The Sweetest Taboo

By: Alison Kent

HE WAS PLAYING THE blues again.

The melancholy and menacing low-down sounds wound their way through her bedroom’s open window, conjuring wild and reckless images in her wandering mind. Feet tucked beneath her in the bedroom’s overstuffed reading chair, Erin Thatcher placed the open copy of Anïs Nin’s Little Birds facedown on the quilted throw covering her lap.

With her hands resting on the chair’s padded arms, her head sinking into the cushioned back, she closed her eyes and listened. The rhythm worked the magic she’d come to expect from the sultry sounds, arousing the parts of her body the erotica had wickedly stirred to life.

She wanted to indulge in the sensations, to let the music take her places she hadn’t visited in far too long, to offer her experiences rich with the sensual encounters and adventures her reading of late reminded her she was missing.

The guitar strings stroked velvet fingers the length of her neck, caressing her skin from her chin to the hollow of her throat. The singer’s voice filled her ears with dirty words and sweet nothings, whispered suggestions of bodies belonging together and loving long into the night. Hearing so much in the music said a lot about the silence in her life.

Oh, the crowd at Paddington’s On Main was noisy enough, but the downtown Houston, Texas, wine and tobacco bar was her career. A career she loved. A career she’d been destined for since first visiting the UK with her parents, standing but knee-high to her Granddad Rory behind the counter in his quayside pub deep in Devon’s lush countryside.

But it was not a career that met her personal needs and desires. Neither her regular customers nor her co-workers—no matter how much she enjoyed the interaction with both—touched that part of her soul that knew there was more to life than the endless hours she devoted to work.

Hours she knew Rory would never have wanted her to spend, but how could she do any less? Paddington’s was her legacy from the granddad she’d already lost. And she would do everything in her power to keep the bar afloat.

After all the years he’d devoted to her upbringing, the sacrifices he’d made on her behalf, the remorse of letting him down would be too much to bear. She couldn’t chance losing his dream, not when she wasn’t certain she’d ever recover from losing him.

Right now, however, at this moment, the one thing of which she was selfishly feeling the loss, the one thing her life was missing above all else, was intimacy of the most basic sort. One man and one woman. Simple and to the point.

She had friends galore, both here in town and in cyberspace. It was, in fact, the literary erotica her online reading group had chosen to read this month that had her so restless, furthering her discontent with this one part of her life—the only part of her life—

in which she felt lacking.

And now he was playing the blues again.

She wanted to know who he was.

He’d lived in the loft above hers since, several months before, she’d moved into the newly-converted, one-hundred-year-old hotel on the edge of Houston’s theater district.

They crossed paths in the mail room, the tomblike space too small for the two of them and the mutual attraction which hovered like a heavy cloud of bone-soaking rain.

They ran into one another in the garage. His classic black GTO lurked at the end of the row where she parked her Toyota Camry, a darkly menacing presence lying in wait.

They passed each other coming in and out of the elevator on the ground floor. Neither gave the other wide berth. Instead, each seemed to have the need to test unspoken limits, to brush clothing, to breathe the same air, to measure the fit of bodies…

Enough already!

Pushing her way up out of the chair and dragging the quilt behind her, Erin padded across the hardwood floor of her bedroom, her socks slip-sliding on the smoothly grained surface. She pulled back the simple muslin panel along the antique brass rod and climbed into the window seat, tugging her sleep shirt over her updrawn knees and cocooning herself in the warm cotton knit and the quilt.

It was dark here, away from the single lamp she’d left on for reading. Here in the very corner of her room, far from the hallway door and the rest of the pitch-black loft, six stories above the ground. It was dark and it was cold and the clock was ticking its way toward 3:00 a.m.

But from here she could hear the muted noises of the traffic below, watch the brake lights and blinkers of the cars leaving the city’s nightlife behind. And she could smell the smoke curling from the end of the cigar he inevitably smoked while the blues made love to the night.