For the first time that day, the doorbell rang, chasing away the silent pall over the apartment. Lisa went to answer, her heart racing with excitement. She beamed as she saw Mark, his sandy hair nearly glowing in the afternoon light, the smile under his making him look like a conquering Viking, pleased to see land after months on a hostile sea.
“Hi,” he said, taking in Lisa, standing in the doorway. “How you doin’?”
“I’m fine,” Lisa replied, eager. “Come in.”
She rubbed his shoulder with one hand as he sauntered inside. The other hand joined in as soon as the door was closed, and Lisa ushered Mark further into the living room, towards the couch. She nuzzled the back of his arm, drinking in his scent as her fingers continued their exploration of Mark’s well-built frame.
“Have a seat,” she told him as she led him to the nearest chair. He complied. Slowly strolling around Mark, she ran her hand over the muscles of his bare arm, onto the rugged blue fabric of his shirt, and paused, relishing the feeling of the warm skin of his neck, the pin prick bristles of stubble.
A shiver of excitement went through Mark, not just from the sensation, but from the knowledge that it came from Lisa, Johnny’s future wife. And then, almost as soon as it had started, the feeling stopped. Lisa’s hand drifted away, drifting, like Lisa, to the coffee table, where an open bottle of wine and two glasses sat waiting.
Lisa gave Mark a quick, sultry glance before leaning down, decanting generous portions into the two glasses. The ruby liquid, the same colour as the drapes and walls surrounding Mark, penning him in, flowed in a crimson stream from the mouth of the bottle, like blood from a bullet wound. Lisa smiled as she handed a glass to Mark, who took it with a look of confusion as her fingers lingered, caressing the back of Mark’s hand.
“Thank you,” he said with a slight frown.
With a pout, Lisa looked down at her chest, at the knot keeping her sweater draped over her shoulders. “It’s hot in here,” she commented, tugging at one string, pulling it loose from the knot. The engagement ring on her finger glittering, she untangled the cords, opening the front of the sweater and revealing the smooth, creamy skin underneath. “Do you mind?” she asked.
“No,” Mark replied, watching the process closely, suspicious and enthralled. In response, Lisa shrugged out of the sweater, leaving her body covered only by a strapless black dress that hugged her form from just under her arms to her knees. Mark was unable to stop his eyes from scanning her, studying her arms, her shoulders, her graceful neck. His mouth dropped open a little.
Lisa reached out a hand, stroking Mark’s arm. Reminding herself of who she was, what was at stake, Mark forced his mouth shut, summoning all his willpower. He almost laughed at the situation he found himself in, shaking his head. “I mean, the candles,” he started, attempting to talk his way out, “The music, the sexy dress. What’s going on here?” he demanded.
Her smile fading momentarily, Lisa reached behind her to pick of the other glass of wine before stepping forward and lowering herself onto the arm of the chair Mark occupied. She shifted closer, edging towards Mark’s slim frame. “I like you,” she explained, “Very much.” After another moment’s thought, she added, “Lover boy.”
A gift from Johnny, a diamond bracelet, sparkled from her wrist as she gently put her hand on Mark’s cheek, stroking his beard. For half a second, Mark almost forgot that this was Johnny’s future wife, but then he gripped her forearm, firmly moving it away. “What are you doing this for?” he asked.
“What’s the matter?” Lisa asked, cocking her head innocently. Her hand instantly returned to what it had been doing before Mark tried to stop it. “Don’t you like me? I’m your girl,” she continued, rubbing the back of his neck, toying with his short hair between her fingertips.
Mark raised his hand, lacing his fingers with hers in a controlled embrace, all his willpower holding him back. “Johnny’s my best friend,” he pleaded, peeling her hand away from his face for the second time. “Alright? You’re going to be married next month, come on,” he appealed, obviously assuming this was cold feet.
Her back stiffened, and Lisa placed her wine glass, untouched, back on the table. “Forget,” she commanded, bringing her other hand up to caress Mark’s other cheek, directing his gaze at her, “About Johnny. This is between you,” her thumb traced a path down Mark’s lip, “And me.”
With a shake of his head, Mark pushed her hand away and leaned forward to put his wine glass back on the coffee table next to Lisa’s. “I don’t think so,” he said, starting to stand. “I’m leaving now.”
Lisa leaned forward, off the arm rest, putting her weight on Mark. “Please don’t leave,” she begged. Mark’s eyes widened at the sudden urgency of her tone. “Please don’t leave. I need you. I love you,” she beseeched him. “I don’t want to get married anymore. I don’t love Johnny,” she announced firmly, her fingers working their way through Mark’s hair. “I dream about you,” she confessed. “I need you to make love to me.” Her eyes searched Mark’s, looking for any sign of acceptance.
“I don’t think so,” Mark baulked. He again tenderly held her hands, moving them inches in front of his face, clasping them in his own, not taking his eyes off Lisa’s. “Everything is going to be fine,” he assured her. “I promise.”
Her eyes cast down with disappointment, Lisa stood, leaving Mark’s lap but keeping a grip on his hands. She pulled him up to stand in front of her, and then placed his hands on her cheeks, as she had held Mark’s hands moments before. At the sensation of her smooth, perfect skin, all his protests, his argument, his reason left Mark’s mind. Lisa slipped her hand behind Mark’s neck and pulled him closer, her free handing curling around his wrist.
Their lips pressed together, searching, exploring in a long moment of contact they had both imagined many times. Lisa stood on her toes, bringing herself as close to Mark as she could be, and they held each other like a couple in a dance. A little moan of pleasure escaped Mark as Lisa’s nails bit into the back of his neck, pulling him deeper into the kiss, while Lisa nestled into his hands, still cupped around her face, tendrils of warmth radiating from his fingers into her cheeks.
The seal between them broke as they parted to come up for air. They parted as Lisa lowered herself onto her heels, extending the distance between them even as she gazed up into Mark’s eyes. The warmth of her breath lingered on Mark’s cheek, as if she was still only half an inch away. His eyes grew wide, his mouth hanging open in shock. He still could not believe what had just happened, half expecting to wake up at any moment.
A knowing smile spreading across her face, her lithe feet prowling around Mark, Lisa held his hand, leading him in the direction of the bedroom. Somehow feeling helpless, Mark followed in her wake onto the steps of the winding staircase to the second floor before he stopped, one hand grasping the railing. Lisa, apparently sensing his hesitation at violating his best friend’s trust in so many different ways, turned and sprawled seductively on the curving steps. She grabbed the front of Mark’s shirt and pulled him down towards her.
Keeping one hand on the banister and using the other to prop himself up on a stair, Mark placed his knee on the third step, curling over Lisa, his eyes running over her body, sheathed in the skin-tight black dress. Their eyes locked, Lisa’s hands wormed into Mark’s shirt, slowly working their way down, unbuttoning as they went. After a few moments, the blue shirt hung open, revealing Mark’s smooth, well-toned abs.
As Mark shifted, finding a position from which he could dip down to kiss Lisa, her hands wrapped around his bare waist. Soon Mark’s shirt hung from the railing, and Lisa had wriggled out of her little black dress and flung it over her head. It had landed and draped across three stairs just above them, as Mark transferred his weight, crouching over Lisa. He braced himself against the railing, wedging his arm between the newels to suspend himself.
Four trails of sensation traced their way up Mark’s chest as Lisa’s hand followed the line of his abs, to his sternum, finally making their way to the back of his neck. He shivered momentarily and clasped a hand around Lisa’s wrist, feeling her flesh, smooth as alabaster, against his rough hands. Sliding his hand down, he found Lisa’s shoulder, then her back. His mouth followed, tasting Lisa’s skin, exploring her body in every way he could.
A bloom of heat on Mark’s neck told him Lisa was doing the same. Stretched against the uneven surface of the spiral staircase, they entwined, seeming to melt into their surroundings, somehow finding a position in perfect harmony with each other and the wooden stairs.
Mark wasn’t sure how long they’d been like that, tangled and interlaced, their entire worlds comprised of each other and the staircase in the corner of Johnny and Lisa’s apartment, but when they finally parted it felt as if he had lost a piece of himself. As soon as it was clear it was over, Lisa, her face expressionless, crawled up and grabbed her dress, quickly pulling it back on and smoothing the fabric over herself, clearing away the evidence of their crime. Mark zipped up his fly and shrugged back into his shirt, buttoning it as fast as he could, the weight of what they had just done instilling him with a sense of urgency.
Fully dressed, he slumped down, sitting a few stairs down from Lisa. She looked down at him, brushing an unruly lock of blonde hair out of her sparkling green eyes. Mark shook his head and cast his eyes into the living room, unable to look at Lisa’s perfect face or body and remind himself of the shame. “Why did you do this to me?” he wondered aloud. “Why? Johnny’s my best friend…” Mark trailed off, lapsing into silence, his guilt wrapping icy fingers around his larynx, choking off any further words he may have had.
Lisa studied the stair she sat on, her manicured fingers curled up on the slat of wood, not sure how to respond. “Didn’t you enjoy it?” she finally asked hopefully.
Mark’s eyes snapped back to Lisa, a look somewhere between disgust and confusion on his face. “That’s not the point,” he told her.
Not breaking their gaze, Lisa replied, “I love you, Mark.”
The strength seemed to drain from Mark’s body, and he sagged, his eyes focusing on nothing as he shook his head again. “Look,” he started, “You’re very attractive. You’re beautiful,” he quickly corrected himself, paving the way to let Lisa down as gently as possible. “But we can’t do this anymore.” His face set, Mark tried to make his determination obvious in his posture, a part of his every fiber, even as he put a hand on Lisa’s knee, a gesture he hoped would be seen as reassuring. “I can’t hurt Johnny.”
“I know,” Lisa admitted, stroking Mark’s fingers. “He’s your best friend.”
At the feeling of Lisa’s hand on his, Mark felt a surge of warmth and protectiveness towards Lisa. “Hey,” he said, smiling at her, “This’ll be our little secret.”
Returning his smile, Lisa leaned down and kissed Mark. Unable to stop himself, Mark felt his hand moving through Lisa’s hair, entangling itself in her soft, blonde locks as the heat from their mouths burned between them.