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He's back in town. That man. The one that smells like vodka, tastes like leather, fucks like Matt. The man with the voice like gravel, the hands like sandpaper. I think he's Russian. He murmurs in a dialogue I don't know. He loves how smooth my skin is.

He calls me out at the club. I didn't know he would be there. I just needed to go. Escape a while. Forget the apartment, forget everyone.

He had his hands on my waist before I see him. He whispers in my ear, the voice like gravel, growling softly so that only I could hear him. "I have a room, and you are sleeping in it tonight."

That's all he says, and that's all I need. I'm on an invisible leash all night.

We dance. Hard, fast grinding. He bruises my arm by holding on too tightly. He loves to pull me close, grab a handful of ass, squeeze the leather until it squeaks against his ring. He loves how my ass felt beneath the leather. He can't take his hands off me.

The night winds down. He leads me outside, down the street, through a nameless lobby. We climb the stairs because he hates elevators, hates the confined space, the awkward silence. He pulls me into a room, sliding his key and promptly forgetting it on the counter. He pushes me onto the bed, lets me lie there, lets me squirm under his gaze.

I've played this game before. Twice, maybe three times. He doesn't come often. I'll never forget the first time, or why I went back the second. By now, it's a game. Something he doesn't understand, can't understand. It's a game between my mind and pride.

I am a Boss in my own mind, but I am nothing to him.

And I like it that way.

He pulls me to the edge of the bed, pulls off his belt, growls at me to satisfy him. I know this part of the game. I hold my pride, swallow it, lock it away. I bend over for him, shaking my ass just enough to entice his need. He swings the belt, leather to leather, and I bite back a scream. He loves this part, and I love to outlast him. I shut myself inside my mind, bring forth thoughts of crystals and bells ringing softly across the hills. I think of clocks and ocean. I think of sweat and sex. He beats me hard, but I never cry. Soon, he has me moaning.

He grows bored, and my clothes are carefully peeled away from my body. He throws them across a chair, pushing me face down on the bed. His hands caress my skin. I feel the pain and welcome it. I've turned something I hate into something I love. Something I fear into something I crave. I am the master of my own mind for this moment.

He kisses my shoulder, bites it, scratches it. Draws red nail lines down my back. Criss-crosses the scratches. He loves to watch my skin fade to red. Loves to watch me arch my back into his touch. Loves to hear the sounds I make, the soft pants and loud, raunchy moans. He loves how easily I spread my legs for him, how tight I am when he puts himself inside me.

We fuck, hard and fast. My face buried in the bedspread, fists gripping the pillow to my chest. He jacks me off until I'm coming in his hand. He shoots me full of himself, and part of me feels deeply satisfied when I feel his semen streaming down my legs. I turn over, giving him a contented look. He smirks and pulls out two cigarettes.

"You like the rough, blue eyes," he laughs in that rough voice. "I like the rough too. We meet again someday. Want a light?"

The cigarette burns my lungs, but I smoke it anyways. It tastes like Matt. Feels like something I lost a long time ago. I snuff it out in the ash tray on the side table.

"You sleep here tonight," he says, leaning against the headboard.

"No. I gotta run," I say, "But thanks."

He's not happy, but he gives me five hundred dollars and calls a cab. I grab a towel, mop myself up. Get dressed. Down the elevator this time.

I walk outside. Moon's up, stars are crystal-clear. I wonder where the light pollution is. I wonder if there's a blackout somewhere, or if the city has finally reached a point of sleep. I close my eyes and kiss the moon, wish it was close enough for me to touch.

The cabby is old, and he smells like he needs a good scrub. He probably worked all day, all night, maybe without sleep between the two. I leave him a good tip. He lets me off at the club, and I walk around back. My bike is the only thing left, my black angel under the street light. I climb on it, kick the engine into gear.

I sit for a while, not moving, just breathing. It's cool, crisp. The city doesn't taste the same at night. Not as humid, not as smoggy. I spit on the sidewalk and speed off into the darkness. Street lights and storefronts flash by without recognition. I ride for hours. I don't think, don't remember breathing, just fly like my life hangs on a trembling thread.

Well past dawn when I sneak back inside. The roommates sleep easily. Rod is passed out on the couch. Rich's door is shut; nobody moves anywhere in the building. I fall into bed, too tired to sleep, just wishing I could forget the million things I should have thought, but didn't.