Captive

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The next morning, I wake at four-thirty, as usual

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The next morning, I wake at four-thirty, as usual.

Even though the king hotel bed is the same size as mine in Miami, it feels too big. Too empty. Normally I enjoy sprawling in a big bed, but my body felt puny in this one. It's unsettling, and it's all because of Justine. Our time together last night left me yearning for more of her in every way.

I run a hand over my hair and reach for my phone, hoping that reading emails from work will make my raging morning hard-on vanish.

Somehow, work does the trick. That's what work has been for me all these years — a balm to channel the rage and the passion and all the messy feelings I had for Justine.

I put on my running gear and head out for a jog in the early morning darkness. It's what I do every morning at home on South Beach, pound the sand with my feet as the sun comes up. It's a feeling of freedom. And no matter where in the world I'm traveling, I try to get in a run a few times a week. It clears my head.

This morning, I push myself, my shoes slapping against the asphalt. Soon, I'm sweating. But here in St. Augustine, as I run through empty streets, I'm not feeling as free as when I'm at home. Perhaps it's seeing the police car sitting silent in a lot, or maybe it's the memories of Justine's father, who always made comments about how there weren't many people like me in his city. As my feet strike the ground, I'm reminded that here, in St. Augustine, I'm different.

The word different repeats with every step. Different. Different. Different. Cuban. An immigrant. Not. Good. Enough. For. Justine.

Which is ridiculous for all sorts of reasons. Still, I run, and run fast, as if trying to escape the bad memories.

By eight, I've eaten, showered, Skyped with my team and sent two dozen emails. I'm walking into the paper, distracted by my phone, when I nearly crash into someone. I feel my shoulder collide with something soft and forgiving.

I look up from my screen and apologize in Spanish. Then in English. I'm so used to speaking Spanish in Miami. "I'm so sorry. I was caught up in this." I hold my phone up. "Bad habit. I need to pay attention to my surroundings more."

The person, a small blonde woman, giggles. "I'm totally fine. No need to apologize." She scans my body, her eyes on my suit. "You must be the private equity fund guy from Miami."

I look down because the woman's short, and nod. "That's right. I'm the private equity guy from Miami. Rafael. And you are?"

I extend my hand, and we shake. Unlike when Justine and I shook hands, this woman has a soft touch. Her palm is a little damp, and I fight the urge to wipe my hand on my suit when we stop shaking.

"Brittany. I'm in marketing. If there's anything you need from me, um, well, from my department, please don't hesitate to ask." She bats her eyelashes at me, and I suspect she's flirting. I smile, and a flush creeps across her cheeks.

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