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“Come live in my heart and pay no rent.”
My hair flutters around my face. It makes me wish I could close my eyes to savor the breeze generated by the downhill run on my bicycle. Each lovely arched bridge that spans one of the canals crisscrossing the heart of Amsterdam in a network of black ribbons is an exercise in work and reward. I strain uphill and savor the moments of coasting the exertion affords. For so long now I’ve concentrated on industry that I’d almost forgotten how magical it can be to squander a Sunday afternoon on pure, unadulterated pleasure. I’m ready to glide for a few hours.
I hum to myself as I recall my decadent indulgence of late. If a woman could overdose on bliss, I’d have dropped dead weeks ago with an enormous grin etched onto my face. I sigh as I watch the flex and play of Rick’s muscles, evident despite the tailored clothing covering them. In front of me, he pumps the pedals of his flame-painted bike as though they hardly resist. His ass looks amazing in his slim-cut jeans, and I thank the universe again for the innate style of European men. Even a man’s man like Rick never appears sloppy, only casually sexy.
As if he can read my thoughts, and lately I think he must, he glances over his broad shoulder and grins. “Keeping up, Sarah?”
I shiver violently. The thrill of my real name on his lips threatens to have me crashing into the public urinal on the corner of the street. The gray plastic modules usually make me giggle—especially when tourists gawk, imagining a man holding his cock right there on the street as if it’s scandalous to succumb to the call of nature. However, I don’t find the idea of getting up close and personal with the fixture amusing in the least.
Rick’s lyrical chuckle carries to me on the wind. It might as well be a caress lavished from his hand. He’s perfected the use of those two syllables to drive me mad, often shoving me into orgasm as he groans them in a reverent chant in sync with the crash of his hips into the cradle of my thighs.
I crank up the speed, loving the tightening of sinew. After all the amazing home-cooked meals I’ve shared with Rick, toning is probably a good thing. Not that he doesn’t help me burn off calories in much more sinful ways. I wobble, pressing my legs together as best I can to soothe an entirely different caliber of ache. I won’t lie. The pressure from the seat on my swollen pussy isn’t bad.
I pull alongside Rick.
He scans my flush and the ghost of my hard nipples, which poke against my cashmere sweater through the lacy bra beneath. His cheeks are stained red and I’m sure it’s from more than the rush of air against his handsome face.
“Better watch where you’re going, mister.”
“I know exactly where this road leads, Sar-ah.” So in tune with me, he can decipher every nuance in my expression—the reactions of my body—even when I attempt to blank them out to throw him off. It frightened me at first, his ability to know me. Now I’ve come to adore such intimacy, more intense than anything we shared in our early days through my window.
It has comforted me to wrap his understanding around me like a fuzzy blanket through the cold winter months of our bizarre courtship. With spring on our doorstep, I wonder what new buds will sprout while I pray the universe won’t shout, “April Fool’s!” then inform me the happiest period of my life has been some cosmic prank.
Despite the constant reassurance of this increasing bond, I’m afraid to believe it’s true. Genuine. Eternal. Because I don’t think I could survive losing Rick once I’ve claimed him as mine. Like severing a limb or tearing out my heart, it would cripple me. Destroy me. Utterly. I can’t do that. Not after my painstaking attempt to remain solo. What other choice did I have after choking on a gluttony of loss as a teenager?
I refuse to dwell on the past today. Instead I look forward, zooming toward happiness and the bright green of a new season of my life.
“First one to Centraal Station wins.” I stand up, harnessing increased leverage to rocket me onward through the dappled light splattering on the cobblestones we roll over with a cathartic rumble.
“What’s the prize?” His laughing shout draws glances from couples strolling hand in hand down Paleisstraat toward Dam Square, likely aiming for breakfast from one of the sinful pattiseries lining the narrow alley. Scrumptious.
I don’t bother to answer. He knows. We’ve played all sorts of games. I would swear we’ve left no sexual stone unturned except he surprises me every morning with the dawning of his creativity and our limitless desire for each other.
I spot the tram half a block away and zip across its path with a wave to the driver. Rick follows, gaining ground. Heat rises up my thighs. I lean into the handlebars as though that will improve the aerodynamics of my traditionally clunky bike. I blame the drag caused by the outrageous faux flowers woven around the pink frame and my pretty wicker basket attached to the front when Rick encroaches in my peripheral vision.
Up ahead, the hulking stone mountain of the train station comes into view, complete with the tangle of transportation pipelines pouring people into the beast from every possible approach like a faucet stuck on full blast. Trams, roadways, sidewalks, bike lanes and canals all converge here, in the very core of the city.
Just when I’m sure Rick will flash past me for the win, I hear him call my name, this time without a hint of playfulness. “Sarah! Look out!”
The shrill alarm of his bell peals without any effect. A rogue tourist on a rented, candy-apple red Mac bike bobs and weaves the wrong way through our lane. Visitors are more dangerous than the tram. The only thing in the city with the right of way over bicycles at least follows some rules.
Sure enough—in hideous slow motion—the newcomer topples. He wipes out, splaying the carnage of his pride across the narrow roadway.
Without sufficient distance to brake, I yank my legs up to my chest and squeeze through the gap between his tennis shoes, which point straight up into the air, and the side of a building. Nightmare visions of a thirty-bike pile-up à la the Tour de France zip through my mind as I come to a stop past the tangle of man and metal, out of the trajectory of the steady stream of cyclists approaching. When I glance over my shoulder, Rick swerves to a graceful stop, hopping off his bike.
“Are you all right?” He hauls the heavy fellow to his feet as though he weighs nothing. I make a mental note to worship those sleek muscles later. One good turn deserves another after all.
As the guy tries to settle his shortish, dark, sprinkled-with-a-touch-of-silver hair, Rick dusts off the unfortunate man’s back and ass. His locks persist in their adorable spiky disarray, despite his attempts to snuff all the flair from them.
“Yeah, thanks. I’m good.” The tourist flinches from Rick’s helpful hand when it nears the seat of his pants.
His American accent comprises a less accurate indication of his origin than that silly evasive maneuver. Puritan beginnings make visitors from across the Atlantic as easy to spot as if they had stars and stripes tattooed on their foreheads.
When I catch Rick’s gaze, he rolls his eyes.
I can’t suppress a chuckle.
The man glances toward me and smiles. Wide.
Rick perks up. He speaks low to the visitor, too hushed for me to eavesdrop.
The guy’s eyes bulge along with his pants. Road rash forgotten, he tries to disguise his crude junk adjustment behind surreptitious flicks of his fingers over the khaki of his cargo shorts, which have long since been tugged into some semblance of order. Or at least as close as the baggy, disheveled fabric can get anyway.
From the inside pocket of his light blazer, Rick withdraws a business card. He slips it to the crash victim before clapping him on the shoulder. “Have a great vacation, Alex.”
“T-thanks.” The tourist doesn’t take his glittering eyes off me long enough to blink.
Rick walks his bike beside me. “Blow him a kiss and I guarantee you’ll find him outside your window tomorrow night.”
“So what are you now? My pimp?” The twinge in my chest is quick yet fierce.
“Since when are labels our thing? I’m proud of you.” Rick nuzzles my temple. “Besides, I have a feeling you’d be good for him. You could change his life forever. The poor bastard. He’s clueless. And…well, I’d be lying if I said I don’t get off on how desperately other guys covet what I have.”
“Really?” A skim of my thigh against his crotch confirms the desire roughening his voice.
“Fuck, yes.” He shifts far more stealthily than our new friend and clears his throat.
Before thinking, I open my mouth. “You know…”
“What?” He traces my cheekbone when I hesitate.
Why not go with it? I grin, slow and sure. “There are plenty of swingers’ clubs around the city.”