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Waves of propulsive energy roll across the wide concrete floor of the Noise Factory, as high above the crowd manic magnetic DJs spin out one seductive dance tune after another, drawing to their feet an army of the young and beautiful who spin and grind and vibrate as if their lives depended on it. It is another Saturday night in one of the hottest clubs in LA, and the atmosphere could not be more electric.

In an intimate alcove just off the main dance floor two couples sit in huddled communion, flirting, laughing, and thoroughly enjoying everything their attractive companions might say, and determined to leave behind the routine worries of the workweek. Tonight, they are out for fun, and not just any fun, but the most sensual and stimulating fun they can find. For now at least, that means another frantic spin on the dance floor. And so as the music rises, they rise too, and head for the hard pulsating beat and the furious flashing lights and irresistible allure of the hip, fast-moving crowd.

But as the evening wears on, they begin to wear down, and so one of the four, a striking young woman named Jo with clever brown eyes and shoulder-length auburn hair, suggests they retire to her flat nearby and continue the party there.

Like the girl herself, Jo’s apartment is comfortable and yet unmistakably urbane and elegant. Set on one of the upper floors of a restored old warehouse in a fast gentrifying commercial area near downtown, the space is bright, open and colorful, decorated with a number of pieces from the well-heeled Westside art gallery that Jo manages. And while Jo has gone to great pains to maintain the industrial look of the loft, she has chosen to populate it with lots of modern touches, including large comfortable chairs and a wide cream-colored sofa with maroon throw pillows. The overall impression is decidedly one of free-spiritedness and an adventurous nature.

Jo and her good-looking boyfriend Abel, a young black man with honey brown skin and big soulful brown eyes, mix the drinks and kid each other as their companions Marco and Marie settle in on the long Swedish-style sofa. Marco points out how Jo has lots of furniture that is Swedish in origin which prompts Marie to giggle tipsily.

Jo and Abel return with the drinks and all four quickly resume their easygoing, joking and good-natured repartee.

As the drinks start to run low, Jo rises to get more, but before she can get to the bar, handsome, quick-witted Marco springs up and gets there first, insisting that he be the one to mix the next round. Marco with his dark sultry eyes and thick mane of raven-black hair is unmistakably Latino, and so remarkably sexy that he draws stares wherever he goes.

“Let me do it, chica,” he says to Jo. “I used to be a bartender—remember?”

“When did you ever bartend?” she asks doubtfully.

“Don’t you remember? I picked it up in college doing part-time jobs and even did it for a while after I moved here. I’m pretty darn good at it, if I do say so myself.”

“I don’t remember any of that. Did you do it when we dated?”

“Of course, querida, the whole time.”

“Fine. Do it. But I don’t recall any of that.”

“Ay, Jo, you don’t remember anything,” he says as he starts gleefully tossing booze and seltzer into the glasses.

“You dated Marco?” Marie asks anxiously.

“Ages ago,” Jo says as she leans over to Abel seated in one of the easy chairs and squeezes his knee. “Before I found this gorgeous hunk of man here. Sorry, Marco. You had your chance.”

“Boo hoo hoo,” Marco says in mock regret. “That’s ancient history. Jo and I just weren’t right for each other.”

He begins bringing the drinks over to the others. “Try this, Jo. I put a twist of lemon in yours.”

“Thank you, Marcolito. You know me too well.” She takes a sip of the drink. “Oo, yes, this is good.”

“So, boys and girls,” Marco announces with great pride, “I hate to brag but did anyone else notice that all the boys in the club were checking out my date tonight? Marie, baby doll, hands down you were the hottest girl on the dance floor.”

As Marie blushes at the compliment, Jo jumps right in.

“I noticed! I noticed!” Jo volunteers turning tipsily to Marie. “Oh, it’s true, girl. You were rocking it in that tight little dress of yours. Do you know it shows every curve of your ass every time you move?”

“Oh, uh, no,” Marie says, blushing an even deeper red. She is obviously eating up all this attention. “It must be the color, I think. I always did look good in blue silk.”

Jo laughs. “Oh, sweetie, I wasn’t looking at the dress. I was looking at you inside the dress. Come on,” Jo says, getting to her feet and extending her hand to Marie.

She draws Marie to her feet and slips her arm around her. “I would love to know how it feels to dance with you.”

She pulls Marie close and move sensually about the floor, lightly humming some danceable tune. Marie may be shy but she is obviously feeling no pain and thoroughly nişantaşı escort enjoying all the attention Jo is bestowing on her. She begins to giggle even more.

“Anybody ever tell you look like Kristen Stewart?” Jo whispers in her ear and then without missing a beat she plants a kiss on Marie’s lips. When Marie starts to respond, Jo ups the ante, turning what was a sweet kiss into a smoldering one.

Both of the young men’s mouths drop open as they watch the heated display unfolding in front of them. Meanwhile Jo is only getting started with Marie.

“You look hot in that dress,” she croons to Marie. “But I’m betting you look even better out of it.”

And with that Jo slips behind Marie and begins unzipping the shimmery little cocktail dress. Again, Marie blushes but makes no effort to stop her, biting her bottom lip as the lightweight dress falls open and then flutters to the floor, leaving the slender girl naked except for a pair of sheer panties. Marie starts to cover her breasts with her arms, but Jo, still behind her, reaches around and pulls her arms away and then covers the breasts with her own hands as she moves in close to Marie’s beautiful body. As Marie shudders and gasps, Jo begins nuzzling the nape of her neck.

With a big lusty grin on his face Marco slides on the sofa over to where Abel is sitting.

“Hey, man, can you believe Jo?” he says nudging Abel on the knee. “The girl has balls.”

“No shit,” Abel chuckles.

“Hey, amigo,” Marco says, directing his attention to Abel, “come on, we can’t let these girls show us up.”

Marco pulls Abel to his feet and then deftly slips his hand around the young man’s neck. He brings Abel’s face close to his own, allowing the rough feel of his stubble to rake across Abel’s smooth cheek. He moves in as if to kiss him, but then hesitates mere inches from Abel’s mouth, instead sniffing him, licking and tasting his skin, and nuzzling his face just as Jo is nuzzling Marie.

Abel gasps as their lips connect, the contact going through him like a thunderbolt, and then gasps again as Mario’s well-honed body begins to close around him.

He responds instantly, kissing back, accepting the probing tongue as it slides into his mouth, melting into the warm masculine body. But then Marco’s kiss goes deeper, becomes hotter, more probing, more intimate, and then as if by reflex Abel suddenly pulls away, instinctively reacting against the idea of touching this incredibly attractive young man.

“You OK, man?” Marco asks, disoriented, confused by Abel’s forceful withdrawal. He moves to rest his hand of Abel’s shoulder but is shocked when Abel jerks away from even that much contact.

Meanwhile Abel, looking dazed, is starting to shake all over.

“Jesus fucking Christ, dude, maybe you should sit down.”

He watches as Abel sinks onto the sofa, then glances over his shoulder toward Jo who is too busy making hay with Marie to notice what is going on with her boyfriend. She has already completely unbuttoned her own blouse and is about to take it off when Marco gets her attention.

“Yo, Jo, I think we’re got a problem over here.”

Confused and concerned, she quickly rebuttons her blouse and come over to check out Abel. She touches his forehead and cheek and discovers he is breaking out in a cold clammy sweat.

“What’s happening?” Marie asks as she goes to grab her own clothes and quickly starts pulling them back on.

“Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Abel mutters, burying his face in his hands. He shakes his head when Jo asks if he is going to be sick.

“Sweetie, it’s OK,” she says reassuringly, stroking his head. She motions for Marco to go to the bar and get Abel a glass of water. Meanwhile, Marie having zipped up her dress goes over to where Marco is pouring the drink.

“Maybe we should go,” she whispers to Marco.

“No . . . dammit!” Abel mutters, lifting his head. “Look, I’m OK. You don’t have to go.”

But already Marco and Marie are making their way over to a rack by the door where their jackets are hanging.

“Hey, guys, we had a great time,” Marco says with mock cheer. “But, seriously, it’s late. We gotta go. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime.”

“Thanks, Marco,” Jo says as she continues to softly stroke Abel’s head. Meanwhile, Abel just sits looking dazed.

“Fucking shit. I can’t believe this.”

“Forget it, baby. It’s no big deal. Let it go. It’s just one night.”

“But it was supposed to be special. I . . . don’t know what happened . . .”

“I mean it, Abel. Let it go. Some things just weren’t meant to be. And right now, I just want to go to bed.”

They head wearily off to bed. But even as they are climbing in, Abel still can’t let go of it.

“I . . . honestly don’t know what happened,” he says as they snuggle close together. “But believe it or not, I really did want this. I thought I was ready for it.”

“Next time, baby,” she croons wearily. “Next time will be the charm. şişli escort You’ll see.”

And just like that she’s out. Nothing much bothers Jo who believes in providence and the strength of her own will to see her through any challenge. But Abel has no such confidence, and so as his girlfriend sleeps the sleep of the unworried, he lies in uneasy silence, staring blankly at the ceiling. For who knows how long, he continually turns over the events of the evening, wondering where it all went wrong. Finally, he gets up, goes to the bar in the living area and makes himself a stiff drink. There he sits, thinking and mulling and mulling and thinking, until finally in the wee hours an idea takes shape in his mind. And though it not may be anything more than a shaky way forward, it’s enough to give him a moment of relief, and so he goes back to bed and within minutes drifts off to sleep.


As a top sales rep for a major pharmaceutical company, Marco spends most of his days on the road, crisscrossing the city and visiting doctors in their offices. And though he is one of the youngest salesmen in the LA regional office, he is also one of the best because he realizes that when he walks into a doctor’s office, he isn’t there just to sell some overhyped and overpriced drug from the corporate catalogue, he is also there to sell himself. And nothing sells like a good-looking, smooth talking, and quick-witted young man with a big smile and a clever glint in his eye.

The Monday following the get-together in Jo’s apartment, Marco is in the outer office of one of his doctor clients about to keep an appointment when a personal call comes through on his cell phone. He is surprised to see it is from Abel, a young man he only knows through Jo. He steps into the hall to take the call.

“Yo, Abel. How’s it shakin’, bud?”

“Very funny, Marco. Jo’s right. You got a really good sense of humor. Um, have you got a minute?”

Marco chuckles. “A minute is about all I do have. What can I do you for, my man?”

“Look, it’s about the other night. I got pretty stressed out the way things were going—as you, um, well know. Look, things have been going really well between Jo and me. Well, until that happened. Look, man, I don’t want to mess this up. Jo is a really special girl . . . as you know. Would you be willing to meet me for a drink tonight to talk things out?”

“Me? I don’t know, dude. Shouldn’t you be talking to Jo about this?”

“I . . . can’t do that, Marco. Look, you know her better than anyone. She’s so . . .well, you know. I’m afraid she’s gonna get tired of me, man, and I . . . I think I just need a little advice on what to do.”

“And you chose me because I know her—huh. I get it. Jo can be a handful, for sure. A real dynamo. But I don’t think you have anything to worry about. She’s high powered, but she can also be pretty understanding. Don’t sweat it. What happened one night: I think it’s over and done.”

“And if it’s more than just one night?”

“Oh, wow, dude. I don’t know what to say.”

“Just say you’ll meet me. You pick the time and place. I’ll go anywhere. Hey, man, I’m really throwing myself on your mercy here.”

Marco sighs, relents. “Um, sure, why not?”

And not without a little trepidation, he texts Abel the name and address of a little Italian bistro he knows that’s in the neighborhood. For the rest of the afternoon, Marco throws himself back into his work, rather glad for the distraction from the somewhat unsettling call he had fielded. It wasn’t that Marco was averse to giving advice to his friends, but Abel wasn’t exactly a friend. And he wondered why of all people Jo’s boyfriend would be reaching out to him, her former boyfriend. It all felt very weird.

When he arrives at the restaurant that evening, Abel is already there, seated on an outside table, quietly nursing a beer.

“Hola, amigo,” Marco says cheerfully as he comes up to the table. “You haven’t been waiting long, I hope.”

“Nah, just a few minutes. I got here a little early. It gave me a chance to think.”

As Marco takes a seat, a young skinny waiter in a big white apron appears alongside the table, notepad in hand. Marco decides to order a dark imported German beer. When the waiter returns with his order, he also brings a basket of pizza rolls.

“Hey, no, muchacho,” Marco says. “We’re not gonna eat.”

“They’re complimentary, on the house,” the waiter explains with obvious deference to Marco. He hangs there for a few nervous minutes, smiling and unable to take his eyes off Marco. Finally, he bows out and returns to the restaurant.

“It’s you,” Abel teases. “Until you showed up, he hardly noticed I was here.”

“Probably just recognizes me because I’ve been here before.”

“I doubt it,” Abel says. “You have a way about you. I noticed it that night at the club. You just seem to, I don’t know, smile, and everything around you just sorta lights up. People notice that.”

“Thanks, mecidiyeköy escort man. Really nice of you to say. But you shouldn’t sell yourself short. There were a whole lotta eyes on you that night at the club too.”

“Yeah, I guess, but . . . it’s not just that. You’re good-looking of course—I mean, really good-looking, no doubt about it—but it’s more than that. You give off this—aura. Whatever you’re selling, man, I wish I could buy some of it.”

Marco takes a deep breath, then takes a swig from his beer. “Well, that’s something you hear every day. You know, Abel, now that it’s just you and me here talking, I’m hearing for the first time, a really down-home Southern accent. I can’t quite place it. Where you from, man?”

“Little Rock . . . Arkansas.”

Marco flashes him a look and a little smile. “Little Rock, huh—yeah, I think I went through there once. You’re a long way from home, amigo.”

“Yeah, I guess I am. What do you mean?”

Marco fixes him with a rather searching look. “Nothin’. But, let’s face it, Little Rock—wow, now that’s a far cry from L.A.”

“Oh, I get it,” Abel says, his eyes darkening with anger. “Little town. Big City. You, and all those other snooty friends of Jo’s. Sheesh. You don’t think I’m fuckin’ good enough for her, do you?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“You didn’t fuckin’ have to, you lousy, stuck-up son-of-a-bitch!” Abel says, his voice rising. He pushes away from the table. “I didn’t do anything to you. Why you have to . . . Fuck you, man!”

He jumps to his feet, meaning to leave. But before he can, Marco also gets up, and grabs his arm, stopping him.

“Sorry about that, Abel. Don’t go.”

Abel sputters. “Why the hell should I stay? I can’t believe you did that.”

“You’re right. I shouldn’t have. Please don’t go.”

Reluctantly, Abel sits, looking hurt and confused. He glares at Marco with an intensely distrustful look.

“OK, so maybe I was testing you a little,” Marco says by way of an apology. “I really am sorry for that, man. But look at it my way. You get a call from some dude you hardly know—like you said. So you agree to meet him because he’s getting real close to a good friend of yours, someone you feel obligated to protect. And it’s true, Abel. Jo and me, we’re close, man. I’d basically go to the wall for her. And as for you, I just wanted to make sure you’re the genuine article. Don’t worry: you passed.”

“Jeez. Thank God. Fuck,” Abel says with a long sign of relief as he takes another swig of his beer. “Do me a favor, will ya, man? Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“Scout’s honor,” Marco grins. “And as for that ‘you’re a long way from home’ bullshit. Forget that. Hell, I’m from the southside of San Antonio myself. Dudes like you and me: We’ve gotta stick together.”

“Thanks, man.”

“Es nada, amigo. Forget it. So what did you want to talk to me about anyway?”


“Um, could you be a little more specific?”

Abel just shakes his head, looking forlorn. “Fuck, man, I think I may be in over my head with this girl. I mean, I’ve dated other girls just as pretty, but Jo is just so . . . Hell, she’s different.”

“Good different or bad different?” Marco wonders.

“I think that’s what I have to figure out. The thing about Jo is . . . she’s so . . .”


“Yeah. Maybe. Intense, but not in a bad way. It’s just that she’s so full of ideas and she’s always in a hurry to get somewhere. And I feel like it’s everything I can do to just try to keep up.”

“Yep, the girl’s a ball of energy, for sure,” Marco agrees.

“But you get her, Marco. You’re like her in a lot of ways. Even that little joke you just pulled on me, that’s sorta like something she did the first time we met.”

“Do tell.”

“Well, I work at this big insurance company downtown. And they decided they wanted to put up some real art on the walls, so they brought in Jo to make some recommendations. But the day she came in to walk the building, the regional manager decided he didn’t have time to be babysitting some snooty little art snob from West LA, so he foisted her off onto my boss who in turn foisted her off onto me. But I didn’t mind so much because she was funny and interesting and, uh, well . . .”


Abel laughs, a little bit embarrassed. “Yeah, pretty, but I was gonna say sexy. I think we were both feeling it, right off the bat, ’cause she was flirting with me and then I was flirting with her. Bigtime. I actually don’t connect with people all that easily, but with Jo it was just natural. Easy. Somehow, the whole day just flew by, and at the end when it was time for her to go, I did something I fucking never do. I asked her out. I thought I was being smooth when I said, ‘So, Jo, there’s this really sweet little Chinese place down the block from where I live. Would you be interested in going there with me Friday night?'”

“And did she . . . go with you?”

“Nope. She said ‘Sorry guy, I got other plans for Friday night. I’m cooking homemade risotto for this really cute guy I know.’ So I said, ‘Oh, sorry.’ And she just laughed and said, ‘Wise up, you idiot. The cute guy is you.’ I just about fell for her right then and there. She is something.”

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