Chapter Five

    The sound of the garbage truck rumbling through the alley brought Mitch out of a heavy, artificially induced sleep. Groaning, he opened his eyes slowly, unable to move much else. As his vision came back into focus, Mitch realized he wasn't in the loft. It seemed that somehow, amidst the reminiscing, the laughs, and an indeterminable amount of liquor, he and Jessie had fallen asleep.

sofa2_gif.gif (2075 bytes)Clearly not big enough for one, let alone TWO people to sleep on, Mitch and Jess laid in a tangled mess on the loveseat. Mitch lay under Jessie, whose head rested on his chest, her right arm dangling off the loveseat, her bare legs entwined in his. How he was supposed to move without rousing Jessie, he didn't know. All he did know was that he had to pee in the worst way, and that if he didn't pop some aspirin soon, his pounding head would be the end of him.

    After a night like last night, the arrival of morning was bittersweet. Getting up slowly and unraveling himself from Jess’s sleeping form, Mitch had plenty of time to think back to the night’s events. Never in a million years could he have seen it coming. It would take most of the morning to clear his mind, letting Jessie sleep, watching her from his desk as she slept. His headache was bad enough, but thoughts of their escapades the night before made concentrating on work almost impossible.

    Angel it seemed was cutting a wide girth around both he and Jessie, staying out of Mitch's office. Poor guy probably thought they were extending last night's activities, and feared interrupting again. I wish, Mitch thought, his eyes going back to Jessie once again.

    When she finally did wake up, Jess spent the whole day trying to lay low, wandering in and out of the bar, trying to find something to keep herself occupied, remaining behind the scenes as much as possible. The after effects of the night before did nothing to lighten Jess's mood, her matching set - a throbbing head AND wrist - constant reminders of just how crazy the previous night had been.

    Jessie was worried. What happened to Zach? Did he even notice she was gone? Only the painkillers dulled the added pain of disappointment she felt at not receiving one page from him, not one snooping call to Mitch to check if she was okay. Nothing. She herself had made a casual call to Lisa, the receptionist back at the Wave offices, to see if Zach was there. He wasn't. According to Lisa, he hadn't been there til well into the afternoon. Screw it, Jessie thought. Luckily, she had dropped off the floppy disk with her notes and the rolls of film from the Candi Daniels interview at the office the previous afternoon. She had her agenda book with her, and would easily be able to start following up on other stories without having to go down there again.

    Jess fled upstairs as the noise in the bar started to escalate, the evening crowd bustling in. Get a grip, she thought, going to Mitch's closet to change out of her T-shirt and shorts. You're living above a bar for Chrissake, she laughed to herself. What better place to indulge in a little 'distraction?' Jessie chose a little black dress, a black halter top cut down to there.. a killer, that was as short and form fitting as it was low cut. She grabbed some black patent leather pumps, sheer black hose and her makeup bag, and headed for the bathroom. After a quick shower, and getting my face on again, I'll be able to handle anything, she thought.

    The evening was in full swing by the time she came back downstairs, taking a seat on one of the lower stairs to peruse the scene. The band, "Triple Threat," was already setting up in the corner.

    "Mitch!" called out Nick, the drummer for the band, a well-known ladies man at the bar. "We got a great play list tonight!"

    "Great," Mitch responded.

    "And we've got some old favorites of yours perfected," laughed Johnny, the lead singer.

    "Yeah, cool," mumbled Mitch, still suffering the effects of the hangover. You’re way too old to drink that way anymore, he thought, wiping down the bar top, as he looked up at Johnny, who was having one hell of a time hamming it up in front of the ladies as he tuned his guitar. You’ve got to be kidding, Mitch thought. Who did Johnny think he was. Close to Mitch’s age, he was rather rough looking, and not very handsome. Must be the long hair, Mitch shrugged.

    Jess descended the stairs, purse, laptop and agenda book in hand. Her heels made negotiating the stairs a little tricky, especially since she had only one hand free to steady herself if she lost her balance. Mitch was behind the bar, his back turned, when she finally walked up to the bar. "Listen, I have to run," she said. "I have some legwork I have to do for my next article.." I have to go snoop on Zach, the little voice inside her head insisted.

    Mitch looked up at Jessie as he finished wiping out a glass, a look of surprise on his face. "Jessie.."

    Jess could see it in his face that he wasn't a happy camper, but it would have to wait. "We'll talk later," she said, "right now, I have to go." Mitch nodded as she turned, and headed for the door.

beeper1_gif.gif (450 bytes) The key was in the ignition and Jessie was about to pull out of the parking lot, when she stopped. "Crap," she said, putting the gear shift back in park. She had forgotten her beeper. You'd forget your head if it weren't attached, she giggled.

    "Louie, Louie.. I'm sure your delivery guys screwed up my bar order.. yeah.. I'm short on Absolut, and that shipment of new glasses I ordered.." Mitch tapped a swizzle stick impatiently on the bar, rolling his eyes as he heard his supplier continue to argue with him about the accuracy of his delivery. "Look Louie, I got a business to run here. Lemme go back to my office, and get the invoice.. yeah.. I'll call you right back.."

    Annoyed, Mitch exiting the bar in a hurry, anxious to clear up the blundered order, but stopped as soon as he opened the door to his office. It was pitch black, and Mitch could barely see a thing. Even the street light that lit his romance with Jessie wasn't aglow outside. Strange.. the office lights were out. But wasn't I was just in here, Mitch thought. They were on just a second ago. Maybe it's just a bad light bulb, or maybe a fuse, he reasoned, shrugging it off. No big deal, Mitch thought, as he reached for the light switch to try the lights.

    Suddenly, Mitch felt a pair of hands reaching around and covering his eyes from behind. "Guess who?" whispered a voice.

    Mitch smiled. Jessie had just left. He had watched her walk out the door.. Maybe she had snuck back in through the back, Mitch thought, deciding on a private moment with Mitch, and a fonder goodbye. "Je..." Mitch tried to say, interrupted by a lustful kiss from a pair of hungry lips.

    Angel looked up as Jessie came back into the bar and headed for Mitch's office. "I forgot my beeper, and it's not upstairs," she said, zipping by Angel and into the back. Jessie flicked the light switch on. "Mitch I forgot... I forg.." her words slowly lowering into a whisper, her heart sinking to the floor.

    "JESSIE?!"

    Mitch opened his eyes. Oh my God. No. Lynn was before him - just before his lips - with the wickedest smile ever on anyone, like the devil herself. She waved at him sweetly, grinning, as she flipped her medium length blond hair over her shoulder. Her eyes sparkled, flickering like flames under arched eyebrows, watching as Mitch's own eyes turned to shock and horror. "That's quite a hello there Mitch!" she said, licking her lips, "miss me that much, huh?"

    Lynn had snuck in, and it was Lynn who he had kissed. No wonder it wasn't even enjoyable. It was quick and heartless, not a touch of love anywhere in it. Her tongue was cold, like her mouth, chilling Mitch to the bone when they kissed. He knew something was wrong when their mouths first touched, but didn't know what it was. Jessie stood before Mitch with the most awful look on her face, her eyes wide with disbelief, hands limp at her sides, looking like she was going to scream. He could see the emotion mirrored in her big hazel eyes. But Jessie was too stunned to make a sound.

    What the hell is this? Jessie thought, her hand fumbling blindly for the beeper she had come for, on the loveseat.

    "Who's your friend?" Lynn snickered, noticing how rattled the young woman before her was. "Sure sweetie," she added quickly, seeing Jess make a move towards the sofa, "join us. I'll make sure to leave you some.."

    With one piercing stare, Jess backed away silently, slipping out the door as quickly as she had entered, slamming it behind her.

    Lynn's scheming mind made a mental note of the bandage wrapped around the woman's hand. Unable to resist the urge, she ran the palm of her hand up Mitch's chest seductively. "Get a little rough with one of your bar groupies?" she purred, a perverted smile curving her lips.

    "Just what the hell do you think you're doing?!" Mitch yelled. All Lynn could do was laugh in amusement. Livid, Mitch grabbed one of the shot glasses left over from his drinking binge with Jessie, and flung it against the far wall with all his might.


    It was the second time in two days that Angel had seen Jess fly out of Mitch's office, and he was beginning to wonder what the hell Mitch was doing. Even with the steady din of the bar, he could hear Mitch yelling from the back, heck, anyone within a two block radius could hear him.

    From his position on stage, Nick had caught the entire scene. The band was still in the midst of warming up, when the firy brunette had made her grand yet hasty departure. "Did you get a load of THAT!" Johnny said, strumming his guitar, as they readied for their first set.

    Who could miss her, Nick wanted to say, but he didn't. Being lead singer, Johnny immediately thought this entitled him to first crack at all the attractive women. No, Nick thought, he would play it cool, watching for the hellcat in black in case she returned. Nick continued banging out a steady rhythm on the drums, letting his mind wander, as his eyes scanned the room. That guy could be a problem, Nick thought, spying the ominous looking Angel behind the bar. He could only hope that he was a silent partner, just visiting that night, to assess his investment. Has to be, Nick reasoned, noticing the way Angel was offering free drinks to patrons sitting at the bar, just to distract them from the yelling coming from the back room. Seemed Mitch couldn't handle his women..

    But Mitch wouldn't be a problem. During the audition, he had seemed the laid back type, genuinely into running his business, wanting to add to the bar's ambiance by hiring a band. Nick smiled. Maybe he had been a bit too hasty in grumbling when the band had landed the chance at a gig in what he had felt was the average Yuppie trendy retro bar. Yup, if tonight was any indication, their week trial as house band would be a lot more interesting than he had anticipated.


    Jessie peeled out of the parking lot as fast as her Jeep could carry her. She headed for the expressway, popping some Def Leppard into her CD player, to rip away any cobwebs in her mind. "MEN!" Jessie yelled, cranking up the car stereo, the wind whipping through her long hair. You should know better by now Jess, she berated herself.

    Taking the on ramp marked South, she headed for South Beach, where she planned to check out the latest club that had opened there - Mirage. Maybe a few hours mixing it up with the wild SoBe club crowd would help set her straight again, burning off some energy on a loud, crowded dance floor where she could disappear for a while. Just then, her car phone started to ring. Damn thing, she thought, ready to toss it into oncoming traffic. Disappear my eye, knowing exactly who it was before she even picked up the phone. "Hello?"

    "Jess baby, it's me.."

    It was Zach, sounding all syrupy sweet and apologetic, like he always did after he screwed up. "Please," Jessie stated irately, "DON'T baby me.."

    "Jess.. please, listen to me. I'm really sorry about last night," Zach pleaded, frowning, as he heard all the noise on Jessie's end. "Jess? Where are you?"

    "Didn't seem to concern you last night, did it?" she laughed.

    "Aw, come on Jess.. come home. We'll talk this out. I promise, I'll make this up to you.."

    But Zach didn't have a chance. Jessie was livid, and far beyond talking. "You shoulda thought of that before you decided to boink Candi, not to mention the stunt you pulled at the Dusk to Dawn last. Hope it was worth it loverboy.."

    "Jessica please, be reasonable.."

    Oh, Jessie giggled to herself, I am being reasonable, fighting fire with fire like I should have done a long time ago. "This is a real bore," she yawned, seeing Miami's skyline coming up on the horizon. "I'm hanging up now Zach..CIAO!" she said, turning off the phone. "Round one goes to the men, but round two's just begun," she yelled into the clear tropical sky..


    "What the hell is going on?!" demanded Angel, barging into Mitch’s office.

    Mitch shrugged, quickly, and began to head for the door.

    Angel stuck his arm out blocking Mitch's exit. "What just happened Mitch?"

    Mitch leaned up against Angel's arm, and knew he wasn't going to go anywhere fast this way. "I have to get the fuck out of here," he growled.

    Angel shook his head. "Not until I get some answers."

    "I have to get out of here," Mitch said, turning away from Angel, "now." Angel grabbed Mitch by the arm, but Mitch shook him off and slipped away. He shoved the door open with both hands, and started towards the parking lot, fumbling in his pockets for his keys.

    "Who the hell do you think you are?" yelled Lynn, as she followed Mitch, Angel right on her heels. "How dare you!" she barked.

    Mitch stopped dead in his tracks, and turned around, much to the shock of Lynn. "How dare I?" he yelled, still fumbling for his keys. "Just what in the hell do you think you're doing?"

    "I came back looking for you!" Lynn interrupted.

    "Walking into my place, and KISSING ME?"

    "Didn't seem like you minded at first!"

    "I thought you were someone else."

    Lynn let out a quick sarcastic laugh. "Like you even have someone?"

    Mitch's hand balled up into a fist. "Last I remember of you Lynn, you left me, after all your high society friends teased and taunted you about me. You denied there was ever any relationship between us.."

    "I had better things to do with my life then waste my time on some part time waiter."

    "I was a bartender."

    "Whatever."

    "If anyone wasted their time, it was me!" Mitch growled, as he turned away, heading once more towards his car. Angel tried to keep pace with Lynn and Mitch, having no idea she was. But whoever she was she had Mitch on the run for some strange reason.

    "I dumped you, big deal. Get over it."

    "You did more than dump me.." Mitch spat, "you broke my heart."

    "You greedy bastard. All you're concerned about are your feelings."

    Mitch swung around suddenly, to face Lynn once more. "You never had feelings you ice bitch! You lead me on for three months!" he screamed, "and without so much as an explanation, or even a sorry, the next day you refused to see me."

    "I moved on to something.."

    "To someone better?"

    Lynn nodded, her cold blue eyes peering at him. "Much better."

    "I’ve had enough of you.." he spat, turning to leave.

    "Funny, you wouldn't leave me alone back then! You practically stalked me."

    Recognizing Lynn’s car - the same early 90's model green Mustang - Mitch stopped dead in his tracks, memories of his first date with Lynn flooding into his mind.


    .."So what do you want to do next?" Mitch asked, his breath fogging up her windows, as he sat in Lynn's car, looking out the window to his own car. It was 4 a.m., and they were both tired and full from eating.

    Lynn smiled, eyes gleaming. "I don't know," she said, rocking back and forth, anxious about something.

    "Want to go out again tomorrow?"

    "Well.. if I'm not busy," she answered, awkwardly, jiggling the gear shift absentmindedly.

    Mitch laughed. "Look Lynn, I thought we worked through all this back at the IHOP. I like you, and would like to spend more time getting to know you - as a friend – just like we said.."

    Lynn nodded. "I know. It's what I want too."

    "I don't want you to think I'm desperate, I just enjoyed myself with you tonight, and I'd like to do it again tomorrow night."

    "Okay," she said, with a giggle, "I enjoyed myself too. A lot.."

    "Really?"

    "Really," she smiled, meeting Mitch’s gaze.

    "So.. what do you want to do?" Mitch asked, the familiar dating jitters overcoming him as usual.

    "I don't know, what do you want to do?" she giggled.

    Mitch’s uneasiness was only increasing. "I’m tired. Maybe we should get going after all.."

    "What do you really want to do?" she said, her eyes locked on Mitch's, as she leaned in towards him.

    "I.. I.."

    "How much easier do I have to make this for you?" she whispered, slipping off his glasses.

    Mitch gulped, realizing he was trapped. He had liked Lynn from the very first time they had met at the roller skating rink a few years back. Lynn had been the brave one, taking Mitch by the hand, and pulling him out onto the rink. Mitch was far from graceful on skates, and it made Lynn giggle, as he clung to the wall for dear life. She had helped Mitch around the rink showing him how to skate, and at one point, had skated circles around him when he had felt secure enough to briefly skate away from the wall.

    Mitch had thought it was fate when he had run into her again a few years later at a high society wedding where he was tending bar. As Mitch mixed drinks, they caught up with each other, since it had been at least four years since they had seen each other. Hours later, after the reception had been long over, Lynn had gone home with Mitch’s phone, Mitch with hers, and both with big smiles on their faces. Hell, Lynn had spent the whole night whispering blatant hints in his ear, until he had leaned over and kissed her, leading to thirty minutes of intense kissing.

     The chemistry between them had rekindled, two months later, when they had gone to the beach to watch the sun rise. Roasting marshmallows in a secluded area of the beach, Mitch had laid out a blanket, and before they knew it, a whole different fire was burning between them. He had showered Lynn in kisses, convincing the insecure Lynn that her body was beautiful, and making love to her..


    Where was that person now? he wondered. "You could have been more responsible, caring human being Lynn. You were cold to me - cold," Mitch said, slamming a fist upon Lynn's car hood as he passed it.

    "We can both start now."

    "Not me - you!" he said, "I'm responsible for no one but me.."

    "And Kelly," Lynn said.

    Mitch stopped, and turned around. "Who's Kelly?"

    Lynn opened the back car door. "Your daughter," she said, pulling out a little blonde haired, blue eyed girl, who looked like she could be no more than four years old.

    A mirror image of himself in miniature, female form looked up at him shyly, rubbing her eyes. Mitch couldn't believe what was happening, yet tried to hide the shock. He didn't want the first image his daughter had of him to be a negative one. My daughter, Mitch thought, his mind spinning, my DAUGHTER.. "Look," Mitch said, running his hand anxiously through his hair, "it's late, and she's clearly exhausted. Why don't we meet tomorrow when things are more calm?"

    Kelly hopped out of the back seat, and grabbed onto her mother's legs. She was cranky from lack of sleep, and the strangers standing next to them were making her uneasy. Lynn paused, stroking her daughter's hair, giving herself a moment to weigh her options. "Okay," she answered, calmer now. "We're staying at the Bahia Mar."

    "Great," Mitch answered, breathing an internal sigh of relief.

    Lynn looked at Mitch, and smiled broadly. She had him, and she knew it. "I'll call you sometime tomorrow to set up a meeting, so that you can meet your daughter properly." Opening up the door so that Kelly could climb back into the back seat, she poured it on thick. "Come along precious," she cooed, "daddy's got business to take care of tonight. We'll see him tomorrow.."

    Her torture of Mitch was complete, or so she thought, until she saw a black Jeep pull up, carrying the same young woman she had seen earlier in Mitch's office. The woman apparently hadn't seen them, because she pulled up in a spot right across from hers. Marveling at her stroke of luck, Lynn took action before the element of surprise slipped out of her grasp.

    With the big oaf standing next to Mitch as witness, she slowly turned to face Mitch, making sure the woman in the Jeep had a clear view of what was happening. "I'm looking forward to tomorrow baby," she said, caressing Mitch's cheek with her hand before stealing a quick peck on the lips, "and your little girl is too.."

    At that very moment, Jess was stepping out of her car, just in time to hear every word Lynn had said. Lynn met Jessie's gaze, and gave her a little wave, before unlocking her car, and getting in. His little girl? Jessie thought, bewilderedly. She let the car back up and pull away, before walking very calmly over to Mitch, biting back the disgust she felt building within her. "By the end of the night I'll be out of your hair," she said, slinging her purse over her shoulder, and walking away.

    Mitch balled his hands into fists again, and was turning towards his car, as Angel stopped him. "You know," he said, trying to lighten the mood, "I move away for a while and all hell breaks loose. What the hell is up with you man?"

    "You have no idea.."

    "No, apparently not," stated Angel, getting serious once again. "I don't know what this is all about. What I do know is you gotta get a hold of yourself. You have a business to run. Now get your shit together, and get back in there. Sally and Betty must think we've both lost out minds.."

* * * * *

Copyright 1998 Susana Audrain and Richard Tingle All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this novel or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. Copyright Law.

 

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