“We can’t spend the rest of our lives in bed,” Lisa said. “At least let’s get up long enough to have dinner. Stop that!” She slapped lightly at the hand crawling up her calf. “Besides, we have to keep our strength up.” She sat up and swung her feet over the edge of the bed.
Alan ran his hands over the smooth back, tracing the spine down to the swell of the buttocks. He noticed a scar and bent to take a closer look. “A bullet wound? You got shot in the ass?” he asked.
Lisa turned, momentarily flustered. Well, it had to come out sooner or later. Maybe it was better now. “Yes, I got shot in the ass.” She paused, waiting to see what he made of it. He pursed his lips and eyed her speculatively. “I’m a cop, Alan. An NYPD detective. Does that change things?”
“Not for me, love. Except that now I’ll worry when you go to work.”
“You don’t need to worry. The dangerous days are behind me. I got that when I was doing foot patrol in the Bronx. I was trying to wrestle a gun away from a kid and I almost succeeded. Now that I’m a detective, the riskiest thing I do is ride the subway.” That wasn’t strictly true, of course. She was frequently tapped for undercover work or decoy jobs and often that meant no identification and no weapon. Her backup teams had always been there thus far, but there was always a risk of something going wrong. She’d heard some pretty nasty stories. “Honestly, darling, I can take care of myself. I’m a big girl now.”
“Yes,” he said, “I suppose you are. But I’ll still worry. I don’t want to lose you.”
“Hah! You couldn’t lose me if you wanted to! I’d use all the resources of the Department to track you down! Now get out of bed and show me how to find the kitchen.”
“Deduce it, detective. Follow the trail of breadcrumbs or whatever it is you do. You’ll recognize it by the refrigerator and stove.”
Lisa stuck her tongue out at him and trotted into the kitchen. God, he thought, there’s nothing like the sight of a naked woman galloping about to brighten up the apartment. “Careful you don’t lean over the stove. Wouldn’t want you singeing anything!”
“Screw you, you horny man-thing.!” He heard her giggling amid the pots and pans. “How do you like your coffee?”
“Like my women,” he called, “hot and sweet!”
She laughed and brought in two coffees and day-old doughnuts. She leaned over to put his coffee mug on the nightstand and he kissed one breast. “Hey, you’ll make me spill it!”
“That’s okay. The sheets need changing anyway,” he said.
“You won’t think it’s okay if I spill it in your lap. You’d be parboiled and worthless for a week.”
“I have blisters now,” he said, and she laughed. There was no doubt that they’d been making love at every opportunity since that first night.
There was something liberating about just throwing caution to the winds and letting yourself love and be loved. She knew it would end some day, change to something less obsessive, but she was content to get the most of it while it lasted. “Yes, we’ll have to slow down. I wonder if we can start a fire by rubbing two genitalia together.”
“I can see it now,” he said. “Arson Squad Investigates Mysterious Apartment Fire. Couple Found Melted Together. Be the sensation of the day, might make the Six O’Clock News.”
Lisa fluffed up a pillow and leaned back against the headboard. “Now that you know I’m a cop, what do you do. Besides write?”
“Oh, I tinker with computers. Do a little programming and designing. It pays the bills.”
“Computers? Super! I almost got into that in college. Still could, I guess. We use lots of them for all kinds of things. Maybe you could get a job in the Police Department!”
“Then neither of us would get anything done. We’d always be hiding out in some broom closet, screwing our brains out,” Alan said.
She smiled. “It would have its advantages. But seriously, I know they’re automating new things. They’ve figured out a way to classify fingerprints so that computers can eliminate all but the most likely matches. Makes things easier for us working stiffs.”
“I can see it would,” Alan said. “Who knows, someday we’ll all be carrying electronic IDs and you can track us night and day.”
Lisa shuddered. “I’ll quit before that day comes. But you could be right. There are people pushing for that now.”
Alan shrugged. “Some people are coming to value security more than freedom.”
“It shouldn’t have to be one or the other,” Lisa said. “Why can’t we have both?”
“It is one or the other,” Alan replied. “Think about it. Personally, I’d rather be free than safe.”
“You’re old-fashioned,” Lisa said. In surprise, she realized that was true. He was more than old-fashioned, he was old, or at least considerably older than she was. “How old are you?”
Alan put on his rueful look. “Forty-two next month. Old enough to be your father.”
“My father is sixty-three. He’s in a nursing home and his mind is gone. I go up to see him every few weeks, but it’s been two years since he recognized me.”
“I’m sorry. Do you love him?”
Do I? she asked herself. “I guess so. When my brother and I were growing up, we fought tooth and nail with my father. He was a cop too, strict as hell and very overprotective. He wasn’t the sort of person who invited affection. I never understood what mother saw in him.”
“Different strokes,” Alan said.
“Yes, probably. Now that he’s lost it, all the cop is gone, all the authority-figure stuff. He’s almost sweet. Maybe he was more that way once, before he became a cop.”
“What about your mother?”
“Died four years ago. She had cancer for years. We were never too close. I always expected her to take my side against Dad, but she never did. There’s just me and my brother now.” She drained her coffee and set the mug down with a thump. “Now you know all about me and I don’t know anything about you. You didn’t grow up on New York, did you?”
“No,” he said. “I grew up out West. A typical farm boy, I suppose. Then a few years in the Army, then New York.” There was a lot more between the lines, like the special training the army gave him. He didn’t think it wise to dwell on those years. Not yet, not until he knew her better.
“My parents are dead. Brother living in Texas. Talk to him about twice a year. Haven’t seen him in ten.”
“How long have you been writing?” she asked.
“Oh Lordy! Since Adam was a pup!”
She laughed. “All those years and never published? Maybe you aren’t cut out for the literary life.” She hoped she was wrong. Somehow, she wanted him to be a writer just as she wanted to be a serious poet. At least she told herself she did.
“Let’s say I’ve been slack, shall we? That sounds better.”
“Or lazy,” Lisa said, “or cowardly.”
He chuckled. “You have no business being so perceptive. The function of a beautiful woman is to be beautiful and let some man appreciate her.”
“Just kidding, love. You’re right, of course. I have been lazy or afraid to face what it takes to be a serious writer. Anyone can write, but committing oneself to be a writer is something else again. Have you ever seriously considered what it means to be a poet, as opposed to being someone who writes poetry?”
“No, I just write. Sometimes I think it’s just a way to let off steam, a form of catharsis.”
“It is that,” Alan said. “I gave up writing poetry because I wasn’t willing to be a poet. Prose somehow felt less dangerous. Little did I know!”
“This conversation is getting entirely too cerebral. I just want us to write and make love. Wonder if we can combine them somehow.”
“Yeah, I’ll dip my tool in ink and compose the Great American Novel. You heard someone peed on the White House lawn, wrote graffiti in the snow? They analyzed the urine and identified the Secretary of State, but the handwriting was the First Lady’s.”
“You’re bad! That joke’s been going around for at least fifteen years. You must live like a hermit. Get a life!”
He considered that. It was true he lived almost totally alone, hardly more than a nodding acquaintance to anyone. Well, that was about to change. Between Lisa and the money and the writing, he was about to come out of the self-imposed closet he’d lived in most of his life. “Yes,” he said slowly, “it’s time I got a life. You’re a good start.” He reached for her and felt a surge of desire as she slid into his arms.