The Hum of Sex

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"How bad are things at the paper, really?"

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"How bad are things at the paper, really?"

We're at an early dinner following an exhausting, tension-filled tour of the paper and printing press. At every turn, Rafael has gazed at me with simmering eyes.

"Can you please stop smirking at me?" I say in response.

"I think you're misreading my facial expressions, my dear."

"Don't patronize me," I shift in the hard, wooden seat. Rafa has asked me about five different versions of that question, and I'm beginning to suspect he simply wants to watch me squirm. He stares at me dispassionately.

Exhaling out of frustration, I answer his original question. "We're about a month, maybe two, from bankruptcy."

I silently curse myself for choosing the dimly lit Spanish tapas restaurant. I should have taken him to my favorite beach bar, the Salty Pelican. We could have listened to some bad classic rock cover tunes, and the atmosphere would have been bright and fake. But we're in a sensual, open-air Mediterranean courtyard decorated with white orchids, a fountain and tall, flickering candelabras. Soft flamenco plays in the background, and the clap-clap-clap of the music matches the cadence of my heartbeat.

My body feels strung tight from the hum of sex in the restaurant's lush ambience, and from Rafa's hungry gaze. Does his voice have to be so low and hot? Does he have to ask the difficult, depressing business questions as we're about to order? Does his mouth have to look so tempting?

Rafa plucks the napkin from the table and unfurls it with a flourish, draping it on his lap with precision. "And what have you done to try to save money?"

I tick the items off with my fingers. "I've cut pay ten percent, mandated a week of furloughs, and eliminated the editorial page on Saturdays."

"That's all?" His eyes are icy, but the corners of his mouth quirk upward into a smile. Can't he show any empathy or concern for my situation? He appears delighted to watch me writhe.

Despite what he said earlier, I'm wondering if he actually wants to see me fail.

"You know I'm not a businesswoman. I didn't take finance classes in school. I'm a journalist. I never wanted this job. My brother was supposed to be publisher. You know that's what my father had planned for him before...before the car crash." The words creak out because my throat is parched. I never talk about the car crash that killed my mother and brother and ripped my family apart. My dad and I never discussed it, and I never opened up much to Jared about it. Diana, of course, knew everything, had lived through it with me.

Other than her, the only person I'd ever talked about my past with was Rafa.

"When's the waiter coming to take our order?" I grumble. I want this night to be over. It's as if his power and my past are conspiring to drain my energy, leaving me defenseless.

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