Living with Katrina Ch. 08

byLaRascasse©

"I would have gone in to collect you, but there seemed to be a party in the way," said Jake, holding the car door open for her.

"You get used to those cokeheads in the corridors after a while," she said, kissing Jake on the cheek. "They're really nice guys when they're not high."

"I'll take your word for it. Now, shall we?"

She got into the car. Jake drove at a moderate speed, looking ahead at the road even as he chatted along the way.

"So what does an art restorer do, exactly?"

"Basically, we get these really old paintings that would crumble if they came in contact with air. I'm talking decades or even centuries old here," Sam said. "I get to sort of 'fill in' the parts that are faded and make the painting able to withstand being exposed to air. More chemistry than art, really."

"That sounds cool."

"Actually it is. Just the other week we got a rare Mondrian from some Nazi ruins. It was probably looted during the Second World War and has been in a dingy cellar ever since. Can you imagine the history associated with it?"

Jake was clearly interested.

"So anyway, I got the job of restoring it," she went on. "Boy, it was a tough one. In some places the colour was so faded, I had to use infrared to figure out what chemicals were used and then recreate that exact dye. It was incredibly gratifying to finish."

She grinned broadly, obviously pleased with her efforts.

"So, can I see it? When does it go up?"

"Well," she considered. "They are going to have the European Retrospective here next week. Several of the rarest paintings will only be on display for that night before they go under the hammer. But that's way too exclusive. I'd be lucky to get a pass for myself, let alone an extra."

"See what you can do," said Jake, parking in front of Alfredo's.

"You like Italian food? No wonder Katrina wants you so badly," Samantha said. "Oops, did I say that out loud?"

"Yes," said Jake, averting eye contact. "I know what you mean, but it's way too complicated right now."

"It's only as complicated as you make it, hun."

* *



ACROSS TOWN IN GRAZIANO'S

Katrina felt dazed being with Jared. There just seemed so much to him. His face was regal as was his demeanour. He held himself with a dignified poise, high above the rest of humanity. He wore a smooth black suit and tie.

She had not even wanted to come for the date, but there was something magnetic about his personality that was impossible to resist. He had managed to get a private table for two reserved in Graziano's on one day's notice.

"How do you have so much money?" Katrina blurted out without thinking. She had wanted to know this ever since he gave his cheque.

"People donate a lot," he said. "Besides, we also have several good investments in our name."

"You mean shady deals," she muttered under her breath.

"Did I tell you I was a good lip reader?" Jared said smugly. She looked up to see him leaning back in his chair, with a smile on his face.

"It's okay," he said, totally unfazed. "You're just saying what you see on the news. Can't blame you for that. Did the news also mention how much we donated to the building efforts after the Haiti earthquake? Maybe run a feature on how many soup kitchens we opened in DC to feed homeless veterans? I'm sure they at least did a small piece on the number of orphanages we funded in Sudan last year. No? "

Katrina listened on, intrigued.

"I don't blame them, Katrina," Jared said, taking a sip from his flute of champagne. "The more bad things they can say about me and my 'cult', they more ratings they get. It's the way of the world."

She took a slice of her carpaccio, entranced by what Jared was saying. His silver tongue clicked against his palate as he delivered his eloquent oratory. Every word was placed precisely where it would have the maximum effect.

"Are my people perfect? No, as you have had the misfortune of finding out," he went on, taking a bite from the beef ravioli on his plate. "But that is what makes us humans, our imperfections and looking past those imperfections and still finding it within us to love each other."

Jared had a sixth sense for the opportunity to make an entry into a listener's mind. Even when he addressed huge gatherings, his eyes could sense what every person in the hall was thinking and his mind could deduce what they wanted to hear. It was an uncanny knack which had stood him in good stead.

"Does someone love you?" he asked softly. Kat was jolted by the question. Until then, she had been trying her best not to be sucked in by his addictive charm. With this sentence, she sat up straight.

"Excuse me?"

"Does somebody love you?" Jared repeated plainly.

"None of your damn business," she shot back. She was wiping her face ready to storm off when he spoke again.

"I'll take that as a yes. Now, see, they love you despite how obviously damaged you are."

"How dare you..." she began, livid with fury.

"Look at your wrists," he said. "See those pink scars. They're still visible, noticeable to anyone who looks close enough. How long ago was it?"

Katrina met his gaze. It had an almost hypnotic quality, stopping her in her tracks. She felt goose-flesh ripple all over her. Every fibre inside her wanted to make a scene and leave, but something about him made her sit still.

"Two months," she stuttered out.

"These scars will eventually heal and not leave a trace," Jared went on. "But the ones on the inside won't. You will always be at their mercy."

She wanted desperately to say something, wanted to fling a dish at his smug face, but the simple truth of his statement shackled her.

"But that is the beauty of being human, Katrina, these flaws make us who we are. Do you know my story?"

She was sure it had figured on some TV feature or magazine article, but she had not cared enough to remember it. He wiped his mouth on his napkin and started.

"Growing up, I was a reckless, self-centred kid. My only interest was in getting stuff from people, whichever way I could. I have a sixth sense to know exactly how to convince people," he said, pausing when the waiter brought the next dish. "I can read them cold and know everything there is to know about them in a glance."

"I could have used this gift to do so much good, but I instead used it to satisfy my petty, selfish desires. I could manipulate anyone with my silver tongue," Jared paused once more. "I got into sales and used my charm to climb the corporate ladder. No one could even fathom how I doubled and tripled my quarterly targets every time. All the clients loved me and the bogus I convinced them about our products. The female clients loved me even more, if you get my drift."

"So there I was, a decade back, with a spacious corner office, a six figure salary and more female company than I could handle. To paraphrase my favourite fictional character, all men wanted to be me and all women wanted to bed me. That was me ten years ago."

Katrina listened, spellbound by his words. They just flowed smoothly out of his mouth, without even a trace of rehearsal.

"We had this sales meet for the whole country in Miami. I had the highest figures amongst them all, so I was naturally looking to seal my place as the Global Head of Sales. I went to the rugged sea caves on a whim, without a guide," he continued. "It was a stupid thing to do, but that was me back then -- impulsive, reckless and able to get away with it every time."

The last line settled in Katrina's subconscious. It was an unnervingly correct portrayal of her current state. He smiled as he watched her reaction.

"I slipped and fell into the water. I didn't have any protective gear to save me or keep me afloat. I thrashed around, trying to cling onto a rock. It didn't work."

Katrina was barely aware of her surroundings any more, absorbed in his narrative. Jared leaned over the table and brought his face within inches of hers.

"Do you know what it feels like to drown?" he enunciated every word for effect. Her eyes went wide.

"It is the scariest feeling of all. All you can see is icy blue water all around. You look up and the light gets dimmer the further you go from the surface. You try to hold your breath, but eventually your lungs force you to inhale the cold water. It feels as if your lungs are on fire. You open your mouth to scream, but that only means more water gets in until your whole body is engulfed by the sensation of burning. Finally, you close your eyes and pray for it to end quickly."

Jared sat back, watching the intensity of his experience sink into her. Katrina opened her mouth, but no words came out.

"I saw something. A dazzling whiteness. A hand reached out. Somehow I knew I was being invited to grab on. I tried to, but I couldn't. I tried again, this time the hand came closer to me, but I still couldn't. The hand was even closer, and I tried with all my might. This time, I grabbed on. That was the precise moment my eyes opened and I coughed a load of water out of my airway."

Katrina's elbow slipped off the tablecloth, temporarily breaking her trance.

"Two scuba divers happened to be exploring that part of the undersea cave. It was purely coincidence. I had no business surviving that day.

"The image of that hand and the dazzling light stayed with me."

He took a bite out of his ravioli.

"I could have died, I should have died. Yet, there I was, breathing. As much as I tried to shake that image off, it lingered on. That hand and the light had sent me back for a reason, my mind was just coming to terms with it."

Jared lowered his voice before he spoke again.

"The epiphany hit me when I looked around at people. My mind still read them, but it read something else this time, something it had never read before.

"For once, I saw the staggering weight everyone walked under. It was as if my sixth sense had been upgraded to see the distress in people. Whichever way I turned, I saw grief. I saw the soul of humanity which my eyes had always seen, but my mind had chosen to ignore. I saw failed relationships, harmful addictions, I saw self-loathing."

She hung onto every word. He had summed her up in his last sentence with startling accuracy.

"I felt like a blind man who had just been given the gift of sight," he said, drinking some more champagne. "I almost drowned, but humanity around me was still drowning, drowning in its own despair and hatred. That was when the meaning of my near-death experience and my dream became clear to me. I was the hand and I was the light and I had to save humanity from itself."

Kat's eyes were riveted on him.

"Religion has become a sham. People rarely go to Mass. Teen pregnancies are hitting record levels in many states. Anti-depressants are being popped like candy. All because people have lost faith with religion," Jared said. "I don't blame them either. Who wants to follow two thousand year old doctrines? In its present state, religion is merely something you write when filling in a form. It needs change. It needs to be made relevant to today and that is what I intend to do."

He looked directly at her, purpose blazing in his eyes.

"We need a loving Father to confide our worries to, to trust and to follow. I am trying to make Him accessible to everyone. I don't believe in what the holy books say because they were written in a different time for different people. We need to reinvent religion without losing the essence of it."

The words made complete sense to her.

"I quit my job and began my 'cult', as the media likes to call it. Our symbol is a hand with a glowing light since that was the vision which led me to this. I am the hand, I am the light and I am here to save all of you from drowning. We have millions of members worldwide and over a hundred centres. Not bad for a cult, eh?"

Katrina forced a weak smile. They continued dinner, she ate her food silently in complete awe of him. He didn't utter another word until they finished and were outside.

"So this man you love, does he love you back?"

"I don't know," she answered, surprising herself at how willing she had become to talk. "Subconsciously, perhaps."

"Then why don't you pursue him?"

She did not answer. His eyes scanned her expression.

"You are afraid you will hurt him, right? You love him and want nothing more than to be with him, but you are afraid that your reckless ways will hurt him."

A tear drop snaked out of her eye. She nodded morosely.

"I'm not even going to imagine how much it must hurt pushing him away. But that is love, it hurts."

It hurt Katrina, more than she could ever describe.

"Now, imagine if you were different. Imagine if you were stable, loveable and the kind of person he deserves to have in his life. How would that feel?"

Her eyes shot up. Jared had a broad grin on his face.

"I can help you be that person, Katrina. I can help you heal from the inside as well as the outside. I can help you let go of your demons and embrace your love without being afraid of hurting him."

She was at a total loss for words. He extended his hand in her direction. The rest of the street melted away from her view. All she could see was him and his outstretched hand.

"I give you the same hand that saved me all those years ago."

Her mind still in disbelief, she reached out and grasped his hand.

* *



"You seriously got me an invite?"

Jake could barely hide his ecstatic tone over his Blackberry.

"Yes," said Samantha on the other end. "I got you an invite."

"When? Where?" he blurted over the phone. "Details, woman! Details!"

"Calm down, Jake," she giggled. "Wednesday at nine. Can you pick me up around eight thirty?"

"I'd love to."

Jake put the phone down, feeling all kinds of good. This was almost a dream come true for him. Soon, he was going to be one with the Masters themselves, in presence of some of the best Impressionism ever painted.

He rushed up the stairs, a prance in his step. Katrina would be thrilled to know his dream had come true. He wanted to share the news with someone.

The only person worth sharing it with was not there. Katrina had been behaving strangely ever since she came back from her date with the famous televangelist. Now, she was gone once more.

Jake missed her. The apartment seemed empty without her lively presence. Every bit of their modest apartment was replete with memories of her. Some were sane memories, others were less so, but he cherished them all. Underneath all her issues, all her angst and all her rage, she truly cared for him.

He cared for her too. Why else would he put up with her for so long?

That was the big question now, wasn't it? He had thought about it for so long, unable to come to any sort of clear conclusion. Sighing, he mentally pulled up a list.

Was it out of pity? No.

Was it because she would be all alone? No, she has other friends.

Was it because he was a glutton for punishment? Partly. I've always been the one who happily takes the short end of the stick.

Was it because he was afraid of what would happen to her without him? Partly. She's not exactly responsible.

Was it because he was afraid of what would happen to him without her? Partly. I can't be alone again. It hurts too much.

He had answers, just not complete ones. There was always a large piece of the puzzle missing. One definitive reason which would explain it all. He had deliberately avoided looking where he might find it.

He sighed once more, the elation from Sam's news having somehow subsided.

* *



Katrina felt unsteady as she walked. Jared had his arm wrapped around her as he led her to his suite in the Ritz-Carlton. She did not know what awaited her behind those doors. He sensed her uncertainty.

"Don't worry," he soothed her. "This is the first step towards embracing your love. You want to do that, don't you?"

She nodded even though she had no idea what this first step could be. He led her into his room and closed the door behind themof the lavishly decorated penthouse suite which he always hired at the hotels he stayed in during his travels.

Katrina was so enchanted by his words, the aura of calm about him and his promises that she was barely aware when he kissed her for the first time. She whimpered into his mouth, his fingers exploring her body thoroughly.

"You can only heal if you bare yourself completely to the world," Jared said in his velvet voice. "Bare yourself like me."

Slowly, methodically, he unbuttoned his shirt. His clothing slipped off, one little bit at a time. Her eyes were riveted to his body as more skin came into view. He was athletically built and lithe, without being overly muscled. He folded his clothes neatly on a chair.

Katrina met his gaze when he came closer. His hands slipped into the neckline of her dress and undid the clasp. They kissed again, the straps falling past the shoulders. The kiss broke for a second when he pulled the dress over her head. The bottom half of her dress soon pooled on the floor at her feet.

Jared took a step back and let his eyes roam over her nude form. His hands reached out and cupped her breasts. Their lips met once more, their tongues playing with each other harmoniously. His hands kneaded Katrina's full breasts, tenderly squeezing the fleshy mounds. One of his hands left her breast and dropped to her damp sex.

Katrina moaned and stood on her toes, pressing her body against him. His fingers went deeper into her opening. Jared parted his fingers and drove them in and out of her. Her moans went into his mouth. After some time, he lowered his mouth to suckle on her nipple and rapidly increased his fingering speed. She threw her head back and gasped.

She was dimly aware of him pushing her onto the bed. He added more fingers to her seething need, heightening her acute arousal. He raised his lips off her nipple and kissed her hard.

"Let us heal."

Jared parted her legs and knelt between them. Her mons craved his indulgence. He let his tongue flutter over it, taking time to tease her slit. His lips rested on the skin, kissing her intimate crevices again and again. Katrina clutched her bedsheets hard to stay steady.

There was a brief lull in the action. She looked down to see Jared positioning the head of his tool at her entrance. Something in his expression did not sit exactly right with her, but she chose to bury that thought as he thrust his entire length inside her at once. Her whole body shuddered as his pelvis slammed into her. Jared drew back until only his tip remained within her lips, then he pushed into her again.

Katrina wrapped her legs around his back and pulled him deeper into her. Her body moved back and forth on his turgid member. He drove his hips into her body, causing a slick splat of flesh on flesh every time he plunged deep inside her. She dug her nails into his back.

Jared drew back to look into Katrina's brown eyes. His gaze radiated an aura of warmth and confidence, like a luminous halo around him. He pushed into her with languid strokes, each time bottoming out and embedding his entire length inside her. Her nails furrowed into his back and even drew blood, but he did not even slow down.

Suddenly, he lifted her off the bed and slammed her against the wall. She gasped when she felt him pounding into her with renewed vigour. His hips slapped against her hard and fast, cresting her arousal. He buried his lips in her shoulder and bit gently at the soft flesh. His teeth elicited a shrill cry from her.

Katrina felt the familiar beginnings of climax approach. Her walls clenched around his hardness. Colours danced before her eyes. Her body craved more, preparing for a massive sensory overload. Every nerve ending flared, ready to blaze her climax through her body.

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byLaRascasse© 10 comments/ 17090 views/ 15 favorites

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