My gaze passes across a woman sitting at the bar. There's no spark. Nothing at all. Not even a backwash of experience, which is unusual. She's an empty vessel, of no interest to me, nor me to her. It happens sometimes. Which is a pity because she's hot. Tall, slim, good figure, short brown hair streaked with lowlights. Unavailable, or something.
I move on.
Four stools down is a redhead with breasts a man might drown between if he got lucky. A dark haired man ten years her senior leans close. Married, but he's slipped the ring off his finger. It's in the coin pocket of his jeans. He has a twenty percent chance of getting laid. But hey, those are good odds for him, he'll take them.
It's still a week to Valentine's but already the atmosphere in Connolly's has an edge. People are thinking about sex, about infidelity, about getting laid.
I narrow my eyes and stare harder at the redhead. Mid-twenties, only a little heavier than she should be, but the boobs make up for any roundness of the belly. Then the vision hits me hard. She is on her knees on the bed in her apartment, ass raised as I fuck her hard. It's her favorite position. Of course it is. I know that, just as I know she doesn't take it in the ass so I make no overtures in that direction. But she gives good head and once she's come, which will be soon, I'll finish in her mouth. She likes that too, but she's going to spit.
I blink and the future memory is gone.
She turns her head, the man still talking, and her eyes meet mine. She smiles. I smile back and offer a small nod, watch as her pupils bloom. She knows. Not like I know, but she knows.
This gift, it's is as much a curse as a boon.
As I stare at the redhead the man says something and she turns back to him. Already the memory is fading. Not to be. Not unless I try harder, and I'm not in the mood to try, not tonight. Despite what I can do I rarely use my gift these days. It's too easy. Sex has lost its edge for me and I don't know if I'll ever get it back.
I glance at the brunette again, curiosity piqued. Still nothing. I like that. There's a freshness to the mystery.
She stares into her glass. Bourbon over a lot of ice. I wonder why her, why I can't read her. I've never come across the situation before, not once in the six years since my ability surfaced the year I turned eighteen. I always know.
I think for a moment about trying harder but know it's pointless. It isn't a case of trying, it just is. I have no idea how it works, none at all, only that it does.
Instead of worrying about her I turn away.
Another woman. Dyed blonde, but a good dye-job. Late-twenties. Just like the guy hitting on the redhead she's married. Wedding ring in her purse, inside pocket next to her billfold. She's unhappy, frustrated. A husband who works away a lot. She's sure he has affairs when he's away and wants some fun of her own. Tonight won't be her first time. She's worried about getting older and not being attractive anymore. Which is wrong. She is attractive. Very attractive. I let the possible future run for a while.
She's happy to take me home, happy we fuck in the marital bed. It adds a level of taboo and she gets off on the sinfulness, get off on being taken where her husband takes her on the rare occasions his needs and hers coincide. She's not into giving oral sex but has nothing against receiving. That's fine, I like it either way, happy to go down on her.
She shaved, maybe to hide the fact she's not a true blonde, and she's a squealer and occasionally squirts when she comes hard. I move the play on in my head. This can happen if I let it. This can happen tonight. In some other universe or time and place it's already happened, I merely have to relive it, to tease it from the million stranded possibilities that spawn out from this moment.
Tonight, if I let it, she comes hard, real hard, wetting my belly. She's on top, in command, wanting to ride me. I've not come yet and she doesn't notice until she returns to the present. I push into her and she grins, puts her hands behind her head and works me, nodding. She wants more, is ready for more. And then the memory begins to fade.
"Are you all right?"
I turn in my seat, the room coming into focus slowly. I'm hard inside my pants.
It's the brunette. She's come away from the bar to sit next to me. Her bourbon is almost gone, only ice in the bottom.
"Um, I'm fine," I say. I nod at her glass. "You want another?"
I catch the barkeep's eye and point to her glass. My own is also empty and I point at that too. Marty knows what I drink. Looks like he knows what the brunette drinks too.
I lift my gaze. She has the most amazing eyes. Hazel with flecks of gold, deep like those pools you get in Florida that are claimed to be bottomless.
"You looked like you'd gone away for a while there."
I smile, say nothing.
She is comfortable in herself, I can tell that much even if everything else is dark to me. I push, not really knowing what I'm doing. I've never known what I'm doing. Still nothing, but she smiles.
"Now you're frowning," she says. She lifts her fresh glass and waits. I raise mine and we tap them together, the ice rattling.
Why can't I see anything? Anything at all?
I glance across her shoulder to where a stunning blonde, real this time, is sitting with another man. She's way, way out my league. I wind the tape and she slaps my face, so I know I still got it, whatever the fuck it is, except not with this woman. I look back at her.
"Tired, I guess." I rub at my forehead. Sip my scotch. It burns going down.
"What do you do?"
"Software," I say. "How about you?"
"Real estate." She smiles. No frown on her face. Smooth brow, smooth skin everywhere I can see. Mid-twenties? I can't tell, not for sure, and it spooks me. I should know how she looks naked, or know she's going to slap my face some moment in the future. But I know nothing, nothing at all, and it spooks me bad.
I'm not sure I like the way she's come across to me. I'm out of the game, have been for six years. Why would I need to play the game when I always know how it's going to end? How do people do this stuff, this dating, this play between man and woman, the dancing around, the escalation, the final result if there is one? I always know what's going to happen. Nothing is ever a surprise. Which has a downside, of course.
I always know exactly what's going to happen. It comes to me as a memory, as if it's already in the past, except I know it's not, it can't be. I also know if I don't go through with it the memory will fade, sometimes fast, other times a little slower, but always within an hour, two at most, it's gone. Totally gone. In the morning I will recall none of the things that might have happened tonight.
But if I go through with the act the memory stays, tucked away in a place in my mind where memories go to meditate until they're called up.
It makes the sex less exciting because I've already done it. However wild it gets (and sometimes it gets real wild), it's always second hand. Reliving the moment, not living it.
"I'm Mel," the woman says. She holds out her hand, her glass on the table now. "Short for Melissa," she says as I take her hand in mine. Her fingers are cold where they've been holding the glass. For a moment I get an image of those cold fingers wrapped around my cock, but it's not my gift that brings it, just a fantasy like the ones I used to get before I started seeing the future.
Our hands stay curled together after we've shaken. She makes no move to draw away, not yet.
"Danny," I say, then smile. "Short for Daniel."
"Pleased to meet you, Danny."
"You too, Mel." I release her hand and she reaches for her bourbon. I stare at her mouth. Full lips. Dusty red lipstick. Nice nose. Great cheekbones. Her hair's cut short so the lobes of her ears show. I wonder if she likes having them kissed like the girl two times back did, arching her body while I worked on them, making her come with my fingers before she went down on me. Not a spitter that time. Far from it, like she was hungry for my cum.
"You've got that frown again," Mel says. She reaches out and rubs her thumb across my forehead like she can wipe it away.
"Sorry — I guess I'm not good company tonight."
She pulls her hand back, lays it in her lap. I glance down. No wedding band. Of course, with her I don't know if that's real or not. There's nothing here to help me and I find the notion exciting. I'm getting aroused again inside my pants. Gray chinos, pleated front, no belt.
"What brings you to Connolly's tonight?" I say. "I don't recall ever seeing you here before." And for a second I wonder if she's someone I haven't followed through on in the past and that's why there's no memory. Is she one of the shadows?
"Atlanta's not my town," she says.
"Heartsville. You know it?"
I shake my head.
"It's small," she says.
"What brings you to Atlanta?"
"I've got a client wants to move here. A couple. They paid me to come and take a look around, find them half a dozen places worth considering."
"And have you?"
A smile. "I only arrived today. Start work in the morning."
"Where are you staying?" I ask. It's weird, all this happening in real-time and I have no idea if it's going to work out or not.
"Hilton," she says. "Same as everyone else." She sips her bourbon, already half gone. It's her second, at least, but she seems stone cold sober. I think I'm falling a bit in love with her. She looks up and meets my eyes. "You in town on business, or..." She leaves it hanging.
"What kind of software?" she asks.
I laugh. "The dull kind. Financial."
She looks me up and down, her gaze almost a physical thing. I get harder inside my pants and wonder if she can see my arousal. I look into her eyes, searching for a tell, but nothing.
"You don't look dull," she says.
Fuck, I think, so this is what flirting is like. God damn, it's a game, isn't it?
"Oh, I'm not," I say. "Only my work."
She reaches out and presses two fingers between my brows. "Hence the frown."
I reach up and grip her wrist, pull her hand down, turn it over and kiss the palm.
When I look up she's smiling, her pupils wide.
"What was that for?" she asks.
"A thanks for wiping away my worries."
She grins. "If only. But I can tell my work here is done." She drains her glass and stands. She's taller than I thought, almost as tall as she was on the stool.
She nods again.
"We were just getting acquainted," I say.
"I'm here all week," she says. "But right now I'm bushed. If you're around some other night we can carry on getting to know each other."
"I'm looking forward to it already."
She smiles. "Mm. Me too." She starts away, stops. "Oh, and those two girls in the booth? You might like to go across to them." Another smile. "I won't mind. They're more into each other than you, but it could be fun. One of them takes cock." Then she's gone. I watch her reach the door, pass through. I wait, then turn to the girls and discover she's right.
I watch the play. Know they're flirting with each other, one of them curious, the other way beyond curiosity. And I see how it will be, their curiosity satisfied as well as mine. I'm still hard, excited, because Mel was right, they could be fun.
But instead of going across I catch Marty's eye and ask for another scotch. I glance at the girls. The movie plays, but it's a new one. Just the two of them in bed together, 69ing each other.
It's become as much a curse as a boon, this thing I can do. When it began I was getting laid most every night, but that can only last so long. The last couple years I use it once a month. No, that's wrong. I use it all the time, constantly, but I only follow through on rare occasions.
When my drink comes I sip it and think about Mel and why she was a closed book to me.
It's the Friday before Valentine's, five days since Melissa walked out of Connelly's and, I assumed, out of my life. Except here she is again sitting across from me, half turned so I can see her legs, which are good.
I came back the night after she was here but she didn't show. There were women I knew I could have but they didn't interest me. Melissa has sparked something, some curiosity I need to satisfy. I have questions but I'm saving them, sneaking up on the subject. Like how did she know about the girls? I knew I could do it, but how did she know? The answer is obvious, but it's not one I'm sure I can believe. I've never met anyone who can do what I do.
"I'm surprised to see you," I say. It's my first time back since Tuesday. The game doesn't interest me anymore, not until I can work this new one out. "You said you'd be here all week. I assumed that meant you be flying back to — where was it, Huntsville — by now?"
"Heartsville. And no flight. It's a two hour drive is all. Eighty-five past Greenville then north a ways."
She nods. "You planning to visit?"
"Only if you promise to show me around."
She laughs. "Well, that'll take all of five minutes. What we going to do with the rest of the day?"
"Oh, I'm sure we can think of something."
Mel smiles. Twists in her seat. The movement draws her suit skirt a little higher. Yes, great legs. She's taken her jacket off. It hangs over the arm of her chair. She's wearing a cream silk blouse and tonight I can appreciate her breasts, which were covered that first time.
I close my eyes for the briefest moment trying to conjure a vision of those legs wrapped around my waist, ankles locked behind my back, but it doesn't come. Sure, something comes, but it's not real, it's not what is going to happen, only what my mind conjures up on its own. And my mind is way out of practice.
"Have you found what you were looking for?" I ask.
"I think so." Her eyes stare into mine. I'm growing hard again, same as I did that first time. It's her, she does it to me, the possibility of the unknown is hugely arousing. "Too many possibilities, I suspect. Atlanta's a nice place."
"I like it," I say.
And then, as if she's tired of the game we're playing, she says, "How were the girls?"
I lift my glass and sip, staring at her over the rim.
"I passed on the girls," I say. "But tell me — how did you do that?"
"You know how I did it." Leaning forward, eyes on mine.
"Of course you do." She smiles. "Show me, Danny, show me what you can do. Find a possible for me here in the bar. Do it now."
I put my glass down, my eyes still on hers. I'm drowning in them.
"Do you know what you're asking?" I say, but all she does is return my stare. Neither of us is blinking. It's me who turns away. She's asked me to do something and all at once it's important I know for sure what's going on here.
I scan the room.
Couples. Triples. Friday is always busy in Connolly's and tonight is busier than ever. Tomorrow is Valentine's, but tonight is good for most folks too.
I find two men sitting at a booth. Beers on the table in bottles as they pull at the labels. Their eyes scan the room, checking possibilities.
I glance at Mel, back to them, and let my mind project the future.
One of them is fucking her while she lies on her side. She's sucking the other's cock. It's weird, wrong, distorted. I can see them, see every hair and blemish, see their cocks and their pre-cum, but I can't see her. She's a shade, a darkness. I hear their grunts but not hers. The guy fucking her reaches up and wraps his hand around the cock of the one who's in her mouth.
I blink and I'm back.
"You ever had two guys at once?"
"Guys who are into each other, too?"
She turns, looks toward the booth and I watch as her face goes slack. Fuck — is that how I look like when I remember the future? Her eyes are distant. I watch her nipples form peaks in the cream silk of her blouse, watch as she shifts her legs, parting her knees a little. Then she's back.
She laughs. "Damn — I think they'd be more into each other than they would be me."
"Oh, he seemed pretty far into you." Our eyes lock once more. I drink, so does Mel. I nod. "Now it's your turn. Single woman."
"Any particular preference?" she asks.
I shake my head. "Just make it exciting."
A smile. "If it's too exciting I'm going to be out of luck."
Those eyes, they draw me in. "Do you want to be in luck?"
"I want to be surprised," she says. She turns, scans the room. It's a big crowd, a lot of faces I don't recognize, a few I do. I've been with some of the people here but nobody comes up expecting anything of me. It's Connolly's, after all.
I see the girl the same time Mel does. Asian genes somewhere way back, pale skinned but with something about the eyes hinting at the east. Perfect skin. Slim. Small breasted. I'm tempted to cheat, but I wait while Mel does her thing. The same thing I do. Or is it? Can there be two of us?
The girl senses something, they often do, and turns. She frowns at the intensity of Mel's stare when she catches it, turns away fast to telegraph a lack of interest.
"Whoo," Mel says, coming back. "She's a hot one. You want to look?"
I shake my head. "I'll take your word for it." Our drinks are empty. It's too busy to catch Marty's eye so I take our glasses and walk to the bar. I promise I'll return and Mel smiles and blows a kiss. Another promise of a kind.
Bodies are four deep, most just talking, and I push my way through, place our order. I glance along the bar. The girl with the eyes is watching me and I smile. And just like that I'm there, inside he ass while she keens a high sound and grips the bedsheets, begging me to go deeper, harder, begging me to slap her. Mel's right, she's a hot one, wild, willing to go almost anywhere, do almost anything. You'd never know to look at her, demure, quiet, but in the sack she's some kind of animal.
I come back. She's smiling at me. I pick up our drinks, offer a shrug and work my way out.
Mel watches me all the way back. When I sit she says, "You cheated."
I laugh and offer my glass. She hesitates. Picks her own up and we touch rims and drink, only a sip because the night is young and neither of us know what might happen next. Damn, but this is something new, the not knowing.
"You going to tell me what you were doing?" Mel says. "I couldn't see you, only her, but she was making one hell of a noise."
"She likes it rough," I say.
Mel pulls a face. "I don't understand that kind of thing." Her eyes on mine. "What's the point of sensuality if it involves pain?"
"Different strokes," I say.
She glances down, back up. "You saying you're into that stuff?" She makes quote marks in the air. "FSOG?" She rolls her eyes and I laugh.
She smiles. "Fuck, yes. Bondage, no." The smile fades. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said that. But I'm struggling here, Danny."
"Tell me," I say.
She drains her glass, restraint abandoned. "You know what I'm struggling with. You know perfectly well. We're the same, you and me."
She leans forward. "Don't fuck with me, Danny, not over this. It's too important. We're the same. Say it."
"You say it first. Tell me what you can do, Mel. Tell we what you can do that nobody else can. Am I your first?"
"You too," I say. "I didn't even think there was another one. And now I've found you my head is spinning."
"We have to," she says, and I know what she means even though I can't see it.
She laughs and stands, reaches for my glass but it's still half full. I lift it and drain the scotch and hand it to her.
"One more?" she says.
"For the road."
She nods. After she's gone I search out the Asian girl. She's talking to some broad shouldered piece of tough who'll no doubt give her what she wants. I turn away and scan the crowd at the bar until I find Mel. She's standing sideways, slipping her way between bodies. Men turn. A few women. I watch her breasts flatten against someone's back and then she's sucked into the melee. When I look away the Asian girl is standing the other side of Mel's chair, the tough guy beyond her, refusing to meet my eyes.