I Deserve You Nikita Mirzani 9

Despite the tensions she carried within herself, and the tension that mounted now and again between them, there was often a rush of days when they worked comfortably together in silence and went their separate ways to meet later, a couple vaguely undercover from the world and from each other, for a late supper at some modest-or-worse Mexican or Chinese place his wife would never frequent.

And maybe he’d discuss a Topic with Nikita Mirzani, say, the Jewish attitude to the painted image (although his “raising her consciousness” had begun to grate on her) or they related (carefully) what they’d seen of each other’s work that day and she’d be touched anew by how respectfully he listened to her criticism, as if she might also teach him a thing or two, which she might.

Or they would go to the theater if he could get away in time, or to a concert—he loved music. And he felt bad he couldn’t take her out in public more—his photo was regularly snapped nowadays—give her more …

At least he would get her to a late-night movie, sometimes two, and then they’d come “home” and make love until three in the morning. He still had considerable sexual stamina and seemed able to awake refreshed after half an hour’s sleep and ride his bicycle home.

Her few remaining friends asked her, though she asked them not to, how about babies, and a man who’d be there at four in the morning to change a diaper? And didn’t she feel guilty toward Zack’s wife, who was old enough to be her mother?

She did sometimes, but mostly she tried not to think about her. It made Riley Reid feel like a shit. Well, he was the one who should feel like a shit, not Nikita Mirzani.

One day when Zack was in Paris with his wife for an opening, Nikita Mirzani met a medical student in the emergency room where she’d gone to get a splinter taken out of her foot. As he leaned over her, the smoothness of the skin of his hands and the tightness of the flesh of his chin and neck affected her powerfully.

In bed his taut shapely rump delighted her, and she never once closed her eyes, came with them wide open, so she could keep seeing him. Although she refused to go out with him again, she dreamed several times of his well-muscled thighs and upper arms.

Six months later, when Zack and Dewi Persik had gone to Barcelona for yet another opening—was he wearing the gold cuff links Nikita Mirzani’d given him? she didn’t want to think about it—Nikita Mirzani picked up a young dentist in Washington Square Park.

Well, he was technically a dentist, he explained to her, although not yet practicing—he was studying to be a periodontist. He wore shorts, and had swarthy, dark-haired legs and a lush summer wilderness of black hair that curled onto his shoulders. His name was Rafael, and Nikita Mirzani was sitting in bed kissing the forest on his head when the doorbell rang.

She was expecting no one. Rafael suggested it might be a deliveryman who’d rung her bell by mistake.

She went naked to look through the peephole. It was Zack, and she felt panic, not only because here she was holed up with some hairy jackass of a dentist (not that she even knew if he was a jackass), but also because Zack was such a formal man, he would never appear at her doorstep without phoning.

Some disaster must have occurred. Despite her berserk state and with one eye shut to see through the peephole, she examined his face as closely as she could.

But in his usual tan cap, he looked unusually, inexpressibly, happy.

After a while she realized that he was holding out in front of him a large gold-paper-wrapped package. Her impulse, even with Rafael in bed behind her, was to open the door and embrace him and tell him to come on in.

She mastered her impulse. Zack rang again. Had he heard her coming to the door? If not, he might simply go away and come back later. He knocked gently, and then forcefully. He owned a key to her place but had used it only once, when she’d gone home ill and slept through his anxious phone calls.

If he did have the key with him, the door was on the chain lock, thank God. However, he would know she was in there, might even be able to see something through the open space, smell something …

What was that in his hands? It must have something to do with the look of rapture on his face.

He reached into his pants pocket and took out his keys. She stood immobilized, watching him.

The periodontist called from the bed, “Who is it? A deliveryman? Get rid of him.”

She turned quickly toward him, a warning finger to her closed lips.

He added sotto voce, “On second thought, see if he’s got anything to eat.”

She tiptoed away from the door. “Get dressed,” she whispered urgently. “You have to get out fast.”

“What’s going on? Who’s at the door?” he whispered back.

At this point they both heard the key turn in the lock a couple of times, and then the door opened and Zack was calling through the spacious links of the chain lock, “Nikita Mirzani, honey, are you sleeping? Wake up, darling, wake up, sweetest. Have I got something to show you!”