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the prayer of going nowhere

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She's almost drunk when she meets him for the first time. 

 

Zoya’s plied her with melon balls and never left her hand without a seltzer or glass of wine, determined to “just loosen you up, darling, you work so much, I don’t remember the last time I saw you good and drunk. Let me take care of you for the night, you just have a good time,” and who is she to deny Zoya when she talks to Alina so sweetly and kisses her neck so softly?

 

About three drinks in, she’s restless and horny and tired of listening to Nadia complain about her boss, and she’s settled into the corner of Nikolai’s couch, her feet in Nikolai’s lap as she eyes Zoya from across the room. Nikolai digs a knuckle into her instep before running a hand up her bare calf and squeezing, leaning forward into her space. 

 

“Should I go turn down the covers?” he asks, and pecks her on the lips. Alina nods and smiles, lets her legs fall open when he leaves and gives Zoya a heated look from across the room. 

 

Nadia rolls her eyes and leaves to get a refill. 

 

On his way to the bedroom, Nikolai is intercepted by a knock at the door, and when he opens it, he gives a little whoop and leans out of the doorway to pull someone into a hug, thumping enthusiastically on their back. 

 

The someone turns out to be the hottest person Alina’s ever seen in her life. Suddenly her plans to fall into bed with Zoya and Nikolai again have been shoved to the backburner without a care, and she can only focus on tall, dark, and handsome. 

 

The boys are talking in the kitchen when she goes to “refill” her “drink,” and when she turns her head slightly to see if she can catch a glimpse of him over her shoulder without anyone noticing, he’s already looking at her.

 

He’s in the middle of a conversation with an animated Nikolai, but he’s looking directly at her, and she feels the hairs on the back of her neck rise. 

 

Her cheeks burn as she turns away, fiddling with the wine opener on the counter, turning the cold steel of the corkscrew around and around and around. It only takes another minute before she can feel him at her back, the warmth of him wrapping around her like a fog. She turns to look at him, propping herself up against the countertop. 

 

He looks at her. He really looks at her, in such an active way that she feels almost like a voyeur, like she’s burst in on him in a private art gallery just to watch him watch her. 

 

“Aleksander,” he says, his voice pitched low and intimate. 

 

“Alina,” she breathes. They go back to looking at each other. 

 

“How do you know Nikolai?” she says after a beat. 

 

“We work at the same hospital,” Aleksander says mildly, pouring a glass of red wine, and then another. She takes it with a demure smile. 

 

Over his shoulder, Alina can see Zoya making very suggestive eyebrows at her, which she does her best to ignore. 

 

Aleksander asks her what she does for work (behavioral technician), where she’s from (here), what she does in her free time (rehabbing free shit she finds on Facebook marketplace and puzzles). 

 

She finds out Aleksander is not a doctor, but the CFO at the hospital uptown where Nikolai's halfway through his pediatrics residency (“ew,” she tells him, and he laughs), that he’s from St. Petersburg (“cold!” she says, and he laughs again), and that he likes to ride horses at a barn just outside the city on the weekends (“I don’t think I can tease you about that one,” she says, “that actually sounds nice.”).

 

They spend fifteen minutes learning enough general information about each other before Alina feels they’ve done enough talking, and is tired of staring at his lips and would like to kiss them now. 

 

“I’m going to go to the ladies’ room,” Alina says into her wine glass, tipping it back to drain the dregs of the cabernet, “it’s just down the hall and to the right, I shouldn’t be long.”

 

Aleksander tips his head once, and she sets her glass down on the counter with a decisive clink. She can feel his eyes follow her down the hallway and into Zoya and Nikolai’s fuck-off big spare bathroom. 

 

Her skin hums with nervous energy as she washes her hands and smoothes Nikolai’s coconut lotion into the dryness of her knuckles and fingers. She glances in the mirror at the unlocked door handle. 

 

A minute passes. Then two. Then three. She’s starting to get annoyed, wonders if she wasn’t obvious enough, and reaches for the door when it swings open in front of her, Aleksander on the other side. 

 

“Sorry. Nikolai,” he explains, hushed in the echo of the tiled bathroom.

 

“Say no more,” she says, and lunges at his mouth. He responds just as eagerly, wrapping her in his arms and opening his mouth to her kiss immediately. 

 

“I’m really not looking for anything serious right now,” she says, breathless, between kisses. 

 

“That’s alright,” Aleksander says against the slope of her neck, and sucks on the hinge of her jaw. She whimpers, and his grip on the back of her neck tightens delightfully. 

 

Just as she gets his shirt unbuttoned enough to put her tongue on his collarbone, he pushes her off him and drops to his knees, backing her up against the countertop and lifting her skirt, his eyebrows raised minutely. 

 

She scrambles to get her skirt up over his head, hopping up onto the vanity behind her, and gasps when his hands go to the waistband of her panties to tug them off unceremoniously.

 

“Oh, look at you,” he says when he’s got her bare in front of him, “pretty girl, pretty cunt. Just knew it would be.” He presses a kiss to the top of each thigh. She whines and puts her hand in his hair, her chest warming in satisfaction when she tugs at it and his lids drop. 

 

His tongue is hot and sinful against the flushed curl of her pussy, slipping in to run along the inside of her lips delicately, taking his time. He presses an open mouth kiss against her, then slides his tongue inside, curving to tease along her entrance. 

 

It’s good, it’s so good, but it’s not enough, and she’s felt molten and warm since he stepped into the party and looked at her the way he did. She whines, thinking of the heat of his gaze on her in a crowded room, the way he made her feel like she was the only one he came there to see. 

 

“Not enough, is it, sweetheart?” he croons, and strokes his two middle fingers against the seam of her, pushes them past the fold of her cunt to circle her entrance, and presses one inside. Her eyes slip closed at the intrusion, a sweet preparation, and as he strokes her singing nerves, she whispers, “more, please,” and is rewarded with the press of another finger along with a choked sound of arousal from Aleksander. 

 

She opens her eyes to see his brows drawn together in concentration, but not on the pink, flushed heat in front of him. He’s looking at her face, his mouth open slightly, as if she’s startled him a little bit. 

 

“So polite,” he says, sounding awed, “so sweet. How did you get this sweet, Alina?”

 

The words settle in her chest and burn. 

 

Suddenly, she wants very badly to be sweet for him, to show him that she’s good, that she deserves his hands on her, deserves all the pleasure he’s doling out so generously. She floods with warmth and slick arousal, walls squeezing around his fingers, and her hips buck up on his hand, bumping his against his chin and leaving behind a wet shine.  

 

“Be good for daddy,” he chastises gently, his fingers twisting inside her. 

 

Alina gasps in what she hoped would be a scandalized manner, but when it comes out as helplessly turned on, he just lowers his mouth back to her cunt, looking up at her smugly. Got your number.  

 

When he puts his lips around her clit and sucks, the only thing keeping her tethered to earth is the sharp pain in her knuckles as she tightens her grip on his hair. 

 

The air in her lungs is thick and heavy, her head full of sensation and nothing else: his fingers pressing bruises into the soft flesh of her thigh, his mouth sealed over her cunt, sucking the thoughts from her mind. His tongue inside her, his beard scratching at the soft skin around her entrance. 

 

She wants- she wants to stay here, like this, for as long as he’ll let her. She wants to be consumed this way, held by him, dissolving under his careful, strong hands. 

 

Whispering against her skin, he says, “why don’t you be a good girl for me, Alina, and come on my fingers, hm?”

 

It’s almost too much, the lash of his tongue on her cunt, the slick, heady pull on her throbbing clit, his words settling hot in her belly. She tries to muffle a cry into her hand, stuttering wetly against the heel of her palm as she comes, warm and rolling and submersive, in his mouth. 

 

Her fingers go tingly, heat and stark cold rushing through her in waves. Aleksander pulls his mouth off of her with a smacking sound, and lays a kiss to her inner thigh, sucking at the skin there to leave a red mark behind, poppies on gold. 

 

“Perfect, Alina, you were perfect for me. So sweet, coming in daddy’s mouth like that,” he says, hushed against her. She whimpers and squirms, reaching for his collar to pull him closer to her. 

 

He stands and cradles her face in his hands, kissing her thoroughly, deep in her mouth the way she likes. It occurs to her distantly that she’s never felt so… understood in a sexual encounter, especially with someone she’s just met. 

 

Should it feel like this? Should the brush of his hands on her shoulders as he fully undresses her be so warm and intimate? Should it feel so familiar, the way he strokes her hair back to kiss her neck as he cups her breasts in both hands? 

 

She’s so lost in the haze of familiarity that when he reaches into his wallet and pulls out a condom, she whines and plucks it from his hand, leaning in to kiss him. 

 

“I’m on the pill,” she says against his mouth, “and I’m clean. I haven’t slept with anyone in- in a while.”

 

He groans, deep in his throat, and closes his eyes, says, “You… are very bad for my self-control.”

 

Alina can see him hesitating, but the idea of him, hot and heavy and bare inside her, filling her up- she’d do anything for it.

 

She kisses a line along his jaw, soft and sweet, and whispers, “please, daddy. I want you to fill me up.”

 

The sharp exhale sounds like it’s physically pushed out of his lungs, and he snatches both her wrists in one hand tightly. Alina lets out an excited little gasp, heart rate quickening, and shifts her hips on the counter, warmth growing between her legs, her stomach churning with anticipation. 

 

Aleksander sucks on her jaw as he unbuckles his belt and drops his pants enough to get his cock out, strokes it a couple times before lining it up with her entrance. 

 

“Oh- oh, daddy,” she whispers as he presses in, thick and full and perfect, exactly like she knew he would be. 

 

She falls forward, face turned into his neck, and lets herself go limp, lets him push all the way in until he bottoms out with a rough sound in the back of his throat. 

 

“Sweet little cunt, sweet little baby,” he says as he puts a hand on her hip, rocking her forward. He still has her wrists gathered in his left hand like a bouquet, her fingers going slack as she lets him take control. 

 

Her head goes fuzzy and her eyelids flutter. She feels… soft. Around the edges. She feels like she’s been hollowed out this whole time, just now finding out what it means to be whole. 

 

Distantly, she’s aware that he’s talking to her, his voice low in her ear, nice little things about how soft and warm she is, how perfectly she fits his cock, how good she’s being for him. She sighs and settles into his chest, letting him fuck her slow and deep. His arms come around her in a firm cradle, one hand on the back of her neck. 

 

Time passes in a hazy slide; she only registers the resonant timbre of his voice against her ear and the aching perfection of him thrusting in and out of her. He drives deeper than she’s ever felt anyone go before. 

 

The sharp, fizzing spark of orgasm starts to flutter in her belly. She clutches at his neck, dragging her lax, open mouth along the ridge of his collarbone and starts babbling, “gonna come, gonna- daddy, I-”

 

“Come on, sweetheart, come for me,” he tells her, his voice going rough and thick, “come on daddy’s cock, that’s it.”

 

She shakes and comes apart around him, pressed against his body like she needs him to breathe, like she’ll burst and scatter into pieces without the solid warmth of him grounding her. 

 

He coos at her as she comes down, as her head clears a little, telling her how sweet she is, how good she looks, and his pace picks up, fucking into her urgently. She clenches down on him, so full and hot she can barely breathe, the aftershocks of orgasm shuddering through her, and lets him use her, kisses at his jaw and asks him please, please, please, daddy, begs him to fill her up. 

 

With a guttering gasp, he seals his mouth to hers, kisses her like he did earlier, like he wants to open her up and settle inside her, make a home out of her body. She tightens her thighs around his waist and he comes, slamming into her so deep she thinks she can feel him in her throat. 

 

For a few moments, the only sound in the bathroom is the sharp inhale-exhale of them trying to catch their breath. Alina’s heart feels like it’s going a million miles an hour, and as the fog in her mind begins to dissipate, her cheeks flush. 

 

She can’t believe she let him- she’s only known him for what, an hour? The shock of it hits her like a slap to the face. The things she said. She didn’t even know she was into that. 

 

As her pulse calms, her body temperature drops, and she shivers, sweat cooling unpleasantly on her back.

 

Aleksander doesn’t say anything, but he reaches for her sweater without pulling out of her, and tugs it over her head like she’s a child. The looseness in her limbs is still there, and she lets him thread her arms limply through the sleeves. He kisses her forehead when it emerges through the collar. 

 

“All right?” he murmurs. She nods, but she isn’t quite sure that she is. The distance between her mind and body hasn’t quite closed yet, and she’s never felt like this before. 

 

He watches her closely, seems to accurately gauge the blank look on her face, because he chafes his hands up and down her arms before wrapping her up against his chest again and tucking her head beneath his chin. 

 

A few minutes pass like that, Alina curled in and Aleksander curled around like a pair of mismatched parentheses. 

 

After a while, the steady rise and fall of his ribcage sets her off and she heaves a full-body sigh. Oxygen rushes to her head; she blinks.

 

“Hello,” Aleksander says softly. She looks up at him as he cradles her chin in his hand. 

 

“I’m going to pull out, okay?” he warns, and she nods, and means it this time. They both wince a little as he does, but he’s as gentle as he can be, and after tucking himself away and buttoning his pants, he cleans up after himself, wiping her down carefully with a warm, wet tissue. 

 

He cleans her face as well, wiping away mascara streaks without a word, and runs his fingers through her hair, combing it back into something that doesn’t look quite so freshly-fucked. 

 

Under his touch, the heaviness in her chest lessens, her mind settling back into her body. But Aleksander looks pensive. 

 

“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have-” he cuts himself off, pressing his mouth in a firm line and shaking his head. 

 

“It’s all right,” Alina says, “I liked it. I liked it a lot, actually.” She ducks her head a little, embarrassed. 

 

He looks at her, intense, the way he did out in the kitchen, gaze a little too much for a second, then the corner of his mouth ticks up. “You were very good for me.”

 

Alina melts a little. He kisses her mouth softly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear before pulling away and rubs his thumb across her bottom lip without speaking.  

 

She bites her lip nervously as he collects her skirt off the floor and kneels, holding it out for her to step into it. “Like I said, I’m not looking for a- a relationship or anything right now, but… We could maybe do this again. If you want.”

 

He looks up at her with a wicked grin. 

 

She leaves the party minus a pair of panties and plus one phone number.

 


 

She almost doesn’t expect him to call, tries not to get her hopes up, tells herself she shouldn’t expect him to call. His phone number sits in her contacts like a taunt: Aleksander Morozova. She can’t bring herself to text him first. 

 

In her agonizing, it feels like she waits a hundred years to hear from him, but it’s only lunchtime that next day when her phone lights up. 

 

She tries to tamp down a smile as she answers. 

 

“Hello?” As if she doesn’t know who’s calling, as if she hasn’t been feverishly checking her notifications for the past five hours. 

 

“Alina. It’s Aleksander. How are you?”



She rolls her eyes. “Hi! Good! How are you?” Shakes her head, don’t sound so eager. Idiot.  

 

“I’m doing well, thanks,” he sounds like he’s smiling, “I was wondering if you were available tomorrow evening, around 8?”

 

“Uh, let me check,” she says, and pulls away to tap at her phone as if checking her nonexistent schedule, “yeah, tomorrow works.”

 

“Perfect! I’ll send a car. Text me your addre-” he hangs up. 

 

“I- oh.” Alina shrugs and sends him her address, and after a moment of deliberation, changes his contact name to “DADDY 👅💦🍆”

 

She sees Aleksander regularly over the next several weeks, usually at his place, which is on the rich people side of town and has a doorman in a cute little red suit. When she comments on this he just rolls his eyes and says something about making too much money to not waste it on expensive living. 

 

The one time he comes to her apartment, she shows him around her one-bedroom a little bashfully and tries to just drag him into bed so she doesn’t have to think about how much nicer his place is, but he stops in the doorway and says “hello, there,” to his feet, where her cat is sniffing his shoes suspiciously. 

 

“Sorry,” she says, “he doesn’t get a lot of visitors.”

 

“That’s all right,” Aleksander says, bending, and lowers his hand to be inspected. “What’s your name?”

 

“Oh, this is Paul.”

 

He looks up at her, face caught between amusement and bewilderment. “Paul?”

 

She nods seriously. “Paul Rudd.”

 

Aleksander nods back at her as his expression settles into mock solemnity. “It’s very nice to meet you, Mr. Rudd.”

 

Paul sniffs his hand and meows loudly before twining in between Aleksander’s shins, rubbing his face against his pant legs affectionately. Alina’s eyebrows rise.

 

“He likes you.”

 

“Oh, thank God.”

 

Alina rolls her eyes and pushes him into her bedroom, closing the door on a miffed-looking Paul. 

 


 

The reason Aleksander doesn’t come back to her apartment is because Alina was interrupted halfway through a truly spectacular blowjob by Paul yowling and sticking his paw underneath the door in an attempt to tunnel his way through. 

 



The doorman at Aleksander’s place learns her name, which she finds embarrassing at first, but he’s kind and cheerful and always seems happy to see her, so she doesn’t let it bother her. 

 

Aleksander’s apartment is huge and overlooks the river, with giant windows that let in the eastern sun each morning. She assumes. She’s only ever there in the evenings. 

 

Today, though, Aleksander’s taken advantage of the bank holiday to spread Alina out on his giant leather sectional and bury his face between her legs. He brings her to three slow, rolling orgasms (all before noon!) with his fingers inside her, lazily stroking at her with his middle and index fingers, smirking against her clit every time she whimpers and comes. 

 

She’s sighing out the last of the third climax when he kisses his way up her body, dipping his tongue into her navel and stopping to take her left nipple into his mouth on the way up. 

 

“Always taste so sweet, malyshka,” he says in her ear, and lays a hot, wet kiss to her neck. 

 

“What does that mean?” she says as he notches the head of his cock against her entrance. He breathes a laugh out around a smile.

 

“Baby,” he tells her, “it means baby.”

 

She shivers. His face is warm in her hands when she pulls him down for a kiss, but she tells herself coldly that it doesn’t mean anything, that people say all kinds of things in bed, that she isn’t getting attached, won’t get attached. 

 

She tells herself this until he pushes inside her, until the fullness steals her breath and her thoughts and all she can think about is how heavy and right he feels. 

 

It’s warm outside, but Aleksander’s apartment is always cold; he keeps the air conditioning cranked up at all times. She thinks, absently, as he slowly rocks in and out of her, that maybe he does that so she seeks the warmth of his arms, his bed.

 

It’s fine, probably. They always work up a sweat when she’s over here, anyway. 

 

They move in tandem, her tits pressed flush to his chest, tongue in his mouth. His hips are pressed into the cradle of her thighs, and she winds up against him, sinuous, seeking as much skin contact as she can get. 

 

“Fuck,” he gasps into the crook of her neck, “you feel fucking perfect. How’d you get this perfect?”

 

She whines and threads her arms around his shoulders, pulling him closer. 

 

“Aleksan-”

 

“Sasha,” he interrupts, stilling.

 

“What?” She can’t think, the weight of him inside her is too much, she feels fuzzy. 

 

“My friends call me Sasha.”

 

She pulls back slightly to look at him. “Just friends?”

 

“Just friends.”

 

She hums and kisses him, close-mouthed. “Sasha,” she whispers, “will you go back to fucking me now?”

 

“Is that what you want? You want me to fuck you?” he murmurs against her lips, smile lifting the corners of his mouth. 

 

“Yes, please.”

 

“I don’t know that I believe you, malyshka-” Alina shivers “-you’ll need to be a little more convincing.”

 

She rolls her eyes but diligently wiggles her hips, hitching herself back and forth on his cock, and the pressure steals her breath, pushes a gasp out of her: “please, daddy, will you fuck me?”

 

“Since you asked so nicely,” he responds, lazy and indulgent, and pulls out to slam back into her, rubbing his thumb across her clit in a sweet rolling motion. Alina yelps at the sudden, bruising thrust, swears she can feel it behind her ribcage. 

 

“There you go, sweetheart, take it, just like that, perfect-” 

 

It creeps up on her, this floating feeling, the dizzy separation of her conscious mind from her physical body. Always comes to her when Aleksander’s deep inside her. It’s like he pushes out everything else, leaves a hollow space only he can fill. It should worry her, maybe, but she likes it too much to examine it thoroughly. 

 

She becomes just a feeling, just a concept. The rest of the world doesn’t exist around her. All she knows is his hands on her, is the drive of his cock in her slick cunt. Alina narrows down to this, the throbbing between her hips, the sensation of being possessed like this, cradled in his hands. 

 

Somewhere outside her body, she wishes she could stay here, in this separation, in this space of being and feeling and not thinking. And she knows she can’t, knows that Sasha always lets her stay here as long as she needs, doesn’t make her come back down before she’s ready, but she does wish- 

 

It would be so nice to just stay. 

 

So for now, she just buries herself in it, surrenders to the riptide, lets his voice be her buoy and acknowledges that she may, in fact, be lost at sea. 

 


 

"A friend of mine is getting married this weekend," Aleksander tells her, his voice tinny in her headphones. The sound of afternoon traffic filters through the microphone and forms a thin rushing noise around his voice.

 

"Good for them," she says absently, stuffing her keys and wallet into her bag and waving goodbye to a couple of her coworkers as she clocks out.

 

"Are you busy?"

 

"Huh?"

 

"Are you busy? Would you want to come with me? I forgot about it until today and I'm down a plus one."

 

"Oh, I don't know, Sasha. I won’t know anyone there and-"

 

"No, this is good, I want to introduce you to them. Nina and Fedyor and Ivan and everyone," he interrupts.

 

She pauses, smiles at nothing as she waits for her train. "Just friends?"

 

"Just friends. I promise. There'll be an open bar."

 

It’s been almost six months since they started sleeping together and she hasn’t fallen hopelessly in love yet; she supposes one outing together won’t undo her completely. 

 

“Fine. Since there’s an open bar.”

 


 

Nerves begin to swim in her stomach as they step out of the Uber, but with a glass of champagne and a warm smile from Aleksander’s friend Fedyor, she starts to settle into the conversation and relax enough to lean into Aleksander’s side. 

 

The wedding is on the south side of town, down by the river under a great wooden pavilion, flowers hung from the arches and hooked onto the backs of chairs. Alina doesn’t know anyone there, but they sit with Sasha’s friends on the bride’s side of the aisle, and they all seem nice. 

 

Nina walks down the aisle right as the sun sets behind the altar, bathing her in a rich, golden light, and the groom- Alina forgets his name, it was something Swedish or Norwegian maybe- weeps openly.

 

She almost starts when Aleksander’s arm settles on the back of her chair, but he’s warm against the bare skin of her back, and she just shifts a little closer to him, trying to leach a little heat from his side. It’s September, she reasons, and the evenings have started to get cooler. She’s just chilly, that’s all. 

 

There’s a live band at the reception, and Alina has enough champagne to let Sasha drag her onto the dance floor when the first dances are over and the music takes a turn uptempo. 

 

She can’t suppress a giggle when he twirls and dips her. At the table behind them, Fedyor loudly and drunkenly sings “I love you, baby, and if it’s quite alright-” right into Ivan’s long-suffering ear.

 

The blood rushes to her head when Aleksander lets her up, and she stumbles and falls into his chest, still laughing. 

 

“They’re sweet,” she says. 

 

“They are.” 

 

She glances up at his fond tone, and finds that he’s looking at her again, in that way he does. Her stomach swims, warm with sweet wine and other things. 

 

“Are you busy tomorrow?” he asks her, and she shakes her head. 

 

She sighs through her nose, warm and loose, sliding a hand underneath his suit jacket. She’s almost able to get a handful of his ass before he intercepts her, snatching her wrist away and leaning down to whisper in her ear. 

 

“Behave, little girl.”

 

Alina shudders and leans into him, tucks herself under his arm and tries to make herself smaller. 

 

“How much have you had to drink?” he asks, his voice low.

 

“Enough.”

 

“Enough?”

 

“Not too much,” she breathes, eyes caught on his mouth. 

 

He steadies her as she sways against him, hands on her waist. “Should I call a car?”

 

She nods. 

 

Their Uber driver is either a saint or a pervert, because he doesn’t say anything the entire ride home, despite the fact that Alina is half in Sasha’s lap, squirming against him and trying her very best to get him to finger her under her dress. 

 

“Alina,” he says through a laugh, and she pulls back from sucking on his neck to pout at him. 

 

“You can wait until we get inside, I think, sweetheart.”

 

“Not when you talk to me like that, I can’t,” she retorts, and buries her face in his neck again just to inhale the warm, dark scent of him. 

 

Aleksander leaves the driver with a generous tip and a withering glare. 

 

The ride up the elevator is excruciating; if they were alone she would just try to stick her hand down his pants right here, but just before the door slides closed, a withered hand shoots out and grips it with a surprising amount of force. 

 

The owner of the hand is a wrinkled, bent little woman draped in jewels, leaning on a clear acrylic cane tipped with a gold cap. 

 

They both go silent as she presses the button for the 17th floor with one long, red fingernail, vibrating with want as they stand beside each other, hands at their sides. 

 

The eleventh floor can’t come soon enough. 

 

Aleksander nods and says “ma’am,” under his breath as they exit the elevator, Alina lifting a hand and smiling nervously. The woman sniffs without looking at either of them. 

 

As the elevator door closes, Alina dissolves into giggles at his side, her cheeks pink, tears starting to gather at the corners of her eyes. He stifles an incredulous laugh into the crown of her head, tossing an arm around her shoulders.

 

It’s not that funny, she knows it’s not that funny, but she’s champagne warm and she feels pretty and Sasha’s looking at her like she’s said something incredible and life-changing and she can’t help herself when she lurches up onto her toes to kiss him. 

 

He responds with a hand in her hair, an open mouth and welcoming tongue. 

 

If she could crawl inside him, she would.

 

His apartment is just as cool as it always is, but she’s flushed and eager and doesn’t stop Aleksander when he starts to strip her out of her dress the second she’s through his bedroom door. He follows his hands with his mouth, kissing her skin as he exposes it, and Alina can’t suppress the quiver that runs through her.

 

The press of his hand on the curve of her neck is warm and firm when he pushes her down to the bed, and she tries to shake away the full, settled feeling that washes over her as she looks up at him. It’ll burn her, she fears. 

 

“Good girl, Alina,” he murmurs, stroking up and down her throat with the backs of his knuckles, “so sweet for me, so obedient.”

 

Laying flat on her back, she lets him direct her legs straight up into the air, pressed together as he rolls her panties down her thighs and chucks them over his shoulder onto the floor behind him. Legs still elevated, he kisses the backs of her thighs, scraping his teeth along the corded muscle and soft flesh, until he settles belly-down on the bed below her, and arranges a leg over each shoulder. 

 

This time he isn’t delicate, doesn’t warm her up, just seals his mouth to her cunt and sucks, and she nearly shrieks from the sharp, sudden sensation. 

 

She’s spent the whole night getting slowly worked up to the point of desperation, and her untouched clit throbs under his attentions. He works a couple of fingers inside her, and she sighs into it; she wanted him so badly, all day. 

 

When he arrived at her apartment to pick her up in that stupid black suit she almost jumped him right there, almost said fuck the wedding, we’ll send them a nice gift, and it didn’t even occur to her until they were in the car halfway across town that-

 

You don’t normally send a joint wedding gift from you and your fuck buddy. And you definitely don’t send a joint wedding gift from you and your fuck buddy to someone you don’t even know. She chewed off most of her lipstick by the time they got to the venue, and when he turned and held out his hand to help her out of the car, part of her wanted to slam the door in his face and tell the driver to get the hell out of dodge. 

 

Even now, as he loses himself in her cunt, as he glides a hand up her side, sweeps it over the low curve of her belly, she can feel her chest start to shake when she reaches down and tangles their fingers together. 

 

The low, urgent sound of satisfaction he lets out reverberates inside her, shivering through her nerves.

 

He looks up at her without pulling off, sucking on her clit and pulling his fingers in a beckoning motion that sears through her. It almost sets her off then, that scalding look he gives her, as if just being looked at, just being seen and taken in is enough to get her off. 

 

She swivels her hips on his face, grinding up against the firm, dual-pointed pressure of his chin and nose, cunt throbbing around his fingers. A thin, stuttering whimper falls out of her, and Sasha pulls off with a soft lick to her clit with the flat of his tongue. 

 

His fingers continue to torture her, curling and stroking at the humming pressure in her hips, threatening to swell and break over her. 

 

“That’s it, Alina, you’re doing so well, want to see you come for daddy,” he tells her, voice sinuous and sweet. Her fingers clench around his in time with the slick, pulsing grip of her walls. 

 

The slippery circle he traces around her clit sets an itching, fizzy spark coasting along her skin, in her belly, coiling around her center like a snake. She feels- she doesn’t know how she feels, doesn’t know this foreign pressure building inside her, she feels like she’s about to shatter. 

 

Hips grinding down on his hand, body out of control, everything feels hot, it’s too much, she doesn’t know if she can stand it, she’s going to fly apart. She scrabbles at his hand, still twined with hers, brings it up to her mouth, desperate for something to focus on that isn’t this insane, unbearable arousal he’s pulling out of her. 

 

Aleksander’s mouth falls open, staring at her as she sucks at his middle fingers, wrapping both her hands around his wrist. She feels delirious with it, with the taste of him, with the weight of his gaze on her face and his fingers on her tongue. 

 

“My beautiful girl,” his voice is rough with want, “I can’t fucking stand it sometimes, you’re too-” he cuts himself off with a broken sound that Alina feels echoing within her own chest, too lost to voice it.

 

He leans up over her, tensing his whole arm from the shoulder and driving into her almost mechanically, like he’s powered by a diesel engine, it’s too much. The press of his forearm on her sternum as she sucks, desperate, on the rough pad of his ring finger, is so heavy, so good. He’s all around her: his smell, his warmth, his weight. 

 

It starts in the back of her mind, low, near the nape of her neck. A dense, blurry cloud blossoms formlessly from her brain stem and begins to shroud her. 

 

The bed jostles beneath the force of Aleksander’s thrusts, but she barely registers the fact that she’s being shoved up toward the headboard with each movement. All she can see, hear, smell, taste, feel is Aleksander Aleksander Aleksander Aleksander Aleksander Aleksander.

 

It feels like she’s running toward a cliff, approaching a precipice she’s never fallen from before; it feels higher and more inevitable than anything else, urgent in a new, alien way. The urgency presses at her from inside, a vibrating pressure point between her hips that Aleksander keeps digging into, relentless.

 

Rising tide, pulsing electricity, hot-cold shivering energy thrumming in her core- she snaps and comes on his fingers with a tremulous cry, Sasha’s spit-slick hand gripping her chin, forcing her eyes up to meet his. 

 

“That’s it, give it to daddy, baby. So good for me, so-” she interrupts him with a sob as she squirms under him, coming in waves, and a confusing, searing rush of wetness comes spurting out of her, soaking Aleksander from fingertip to elbow. 

 

His mouth drops open and his brows draw together in shock even as he keeps drilling at her with his fingers- jesus fuck, he says thickly- and she can’t take it, it’s too much, she tries to push him out from in between her legs but his left hand slips from her chin to her throat, collaring her against his bed. 

 

“I can’t, Sasha, I can’t,” she pants at him.

 

“Yes, you can, sweetheart, I know you can do it. One more for me. Just like that, yes, don’t you want to be good for daddy?”

 

And she does, she does. 

 

Tears slide down her temples into her hairline and prickle on her scalp. She reaches for him, just wants to be pressed up against him as much as she can. He obliges, dropping down onto her with enough momentum to push a soft whoosh out of her lungs, but she needs the pressure. Needs something to ground her in this form, keep her from leaving entirely. 

 

He keeps working at her cunt, and she really didn’t think she could come again like this, but she can feel another orgasm rising on a hot wave in her belly. Daddy knows best, she thinks absently.

 

She jolts when he rolls his thumb over her clit; she hadn’t even realized he was ignoring it until he makes contact, too distracted by the inexorable fullness inside her. 

 

Please, daddy, please, please,” Alina doesn’t even know what it is she’s begging for, and a hush falls over her brain with the realization that she doesn’t need to know. 

 

She doesn’t need to know because she doesn’t doubt for a single second that Aleksander does. 

 

This thought occurs to her, and that’s all it takes for her to slip down. All the tension leaks from her muscles, even the ones in her abdomen that are clenching in preparation for a second climax. It feels like she’s watching herself from the outside going completely lax in his hold. She lets the arousal build inside her on its own, doesn’t work for it, doesn’t involve herself in the act of getting off. 

 

Everything’s in Sasha’s hands now, and she can’t do anything to stop the feeling of rightness from washing over her. Doesn’t think she’d want to even if she could.

 

He’s talking to her, face pressed to the spot where her jaw meets her throat. His beard tickles. 

 

Maybe he’s telling her how good she is, how much he wants her, how sweet and soft and warm she is under his hands. Words don’t penetrate at this point, not in any distinct way. Whatever he’s saying, she knows it’s probably encouraging and filthy, so she just closes her eyes as she comes again, clenching around his fingers, three now, it feels like. 

 

Another splash of liquid hits her thigh, less this time, but it’s enough to pull a deep-throated groan from Aleksander. The dull set of his teeth at her jaw comes through like a brand. 

 

The throb of it pulses through her, and she grinds down on his hand, drawing it out. He keeps worrying at her clit and kisses her face, whispering her name against the skin of her neck. 

 

It takes a minute or two, but she surfaces a little, the room coming further into focus as she climbs the thread of Sasha’s voice. 

 

He’s petting at her flank like he’s soothing a horse, pressing kisses to her face and murmuring softly about how well she did. She swallows, her throat dry, and turns into him. 

 

Dimly, she registers that he’s shifted to lay down next to her and turned her body so that she’s mostly on top of him, her front curled into his side the way his arm has curled around her waist. 

 

“Okay?” he asks her, eyes focused and intent. She nods and swallows again. 

 

Her hand is going a little numb from the way she has it crooked into her chest, and she lifts it and shakes it out in the narrow space between their chests. When did he take his clothes off? She blinks the thought away. 

 

He catches her wrist and rolls a thumb across the meat between her thumb and index finger, rubbing out the pins and needles with a soft look on his face. 

 

Alina shifts, bracing herself on one foot to press closer to his side, but her ankle lands in something cold and wet, and she abruptly remembers that she did, in fact, squirt all over Sasha’s bed. And hand. And arm. 

 

“Oh, my God,” she says, pushing off his chest to sit up, “I can’t believe-”

 

“You’ve never done that before?” he asks. She shakes her head, looking at the wet spot incredulously. 

 

Behind her, Aleksander sits up next to her and shifts his jaw. His Adam’s apple bobs. She doesn’t see the way he pulls in a deep breath to steady himself. 

 

“I’ve never felt like that before. It felt… different.” No one’s ever touched me like that before, she doesn’t say. 

 

The wetness between her legs warms as she thinks about how feverishly Aleksander drove his fingers into her, asking her, begging her, walking the thin line between demanding and encouraging.

 

She turns and puts her face in his neck, inhales deeply, and shivers. His arm comes around to stroke up and down her spine with a light touch. 

 

Placing her hand on his face, she lifts her mouth to be kissed, tells his lips, “Sasha…”

 

When she reaches into his boxers- black silk, if she had the presence of mind to, she’d roll her eyes- and wraps her hand around him, he catches her wrist again.

 

“You should rest, malyshka.”

 

She whines through her nose. “Don’t want to rest, want you to fuck me.”

 

“I know, sweetheart, but you really, ah-” she traces a line up the tendon in his throat with her tongue, “you really wore yourself out. Let me change the sheets and put you to bed.”

 

Suddenly it feels urgent that she gets him inside her, the idea of sitting on his cock, being filled up as deep as she’s ever been, it seems like a necessity, crucial as the flow of oxygen to her brain. 

 

“No, no, Sasha, please, I need it, I-” her voice goes high and reedy, begging, and she squirms, rolling her body against his. The weight of his cock in her hand- it’s a horrible tease, how could he take it away from her?

 

“Alright, alright,” he shushes her, and lets her crawl into his lap. 

 

She kneels over him as he shifts, pulling his underwear off, and as he settles back down and puts his hands on her, she reaches down to line him up with her entrance. He bats her hand away, grips himself, and rubs the tip against her. 

 

Under her, he has to turn his face up to look her in the eye, but only a little, and she knows when he pushes inside, and she gets to sit on it properly, their heights will line up perfectly. 

 

She threads her arms around his shoulders as he presses inside, their noses brushing against each other. His breath is warm against her mouth and he looks at her so hard she thinks he might leave an imprint on her face. 

 

The stretch is slick; he breaks her open so nicely. If she could see her own face right now she knows she’d find a strained, agonized expression. There aren’t any words for it, for how right he feels, how big he feels inside her.

 

I should’ve never let him kiss my mouth, she thinks. 

 

How does she come back from this? This was exactly what she was trying to avoid. She tries to tell herself it isn’t anything: it’s just… exceptionally intense sex, she’s just a little drunk, he’s just too good with his hands.

 

But her head starts to go empty again, thoughts pushed out as he pushes in. Each time, it steals her breath. She should be used to it by now, probably, but she’s just so full, there’s no more room inside her for anything but him. Her cunt does its best to tremble around him, but she’s stretched so tight and the fit is so exact that there’s no breathing room. 

 

For a moment, he just lets her adjust, just pulls her all the way down onto him until he bottoms out and she’s fully seated with his arms wrapped tight around her waist, one hand splayed broad between her shoulder blades. She always likes it this way best: pressed against each other until it’s just her and him and skin and sweat.

 

He lets her sit on his cock, fully and unmoving but for the barest flutter between her hips and the stuttering rhythm of their breathing. 

 

She feels small, she feels like nothing, she feels unwrapped and tasted and consumed. 

 

When he eventually starts to move, it’s nothing more than a slow, filthy grind, rocking her back and forth with his hands on her hips. The drag of his cock inside her pulls on her nerves like a bow on violin strings. She can feel the vibrations, low and harmonic, shoot up from her pelvis to her throat, where they catch on a sigh. 

 

Sasha.

 

“I know,” he says. 

 

She can’t look at his face anymore, it’s too sharp, too bright. His neck is warm against her mouth when she tucks into him. 

 

Inhale, exhale, she tries to ground herself. Reality starts going slippy again. She lets it, lets her limbs go loose with it, lets Aleksander guide her body back and forth. It aches so nicely, this distance between her and her mind. 

 

Letting him fuck up into her like she doesn’t even have a say in the matter- was this what she was looking for this whole time? How can she miss something she’s never had? 

 

The world narrows: just him and her and them together, bodies pressed together at the seams as if she’s stitched to him. It’s a nice thought. 

 

When she comes again, it’s a helpless, trembling thing, a yield to the space he takes up inside her, the pressure and the warmth of his cock filling her cunt like it’s all they were made to do together. She feels him follow her a moment later, the hot spill of his seed against her walls, shivering but resolute. 

 

He lets her stay down in the fuzzy neitherness of her in-between space for a while, stays a warm, solid presence next to her- gives her gifts of touch and sound, indistinct but no less generous for their nebulous shape. 

 

She comes to with his knuckles running a slow line up and down the curve where her neck meets her shoulder. The tempo pulls her up and helps clear the cloud from her brain. She sighs deeply just to feel the sweet stretch when her chest expands and collapses, and Aleksander opens his eyes and looks at her. 

 

“Back with me?” he asks quietly. 

 

“Yeah,” she whispers. Feels too intrusive, too much of a scrape and sting to speak any louder. 

 

He doesn’t make her talk, doesn’t even make her listen, just watches her with half-lidded eyes and strokes her neck. 

 

Eventually the dry, sticky feel of her mouth starts to bug her, and she shifts to sit up, only to be met with the firm press of Sasha’s palm to her sternum. 

 

“Stay.”

 

“Sasha-”

 

“Let me get it, you brat.”

 

“I still have to pee, officer, let me up,” she says with a fond (too fond, too fond, Alina, rein it back in, she thinks) smile. He narrows his eyes but eases off. 

 

Aleksander, like Nikolai and Zoya, has a stupid big en suite, with a rain shower and separate bathtub, deep and wide enough to fit three Alinas side by side. She closes the door behind her and sits on his fancy toilet equipped with a built-in bidet. 

 

The sound of her pee hitting the bowl is the only thing that keeps her brain from filling with the flood of panicked thoughts she’s only barely keeping at bay. She takes three deep breaths and shakes her head. It was just sex. 

 

When she comes back from the bathroom, Aleksander’s pulling the last corner of a clean sheet onto the mattress, and she unfolds the comforter sitting at the end of the bed and helps him spread it out. He hands her a glass of water without a word, settling under the blanket and watching her as she kneels in the middle of the bed to dig her phone out from where it had gotten shoved under one of his pillows. 

 

“Ugh,” she says at her phone when she sees that it’s past 2 in the morning. 

 

“What?” he says sleepily under her.

“I’m going to have a hell of a time finding an Uber this late,” she says quietly, sits down and sets her phone on the nightstand to try and figure out where her clothes went. Sasha had torn them off in a bit of a hurry earlier. 

 

Before she can find anything, though, his arm lands around her waist and she’s tugged back into bed, the sheets settling around them with a flutter. 

 

“Just stay here,” he mumbles into the curve of her shoulder. Alina forces herself not to stiffen in his arms. 

 

She’s never stayed the night before, barely even sticks around long enough for the afterglow to wear off. They fuck, they come, she leaves, the end. Clean and simple. Easy for her to maintain distance, to stay just far enough away from the edge that she doesn’t slip and fall in. She’s toed far too close to the line tonight as it is.

 

But now he’s offering… what? A sleepover? She didn’t even ask to stay. She was just complaining about having to get an Uber in the middle of the night, but before she had a chance to reach for her bra - hanging on the arm of his fancy old man lamp, how did it even get there? - he’s pulling her back under the covers to stick his cold nose in her neck. 

 

She yelps a little at the contact, bats at his forearm and grumbles about how cold he keeps his apartment. She opens her mouth to protest, but is interrupted by the sound of a whistling little snore, so she just smiles to herself a little fearfully and pulls the comforter over her shoulder. 

 

In the morning, she wakes up a little too warm and slightly sweaty where she’s pressed up against his skin. At some point in the night she must have turned to face him, because her head is tucked beneath his chin and his breath rushes downward, past her ear in a rhythmic sweep, in and out and in and out. 

 

Tables turned, she lies as still as possible and takes him in: where the straight ridge of his nose curves ever so slightly to the right, the gentle slope of his mouth, the place on each cheek where his beard doesn’t ever quite fill in.

 

Is this what he feels like all the time? This privileged and awed, just from the simple act of seeing? Surely not, she thinks. Aleksander isn’t the type of man to be passive about the things he wants. If he wanted her for real, she would know by now. 

 

Reluctantly, she disentangles herself and stumbles to the bathroom, gathering her clothes along the way, sweet-sore between her legs and pleasantly achy everywhere else. She stares blankly at the glossy white tile of his shower wall while she pees, trying to convince herself that nothing has to change between them.

 

In her head, she sternly reminds herself why she needs to pull it together; it’s been so nice to have someone on call who’s both good at sex and generally a tolerable human being. Aleksander always makes sure she gets off first (and repeatedly), he has his own place without roommates, and he doesn’t expect anything of her. And he fucks her like that. Also, he smells nice. 

 

The last thing she wants to do right now is set herself up to get her heart broken. She knows she's too emotional, too romantic, for this to work for very long, and after a night like last night, surely she's only shortening the lifespan of this little arrangement. Especially if she starts sleeping in his bed, in his arms. 

 

But it would be so convenient to be able to stay over every once in a while. His bed is huge and very comfortable and probably very expensive, and he lives all the way downtown, like a million blocks from her place, and even though he always insists on paying for her Uber, midnight hookups are never exactly a quick little jaunt for her. 

 

And a vicious, masochistic little part of her wonders: how long can she walk this tightrope? How close can she play it before it all comes tumbling down around her? 

 

How much love can she wring out of this situation before she’s turned away again?

 

She chews on her cheek in thought and dresses in front of his enormous vanity mirror, frowning at her greasy hair before tucking it into a tight bun at the nape of her neck. 

 

Soft footsteps approach, and she watches him lean against the doorjamb. They look at each other in the mirror in silence for a long minute. He has a hickey on his neck. Her lips twitch. 

 

He inhales and says, “I’m going to shower and make breakfast if you’re hungry.” His voice is rough with sleep.

 

“Oh, that’s-” she starts, but her protest is cut off by a loud, gurgling complaint from her stomach, and Sasha politely stifles a laugh as he turns on the showerhead. 

 

Alina doesn’t even pretend not to watch as he strips out of his boxers, and he doesn’t even pretend not to hold the door open for her behind him. She only hesitates for a second before pulling her dress over her head and following him into the steam. 

 


 

A month or so later, she and Nikolai spend the better part of an hour talking Zoya into ditching her sleek hot girl club for the quiet, divey bar they frequented in college, where the clientele mainly consist of 60-something Polish immigrants, and the potato-based foods are fried in duck fat. The jukebox is real and coated in a perennial layer of greasy fingerprints and is always playing Willie Nelson. 

 

Zoya hates it. Nikolai and Alina love it.

 

Zoya mumbles vague, insubstantial threats at the two of them as they shuffle her into a booth and laugh when she asks for a drink menu. 

 

After a couple of drinks, Alina’s cheeks feel warm and her tongue tingles. Zoya complains about her younger sister’s wedding planning and then complains about the music, and Nikolai hums along good-naturedly. They gossip about Genya and David and whether or not Genya knows that everyone knows she’s pregnant, and how long it will take before Nadia forgets herself and brings it up at dinner some evening. 

 

“How’re things with what’s his face?” Nikolai asks her around a mouthful of fries. 

 

“Aleksander? Your co-worker?” Nikolai just waves a hand at her. “It’s- we’re not, like- it’s fine. We’re just hooking up, it’s not… a relationship or anything,” she says, brow furrowing. 

 

“Sure,” Nikolai says, and tosses back the rest of his beer.

 

She doesn’t even attempt to protest.

 

The server comes by to collect their dishes, and Nikolai orders another round that Zoya insists she won’t drink. (She will.)

 

Alina’s phone buzzes on the table. She tries to resist looking at it, she really does. She leaves it alone for a full ten seconds before flipping it to read the newest notification. It’s not from Sasha. 

 

She purses her lips and sniffs, falling back against the booth with a small huff, and turns her head to look out the window. It’s started to rain since they came in. The streetlight on the corner fuzzes into a halo in the mist. 

 

“Ohh, was someone expecting a text from daddy?” Nikolai coos at her. She rolls her eyes and shoves her boot between his knees, smiling sweetly at his responding grunt. 

 

Zoya pets at Nikolai’s cheekbone, tells him, “you’re very stupid, darling,” and plants a kiss on his face. 

 

Alina laughs, finger circling the rim of her martini glass, and Nikolai tosses an arm over Zoya’s shoulders, points at Alina with his beer, and says, “A hundred bucks says you’ll be living together by the first of the year.”

 

“Kolya,” Zoya hisses, digging her elbow into Nikolai’s ribs, and his smile drops as he realizes what he’s said. But the damage is done. Alina’s face freezes, her hand going still on the edge of her glass.

 

“Alina,” Zoya starts, but Alina shakes her head and smiles, tells her it’s fine, tells her I’m over it, tells her I don’t even think about it anymore. 

 

Nikolai orders a plate of apology tater tots and Alina thinks about it. She thinks about it a lot. 

 


 

She thinks about it at work. She thinks about it on the train. She thinks about it in her apartment, laying in bed, in the shower, cleaning the bathroom, feeding the cat. 

 

She thinks about it at dinner with Genya and Tamar, and she doesn’t notice them exchange a concerned glance over their appetizer because she’s thinking about it too hard. She thinks about it in the cab they split on the way home, and she thinks about it climbing the stairs to her apartment. 

 

She thinks about when Aleksander texts her, and she thinks about it when she ignores each one. She thinks about it when he calls her, and “DADDY 👅💦🍆” lights up her screen, and she thinks about it when she lets the calls go to voicemail.

 

She thinks about it while she boils water for tea and stares at nothing, replaying the scene in her mind. 

 

She thinks about how excited she was, the giddy way her stomach turned the night before, as she lay in bed and tried to go to sleep because the quicker she fell asleep, the quicker tomorrow arrived. 

 

She’d made a key and put it in a little box and wrapped the box and everything. She made Zoya put her finger on the ribbon so she could tie the perfect bow. She’d been too excited to see how reserved Zoya’s smile had been, and how she’d tapped her acrylic nails against each other with a pensive look on her face. 

 

She’d been so excited she didn’t notice how carefully Zoya and Genya and Tamar had worded their responses to her announcement that she was finally asking Mal to move in with her. 

 

Tamar: oh wow that’s a big step!!!

 

Genya: I’m happy you’re so excited! Have you talked about this with him yet?

 

Zoya: haven’t u been together for like six months or somethng

 

Genya: As long as YOU’RE happy, we’re happy!

 

(Well. Genya and Tamar were careful.)

 

She’d been far too excited to consider the possibility of rejection, too excited to anticipate how crushing his refusal would be, and how the subsequent dumping would leave her devastated beyond belief. 

 

She didn’t respond to their texts asking how it went. She laid in bed for five hours and cried and watched a show about lady murderers and then she got up and told herself that she was 25 years old and she could handle a breakup without falling apart, and that she just needed to stop thinking about it, and she’d be fine. Then she made 2 gallons of chili that she pawned off on all her friends over the next week, and Nikolai wouldn’t stop calling it her “grief chili,” but he also wouldn’t stop telling her how good it was. 

 

It helped lessen the sting of knowing that she’s too clingy, and you don’t know how to give me any space. It’s like you don’t even have your own personality. I just don’t like being around you that much, to be honest.

 

It didn’t make her forget, but it helped. 

 

Eleven months later, after shoving it down all at once and refusing to think about it, she thinks about it and thinks about it and thinks about it and thinks about it. 

 


 

She’s thinking about it on a Saturday evening, laying sideways across her bed with a joint in her hand, a purring cat on her chest, and a show about cult leaders getting whacked on her tv. 

 

She’s thinking about it when someone starts banging on her door, and she jumps, stubs out the joint, and pushes Paul off of her, lunging underneath her bed for the metal baseball bat Nikolai got her for her 21st birthday. 

 

The door is still being abused when she approaches as quietly as possible and puts her face up to the peephole, only to find herself staring at Aleksander’s very familiar neck. She pulls back and sighs, letting the bat drop to the floor and propping it up in the corner under her coat hook. 

 

“Cut it out, I have neighbors,” she calls through the door, and unlocks it, but leaves the chain latched, peering at him through the crack.

 

“What do you want.”

 

“Alina,” he says, impatient. 

 

What?” she says.

 

“Will you just-” he closes his eyes and sighs through his nose, “will you just let me in? Please? I just want to talk to you.”

 

She closes the door. Her sigh skates across the doorjamb where she’s pressed her forehead against it, the slick white paint sticky under her skin. She unlatches the door and opens it again, fixing Aleksander with a look. 

 

“Why have you been ignoring me?” he asks before she has a chance to say anything. 

 

“I haven’t been ignoring you, I’ve been… busy, and-”

 

“Bullshit.”

 

She starts. “Excuse me?”

 

“That’s bullshit, Alina, don’t play dumb. You’ve been ignoring me for weeks with no explanation.”

 

“Sasha-” she cuts herself off, sighs, all the fight going out of her. She’s so tired.  

 

“Do you want to sit down?” She gestures to the sofa. 

 

Aleksander settles in with Paul Rudd purring like a lawnmower on his lap while Alina sets the kettle on and pulls a couple of mugs from the cabinet. The dying light of the day falls across the back of the sofa; the contrast casts his dark hair in stark relief, arresting as a Caravaggio. 

 

“About a year ago, I asked my boyfriend to move in with me,” she says. There’s no use in making something up or beating around the bush, not if she wants-

 

She’s not sure what she wants. But she knows she doesn’t want to lie. 

 

“It didn’t go well. He said he didn’t want to, and then he said that he wanted to break up,” she continues, dropping a tea bag in each mug, “and as he was breaking up with me, he told me I was clingy and annoying and didn’t have a personality, and that he didn’t like being around me.”

 

Aleksander is silent in the living room. He looks at her mildly, running a hand along Paul’s back.

 

“And a few weeks ago, I was out to drinks with Nikolai and Zoya, and Nikolai opened his big fat mouth-”

 

“As Nikolai is wont to do,” Aleksander says, and she smiles. 

 

“As he is wont to do,” she nods, “and made a stupid joke about… about me and you moving in together.” She sighs. 

 

“And I know it was just a joke, and I know he’s an idiot, but- I don’t know. I freaked out a little bit. It doesn’t have anything to do with you. Promise.” The kettle starts to shriek on the stove.

 

“So…” he trails off. 

 

So, ” she says, turning the stove off. A cloud of steam billows in front of her face as she fills their mugs. “I don’t think it’s such a good idea if we keep- seeing each other.” She doesn’t know if that’s exactly what she’d call it, but it’s close enough.

 

“Why is that?” 

 

“I just- I think I’m too romantic. I get caught up in things too easily. I’m too- I’m too needy.”

 

He opens his mouth, and she rushes to cut him off, hands flinging wide as she gestures nervously. “I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, honestly. I just- I know myself, and I think I’m too emotional, and probably, yeah, too needy to do a friends with benefits thing.” 

 

Aleksander removes the cat from his lap, ignoring Paul’s huffy little mrow of irritation, stands, and circles her countertop, looking at her and looking at her, and he doesn’t say anything. It makes her want to scream, she wants to crack his head open like an egg to see what the hell is going on in there, why he’s always looking at her like that. 

 

He comes to stand in front of her, so close she can feel his breath on her face. He still doesn’t say anything, and her heart starts pounding.

 

It’s too silent, she can’t stand it. “I just think-” she licks her lips, “that I’m probably going to… develop… feelings.” Her words come out so breathy she’s almost embarrassed, but the slant of his eyes is too dark, too distracting for her to dwell on the ridiculousness of the idea that she hasn’t developed feelings already. 

 

His hand comes up to catch her face, thumb resting on the point of her chin. 

 

Malyshka,” he says. His voice is so soft. 

 

She doesn’t dare say anything. 

 

“Whatever gave you the impression that you developing feelings is not exactly what I want?”

 

Her belly swoops. 

 

“Maybe,” he says, holding her face in both hands now, “I like you needy and emotional.”

 

She shivers and closes her eyes, turns her face into the curve of his palm. 

 

“Has it ever occurred to you to let someone else take care of you for once?” he asks, and she can feel tears pricking behind her eyes. 

 

“Sasha…”

 

“Alina,” he says, “open your eyes, darling.” She does, and he’s still looking.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hello,” she croaks with a dry mouth. 

 

“Let me take you to bed,” he presses a kiss to one cheek, “and then let me take you to dinner,” and a kiss to the other. She blinks slowly at him and sighs. 

 

“I think… that would be nice.” 

 

Alexander hums and nods and breathes in the scent of her at her neck. Maybe he finds the smell of her skin as strange and nostalgic as she does his. Maybe he, too, wants to take in every particle of her through every orifice of his, to consume her and be consumed at the same time. Maybe he just likes the smell of her shampoo. She finds she doesn’t care. 

 

It doesn’t really matter, not right now, not when he’s backing her into the bedroom slowly, carefully feline, predatory. What matters is the slick slide of his mouth on hers, the choke of his hand on her wrist. 

 

For once, she gets him out of his clothes first, wants the smooth, too-sensitive press of skin on skin before she wants anything else. At her urging, he undresses himself and then her and looks at her very softly when she sighs with content, her hands braced on the sharp planes of his cheekbones. 

 

He splays her out across her bed and traces the lines of her body with his hands and mouth, and this time, Alina doesn’t fight down the pushy swell of emotion. She lets it rise from her belly to her throat, and it doesn’t choke her like she thought it would. 

 

Instead it comes out like a hum, like a song: some melody she’d almost forgotten. 

 

She lets him consume her without trepidation, and if she trembles it’s only because he’s so skilled with his tongue, knows her body so well and is so very generous about it. 

 

Part of her wants to be quiet, to be so soft and pliant and loose in his arms that she doesn’t even make a sound when he pushes into her, thick and heavy and hot. Aleksander makes sure that doesn’t happen. 

 

He works for her gasping noises, the rough, guttered way her breath leaves her with each thrust. 

 

He uses his mouth, hot and slick on the soft swell of her breast, to pull a litany of high, desperate whimpers from her throat. 

 

He draws out of her a Sasha, Sasha, Sasha with his clever hands, circling her clit and running a finger along the place where they’re joined, along the wet, swollen heat of her cunt. She almost blacks out when he gently works his middle finger in alongside his cock. The stretch is unbearable; she thinks she’ll split apart with it, but God, she comes harder than she has since that time he made her-

 

Just the memory of it sends a blush down her chest as she rocks back and forth on his cock and finger. 

 

Aleksander is as mouthy as ever, praising her every movement as if she’s some prodigy, a miracle sent to awe and astonish him. He tells her she’s so damn sweet it isn’t right, that she’s fucking perfect, Alina, do you hear me? Perfect. He tells her she’s made for me. Just for me. Sweet and perfect and mine. 

 

The grip of her thighs around his hips is bruising as she ruts up against him, arms wrapped around his shoulders so she can stay as close as possible. Each thrust inside drags her tits along his chest, the stimulation against her nipples lighting up like electricity. 

 

She can feel his cock starting to pull another orgasm from her belly, pulls back so she can kiss him, and whispers against his open, gasping mouth, “so good, Sasha, you fuck me so good. Nobody ever did this to me. It’s just you, just you. Just want you.”

 

He makes a pained, grating sound and bites at her lips and it hurts so nicely as he comes inside her with a groan. His hips jerk against her a few times as she clenches down on his cock as it twitches deliciously in her cunt. 

 

Pulling away from her with a contented sigh, he sits back on his haunches without pulling out and lazily brings a hand to her clit, rolling it beneath his fingers. He winces a little bit as she grinds down on him, and she knows he must be sensitive, but she’s still so full and it feels so good and he’s just letting her, talking her through another climax with a smug, sated look on his face. 

 

“Come on, malyshka, one more time for daddy,” he says, and she falls over the edge, throbbing around his waning erection with a weak little cry. 

 

He pulls out on a sigh, arranges her on her side so she’s facing him, and tucks her head under his chin. It fits there so nicely. All the angles and curves of their bodies nestle right into each other with ease. Like Lincoln logs, she thinks sleepily. 

 

She’s almost out when Aleksander clears his throat, the noise conspicuous and rumbly next to her ear. 

 

“Nikolai…” Sasha says darkly, running his hand up and down her spine.

 

“Oh, don’t start.”

 

“I didn’t say anything,” he laughs, his breath puffing warm across her skin, but after a beat, he says, “Do you want me to kick his ass for you?”

 

Alina laughs and laughs and laughs until there are tears on her cheeks and on Aleksander’s neck. 

 

“No, I don’t think so. He’s very delicate. You’d probably do some permanent damage.”

 

He huffs softly. The hair on the crown of her head ruffles. 

 

She continues, “besides, then you’d have Zoya to deal with, and I don’t even think I’d be able to protect you from her.”

 

Aleksander shudders. 

 

“I thought so.”