Kandy and Miguel #7: The Park, Part Three.

Kandy watched as Miguel avoided her eyes before resting his head back against the cement to stare at the sky. Was that a hint of colour she detected on his cheeks? Terribly curious, she managed to raise up just enough to get a proper look at his handsome face. He was indeed blushing.

“Does Miguel have a breeding kink?” Kandy smiled at him, letting her head tilt off to the side causing him to eventually laugh showcasing his dimples. 

“You’re wild as fuck, querida.” 

“This is one of those times when I wanna say it.”

“That makes you wanna tell me you love me?” A dark brow perked.

“Papi!”

His espresso coloured gaze rolled down to find her sitting there in his lap sporting a big old Cheshire Cat grin. Much to his dismay, she had noticed the slight tint coloring his skin and he grumbled a little. Relaxing on her pink hibiscus blanket with her, Miguel returned to squeezing and rubbing her denim covered rear with the hope that she’d get distracted.

“Pa-pi.”

Eventually that coy sing-song tone she used got him to grin again and lift his brows, “What, Kandajha?”

“You know it’s about a lot more than what you do to me, Miguel. You know there’s a whole list of reasons why I feel what I feel for you.” Wrapping her fingers around the hem of his tank top, she toyed with the grey cotton whilst biting her bottom lip. “But why can’t I be in love with my Papi also because he makes me ache for him and…” 

“And?”

The naughty feline like expression disappeared and was replaced with a smile that led with her affection for him. “And makes me wanna have him inside me all the time.”

“All the time, huh?” He smirked, but it didn’t succeed in hiding how her statement turned his dials a few ticks as evidenced by the expansion of his hands’ route to now include along her back beneath her shirt instead of just over her hips. 

She was silent for a moment having let her eyes close to fully enjoy his relaxing touch. Masking her curiosity with provocative flirtation, Kandy straightened up to look him in the eye whilst her palms rubbed over his chest. “Don’t sit there tryin’ to play it cool like it doesn’t make you hard as fuck to know you are the only one ever to cum inside me.”

Miguel watched her as she flicked on his territorial switch with a single sentence. She wasn’t done though. His head tilted when she reached behind her body to take a hold of his arm to bring his hand around in front of her. Without a word, his little witch turned his wrist and tenderly held his palm flush against her lower abdomen before looking back up at him. He knew they had a lot still to accomplish before that particular experience would begin, but knowing she was seemingly open to it being a part of their future gave him great comfort and happiness. 

Seeing the effect her gesture had on him, Kandy softly kissed his cheek whilst holding the opposite side of his face. A thought popped in her head the instant her lips touched his skin and she felt compelled to share it. “I remember more about you than you think.”

His eyes closed as he listened to her play with his fetish for time, for lifelong connection, and the innate possessiveness of his personality. Miguel swept his hand over her smooth tummy. Though tempted to veer up towards her chest, he instead returned it to her hip. Sporadically, he squeezed his grip on her through that bastard denim she wore while sorting through his thoughts. He wanted to run his fingertips over the elegant curve of her pelvis and to the firm sculpted flesh of her hips and thighs. It was obvious by the muscle tone of her legs and rear she didn’t just run or dance. There were no dreaded hip dips that he could feel when he groped her despite the amount of definition she had built in the surrounding area. Whatever training she did was targeted to shape her body in a particular way, the motivation of which he fancied eventually knowing. He was dying to get her in a pair of heels to see the true shape of those strong yet elegant legs. For a moment, thoughts of her modeling the dress he had in mind for a Friday night’s party filled his head, but he quickly refocused on something else to limit the chance she might pick up on it and the surprise be ruined.

“What you remember then, conejita?”

“Why you love cummin’ inside of me.”

Miguel was beginning to resign himself to the fact that she was always going to find some way to get to him, such was the trade off of her playfully bratty side. “Tell me why I love to cum in you, Kandajha.”

Unlocking her ankles from around behind his back, she brought her feet under her enough to lift up into a crouched position over his lap. It was the exact position Miguel expected her to be in when she was ready to reach down between her thighs and guide his length inside of her. Sadly, there would be no penetration in the park. Instead, she was only focused on being the center of his undivided attention. Pressing into his torso with the newly added height difference between them, she forced him into having to tilt his head back to look up at her. To further lock him into this conversation, her hands tenderly moved up the sides of his neck to catch under his long jaw and lift his chin just a little higher giving those dark eyes of his no room to wander.

“You want me in every possible way. You want me in love with you, seekin’ you out for comfort and runnin’ to you for protection. You wanna put a ring on my finger and a collar around my neck. You want my body to know and crave you and only you. You want my last name not to be Ferro or Boledi or Salazar, but Vela. You wanna see our signatures signed together,” A hand lifted to act out the signing in the air. “the Velas, on fuckin’ everything we have. You want me enmeshed in everything, all the things we’re going to do and accomplish. Your dick throbs at the thought of me being known as and recognized as your wife. But the reason why you want and need to be in as deep as you can, to cum inside of me, and fill me, is for that ultimate connection. It’s the one bond neither of us can ever break. And that’s to create life, half of you and half of me. Til our dying breaths, the life we build, the family we create will be the cement keeping those ties bound.”

Staring up at her, Miguel sighed a sigh that vacillated between relief and nervousness. On one hand, he was set at ease knowing that she accepted him and understood him on such a deep level, the things he longed for and why, his motivations. On the other, there was a small part of him that still felt awkward admitting these were some of the things that turned him on and fueled his drive to succeed in different areas of his life with her. His hands had fallen down to the easiest place to touch her, her slender ankles and the tops of her feet as she crouched over his lap. 

The way she demanded his attention, the light touch of her fingers drifting back and forth against a very particular portion of his jaw, the mix of her emotions swirling within her eyes as she gazed down at him — all were examples of the quiet ways Kandy had gradually pulled Miguel further and further into the pool of emotions he worked so hard to stay out of. He could be committed to her, protective of her, and loyal to her all without letting himself feel too much of it. But she would feel the difference. He knew she would. But more importantly, the longer he was around her the less either one of them seemed inclined to allow him to keep to the edges of those emotions. Kandy wasn’t just the girl standing in a car park asking if he wanted to come play. She was now also his mate beckoning him to come swim with her in all there was to feel. Though he wasn’t really a Scorpion and she was neither a frog nor a turtle, Miguel still approached those seemingly calm waters with the trepidation of a creature who could not swim.

When he didn’t respond to any of the things she said, Kandy sat down in his lap again and let her legs slip around behind his back. Within just a few seconds, his hands had found their place on her thighs. Though she knew she was right and had both seen and felt that confirmation circulating within him, she had also picked up on the distance he imposed. It was feeling more and more like a wall he had bricked up. It did sting her a little bit though that he still didn’t seem comfortable enough with her or inspired to share anything about what she had said. He could have nodded. But nothing.

Folding her arms across her stomach, Kandy took a moment to let the hurt pass before making her demand. “I wanna talk to Miggy.”

Miguel’s eyebrows shot up, but he wasn’t sure how to respond to her. The gentle steady petting of her legs came to a stop. His first instinct might have been to ask for an explanation, but he understood deep down why she used that name. It wasn’t just because family and close friends used it. But rather it had more to do with the fact that name had so many ties, good and bad, to his past, to his time in California, and his life before her.

“I want a face to face with Miggy, the guy that Manny says is a hopeless fuckin’ romantic and never shies away from making a joke. I think I kinda met him earlier. Unofficially. He and I need to talk. Like now.” 

The Scorpio stared at her. Miguel knew Kandy wasn’t angry per se, but that her patience had been exhausted while he had been stuck in his head. Again, that feeling of being exposed ran riot through him as he sat there with the girl of his dreams, his soul mate, on top of him. The sun suddenly felt like an overhead light used by police in those old films where they interrogate their prisoners until they sweat from the literal and figurative heat. 

He thought back to the premise of the universe pairing people together who were mirrors of each other. Perhaps the reason why he recognized in Kandy the carefully cultivated forward facing personality she showed to the world was because he did something similar. She seemed to notice it in him based on how she differentiated between the public version of himself, the private, and the special side only she would ever know and see.

“Why?”

“Because I don’t think ‘Miguel’,” She lifted her fingers to make air quotes around his name. “is willin’ to have a totally open and honest conversation. It takes to people to have one and all he likes to do is sit inside his thoughts.”

She had him back to being curious again. But, God, did he want a cigarette. Scratching that place under his jaw, he watched her while trying to put together a few guesses of what this was gonna be about. Maybe it had to do with the hotel room. They still had yet to address it. There was no way she would have forgotten about something like that. It had to be floating somewhere in her consciousness. He was tired of the stress of waiting. If she didn’t bring it up sooner rather than later, he was just going to confess and hope for the best. When his thoughts finally settled and he looked up at her all he could think about was the look on her face when she became frustrated over his lack of response. She had laid it all out on the table and he couldn’t bring himself to address a single word of it. That was rather cowardly, he thought after more consideration. Unable to deny that part of it forced him to look away from her. 

“What’s on your mind, Kandajha?”

There was no nervousness or anxiety present within her. She didn’t hesitate or rub the pressure point between her collar bones. Instead, she looked him right in the eye after he decided to stop avoiding her. “I know that you’ve been in Miguel mode a long ass time. Strict, focused, disciplined, determined. It’s gotten you and Irma away from life in California. It’s also pretty obvious that you’ve gone out of your way to avoid situations where you would be forced to feel things beyond those parameters. Just like your boxes of data you plug into your spreadsheets to try and assess risk. Kinda feels like you really think that you haven’t changed any. Instead, you think you’ve only been successful because you isolated yourself. So you have concerns about what will happen when you let yourself out of the jail you built.”

“Jail, huh?”

“You think I can’t feel it, Miggy? I don’t even have to touch you and I feel when Miguel starts freakin’ the fuck out that things are goin’ too fast or gettin’ a little too emotional or cuttin’ a little too close. It’s like ABS on a fuckin’ car. It’s these little interruptions in the vibe. Just like how that brake pedal pulses. Miggy, I can feel when you walk up to the doorway of that cell. You get your toes right up on that fuckin’ threshold. When the temptation pulls at you, you do reach for me. But then you slam on those fuckin’ brakes the second it’s more than what you’re used to with the others. I know you have no fuckin’ problem switchin’ Miguel off when he gets in your way though.”

Kandy sat there silent for a moment watching him and then finally started to laugh when he squinted at her suspiciously. “You didn’t think I believed Miguel was the guy on top of me makin’ sure I felt every fuckin’ inch of him in those pants, did you? Or the guy who grabbed me and wouldn’t let me leave when he had no fuckin’ plan or solution to a pretty major problem, because he was just as in love with me as I am with him? Come on, you’ve been here this whole time. Miguel would never make out with some strange chick in his car in the middle of traffic. He wasn’t who saw that I was scared and let me in in the first place. He’s not the guy who held my hand and kissed it to keep me calm. You, Miggy, you were the guy back in the office who was sweatin’ bullets over tellin’ me about the accident and showin’ me your scars. Why do you think you’re still here with me and not at work? Like Miguel is gonna be late or take a day off — he doesn’t know how to function outside of work and taking care of Irma because that’s all you created him for. I created Kandy and you created Miguel. We did it so we can just shift into autopilot and not have to feel shit unless we want to.”

The things he saw in her, she could also see in him and that was initially unsettling. As the seconds ticked by allowing him to mull over her observations she had decided to share, he could feel a lightening of the unseen weight on his shoulders. More and more, he didn’t just feel like he could be himself around her, but he also found himself wanting to be. Kandy was right in that there had most definitely been times when he was, without any disguise, completely himself and in the moment with her. It was when the overly sharp blade of his thoughts started dissecting their situation that his other more detached and cautious side, the one she referred to as Miguel rather than Miggy, would try to step in between the two.

Raising his hand, Miguel tenderly held the side of her head whilst petting the joint of her jaw in front of her ear with his thumb. With the most content of sighs, Kandy cuddled into the palm of the hand that could’ve been mistaken as belonging to Death. 

“There’s a lot still, Kandajha. Plenty of opportunity for me to freak you out or fuck all this up in ways I’m not even gonna know about til it happens. Could we get past all of it? I’ve seen we can, but that’s only ‘cause we keep agreein’ to work at it. ”

“Miggy, you’re twenty five, right?”

“Yea.”

“And you had the accident on your seventeenth birthday?”

“Yea.”

“Eight years. How many more years are you gonna need playin’ Miguel before you accept you’re the same person? Two to make it a whole ass decade? You control him. He doesn’t control you. Miguel is a cool fuckin’ cat and that has to come from somewhere. So why do you think that isn’t gonna translate to this side of your life, the side of your life with me. Because that’s what triggers him to switch on, right? You feel that slide. Things start flowin’ too smooth so it can’t possibly be good.”

Miguel wasn’t ready to answer that question and instead let his hand cup around the back of Kandy’s head to see if she would lean in for a kiss. One of her arms wrapped low around his torso while the other folded behind his neck. Her lips touched his so tenderly that he held her there motionless for a few seconds just to appreciate the feel of her mouth on his. When he did finally continue on and deepen the kiss, Kandy’s arms tightened around his body while getting lost in it with him. He already had his dress shirt peeled most of the way down her arms when she started giggling. Though hearing it brought a smile to his face, his sigh was still heavy when he released the shirt’s collar. They needed to finish their conversation.

He looked so worried that she instinctively reached out and touched his jaw. Taking her hand, he kissed her knuckles before finally looking up at her. “You’re right to be afraid about me findin’ out if somebody’s hurt you, querida.”

Kandy’s expression dimmed as her amber eyes dropped to the center piece of artwork on his chest still hidden by the grey cotton of his tank top. “Do you have this issue when it comes to Irma?”

“Yes.”

“Has it ever been a problem since you got to Florida?”

“Almost once.”

“What stopped it?”

With both of his palms now resting on the top of her thighs, Miguel’s thumbs lightly swept back and forth over the curve that led down to the sides of her toned limbs. “Gettin’ arrested violates the terms of my suspended sentence. I’d go to prison and we’d lose everything. All of it. It’d turn Irma’s world upside down.”

Kandy picked up his hands in hers and held them close to get a good long look at them and the scars that ran jagged over his knuckles, particularly on his left. Those were not from the accident, but instead from the fights he took to help finance their leaving California behind. She felt it had been more than just about the money though. Immediately, Miguel looked away from her when he realized what her attention was focused on. 

While he had worked through a significant amount of his anger in the last eight years, there were still things he avoided confronting and had been burying under work and responsibilities. This was the wall that Kandy saw in the distance that he was racing toward unknowingly. Going finger by finger, she affectionately kissed every battle scarred joint, paying extra attention to those belonging to his left hand. It had proven to be an unexpectedly arousing experience that made him want to slide a couple of his fingers from his other hand into her mouth before redirecting them elsewhere. A flash of that imagery, while very attractive, brought with it an uncomfortable amount of conflict within him. As hot as that fire burned for her, those flames could be equally destructive. 

“I know what you’re capable of, Miggy. You made the right choice and walked away from whatever that situation was. Only you really know how hard you had to convince yourself. But it comes down to you makin’ a decision, mi halcón.”

Looking back up at her, he saw the brave face she was putting on to try and hide how deep her concern really went. “About what, mi corazón?”

“That you truly want everything she’s shown you,” Kandy paused to nod toward the Santa Muerte tattoo on his neck, “and all the things I talked about havin’ earlier, all the ways you want me. Knowin’, and believin’ you deserve all the good things comin’. Understanding that you are more than capable of handlin’ the new experiences comin’ because what you’ve been through in the past has strengthened you. Realizin’ you’re here to do more than just shepherd Irma to adulthood. I think you kinda know that last part already. The way you talk about certain other things and people, I can see how they get to you. There’s stuff out there you wanna change. You know there’s another purpose for you, your own, for yourself that you don’t share with anybody.”

Maybe it was right then that Miguel began to consciously explore how deep his love for Kandy went. The further he went the more it seemed like it had been there for all of his life somewhere behind a locked door in his heart or perhaps more accurately hidden under the floorboards of his soul. Even still, the way he was feeling it was from a distance, just enough to give himself something to analyze. Comparing the intensity of these feelings to the darkest anger he had ever experienced, the latter paled in comparison making him uneasy. What could he be capable of if someone threatened, harassed, or even hurt Kandajha? Would these feelings wipe out his self control if somebody lit the fuse? This was his biggest fear. Though he was able to walk away from that other situation like she said, it still took him longer than he liked. The truth was, the fact he even had to still consider the consequences to dissuade himself from acting on the impulse to punch a stranger’s lights out bothered him. 

She could see that he was sifting through things to try and figure out how best to handle everything going on inside his chest. “Irma and I, we both need you. We can’t fuckin’ lose you, Miggy. You told me up in that office that I didn’t have anything to worry about, that nobody was gonna come lookin’ for you. I know you know what life is like out there, more than I do. Do you get what it will do to me if I lost you, especially over some dumb shit like an asshole who keeps a gun in his truck? For real. But isolation isn’t the answer either, cariño. I’m certainly not sayin’ to go look for a fight, but the more you see that you can handle those situations the stronger your trust in yourself will be. We both could use some practice with people if we’re keepin’ it all the way a hundred with each other.”

Before he could say anything, Kandy wrapped her arms around him again and held on to him tightly as she hid her face in the side of his neck. It was such a surreal experience, the process of inching his way back into his emotions like a kid nervously dipping his feet into the shallow end of a pool. The way she hugged him in the office when he was unsure about sharing his past with her was the same way she was hugging him now. His head came to rest lightly against the side of hers whilst one hand went to comfortingly pet the back of her head and the other latched low around her waist.

“What did I say earlier when you thought you were gonna lose me?” Miguel turned just enough to kiss the side of her head, “Stop imaginin’ it ‘cause you ain’t ever gonna know what it’s like.”

“Promise me our family won’t either.”

That was the image that tore deep into his insides, the image of Kandy left behind to raise without him the family she was beginning to admit to herself she had wanted this whole time. All the things they both had lived through, ruining their story by darkening it from making her a widow wasn’t on his agenda. Nor was he looking to sabotage Irma at the biggest stage of her adolescence. Just like he wasn’t going to turn his children into another fatherless generation of Velas. He needed them to see the change that was possible and to continue on building the Vela legacy beyond just being a family struggling to survive through any means necessary. It was about cultivating talent and potential, preserving and practicing tradition, not about stagnation and discouragement. Miguel never wanted his children to be in a position where they were even contemplating turning to the streets for validation or money. He was determined to be the last one of their family to experience that lifestyle.

“Te prometo, mi corazón.” Miguel lowered his face into the curve of Kandy’s neck to inhale the soft warm sexy mix of the orchid, vanilla, and coconut based fragrance on her skin. After a few extra kisses on her shoulder line, he brought his mouth up to her ear to reiterate his promise to her. “Te prometo.”

As her eyes closed and her head drifted off to the side, Kandy ran her fingers affectionately up the back of his neck and into his hair. “Tonight, when we’re in bed together, I want my first time with you to be with you, Miggy. No Papi and conejita. No roles, no restrictions, nothing to get in between you and me. After, we can do whatever. But when you press into me for the first time and push all the way in, I wanna look up and see you and everything you feel for me.”

“Kandajha…” He chuckled and rested his head back against the cement before letting his eyes roll down to focus on her.

Her hand had retreated from his hair again to pick up the familiar slow rubbing of the center of his chest. “What?”

Two of his fingers lifted one side of his shirt’s monogrammed collar that she was still wearing. He was stalling. Again, her Scorpio had caught himself on the edge and managed to pull himself back. “I really want you wearin’ this when I see you tonight.”

“What else?” When he perked his brows trying to feign ignorance, Kandy smirked. “That wasn’t why you said my name. You were gonna say somethin’ else to me.”

Miguel scratched the underside of his jaw and then watched her briefly. She was staring right at him silently demanding to know what he originally thought and intended to say before mashing the brake pedal. Nothing in her intuition troubled her or left her feeling insecure. It seemed to be a rather straight forward instance of him getting caught up in his thoughts and letting those doubts pin him in. She had asked him to be patient with her and that there were likely going to be times when he would have to remind her things were different because they were in fact doing this differently. It was only fair and right to be just as understanding and do the same for him as they went about navigating this rather unconventional journey together.

“What’s the worst thing you think I’m gonna say, Miggy? The worst reaction you expect to get?”

“Leave, obviously.”

“Is this about sex or about shit you’ve done in the past?” Sitting back between his knees, Kandy gave them both a little space, but she was unwilling to entirely vacate his lap.

“Both.” As the breeze picked up again, Miguel carefully reached out and gathered a handful of her hair so that he could see her face clearly as they talked. With a roll of his wrist, the tresses were wound just tight enough to tuck around the side of her neck and to rest down in front of her shoulder. “Tell me about your limits, mi conejita.”

Looking out over his shoulder at the group of palm trees that followed the shape of the roundabout, Kandy shifted uneasily before finally deciding to lounge back supported by her bent arms on the blanket. Both were equally happy that she decided to leave her ankles resting on both of his thighs and straighten out her legs. Miguel got to enjoy touching every inch of her limbs that he could reach and Kandy was able to stretch and relax her muscles.

It wasn’t Miguel or even the question that brought up the unpleasant feeling trying to take control of her breathing. This was a conversation she knew they needed to have, but she still hadn’t had time to work out a way to answer it without revealing something else she had downplayed earlier. While it was the truth that she had never fallen for somebody or even dated really, there had been someone who came into her life. Or rather, someone she had let in. The price for this decision was one that she was still paying on.

Picking up one of her feet again, Miguel kissed the inside of her ankle watching to see if she could bring herself back to the present on her own. “I never wanna accidentally hurt you, Kandajha, so I gotta know.”

She nodded and turned one of her wrists so that she could rest her hand on top of his shin concealed by his dark blue suit pants. Whatever concern she might have had about him picking up on her memories took a backseat to the comfort she needed from him now. Really, if she had her way, Kandy would’ve curled against him with her head resting in his lap for him to pet the top of her head whilst she looked up at him. Instead, she remained where she was and took a deep breath.

“No mask-masks. Masks scare me. I don’t like being scared.” Keeping her one hand on his lower leg, she reached up with her other and flipped the layers of her curls off to the other side just to give herself something to do. “No smacking, strangling, spitting, cutting. No water.”

Noticing how she seemed to need to stay attached to him in some way, Miguel continued to calmly pet her from her toes up to her ankles and back. Despite the upset growing within him, he was doing his best to try and quarantine those feelings from her. Going by how quick his emotions inside had flipped, he assumed she’d be sensing at least a good portion of it. On Kandy’s side of it, she was trying to quickly move through her answers so as not to remember or replay anything that actually happened for fear Miguel would see it. 

Distracting him from what was going on inside, the last one she listed caused him to furrow his brow. “Water? Like bathroom stuff?”

For the first time in a little while, Kandy reached up between her collar bones and rubbed the pressure point continuously when she started to feel that very unique sensation in her chest continuing to build. “None of that either, but no, like holdin’ me under it. For punishment.”

The passing back and forth of his palms on her skin stopped. Though it had been a while since she had looked at him, Kandy was now staring at the tattoo on his chest again after sitting up between his legs on the blanket. Trying to decipher all the shapes and colours through the fabric of his tank top was enough to keep her mind occupied and not wander to the past. Miguel didn’t need to do any wandering of his own into her head to see it. Against his wishes, his imagination put together a few seconds of what that might have been like for her. The onslaught of thoughts and feelings that came with those images was so jumbled, all he could do was sit there and tenderly stroke his thumbs over the outside of her ankles. 

“I’m not — “ Kandy stopped and took a breath before slowly releasing it. Now, she wasn’t sure what was fueling her anxiety more: having to list these things they needed to avoid or his potential reaction to them. It was a bit like being in Miguel’s shoes all of a sudden with regard to his fear of rejection over his preferences, which they still had to talk about. “I’m not into pain. I don’t like yelling. Please don’t yell. Or being called names.”

Seeing her body’s response to talking about this convinced Miguel it stemmed from experiences with someone in particular. He felt the anger burn through his veins at the asshole who had mistreated her so severely. Miguel’s jaw clenched at some of the things he wondered about that might have or might not have happened before coming into her life. What pulled him out of it was her decision to go back to straddling his lap and hiding her face against his neck. Without skipping a beat, both of his strong sculpted arms locked around her body to keep her up against him once she had finished moving up to him. He felt her nuzzle and sigh into his skin under the portrait of Santa Muerte while she went about idly rubbing his lower back beneath his tank top.

“I love it when you let me do this.” The truth was Miguel loved it just as much. Silently for a little while, she curled up even more against his torso. “Please don’t try to make me feel less than. I know you never would, but just don’t try to hurt me, okay?”

Miguel wasn’t just smart, he was also experienced in these areas enough to put two and two together. Though it might have been in her own veiled way, Kandy was trying to tell him only enough so that he could understand the type of dynamic she was looking to avoid. It didn’t matter how gentle he was with her or how many years they would spend building trust and exploring together, there would always be places she would never let herself go to ever again not with anyone, not even with Miguel. While it saddened him, he understood and accepted this.

“Kandajha, I’m never gonna do somethin’ that’s gonna scare you or hurt you. Seein’ you suffer doesn’t make me cum. I got no interest in shit like that cause I ain’t a fuckin’ sadist, querida. All that is the fuckin’ opposite of what does it for me. You ain’t a fuckin’ slave or a toy.” He sighed to himself and encouraged her to sit up enough for him to get a look at her. Sliding both of his hands down the sides of her head, he forced back her hair so that he could admire her upturned doll-like nose, pouty lips, and large amber eyes. “The minute you say red it stops. I don’t care, two seconds or two hours in, it all stops. I could spend a year with you plannin’ a scene and the minute you feel off, we ain’t gonna do it. That’s a big, big deal Kandajha. You gotta speak up when you need to.”

“Quieres protegerme.”

“Por supuesto. Es mi trabajo, mi corazón.”

She felt so small in his arms after pointing out that he wanted to protect her. Miguel sighed and turned his head to kiss just above her brow bone. Somebody actually wanted to get in between her and the things that could upset or harm her. Talking through all this with him made her realize that she had started to believe that people just didn’t care like she expected them to, that her expectations were unreasonable. But in actual fact it was simply that her prior experiences with people had skewed her perspective on the subject and the self isolation blocked most opportunities for it to be corrected. Until one Sunday morning on a bridge in Pinellas county, she met a man who owned a cream puff of a Mercedes S600 and also gave a fuck about things and people other than himself.

“There’s a lot that comes with this, querida. All good shit. For both of us. Goin’ off everything I said to you earlier, I want you intelligent, confident, and filthy as fuck. You might get tied up in some pretty ropes every now and again, but I’m never gonna chain you to the floor or use you as furniture.”

“Or turn me into a doll?”

“None of that doll shit. Agency, querida. Agency is what gets my dick hard. You right by my side and we run every fuckin’ thing together. You trustin’ me ‘cause I earn it over and over again. You ain’t ever gonna be questioning how I love you or value you or fuckin’ need you with me. This, all of it, don’t work without you, querida.” Miguel stopped for a moment and caressed the side of her face as he looked her in the eye. His touch could be as gentle and feather light as her quick little kisses.

“That’s your thing then?”

Miguel nodded. “Takin’ care of you, protectin’ you, like you said. Helpin’ you, buildin’ you back up to see you grow your side of everything in our life.” 

Giving those words time to sink in, lifting her chin back and off to the side was enough to get a better angle on her neck directly under her ear. He had his vulnerable spot and she had hers. Wrapping her up again in that warm protective embrace with one arm, he kissed over the top of hers causing her to softly moan. His other hand kept her in place by carefully holding her jaw on the opposite side. Slow and gentle, it continued for a few more seconds as he coaxed her further away from the sadness of the past and back into the present with him. Feeling her alternate passes up and down his back with her soft fingers and then the tease of her nails, he knew he had her where he wanted her to continue on with his answer.

Moving his mouth back up to her ear, he kissed right above it. “What else does it for me? Watchin’ you learn to take somethin’ more than just my cock, conejita.”

Without warning, she tilted her head back again and caught his mouth for an incredibly deep kiss. The move caused his hand to slip from her jaw down to her throat, right where it belonged. Reaching up to the base of his skull, her fingers delved into his long dark hair to keep him locked into it with her.

Laughing a little towards the end, Miguel slumped back against the cement, which divided the park from the perimeter sidewalk and the traffic passing through the roundabout just beyond the palm trees and hedges behind them. “Verde?”

With her eyes dropping down to see what she could of his hand on her throat and forearm against her chest, Kandy swept her fingers up his skeleton tattooed limb and stopped at the back of his hand. Looking up at him now, she waited until she was sure she had his full attention and did she ever. His dark gaze only refocused lower when he felt her stroke her thumb and pointer finger back and forth along the outer sides of his hand. He watched the way she continued to touch his hand for a few more seconds and then brought his eyes back up to meet hers. The look she was giving him told him everything he needed to know. That was one thing he could take off his list he had been worried she’d be upset about.  Still, he wanted to hear her.

Giving her throat a quick little squeeze, Miguel lifted a brow. “Verde?”

Biting her bottom lip to keep the naughty grin somewhat under wraps, Kandy nodded. “Verde.”

His hand returned to her jaw to allow his thumb to tenderly stroke back and forth over her lower lip. “All the things I wanna do with you and to you, especially the things that take time, I want you to really wanna do them, querida. I don’t just mean like consent and agree. But I wanna see how excited you are to do them with me. I just don’t know if you really gonna feel that way about all this.”

Her head tilted slightly as she watched his enthusiasm fade. He really thought she wasn’t going to be interested in whatever experiences he had in mind for them. But under that still was the weight of being concerned about her judging him. Kandy was beginning to consider whether she had done herself a disservice by playing so long as that coquettish girl. Shrugging her shoulders out from under the cover of his shirt, she pulled off the extra layer of clothing before tossing it on the blanket. Sitting there in her t-shirt and denim shorts, a palm lifted to run up from his pointed chin underneath his long jaw to curve a section of his hair behind his ear.

“I think you need to share another one of those things, Papi. One that you’ll need to train me for. So far, your list is a whole lot more interesting than mine.”

“That’s what you think I need to do, conejita?” As cute as she was perched in his lap and as much freedom as they both had in the conversation up to this point, the instant she used that honorific, the rules came back into play.

Smiling, her eyes dropped from his as she blushed slightly. Nodding to indicate her understanding, Kandy pushed a large swath of her curls back out of the way. “Papi, may I please know one of the things you wanna do that requires training?”

Rubbing his illustrated palm up the front of her throat, he clamped his skeletal looking fingers over the ridge of her chin and turned her head to the side. The way he touched her sent her right into that safe and comfortable space causing her eyes to drift closed. Bringing her in closer to his mouth, Miguel whispered in her ear all the details of how the process would start, how long he figured it would take her to get acclimated, and then finally what he intended on ultimately doing to her. Slightly beyond the halfway mark of what he felt she would need to do to become prepared, Kandy placed one of her hands on his chest. The move was not to keep him away, but instead to steady herself. Eventually though, it wouldn’t be enough as she began to lean against him and gently stroke her cheekbone against his jaw once she took the leash off her imagination.

“Papi?” 

Pivoting his hand, Miguel adjusted his hold to something a bit more comforting under her jaw before easing her back up into a sitting position where he could see her better. “Yes, mi conejita?”

“May I feel your hand on my throat again?”

Indulging her, his palm centered itself low on her throat with his fingers and thumb lightly rubbing up and down a small strip of her neck on either side. “Tell me what you’re seeing,  conejita.”

Still with her eyes closed, the corners of her faded purple lips perked up hinting at the satisfied smile partially buried under her excitement for the process he had described. “We’re in bed, our bed. You’ve got me curled up against you, an arm under my neck and shoulders. My legs folded up and thighs spread.” 

“What am I doin’ to you, conejita?” He absolutely was going to make her describe what she had playing inside that pretty little head of hers, which had her so drunk on desire.

Finally, those hazy amber eyes opened and swirled into focus seeking out his dark gaze. “You waited for the couple of days when you knew I would be the most sensitive –”

Miguel’s brows lifted rather sharply at this part she wrote into the scene herself. He needed to explore that more with her later. “And?”

“You didn’t stop until I –” She bit her bottom lip trying to force down the moan that was vibrating inside her throat, which he could feel against his hold on her.

“Answer, conejita.”

“Until I came.”

“You really think you can cum from somethin’ like that if I do it long enough?”

She nodded with a happy sigh. “I know it.”

Squinting at her with curiosity, Miguel removed his hand from her throat. “You done it bef–” Kandy was shaking her head before he even finished the question. “Then how, mi conejita, how do you know?”

“You’re petting me in the deepest, most tender part of me, Papi. Part of me no-one has or ever will get to touch. That’s something I would never allow anybody to do. Except you. And you know it. You know how it’s gonna affect me when you do it and I’ve got a pretty good idea of what it’s gonna do to you too.” His little witch took a deep breath whilst smoothing down her hair and then looked up at him. “That’s why you wanna do it, right? You’re kinda skippin’ over somethin’ else that’s really important about it though.”

Miguel was silent for a moment as he considered what she said, but was unable to figure out what she was referring to. She was seeing something from her perspective that he had missed. “Tell me.”

Placing an arm across the back of his shoulders again, Kandy considered how to phrase her explanation. When she felt his bony tattooed hand massaging part of her thigh, she slipped her other hand beneath it for their fingers to interlace together. When it came to serious conversations or subjects that had a lot of emotions tied to them, she often felt what she wanted to say. That could literally mean feelings or a snapshot of an outcome in her head and the sensations or feelings that came with it. The delay in speaking about it occurred because it required her to translate the image and emotions into complete thoughts and concepts others could understand.

Like she had done earlier, Kandy placed his palm over her lower abdomen. “One of your biggest dreams, the start of that life, viene desde aquí.” She shifted uncomfortably in his lap and he could tell she wasn’t pleased with her ability to articulate the concept to him. “You would be holding in your grasp al bab, il portale, la entrada of all that change you want me to bring to you. El regalo más especial que puedo darte.”

He smiled to himself for a moment while looking at her hand, which had come to cover his against her tummy. “How do you feel about all that?”

“This is one of those times I wish I could put your hand on my chest and you feel everything goin’ on inside. Four languages and I don’t know how to tell you the answer.” She sighed with slight frustration before he started holding her hand again in her lap. “I know you’re the only person I wanna have this experience with. You’re the only person I feel safe enough with. Whatever happens to me or us, I know you won’t let any of that get in the way of being the parent you need to be.”

Bringing her hand up closer, Miguel examined her flawless skin. No cuts, no scars, no tattoos, no blemishes of any kind. “How do you know all this, querida?”

She could both hear and feel the doubt pulling at him around the edges of his thoughts. He wanted to believe he was who she believed him to be, but that little voice was still there warning him he was the opposite. “Because of Irma. You’ve already been doin’ these things, Miggy. She may be your sister, but she’s your kid. I’ll say it a thousand times a day. You’ve been her father since whenever you made the decision to get you guys the fuck outta there. You did what your parents couldn’t or wouldn’t do.”

Pensively, Miguel rubbed his jaw for a moment debating about whether to inquire about a third thing he had always wanted to share and experience with his beloved. Though his hopes were lifted earlier when she pulled the stunt with the kiss and the soup, this ask was going to be quite a bit more involved. He wanted to have a go at trying to pick up the emotions of what she felt during something she remembered. 

The one saving grace of what he could do was that it rarely ever included the emotional impact or reaction of the people caught up in what he saw. To varying degrees, he’d see their activities or hear the dialogue, but never did he feel what they felt. Thank God for that. In fact, the only times he had ever been able to experience the emotions of another person were when he visited the people he loved whilst they dreamed. There had been a few occasions with Kandy that Miguel thought he might have picked up on something, but he wasn’t sure enough to not attribute it to simply being aware of her body language, tone, or other subtle, but present indicators.

To this point, they both were on relatively even footing with regard to each other’s gifts as well as how to play with their own unique skills. With Kandy’s abilities mostly related to the present, Miguel had been able to project the feelings and sensations of intimacy with her strong enough that she felt them herself just by resting her palms on his chest during an earlier part of their conversation. In contrast, Kandy recalled and replayed daydreams and memories purposely for Miguel to see and experience in line with his gifts, which were mostly visual and past orientated. The situation they were handling now would make for a nice relaxed opportunity to experiment with what they could do together in a casual setting.

Miguel reached up and tenderly held the side of her face. “Wanna try somethin’?”

Kandy couldn’t help but giggle and nod enthusiastically. Mr. Mastermind was up to something. The moving along of their conversation didn’t upset her as she had come to understand he hadn’t ignored what she said, but rather was taking time to digest it. Like other things, he would circle back around and revisit it later when he was ready. “Whatcha got in mind, Papi?”

That was one of the sexiest things she had said to him so far. Miguel gave her chin an affectionate squeeze and went back to gently stroking her thigh. “I want you to remember what you were seein’ a few minutes ago. Not re-imagine it or switch it up, but just like a memory. Let it replay.”

“So you can see it.”

He gave her a nod, “But, I wanna try and feel what you feel first. The part of you I maybe feelin’ things from, I wanna keep here. The rest of you, go wherever you go to remember.” 

She squinted a bit, “When you do your thing, it’s like watching a movie? You feel what you feel to what you see, but you don’t experience what the people you see did?”

“Mostly. I think with you it might be different.”

“I’m jealous. Sometimes, it takes me a little while to realise that what I’m experiencing belongs to somebody else.”

“I guess then just ‘cause you get bratty it don’t necessarily mean you need to cum, huh?”

Grinning a fair amount, Kandy looked down at his hand on her leg as she felt a bit of warmth spread up her neck to her cheeks. “I think that probably would help my brattiness in any situation, Papi.”

The Scorpio smirked. “I know the difference between you actin’ out to act out and you actin’ out ‘cause you need somethin’, conejita.”

This clarification triggered a slight flicker of a smile from her. He wasn’t going to be a pushover. “What though, Papi?”

Miguel had his rosary adorned hand already wrapping around the back of her neck. The layered ends of her curls stretched down his forearm nearly obscuring the whole of his scorpion tattoo with it’s ready-to-strike tail. His soft, slow massage of her muscles continued even after her eyes closed. He wanted her to be as relaxed in that warm comforting space as she could be. Right under her earlobe he placed the first kiss causing her to tilt her head and shift her hair off out of his way. Another kiss and he felt her hand sneak inside part of his tank top to stroke along his spine.

“Like when you need my tongue,” Because her eyes remained closed, Miguel carefully turned her head with his hand so that he could kiss her mouth. So deep and all encompassing, the kiss stole her concentration causing her hand to stop its motions and drop to the blanket below. His decision to pull back from her before she was ready caused her to look at him with a pout shaded with desire. “Or my dick inside you, conejita.”

“But, Papi,” That pout melted away instantly when she stroked her pointer and middle fingers down the length of his skeletal pair as his hand pet her thigh. “what about these?”

His dark eyes lowered to her leg to watch as she continued to playfully curl her fingertips along his fingers. He nodded down to them. “Those the two you like, conejita?”

Kandy silently waited having decided to hold off on answering until he met her gaze again. It was then that she opened her hand and softly caressed the whole back of his palm. Giving him a moment to feel the sensation of her touch, she finally responded. “I like all of them.” 

The effect her admission had on him was a surprising mix of desire and possessiveness. Miguel took it as another confirmation of what he thought she was hinting at earlier and also viewed it as more proof that she had been specifically brought into his life. As his thoughts began to drift to his list of interests he worried might upset her that was rapidly dwindling, Kandy picked up his hand and placed it as high on her inner thigh as those tiny denim shorts would allow. Despite his other hand still having a hold of her head and neck keeping her from leaning forward to kiss him, she was able to slip her fingers back and forth between the ridges of his knuckles suggestively down between her thighs.

His brujita could see that he was deep in his head still. “Have a little faith, Papi.”

Becoming aware of how she had continued touching his hand, he looked between her legs to watch. After a few seconds, his wrist turned and scooped her palm into his allowing their fingers to interlace together. Gently guiding her head to turn to the side, he leaned forward and kissed beneath her ear again though this time he gave her a little nip with his teeth causing her to groan slightly. Another kiss and nip, but this round was chased by the slow pass of his pointed tongue over the spot his interest was concentrated in. Massaging her neck again, he was encouraging her to lean her weight into his torso to get as comfortable as possible.

Once she had snuggled down against his chest and nuzzled into the side of his neck, Miguel gave her hand a gentle squeeze. “Close your eyes and remember how you felt when you thought about me touchin’ you that way.”

Feeling his arm wrap down around her body, she sighed and relaxed fully against him. Doing as she was instructed, Kandy drifted back to when he first whispered to her all the details of the very intimate type of petting he wanted to experience with her. As it wasn’t something they could immediately accomplish, Miguel had taken the time to also describe the ways he would prepare her for it. Every step added layers and layers of emotion on top of her lust and arousal.

Feeling her thighs squeeze against their hands, he kissed the top of her head. “Tell me what it looks like.”

She furrowed her brow, but her eyes remained closed. “What my emotions look like?”

“Sí, they’re all there.”

“I… “

Feeling her tense up, Miguel tenderly stroked his fingers down over her hair. “Respira, mi corazón.”

Kandy took another breath and rather than pointedly trying again, she instead waited to see what would come to her. Between the resumption of the petting along her inner thigh and the affectionate passes of his other palm down her the back of her head and neck, any tension inside her melted away. With the mix of emotions manifesting in her chest, Kandy raised her hand with her fingers arranged as if she were holding something level with her heart. “It’s like a ball of — not yarn, but like if light were rope. I dunno, it glows.”

He smiled before kissing the top of her head and reaching up in front of her chest to pet the base of her throat. “What colour?”

“Depends. Different kinds.”

“Touch one and tell me what you feel.” Leaving her thigh behind, Miguel ran his hand up under her hovering wrist and palm until her fingers caught on the side of his.

Breathing in slowly, Kandy did as he instructed and visualized touching a strip of the gold glowing rope causing her fingers to sweep along his hand in reality. “Secure.”

“La siguiente?” He watched her lift up her hand to swipe her fingers along his again unknowingly.

“Hm.” Her fingers slipped backwards on his as she retraced the pink section of rope to get another read off it. The sensations were just as strong as the first time, but she still wasn’t quite sure how to describe it to him. One word kept popping into her head though. “Home.”

“¿Cuántos quedan?”

“Dos.” She moved on to a strip of crimson and immediately groaned in his ear the moment her fingers touched it.

Shaking off the shiver in him she triggered, he chuckled. “What’s that, conejita?”

Kandy sighed softly. “Surrender.”

Her voice was so delicate and distant when she spoke that word that it only served to heighten its effect on him. The idea of her surrendering to him fully, particularly during the experience he described to her simultaneously filled his chest with emotion and reignited a rather primal desire for her. Again, had they been anywhere else their clothes would’ve been off and her legs folded up before she finished the second syllable with the first thrust in by the third. 

“You must really like this one.”

“Sí.”

Giving himself a moment, Miguel noticed she had lifted her hand away from him before slowly gliding it back down against his, indicating she had moved on to the last colour. Stroking his hand continuously, the touch of her fingers progressively slowed with each pass back and forth until they came to a stop. 

Unsure whether she had drifted too far, Miguel stroked his palm up the front of her throat to caress her jaw. “Kandajha?”

Surprisingly, she groaned again in that low, sweet tone, now rubbing her thumb down along his skeletonized palm. “Mm. Miggy.” 

Though he had gotten her to moan his name before, hearing her utter the shorter version when he knew she was in the throes of seeing them together was like nothing else. He knew that whatever she thought she was experiencing involved him and that made the sound of her voice like electricity. Down his spine, the lightning raced, pulling with it a throb in the base of his length that moved through every inch and ended at the very tip. How long had it been since he heard a girl moan that particular name? A lifetime ago in California on the living room couch with some chick from his mother’s church. He had to smirk at that memory of his eighteen year old self compared to the man he was now and how his tastes had changed, quite literally. 

But when the moans unexpectedly continued, the show for him started. Though disappointingly their experiment hadn’t worked leaving him unable to feel any of her emotions, Miguel was able to watch what she had fantasized about earlier while she revisited it. Much to her credit, Kandy had stayed true to the process he had whispered in her ear. It was as if he was in bed with her like she described. The sight and sound of her in her imagination coupled with the sight and sound of her in the flesh against him forced him to let go of her neck. It had felt so real that he paused to look at his fingers and palm half expecting them to be damp from being inside her. Instead, his hand was clean and dry. 

His dark eyes watched her hand still hooked against his as she nuzzled further into his neck. But when her hand turned still again, Miguel noticed she was holding her breath.

“Miggy, don’t stop.” Her grip suddenly tightened on his hand as she moaned softly in his ear. Her head dipped back further with a whimper before her fingers lost their ability to hold onto him, but luckily he was quick enough to grab onto her before her hand slipped away breaking their connection. “Te quiero. Te quiero, Miggy. Te quiero.”

The way she touched the side of his face with one hand and grabbed his wrist to push his fingers deeper while her climax rolled through her body in his head was driving him mad. Before he could even gather his thoughts, he felt her shift her body against his when her thighs clamped shut. A whimper from her was muffled by her face in his neck right before he started feeling the tell tale constriction around his fingers despite the fact his palm was resting on one of her denim wrapped hips. Though he had heard and seen her in different stages of arousal and pleasure throughout the afternoon, this was the closest he had gotten to experiencing the real thing with her. No doubt, he was making her climax in his lap from the sensations of what they both watched play back in her imagination. The very activity he had been so nervous to tell her about had in fact turned her on to the point that the same orgasm she imagined having from it triggered her own in reality. Suddenly his mouth ran dry at that realization and he swallowed awkwardly. This connection they shared and the power they both had to interact with each other’s abilities was much stronger than he had ever fantasized about. It was almost a little intimidating.

While he might have had cause to feel relief and perhaps even celebrate that she so enthusiastically enjoyed the exercise in her imagination in that dream-like place he set her off into, something else troubled him. She had told him she loved him and he hadn’t felt much of anything when he heard it. Whatever language she wanted to use, he had wanted to hear her admit it along with speaking his name. A simple, clear declaration. Though she did it whilst consumed by pleasure caused by him, albeit indirectly, he still expected it to trigger something in his chest. If anything, it only highlighted a somehow overlooked emptiness.

Miguel sat there silently holding her hand on the side of his and comparing the two, their size, shape, textures and colours of their skin. Despite knowing that what she said was absolutely genuine as the state she was in didn’t have room for the ability to fabricate such a response, it was like crickets inside him. The woman he had been on his knees asking for finally arrives in his life. He manages to get it out of her how she really feels about him. Yet nothing on his side of it. There were several times throughout the afternoon when she had said or done things that stirred up feelings within him. Even just the way she looked at him managed to kickstart those thoughts about the future outside of work and paying bills and what happiness could really look like. Because of all that, he couldn’t understand why there hadn’t even been a blip for this. 

He also knew how sensitive Kandy was about certain things. If they had been in bed, wrapped up in each other and she said it, his lack of response would have likely damaged their connection severely. Even if he was able to serve her up some sort of reply in kind it would have crushed her when she realized it hadn’t come from him naturally, instinctually. Miguel was in trouble and he recognized it. Perhaps the door to that jail cell he had built wasn’t as easily opened as either of them had thought. Maybe he was indeed the one who wasn’t ready.

Dread filled him as he gently placed her hand down on her thigh before reaching up to stroke the side of her face. A few seconds later she was beginning to nuzzle into his neck again.

“Why does it feel like we’re still sitting on the ground?” 

Feeling her hand sneak up under his tank top, Miguel couldn’t help but smirk. “‘Cause we are, querida.”

Sitting up a bit more, she squinted at him. “Why do you still have your clothes on?”

As worried as he was about things, and Miguel was indeed worried, Kandy somehow was always able to pull him out of his thoughts. “What were you expecting to see when you opened your eyes, mi brujita?”

Confused, his little witch felt her body for a moment and realized all of her clothes were in the right place. Looking around them, she saw the blanket and the park unsure about what had happened or for how long. “Us in bed.”

Up went a brow. “Doin’ what?”

It was her turn to smirk before she shook out a few layers of curls. “I know you saw it. You had me on the fuckin’ ropes with your fingers, Papi. What do you think? Jesus Christ. My knees were up to my chest, my hands were in your hair, and I was sayin’ all typ–”

He ran one of his hands down the lower half of his face at the idea, but he started shaking his head. “Kandajha.”

“You were makin’ me g–.” As an afterthought, she looked down at the front of her shorts. 

“Kandajha.”

“Hm?” She finally looked at him and saw the troubled look on his face. “Miggy, what is it?”

“Mississippi, the hotel.” He lifted his hand and gestured with annoyance off at the high rise over on the other side of the park. 

“Things you’ve done.”

Miguel shrugged and sighed. When he was stressed it made him look like he was forty. A handsome forty, but still forty. Rotating out of his lap to kneel between his thighs again, Kandy gently took his jaw in both of her hands and affectionately stroked her thumbs over where his dimples fell in beneath his sharp cheekbones and at an angle to his pointed chin. 

“We’re gonna be fine.” When he started to pull back from her, she felt him think about how she wasn’t taking this seriously, his concerns. Refusing to let him go anywhere, she folded her arms behind his neck restricting how much he could avoid her. “Hey, hey.”

It was hard not to reach out for her, to let his palms glide over the curves of her rear and scoop her up to bring her in close. His need to hold her had nothing to do with lust or attraction, but rather a reaction to this odd feeling that he was losing her. Inside his emotions felt like they were a car skidding along a stretch of black ice. Where he had previously been so comfortably secure in knowing they were meant to be, fated, designed for each other, he now felt as though she was slipping through his fingers. This was all fueled by his fear that if she found out about his lack of reaction, she’d be hurt and leave.

“Miggy,” Watching her halcón so caught up in the turbulence of his thoughts pulled at Kandy’s heart. When he did finally look at her, she offered him the most lovely and unassuming of smiles. “You should put your hands on my ass, Papi.”

“It ain’t about that right now, Kandajha.”

“Papi, you agreed you’d let me take care of you when you need it.”

Up went a dark brow. “And you havin’ me palm your ass like a basketball is takin’ care of me?” 

“Well, yea.” Kandy looked at him so matter of factly as if it was clearly obvious why this was sound advice. “You like gropin’ and squeezin’ my ass. Think of it like those really cool experiment kiosks in science museums where elementary school kids get to play with and feel different things.”

Now both dark brows were raised. “You mean those creepy ass boxes the teachers kept tryin’ to get me to stick my hands in without knowin’ what the fuck was in them?”

She pressed her lips together for a moment trying to steely herself enough against her own laughter to throw out a Miguel-esque one liner. “I thought you were the hand-in-box kinda guy, Papi.”

Up came that skeletal tattooed left hand to immediately hide his eyes as he shook his head disapprovingly. “No, no, no, no.”

“Did you just — are you facepalming because of my joke?!”

“Querida, that was lame as fuck.” Wiping his hand down his face a few inches, he looked at his thigh for dramatic effect. “That shit was so fuckin’ awful I think it made my dick go soft.”

Her head tilted back as she laughed and closed her arms tighter around behind his neck. Seeing the way her hair fell, the line of her throat and the shape of her jaw, Miguel wished he had been in a position to snap another photo, but instead he returned to the comfortable habit of encircling her waist to pull her up against him. Taking a few moments, Kandy tenderly curled her fingers through the longest layers of his black hair against the back of his neck. Confiscating her other hand, he kissed over her knuckles before looking up at her. She could still see and feel the concern churning through him, but it was much less acute now.

“I know I said somethin’ earlier that tripped you out.” Considering her statement, she squinted with curiosity. “Or thought it. I think it all the time. I don’t know if your experiment worked, if I spoke it or just thought it. If I did say it, I wasn’t really aware that I had. I mean clearly, when I woke up or came back or whatever, you weren’t jumpin’ for joy. So –”

“I’m sorry, Kandajha. I dunno what the fuck to do with this shit or what it mea—” His words were cut short when she leaned in and tenderly kissed him.

Just like before, his little witch didn’t quite react the way he expected. Where he used the weight of his energy and authority to envelop her and quash her upset and nervousness, she had a decidedly different approach. Her plush lips softly pressed against his encouraging him to follow deeper into the slow, soothing rhythm of their kiss. Feeling his mood steadily shift back into something more calm and steady, Kandy let him step further into that space and reassume control of their activities. 

She could have easily taken advantage of his glum mood, but she didn’t. She did what she said she would do by foregoing any bratty antics to instead focus on pulling him back up to the surface. Knowing that his conejita cared enough to read him and modify her approach accordingly set him further at ease. With her still sitting on her folded legs, Miguel swept his hands down the curve of her rear to the backs of her thighs and hooked his fingers suggestively behind the crooks of her knees. He wanted those shapely limbs to lock around his hips and her to be sitting in his lap again. To be perfectly honest, she was so relieved he invited her to change positions back to one that was far more intimate and comfortable.

Letting Miguel decide when the kiss ended, Kandy was happy to sit there making out with him as his hands rubbed and squeezed everything she had crammed into that tight denim. As the seconds ticked by it was getting harder and harder to hide her smile from him. With her hand creeping up the back of his neck and into his hair again, she started to giggle. Her laugh and smile had the power to make him forget all his troubles. Hearing and seeing them left no room to worry about the past or agonize over the future. Just right here, right now. 

Watching him as he gently twirled her hair into a rope and then around his hand, Kandy waited for him to get around to asking what he wanted to ask. Meanwhile, Miguel’s imagination began to wander a little. He imagined briefly the different directions a jar of melted coconut oil might travel if he poured it on her golden skin beginning just under her chin. A subtle shift in the angle of his wrist put a small amount of tension on her hair and she responded by tilting her head back a few degrees. 

“Why aren’t you upset, querida? I expected you to be.” 

In his head, the slippery fluid took on a purple tint close to what she had worn on her lips. Down, down, down, his dark eyes roamed as he wondered how that liquid would flow once it met the gentle slope and modest fullness of her breasts. Would it split high over her ribcage or coat her skin until it reached her nipples and then drip away from her flesh on gravity’s pull? Carefully, he unwound her hair from around his hand allowing her to straighten back up. Kandy could see that part of his attention was still tied up with something else. Whatever it was seemed to be having a positive effect on his mood or at the very least wasn’t driving his worry. 

“I am. A little.” His espresso coloured eyes shot up to meet her amber pair prompting her to further clarify. “Only because you are.”

As much as she was dying to know what he was thinking about, Kandy was committed to abiding by their rules for privacy and boundaries to not snoop. His relief was only temporary it seemed. Her Scorpio was looking so down and discouraged that it made her rub his chest again. Slow, warm passes of her palms started at the center of his sternum and spread out like a V-shape over his shoulder line. Back and forth, a nice relaxing pace like she had used earlier to help him unwind.

“Miggy, I know you love me. You not sayin’ or doin’ whatever you expected your response to be hasn’t changed what I’ve felt.”

“You felt it, huh?”

She shrugged. “I know when somebody uses that word with me and there isn’t shit behind it anywhere inside them. I told you I can feel when you start to let go and let yourself fall into it for me. I also feel when you reach out for the fuckin’ safety rope at the last minute. The love is there, Miggy. You just don’t wanna dive into it ‘cause with me you can’t see the bottom.”

Looking down again, Miguel stared at the artwork on her A Tribe Called Quest t-shirt right as his palms fell into the slow pensive stroke to the tops and outer sides of her thighs. “I ain’t lookin’ to hurt you when I do it, querida.”

“I know. I can’t be mad at you for why you do it.”

A brow lifted as he listened to her. He was still petting her legs and staring at her shirt just to have a place to look that was somewhere other than in her eyes. Being that he had been so surprised by his lack of emotional response and the subsequent emptiness he felt, Miguel didn’t understand why it was happening or how it could when he didn’t want things to be this way. He wasn’t about to admit to her that he didn’t have all the pieces to this particular puzzle. But he knew she had a couple he’d like to get a peek at.

“Why not?”

“Cause it’s from fear.” Before his hackles started to raise, she sighed and squeezed his hips with her thighs. “You can leave all that male ego bullshit out of this conversation. This is too serious to entertain that fuckery.”

Miguel smirked at her no-nonsense reaction. “What fear is it then, querida? You know what I want. Why you think I’m afraid of it?”

This was going to be a rather serious test of their ability to communicate as a couple. He could see that she was putting together the right way to say it and so he waited quietly. All Kandy could do was hope that he was in a place of listening or at the very least saw that this wasn’t coming from her or about her. She was just the messenger, so to say.

“You really want the things you want. Me, our relationship, your business plans, our family, our future together. That’s not what you’re afraid of. Miguel, you’ve done a lot of hard work on yourself, but maybe there’s an area that kinda got pushed to the back of the line ‘cause it wasn’t relevant to you gettin’ out of California and raisin’ Irma.”

“I’m hearin’ you, querida, you don’t gotta politick it. Just tell me what you need to tell me.” 

Miguel gave her rear a little squeeze to let her know he wasn’t being standoffish about it. She smiled weakly and brushed her hair over her shoulders out of her way. Whether he had said what he did or not, it wasn’t gonna change the message. But, it was a relief that she could now just say plainly what it was rather than spending all that time trying to play diplomat. 

“You’re hurt still over Marisol. It’s not the details or the specifics, but that a relationship you intellectualized so fuckin’ much to try and make work still got in and hurt you bad. That detachment and problem-solving you default to didn’t save you from it or even really lessen it. Maybe you kinda thought you had gotten past it. Like clearly it still hurts to talk about, which is understandable. I could see it earlier in the office when we talked about guilt and decisions. But it goes further than that. I think you thought goin’ into this with me that because everything was different enough from that situation that it wasn’t gonna be a problem for you.”

“Querida, I don’t think you’re schemin’ on me or lyin’ to me or on some kinda bullshit with me.”

“Look at love through the same lens you see your anger. When feelings get to a certain level of intensity, you associate them with bein’ outta control, feelin’ outta control. Bad decisions, poor judgement. You don’t trust yourself in situations like that because you haven’t been in them as the man you are today. You expect the old you to show up. So you avoid all that. ‘Cause you don’t trust the work you’ve done, that those changes are permanent.”

Dead silence. Kandy swallowed gingerly, not quite sure what to do with herself. His hands were still on her thighs, but they were frozen in place. After a few seconds of fidgeting, she decided to fold her arms over her stomach. She had a tendency that once she caught the brainwave of how to explain or communicate something that was tricky, she just went with it. There was no pacing to it. It just all came out in one go. While it could sometimes hit a person hard, she felt that channelling that accuracy was imperative, getting the point or message clear and understood by the recipient was the most important part. She was hoping that her explanation would appeal to his analytical side and keep him from taking it personally or getting mad at her for pointing these things out. Again, they were now in uncharted waters together. Hopefully, he would remember when he told her that they were on the same side of any problems they would face. They were, after all, a team.

Miguel initially wanted to challenge the claim that he still had unresolved hurt over Marisol, but it was true. He wasn’t in love with her and hadn’t been for quite a long time, but he still carried the guilt over the choices he made that he viewed as what pulled Marisol into addiction. At the very least, he needed to work on releasing those feelings like Kandy talked to him about earlier. More importantly, Miguel had to forgive himself for fucking up, making bad choices, or however else he wanted to describe the part of his life he spent as a teenager running the streets. 

It hadn’t mattered how much he tried to keep his feelings away from the reality that he was watching somebody he loved rot in front of him physically, mentally, and spiritually. He had found himself powerless in a situation where the life of the woman he loved at the time was hanging on by a thread. By its very design, that dynamic denied him any possible chance to reach out and catch her should that final thread finally break before she took somebody’s hand for help. The piles and piles of books he read on addiction, causation, and delinquency had only given him statistics and a better understanding of how strong social dynamics and economics tipped the scales. None of them had given him a way to save Marisol. If anything, they all reiterated that it was out of his hands and entirely up to her and her only. 

Kandy was bringing into focus the layer of scarring, which existed beneath everything and had gone unnoticed for years and thousands of miles of distance. Like so many people, Miguel had naively thought or at least wanted to believe that a new relationship with Kandy wouldn’t be impacted at all by the hurt and trauma he dealt with during his time with Marisol. To him, and many others with their own situations, one had nothing to do with the other. But it was the denial of unaddressed pain and emotional injury, which would sabotage his relationship with Kandy in the long run if he didn’t do something about it. With the way things were this very moment, it might not even let him start that relationship, much less be in it long enough to ruin it.

The idea of looking at love the same way he did anger was intriguing to him. Again, something he hadn’t considered doing as he didn’t view them as being connected or relevant to each other until recently. He scratched underneath his jaw in the familiar spot, which Kandy saw as an indicator of uneasiness. But she remained quiet and let him have his time to sort through what she had passed along to him. After a few minutes, Miguel sighed. He was never going to be able to prove to himself that he had truly changed if he kept himself isolated away from people and situations that were likely to test him. This was indisputable.

Kandy and other opportunities were coming into his life not only because he had made these changes and evolved, but he was also ready to take them on. This was the hook though. In order to build a life with her, to be successful, to have everything they were talking about, Miguel had to step out of that jail cell and be fully in the world. There wasn’t going to be any avoiding or hiding. He was going to be tested at some point and probably at regular intervals throughout his remaining years on this planet. The cement on his feet keeping him from taking those steps was a mix of his own self-doubt and the chorus of people in his life, from certain family members to acquaintances who had either point blank told him he’d come back eventually or tried to disguise their doubt in cutting one-liners drenched in sarcasm.

“Uh…” Kandy lifted a pointer finger to get his attention. “There’s something else.”

He smirked and gave her a squeeze, “Tell me then, mi corazón.”

Taking another breath, she rubbed the space between her collar bones for a few seconds and then nodded. “The sixteen year old Miguel Mateo Vela who jacked cars, sold drugs, robbed houses, partied all the time, whatever, whatever, whatever, is the same guy as the twenty-five year old Miguel Mateo Vela who is makin’ money off his talent, makin’ smart business moves, sober and healthy, livin’ a good life with his sister, sittin’ in front of me. You faced the music and grew up, Miggy. You can’t — I dunno, un-experience or whatever — what you experienced. You can’t unlearn what you learned — what you saw, heard, felt, realized. There’s no going back to who you were as a kid, a teenager, or who you even were the minutes before we met. Change is change. The shift has happened. But yea, you can make a choice to be self destructive. You can choose to blow everything up. You can choose to hurt you and me and Irma. ‘Cause let’s be real, when you hurt yourself you hurt us too. When those situations come up, it will be a choice. A choice you will have to consciously, purposely make. That’s the point. That bullshit where your homies talked all that shit about how they wound up in some kinda situation and boom they were back in the life and woe is them it just happened — that’s all lies. They made a choice. Either ‘cause they didn’t keep in check feelin’ like they didn’t deserve to or couldn’t live right, or they got mad and didn’t know what to do with those temporary ass feelings, or didn’t know how to solve a problem the right way. They chose to do that shit. No shade, no judgement, but that’s how it works.”

At some point while listening to Kandy, Miguel had scooped up her hands in his to hold. The feeling of his thumbs slowly drifting back and forth against her skin calmed down the little ripples of anxiety that had been rolling through her. For him, it always played out in his head that in a blink or the snap of somebody’s fingers would turn him back into who he worked so hard not to be anymore. The way she spoke about him, his past, their future, showed him more and more that he had quite a large blindspot when it came to himself and his emotions. Her view and perception of both him and these things was so different compared to how he looked at himself. 

“You trust me to make the right decision.”

“You know I do.” When his brows raised questioningly, Kandy smiled and let go of his hands so that she could wrap her arms behind his neck. “I called Sandra. If I didn’t trust you or I believed you weren’t in a place to continue doin’ shit right, I had my out when you told me that you worked for her. I had an out when you told me about the shit with the gun.”

“But you stayed.”

“I did.”

“We both got work to do still.”

Kandy nodded. “But, I don’t wanna stop this to go work on myself.”

“I don’t either.”

“So what the fuck do we do, Miggy? The stuff I know about you and probably the stuff I’m gonna be tellin’ you when it’s my turn — if we don’t fix that shit we are straight up not goin’ to make it. We gotta handle our shit — the stuff we’ve ignored and run from. Time is up.” Her arms drew back from him so that her hands could cover her face. “But I don’t wanna have to choose between doin’ all that and wakin’ up in your bed every morning or snuggling up against you when you get home from work.”

“I don’t either, querida.” He reached up between her forearms with both hands and gently pushed them apart to reveal her face. The idea of having to take a timeout in their relationship was upsetting her rather quickly. “Kandajha, maybe we’re lookin’ at this wrong.”

“What other way is there?” 

Sitting forward, Miguel took a moment to curve a section of curls that fell down in her face to back behind her ear before caressing her cheek. “If we’re here cause the timin’ is right, then maybe we aren’t supposed to handle this shit separate.” Up came his hands as he started to gesture like he was analyzing some device or scientific property. He was excited and it shone in his dark brown eyes. “Like the way we react or interact with each other. That chemistry, querida. We activate shit in each other. You see me how you see me, things I don’t or can’t see for myself. And me for you. Maybe bein’ around each other and all that stirs up and brings out in us is how we get to fix what needs fixin’.”

Taking in a slow breath, Kandy watched him as he explained his take on their situation and how to move forward. Every time they had to discuss or negotiate some aspect of their relationship, she fell more and more in love with him. She knew that they shared another habit of expecting gloom and doom reactions from the other about certain things. For all the times she had to share something and expected him to run or back off, he stayed. More than stayed, he was right there with her as he had had plenty of opportunities himself to get out of moving forward with her.

Watching her, Miguel smirked. “The way you look at me, querida, you should just say it. You did earlier.”

Her brows lifted and then settled once she remembered. “The dream yarn thing?”

He nodded and gently took her by the chin and brought her in for a gentle kiss. Hooking an arm around behind his neck, Kandy leaned against his chest whilst her other hand slithered down to his waist line. Seeking out the hem of his tank top, her fingers ducked underneath the fabric as she continued kissing him. Miguel was fully aware of where her hand was going and what it was doing, but curious as to what its ultimate goal was. Sitting back from him suddenly, she reached up to his tattooed chest and rubbed along the center nice and slow. Shifting her weight against his arms, which had locked around behind her waist, Kandy lifted her knees higher along his flanks.

“You touchin’ on me like this makes me think you wanna get fucked, mami.”

Biting her bottom lip, she maintained that steady provocative stroke over his muscles. “More than that.”

Tenderly taking her chin with his thumb and fingers again, he brought her close for a brief, but loving kiss before stilling her hand on his chest. “We can’t fix each other. I know you know that, querida. But we can keep each other honest about the shit we gotta handle ourselves. Ain’t it fuckin’ obvious to us when the other is leavin’ somethin’ out or feelin’ some type of way?”

“You think that’s why we can’t keep things from each other?”

He nodded slowly. “Probably. But like we agreed, we gotta lay it all out there. All of it. Everything that messes with us inside, we gotta tell each other. Once we both know and give our answers on whether we wanna do this or step back, we can believe each other.”

“‘Cause if we hold back on somethin’ and the other person agrees to stay, the doubt if they ever find out is gonna eat at us.”

“Exactly. And if we agree, we say yes to stayin’ together and commit to that shit. No runnin’, no hidin’.”

“No nonverbal, no talkin’ workaholic bullshit?” She perked a brow.

He smirked and sighed. She had his number. “None of that either.”

“Okay.”

Picking up one of her hands, he kissed her knuckles. “It’s gonna get rough sometimes, querida.”

“I know, but I lo– we, we love each other. We’ll find our way through it.”

“We do and we will.” He grinned, dimples and all, causing her to laugh and blush a little.

“I think I’m startin’ to understand why your dick gets so hard when we talk about marriage.”

Miguel smirked and ran his skeletal tattooed hand down his jaw to his neck. “Go on and tell me why you think that is, mi corazón.”

“It’s not just the implied commitment, but also a freedom in how we have agreed to shape the bond we have. We can communicate and share anything with each other.  We have to or this will fall apart. No judgement towards each other and we agree that unless there’s some seriously messed up behavior, we are here to make it work.”

“Papi and conejita work the same way, querida. If I don’t feel like you’re really bein’ truthful with me about how somethin’ is affectin’ you, I’m gonna suspend play time until we clear that shit up.” Miguel made it a point to affectionately pet her cheek and jaw as he was so pleased by her answer. “I don’t want you doin’ anything or allowin’ anything that’s gonna hurt mi conejita. You keep her safe when I ain’t around.”

Kandy had closed her eyes to enjoy the reward of Miguel’s touch, but was so struck by his last statement that she straightened up and looked at him. It might have been a simple statement to most people, obvious in its logic even. For her, it shifted how she looked at herself. Despite all the talking they had been doing throughout the afternoon regarding his self care and history, it took him echoing the same sentiments to her for the message to really sink in. Being careless with her health — emotional, mental, or physical — would upset him. If she was reckless with her own safety, it wouldn’t just hurt her, but him as well especially if it negatively impacted their dynamic. Not calling red when she needed could put them in a dangerous place that might lead him to unknowingly hurting her, which was something that would devastate him. They both had to trust the other to keep safe the person they loved.

“Miggy, what I said earlier —“

“That you love me?” A flash of mischievousness appeared in those dark and inviting eyes of his just prior to kissing her mouth.

Before she could glare at him over his use of that word and even before her anxiety could hit, he had her wrapped up in his arms leaning off to the side. Brunette curls fell over and pooled onto the blanket below as he dipped her during that kiss. She giggled more and held onto him stealing the chance to trace part of his jaw with her fingertip whilst looking up at him adoringly.

“You know I meant it, right?”

“So, you weren’t just sayin’ it cause you got all caught up in me givin’ you the biggest orgasm of your life, huh?” He laughed and took her by the wrist when she tried to cover her face while blushing. Holding her there, Miguel admired how wide her cheekbones ran compared to the narrowness of her chin. Both aspects of her facial structure created that feline-like appearance. Sitting them back up straight, he let go of her arm to tenderly hold her jaw and run his thumb over her lower lip. “Wait til I have you for real, querida.”

Kandy swallowed gingerly as she sat in the lap of her Scorpio, nose to nose feeling as if she were in a severe disadvantage. Eyeing her for a moment, Miguel eventually leaned around to her side and kissed in front of her ear. There was something else he wanted to say to her, but was waiting for the right time for the most impact.

Resting her palm on his chest again, she rubbed over the mysterious and vibrantly coloured artwork hidden under his tank top. “When are you gonna let me see this?”

“When are you gonna tell me you love me?”

He was still so close to her that she could feel his breath on her skin as he spoke. The tiniest of smiles appeared before she turned and looked up at him. “El día menos pensado, mi halcón.”

The upturned tip of her cute doll’s nose lightly nuzzled him as he looked down the long hawk-like bridge of his to watch her. While he wasn’t particularly enthused about having to wait for whenever the hell he was least likely to expect hearing her say again she loved him, Miguel was quite the fan of these little interactions. Kandy then dipped her head down a few degrees to come back up and kiss his mouth. With her palm softly resting against the back of his neck, her lips remained on his for as long as he allowed.

Sure, the deep and fiery kissing sessions, which led to them rolling around on the blanket or getting otherwise entangled in each other were very enjoyable in their own right. Sometimes, it could feel like her hand was gripping and stroking a part of him that needed to be gripped and stroked. But these shorter more delicate ones were what turned him upside down. She deployed them in the way that only a lover who had been by his side for decades could. They helped to remind him not to use their shared passion for each other as another tool to stay emotionally distant. When she kissed him like that, he couldn’t not feel what he was feeling. Somehow she knew when he needed her to tap into those feelings even before he himself recognized it. Again, this familiarity with each other’s inner workings and rhythms was a direct challenge to the fact they had only met earlier in the day.

It’s upsetting him that you don’t say it. No it isn’t, he understands. He knows I’m not playing some game. He knows it’s serious. How would you feel if after the things you talk about and things you get past together, he still is unable to let himself feel everything? Stop. No, just say it. Just tell him. This is ridiculous. It’s been ridiculous. How many times have you slipped? You really think that doesn’t count toward this foolish rule you created yourself? I didn’t make it up. You did. Did She tell you that was the rule and the consequence? Shit happens, Kandy. People fucking die. There’s nothing magical about it. Enough!

Miguel knew something was going on, but he had no idea what was happening. The feel of the kiss changed as sharply as light disappearing in a room during a power failure. First, her hand had dropped lower down his neck to his back. Something had stolen her attention causing her to lose concentration. Driven by his curiosity, Miguel pulled back from her to get a look at her face. Kandy immediately smoothed down her hair and looked out at the line of palm trees behind him as he sat up straight against the cement. It could only be one thing.

“You need to tell me what your issue with La Flaca is ‘cause she’s as much in my life as my grandmother, querida. You ain’t gonna be able to avoid either of them.” 

He knew so much about her gifts, but she was still trying to get a handle on his. While it did feel like there was something else bothering him, she decided to let it go for a time and see if he volunteered anything as they worked through his list. Progress with trust and mutual disclosure was key to many parts of their relationship, but, as the universe would have it, it also happened to be two areas the pair struggled in the most as individuals. 

Truthfully, Kandy had filed the hotel more toward the back of the line in terms of what she was least interested in out of the two trouble spots he had specifically mentioned earlier. It was a big enough deal to him that she had caught him agonizing over it off and on throughout the day. Because it seemed so important, she didn’t step in and tell him she didn’t care that he might have fucked some chick in the bathroom of some hotel at some point in time before they met. After all, she hadn’t picked up on anything for her to worry about as usually the only thing she felt from him about it was anxiety. Mississippi was occupying the number one spot though. His little witch really wanted to know all about it. 

Talking about her relationship with Death did not rank very high in her to-do list when sorted by desire over importance. She sighed a little. “I know. And I want things to go right with your abuelita. I really, really don’t wanna fuck that up.”

Miguel’s hands returned to their soothing rub along the tops of her thighs. “Maybe after I tell you some more, you’ll feel okay enough to talk about who hurt you, too.”

Kandy froze in his lap staring at him. Eventually her fingers found the pressure point between her collarbones and went about gently massaging it while taking in a slow breath. Before she could get too far down the road of upset, he hooked his hand behind her neck and brought her in for a heart melting kiss. It was the type that made her cling to him and put her in that submissive state of mind. She was happy to settle in against his torso whilst letting her fingers wander into the longer layers of his dark hair. The warmth he relit between her thighs was expanding throughout her body and worked to drive out the cold unpleasantness of her anxiety. The thoughts in her head were suddenly quiet, leaving her in the moment with him and without distraction.

While he soaked up the love and tenderness she gave him, for her it was the comfort and security she felt when close to him. Though scorpions were not cuddly in nature or appearance, Kandy couldn’t think of any other place where she felt as protected as she did when with Miguel. All those years of feeling like she was on her own emotionally had forced her to build up her self sufficiency and reliance in less than ideal ways. Her own system of detachment had gotten her through the worst, but Kandy was beginning to recognize it was time to move on from that way of living courtesy of a few shoves from the universe. With him, she felt like she could finally breathe. His little witch had never felt so grounded and connected. 

“Whatever you wanna know, I’ll figure out a way to talk about it.” This time, she flipped things around on him by kissing his forehead reassuringly like he had done so many times to her. “We just agree that what you ask, what I ask, what we share — it’s to learn and understand. Everything there is to talk about happened before today, before we knew each other. No judgement and nothing is taken personally.”

His shoulders relaxed a little with this. Maybe he was spinning up his own anxiety and concern unfoundedly about his choices that brought him to the hotel across the way. Fairness seemed to be a big thing for her along with honesty. As she pointed out, everything left to explain was in the past. Another breath and tender squeeze of her legs as he drifted further in his thoughts about the predicament he might have been manufacturing. Miguel wasn’t going to lie to her, which he no longer considered an option anyway at this point. Inside, he knew they’d make it through whatever difficulty could arise from it, though it could likely mean a slowing down of their growth as a couple. 

Miguel started to nod whilst considering what he wanted to ask first. None of them were particularly easy to talk about, but he did his best to lead off with something as open-ended as possible. “Like, I know you wanna give me a kid and do all this with me, querida, but do you actually wanna be a mom? A wife?” He tilted his head further looking at her whilst his arms moved forward and rested lazily around her hips. “I mean, we been straight up talkin’ about everything I want, but what do you want? What do you want for you?”

“I know I don’t need anybody. If life has taught me anything, it’s that I don’t need any particular person and if somebody stops being here I will get past it. It sucks and I hate it, but I’ll survive it.” She stopped for a moment to collect the rest of her thoughts before offering him a weak smile. “I never wanted a lot of people in my life. Other than family, just my person — whoever he wound up being. I wanted to experience love and commitment, but not what that looked like in what was around me. You know that. But yea, eventually, havin’ a kid, parenting together in a relationship was always somewhere in the back of my head. But I’m like you in that I am not gettin’ into those situations just because they come along. I knew that if I was gonna have a kid, get married, whatever, whatever, whatever, the other person had to be a certain kinda way. I wasn’t gonna tie myself to someone and try to hold a house together if they weren’t stable, caring, protective, all that.”

“All the shit you didn’t have.” The relief in him continued to grow knowing that Kandy didn’t just understand why he was so intent on making different choices than his own parents had, but also subscribed to it herself. Neither one of them wanted the children they wound up having to be forced into negotiating things like addiction, poverty, neglect, dysfunction, and all the other unpleasant situations both of them were introduced to so young. 

“Is that super cliched?”

He shrugged. “What’s right is what’s right.”

“Life is unpredictable, but I don’t need to go addin’ to that chaos by havin’ a kid when I’m not able to give them the basics. Yes, I wanna give you the gift of fatherhood and, yes, I wanna have the experience of being a mom.” Looking down at the tattoo she could just barely make out the shape beneath his top, Kandy smiled before placing her palm affectionately over the center of his chest. “Talkin’ about this stuff, hearin’ it out loud. My –”

Kandy still was keeping a small part of her heart in reserve perhaps in a way that was somehow similar to the way Miguel was holding himself back from fully feeling the emotions he knew were continuously growing and evolving for her. For Kandy, it was the wild card of free will that shadowed her enthusiasm. Miguel might tell her how convinced he was they were destined to be together, which she didn’t doubt. But the difference between them was rooted in how much he believed the desire to have that successful life together would overpower any urge either had to sabotage or abandon their relationship. Kandy didn’t have quite as much faith in his belief that love would always bring them back together.

When she stopped suddenly, Miguel put his hand over hers on his chest. “Your what, querida?”

“Mi media naranja, mi esposo.”

“You don’t believe in fairy tales though, mi corazón. We got our issues. We’re gonna clash.”

“It’ll happen. But I don’t ever have to worry about you slappin’ me for doin’ tarot or knowin’ things.” Kandy looked him square in the eye and then shrugged before subtly removing her hand from under his touch robbing him of seeing anything she was talking about. “Or needing to teach my kid she has to hide who she is or lie about what she can do because her father thinks it’s evil.”

Miguel understood why her hand moved and decided to drop both of his to his sides in an effort to respect her privacy. Whether she was just a witness to the abuse she described or endured it herself, he wasn’t sure. “Or he.”

“If we have one, we’ll have two.”

His brows lifted and then he started to nod once her meaning registered. “So they have each other.”

“You may have really wanted to get out the fuck of Cali and change your life, but it was Irma who made you get back up when you didn’t think you could and to keep goin’ when you thought you were too tired, right?”

There was a lot of truth in what she said. And while he wouldn’t go so far as to say he wouldn’t ever have made it out without his younger sister Irma being a driving factor, he would acknowledge that he aggressively stuck to the timeline he put together because of her. Forcing her to stay in that environment longer than she needed to be wasn’t fair and wasn’t going to be something he would allow himself to slide on. After a few minutes, his skeletal tattooed hand returned to rub her thigh. Whether it was deliberate or now a habit, neither knew, but both enjoyed the touch. 

“What made you keep goin’, Kandajha?”

Without thinking, she smirked and blurted out the answer. “Angie.”

His hand stopped and he squinted at her in disbelief. “The Mako?”

Despite feeling ill at ease for saying something that would only build his interest in the subject, she laughed at how he referred to Anzhelina. “I dunno why I find that shit so fuckin’ funny. She’s got the best teeth in the world, but we name her after a shark with the most fucked up grill. Does she know we call her that, you think?”

“You can ask. I don’t want no part of that conversation.” Letting her off the hook for the slight detour, Miguel smirked at the idea of telling the Grim Reaper in Heels her other nicknames.

Biting her bottom lip to keep the grin from getting out of control, Kandy leaned in a little to get a better look at him. “Are you scared of Angie?”

“I ain’t scared of shit, querida.” When he saw her grinning full on from his response, he shrugged and went back to idly squeezing and rubbing her hips with both of his hands. “She’s just creepy as fuck and I don’t want her around me.”

The grin shrank quite a bit, but didn’t disappear entirely. “De acuerdo, de acuerdo.”

“What she do for you though?”

“Hm?” 

When she ran her hand unnecessarily over the top of her head to smooth down her hair, Miguel knew Kandy was aware that they were still talking about Angie. “The Mako.”

“Pulled me back to shore.” His brujita was no longer strong and bold in her eye contact and instead was staring off somewhere behind him, probably at the line of palm trees she seemed to favour earlier. 

“Get a little out of your depth, querida?”

Her fingers rubbed between her collar bones while she gingerly swallowed. The truth was the truth, but he hadn’t said she needed to look him in the eye to say it. “I was lookin’ to drown.”

“The guy?”

She nodded. Miguel was silent for a time whilst casually watching her reign in the unexpected tide of emotions that clearly began to rise in her chest. She had picked a very clever way of phrasing the truth, which also happened to describe perfectly what that mindset felt like to him. If Irma hadn’t existed, there were times Miguel would’ve let the current pull him under, whether that meant life in prison or death didn’t matter much. Drowning was drowning and self destruction was self destruction.

Very gently, Miguel was easing his hands away from her hips even though a few layers of fabric were in between them when he noticed she stopped touching the pressure point that helped relieve her anxiety. Her delicate fingers hooked around both of his wrists to guide his palms back to her body. This time they were positioned under her shirt against the bare skin of her waist line just above those low rise denim shorts. 

When he went to ask about the risk of him seeing something she didn’t want him to, Kandy laughed a little and ran her hands slowly down his forearms. “Touch me enough and it feels so good there’s no room left for me to think about other things, if that’s what you’re worried about, cariño.”

“Was that all it was, her gettin’ you out?”

“No, I also like spendin’ time with her kid, Asher. He’s had it rough lately. Zo and some other shit. Angie loves her kid,” Catching Miguel’s unconvinced look, Kandy smirked. “It’s different, but she does. She’s always worried about not gettin’ it right with him. She knows her limits. So I’ve kinda been there to help Asher where she doesn’t know how.”

“Is he…” Miguel squinted and looked up at her hoping she would understand what he was asking without having to actually say it.

“Normal? Equilibrado?” A casual shrug. “Seems to be. He loves everything in the ocean. Smart, happy, just enough of a hyper kid to make him cute without makin’ you wanna pull your fuckin’ hair out.”

“Sounds like a good kid.”

“Yea, you’d never know who his mom is by bein’ around him.” Kandy sighed and Miguel saw a wave of regret wash over her features. “That’s a mean thing to say. People shit on her, but she’s done a lot for people. She’s no innocent. She starts her own fires. But like, if it weren’t for her, I’d probably be taped up in the chest freezer of a cat piss soaked trailer in Holiday. Who the fuck wants to die like that? At least let me go out at the Bayview on some high thread count sheets after I’ve eaten some of their espresso crème brûlée. A page from Jack the Ripper, give me dates and then slice me up.”

“Querida…” 

The more he listened to her the more she reinforced that for her actions were far more important than words. It was about who showed up and when. Her upset about not getting a response from him wasn’t over him not speaking. She was telling the truth when she said she knew he loved her. It was because she couldn’t sense that anything had shifted inside of him to inspire him to open up though it had. He had inadvertently kept from her the relief she had brought him because he felt he had to hide his nervousness about some of the things she pointed out. A wall was a wall. There were no strategically placed cutouts, which allowed him to put on display certain emotions while still hiding others. He was good at concealing it, but Kandy could still feel that there was something there.

Ironically Kandy could see all of Miguel’s upset and eased in close, putting them nose to nose, eye to eye. “Don’t be upset, Miggy. I’m still here. That’s really all that matters.” 

“It’s kinda hard –”

“Oh, it is? Well, why don’t you take me some place where I can sit on it for a little while.” For added emphasis, her pointer finger extended up for a slow rotation. “At least until your head clears, Papi?” 

“Your mouth, conejita. How many times do I gotta warn you about it?” He became quite firm in his tone, but there was that mischievous glimmer in his dark eyes.

“I think I should be warnin’ you about it, Papi. But if you don’t want me to ride you –”

He sat forward slowly to get in her face. “You don’t give out warnings here, conejita.”

Holding her ground, she smiled sweetly though it didn’t get any sort of reaction out of him. But damn was his presence and strength sexy as fuck when he invaded her space. “Papi, I just don’t think you understand how badly I need –”

“Need?” He watched as she went on digging herself a deeper hole.

A little nod, “I really, really need to suck my Papi’s cock. I need to make my Papi cum.” Leaning to the side, she whispered in his ear. “Nice and hard too.”

“Is that how you be thinkin’ you’re gonna trap me, with that mouth?” On the surface, it sounded like a Dom’s dream — having on demand a warm mouth of a loving submissive to fuck and her slender elegant throat to swallow all of the cum that went with it. But he knew better with that darkly playful tone she took in response. Still, it didn’t stop her words from dancing along parts of his flesh like he wanted her fingers and tongue to.

“No, Papi.” Kandy tossed a good amount of those curls off to the side and bit her bottom lip while slowly massaging his chest. Each pass of her hands on his torso got lower and lower. Sitting back to look up at him finally, Kandy showed him again what he had seen in her earlier when he demanded details about what she saw of them in the mirror. “I’m just a really good little cocksucker.”

There was something very primal in him that she triggered when she spoke to him that way and looked at him with such blatant desire. What got to him the most was how unapologetic she could be, so vulgar. And with a snap of her fingers that cute, shy, endearing young girl was seemingly gone. Such a contrast. While he wholeheartedly believed that her natural and preferred role was that of a well-behaved submissive, she had quite a defiant bratty streak in her. It appeared more to be a tactic she used to shift the mood of the conversation rather than a manifestation of true defiance and quite a successful one at that.

His initial desire was to drag her off to the Benz with the intention of fucking her as many times as she had been difficult whilst never quite letting her get to where she needed to go. He could count three occasions off the top of his head. But, alas, their current surroundings were not conducive to such a corrective session for her behaviour. The hotel was just across the way though. Was it worth the risk of all the rooms being booked if it meant he could fuck her as much as he wanted in a comfortable bed? There was still the matter of having not fully disclosed the time he had spent previously in the hotel as a guest. His little witch might not appreciate being taken there, even if he made sure she was exhausted and left satisfyingly unsatisfied for later. If the circumstances were reversed, Miguel wouldn’t be too keen on having dinner at a restaurant she frequented with an ex. And as they complemented or outright mirrored each other in a variety of other areas, he played it safe by assuming that applied to these circumstances as well.

Instead Miguel got a firm hold of her jaw forcing her head back slightly. “You’re not allowed to use those words, conejita. Words like cock and cunt. Not unless you wanna find yourself hangin’ upside down off the edge of your bed gettin’ throat fucked until my cum drips out of your nose.” 

He was out on a ledge with this one. Though they had had that conversation back in the office over his concern about whether he would be too extreme for her and she had reassured him, he still worried. Part of the reason he had cycled them through so many explicit conversations was to feel her out about different activities and interests. If they just went down a list of fetishes and limits, he might learn her answer of if she was willing to participate, but he also ran the risk of possibly discouraging her from staying with him. And while he would never cross her lines or try to incorporate anything she said no to, Miguel still worried she’d think less of him for some of the things that turned him on, or worse, would feel less safe around him. Despite impatiently waiting to see her response or dreading the potential red light answer, he was doing a very good job of concealing his insecurity over it.

Reaching up to his wrist, she affectionately pet over the inked bones on his skin and closed her eyes. “Promise?”

The next thing Kandy felt was the tip of his hawk-like nose lightly passing against her cheekbone on its way back to her ear, “Say that word again and find out, mi conejita.”

Kandy shivered from his tone and released a relaxed sigh before finally letting go of his wrist. His grip on her turned to glide up under her jaw and coax her around into looking up at him. Miguel smirked when he saw in her eyes where their exchange put her.

“You’d say it now, wouldn’t you, querida, that you‘re in love with me?”

He’s so fucking handsome. That isn’t why you’re sitting here with hearts popping out of your eyes, Kandy. Don’t fool yourself. I know, I know. So when are you gonna say what you need to say to him? And sign his death warrant? Kandy, you’re being dramatic. Numbers say different. Universe says the more you obsess over something…

“I would.”

“I’m still probably gonna wind up punishing you later if this keeps goin’ the way it’s goin’.” His thumb was now caressing the back part of her jaw causing her eyes to slowly blink shut like a cat.

“I can be good.”

Pulling her closer, he gave her a short little kiss on her mouth. “Be good then.”

When she felt herself blush, Kandy finally laughed and pushed her hair off to one side. “Yes, Papi.”

“We’ve broken a shit load of rules today, Kandajha.”

“Miguel Rules or other kinda rules?”

“Both, but I mean ones for what we’re doin’.” The slow pensive stroke of his palm against her thigh returned. “Like what we did down on the blanket.”

“Shouldn’t have happened?” Her expression and tone were unreadable, which was enough to tell him that she had raised her own walls preemptively.

Knowing he needed to be very mindful of how he phrased his answer, Miguel took a moment to gently pull on the length of one of her curls. It was enough tension to unwind it and let it bounce back, but not enough to tug her roots. “Jumpin’ into somethin’ like that was risky. Especially, with some of the things you told me. Like I coulda touched you or said somethin’ to you that messed with you, hurt you.”

“Triggered me, you mean?” She waited a beat before offering a faint smile. “I hate that word.”

“Call it what you want, Kandajha, but that shit is real.”

“No, I know. And I’m glad you understand about it. I just don’t want you to look at me like…” It was obvious she knew what she wanted to say, but something else had stopped her.

“¿Te miro como…?”

She was embarrassed. “Like I’m broken. I know I got shit I gotta sort out, but it’s not like I’m damaged.”

“Kandy, Kandy, Kandy.” Even though leaning against the cement behind him was beginning to grate on his back, Miguel encouraged Kandy into her favourite position of resting against his chest and snuggling into his neck. Once she was where she wanted to be, an arm came around behind her body while he reached over and softly stroked her hair with the other. “No way am I ever gonna be lookin’ at you like that. I want you to tell me everything goin’ on with you.”

“You’re not worried it’s gonna get too complicated and wind up ruinin’ the fantasy, the mystery, and shit?” Though she was being somewhat coy in her tone, the concern she had was real.

“You need to stop readin’ those trash magazines at the fuckin’ grocery store or whoever the fuck you got in your ear sharin’ that stale ass notion of how this is supposed to work for us.” 

He felt her laugh and hide her face against his tattooed neck while he held her. “You really wanna bring up the dehumanizing social conditioning of women?” She smiles when he chuckled.

“You don’t gotta hide from me, conejita. I’m gonna know every fuckin’ part of you, inside and out, your body and what’s in your head, how you think, how you feel, all of it like the back of my hand.” Picking up one of her hands, Miguel interlaced their fingers together before lifting them to compare the pair again. “I never let Irma read none of that shit — that she’s gotta have a man in her life to make it. The things you women teach each other is fucked up.”

Slowly, Kandy extended her fingers to unfold his so that she could coyly stroke hers back and forth against his. “Tryin’ not to let her follow in Mom’s footsteps?”

“Damn straight. Her kids were always second to whatever she had goin’ with Pops. Fuck that shit. Irma’s gonna make her own fuckin’ money, her own career, and then if she wants to go have a family, fine.” He smirked watching her try to tease him as he held her hand.

Kandy was laughing to herself and tenderly patting her halcón’s chest having felt him start to get tense over the subject of his younger sister’s future. “Miggy, what if she falls in love? What if — and just hear me out –”

“Carajo, querida, what?” 

Sitting back between his knees on the blanket, she eyed him for a moment. “What if that rich Republican fascist fuck’s cute Cuban son actually loves Irma?”

The look on Miguel’s face was nearly indescribable as he sat there staring, outright glaring at her. “Why you wanna bring some shit like that to my door, huh? You’re gonna be right next to me at those borin’ as fuck dinners with their bland ass food if they ever get hitched.”

Kandy was doing her best not to burst out laughing with how much he did not at all find this funny. Eventually, she relented and rocked up onto her folded legs between his thighs and reached for his jaw with both hands to kiss. “I fuckin’ love y–”

Close enough to kiss, he sat there watching her after she stopped herself short of almost speaking the unthinkable. “Glad my sufferin’ makes you say how you feel.”

Kandy grinned knowing that he wasn’t actually being cross with her. “I know of a way to get us out of ever havin’ to go.”

“Remind them my family is Mexican?” Up went a dark brow.

“I was gonna suggest bending me over their bed and fucking me until I cum all over their sheets. But if you wanted to represent, I guess you could hum the Mexican national anthem or somethin’?”

Miguel leaned to the side and placed his face in his hand. “Kandajha.”

“Now, Miggy.” His little witch simpered, enjoying quite a bit making him uncomfortable with her outrageous ideas that included messing up the bed linen of their possible future in laws.

Slowly, he lifted his head letting his fingers slide down his face until he could see her. “What, mi corazón?”

“Are you really gonna sit there and act like if we wind up in the room next to that kid’s parents in some hotel on a bougie as fuck destination wedding you aren’t gonna fuck me all night long and make them listen to it? You wouldn’t enjoy the looks on their faces at breakfast when they see me not walkin’ or sittin’ right? Or that you gotta order for me ‘cause I can’t even talk from moanin’ your name so much.”

“I order for you already, querida.” Then, of course, there were options she offered him like this one that appealed to the still hibernating rebellious version of himself. Pinning his girlfriend — his wife — up against the connecting wall and fucking her until she begs for him to let her cum was a very Miggy thing to do especially if it would make a pair of Reaganites drop their bibles. He rubbed his jaw whilst watching her. “You’d enjoy all that, huh?” 

His comment about selecting her food made her smile to herself. While neither of them wanted a total power exchange, Kandy did love it when he exerted his authority in subtle ways in public settings. A happy sigh escaped from her lips and she slipped her forearms up over his shoulders. “Tie me up and don’t stop until I pass out or tap out.”

In contrast, Miguel’s sigh was more from frustration. “Kandajha, it ain’t gonna be safe for you and I’m not gonna feel comfortable enough to do a scene with you here or in fuckin’ Tahiti until I know what happened. What that guy did and what I do is not the fuckin’ same and it’s important you know and see them differences. And maybe I need to know it too. You really gotta tell me about it later, mi corazón. Once is enough, but we gotta talk it through.”

“You could never be like him, Miguel. I know that, if anything, I know that.” Leaning up, Kandy placed the most tender of kisses on his mouth. “But I hear you and I will. Before we go shopping.”

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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