A fresh, sweet lily scent tickled Kyle's nose as he kissed and suckled Angelika's neck,
with a hint of sour apple drifting along from the silken river of brown hair streaming down between her shoulder blades.
His hands roamed the gentle contours of her slender form, one brushing against her breast through her low-cut shirt,
the other slipping between her back and the living room couch–a veteran host to their necking.
She embraced him, a slender hand pressed to the nape of his neck, pinky tucked under the neck of his white t-shirt as she nibbled his ear.
Two voices came from the wall-mounted television, tuned to a crime drama, but the words didn't register with the low volume muted by his pigeon-holed attention.
Candlelight flickered from the coffee table, fighting with the television to light the sixth floor, northeast corner apartment, and casting the shadow of his cell phone against the west wall.
Work wouldn't call, not this late on a Friday. Still, nice to keep it close.
Another slender hand crept down his back and touched the bare skin where his shirt pulled up from his worn gym pants, sending a shiver up his spine.
An amused giggle filled his ear, followed by a hot, gasp of breath. His eyes trembled and shook.
"You like my breath in your ear, don't you? Bet if I looked into your eyes they'd be like milk-drenched almonds," Angelika said and blew into his ear, spurring another quiver.
She returned her lips to his ear without further teasing.
After a minute of renewed affection, Kyle's phone began to ring and dance on the coffee table, as if to interrupt their evening pleasure.
The ringtone, an instrumental cover of an old buddy's favorite rock song, announced who called without room for doubt.
Instead of pulling away, he nestled in and continued savoring Angelika's neck, only for her to pull his head up by the short inches of black hair he was letting grow out.
"Are you sure you don't want to get that? I know its Toby." She brought her lips to his abused ear and whispered, "Go ahead. I won't be going anywhere."
He smirked, slithered a hand between her silken hair and her neck, and pulled her into a kiss. So what if Toby was calling? He knew there would be times a call wouldn't get immediately answered.
Toby always understood and would be agitated either way.
She pulled him deeper into the kiss as the ringing stopped, only to force him back when the phone beeped. Her brow knit, gray eyes, glistening like champagne, betrayed her concern.
She leaned over to the coffee table, plucked his phone from the surface, and forced it into his hands. He often forgot how forceful she could be.
"Check. I may not be terribly keen on why Toby calls, or the money he asks for, but he never leaves messages."
Angelika was right. So Kyle pulled up his voice mail, the display reading one new message. He pressed play and put it on speaker.
"Its...uh, uhm...meh"–a hard, pained swallow came through–"me, me, Toby. I, uhm, calling to...god...I'm sorry, Kyle. I can't do it anymore. The drugs aren't helping anymore.
Even high as hell, I see her clear as day."
Toby's voice cracked and croaked, then he began to sob. "Sti–still haunts me. And...I deserve it. I killed her, Kyle...I k-killed her. She was so young...so pretty...
and I fucked it, fucked it all! If I hadn't riled it, pissed it right the fuck off, she'd be alive.... Goodbye, Kyle. And I'm sorry. For every...thing."
The recording went dead, and the inbox's shrill computer voice sputtered a word before Kyle ended the call. Toby had been a mess for years, even before he took to drugs. Never once did he cry.
"Kyle?" Angelika crossed her arms and dragged her teeth across her bottom lip. "That didn't sound like a plea for money."
"I...yea. He's clever when he's coming down and desperate, but none would accuse him of being a great actor." He shook his head. "I need to make a–"
The phone screeched and shook in his hand. The screen displayed a number he didn't recognize, but an area code he did: Stone Oak.
He left that miserable little town eight years ago and had done pretty well for himself since.
He thumbed the button and, at Angelika's gentle touch to his shoulder, put the call on speaker.
"Hello, is this Kyle Whulner?" A gruff voice from the past, one he heard more than he cared to back in his youth.
"Mr. Meadowview?" The old sheriff back where he grew up. A good man, bit of a hard ass, but a good man. Heard he retired six years ago.
"Thank god. Sorry to bother you out of the blue after...
what has it been, seven? Eight years? You're probably busy at this hour, 'big man' as you are: are you free to come back to Stone Oak next weekend?"
"Is this about Toby?"
"You've heard?" The old lawman's voice rang thick with surprise, then cleared his throat. "Yes. This might hurt, but...the sheriff's office found him dead three days ago."
"Dead?" He replied, eyes toward Angelika as he walked backward to the window and looked out.
This is not what he expected, and the usually helpful view of the lamplight flood Ambrist park below offered no comfort or peace.
"That's right. Terrible shape. Coroner identified him a few hours ago. It'll be...closed casket." The distinct and memorable sound, well etched into Kyle's ears, of Mr.
Meadowview sucking air between lip and tooth as he chose his next words with the care of a chess player deciding a move. Damned if it didn't help.
"I'm going to stop by and see his folks in a bit. Spoke to them earlier. They're shook pretty hard. Would go a long way to hear his trouble buddy could find the time."
Kyle looked to Angelika. She nodded, mouthing "of course." Even with her grim expression, she radiated the warmth that drew him to her in the first place.
"Yea. I'll be there."
"Glad to hear. I'll be in touch in a couple days with the details. Rest easy, kid." Mr. Meadowview hung up, and Kyle dropped the cell phone on the sill. It bounced and fell to the floor.
Before he could utter a word, Angelika wrapped him in a hug from behind. One thought sat king in his mind, but he couldn't broach the subject. He suspected her to be much the same.
"Thanks, Angie." His clenching throat almost cut off the last syllable, and he returned the affection, pulling her into a proper hug. He needed this.
"Don't thank, and don't think. We can discuss this in the morning." She released him, left hand sliding down his arm before taking his right. Its warmth relaxed him. "I call big spoon."
A smile, drained shadow of an expression, crossed his face as she pulled him past the corner piano toward the bedroom. Sleep would do him good, and she would do him better.