Chapter Six: Jump Ball

“A jump ball occurs when an official tosses the ball in the centre circle between any two opponents at the beginning of the first period.”

–          Article 12, Section 1.1

FIBA Official Rule Book 2008

a)       “The ball shall be put into play in the center circle by a jump ball between any two opponents:

1)      At the start of the game

2)      At the start of each overtime period

3)      A double free throw violation

4)      Double foul during a loose ball situation

5)      The ball becomes dead when neither team is in control and no field goal or infraction is involved

6)      The ball comes to rest on the basket flange or becomes lodged between the basket ring and the backboard

7)      A double foul which occurs as a result of a difference in opinion between officials

8)      A suspension of play occurs during a loose ball

9)      A fighting foul occurs during a loose ball situation

b)      In all the cases above, the jump ball shall be between any two opponents in the game at that time. If injury, ejection, or disqualification makes it necessary for any player to be replaced, his substitute may not participate in the jump ball.”

–          Rule 6, Section Va and Vb

NBA Official Rule Book 2005-2006

Bree. Cirque’s anniversary is in two months. We’re planning a celebration. Please. Please. Please be there in the meeting this afternoon.

I read Darren’s message for the nth time. I threw my phone back into my bag, and sighed loudly. I closed all my folders, contemplating whether or not I should go. It is, after all, Cirque, and I know that it meant so much more than a restaurant to me and Darren. The phone on my desk started to ring, and I pressed the loudspeaker. “Bree Sandejas,” I said smoothly, and it was my secretary. “Ma’am, a certain Mr. Hizon is on Line 1,” she said, and I told her to patch him through.

“You weren’t picking up your cell phone,” was the first line. He sounded like a whiny boyfriend or something. Ha. He is actually my boyfriend, so what’s the big issue?

“Hey. I don’t watch my phone the entire day,” I said, and if I was with Itos, he’d probably roll his eyes. “Should I pick you up now?” he asked, and I slapped my palm onto my forehead. Nice. I forgot he and I have a special something tonight.

That special something is something I have yet to find out, since my love’s lips are sealed.

“Oh crap,” I said under my breath, but Itos heard it. “Uh oh. You forgot about it,” he replied, the sadness in his voice evident. “No, I didn’t,” I replied, almost too defensively. “Darren sent me a message. It’s Cirque’s anniv in two months, and he asked me—more like begged—if I could show my cute ass there for a meeting.”

Three silent beats, and then, “Oh.”

“That’s it? Just ‘oh’?”

“Well I haven’t heard the word Cirque from you anytime in months, nor have I heard the name Darren.”

“My restaurant’s turning seven, babe. Like a baby. You celebrate the seventh year because it’s considered to be a huge blessing to even reach seven,” I explained patiently. When he still didn’t speak, I said, “Itos, come on.”

Nothing.

“What if you pick me up, drop me off there and we eat while I’m having a meeting with Darren and the staff, and then we head off to whatever this special something is?” I suggested. “I’ll make Darren promise to keep it at a maximum of an hour.”

“Move it another day,” he said, and it was the first time in almost half a year have I seen—okay, heard—Itos this grumpy. I tried to run through his day in my head—team practice and… just that. So is he really just peeved that I am ruining his surprise?

“Okay,” I said, stooping to pick up my cell phone. “Pick me up now then.”

I ended the call with a click when Itos was midway his sentence, and I breathed deeply before pressing speed dial 3 (a.k.a. Darren). He picked up on the first ring, and he sounded so relieved when to hear my voice. “Hey,” I greeted. “Can we just move the meeting to another day? Itos has something planned for me tonight and he won’t spill, but he just grunted all the way when I told him I have to drop by Cirque. Ruins the fun,” I said.

“Okay. That’s fine. At least I know you had intentions of going,” Darren said, almost teasing.

“Hey, I drop by Cirque and Cirque II every day!”

“Yeah. When you know that I am not here,” he countered, and I fell silent.

“I figured out why you’ve been avoiding me,” Darren said after a while. Suddenly the atmosphere was tense around me. My aura has gone black from red and orange. “Uh huh,” I said noncommittally.

“Kim talked to me and told me all about it.”

Oh so she came around, huh? I wanted to say, but I didn’t. “So you didn’t figure it out. Kim told you,” I said instead, and he laughed. “Well, I asked her if she had any theories as to why you’re avoiding me. She said she could do me one better: she knew the reason why.”

“Ah,” was all I managed to say.

“So you seriously believed I was in love with you?” he asked when it became apparent that I wouldn’t speak anymore. Well, you were, right? I wanted to say, but I stopped myself. Where this conversation is heading, I didn’t want to know. I breathed deeply. “Does this conversation really have to be done on the phone?” I asked back, and he said, “Yes.”

“No. I didn’t think you were,” I began to say. “It’s just that Kim was so convinced that I had to just give it to her, you know?”

“Without asking me.”

“Well, you will say no.”

“What if I was in love with you?”

I stopped short. The question dumbfounded me. “Were you?” I dared to ask. Silence filled the other line, and it was telling me that the answer was yes, and I was stupid enough not to notice it.

“You’re right. This conversation shouldn’t be done over the phone. We’ll talk when we meet. Enjoy your night with Itos,” he said, his voice resigned. He knew he gave me the answer anyway.

My best friend was in love with me at the time I was in love with him as well.

Check that: He was STILL in love with me.

I guess one of us had stuck to the “I love you always” thing that we’ve said to each other a few years back.

 

“So the surprise is in your, um, house?” I said, and Itos shook his head impatiently. It was, after all, the nth time I have asked him what his surprise is. My question usually was either that or where he is actually taking me. A few minutes earlier, I had seen the familiar route to his subdivision, and now he and I are approaching the street to his house. I saw his house at the curb, but Itos didn’t stop there. He did a quick turn and we stopped in front of a two-storey navy blue and white house, its front landscaped with santan bushes and golf course-worthy grass, rocks and pebbles, and a nice fountain. I looked up at the house in its glorious beauty—it was a simple house, probably with three rooms, and it appeared to have a backyard garden.

The house had a homey feel to it, the wow-I-want-to-live-here-with-my-husband-and-kids feel.

When I turned to say something to Itos, he was already out of the car and opening the door to my side. He helped me down his car, and I frowned. “This is the surprise?” I asked, and he nodded, a hesitant smile on his handsome face. He held my hand. “Remember our first date?” Itos asked, and I nodded. “Of course,” I said with a bright smile.

“What did I tell you at that time?” he asked.

“You’ll change my mind,” I replied easily. “I’m glad you did.”

He kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Okay. Not that date. The one at Cirque.”

I frowned. “Maybe you should just tell me about it? All I remember was Darren ruining that date for us.”

Itos paused, and then said, “You told me I was yummy.” He winked at me. I nodded, blushing. “And then you asked me why I was still single. I said—”

“You haven’t met her,” I interrupted. He gave me a vigorous nod. “I was about to tell you why when the soup that was compliments of the part-owner arrived,” he said with a teasing smile on his face.

“Where is this conversation going? And what does it has to do with the house?” I asked, confused.

“The day I met you, as in the moment I saw you, I knew you are the one. Like this is it. This is really is it,” Itos said, his voice turning serious, and I stopped myself from smiling. He was trying to be light, because he felt like what he’s going to say will shock me out of my wits. “At that moment, I knew I got to have you. I’ve got to be your man,” he continued. “I had the house built the next day, after our first date.”

I gaped at him, at a loss for words. “Seriously?” I managed to say after a moment. He looked unsure because of what he was seeing on my face—I was too shocked to even try to hide whatever it was that he was seeing. “I just… love you, Bree. It’s like you’re everything gluing me to my spot, to the earth, threading every shred of reason. I know it’s too… weird,” he said slowly. He placed something small and cold in my palm and when I looked at it, it was the key—to the front door, I assume. I closed my eyes and my palm and breathed deeply.

“You love me too much, Itos,” I said when I opened my eyes.

“How do you know that too much is too much?” he asked, almost rhetorically, and I almost smiled once more. I think I heard that from Grey’s Anatomy, only a different version: How do you know when too much is too much? Too much too soon?

He probably got that from watching the series with me.

“I love you, Itos,” I said, and he enclosed me in a tight hug. I hugged him back. I loved how Itos held me together.

But he loved me, almost blindly, not knowing what happened in my past that includes Darren.

I was unfair.

Itos released me but still kept a hand around my waist, and gave me a light kiss on the forehead. “So this is our house—if you’ll allow it to be,” he murmured. I took another deep breath.

“Before you… God, Itos,” I began, but I just couldn’t put it into words. Tears suddenly appeared in my eyes, and one drop fell down my cheek.

I was crying. Because of two reasons: Itos loves me, and I don’t want to lose him.

But I have to be honest with him, and that means telling him of the past Darren and I had.

Even if it means losing him.

“Bree?”

There was genuine concern in his voice. I let out a sob.

“You have to know something about me and Darren,” I said, and there was this uh-oh look on his face. He slid his hands to my wrists, and then gave me a curt nod as a sign to continue.

“Eight years ago—before Cirque and Cirque II, before Kim and Zania, before you and me—Darren got me pregnant,” I told him, my voice ominous. “Check that: I got pregnant with Darren’s kid,” I said as an afterthought. For some reason, the sentence has to come off like it was me who did the action, and not Darren. The blame had to be with me, because I let it happen.

The look on Itos’ face was painful—sheer disbelief coupled with near disgust. “Where is the kid?” he asked, his voice ice cold. I pointed up in the night sky, which was surprisingly starless and moonless.

“Heaven.”

“Died?”

I nodded. “I miscarried,” I explained softly. The baby is still a sore subject for me. Itos let me go completely and leaned against his car. Whatever news I was telling him, it was taking the energy—and maybe the life—out of him.

Maybe it’s also snuffing out the love, too.

“So there was something more than you and Darren being best friends. You told me he wasn’t your ex.”

Yey. His voice sounded accusing. Damn.

I nodded. “Yup.”

“Then how come—” he began to say, but he cut himself in mid-sentence. “Maybe that’s the part I don’t want to know,” Itos reconsidered. I reached out for him but he knocked my hand away. I clutched my hand to my chest and watched him warily. “Kim sure had a basis when she asked you to stay away from Darren, huh?” he said harshly, his eyes flashing with anger. “Does she know about this, too?”

“I have no idea, but I guess not,” I said hesitantly. “Itos, after I miscarried, Darren and I stopped seeing each other… in that way,” I said hotly. “And I don’t do married men, Itos. You should know I’m better than that.”

“I thought you were also better than screwing your own best friend!”

I gasped. That statement ripped my chest apart. I seriously wish I didn’t hear that from Itos. NOT ITOS.

I composed myself. My face was now blank. “Maybe you should just put this house up for sale. No one’s gonna live in it,” I said, thrusting the key into his chest, and I started to walk away.

He didn’t follow.

 

This heart/it beats/beats for only you…/This heart/it beats/beats for only you/My heart/is yours…

I sighed and cut Hayley Williams in mid-song. Paramore’s My Heart tells me that Darren is calling. I couldn’t remember when he had set that ringtone in my phone, but it had always been Darren’s tone, so I’d know it was him calling.

“Hey,” he greeted smoothly, and I grunted in response. “The meeting’s tonight. That okay with Itos?”

The name—the mere mention of Itos—nearly sent me back to bawling. I got a good grip of myself though, this time.

“Yeah, sure. I don’t think he’ll ever mind what I do with my life anyways,” I responded bitterly.

“Whoa. Okay. What’s wrong?” he asked, and I stayed silent. “Yeah. Figured you wouldn’t want to talk about it,” Darren continued.

“I’ll be there later,” I said instead. I was getting my bag and my laptop for office and was aching to end the call, but Darren’s not showing any signs of letting me go just yet.

“I’m still here, Bree.”

“He told me he thought I was better than screwing you, my own best friend,” I blurted out. It’s Darren, after all. My best friend. I could tell anything to the guy, especially after he has memorized my body’s topography before.

“He didn’t,” he said in disbelief.

“Yup. I told him about you, me and the baby. He was giving me a house, and the least I can do is be honest.”

Darren cussed. “The least you can do is say yes, Bree, and not ruin his moment. He didn’t have to know about what happened between us! What were you thinking?”

I held my tongue and didn’t speak. Thank you, Darren, for telling me what a stupid bitch I was. And oh, did you tell Kim about the bit about us, too?

“Sorry,” Darren said a few seconds later.

“I am, too,” I said, and I ended the call.

Maybe I should just kill myself.

 

“So you’re single now?”

I gave Darren a scowl. He sat across me as we waited for the employees to finish closing up Cirque so that we can start the meeting for the resto’s seventh anniversary. “I don’t think he and I had formally broken up,” I said coldly.

“Or maybe you’re just hoping.”

I sighed in frustration. “Your point being…?”

Darren shrugged. “Well, he couldn’t swallow the fact that you and I nearly got hitched because I got you pregnant.”

I let out a hollow laugh. “More like he couldn’t accept it that I was doing you when you and I aren’t together in every sense of the word.”

He rolled his eyes. “Wow. Righteous much?”

“Itos has a point,” I said defensively. “He thinks Kim had the right to order me away from you since you and I had serious history. And that it was improper that she’s blind to that big chunk of your life.” Darren walked over to me, looking thoughtful. He placed both hands on my shoulders.

“So our history has the right to rule over our present and future, that’s what he’s saying?”

I shook my head. “He’s saying our history can affect what’s happening now and tomorrow. I mean, I miscarried your kid, and we weren’t even together when we made that kid. What does that actually say of you and me?”

I felt him sigh. “It says that when we should have had made something out of our relationship at that time, then maybe Kim and Itos weren’t in our lives now,” he said, and I let out my version of a sigh. We’re so heading to that point in the conversation.

“No. We’re done talking about you and me. That’s over. You have a wife and a kid, and I had Itos. I am not really planning for any other relationship. Maybe I’ll just stay single for life, you know,” I said, and his hands on my shoulders tightened.

“If Kim and I get separated—”

I twirled my seat to face him. “Darren. Please. Itos getting hurt is already too much. Don’t hurt your daughter, too, just because you want to be with me. We had our chance, and we didn’t make the most out of it. Suck it in. Next lifetime, remember?”

Darren looked at me, torn. And then he nodded. “I missed you. I was a coward.”

I didn’t think he meant he “missed” me as in missing a person. I think he meant he missed me, like a target. “Why do we always have to go back there?” I asked him angrily. He dropped to his knees and held my thighs together. He looked deep into my eyes. “Because I see you, and I remember how I could have had you. The fact that I know you could have been mine and I didn’t pursue you. The fact that I know that I love you and I know you love me as well, but I didn’t do anything about it.”

“In another lifetime,” I pressed. He nodded, kissed me lightly on the forehead, and I was ever so thankful that Dave entered the room.

 

I have a basketball game. Versus Darren’s team. Be there.

I nearly jumped out of my skin when I realized it was Itos who sent the message. I had just gotten out of my car when the message came in, and when I reached my office, the receptionist handed me two envelopes. One had my name printed at the center, and I recognized it to be Itos’ scrawl. The other had my name on the upper right hand corner, and I knew that it was Darren.

I went to my office and dropped my things onto the couch, and opened Itos’ envelope first. A patron seat ticket. I recognized the letters of the seat to be behind the bench. When I opened Darren’s, I realized it contained the same thing, only this time, the ticket was for a seat behind Darren’s bench.

Was it just purely coincidental that I got these two tickets at the same game day? They’ve had games before, and I watch them, but Darren almost always knows that it is mandatory for me to sit behind Itos’ bench.

Is it because he knew Itos and I aren’t really what you can call okay?

Does he want me to make that choice?

I sighed heavily. I threw the other envelope into the shredder, ticket and all.
“I wasn’t sure you’re coming.”

I gave Itos a smile. I could remember the look that registered on his face when his team entered the court for the warm-ups, and he saw me, waving his team’s banner, behind his bench. He looked… relieved.

“Why?” I asked, and he placed an arm around my waist. We were at the South Gate, and I saw Darren pop from his team’s dugouts. “Well, I figured you’ll sit at Darren’s,” he replied, shrugging.

“Look, Darren is my best friend. And we nearly had a kid. Face it: he’s a huge part of my life, no matter how much we want to flip the world so that he won’t be. He’s my business partner, and he still exists in my world as my best friend,” I began to say, looking deeply into his eyes so that he could fully understand me. “You, Itos, are my future, my present, my everything.”

Itos stared at me, and then nodded slowly. “He sent me a ticket, too, but I shredded it. I wanted to be on your side,” I told him as Darren approached me and Itos. I felt Itos stiffen, and I couldn’t blame him. I’m thinking he’s imagining me and Darren tossing the sheets.

It’s not his fault he’s thinking that way.

“Nice game,” Darren said conversationally to Itos after giving me a curt nod. Nice was an understatement—Itos had a triple-double: 20 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. It was a great game, especially since Itos’ team walloped Darren’s in the end game.

“Thanks,” Itos said, albeit coldly. I just grinned.

“You guys have to get along if you both want to be in my life,” I told them, and Darren rolled his eyes. “You do know that your girlfriend’s stubborn?” he said to Itos, and Itos chuckled. “Yup. Knew that from Day One,” he chimed in.

Darren looked at me, and then at Itos. He patted Itos on the arm. “Don’t ever let her go, okay? Take care of her. You don’t have any idea how lucky you are that she’s with you,” he said, and Itos nodded. Darren gave me a peck on the cheek before leaving. I started to walk and Itos followed, and we were both silent.

“Did he just tell me what I think he did?” Itos asked me when he was opening the door of the car for me. I looked at him and nodded. “He told you that he’s hoping you didn’t sell the house yet, because there’s a very good chance a family’s going to live in it,” I replied, and Itos smiled at me. He kissed me—I forgot how much I missed him and all of him—and when he released me, I told him how much I loved him.

The next day, all my things have been packed.

 

Cirque was rocking.

The center tables were pushed to the sides to pave way to a grand dance floor at the center. Darren had a friend who was a DJ, and he was in charge of rocking the place as the place was jam-packed with our ‘diverse’ crowd. Itos was behind me, arms around my waist, swaying with me in the beat. On the other side of the floor I can see Darren, doing a rocking thing of his own, with a grumpy-looking Kim standing next to him.

I am assuming they are having a fight. Dave told me it’s getting frequent, and I have to talk to Darren before I leave about it.

LEAVE.

Ha. Ha. Something Itos doesn’t agree with.

He couldn’t get it that I am going out of the country for the next two weeks because of my job and a business conference just when I had settled in our house (that is now furnished—you couldn’t imagine how nice it was to do furniture shopping with Itos—we’re like kids—and it’s not like the house didn’t have three rooms. Itos wanted to buy stuff for a nursery already, for heaven’s sake.). We were having a blast playing husband and wife. Itos was spoiling me to bits, and I am seriously going to miss him the entire time I’ll be away from him.

“Good evening guys. Can I just ask my dear best friend and business partner, Bree, to come up here to the stage with me?”

I was startled when I heard Darren’s voice over the speakers. The music slowed to a stop, and everyone turned to the stage. “If only her boyfriend would disentangle himself from her,” he added, teasing, and the crowd laughed. Itos removed his hug around me and held my hand as we walked towards the stage. I took the other microphone that Dave offered me.

Darren gave me a smile. “So I would like to thank everyone for coming over here at Cirque and celebrating the seven fantastic years with us. We look forward to more years with everyone,” he began to say, and I winked at him. “Also, thank you—to my friends and colleagues who are in the crowd—who came to my send-off party,” I chimed in. A look of shock came across Darren’s face.

Maybe I have neglected telling him about my two-week trip.

“Whoops. Evidently I haven’t told my business partner that he’d have to man Cirque I and II for a couple of weeks as I am away on my business trip—a work-related one that is not related to Cirque,” I quipped, a wide smile on my face. Darren didn’t like it that he didn’t know, and he gave me a dark look. “Anyhoo,” I said, turning to the people in the audience, “as Darren here said, thank you for celebrating a wonderful seven years with us. We—along with the Cirque staff—are looking to seventy times seven times seven years more of this gorgeous business.”

A thunderous applause was how the audience responded, and I took the opportunity—a.k.a. Darren’s silence—to speak once more. “Thank you to Kim and Zania, for inspiring Darren in more ways than one. To my, hmm, Itos—” again, I couldn’t find a nice term for Itos—“I’m sorry I have to leave, but you have to know you’re in my thoughts all the time. To the Cirque staff, cheers to us. Keep up the good work!”

Another applause, and I had to shout over the blaring music: “Drinks on the house—except for minors!”

I was about to go down the stage when Darren, who decided to de-statue himself, stopped me by the arm. “You’re leaving?” he asked, sounding too accusing, and I nodded. “Hey, it’s not like I’ll never come back. You’re like Itos. Why are you both overreacting to this trip?” I asked back.

“Coz it’s the first time you’re going to be away from me and from him in such a long time?” Darren said sarcastically.

“We didn’t talk for two years after my miscarriage, remember?” I said pointedly. I saw Itos making his way up the stage, a frown on his face, wondering why Darren is almost manhandling me—his hands were tight against my shoulders. “That’s different. You are going where, exactly? When we didn’t talk, you were still around me,” he argued. I rolled my eyes.

“You have to let me go sometime, you know that, right?” I said hotly. He looked at me, into my eyes, and then nodded slowly. Itos had already popped to my side and he cleared his throat. Darren released me from his grip. “Look, she’s leaving whether we like it or not. She won’t hear any of my arguments—what makes you think she’ll listen to yours?” Itos said, and Darren ignored him.

“I don’t understand why you still have to work when you’ve got Cirque,” he told me, his voice in sheer frustration. I gave him a smile as I reached down to Itos’ hand and threaded his fingers with mine. “Well, this isn’t my dream, is it?” I asked him, and Darren made a sound halfway between a grunt and a groan.

“Shut it,” Itos said loudly just as Darren was about to say something more. Itos pulled me away from my best friend and placed me in a one-arm embrace. He kissed me on the hair. “Darren has a point, actually. Why work in a nine-to-five job when you have two upbeat and earning restos?” he whispered.

I just stayed silent.

“Yeah. I don’t want you to leave me —even if it’s just for two weeks,” he said with a heavy sigh. I turned my head and pressed my lips to his cheek, and he held my chin so that our lips will meet.

I wish I had cherished Itos more.

 

Itos pulled me closer to him, his hands going up my back, creeping slowly. I closed my eyes and let his touch warm my body. He hugged me from behind, his arms draped over my shoulders, his lips at the hollow of my throat. “Uh huh. Yeah, I figured out you don’t want me to leave,” I teased, my voice unstable. A fire is starting to burn inside of me, and I seriously wanted to burn in this kind of fire. I had just gotten home from the anniversary party, and it’s halfway past three in the morning. Itos had to leave ahead of me—as did Darren—for they have early basketball practice next morning.

“Hmm,” he murmured, making tiny kisses up my neck and to my ear. His hands crept up my neck and caressed me there, and I unconsciously let out a moan. He twirled me to face him, and I searched blindly for his lips, but he avoided me. He placed a forefinger on my lips and gave me a teasing smile. My breathing was starting to be ever so ragged.

“Oh, so no kisses?” I complained, and he laughed, his breath warm on my face. My hands went up to inside his shirt, touching whatever skin I can, warming his body as he done to mine just by sheer kissing me. “On the lips,” he concurred, and I groaned. He lifted both my arms and removed my shirt, and I did the same to him. He hugged me, held me across his chest for a moment, our naked upper bodies touching in the silence, our hearts beating as one. He kissed my hair and forehead, and then reached out behind me to unfasten my bra. He lifted me up as I am not weighing much at all, and I jackknifed my legs around his waist. His mouth went down to kiss one nipple, and my hands tangled with his hair in high hopes he wouldn’t stop what he is doing. He sucked, nibbled, and kissed, and gave the other a fair treatment, and I shivered, hovering over the golden edge without even minding if Itos was anywhere near there.

Itos stopped. To my horror, he stopped. Before I could even complain, he started to walk—with me on him—to ‘our’ room. I aimed to kiss him again, but he ducked once more, and he nibbled on my ear. “I told you, no kisses on the lips,” he whispered hoarsely, his big hands on my back, nuzzling the flesh there. I rolled my eyes. “You suddenly develop an aversion to kissing on the lips and you punish me for it,” I whispered angrily, and before I knew it, Itos laid my on the bed with a soft thump.

It appeared he won’t be speaking, and he concentrated on removing my slacks, button per button, and slid them off, his hands touching my skin in the process, and I just moaned in the fire that burned. He parted my thighs and I frowned. I looked down on him and he was trailing kisses from my ankle up to my inner thigh, stopping only when I gasped. “Itos…” I breathed, my voice wavering. I couldn’t handle it.

I reached down and pulled him to me. “Do it. Now. Please,” I said, desperation so evident in my voice. He shook his head. “Later,” he whispered, and in my irritation, I closed my thighs. He laughed, and I was muttering that he was killing my buzz. I took the pillow from the bed and crawled up, ready to sleep, irritated that I didn’t even get to where I should have been headed. He pulled me back down to the edge of the bed by the ankles, and lifted me, kissing me—this time on the lips. I didn’t get any air, I tell you, and he was kissing me with so much enthusiasm that I went dizzy—just like the first time he and I kissed. His tongue delved into every depths of my mouth, and I knew he tasted the pizza I had for dinner, and the beer.

Itos finally let me go, and as I was breathing heavily, he whispered, “You drank and drove?” I shrugged. “I sipped beer. Swear,” I said, crossing my finger over my naked chest, making an X mark. He looked at me with disapproval on his face, and he parted my thighs once more. “Babe, you deserve punishment,” he said, his voice filled with warning. I giggled like a teenager. His hand was already threading the tiny piece of cloth that served as a barrier, and he pulled it down with a swift move—so swift that the fabric tore. He undid his pants and removed them, and I saw what the romance pocketbooks called as his “manhood,” ever so ready for me.

“And if the punishment is you in me,” I began to say, pulling him back down on me, “then I’d gladly take it. No matter how many times, your honor.” He rolled his eyes, and without any warning, he entered me, and I clutched onto his shoulders, meeting his thrust. I arched my body to fully welcome him, and my eyes rolled into the back of my head for a split second when he exploded in me. When I opened my eyes, he was gazing at me lovingly.

“I want you, so badly, Bree,” he said huskily, and I nodded. He was still inside me, and I moved closer, rubbing my hips against his. “I love you,” I whispered, and his lips went down on mine once more. We kissed for a while, and then he pulled out of me—much to my disappointment. He lifted me and fixed me on the bed so that he and I were lying side by side across the bed, and I turned to hug him. He looked down on me. “I don’t want you to leave,” he whispered, and I nodded.

“We also talked about that. I have to do this.”

Itos kissed me on the forehead. “Yes, babe, I know that, too.” I gazed into his eyes and I saw the sadness in them, and I touched his face, his cheek, his eyes, his nose, and his lips, memorizing every curve, dimple, and mole. His fingers went up my face as well, and he started with the mole on my nose, tracing the path to the other mole on my left ear, then on the one on my neck…

“Feels like connect the dots, Bree,” he said after a few minutes, when he had already traced the moles up to my back. He had turned me so that he can continue whatever he was doing, and he was at that mole at the small of my back. I knew I had a lot of moles, but only Itos took time at marveling at how many they were. I was feeling a bit ticklish, and the smile never left my face.

“Send-off sex?” I murmured into his chest after he and I made love for a couple more times. I didn’t know what time it was, and I probably didn’t care. “Nah,” he said, and pulling me closer and covering our bodies with the blanket. “What if I just wanted to make love to you?”

I smiled. “Well, I don’t mind.”

“I knew you wouldn’t,” he teased, his hands tangled once more in my long tresses. I yawned and he started to hum, and I cuddled closer.

I never knew that that was the last time I would ever make love to Itos.

Click here for Chapter Seven: Dead Ball.

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