accident changed a lotta stuff for me. Most I haven’t told her or anybody about.” The Scorpio offered a seemingly disinterested shrug of his own. “Certain ideas she and I don’t agree on. So I just don’t bring that shit up cause I don’t want the fight. She’s a little stuck in her ways.”

Amber eyes zeroed in on the tattoo starting in the center of his chest and wrapped over to his right side and down his body. Though it remained unrevealed to her, she had recognized the colours, patterns, and style and believed it to be an alebrije, which usually was a creature built from parts of animals to consolidate their symbolic power for protection and guidance. The lore surrounding the colourful and fantastical creations had been expanded upon and pulled in different directions as their artistic influence evolved over the decades. She could only imagine what combination of terrestrial beings had been inked together on his skin to both empower him and conceal that which he wanted to remain hidden. Knowing him and also having noticed how protective he was over keeping it covered, it was clear that the tattoo held considerable significance and wasn’t just a statement piece pulling double duty to camouflage his scarring.

The only thing that was strong enough to distract him from being self conscious was his curiosity about her. Being somebody who was incredibly private and purposely vague about certain areas of his life to discourage others from wasting their time with questions, he had become quite intrigued with the way she put things together. Sure, she had a little help every now and again, but the way she filled in the gaps and fleshed out the rest of the scene in the hotel bathroom had him deeply interested in how her mind worked. Their conversation up until that point had revolved around dreaming, liminal states, and projection. Now she was working to fit the alebrije, traditionally a dream-based entity, into the bigger picture.

“You still have nightmares after the coma?”

While he was so pleased that she was more than able to understand and stitch things together, it was proving to be a double edged sword. It meant that not only was she likely to have her own questions and concerns about whatever she learned, but that he might also be forced to acknowledge certain things about himself. For a man who had turned avoiding uncomfortable conversations into an art form, he sure seemed hell bent on going down the list and having every single one with her. If she could get through all of them, then maybe she really was the one. The idea made him smirk. He knew already that she was. This was just about sabotage and sewing seeds of doubt in his own head about his own ability to maintain a healthy relationship.

Out popped that uneasy scratching of his fingers against the underside of his jaw again. Her Scorpio had a tell. “I’ve been to the docs. Nothin’ has changed up there so they sayin’ it’s from stress and shit like that.” His hand extended out to offer a gesture of rolling in a cylinder parallel to the ground. “Less sleep and less sleep means I wind up not bein’ able to stay focused, I don’t feel sharp like I should. I get careless, start makin’ mistakes, or missin’ shit I normally catch before it becomes a problem at work.”

“Is your hard reset to exhaust the hell out of yourself at work and then crashin’ when you get home?”

“There’s always shit I gotta do. Training, some projects around the house. I know I ain’t ever takin’ that Ambien shit again. That was a whole lotta fucked up, worse than anything I ever saw in my own head in the hospital. But it’s like their fuckin’ go-to pill.”

Kandy winced at the mention of the medication. The only people she personally had ever known that weren’t affected by some of the sleeping aide’s notorious adverse effects were those who used it in combination with other substances. That wasn’t her idea of a solution either.

“Nightmares started after the accident?”

He nodded silently. By the way her head shifted a few degrees whilst she looked at him, he knew she was thinking he was omitting some important details. And he was. Why he was choosing to turn this more into an interrogation was mostly rooted in getting a better idea of what she believed in, was open to, familiar with. Miguel wondered if he shared something in particular about the accident, if it would make her feel slightly less at odds with the religious figure he had inked into the side of his neck. Maybe his motivation to mediate that situation between them was more from a place of selfishness than being entirely about helping Kandy find her way back. 

What he really wanted was to hear her use that one very specific word she avoided, but instead of in the clever distant ways she normally employed it, for her to say it with his name. None of how she had love for this or loved that thing over there or hypothetically could possibly might maybe likely who knows love somebody someone something in the future if this that or the other happened. Miguel had seen the times when she had said it in her head. Whether it was a thought or realization triggered by something revealed in their conversation or just from the way he treated her, didn’t matter to him. He just wanted to hear her say it.

“I’ve already been dead, mi brujita.”

“I know, mi halcón.” Kandy sighed and ran her hand down the side of his neck over the Santa Muerte tattoo once she realized he couldn’t see the wall he was careening toward.

“You know?” Picking up her hand, he gently kissed her knuckles.

“You’ve told me.”

“In my own way?”

Kandy nodded and let her thumb tenderly slip over part of his chin as he kissed her skin. “Do you know anything about what happened?”

“It went down right before surgery. They spent a half hour tryin’ to get my heart pumpin’ again. I guess the doc’s arms got tired.” The smug little smirk he gave her made her smile briefly. He shrugged, “They told me they were about to call it quits and She up and decided it wasn’t time for me to leave yet. Like you been thinkin’. I still had shit to do.”

Without another thought, Kandy guided his jaw back to reveal more of his neck to her. Miguel was expecting for her to fixate on that sensitive space on his skin that made his eyes roll back into his head. Instead, the brunette’s mouth respectfully kissed the bottom section of the Santa Muerte tattoo, probably over the saintly Skeleton’s hands held in a praying position. Though he was unable to hear what she was saying in her head, he instinctively knew Kandy was giving her thanks and prayers for sparing him. When he felt the chill of her tears slowly dripping over the bridge of her nose to his neck, he reached up and cradled the back of her skull to comfort her. Another kiss and she receded back to laying in front of him.

He wasn’t at all prepared for what he saw when he finally got to see her face again. Everything she had kept hidden behind those walls when it came to her feelings about him, the fears about their future, and her nervousness over giving into those emotions was right there in those amber eyes. All of it clear as day, sharp, and in focus. Resting her head down behind her folded arms, Kandy seemed suddenly aware of her emotional transparency and tried to hide it from him. He wasn’t going to let her get away with it and instead hooked his fingers under her chin and turned her face toward him.

“No puedes esconderte de mi, conejita.” Taking part of her face in his hand as if she were a cat, he lightly ran his thumb down the trail of tears erasing them away.

She wasn’t going to argue against something she knew to be true — that she couldn’t hide from him. “The year my grandfather died and they sent me back to the U.S. was the year you had your accident.”

Within months of each other, both of them had gone through the major event that forever changed the directions of their lives. If Miguel hadn’t had the motorcycle accident, who was to say he’d ever even consider relocating to Florida. Would Kandy have eventually found herself returning to Cassandra after the inevitable crumbling of her relationship with her grandmother? Maybe. Would the pair even meet if Cassandra hadn’t decided to move forward with the restaurant she always wanted to have in tribute to her father? Who knows, but the universe seemed rather interested in seeing Kandy and Miguel cross paths. There had been a lot of moving pieces and connections that laid the groundwork for something that initially seemed like a random serendipitous happening.

While she had been so caught up in how he showed up at just the right time to rescue her, it now looked more and more like she had been brought in to bring him fully back to the land of the living also. Maybe the universe had had enough of them wasting time and finally decided to force the issue, or rather make them face the issues both turned away from. Serving as each other’s mirror only heightened the feeling of this bond between them being more than just attraction and chemistry, but also significantly more serious, karmic even.

Kandy wiped her eyes with her wrist before searching the depths of his dark gaze. “It’s more than you believin’. You know it, like for a fact.”

Miguel waited patiently for her to bring herself to say it. Up went his dark angular brows after a minute. Seeing the look on his face made her laugh, which brought him a little slice of relief. Then he understood what she was trying to find in him: doubt.

“The only question I sometimes have about us, querida, is if it’s the right timin’. Lotta shit feels like and tells me that it is. It’s gonna happen.”

“Havin’ it all, buildin’ it, growin’ it together?”

“Til the last breath. You sound like you’re about to start climbin’ back up on that fence though.”

Kandy smiled and shook her head, “No way. It’s just that it’s different for me. Your understanding of this experience seems so rational and concrete. You know about it, like really know. I just feel what I feel. I don’t get that same secure, solid confirmation.”

“That’s ‘cause you’re lettin’ past bullshit make you question things. You don’t trust them feelings you get when you look at me.”

“Oh, when I look at you? Just when I look at you?” Out came that playful grin as she teased him.

“Nah, not just then. When you replay over and over how I say your name, or the kiss in the car and how that shit made you feel in your chest and down between them thighs. The couple of times you let yourself try to see how we gonna be livin’ in the future. I know you fuckin’ love me more than anybody else. It’s obvious. Why you always actin’ like you the last to know what your feelings are? You’re the fuckin’ bruja empática. Shouldn’t you be tellin’ this dark ass self destructive motherfucker what he’s feelin’ instead?”

Rolling onto her back, Kandy covered her face with her hands. That word, he had looked her straight in the eyes when he had used it. Listening to him continue on, she stared up at the sky after folding her hands together and resting them on her stomach.

“Just ‘cause somebody loves you doesn’t mean they’re gonna do what they need to do. Or even fuckin’ show up. Be real about it, Miguel.”

He smirked and leaned over her, “That’s exactly what the fuck it means for us. You sayin’ with all you feel, it’s not enough to get you to put in the work and make decisions to keep this goin’ between us?”

“Of course it’s enough. I know exactly how far I’m willin’ to go to keep my family together.”

Reaching across her torso, he hooked his hand around her waist to bring her a bit further under him and whispered in her ear. “So do I.”

Miguel was able to melt away her upset with how he invaded her personal space and the different ways he spoke to her. Taking the cue, she lifted her body a section and a time and snuggled up against him. With as close as they were to the cement wall, its height prevented anyone walking by from seeing them. At most, they might spot a foot or so of the hibiscus flower printed fabric of their blanket. On his side still, he blocked Kandy from most people’s view leaving the only hint of her existence in front of him being a few stray sections of curls that fanned out above his reach toward the grass. They both had their own insecurities about how they functioned in a relationship, that much was evident.

“I know you keep forgettin’ the other part of who you are. The part that isn’t about death and destruction.” Kandy unwrapped one of her hands to reach across her chest and affectionately touch his forearm folded under his head. It was the one that had the scorpion entangled with the rosary. 

Miguel could see the shadow of concern in her eyes behind the love that had taken up what was seeming to be permanent residence within her. Back in the restaurant when she had originally clocked the scorpion tattoo, she had been on the money about its significance and his relationship to its mythos. He was a walking, talking representation of the duality that exists between life and Death, destruction and rebirth. Half of his skin had been offered up to illustrate his commitment to and to embody the very black and white aesthetic of Death and her reach. The rest of the artwork on him was both animated and vibrant in colour and dedicated to three qualities he was best known for having: pensiveness, courageousness, and watchfulness. It took both sides working together to keep him soaring as flying on only one of those engines guaranteed he’d run short on range and eventually crash.

“Like, I know you aren’t gonna wake up tomorrow and suddenly be your biggest fuckin’ fan about the shit you’ve made it through. It’s gonna take time for you to accept you deserve not just the respect I got for you and that others got for you, but the respect from yourself for the grown man you actually are now, today. You aren’t that self-destructive punk kid anymore, Papi. You look at me like I’m out of my Goddamned head for bein’ what I am and still havin’ doubts about what I feel. But look at you, you keep thinkin’ you’re the same. You know you’re not. You don’t think or feel or move the same. The wheel fuckin’ turned after that accident. You’ve said as much. But I’ll be here, every damn day, for the next sixty years remindin’ you of who you really have become.” Kandy was quiet for a moment as she took a deep breath. “Just like I may need you to keep remindin’ me about certain things for a while. Hopefully, you won’t get bored of that shit before it fin–”

He shifted more of his weight onto half of her body letting their mouths meet as one of his legs slipped between both of hers. This wasn’t a quick and cheeky little kiss to get her to stop focusing on something that worried her unnecessarily. Kandy moaned softly whilst he took hold of her hand that was resting on her stomach and placed it up on the blanket above her head. On the kiss went, keeping her occupied as he carefully slipped his fingers under hers, which had been affectionately petting his scorpion tattoo as they talked. Before she knew it, Miguel extended his arm bringing her other hand up over her head as well utilizing the weight of his forearm to pin the pair down. 

Backing off the kiss, he nudged the joint of her jaw lightly with the tip of his nose to whisper to her. “You really think I’m gonna wind up bored with you around, mami?” 

“Maybe…” Turning her head off to the side, Kandy hid her grin from him, but Miguel was too busy with his attention focused elsewhere.

Finally with an opportunity to revisit the pressure point between her collarbones that Kandy often massaged to help relieve her anxiety, Miguel repeatedly kissed the tender spot. It was such a weirdly pleasurable sensation amplified by the symbolism of selecting that area of her body. The little moan, which slipped past her lips dissolved into a contented sigh as she lay there beneath him on the blanket under the warm sun and cool shade of the palm tree. 

“I’m never gonna get tired of makin’ you stretch, mi conejita. Puttin’ you to sleep when you get bratty just to wake you up in the middle of the night and fuck you all over again ‘cause I know you need it.” He knew he had her on the run when she closed her eyes and cuddled into his forearm up by her head to hide the soft blush colouring her cheeks and neck. “Makin’ you breakfast in the morning and comin’ home to you at night. Introducin’ you to some new shit and teachin’ it to you.”

That last part started to lure her playful side back out, “Gonna give me an education, Papi?”

“All the things I’m gonna do to you, conejita…”

His tone made her shiver and she gently gripped the hand of his that she was holding above her head. Bony fingers tauntingly walked up her exposed flank until they reached the rolled up and tied hem of her A Tribe Called Quest t-shirt. Kandy’s eyes opened and she looked up at him while his pointer finger managed to work underneath the bunched up material halfway up her ribs and stroke back and forth.

“Papi…” She instinctively knew where that skeletal tattooed limb was looking to sneak off to.

Stopping just short of her bra, his fingers conformed to the shape of her rib cage to lightly caress her skin an inch or two below the underwire. “What is it, conejita? You got somethin’ to say?”

It was difficult to determine what caused her to shudder: his taunting tone so close to her ear or his fingertips delving into the cup of her bra to begin drifting over her breast. Knowing it was going to make her moan, Miguel waited until after restarting the kiss to center his swirling fingertips on her nipple. Immediately, her shoulders rolled forward to try and curve her chest away from his touch, but the hard ground under them prevented that. She gasped breaking the kiss and looked up at him with those lust filled amber eyes.

Now that they had more privacy closer to the half wall compared to the openness of the restaurant, Miguel was going to get back to exploring his little witch. Tighter and tighter the spiral became, eventually ending with his with his thumb and pointer finger firmly holding and stroking her highly reactive flesh. Whimpering from the pleasure, Kandy turned her face away from him, but he was having none of it.

“Look at me.” 

When she didn’t do as she was instructed, he began to carefully roll it back and forth between the grip of his fingers holding it taut. Kandy groaned on the second little twist and her back lifted from the blanket just slightly. A third time and she looked up at him, clearly fighting through the fog created by the overwhelming pleasure.

“You keep on doin’ that and I’m gonna cum, Papi.”

His fingers neither slowed down nor softened their touch, “You only gonna cum when I tell you you can, conejita. ¿Me entiendes?”

Kandy nodded before biting her bottom lip and closing her eyes to get a better grip on her breathing. The point was to enjoy the sensations without getting so caught up in them that they’d sweep her out to sea. Miguel loved to manipulate time as much as he did her body. Her enthusiastic enjoyment of edging was one of the more satisfying aspects of their dynamic. So far, she had given him all the freedom he wanted when it came to touching and teasing her. The trust that seemed built into their connection already surprised him at times almost as much as the occasions he found himself simply doing things in the flow of their interaction without stopping to question the reasoning. This wasn’t about being reckless or irresponsible — he was neither. It was the same dumb question that crept up on him afterward though or during the natural lulls in their conversations: You’ve only known her for this long, is this really a good idea? He might have initially laughed at her when she talked about past lives and soulmates back in the restaurant, but this sure didn’t feel like just an afternoon, or a day, or a weekend, or a week, or a month.

The longer his hand spent up inside the cup of her bra toying with her flesh, the further Kandy sank into that warm floating feeling. She nuzzled his bare, tattooless upper arm as it still pinned her wrists above her head to the blanket whilst one of her legs wrapped over behind his so she could stroke the soft top of her foot against the fabric of his suit pants. Then there was the special something she felt when being so close to him. Not something, she knew exactly what it was. It felt like home. He felt like home.

There had been only one other time she could think of when she had felt the same sense of safety and security from a person outside of herself. It was back in Spain, travelling in her grandfather’s Mercedes S600. Kandy was in the passenger seat barely tall enough to see over the sedan’s beltline to watch the unusual tropical storm spin its way through the southern part of her new home country. Miami was barely a blip on her radar when her father’s family returned to the Iberian peninsula, first spending a couple years in Morocco before finally transitioning to Málaga on the Spanish mainland. She couldn’t remember why they were driving in the storm or where they had been or even where her grandmother was. The two things she could see crystal clear was her grandfather proudly driving his tank of a Benz through the rain with one hand on the steering wheel and his elbow resting on the top of the door and then his other hand holding hers to calm her fear of the rain and wind.

Her eyes opened and focused immediately on Miguel who had apparently been watching her the whole time. The teasing to her breast had stopped and was replaced by a slow affectionate caress of its outside curve by his palm. Though an altogether different sensation it was equally pleasurable. Tilting her head away from him to get a better look at him, those amber eyes narrowed with impish suspicion. He stared right back at her and waited. Eventually, she laughed and looked away giving him the chance to nibble right under her ear before tenderly kissing the same spot. Her eyes rolled back into her head and the leg that was wrapped around his tightened its hold before stroking up and down his calf.

“Ask.”

“You deal in the past and I deal in the present.”

“That’s not a question, querida.”

A Gemini who couldn’t decide on what words to use was a very frustrating thing. “Did you…” She squinted again whilst watching him waiting to see if something would come to her, but nothing did and instead she went with the first word she had thought of originally. “Did you see what I was remembering?”

“I wanted to know who mi brujita was thinkin’ of when I was tryin’ to make her soak her panties.” He gently squeezed the hand of hers he was holding and got her to smile.

“Were you expectin’ somebody specific?” She arched a brow as the smile bloomed into a grin.

“No, but I’m not sure how I feel about you wantin’ so bad to get fucked six ways from Sunday in the same kinda ride your grandfather had.”

Kandy blinked unsure of what he was saying to her. “Days?”

“What?”

“Six days to Sunday? Today is Su–”

He smirked, “No. It means you wantin’ to get fucked every which kinda way.”

“I thought you were telling me I had to wait a week before I would get to –” 

His thumb and pointer finger returned to their original task under her shirt, lightly pinching and rolling her still sensitive flesh causing her speech to halt. He knew full well what he was doing and the effect it would have. Though she tried to run her hand through her hair, she was quickly reminded that he was using both his arm and her other to restrain her. 

“Before you’d get to do what, mi conejita?” His fingers expanded back out over her breast fully to grope and massage it, letting her get her feet back under her.

While part of her hated that she couldn’t reach out and touch him to communicate her affection, Kandy was content to lay there with him and enjoy all the physical contact he wanted to give her. The most she could do was a light little pet of his upper arm with the tip of her nose. She hadn’t forgotten about the question he had asked, but rather was taking a moment to enjoy the full weight and coverage of his hand.

“I couldn’t make up my mind. I just know I –” Another cuddle of her cheek into the blanket and she looked up at him, her ever watchful halcón. “I wanna get stretched and filled.”

Of course, she used that word. And of course, she used that soft and sweet tone with him. The change was slow and subtle, but he was enjoying it more than some radical and insincere shift in her behaviour. She was resisting less and didn’t require as much follow up in doing what he asked of her. Lifting her hand that he was holding, Miguel carefully moved their arms off her right wrist freeing it.

“Untie your shirt, conejita.” Giving her breast one last quick grope, his hand retreated out from under her clothes.

Without question, she rolled slightly toward him to reach behind her back and fumble with the knot before eventually getting it loose. Shaking out the rolled up fabric as she laid back, the hem of the shirt covered a fair amount of her denim wrapped pelvis and rear.

Right as she was about to return her hand to rejoin her other above her head, Miguel hooked his fingers into part of her waistband to hold one half of the material in place, “Unbutton and unzip your shorts.”

He watched as her eyes immediately looked down between her feet at who could possibly see them, but her hand was already moving. Not a soul had a decent vantage point. To her right was the cement wall while Miguel protected her left side from the park’s view. Above them was the tree and another section of the wall that curved off in the direction of the beach to run parallel with the sidewalk they had been strolling along earlier. As he held part of the denim, she carefully maneuvered the button out of its hole and lowered the very short zipper at the front of her shorts revealing her rather nondescript bikini style panties. This time, she rested her hand down on the blanket at her side to await any further instructions he might have for her. A feeling she had told her to expect something.

“Abre tus piernas, Kandajha.”

Again, without much pause given to consider his instruction to open her legs, Kandy slid her right leg from around his left and comfortably outstretched it at a relaxed angle on the blanket. Rather than lifting and holding his arm at an odd angle to shove his hand down the front of her shorts, Miguel instead hooked a finger up along the barely existent inseam that led to the crotch and zipper. It couldn’t have been more than two inches, just enough for the stitching around the legs to cover the curve of her ass and sit flush against her thighs. With a subtle pull of his pointer back and forth, he worked the unforgiving material down to give himself room for his fingers to stroke up the inside of her thigh and slip across to the center of her panties with ease.

Though she couldn’t actually see what he was doing, Kandy let her imagination put it together for her. Biting her bottom lip, the faintest of moans was muffled behind her teeth and caught his attention. Back fully on his side, not only was the left half of her lower body out from under him, but now the entire width of his torso gave them slightly more concealment. A short kiss to her mouth and the joint of her jaw followed as his fingers hooked into the bend of her right knee to apply light pressure indicating to her he wanted the limb bent, but still flat against the blanket. Complying, she inched the joint up until it was nearly perpendicular to her hip and her toes rested against the inside of her other thigh. She mused for a moment about how her current position was somewhere between that of the Hanged Man in tarot and the balance move of Tree Pose in yoga.

“Kandajha…” He waited for her to open her eyes again.

Looking up at him, Kandy nodded wordlessly. After an afternoon of being playfully defiant, the little brunette had decided to do better about being good. She was going to show him how good she could be. Miguel didn’t have to say it specifically as she naturally understood why there could be no moaning, groaning, whimpering, gasping, or any other noise she’d like to make from being touched down between her thighs. But it also meant she wasn’t going to be able to drift in the feelings it brought up. Instead, she would have to stay very much in the moment and fully aware of herself making the task of holding off an orgasm much more difficult and probably the point of the exercise, to build control and discipline.

“Sé buena.” He kissed her forehead and then at the top of her cheekbone giving her a few moments to soak up the praise before he made the first stroke of his fingertips up on the outside of the center of her panties.

Kandy soon learned that trying to visualize what she was feeling would only make things more difficult for herself. Taking in a measured breath, the light pressure he applied down low in a very damp section of her bottoms flipped the switch on what would become a very slow buildup within her. Remembering that her right hand was free, she used it to push herself even closer to his chest and tuck up under his jaw. He happily welcomed her in whilst still holding her other hand above her head on the blanket. She didn’t start to have a problem until his fingertips began lingering at the very top of her plump folds. Again, he was very calculated with how much he pressed and at what angle when the circular motion began. 

“Buena conejita.”

No part of his encouraging words were patronizing or sarcastic, but rather they were an integral part of what he brought to their dynamic on top of guiding her along through different experiences. Her adherence to the rules and good behavior would always be rewarded and met with positive reinforcement. It was her trust, respect, and deference that were her gifts to him. In this symbiotic relationship, the two served each other. Seeing how pleased Miguel was with her performance and determination to satisfy him was how Kandy measured her own growth as his pet. For Miguel, her yielding to his authority and entrusting him with both her physical and emotional safety continuously validated his role as her Dominant partner. One side’s fulfillment, enjoyment, and enrichment would not exist without the other’s.

Holding his hand just a little tighter, Kandy nuzzled the underside of his chin which was now within her reach. The urge to whimper his name was so strong, but she gripped the fabric of the blanket and twisted it around her fingers as an alternative. To show her willingness to be challenged and her limits pushed, her left leg began creeping up the front of his body until her knee rested against his hip. With both of her limbs folded and positioned in a wide v-shape, Miguel now had all the access he could want. In response, he pulled back to firmly massage down the inside of her now exposed thigh. Slow and firm, his palm went to work with a series of intermittent squeezes following the sensitive path of the arteries that ran along her upper leg. Just the way he had done in that scenario they had envisioned together earlier. It was such an erotic feeling, the progress he was making in working his way back to her center. On top of that, it simply felt good to have him rubbing the muscles and ligaments that were under stress from how wide she was keeping her legs open for him. It was so much more enjoyable than she imagined.

All this time, Miguel was watching her like the hawk that he was. Everything from the subtlest changes in her breathing and flush up her body to when she grabbed for something or tried to distract herself. He was continuing to map out all the things he could do to affect her and all the effects it had on her body. When his rubbing moved into the femoral triangle nestled up high in the leg of those shorts, Kandy tilted her pelvis into his touch to try and persuade him to spend a little more time there. Rather than issuing a strict command for her to be still, he gave her some leeway to see if she could police herself.

Every pass of his palm and squeeze of his fingers drove that ache deeper. When his hand finally returned to possessively grope her slick voluptuous folds through her now soaked panties, he saw her right hand let go of the blanket and move toward where he was touching her. Unexpectedly, it stopped suddenly and hovered low over her pelvis before returning to its original place down by her hip. The slight uptick in her breathing told him how quickly she was progressing along.

“The only place this hand is allowed to be, conejita,” Miguel reached over and picked up her wrist to carefully lay her hand across her right breast before nodding to her shirt. “Is under there doin’ to you what I was doin’ earlier.”

A quick nod served as her acknowledgement while her hand slithered beneath her shirt to push part of her bra up over her breast for easier maneuverability. Locking eyes with him, she waited a beat to make sure all of his focus was on her. When she was sure that it was, she began to tease, squeeze, and twist her almost painfully sensitive nipple. Miguel was very familiar with how that type of stimulation affected her, so much so that he could even recall the sound of her whimper the first time he had ever touched her that way in the restaurant. Next would have been the suppressed moan low in her throat, but she kept to the rule about being silent. It was all in her eyes though, to the point that it felt like she had reached down and gripped the base of his length for a quick twisting pump half way up. There wasn’t an ounce of demureness about her. She had a solid hold on her arousal, showing him that she could enjoy these exercises he put her through without regressing into that easily intimidated and inexperienced persona. That was until Miguel decided it was time to bypass those panties altogether. 

Before she could process what was happening, he went back down through the top of her shorts and inside her bottoms letting his fingers follow the shape of her body. Even though the fabric was damp still, he was surprised with how slick she actually was. It would have been so easy to extend his hand further down to begin inching inside her, but he was saving that for another time. For now, his middle finger returned to its slow steady stroke up the center of her folds applying just enough pressure to graze against her swollen button.

His relaxed rhythm could melt through nearly all of her resolve. It didn’t matter if it was her own hand matching the pace of his fingers gently squeezing and petting what belonged to him, the controlled progression of a kiss he started or the full length pass of his strokes in and out of her. What was piling up wasn’t only a climax that had been instigated by his teasing of her, but a secondary source of pleasure that was set to manifest in a quite explosive way well beyond her control. 

“You wanna cum, mi conejita?”

Surprisingly, she shook her head no. With how she had been subtly grinding herself into his hand, her eyes drifting shut, as well as the changes in her respiration, he knew she was skating close to the edge. A brow lifted slightly while he watched her continue to touch herself and his finger kept up tracing its relaxed circular path. Kandy needed this potent mix of physical contact between them to end quickly if she was going to remain true to her decision.

“You don’t want to?” His dark eyes blazed with curiosity and lust.

One half of her mouth lifted for a sly smile before she shook her head reaffirming her decision to abstain from satisfaction. He still hadn’t given her permission yet to speak and she was quite particular about waiting to be allowed to respond verbally.

He nodded at her, “Tell me why not.”

She bit her bottom lip and shifted the angle of her hand to dial back some of the intensity. Again, he still hadn’t specifically released her from his earlier instructions or redirected her focus. As such, the brunette continued to grope and massage and tease her breast inside her clothes.

“Because I don’t wanna waste it on myself. I wanna wait for you, for when you can enjoy me, Papi.”

Leaning down over her, Miguel kissed her deeply causing her hand to abandon its work to find the back of his skull. Her head spun from how passionate it was, triggering an involuntary moan muffled by his mouth. Giving her one last full length pass of his fingers up her folds, he lifted his hand up out of the front of her panties and shorts before ending the kiss with a tender peck. Almost immediately, she looked down her body trying to locate where that hand of his had skittered off to. It was busy tugging one side of her shorts up to make zipping up the front easier. Like a cat, her head followed every move as her gaze had a laser focus on his fingers. It wasn’t until he went to readjust the half of her bra, which had been shoved up beneath her shirt that he noticed how preoccupied she was. Before she knew it that hand was level with her mouth.

“Limpialos, conejita.” 

Peeking up the length of his fingers and over the top of his knuckles to his face, her brows popped playfully. Though she had been content with kissing and cuddling, she wasn’t about to turn down an extra treat from him. Resting back on the blanket, Kandy brought his hand closer to her mouth and gently fed his digits past her lips and over her tongue. Despite there being only a trace of herself on his fingertips and his middle finger, she let it dissolve away in her mouth with a few licks and a gentle sucking against his skin. After a few seconds, he began to stroke those digits back and forth over her tongue, each time they went a little further toward the back of her throat. Eventually her head tilted up just a few degrees into the angle she would have used had something else been in her mouth. Releasing her other hand and arm, which he had pinned above her head, Miguel gave a quick glance down to the front of his pants and grumbled in that charmingly grumpy way Kandy loved so much.

“Fix your clothes.” 

He could tell by her eyes she had something to say, she had that mouthy look about her. As she went about straightening up her shorts and fastening them followed by pulling the right side of her bra back down in place, Kandy never once stopped tenderly sucking on his fingers. When her clothes had been adjusted, he carefully withdrew his hand and used it as support on the ground to lay right down over her. Settling in so that he was a couple inches further up than her, his arms found a comfortable place on either side of her body for support as he felt her legs wrap over and behind his.

Her warm palms snuck under his tank top to lovingly massage his lower back and flanks. “Papi, you’re so fuckin’ hard right now. Are you sure layin’ like this is a good idea?”

Miguel had to smirk at her over that very put-on tone she used with him. “It’s the only option right now, querida.”

“I wonder what caused all that.”

He laughed and raised one of his hands enough to run down his jaw to his throat, “You wonder?”

“It’s been a while for you, I guess.” Teasing him with that cute tone and demeanor got him grumbling again. Whether he was hard or not, Kandy enjoyed feeling the warmth and weight of his body on hers so much so that she wrapped him up to cling to him almost possessively. “Was it when you realised how badly I want us to cum together or was it when you considered that probably a better way to measure my gag reflex would be to let me blow you in the back of your Mercedes and then see how far I could use your dick to push your c–”

Prepared this time for whatever filthy thing she was going to say to him, Miguel had crept a hand up into her hair and was ready to grab those roots and grab he did. Harsher than usual, he clenched his fingers tight in her tresses, cutting her sentence short by causing her to groan. A little concerned that he had pulled too hard, he watched her carefully but eventually relaxed when she looked up at him with eyes full of desire.

“Green light?”

A slow nod, “Really green.”

The stop light system was one of the easier and more accurate methods for partners to check in during a scene with minimal risk of disturbing the mood or flow. Asking if things were still green was a way for one to make sure the other was still comfortable with where things currently were in terms of intensity, pace, and progress. Yellow was a warning that they might be playing it too close to a limit or venturing over into areas that were likely to cause emotional or physical discomfort. Red was an immediate stop. The moment things switched to red, the scene would be halted and abandoned. Ties, ropes, bindings would be removed along with toys and other items with the goal being to get the sub out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible.

Gripping her again and waiting for her to gasp, Miguel held her attention causing the nails that had been lightly stroking up and down his back to suddenly stop. “How far you could do what with my dick, conejita?”

Out came that wide unabashed cheshire cat grin, which crawled over her purple coated lips that had faded again from their shenanigans. As cute as she was, there was an edge to that expression. One that made him throb and also gave him pause. This Scorpio with all his shadowy possessive and obsessive traits, his unforgiving memory, and destructive ability had a feeling that his darling and unexpectedly complicated Gemini might have a side that was significantly darker than he originally thought. 

When hurt or betrayed, Miguel had a tendency to ice people out, to exile them entirely from his life. Kandy had quite a different feel to her. As detached as she tried to pass herself off as being, it was in the slivers of her anger that he did happen to see, which made him think she leaned more toward burning a person’s world down as opposed to simply cutting someone off. He wasn’t looking to find himself dead in a burnt out trunk over a misunderstanding with her or at the bottom of the Hillsborough Bay over a misunderstanding with Cassandra either.

Before she went to answer, his little witch noticed him retreating into his thoughts. Turning silent, the minutes were allowed to tick by to see if he would volunteer anything. Kandy had no specifics on what he was thinking about, but she could feel the trepidation beginning to circulate through his body that had originated in his mind. “Hey…”

Hearing her voice and feeling her fingers run through his hair brought Miguel back around to the present and his eyes up to hers from her mouth. Once she was sure he was with her fully, Kandy rubbed her hand up the back of his neck and into his hair a few times. In the little unexpected ways, she seemed to be proving her case to him that he had overlooked something just as important as the satisfaction he received from being both her Dom and partner. Looking at her now, gone was that bad girl act and the only person in front of him was the woman he was falling for. She had been right that he had known for quite a while where their paths were gonna lead. He had accepted it as given, as fact, everything from the success to the marriage to the house to the kid to all of it. But he hadn’t let himself start to feel any of it until that indescribable kiss, which started on the cement half wall and ended in the grass. And now he was catching up to her rather quickly.

“Your shit is just memories, right?”

Miguel sighed just short of a grumble, but it still managed to make Kandy smile a little. “Yea, recent If it’s some basic shit and longer if it was fucked up. Why?” His tone was no longer playful, but perhaps on the terse side. This was not something he wanted to talk about.

Kandy was undeterred. “If you just deal in the past, how do you know so much about our future?”

He smirked and kissed her forehead softly before resting his against her. Looking in her eyes, he waited a beat before another little kiss landed down on her mouth and had her reaching up to touch his jaw off of how tender it was. By then it was clear to her that he needed some encouragement to share the details with her. For that, an arm eased up around the back of his shoulders while her other hand returned to caress the side of his face and bring him in for their mouths to meet. 

This was not about sex or desire or lust. All she was doing was refilling his cup by pouring her feelings for him into their kiss. She was trying to heal the disconnect he had from his feelings, which she suspected was rooted in doubt over whether he could control them, as well as the one he had from his body. They weren’t going to be tripping across another galaxy or floating through a different liminal space this time. It was just a deeply loving kiss to try and get his heart pumping from the flow of emotions he kept blocking. 

Miguel was very much a happy and active participant in it. Despite the broody exterior and aloof demeanour he initially showed her, there was another part of him slowly waking up and responding to her bright and airy personality. Barely in his mid 20s and it took this girl in a purple Jeep, high as fuck on a Sunday afternoon to get him out of that Old Man Mindset he had somehow fallen into. Whether he was willing to acknowledge it or not to himself, he was soaking up every drop of emotion, care, and consideration she was giving him like a sponge.

Could she have laid there pleased as punch on that blanket for the rest of the day making out with this devilishly handsome man with all his passion and determination and a soul that ran deeper than the Marianas Trench? Absolutely. But she wanted to know. She especially wanted to know if it involved something he’d rather keep from her. It was important for them to keep working on that whole mutual honesty and transparency idea.

Easing her head back to break the kiss, Kandy laughed as Miguel didn’t skip a beat and went right on kissing down her throat aiming straight for her that special place between her collar bones. “No, no. Tell me! Come on! We’re never gonna be able to go shoppin’ if you keep gettin’ me wet and I keep makin’ you hard. Stop!” When he got to the center of her chest she laughed again and playfully prodded at him as he had gone to hiding his face between her breasts like he had in the office earlier.

Raising up to lean over her again, he supported himself with one hand as he turned to show her the left side of his neck. Pointing to the black, white, and red accented depiction of Santa Muerte tattooed into his flesh, he put Kandy face to face with the exact deity she had fallen out with. She sighed and looked at the skeletonized folk saint before moving her eyes up to what was a rather stern looking expression on his face. It was very fatherly in fact.

“You ain’t tellin’ me the details of the beef you got with her, but you need to squash this shit. I don’t want it fuckin’ up what She’s given us.” Towering over her, he had both palms flat into the ground on either side of her shoulders. Leaning down again, he kissed her knowing that look on her face and where her mind was drifting to. “I’m serious, querida.”

In that moment all she wanted to do was roll up in bed with him and drift away to somewhere else. A big comfy bed full of pillows and clean sheets on a catamaran floating on calm waters in some distant dimension away from everything she knew and remembered. Ultimately, she would settle for the alligator raft and the pool in the backyard though.

“You tell me somethin’, I tell you somethin’. Answer a question I have about what you can do and I will tell you the heart of what went down between me and Her.” 

Miguel was pleased to see she had brought back a negotiating tactic they had used with each other earlier in the afternoon to get through some of the trickier subjects they needed to discuss. It was quite a good trade on his side of it, he surmised. The point of contention between Kandy and the deity who unbeknownst to her also stood center stage on Miguel’s own altar in his bedroom was a big piece of the puzzle he both needed and wanted. While he wasn’t enthusiastic about discussing this part of his life, it was only fair. He had been and was still so very interested in who she was and how she practiced, it would be ridiculous to deny her the same access.

“What you wanna know, querida?”

“What happened that you won’t even talk about it with your abuelita?”

Crouching back on his feet and off her, Miguel came to stand at the edge of the blanket before taking a seat on the cement half wall they had been perched on earlier. Propping herself up on her arms, she lounged there in front of him. They were back in a positioning similar to how they had been in the office when he needed to tell her that he worked for her family. He had peeled himself off of her and took up a perch on the arm of the couch and left her lounging lengthwise on the cushions in front of him. It was the same right down to the fact he was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees rubbing his hands together as he tried to put together what he wanted to say. 

“It ain’t any one thing, just how it sometimes works. I know you know what can happen to people when they go through and survive what I did.”

Kandy nodded and fought the urge to crawl closer to touch him, an arm around his calf and her head on his knee, just for comfort and reassurance. She refrained as she knew he had made the decision to relocate away from her because needed his space to talk about this. It was a preference they seemed to share. When a subject was intense or a conversation became overwhelming, they both put distance between themselves and others. No added contact, feelings, sensations, thoughts, memories, images, sounds, energy, only a buffer of air. Something in him had been forcibly broken open and it didn’t seem to be adding value to his life.

“You willing to tell me the worst way it’s shown up?”

He was staring at his hands now as if trying to conjure up the resolve by rubbing his palms back and forth against each other just to finish this part of the conversation. “One of them.”

Creeping closer to him, Kandy came to stop just shy of sitting nose to nose with him as he had stayed leaning forward over his knees. With hers brought to her chest and her feet just past between his, she was there for him to reach out and touch if he needed.

“Driving out here we stayed on I10 for most of the way, went right through New Orleans at night. Irma slept all the way, but it was cool as shit. Got out of Louisiana,” a hand lifted for his pointer finger to gesture as he spoke, “right into Mississippi and I wound up gettin’ off the highway in Biloxi to fill up.”

The instant he said Mississippi, she felt a sinking feeling in her chest. It was a murky concoction of things she was trying to peel apart and identify similar in a way to analyzing a fragrance. There were base notes that underpinned the scent and were long lasting while the top notes were shorter lived and vibrant in the same way that the foundation was deep. His dread and reluctance rooted themselves deep in the experience while she picked up on a lighter feeling washing over the surface. The only way she could think of describing it was to be sea sick. 

She sat up on her knees, again resisting the urge to reach out to him, “Cariño, I can just tell you what my answer is. You don’t need to go through all this.”

“Nah, I gotta tell somebody about this shit, right? At least you get it. You ain’t gonna look at me like I’m crazy.” He reached out to her and brought her in for a quick kiss to her forehead before gesturing her to the spot on the blanket she had been in. The truth was that he still wasn’t ready to talk about it.

Settling down onto one side, she was back in her little mermaid pose which brought a quick smile to his face. She seemed so unaware of herself and what she looked like at times. Feeling his pockets, he found his phone determined to get at least some version of the original shot he had missed when she was on the grass next to him after they had fallen during the kiss. Her head tilted as she watched him to try and figure out what he was up to. When he turned the phone onto its side, she realized he was going to take her picture.

“Solo relájate, Kandajha.” 

Miguel framed the shot and tapped the screen to get the camera to focus in on her face with the sun behind her. She sighed and turned into the breeze letting it carry more of her curls back off her shoulders. Her figure shifted its weight fully onto her arm letting her other elegantly fold behind her waist so that only her hand rested along the side of her hip. The Scorpio smirked. She knew what she was doing and how to work with what she had as a setting. Her chin lifted a few degrees to create a better line and he finally snapped the photo. Hearing the shutter sound effect, she waited a few seconds before crawling closer again. It was pretty clear Miguel was pleased with how the photo had turned out by the way he was touching the screen and his expression.

“Do I get to see?” And there she was with her chin resting on his knee gazing up at him with those playful amber eyes as she knelt before him wrapping her arms around his leg.

Before his imagination got away from him by putting her in various states of undress in that position, he turned the phone around and offered it to her. Watching her, Miguel was quite curious as to what her opinion would be of it. Accepting the phone, she saw it zoomed out and filling the screen, the whole of the photo. Her brows popped up. It wasn’t what she had expected. He was showing her something she had never seen before about herself.

“Your moms and them, they’re all in fashion. Is that where you learned how to do that?” He nodded at the phone as she handed it back to him.

She shrugged, “I guess. My mom has done it the most. The socialite model of the family. Sandy did it after school and sometimes still for press if she’s launching something. I have some of the magazines she’s been in.”

His head tilted, “What about you?”

“I only ever really did it if my mother asked. When I was younger, she sometimes needed photos or whatever. You know, like of her with me. People knew I existed. Every couple of years, people would ask the question about where her child was that she had with the terrorist drug kingpin. Sandra put a stop to it though when she popped up after Zo died. I was messed up for a while and didn’t know it. Lola came in and I guess was taking shit too far. Cassandra got on her ass about it.” Kandy remembered everything her mother said and did during that visit. But if she preempted the conversation by denying the ability to recall the details, it usually shut most people down from asking more about it. Some of the things Kandy still said and did, like the way she underlined her lips, were a result of disparaging comments her biological mother made to her about her appearance.

“What happened, Kandajha?” Miguel had heard a woman’s voice during the memory he picked up from Kandy earlier of her standing in front of her bedroom mirror that morning. It wasn’t hers or Cassandra’s, and he didn’t otherwise recognize it. He was beginning to suspect it was Lola’s.

Sitting back from him, she folded her arms atop her knees. A smirk and she had to laugh about how skilled he was at turning the focus of a conversation around to something he was curious about especially when he had been put in the hot seat himself. “Typical shit. Lola was upset that the local coverage of Zo’s death here got picked up because some of the bigger projects she had worked on extended into like Arizona, Texas, California, Tennessee, and Washington D.C.. The photo they used was of the two of us at one of the charity galas Zo hosted during the holidays when she was healthier. The local paper wrote the caption up as me being Zo’s daughter.”

Miguel scratched that place under his jaw and Kandy laughed. “Yea. It was a really interesting experience. My mom knew the British press was gonna drag her for it. So she flew her ass on out here to try and get a couple photos of us together to use.”

“What does she look like, your mom? I know how you described her…”

“You actually wanna see a photo of that woman? You‘re not afraid your dick is gonna fall off or that she’ll turn you to stone?” She arched a brow before gently pushing his leg to let him know she was just mucking about. 

With her hand outstretched, Miguel passed the phone back to her again partially relieved he got out of having to discuss Mississippi. A series of taps later and she was turning to sit between his legs on the ground so that he could see the screen as she scrolled through the photos. Almost protectively, Miguel’s arms folded in front of her chest before leaning forward to both see and also kiss the side of her head.

“This is a photo of Lola from like maybe a year ago. Her mother’s magazine has an annual show in the fall. There’s not much of a resemblance between us.”

Miguel wasn’t quite sure what he expected to see, but this wasn’t it. He understood better about what Kandy was really saying when she described her mother. There was a certain aesthetic in older California women that he didn’t particularly care for that had apparently spread across the pond if the other society women of London in the background were any indication. It was the bobble head look of being unhealthily underweight with a pair of rather large implants bolted onto their chest. They all had the same lines around their mouths from chain smoking to suppress their appetite that they then tried to hide with Botox. Most also had the unnaturally prominent cheeks and lips that were pumped up with fillers that only furthered the cartoon aesthetic. Lola’s hair was platinum white and straight as a board cut into an asymmetric bob, which again placed a heavy emphasis on her augmented features and square jaw. 

An addict was an addict though and no amount of makeup or plastic surgery could fix the different skin problems that came with habitual drug misuse. With no muscle definition in her arms, they looked like rods of porcelain. The bedazzled shapeless frock that had the silhouette of a flappers dress hung off her like she was a clothes hanger. Everything was so straight and thin and hard edged. Her smile might have been beaming with those first rate veneers that no doubt masked the negative effects of the decades of abuse she put her body through, but the woman’s ice blue eyes were entirely vacant.

Keeping one arm crossed around in front of her shoulders, Miguel rested his other elbow on his knee whilst rubbing his chin pensively. Kandy, for the most part, was right about the lack of resemblance. If he hadn’t known they were related, he might have not even noticed the very particular way Lola’s nose was upturned and slightly pointed. Beyond that, had he not seen that very cute little doll’s nose on Kandy, he would have assumed Lola had at some point gone under the knife considering how dainty and balanced the feature was on both women. Even when it came to their colouring, as fair as Kandy was, she still had a warm golden undertone to her that her mother lacked completely.

“This is the photo that pissed her off.” Kandy swiped through to the next photo in the magazine article from a Google search, which showed her and Zoraida at the event she mentioned.

“I can see why, querida.” Miguel had to laugh as he took the phone from her to have a closer look. 

Zoraida had been a voluptuous and vivacious woman in her fifties with a big smile and probably an even bigger laugh. Standing in an emerald green v-neck gown, her thick straight honey brown hair was swept up into an elegant french twist and secured in place by a bejewelled clip that matched the rather impressive chandelier styled necklace draped across her chest. She looked all Miami, but in the best of ways. Miguel did recognize her from a few events the shop had catered. For a moment, he wondered what would have happened if he had found the time to be introduced to her. Would she have liked him as Cassandra hinted at on the phone call back in the office? Would she have made it a point to introduce him to Kandy?

Next to her was his little witch, just a few years younger than she was now, all decked out in a plum fishtail gown that tied behind her neck. Though her body looked amazing in the well cut material, he knew it probably wasn’t her first choice when it came to eveningwear. All of her thick curls had been dyed a darker brown with a purple tint that matched her lipstick and eyeliner. With her hair piled on top of her head behind what resembled a small half crown, Miguel let his thoughts drift again though this time to what prom with her might have been like despite having not even made it to his. 

Bringing the phone back around in front of her, he gestured between the two women who had their arms happily around each other. “You look alike, especially when you smile. The shape of your mouths.” Feeling her wrap up against the bicep of his skeleton tattooed arm, he kissed the top of her head, “This is your mom, querida. No question. Anybody who says different, don’t know nothin’ about nothin’.”

She kissed a section of his upper arm that had a bone illustrated on the skin and then cuddled her cheek into the same space. Leaning to the side, he looked at her for a moment before gently turning her face toward him. Bringing her in by her jaw, he kissed her affectionately whilst letting his other arm tighten across the front of her chest to encourage her closer. To Kandy, it felt like she was in the safest space in the world and she was very appreciative that despite having not been in her life when Zoraida was alive, Miguel acknowledged her true place in Kandy’s upbringing. 

Getting so wrapped up in her, his grip on the phone began to loosen and it slipped free, sliding down her chest. Pressing the device into her tummy to hold it where it was against her t-shirt, she was able to fish it out for him. Fumbling with it, the screen reactivated showing a young girl with long thick jet black hair and eyes as dark as her brother’s. Kandy knew that look anywhere, it was the Vela stare. Where Miguel’s features were long, angular, and chiseled, Irma’s were soft and rounded, but still maintained that rather regal feel. Even though Kandy knew the girl was young, she looked as if she had already amassed a crypt full of secrets.

Gesturing to the teenager’s photo before surrendering the phone back to him, Kandy had to laugh. “Cariño, that little boyfriend isn’t scared of you. He’s scared of your sister.” 

“Even I’m scared of Irma, querida.” He smirked and pocketed the phone, “Pinche culero loves her though. I think she’s still too fuckin’ busy enjoyin’ wearin’ the pants to realize it. Hopefully, I got her shit in her dorm and unpacked before that can happen.”

“She’s lucky to have you, especially right now and bein’ on that edge of becomin’ an adult.” Turning to the side between his legs, she sat back against his left thigh and rested her head on top of it to comfortably look up at him. “When Zo died, I felt like I lost the one person on this planet I knew I could always trust to tell me the truth. She always kept it real with me and that kept me grounded. If you’re gonna be—”

His rosary and scorpion tattooed right arm reached over so that he could gently pet her cheekbone. “Since I’m your Papi…”

Kandy loved it when Miguel corrected her phrasing to something more present or more permanent. Because of it, her smile was radiant and damn if it weren’t clear as day in those amber eyes exactly how much this girl was in love with him. And all the times after he first saw it and expected to not ever see that love again, there it was right in his face. 

“Sí, mi Papi, mi halcón, mi r–” Turning quiet all of a sudden, Kandy squinted up at him questioningly as his thumb continued to stroke back and forth against her face. A solemness had invaded his mood though he was doing a decent job at hiding it from her until they touched. “You keep forgetting one of the most important things about us, mi halcón.”

Seeing the sudden change in her expression, Miguel figured she must have sensed part of what he was feeling. Nevertheless, she had yet again piqued his curiosity. “Tell me.”

“For as long as I’ve known you, you’ve taken care of me and I’ve never felt safer with anyone than I do with you.” Kandy cuddled into his palm and covered his hand with her own before looking up at him again.

Miguel was trying his best to hide his surprise, but she could feel it. That’s when she grabbed a fist full of his tank top and pulled him nearly off that cement wall and to her for another one of those slow, deep kisses that set his brain and nerves on fire. With one hand down on the blanket, he let her crawl back further on the fabric so that she could lay down comfortably again. Following right after, he settled between her legs and continued the kiss. 

Once they both fell into that relaxed rhythm of kissing and touching each other, his nose filled with the aroma of the Mole Verde with pork Cassandra occasionally included in her home order. The tomatillos, cloves, and Hoja Santa hit first followed by the heat sizzling on his lips and tongue from the blend of chili peppers he used. A curious warmth spread along the inside of his hands and fingers before radiating in his chest. Though he recognized the taste of the food he cooked and its aroma, he wasn’t understanding that he was feeling what it was like when she would hold the bowl of hot food in her hands curled up in bed. All he could see was the circle of green inside the dish, which was from her perspective, and this incredibly comfortable and relaxed feeling spreading down through his arms. He caught himself nodding off from how relaxed he had become in his body causing Kandy to laugh thus breaking the kiss.

He jolted slightly as they both came back to reality. The scent, taste, and sensation of the food disappeared, but it took the heat in his palms longer to dissipate. Left feeling uneasy from how strong it all was, he continued to shake out his hands as if that would quicken the process of getting rid of whatever still lingered.

“You don’t just do that, conejita. You ask me first.”

Though his tone was stern and his correction sincere, Miguel was experiencing more and more of his feelings for her that he had only been intellectualizing. She was right about him having all the facts and not doubting who they were to each other and all the other little things that came with that. But being vulnerable with her was shining a light on the distrust he had of himself. Even though it had been over half a decade since he made all of those radical changes in his life, the voices of the naysayers still crept in every now and again. It didn’t matter if it was that old guy in Malibu who hassled him constantly while he worked on refurbishing the cabinets in the man’s kitchen or some of the people he grew up with and had to leave behind because they were still about that life. Their voices were all equally loud. 

“I’m sorry, Papi.” Turning her hands palm up, Kandy kept them away from him to help him feel less on edge. It had been a risky move to do what she did and she wasn’t entirely sure it had been worth it. “It was the roughest night of my life after Zo died, but you got me through it.”

Pulled up out of his thoughts and worries by her voice, he looked down and saw the same version of her who had been lounging across the desk speaking truth to him over his mountains of guilt earlier. Kandy looked exactly the same, except she didn’t. It was her without a filter, not the cute and precocious girl at the beach nor the coy and clever cocktease of a vixen who knew how to play her fingers along all his switches and levers. It was like she just hit the pause button on the world and the only pair of people in it to have this conversation were the two of them. No personas, no walls, no preconceptions, none of the bullshit they put on and projected. Just an honest to God, face to face moment.

“What night was that, querida?”

“Her first birthday after. November of that year.”

He nodded with the newly received clarity, “The pumpkin seeds and spices.”

“I would eat the Verde all the time if you made it year round.”

Miguel smirked and kissed her forehead before rolling off of her and onto his back. With an arm still around her torso, he gently pulled her over with him. She knew she had crossed a line with him and was worried that it had been too much until she felt his arm tighten around her. Judging by how up close and personal she was in laying her head on his chest near his neck, he figured she had understood how invasive it had been. To stop her from obsessing over her lapse in judgement, he reached down and pulled her top most leg a little higher over his pelvis so that he could gently pet her thigh like he normally did when they were sitting together. There was an awkwardness that now pervaded the silence between them. Kandy could tell by the way he was stroking her leg that he was working through something in his thoughts. 

“Why did it feel like someone drugged me?” 

“You were just feelin’ me fall asleep is all.” 

He looked down at her in confusion and she propped herself on a folded arm at his side. Gently, she rubbed the part of his chest where she had just been resting her head. “When I get scared or upset, I turn to ice. It’s a weird kinda thing. I start to shake, I get so cold it would trigger my adrenaline.” 

Folding his hand over the top of hers, Miguel gave her fingers a tender squeeze while the other continued its steady petting along her outer thigh. “The anxiety?”

She nodded and was silent for a moment before continuing. “I lived with Sandy for a little while and what I’d do is get all bundled up in the guest room and curl up and watch some Netflix or somethin’ stupid on YouTube and eat your food. I always put it in a big ass mug so I could wrap my fingers around it to keep them warm. It calmed me down, paused the loop. Sometimes, I’d just fall asleep flat on the bed with my hand still holding it ‘cause you kept the chill away.”

Reaching up, Miguel ran his fingers against her neck and into her hair as he admired her quietly. Here he thought he’d be spending most of his time trying to get her to own up to all the things she was feeling when really it was him who was concerned about what would happen when she managed to drag open the heavy vault door he could’ve sworn he welded shut earlier this year when he gave up. He also wasn’t going to admit it to her, but he really had given up searching for her, waiting for her to show up, however it was supposed to happen. Maybe it was only now that he was truly owning up to it. The renewed obsession with work and progress started taking more and more time. He was dreaming less and less. She had seen it earlier and called him out on it. Again, she was right. He had been stuck in the same gear, the one that got himself and Irma out of California, established in Tampa, and well on their way forward in a new happy and safe future.

Grinning as the sun backlit her curls, he brought her down across his torso for a round of kissing. With one arm around his waist and the other up over his shoulder, she giggled and held on as he turned them over putting her on her back again. Miguel was noticing that every time she touched him, every place, right down to how she did it was rooted in achieving or communicating something. 

When he leaned down to indulge her and pick up where they had left off, he took note of how she purposely snuck her hand inside the top of his tank by sweeping her hand along his shoulder line and pushing it down between his shoulder blades where his most significant scarring slashed across his upper back. He no longer gave a second thought to where her hands might wind up or how she might react to what she found. 

Kandy had managed to bring him to a place where not only could he enjoy the physical contact shared with her, but he almost began to think it might actually be becoming a turn on itself. Nobody touched him like she did. Even the rare occasions when he was fooling around with a girl who was aroused by all his scarring, the way it felt when they touched him compared to Kandy couldn’t be more different. He knew that part of what she was doing was specifically for him.

“Miguel, la cagué. ¿Me perdona? It was wrong and I won’t ever do it again, okay?”

“Kandajha,” He kissed her forehead and then her mouth again, but it was the subtle roll of his pelvis up into hers that made her eyes close. “you feel that?”

When she didn’t answer immediately, Miguel pushed against her again bringing out of her a soft groan as she looked up at him finally. “Sí, Papi.”

If Miguel wasn’t comfortable with her, he wouldn’t be laying on top of her. If he didn’t trust her when he told her to not do it again without talking to him about it, he certainly wouldn’t be rolling around with her and aroused by her. There wouldn’t be a sitting on the cement wall as a time out. He was taught certain rules by his grandmother about these things, ones that protected the other person’s privacy and autonomy as well as boundaries to keep himself from running into trouble. It also wasn’t lost on him the parallels of consent that existed with respect to the special type of relationship he had with Kandy and the responsibility that came with using their gifts. This was something they would discuss and define together, but it did require them both to fully disclose what they could do. 

Miguel knew that even though she had taken it too far on her own, it was well-intentioned and an honest mistake. “I know sometimes we both hear or feel things we ain’t lookin’ to. It’s the cost of bein’ with each other, losin’ that little bit of privacy. But we’ll sit down in a couple days and figure it out. Basic rule, if one of us ain’t ready to talk about somethin’, the other don’t go snoopin’.”

Kandy grinned at the term and then nodded before eventually sighing. “I just don’t want this to ever come between us or keep you from gettin’ close to m–”

Before she could finish her sentence, Miguel returned to kissing her whilst his hands sought out hers. Once their fingers were interlaced together, he brought her arms up over her head pinning them down with his own. Other than him actually being inside of her, there wasn’t much more contact for them to share as he deepened that kiss and she wrapped her legs down behind his.

Ducking his head down under her jaw, he kissed along her jugular pausing only briefly to inquire as to whether his little witch was actually listening. “Estás escuchando, mi brujita?” For extra emphasis, he rocked up into her teasing out another moan that was cut short by his mouth.

Whatever path of ridiculous self doubt she had been wandering down after her misstep with him, Kandy had been pulled by her hands off of it and put right back where she needed to be, which was in the moment, on a blanket, at the park on Clearwater Beach making out with the man she was about to start building a life with. Feeling him tenderly squeeze her hands, the corners of her lips lifted while their kissing slowly wound down on its own, ending in a few pecks.

“Here I was startin’ to worry you had some kinda fetish.” She gave his hips a cheeky squeeze with her thighs.

He smirked and released her hands so that he could gently sweep her hair out from under her. There was just something about the length of her neck and the shape of the curve that led out to her shoulders. “Nah, but we both got plenty of those to talk about, conejita, and plenty of time to do it.”

“I know there’s a lot of stuff we gotta talk about, figure out, plan for, but I think there’s somethin’ we really need to get out of the way.” Kandy nonchalantly rubbed the center between her collar bones and glanced up at Miguel to gauge his reaction before turning her eyes to the palm tree’s fronds swaying above them against the crystal blue sky.

Watching her direct her gaze away from him made him arch a brow as she typically only did that to try and keep her feelings to herself. It had to be about the hotel room. “What is it, querida?” After tucking a section of her curls back behind her ear, he slipped his fingers down beneath her chin to turn it slightly to get her to refocus on him. 

“If we’re gonna do all that you’re talkin’ about, then I guess you’ve made peace with who my family is.” Reluctantly, Kandy looked at him though her hands had already crept around to his lower back to massage his muscles. “Or are you still thinkin’ about it? With Irma, I know you probably are pretty careful about who you bring her around.”

The truth was that he had purposely put it off. With what he knew about certain people who may or may not have been actual family, Miguel didn’t feel comfortable at all bringing Irma to Kandy’s family events or dinners. Afterall, he was an adult and could handle the situation showing up as Kandy’s plus one. But it wasn’t only him. He and Irma were a packaged deal requiring him to consider her in every plan and subsequent move he made. He certainly wasn’t going to leave Irma alone on holidays, but he couldn’t expect Kandy to never want to spend time with her family. Cassandra had never approached him with anything less than standard restaurant business and nobody, not even Anzhelina, had pressured him into doing something off book. But it would have been a lie if he denied being concerned that once word got out about his relationship with Kandy the chance of people wanting favours would grow.

When Miguel didn’t respond, Kandy sat up forcing him to roll back onto his side. “We gotta be on the same page with this shit. How we’re gonna handle people knowin’. For real Miguel, there can’t be any secrets between us. It doesn’t matter how big or small, if there are any, somebody will find them and I don’t wanna give anybody a chance to drive a wedge between us. So please don’t lie to me, Miguel. Ever. I can’t guarantee you I’ll stay if you tell me the truth, but I can guarantee you I’ll be gone if you lie.”

With the way he smirked, she knew he was offended with how she emphasized the issue of honesty between them. Rather than continue to lounge there next to her, he backed up against the cement half wall to sit facing her on the blanket. He wasn’t mad, simply annoyed.

Miguel stared at her with those dark eyes as he sat with his arms balanced on his knees. “I’m not gonna lie to you, Kandajha.” 

“You’ve said that, but you really gotta start trustin’ me. All the fuckin’ way, where the bodies are buried, the keys to the trunk, the skeletons in the motherfuckin’ closet kinda trust ‘cause you almost did lie to me earlier.” Her palms came up to try and keep it more about keeping it real than lecturing him. “I get that this is gonna be a process, but that shit ain’t gonna get by some of those people. They’ll feel out that crack between us. I stay away from a lot of it, because I know where not to go. But, we’re gonna run into some certain person at some point or they’re gonna show up somewhere. I just want us solid, cariño. Prepared.”

He was silent for a moment trying to figure out if she was bluffing. “When?”

“Back in the office. About the gun and shit. You were considering it.”

His eyes narrowed for a moment in thought. “You know why I wanted to lie?” 

“Pretty sure I do.”

“You sayin’ if I did lie or held back, you still woulda left despite knowin’ why?” With his elbows up on his knees and his hands rubbing together, Miguel’s eyes were no longer locked with hers, but instead on a patch of scarring that ran over the knuckles of his left hand.

Kandy sighed and brushed back her hair before giving in and turning a few degrees more into the breeze. Miguel glanced up at her when she wasn’t looking and saw that his mermaid was afraid to give him an answer. She nodded. “I can’t handle this if you start movin’ like them and keepin’ shit from me. I gotta be able to stand on what you say. What if you had kept that shit from me and someone came up runnin’ their mouth? I’m gonna go off defendin’ you like they’re liars. And then they’re gonna know we aren’t keeping it one hundred with each other. There’s the crack in the door they’re gonna shove their foot into.”

“Like them?” Up went those brows as he sat forward glaring at her. “There ain’t no way I’m like any of them. I don’t need you to defend me when people know shit about my past, especially not to them. Where the fuck do you think people like me get the shit we sell from? It don’t just magically fall from the fuckin’ sky. You sheltered, querida, but you ain’t that fuckin’ sheltered. Everything I did was to keep my family off the fuckin’ street and to have food on the plate so that we wouldn’t fuckin’ starve. Your folks haven’t been hungry in decades, querida. They got more money than they could ever count, so what the fuck does your family do it for?”

And there it was. It surprised Kandy how much of what he said felt like a kick to her stomach. That side of her family, their business deals and negotiations, how they handled things, and who was involved, were all things she stayed away from. It wasn’t brought around her and it never, to her knowledge, ever interfered with her life. But somehow, his indictment of them and their criminal activity felt like he was also including her in all of it. This particular barb didn’t sail past her. Unfortunately, it landed dead center and all she could do was nod and wait for the initial upset to dissipate. 

Finally, after another minute of silence, Kandy smoothed down her hair. “Damn, you can really sting.”

There was no playfulness in her tone, no mischievousness in her eyes. It was all flat and distant. Miguel knew what he had said was unfair, just like he knew that Kandy’s decision to walk away from him if he had lied would have had nothing to do with the guns and drugs. It could have been a traffic ticket or a citation for littering instead. For her, it was the dishonesty that was so destabilizing to her. But he had spun this into his own issue with Cassandra’s last name, a name that Kandy didn’t even have, or any right to have. Manny’s question about whether Miguel really wanted to bring Irma around those types of people had been playing on his mind since the restaurant. And part of him was relieved to know that Kandy was considering Irma in her own thinking already. But he still couldn’t come up with a solution where he could be with Kandy and keep Irma safe without isolating her from Kandy’s family.

“You know, Miguel.” Her fingers rubbed between her collar bones for a moment before she reached over to her bag, which was still being used to keep one corner of the blanket down on the park’s grass. Feeling around the side of the book bag, she was trying to figure out which pocket her sunglasses were in. She turned her head to look back over her shoulder as if she were trying to spot something in particular. Following her gaze, he realised she was looking to see where they were in relation to the car park. She wanted to leave. 

He watched as she struggled to move the zipper and pull out the eyewear. She was not under any circumstances going to let him see how she truly felt while saying whatever it was she was going to say next. Once those purple polarized heart shaped lenses were on, Kandy stared at him offering back only his reflection.

“Querida…”

“You’re right that what that part of my family does, or doesn’t do, has nothin’ to do with money. It’s about power and influence.” She wanted to throw in a line about colonizing behavior to be bitchy, but she stifled it. “It’s always about expansion. More, more, more. Kinda like a plague of locust. That side invades and consumes everything they can.”

Miguel closed his eyes and rubbed his forehead as he sat there listening to her lay the groundwork for why she was going to walk away from him. “Kandajha…”

“Once you sit at that table, once you start comin’ around, I can’t be sure I can keep that other side away from you. From your family. From Irma. But I do know that that group you’re worried about, doesn’t show up for Easter or Thanksgiving or Christmas. That fuckin’ invite you got from Cassandra, doesn’t get handed out like candy. It’s serious shit. My mother isn’t allowed in her house. My father isn’t allowed in her house. Their mom isn’t allowed there. Angie’s dad and his whole side aren’t allowed there. Cassandra doesn’t play when it comes to who really is family. There are more people sittin’ at that table we aren’t related to than we are. They’re there because they’re good people and she’s grateful to have them. But like I said, I fuckin’ get it if you don’t wanna take the risk. This isn’t even countin’ the crazy that is my actual mother.”

“Kandajha, you don’t need to take this shit on. I’m a grown ass man who’s been dealin’ with people like th—“ He stopped himself short and sighed. “My moms is batshit crazy, too. It’s not that big a deal. And what I said has nothin’ to do with Ir–”

“Miguel,” Kandy did him a solid by cutting him off before he finished the lie. “I know you’re tryin’ to figure out how to keep Irma from the things that could hurt her, I know you are. I know you enough to know that you are.”

He reached out to grab her hand, but she sat back away from him whilst trying to collect her shoes that were in the other two corners before continuing. “I know you’ve said what you said and you know what you know about our future. But I can feel how deep that really is gonna be between you and me. I feel it, not just holdin’ onto it as some concept or thought or fact at a distance. You can see it in the way I look at you. It’s not somethin’ I can hide from you anymore with how far we’ve gotten in a short amount of time.”

“You never really could, querida.” His tone had softened as he tried again to get closer to her.

Her hand came up immediately to stop him and keep him at arm’s length. He caught the quiver of her lips before she pressed them together as if her lipstick needed blotting. It quickly quelled the only outward sign of her sadness though it radiated off her like aftershocks from an earthquake. There was no ability for her to speak as she had all but convinced herself that there was no solution to this. The family that never truly claimed her beyond perhaps two people was going to be the very reason that she’d wind up losing out on building her own. She took her time loosening up the laces of her shoes and putting them on. She was devastated inside. Despite sitting in the sun, a chill hopped along Miguel’s arms causing him to shiver on reflex. When he went to rub a bit of warmth back into his cold skin, he looked over at his brujita.

“The other reason why I don’t use that word with you — besides being terrified that something awful will happen after I do — is because I’ll be in serious trouble. It’ll make all of this real for me, realer than it already is. And you know how real it already is. Maybe I say it in a roundabout way sometimes, which isn’t great for either of us. But you haven’t decided yet if you’re staying or you’re going.” Kandy sighed and began digging for her keys, which she couldn’t see were on the last corner of the blanket because Miguel was unknowingly sitting in front of them. “Like I fuckin’ get it. But I can’t kiss you again, I can’t hug you, I can’t be around you, I certainly can’t fuck you until you make a decision about this. Because if I go all in, and believe me, I will be all in, and then you turn around to realise it isn’t worth the risk to her, to you, it will be like l–”

“Losin’ me. Losin’ another person.” 

Even from behind the sunglasses and out of his view, Kandy couldn’t look at him. “Dónde están mis llaves?” 

Turning to the green stretch of the park spotted intermittently with other beachgoers on colorful blankets, she slid her fingers up under the lenses and covered her eyes trying so hard to keep it together. Having to sit here with him knowing that this was all over was agony. Then she remembered her phone and turned to dump everything out of her bag onto the blanket to find the device. “Puedo pedir un Uber.”

Miguel seized the opportunity to sneak up to her from behind and wrap his arms tightly around her body bringing her in as close as he could. Knowing what he was about to do, Kandy turned her face away from him when he leaned his head down to the side to look at her. He didn’t need to see her to know she was crying as he could feel it in the way she was controlling so stringently how she breathed. Gently, he kissed the curve of her neck and, as expected, she felt like ice. Willing to only loosen just one of his arms from her, he strained for a moment but was finally able to snatch the collar of his dress shirt she had kept in her bag from their shenanigans in the office earlier. Pulling it up the front of her body, he did his best to make sure every part of her hands and arms were covered before going back to holding her against his chest.

This quirk Kandy had always managed to catch her out. It wasn’t until she felt the warmth of Miguel’s body that she realized how cold she had actually gotten and began to shiver. A flood of thoughts filled her head and she went through them one by one trying to find something that would give her permission to stay. Her heart was breaking having recognized the feeling in her chest when he wrapped her up in his shirt. It was the same as all those nights she spent curled up around a mug of his food trying not to drown in her own despair. Maybe she could get away with sitting with him like this just until the chill wore off and then she’d order an Uber if she still couldn’t find her keys.

Because his gifts were different than hers, Miguel could only hazard a guess as to what that upsetting tape in her head was playing. He kissed the side of her head and nuzzled her ear. “You ain’t ever gonna know what that’s like so stop imagining it.” There had to be a way for them to navigate through this. To go back to the life he had been living up till this afternoon without her would be something he just couldn’t imagine. 

The combination of his cologne on his shirt that she was wearing and his voice in her ear caused her to run her hand back through his hair. Once she reached the base of his skull, she coaxed him around further with the intent of kissing him, but managed to stop at the very last second. It would be so easy to table this for another time, let go, and get caught up in lust with him. But procrastination was their enemy. “Miguel, you can’t say that. There is a limit to your love for me.” 

While it was encouraging to him that she very nearly kissed him, he knew the timing wasn’t right to push for it. Instead, he kissed the top of her head and gave her another protective squeeze with his strong lean arms. “What limit is that, mi corazón?”

She twisted slightly to look at him after which he removed her sunglasses to see the glossiness of her eyes. The amber pair narrowed a bit out of annoyance for being revealed, “Your love for me stops wherever my family crosses a line with you. If it ever came down to it, you’re gonna make the choice that protects Irma even if it’s at my expense because she’s your kid.”

“Not for nothin’, querida, and don’t take this no kinda way, but you’re only four years older than my sister.”

“And you’re her brother, her only parent, and the only person she’s got in this world. Her relationship with you is far more important than ours.” Turning now to face him better, Kandy lifted her legs to hang over his left thigh as she remained sitting on the blanket in front of him. “I’ve been that kid, Miguel. I know what it’s like to not have anybody.”

Miguel sighed that familiar sigh, one full of frustration and also the one he said he made when Irma didn’t listen. So clearly, Kandy had missed something. Deciding to give them both a minute to calm down, he began to untie one of her purple and zebra striped Converses after which he continued on to the second when she didn’t protest over the removal of the first. 

It now became clear to him why the timing between them had worked out the way it had. If they had wound up meeting any earlier, he wouldn’t have even considered what he was about to suggest as it would’ve likely disrupted Irma and her schooling. Instead, he would’ve been upfront and made Kandy decide if she was okay with keeping their relationship secret from her family for a while. 

“I love you both and I’ll protect you both, but Kandajha you gotta stop actin’ like we’re on opposite sides of this shit. You wanna be a part of this, then stop lettin’ the urge to fuckin’ run be the first thing that gets in your head just ‘cause you can’t come up with a solution yourself. Querida, you’re smart and you know I see how smart you are, but you don’t fuckin’ know everything.” Moving her shoes out of the way, he pushed himself back up against the cement half wall leaving it to her to decide if she wanted to leave, stay where she was, or move with him. “I got a plan, so let’s talk about the fuckin’ plan.” 

“What the fuck does the plan matter if this isn’t even gonna get st–”

Miguel stared at her. This was a new kind of stare. This was more along the lines of him waiting for her to stop talking and start listening kind of stare. Sighing under the weight of her own frustration, Kandy wiped her eyes with her fingers again before folding her arms over her stomach. Watching her with his dark eyes, he couldn’t help but smirk. With as small as she looked in his dress shirt, it was like she was a little girl pouting. The Scorpio wasn’t foolish enough to underestimate his little witch just because of an image conjured up by her behavior. Instead he rested his arms on his knees and waited.

The sight of all her possessions dumped out on the blanket when she was panicking over how to outrun the hurt embarrassed her. It was a pattern she had and was aware of. If she knew she was going to lose something or somebody important to her, Kandy preempted it by slicing through any cords that kept the connection alive. Out of sight, out of mind. No photos, letters, or messages. She erased them from her life so as to avoid having any reminder of what was set to be taken away. In the case of Miguel, it would have meant never seeing or speaking to him again, never setting foot in the restaurant or ordering from there again, and certainly never returning to this beach. Zoraida’s passing interrupted that pattern. Kandy couldn’t bring herself to get rid of anything that belonged to her, not even the Jeep she secretly hated driving. She didn’t want to do this with Miguel. His plan could be damn near anything and she would likely agree to it if it meant not losing whatever this was.

Not wanting the mess to stay there as a reminder, she quietly began putting her things back in her bag including her sunglasses, which Miguel offered her. Picking up her shoes from next to him, she glanced his way and saw his upset building. It was then that she noticed her keys in the corner of the blanket behind him. “Ahí están.”

Twisting his body to look behind him, Miguel saw the key ring with the bejeweled dolphin that matched the license plate on the purple Jeep. When he turned back around to hand them off to her, Kandy was busy splitting up her pair of colorful sneakers tossing one to its own corner of the pink hibiscus fabric. Without making a sound, he returned the keys back to the place they had been the whole time. Resting his head back on the sun-warmed cement, Miguel closed his eyes and finally began to relax. She wasn’t leaving.

“Okay, what’s the plan?”

Straightening up, he found her kneeling between his feet with her hands resting on her thighs rather than standing and ready to flee. With her hair parted off to one side, the mountain of curls spilled over in front of her shoulder keeping the collar of his dress shirt high against her neck as the other half slipped off her shoulder and down her upper arm because of how big it was on her. It should have been the only thing she was wearing. No t-shirt and shorts and certainly no bra and panties. Especially if that was the pose she selected for sitting in front of him. Straightening out his legs, he silently pointed to a spot closer to him. Crawling forward, Kandy didn’t stop until her knees gently pressed into his inner thighs while her hands rested down very nearly against his hips. He smirked at her taking his instruction for closeness to an almost provocative extreme.

“The plan is to enjoy life here until we can’t.” A simple shrug.

She blinked. “I’m sorry, what?”

“It’s not complicated, querida. We live our life here just like we would if all that bullshit never winds up happenin’. And if it winds up happenin’, then we go somewhere else. Just go with the flow.” This was probably the only time in his life when he’d try to package winging it as a competent strategy, but that’s all he had. Really, it was not just their best option, but the only option. “I got some savings to get us by for a while if I gotta take a pay cut workin’ for somebody else. Maybe I wind up doin’ this thing with Manny we always been talkin’ about ourselves. Even if everything works out fine, once Irma goes to college, we can go if we want to.”

“Go where?”

“Wherever we want. All the schools Irma’s lookin’ at are either out of state or far enough away that we’ll be left alone.”

“Just pack up and leave.”

He nodded. “Just pack up and leave.”

“Us?”

“Who the fuck else you plan on bringin’? Those hips haven’t spread enough so I know you don’t got a kid.”

She laughed and pushed his chest playfully. Miguel grabbed her hand and pulled her up against him. Immediately, her arms went around his sides and her face nuzzled into the side of his neck. He could still feel the dampness from her eyes and cheeks against his skin. It was only after her legs were brought around to hang over his and his hand came down to stroke her thigh that the pair both sighed with relief in unison.

He kissed the top of her head while she got more into her preferred position against the front of his body. “I can’t promise you I’m gonna be some big rich restaurant ownin’ motherfucker. But we can have a nice life, querida, even if we gotta start over somewhere else.”

“We can make whatever it is work, mi halcón. I’m not afraid of that if we’re always together on the same page.”

“You get why I’m not gonna be bringing Irma to everything.”

She nodded. “I only go to stuff at the house and Angie usually lets me peek at the guest list ahead of time if I help out with the desserts. She caters most of Sandra’s events.”

Miguel’s brows popped up, “I thought you said you’re no good with food for other people.”

“It’s kinda hard to fuck up assembly, cariño.” She giggled into the side of his neck before kissing the top of his shoulder. Falling back into her thoughts, Kandy gently massaged his lower back idly with one of her hands.

“Pregúntame, querida.”

She sat away to have a look at him pausing for a moment to tap her fingers against the place between her collar bones. “At the restaurant, it’s always just about the food, right?”

Giving her thigh an affectionate squeeze and comforting rub, Miguel nodded. “Only the food. Nobody has ever tried to pull nothin’. If somebody is doin’ it, which I have no fuckin’ clue how ‘cause I stay in their asses all the time to keep that place runnin’ right, it’s some way I don’t see.”

“Angie never has?”

“I think shit like that is several levels below her pay grade, querida. Do you know what she does for Cassandra?” His head tilted to the side whilst studying her, now quite curious as to how much she really understood.

A slow nod.

“Querida, Cassandra isn’t gonna fuck with the sandwich shop and I kinda don’t think she’s gonna do somethin’ to upset your apple cart. It’s not her I’m watchin’ for.”

Turning the rest of the way around to face him properly, her knees separated for her legs to fold up along his flanks and the wall. Helping her out a bit, he cheated his hips forward enough to give her room to wrap her legs around behind him for a more comfortable position. Happy to have an excuse to do so, Kandy locked her ankles behind his back whilst folding her arms behind his neck. 

“You’re too important to me to risk that. So, we’re gonna make it so that I’m not gonna need to trust them to do the right thing.”

Squinting at her, Miguel wasn’t quite sure what to say. While part of him was terribly interested to see how smart she really was about these things, the other side of him wondered if perhaps he was opening a Pandora’s box. He knew there was some lingering resentment between Kandy and certain members of her family. His concern now was as to whether he had inadvertently lit a fuse. “How are we gonna do that?”

“If somebody’s gonna approach you, it’s gonna be Angie. I think your idea of just goin’ forward with things like we would is the key. If Sandra comes correct with the terms, you do the deal with her for your business. You’re gonna know by what she wants you to sign if she’s really about keepin’ things legit. Get your shit goin’, let her get you in the rooms you wanna be in, build what you need to do it on your own. That way, if we do have to press the eject button –”

“I’m established. More options in more places.”

“Yes. We can do this in a year. We can get Irma off to college and you out of the kitchen and into an office. If, like you say, nobody ever asks, then we continue living our happy lives.”

Just like the times he would look in her eyes and see how much she loved him, Miguel was surprised by how confident she was in discussing his advancement and success. It was as if it never occurred to her to not believe in him. And while he had seen a glimpse of what the financial side of their life was going to be like, it still made a world of difference to know that she didn’t doubt him. 

“Leavin’ you behind was never gonna be a part of the plan, Kandajha. If I had to lie, sneak around, whatever, I woulda done it to keep seein’ you. If Cassandra had said no, I wouldn’t have given a fuck. Nothin’ was gonna stop me.” 

Kandy gently coaxed him in closer with both sets of finger tips, one on either side of his jaw. The touch of her lips on his was so delicate when she spoke. “I know you love me.”

Distracting her a little bit to keep the conversation going, Miguel kissed her upper lip and let his hands curve down lower on her ass to lift her higher up in his lap. “I tell you all the time, don’t I?”

She couldn’t help but grin. “All the time, Papi.”

Leaning back to look at her, he took a moment to wipe under her eyes with his thumbs. “For what it’s worth though, for all your family’s got, none of it really seems to make you happy, querida. Maybe if life gotta up and change shit on us at some point, it’ll be different than what you used to. Maybe even better some ‘cause I’m a part of it now.”

There was something in his tone that hooked her attention as he spoke, particularly on the last part about his presence in her life. “Are you worried that if we hit a bump in the road, it’s gonna feel the same to me and then I’ll think it’s the same and then I’ll –”

“Run?” Up went one of those dark angular brows before he sighed and looked deep into her amber eyes. “The reason why you didn’t leave here is ‘cause you know what this is really all about. I know you’d come back after you got your mind right.”

Kandy saw the weariness in Miguel, which made her rest her forehead against his. He wanted this to be the turning point, that this meeting meant they were brought together now, and it was their moment to walk through that doorway together. The possibility that she wasn’t ready yet or the timing to take the next steps hadn’t yet arrived weighed on him. Miguel needed this piece of his life secured and in place. Just like she needed the confidence in him telling her the truth, he needed the confidence in her committing to be there.

It seemed like everything she was having to face in the last year was relating to major life decisions. Going through the back and forth about the house in Odessa that Zoraida surprisingly left to her, Kandy got her first taste of familial discord in a long time. Her cousin, who was really more of an older brother, was completely on board with Kandy getting the house that Zoraida meticulously designed and decorated after marrying Cicero and into the Boledi family. However, Kandy’s uncle, who never became much of a father figure in contrast, had done everything possible to invalidate her entitlement. 

There was the small matter of a loan he had taken out several years prior and seemed to be angling to snatch the house and sell it to pay off what was outstanding. The fight had been kept quiet as she indulged him in repeated private mediations. The offers were always about bribing her into signing off on a deal that gave him the ability to sell the house as soon as possible. He had even offered to pay her tuition at University of Miami if she agreed to move out of the pool house so that the house could be properly listed for sale. He wanted her gone. Other than a few very specific high end items that Zoraida had left for Cicero and Carmelo, she had left everything that remained to Kandy, which included all the cash in her accounts. His narrative was always the same: Kandy wasn’t a blood relation, he was Zoraida’s husband at the time of her death, and Kandy would get less of an amount if she fought him because of all the money he sank into it prior to her even living there. He always spun it like he was doing her some big favour, if she signed, he’d give her a little bit extra to get her on her feet. 

There had been no indications at the law firm that they were in financial trouble and Cassandra seemed blissfully unaware of the negotiations happening behind the scenes. The little brunette was simply playing for time as she figured out what she wanted to do. Cicero seemed to think that commanding her attendance to some unofficial meeting in a tall building in downtown Tampa with his ex-judge friend sitting as referee would be enough to intimidate her into rolling over and signing anything he put in front of her. She hadn’t hired an attorney because she didn’t want to run the risk of this getting out or back to Cassandra specifically. During this back and forth, she was essentially taxing her uncle by living there rent free. Every month, Kandy logged onto the house account to make sure he transferred enough to cover the utilities, taxes, and other financial obligations for maintaining the property.

Whenever he decided to stop paying the bills or she got tired of doing this dance pretending to be affected by his harassment and attempts at extortion, Kandy would play her trump card: the adoption, which he seemed to have either forgotten about or wasn’t aware of. She was absolutely, unequivocally a legitimate heir and had been since the year after her return to the United States. Apparently, Zoraida had the foresight that Cicero’s rejection of Kandy would eventually turn into a major problem. Part of what fueled Kandy’s anger at the man was how horribly he had treated Zoraida when it became clear that she very much wanted to step into the role of being Kandy’s mother. It wasn’t long after that that his sobriety disappeared entirely, but somehow Zoraida managed to handle him. Afterall, the house was big enough that Kandy could go for days without running into him. 

With what she would probably clear from just the basic comps she had researched, Kandy could put most of the cash in savings and use the proceeds from the sale to buy herself someplace and set up anywhere. The problem was she didn’t know where she wanted to be or how to stop being this strange Twilight Zone version of herself. In the span of one afternoon though, all of that confusion and stagnation was being swept out and stirred up. While she knew life was chaos and anything that could happen probably would, she and Miguel were still plotting out some big goals and discussing grown up issues. When retold in a café as to how they met, the truncated version might sound like a fairytale, but it was this unconventional and intense communication, which worked to ground it all in reality.

“You need me to be ready for this. Your sister and my family, that was the only shit that had me buggin’ out. It’s just weird to me to have somebody that gives a shit about what I say or what worries me and isn’t a fuckin’ dictator. It’s gonna take me a minute to really get that if we have to work somethin’ out it isn’t gonna be a disaster or if we argue it isn’t gonna be the end of the world.”

“Maybe like how I gotta get used to havin’ a girl that ain’t a fuckin’ zombie and can actually help me when I been doin’ shit on my own for so long.” He offered.

Sighing, Kandy lovingly rubbed the center of his chest with her palm. “I know you’re tired, mi halcón, but we can do this. I know you enough to know that if you were takin’ meetings for what you wanna do, you’ve thought about doin’ this for a long ass time and you’re prepared.”

Miguel turned his head slightly whilst leaning in. “Bésame, conejita.”

“Me encanta besar a mi Papi.” Kandy’s mouth met his complying with his request for a kiss, but the longer it went on the more intense it became. 

Still keeping that familiar slow and confident pace, Miguel was in full command of it as he took hold of the back of her head beneath her hair to keep her right where he wanted her. It was the type of kiss that could hurt pride and feelings depending on who was involved and who was left out, a real truth teller of a kiss. Just like back in his cousin’s restaurant when he got swept up in all the emotion of the unexpected kiss she gave him, there was no faking what was being felt between them.

A deeper and stronger control replaced the nervous young energy he knew she used to keep people looking in a different direction. Her thighs flexed and her arms extended past his shoulders so that her hands could clamp onto the other edge of the cement behind his back. Pressing him into the hard surface, Kandy moaned playfully into his mouth before drawing back and tossing her hair back out of the way. Miguel had that look on his face, the one Manny teased him about. Those gears were turning and she grinned at him after catching a flash of that playfulness in his dark eyes.

“For real though, Papi, I have some cash stashed too. If we need it, we got it. We’re keepin’ this shit 50/50.” Seeing him start to bristle at that, she rolled her eyes dramatically before leaning to the side to kiss the joint of his jaw and whisper in his ear. “Don’t worry, you’ll get your chance to carry the full load of the bills. No fuckin’ way am I waddlin’ my little ass around in the fuckin’ Florida heat. You can live out your ultimate machismo hunter, gatherer, provider fantasy while I’m loungin’ out by the pool like the fuckin’ Empress eatin’ bonbons.”

“Mm.”

Coming back around to face him, she looked at him questioningly, “Mm?”

Both of his hands dropped down to cup under her rear and lift her again with a squeezing grope as he doubled down on his original reaction. “Mm.”

“You’re such a fuckin’ weirdo.” 

Another territorial massage of those denim wrapped curves. “These hips gettin wider, this ass fatter.” Miguel waited a moment for a couple to finish walking by on the pavement behind them before giving the right side of her rear a playful smack and grope. 

Biting her bottom lip, Kandy stifled the groan he triggered and then laughed. But it was his borderline lecherous stare that made her blush and sit back down on top of him. “I guess you’re not one of those guys who stops fuckin’ his wife ‘cause he suddenly realizes she’s also now the mother of his child.” 

“What you think, mami?” His tattooed hands slithered back around to the side of her hips following their shape inward to her slender waist before one hopped up to her chest for a slow grope to her breast beneath her clothes. Between that oversized unbuttoned dress shirt of his that he had wrapped her up in and the A Tribe Called Quest shirt she already had on, Miguel had plenty of cover to keep doing what he was doing. “I can’t wait to see how sensitive these get, mi conejita.”

“Miguel…” Her soft moan of his name wound down into the cutest of giggles as she pulled her hand back to clamp over his in an effort to stop the massaging and squeezing it was doing inside her bra again.

Grinning ear to ear, he nuzzled her cheekbone whilst keeping her body flush up against his. Actively squeezing her hips, Miguel was not at all concealing that surge of desire for her. Kandy loved the feel of his energy when he was comfortable and fully in the moment with her. It was palpable just like the pull of the magnetic attraction between them. But, her ability to hold his intense gaze lasted only for a few more seconds before she closed her eyes and let her palms rest on his chest. 

Feeling his hand conform to the shape of her jaw to lift her chin slightly, she heard his voice in her ear. “Look at me.”

Kandy swallowed and eventually was able to comply. When she did, she saw not just the hunger in him, but the passion rooted deep in emotion. Though her hands remained on his chest and were placed there to keep things more on the decent side, they now served as a conduit to pass to her what he was purposely feeling. His unspoken intentions were making themselves known to certain parts of her body. Between her thighs, up inside where she ached for him to be, parts of her had been deceived into thinking he was really there. His thoughts were so concentrated on what it would have been like if they were in his bed or hers. Kandy could feel the heat of him inside. She could feel him flex up inside of her. 

To the tourists and locals, the pair were just two people sitting off to the side and out of the way of everyone else going about their Sunday. A guy with his arms around his girl who enjoyed being kept close for whatever little private conversation they were having on a blanket in the park.

Miguel eventually leaned down to whisper in her ear, “I bet I’m the only one you ever let cum in you.” The rather ambiguous tense he used toyed with her sense of time as much as it did her heart rate.

“Only one ever, Papi.”

Episodes

To read other entries in the Kandy and Miguel series, please click here or begin with the Kandy and Miguel: Intro post.

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