Rites and Devotion (1)

Angelis & Bondi

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9 p.m, Nascosto Ranch

Angela stood briefly on the diving board, her long dark hair billowing in the breeze, a crescent moon gleaming behind her goddess-like figure in the clear night sky above, her erect nipples and the dark softness of her pubic hair glistening from the rear porch lights in the small ranch up ahead of her.

Then she took the dive.

Her perfect figure seemed to float in the air, hovering gracefully overhead, as she put her hands above her head and did a perfect swan dive into the waters below with a light splash and a few ripples spreading out over the glowing water.

Perfection, thought Tony Puglare, whom, had he been judging, would have given her ten right off the bat.

Utter perfection.

Her head rose from the surface of the pool, and she swam up to him, her olive-skinned arms opening. She held him tightly and he embraced her with a kiss, pulling her again into the mutual heat of groin and belly. He sucked in her warm, tender juices. She rested on his dark, heated skin like a delicate frost, cool from her dip, hardened nipples pressing against his chest.

She trembled as he held her by her fragile, glass-cold wrists, looking as helpless as he felt inside, seething with fear and lust like a sixteen-year-old. But he had to be the big guy. That was his life.

Angela closed her eyes as they kissed. Already, this was more painful than she’d thought it would be. She knew her part, the one that Gino had prepped her for when she was still in high school; the temptress. La tentaziona. A walking femme fatality with the power to charm and kill at will. Gino wasn’t a pimp, not strictly speaking, but the old shit knew what he was doing- fifty years in the mob and he’d never once been a guest of the state.

He and the Mafia wives of her adolescence had taught Angela well. She was a commodity. You pay your money, let her soft night-black hair bathe your face, let her baptising eyes clean you up and throw back a reflection that flatters. Inhale the fleshy, flowery scent of her perfumed armpits. Admire her perfectly polished pink toenails. Let her words fall over you, tumbling from those budded lips like white roses. All fur coats and frothy underwear. This was her life.

Tony keenly felt the contrast between Angela’s life-and-death grip, and the sweet lips, which lay against his like warm fruit, her sugar-pink tongue probing delicately inside the sour, dark cavern of his mouth. Angela’s mouth was a warm shell which he imagined to be as pink as the secret heart of a summer rose, her breath as sweet and heated as burning strawberry incense, turning his tongue sacred in the heat of her musk.

It was enough to make him forget about his current problems.

 ‘Whatever you want,’ she said, and he thought surely she must be teasing him. ‘Any way you want it. Tonight, I am yours. Tonight, you own me, mind, body, and soul.’

He raised one eyebrow, smiling grimly. ‘I don’t want your soul, Ange. Can’t take anythin’ more that belongs to Gino.’

‘Fuck you,’ she replied without malice.

‘Whatever I want?’ Tony replied. ‘Why tonight? What’s so special about tonight?’

He could see a brief look of sadness on her face, her dark eyes gleaming with a secret half-light, and then she brushed a hand over her face- a quick motion, which was, he thought, an attempt to wipe away an errant tear.

‘What’s wrong?’


‘What is it, Angela?’

‘Nothin’, I...I just wanna make you happy, Tony,’ she replied disconcertedly. ‘I wanna make tonight special, that’s all.’

She closed her eyes for a moment. How unlike her this was.

‘You wanna satisfy all my greatest fantasies, is that it?’

‘That’s right, Tony,’ she answered. ‘Sure there must be something you want, something special.’

And in fact there was something special that Tony Puglare wanted, an extra add-on to his sexuality that he had never before told anybody about, a fetish that, as far as he could tell, no one else had or even heard about. At first, he was able to tell Angela only that much, fearing that it might get out into the open somehow, that she might tell the others.

What she had seen in him, he would never know. Surely he was no better than they were; he had taken plenty of lives during the time he had spent in the mob. He had blood on his hands, perhaps not as much as some of the others, but in time, he would catch up with them. He was still pretty young, still a rookie like his best friend Chris, and he had his whole life to learn from the best- his Uncle Gino, the current mob boss, whom Puglare had greatly admired ever since he was a kid and whom Angela had no doubt hated worst of all.

Tony shuddered at the thought of Uncle Gino, whom had been very cold to him these past few weeks, as though there were some resentment felt toward him. Gino Puglare, arrogant as destiny, was not the man you wanted to mess around with. He may have appeared to be old and frail, but he was still tough as nails and would wax you without fear or hesitation if he had to. Or wanted to.

Surely Gino couldn’t have known about...

No, of course not. How could he possibly have known about that? That was a month ago. And Tony couldn’t have taken that much money; nothing noticeable. It had all been a mistake, really. Tony had just gotten a little greedy that one time; it was a moment of weakness on his part, and one that he swore afterward that, while he had no way of safely giving back the money or confessing, it would never happen again.

He had told no one of what he had done; he hadn’t confided a soul of that terrible secret, as he hadn’t confessed of his secret fetish. So no one had any way of knowing about it except him.

Yet he had since then suspected that Uncle Gino had known anyway, or at least suspected something was going on, that Tony had done something wrong, something horrible not too long ago. Did he notice some of the missing money? Was that why he’d been so cold during these past few weeks? It was a scary thought.

Even scarier was Angela offering him any sexual favour he wanted, anything he could ever dream or imagine of, and insisting that it be tonight, that tonight was his night. Tonight she could make his wish come true, Tony thought.

Even if it is the last one I’m ever gonna get.

They’d met when they were sixteen, in the back of Chris’s car (well, it wasn’t strictly Chris’s car, but he’d been stealing cars before he could see over the dash). When he saw her sprawled in the back, he’d recognised a twin insatiable soul. Born of a mother who never had any milk, meat or money, she scavenged quarters to buy huge Italian loaves from Checosa’s- sourdough bread, which they never adulterated with butter, weighed down with the complications of knives. Tony and Ange tore at the bread in the too-hot sun, the Chevy’s sky-blue paint vibrating and shimmering with the endless music on the radio. It had to be loud- Angela wanted the music inside her.

It had taken a while for them to become lovers. She’d admired his balls- not literally, though she would do that later, cupping their weight in her palm with the utmost tenderness. She’d liked his cazzis, the brazen way he’d pursued her; ‘Hell,’ she’d overheard him saying to Chris, ‘she can only say no.’

And she had. Again and again. She got into teasing him, plying him with her uncle’s headfucking Italian liquors, homebrewed peach brandy and grappa, Molotov cocktails of fermented fruit that had him slobberingly drunk with a diamond-cutting hard-on. They’d stay up for hours, her stripping off slow and him getting hungry as she sat in her short skirts, legs just open enough, sucking on a cigarette in the filthiest way she could think of. She loved it. She made his eyes focus- as well as they could- on her fingers, undoing the buttons of her shirt, swinging her hips like she was dancing as she got up to get him another drink. She was a sadist. I could be Gino, she’d thought. I’m even starting to think like him. He’d start grinding his teeth, staring at her as she tossed her hair and licked her lips, waiting for her to put him out of his misery.

But in the end, he had won something from her. A bitter victory.

They stared at each other. Stalemate, her eyes challenging him; There must be something.

Then something happened- who knew what? A little pollen in the air, the smell of Tony’s aftershave, an errant drop of water from the pool trickling down the side of her sculptured nose- but suddenly she bent over, hands clasped to her nose in urgency, as she let loose with a beautifully unforced, rounded, ‘ahhTSCHOOO!’

He closed his eyes for a moment. ‘Salute.’

She sniffed. ‘Thanks...so, what is it? What do you want?’

He cleared his throat. ‘You promise not to tell?’

Her eyes were fixed on a point over his shoulder. He wished she’d look at him.

‘I promise. So what is it, Tony?’ inquired Angela. ‘What is your deepest, darkest fantasy, your most secret sexual desire?’

‘There is something,’ Puglare confirmed. ‘A fetish I have...somethin’ I have had all my life.’

‘What is it?’ asked Angela, her attention solely on Tony and what he was about to say.

But he could say no more. Admitting that he had a fetish was one thing, but telling her exactly what that fetish was would be something else entirely, and he just couldn’t allow himself to do it. She would think it silly. She would laugh at him, laugh right in his face, as would the others in his crime family if they knew. Or maybe she wouldn’t laugh in his face, but would tell whoever would listen, either to share with them the joke that was his fetish or because she would see nothing wrong with telling them. It wasn’t her fetish, after all. She had nothing to lose.

‘So what is it, Tony?’

‘Nothin’...forget about it, it’s stupid.’

‘Yeah, right. C’mon, Tony, tell me,’ she pleaded with a child-like curiosity.

Amazing, he thought. He could kill with impunity, beat the living shit out of anyone who owed him or anyone else in the Puglare Crime Family money and couldn’t pay up. He could smuggle drugs and other illegal contraband anywhere he wanted throughout the country. On the mafia, he could do all those things and more (even steal a small sum of money from his Uncle Gino during a moment of weakness when he was just too damn greedy for his own good). And yet he couldn’t tell his own girlfriend his secret fetish.

‘Come on, Tony, I won’t tell anyone. I promise!’

Angela had never known what human secrets- particularly sexual ones- were meant to satisfy. Just curiosity, or something deeper? She’d had more than one pouting, half-dressed man say to her, ‘You give so little.’ ‘You never volunteer information.’ As if they were on the right side of a black-and-white 1940s-movie desk shining light into her eyes and offering her a cigarette.

 ‘You promise you won’t laugh if I tell you?’

‘Yeah, promise.’

He bent his head down, blushing as he told here. ‘I have a...a sneezing fetish.’

And of course, she did laugh, but not maliciously; just a few amiable giggles.

‘Really? Wow! That is so cute!’ she exclaimed.

‘You...you think so?’ asked Tony, shocked that he would get such a positive reaction from her. He expected her to think it silly, to not want anything to do with it, or to make fun of him for it.

The fetish itself he had always met with a mixed array of emotions. On the one hand, it seemed out of place; it didn’t run in any way consistent with the rest of his personality. It was also rather interesting in a psychological sense, had he been much of an expert in psychology, which he wasn’t. He just found it strange that he would be turned on by something as simple as a beautiful woman (Angela, for instance) sneezing, something which, normal people would not place any significance on whatsoever. They might say ‘bless you,’ but that would be all.

But for him, it was something much more than that. It had started, he always thought, in Catholic school, when he’d sat next to a girl called Lisa Pisaro. The whole class had noticed the way that Lisa sneezed. Who couldn’t? During one of the long, tortured cold-seasons that they always went through during the winter, they’d found that while most of them still had the soft, squeaky sneezes of little kids, Lisa Pisaro- tiny, unassuming Lisa- had a sneeze like an explosive shell, huge, violent and declamatory. Naturally, the nuns always assumed she was putting it on, and even on the rare occasions that one of poor Lisa’s uncontrollable, exaggerated-sounding sneezes wasn’t met with a volley of hysterical giggles from the rest of the class, the fascist penguins would often scream at her, reducing her to tears. Because she was a proud little thing, she’d always pretend that she really was exaggerating her sneezes- to the rest of them, it was a put-on, a boredom-reducing trick, something she’d perfected just for their amusement.

Tony knew better. He’d watch her fighting valiantly not to bring down the wrath of the nuns on her, scrunching her face, pinching her nose- but no one else noticed. He’d watch Lisa burying her head in her hanky- the girls were all issued with white lacy handkerchiefs, which they had to monogram with their name-saint’s initials. That useless scrap of lace branded with Lisa’s sprawling red-thread cross-stitch was like a red flag to the seven-year-old Tony- a warning of something wonderful to come in those long, grey lessons, and he was sure that if such things were still around him, he’d get aroused at the sight of one. At the time, he didn’t fully understand his feelings, but he took the opportunity to anatomise every detail of her sneezes- the flaring and pinkening of her nostrils, the moistness at their edges, the tiny twitches that altered the surface of her innocent-looking button nose- and he knew, when he stole glances at her, how far along she was, how much she had to explode.

He wanted her to sneeze, but he dreaded it, too. He hated it when the nuns made her cry. He always acted up to take the focus off her, and out in the corridor I’d slouch against the wall, raging. If there really was such a thing as Mafioso blood, it flooded his heart then. His whole being cried out for revenge, his own particular brand of wild justice. But all he did to assuage his impotent anger was jump up at the little window in the door and make monkey faces, which wasn’t entirely satisfactory.

 It was something that, at the age of fourteen or around there, he had assumed he would eventually grow out of as he got older, and forget about completely. He was twenty-three now, and of course he hadn’t grown out of it at all; if anything, the fetish had only intensified. He thought of it as an abnormality, yet a part of him yearned to keep the fetish, enjoyed having it and regarded it as a blessing. And despite the other part of him that regarded it as a sexual deformity and something that set him apart from everyone else in the world even if it always had been kept a secret, he figured that if someone ever were to offer him a cure for it, he would most likely reject it with little or no hesitation.

And now Angela was in on it as well.

He feared telling her at first, but now was glad he had done so. For she not only had reacted a hell of a lot better than he would have expected her to, but he now felt closer to her than he ever had before. He had shared his most intimate secret, and she had reacted well; the bond between them was strengthened now, she was willing to indulge him, and now he was more in love with her than ever.

‘A cute fetish,’ she said again, sighing, ‘but rather difficult to indulge.’

‘What do you mean?’ he stared hopefully into the face hovering barely an inch from his, the sanded-marble skin, the full lips, glossy with wine and the remainder of Angela’s lipstick, the wicked lights in those dark eyes.

He swallowed hard, his dry throat protesting as she did so, loving and fearing the way Angela was looking at him. She had that look that came over her in bars when she cast her hungry eyes over everybody she saw, running the heat of her gaze over their flesh and sometimes- often- planting in them that delicate little charm of hers, a hardened drop of heart’s-blood.

‘Well, I don’t have a cold right now, and my allergies are never a problem in July.’ She rested her chin on her hand, pouting.


‘Wait a minute!’ she exclaimed excitedly, that mischievous grin returning on her face. ‘Swimming pools make me sneeze!’

She went under water once more, swimming gracefully, a thing of beauty taking to the water like a fish and Tony stood mesmerized by her grace and beauty, watching fixedly in great anticipation for an oncoming sneeze that he knew was going to happen. This is the night, he thought, this is the night when all my dreams and fantasies come true.

Angela brought her head up above the water; they had been swimming for a good five or ten minutes by now, and Angela had informed him that that was about how long it would take for her to start sneezing. She then leapt forward once more, her arms cycling through the water counterclockwise, her face turning to her left just long enough and enough above water to take down a gulp of water before she was under again. And then she appeared to vanish within the murky waters of the pool, hidden under somewhere. Tony felt something past him abruptly, soft flesh caressing against his leg, and he knew it was Angela.

Her head emerged from the waters in front of him, a devilish grin on her face as she crept toward Tony, her nostrils beginning to twitch, and Tony knew what was coming next. Angela’s eyes squeezed shut as she leapt toward Tony, arms squeezing him tightly, hugging against him and he embraced her, holding her close to his chest as she thrust her head forward and sneezed: ‘HA-ESSCHOOO!’ spraying a fine mist in his face, and he felt his member stiffen almost immediately.

‘Salute,’ he said. They kissed.

10.00 p.m, New Jersey Turnpike

Slipping the car into fourth, Gino Puglare winced as he choked down the bile in the back of his throat. Tony was killing him, he thought bitterly. If it hadn’t been for his nephew, he wouldn’t have this permanent agita. He’d given that kid everything, and Tony had thrown it all back in his face without even thinking- not a mistake that Gino would ever have made. He’d never been quite so young, dumb and full of cum as Tony. When he thought about it, he’d never really been young at all. He’d been a soldier as long as he could remember. The codes of his family were the only things precious to him. Without them, there would be anarchy.

When this was over, things would be as they were. He’d have what he deserved. Maybe not what he wanted, but what he was entitled to.

Except Angela. Her sex sweet as an apricot. Her red bull’s-eye lips. Her eyes.

The truth was, the little whore didn’t want him any more. He’d loved her even at sixteen tottering along on her fuck-me shoes with her ropes of crucifixes, not that she’d ever meant a prayer she’d said. The other girls sweet-talked him, got on their knees for him, made him pastries and gave him lapdances. Angela was a professional, and a bitch. When she opened her sex-coloured lips to him, a stream of snakes would pour out, hissing venom. He couldn’t live without it.

Was she someone different with Tony, cosy and warm and ready to do what he wanted?

Take her, Tony. Grasp her crucifix between your teeth and yank it away. Claim her coral breasts for your own. Be her Toreador, her Prince Charming, her Romeo, her Man. Haunt her sexual fantasies. Fuck her out and tie her up and make fun of her. Flaunt last night’s love sessions in the strip club. Steal her panties and let Chris and Vic sniff them. It’s what you want.

And in spite of all her lies, she wanted it too. Gino could tell by the glow in those lovely dark eyes; Angela was in heat, like iron roasted over a forge to a bright, white-hot sunburst, bright as sun on snow, made beautiful with love, her skin like glowing marble. Shining while he grew dark and dull, a thing of the past, silently holding up his end of the deal, praying his soldiers would maintain omerta after he was gone. Tony wouldn’t. Hadn’t. A pity; if he’d known for sure that they’d make Tony boss after him, he might even have considered telling Angela to marry him, so long as she’d still come when he called- or he’d still come when she called, and she’d call often, like she had before.

Better in a way that it hadn’t worked out; the media would have loved them. But tonight, they could do what they wanted for the last time. You be King, Tony, and she will be Queen. Just leave me out of the game for now.

Gino knew better, though. They didn’t call him ‘Il Duce,’ for nothing.

There was no way out of the game.

9. 55 pm, Nascosto Ranch

He took the gold crucifix that hung between her heavy breasts into his mouth, caressing its warm metal with his lips, overwhelming her with desire as she watched his full, expressive mouth work away at it. Lust swept him like the crash of a lava-hot wave, the burning aftermath running in teasing little trickles all over his body like the droplets of water beading Angela’s breasts.

She was still sneezing, her breasts shaking voluptuously with each explosion, ‘EhTISSCCHOO! Huh-eh-eh-ehTUSSCHEWW!’ The sneezes were smaller, wetter, but just as forceful.’Huh-huh!- huh- UhTISSCHOOOO!’

Then her breasts shook again with a sudden current of nervous laughter, her skin rippling in the poolside light like a golden underwater fish. ‘Maddon,’ she exclaimed delightedly. ‘I just remembered somethin’.’

He fought the desire to bury his head in her breasts. ‘What?’ he asked impatiently.

‘That one time I had a cold...’ she was laughing now, her voice distorted with amusement.

He laughed nervously. ‘Va fa Napole, Angela. Not fair.’

‘Be nice, you fuckin’ pervert.’ He writhed against her laughing, dripping-wet body, hands tight around her waist as he threatened to duck her.

‘That was the first time!’ she yelled triumphantly. ‘You were gettin’ off...oh my God!’

Something painful, powerful welled up in his chest as he felt the wet, yielding sweetness of Angela’s body, so fragile in his killer’s hands. Yet she didn’t fear him. Never had.

‘What can I do to make you cry?’ he asked. He didn’t know why.

She stared back at him, her dark eyes suddenly like bullets. ‘Nothin’.'

That first time...damn. She’d met him at the door in a black silk kimono that barely contained her voluptuous curves, a Kleenex pressed to her deliciously red nose, and stuffily told him to go fuck himself- or, preferably, someone else. It had taken all his charm and the promise of a back rub to get him invited in, and even then she’d been her usual rude, tough-as-nails self, cursing and sneezing violently and eventually, gloriously, giving in.

He’d let his hands stray as he massaged her, and she lay still- he was sweating in her hot, cramped bedroom, but she stayed silent until her breaths turned into sighs turned into rough, tearing gasps of pleasure. Their foreplay was complete silence in a hungry stillness, so every breath, every sigh, every shiver was detectable in that painfully hot, holy, sepulchre of a room, nothing but a dank box in which they grew, every pore of their bodies magnified, more flesh to become familiar with. Angela had always clicked her tongue when he cursed, but as he fondled her sweaty, feverish body she was swearing as gleefully as though Tarantino had written her dialogue. He ran his hands down skin that gave beneath his fingers like warm clay, stroking that princess body until she gave in to him.

Groaning softly, a light sweat breaking out on her skin in the sultry, humid air, she pulled him down into the tangled web of her dark bed, and then into her, with a soft, ‘ohhh,’ that came from somewhere inside her, as deep as he was. In the darkness, they lost each other and themselves, their limbs a Chinese puzzle, fitting so perfectly they could scarcely bear to destroy the pattern they had created. And now he was aching, starving for her, wanting to roll right up inside her, blind himself with her loveliness, spend eternity fucking her...

She pulled away first. ‘Calm down, you. I’m goin’ for a dip.’

Lit like Venus from the light she stood proudly in, rising from the waves of the water and the dark longings that had brought them there, Angela posed for a moment, for his benefit, one hand on an hourglass hip, the nipples of her generous breasts erect with the chill and arousal. Then she ducked down into the water.

Like naughty children hiding, relishing the peace that fantasy brings, they were safer than they had ever felt. He ducked down with her, blindly finding her mouth under the water, his fingers tangling in the weeds of her floating hair, kissing, feeling her struggle against the oncoming sneeze, unable to breathe at all, holding her breath, convulsing violently against him like she was having the mother of all orgasms. He felt himself shivering too, water lapping at his closed eyes, totally naked and vulnerable.

They arose at the same time, gasping and shaking water from their faces, as she exploded into three wet, helpless sneezes that wrenched powerfully from her trembling body, ‘haACHOO! AHTSCHOOO! AHHTSHEOOO!’

He smiled with satisfaction. ‘You like that, Ange? Romeo an’ Juliet, no?’

She sniffed and gave him a dirty look, swiping her hand under her nose. ‘Not quite.’

Tony laughed, thrilled that he had made her sneeze. He didn’t stop to think what else she could’ve meant by that.

‘Ohh…’ she sniffed, ‘that was’d it…’

‘You’re sure?’

Angela answered by cupping her hands over her mouth and nose. The ensuing sneezes came fast, and so incredibly strong that they seemed to force her forward- she hunched down as she tried to contain them, but they exploded violently out of her, barely contained by her stiffly held hands.

‘ah..ahh...aahh...AHHH...haaSHOO! Ah-ah-ahh-HAASHOO! HAA-SHOO! Haaah-HAA-haASHOO!’

‘Bless you,’ said Tony, his voice sounding like a whisper after a thunderclap.

Angela wasn’t finished- she immediately made a warding-off gesture with her hands, pantomiming another big sneeze coming on. She tilted her head back, breathing ragged, nostrils flaring comically. She held one hand in front of her nose in a loose fist, and sneezed... ‘HAESSHHHOOOO!’ with her head ducking violently and involuntarily.

He loved watching her lose control. He drew her close, patted her back as though she were a child as she sneezed twice, wetly and powerfully, against his shoulder, and then gently placed his hand between her legs, feeling fine hair waving like underwater grass against his palm, and then hot, wet, parted flesh.

‘Oh, tesoro,’ she breathed, and then her soft voice fractured into helpless little gasps. ‘ah…ahhh…hahaahh!-AHTSCHOOO!’…oh. Oh God…haTSHOOOO!…oh please, please…’ she stifled a sneeze against his damp, well-muscled shoulder, ‘AHHttssSCHmmm!’

He stroked her, blessed her, and kissed her damp skin. A fierce, protective love suffused him. He could kill in her name, and it would be worth it. Tony loved her so much like this, and there was so much delight in what he saw and felt, that he thought he would need years to stop and appreciate it, yet he was possessed by a frantic haste.

She ran her fingers down his vertebrae, fighting the urge to press them to her nose, stem back the volume and urgency of her sneezes. Her eyes were running now, and she felt the prickly warmth of her tears against her cool skin, an irritation that sent her off into a long, teasing buildup as the tickle seemed to seep right through her skin, her eyes, to the very upper reaches of her nose, and it took a long, long time to explode.

‘haaahhh…hahhhh…aHHH..haAHHH…AAH- AH- Ah- AHTSCHOOOOOOOO!’

He stroked her tight, satiny labia and she felt that inevitable just-stepped-out-of-a-lift-shaft feeling zooming down to her lower belly, wetness rushing out in response. He felt the heat on his fingers and smiled greedily, slowly dipping in a thick, forceful fingertip, then another, then another…

She was still speaking, or trying to, but her breathing was so ragged with the currents of pleasure and sneezes that the words were barely comprehensible.


Angela knew, somewhere deep inside her, that he had long been imagining her like this, replaying his hazy memories of the first time they’d made love, relishing her helplessness now. She knew it was almost too much for him- she could feel him struggling in sympathy with her and dug her fingernails into his back. No, she wanted to say. Show me no mercy. Instead, she sneezed again, a rich, wet ‘haaTSCHEEEEEW!’ which almost sent him over the edge.

Leaning against the side of the pool, she felt her body arch independently toward him, leaning rhythmically into him, imploring his attention. The heat of his tongue, licking and flickering hot over her chilly, damp skin, sucking and biting at her nipples, licking the contours of her neck, made her start to sigh and shudder in long, rhythmic movements, arching quicker and stronger against him as she sneezed helplessly, the sneezes getting slighter and shorter now as though her nose was getting tired with the sheer effort of expelling the constant tickles. Borne completely away on her passion, she felt a knot of pressure, of pure explosive pleasure, rising in her chest, into her throat, and then,

‘haAAAHHHH! HuhISHHHOO! Ahhhhhhhhh…hahhh…oh oh ohAAAAHTISSSSHOOOO!…ohhhhh.’

Angela felt no pain until later. It was lost in the waves of burning pleasure that crudely filled her. All those sensations, the last of the sun, the sweetness, burned her as her muscles seized, relaxed, rejoiced as sweat and come soaked her inside and out.

He was laughing, overjoyed at how much pleasure they’d brought each other.

‘Salute,’ he whispered again and kissed her just under her ear. ‘You were beautiful, Ange.’

She was glad of the cool water- the heat of Tony’s body made her sweat like she had just broken a fever, and the night was so hot she could hardly stand it. He was stifling her, but she wanted to cling on. Sweat slithered between her breasts, smouldering like the fire that was slowly draining out of her blood, leaving with it the sadness and a knot in her throat.

She had to regain control somehow.

He looked at her again, holding her at arm’s length and faltering when he got to her unshielded dark gaze. In her adolescence, she’d been beautiful because of her edges- now as a woman, she was beautiful because of their absence, mellowed and rounded out, her coarse adolescent skin now marble-sanded, her eyes no longer those of a hungry cat but beautifully, post-coitally satisfied. She still had the same way of looking out under her lashes that Tony had teased her about when they were teens. He’d once had a pretty good impression of her ‘come to bed,’ stare, which he’d always trot out when she was firing up for one of her operatic prima-donna sulks, to make her erupt with that cackling, whorish neighbourhood-witch laugh that made her schoolgirl friends shudder. Even then, she’d been distinctly foreign, wildly glamorous, with her sooty eyes and aura of smoke and gypsies. When they’d got wasted together in cold cars at night,  he’d huddled as close to her bundled-up body as he could, ostensibly because she was an ever-burning core of heat and really because he loved to smell her, as close as he could get to the electrifying touch of her body, enveloped in the metallic tang of her breath, a reminder of her essential humanity. That scent made him forgive her for everything; sugar and spice, with something hard, hot and human at its core, sweaty and sultry beneath the cold silk of her perfume.

‘Let’s get out,’ she said. ‘Have a drink. I got wine.’

‘But the pool...’

She smiled. ‘There are other things that make me sneeze, caro. And I want to have you properly.’

Her eyes were prickling with unexplained acid-hot tears. The trees surrounding the pool rustled in a slight breeze, scented with the heavy perfume of high summer, roses dripping with heavenly scent in the burning night.

He dried her off with unbelievable tenderness- more like a full body massage. He started with Angela’s face and hair, covering both with kisses as she obediently turned like a model being photographed, goose pimples rising on her slowly cooling limbs, her nipples drawing up taut and engorged with blood.


He gently flicked the nipple of her right breast with a light, teasing little touch that made her rich sex-heat rise from her, pungent and addictive. It seemed that their strange little encounter left her hotter than she let on.

‘A little.’

‘That won’t do...let me warm you up.’ He took her nipple in his mouth, starting a slow tongue-dance of teasing delight which had her biting her finger to stifle the noises of desire she couldn’t help but make. He resolved, before he was done with her, to make her scream.

He traced a line of leisurely kisses down her back, starting from the shell-like bones of her upper spine and ending by lingering sensually over the backs of her knees and her ankles, both of which he tongue-bathed like a cat. The scent of her sex was stronger than ever, her lips moist and wanting. If he explored between her thighs with a teasing little finger, he knew she’d be wet as pulp. If he slid his thigh between hers she’d slick him from knee to crotch. He held back.

‘You gonna dry me now?’

She raised an eyebrow, turning on her heel. ‘Dry yourself. I’m gonna go and get us a drink.’

Angela went into the kitchen, relieved to be away from him even just for a moment, and made up a tray- one bottle of Barolo, two glasses, a bowl of fat hothouse strawberries with cognac-flavoured cream and a half-full box of tissues.

She reapplied her makeup as Tony drank his wine; she wanted him to be drinking it in her bed, even with her vintage white lace linens, but she knew that was out of the question. Can a lover be also a fighter, she wondered, or doesn’t this tenderness apply to the ice-cold, high-riding bitch in the mirror, hair out of one bottle, nails out of another.

Lipstick is a defence. A weapon, too. There was something about lipstick that just did it for some men. It was like a brand of everything she was. Personally, she didn’t get off on the idea that the men who wanted her felt that way because they could shrink her entire essence down to a tube of scarlet wax, but that was part of the myth, and one she did occasionally use to my own advantage. At that point, lipstick was all she had. Curiously, it made her feel better. Blood on paper. Lipstick and the smooth whiteness of her face. All her nails stoplight-red. Claret staining in an absorbent cotton spill on Mama’s best embroidered tablecloth from Italy.

The wine was good, its darkness spiralling into her mouth like silk, resting for a moment like blood bit from a split lip. Tony lit a cigarette.

Transfixed, she watched his mouth making love to it, then the no-nonsense way he gulped the fiery liquid, and felt raw, fearful desire rise in her blood.


She wondered if his pupils were dilated from stoning, or whether his eyes really were as black as they seemed. She supposed they were; the whites of his eyes were bluish, like the nimbus of ink in the centre had leaked into milk.

‘You look better without makeup on,’ he said curtly. ‘Why’d you bother with that shit? You’re too beautiful.’

‘No such thing.’ She picked up her own brimming glass and clinked it with his. ‘Salute.’

He nodded meditatively, eating her up with his eyes.

The wine scorched her throat. It was dark, deep and full as her fringed eyes in the liquid’s reflection. She was burning with alcohol and heat. Wordlessly, she held a cream-covered strawberry to his lips, watched him bite cleanly into the heart of the soft fruit, tongue the rest from her fingers with an expertise that made her shiver involuntarily. He saw her shiver- she couldn’t hide anything from him, not a single goose-bump on her taut, pool-chilled flesh, and smiled voraciously as he stubbed his cigarette out.

To regain a little of her power over him, she reached for the box of tissues, plucked one out, rolled it into a wickedly sharp little point and began to probe the inside of her nose with it.

He watched as silently as the moon above them, and as expressionlessly.

‘I do this sometimes,’ she said, her voice slightly hushed and starting to soften around the edges. ‘Whenever I get allergy attacks, sometimes they won’t come out at first...so I just get a tissue and give my nose a bit of a tickle...ohhh!’

It only took a minute for her face to contort. The rest of her remained picture-perfect; sleek magazine hair hanging in dark wings round her face, Playboy body, apricot-smooth sex, the lips drawn tautly back as she sat with her legs apart, revealing a glimpse of her clit like a deep pink pearl. As she moved the tissue round and round methodically, her full, glossy red lips dropped open. He stared at her hungrily- Angela, bitchy bad-girl Angela, helpless and waiting.

‘Ohhh,’ she breathed, her voice constricted, soft as a flutter of wind. ‘m-my nose is tihhh...uhhh...tickling...'

It was- nowhere near enough to push her over the edge, though. It felt as though she’d inhaled a single strand of cat-fur, one kernel of black pepper, itching and burning up her nose as though she’d never be able to sneeze it out.

Her dark eyes slitted, making her look positively Asiatic, lips parting like rose-petals to reveal the edges of her teeth.  A pronounced crease had appeared between her brows as they arched higher up her forehead- even the delicate flesh of her fallen eyelids looked creased.


She allowed her twinging nostrils to flare even wider, feeling the burn of Tony’s gaze on her already heat-flushed cheek. Struggling to open her eyes, she saw Tony’s own eyes fixed on her like black mirrors, throwing back tiny reflections of a distorted, contorted face, twisted with the urge to sneeze.

 Watching the agony on her own face sent her right over the edge, bending her double as she struggled to catch the sneeze in her cupped hands. ‘ha-ASHHHOOOOOO!’

Tony, already hard, watched her, entranced at the loss of her power. ‘You don’t have to do this, Ange.’

‘I know,’ she said simply, reached for another tissue and blew her nose. ‘Feels good.’

It was sheer defiance- her eyes were running, and her nose was already a little red at the tip, but she reached back in for another tissue, rolling it like a joint between her fingers and inserting it, rubbing it against the inflamed linings of her nose. Already plagued with the remains of a tickle, she immediately exploded, ‘heeerraaASHHHOO!’ then turned to him, laughed shamefacedly, rubbed her nose and began to tickle it again.

This time it took longer to come. Almost immediately, Angela’s eyes began to stream in protest to the new, insistent irritation in her nose and her breathing became deep and throaty, her mouth falling slackly open, every iota of her energy concentrated on forcing out the stuck, stubborn sneeze. She forced her eyes open as far as she could so they shone out at Tony under her lowered lashes like crooked black scimitars as she thrust the tissue’s point in further. Unashamedly, he stared back.

‘hahhh,’ she breathed hoarsely. ‘aAHaaahhh...’

Her lower lip dropped a fraction and her eyes fell, now entirely closed as though in prayer. Her face was helpless, accepting, as she waited. It didn’t come, and she jabbed the tissue’s point right into her nose, desperate for relief. Her reaction was pronounced and immediate; her whole body tensed and her nostrils stretched to their furthest point. Her fingers shot up to her nose...but the sneeze stayed stuck.

‘Hahhh...uhyheahhh...hAHHH...oh god...’

She gently vibrated the tissue inside her nostril, then began to work it round as though drilling with it, describing smaller and smaller circles, thrusting higher and higher until her hoarse, high-pitched gasps were so desperate he could scarcely stand to watch her.

‘Ange, you don’t have to-’

She laughed, watery-eyed. ‘Oh, Tony, I do...I...I have to sneeze!'

He swallowed hard. ‘I know...'

‘No you don’t...you don’t know how bad-haAAAHHH...’ Angela’s frown deepened as she concentrated, tears of irritation now streaming down her flushed cheeks. ‘Ihh...I thihk ihd’s cubbig...’

And it did. Her mouth fell wide open like the hinged jaw of a ventriloquist’s dummy, her head reared right back, her eyelids became tiny, crimped lines swallowed by the urge that transfigured her face.

Openly, Tony stared. She was beautiful.

Angela’s mouth formed into a shout and it came, bursting through her mouth, her nose, the fragile barriers of her cupped hands, with a wet, congested sound and a fine spray from her nose and mouth. ‘HahTSSHHEEOOOOO!’

And Tony kissed her. His hair brushed her damp, salt-tenderized cheek and his shaft, semi-hard, rubbed against her lower belly. Her mouth tasted intoxicating- wine, smoke and the rich sweet gum of her lipstick. Divested of her perfume, her natural scent was an opulent sandalwood fog enveloping them both, resting like a mist on her brown flesh, her thick sable-black hair.

But the tickle in her nose hadn’t gone- if anything, it was even worse. Knowing a sneeze was inevitable, she made harsh, pleading little noises in the back of her throat, placed her hands on Tony’s muscular shoulders, tried to push him away, but Tony was even stronger than the tickly feeling in her nose. She felt his hands holding hers down, his tongue fencing skilfully with hers, her eyes watering and her breath hitching with two very different needs.

Abruptly, Tony stopped kissing her, and Angela almost cried out with the frustration and fear of it all. Instead she ducked her head low, hiding her scarlet face in her hands, and exploded with a big, wet sneeze. ‘AHTSHEEEWWW!’

The tissue forgotten now, a useless damp sword in her lap, she still couldn’t stop sneezing. Again and again her head reared back, her face transfigured with anticipation, her nostrils flaring and creases appearing in her nose, lashes fluttering in little dark spasms, squinching up tight, mouth yawning wide, ‘haASHEEEW! AhTSCHOO! AhCHOOO!’

One last one. Her upper lip shifted up towards her flared nostrils, mouth wide and soft with a soundless ‘haaah,’ eyes squeezed to nothing, lower lip twitching, desperation scrawled all over her face, brows furrowed, mouth cartoon-wide as her head reared back, her breasts rising as though to follow as her shoulders hunched up;


It hit in a fraction of a second, ‘ISSSHHHOOOOO!’ her face in an indescribable contorted grimace as the sneeze possessed her face like a demon, so forceful that she snapped forward, her mane of hair obscuring her face.

‘Damn,’ she said, sniffing, ‘that felt good.’

He watched her drinking, a proud exclamation point jutting up between his thighs. He wanted to savour her flesh, bite into that white skin, smooth and thick as cream, roll the taste of Angela around his mouth and let it slip down his throat, which had grown scarlet and bitter with acid burgundy and lust.

‘Lie down,’ he said softly.

She obeyed without question, then gasped as he poured the remnants of the bottle all over her, lukewarm liquid stinging her open eyes, running into her nose, her parted lips, down her breasts and belly, stinging again as it reached her Venus mound, a burning warmth, each trail of liquid from the bottle leading to a corresponding strand of wetness down below.

He let wine drip slowly onto her bare chest, her pure, perfect white alabaster breasts with faint blue veins tracing them, the flatness of her breastbone, the wide cleanness of her paper-thin skin. She shivered as the wine splashed down, rolling in sinister droplets from her breasts and down her sides, the clearly defined wishbones of her rib cage, her perfect lips hanging slackly open as she shook with pleasure.

Tony climbed on top of her and kissed her face, her breasts, pulling hungrily at the nipples with his lips. Then he ran his hands up the inside of her legs, revelling in their paler skin, their softness, kissing her from the flatness of her belly to the pink swell of her divided flesh, untanned and baby-smooth, lips drawn back like little wings allowing him immediate and gratifying access to her clit. He gave it a cursory lick just to feel her writhing helplessly beneath him, and then moved back up to her mouth, making sure she tasted her own sweet wetness on his lips.

He smiled down at her, and reached again for the tissues. ‘You ready?’

She nodded meekly and held her head back like a child waiting for a treat. He rolled up another tissue and delicately began to trace her nostrils, which she’d already flared a little, instinctively. Her breathing came fast and shallow as she felt the sneeze brewing somewhere deep, deep inside her, right down in her chest.

He shuddered with pleasure as he felt her hot breaths come hard and fast, knowing that it wasn’t just the mounting tide of arousal that made her breathe that way.

‘Talk,’ he demanded, as he continued to tickle her.

‘IAAAHHHH…’ was all she could manage. She shook her head frantically, gesturing that she wanted the tissue removed; the damage had been done to her sensitive nose already. He obliged.

‘hahhh…oohhhh…oh, that felt so weird!…’

Before she could move, he locked his arms tightly around her back, pinning her in place, her arms to her sides.

‘Tony, I…’

‘Mm?’ he tongued the soft spot at her throat, greedily watching her face contort.

Angela heaved a frustrated sigh. ‘Tony, my... ah...aaahh  my nose tickles…’

An electric shock rippled through him as he felt himself begin to harden. To hear her warn him that way, her voice so soft and constricted, hear her admit her helplessness…to be so close to that powerful jungle-cat body as he heaved away helplessly turned him weak, conscious of nothing but how fucking horny he was. Gino seemed a million miles away. There was only him and Angela; and her beautiful, sensitive, sneezy nose.

‘Tony, I’m not kidding.’ She sniffed heavily. ‘I really have to sneeze…let me have my hands back!’

‘Ah-ah. Stay right where you are. If you don’t want to sneeze all over me, just hold it in.

‘I can’t!’ she practically moaned, her face scrunching up comically.

He held her in a casual half embrace as she sniffled and heaved in breath, feeling, through the tension, the trembling in her strong body, what a big sneeze she was fighting.

She looked right into his eyes and herself in those dark surfaces, tasting in her mouth the bloom of night and smoke and alcohol. As she looked, she felt her eyes begin to grow hot and runny as a truly monstrous tickle blossomed in her nose- it was almost as though he was willing it to come. Tony, hypnotised, watched the tortured dilation of Angela’s pupils as the tickle intensified, but the sneeze wouldn’t come.

Gasping shallowly, shuddering with the intensity of the sneeze, she tried to warn him.

‘Tony...I... hah... I need to... hah... need to snuh... snuheeze...I...Iaaahhh...’ her head reared back wonderfully, exposing the stretched column of her waiting throat. ‘I’m gonna-aaahhh-hhhaaaAAA-’

Just before she blew, he quickly held his finger beneath her immensely flared nostrils, blocking the sneeze entirely.


She froze in surprise, head jolting back, clearly feeling the intensity of the need trickle away. Sniffling, she stared at him with watery, wounded-looking eyes and muttered, ‘Thanks.’ She scrunched up her nose again and sniffed, then furiously rubbed at it with her clenched fingers.

‘Damn, it still tickles!’

He stared at her, dizzy with lust, and only just managed to croak from the bed of his dry throat,

‘Hold it back.’

He lay on top of her, feeling the vibrations of need course through her as she reluctantly obeyed him. She held back, and so did he, relishing the moment of anticipation. Even through the mist of her discomfort she desperately wanted his fingers, first teasing her nipples awake with one touch, then sliding down the stark valley of her ribs, over her jutting hipbones and the plane of her belly, then teasing softly, feeling the heat of her blood swoop down to her cunt in response, feel him slowly building up a rhythm in her, feeling the tempo increase, feeling herself melt and explode. This little ritual with its tiny gradations of torture and restraint felt to Angela like a miniaturised version of sex.

Tony laughed, feeling high and dizzy, intoxicated by her warmth, her scent, and her attempts to hold back.

Her face contorted dramatically and her nose began to wriggle and twitch of its own accord, ominously soft, quick little intakes of breath making her breasts shake and shimmy as though mirroring the motion. Her eyes fluttered shut, but she took in a deep shuddery breath, held it, and kept her eyes tightly squeezed shut until she could speak again, her voice shaking,

‘I… I really haaa…huh…have to sneeze, Tony!’

‘I can tell.’

He gently placed a finger under her nose, which helped a little. She snuffled, swallowed, closed her eyes and got the urge under control for a moment, then stared at him gravely, concentrating, though her nostrils flared with the rhythmic heave of a pair of bellows against his finger and he feel her chest rise against his elbow. She looks powerless and vulnerable, her watery, waiting eyes and contorting face at odds with her beauty, her wildness, her coiled-spring strength.

‘Let go of me,’ she said, sounding as if that wasn’t what she meant to say at all.


She was practically shuddering with the effort, but he honestly didn’t think she had the strength for this particular battle. The moment she let her guard down, she was going to blow.

Her head began to rear back. He watched her, mesmerised, loving the way that the sneezy feelings in her nose controlled her entirely.


She shook against him like a woman trying to contain an earthquake.


No sneeze, not even hers, can be that big- he thought. But Angela’s sneezes were always a lot more violent when she’d tried to dam them back. Her full, delicately shaped lips parted like petals as she readied herself.


Prodigious quantities of spray exploded out of her, dampening his neck as her head jolted forward, like strange kisses.

‘Bless you,’ he said, when he could speak again. ‘Bad girl.’

She laughed throatily, raising watery dark eyes to his. ‘Thank you. I needed that.’ She smiled coquettishly. ‘You gonna have to punish me now?’

‘Oh no. You get a reward for that.’ He reached for a strawberry and fed it to her, marvelling at the hungry pull of her lips. She was- had always been- the most insatiable woman he knew.

Her elusive perfume was so strong as he licked broad stripes of scarlet stinging alcohol down the sloping bones of her strong, pale neck, stained her sheer skin with red flowers of love bites and wine, turned her from the remote, icy underworld madonna to a silent, receptive beauty, all for him.

Trembling like a novice, he let his tongue and lips, bittersweet with savoury wine, immerse her nipples as he sucked on them like the cool, hard strawberries, then trailed the cream-drenched fruit across her flesh, rubbing their abrasive chill against her tight nipples and then feeding them into her open, hungry mouth. As she swallowed, he reached between her legs, finding her hot and simply running wetness.

He placed his mouth momentarily against her cunt, lips moving as though whispering to it, his touch soft as a cloud, disturbing nothing even in her state of arousal.

‘Like that?’ he whispered, tongue fat with desire.

‘Oh, you know it…’

He touched her clitoris and she gasped with an instant rush of pleasure.

‘You’re ready,’ he said, trying to sound off-hand.

‘Tell me…’

Shivering, she arched her back with pleasure as his fingers entered her easily, plunging into her depths without resistance, saturated in hot smoothness. Both damp, tight-skinned and shivery, they kissed each other voraciously and Angela grew hot to the touch, sweaty, in a blaze of fever and lust. She groaned as his thumb brushed with a hard, practised expertise, her clit, which was hard and enlarged. She pressed her knuckles to her lips, staving off the urge to beg him to plunge right into her.

He liked to give her pleasure, and he liked to watch her try it on like a mink coat. She stared up at him, unblinking, giving into him. It was an unspoken covenant, that stare, her way of saying that she could rise up, shake him off, hurt him, if she chose to.

She did not choose to.

She chose instead that night to make him a gift of herself, let herself be taken. Her power was her gift to him.

In her left hand, Angela grasped the part of him which she so desperately wanted to feel inside her, opening her legs a little further for him as she guided him in, hardly daring to breathe in case he wanted to deny her this pleasure after everything- but the heat and hardness of what she held left her in no doubt that he needed it as much as she did.

She lifted her hips to meet his, sighing in anticipation and relief. He barely moved inside her, and she was grateful as she rested, feeling him, knowing he could set her coming in seconds. She lay there, luxuriously feeling herself on the edge of impalement, feeling him rolling around the edges of her. Filled with desire and happiness, she felt her breathing even out again, but he couldn’t wait- she felt him surging inside her, swelling so suddenly it felt as though their flesh had become fused. He was part of her now, rooted in her.

They fucked until they could hardly speak, soft and numb with sheer sexual exhaustion, for once without the rage and sadness they were used to, as full and satisfied and righteously fucked as anyone could possibly be. It wasn’t lovemaking. Not sex. It was fucking. Sordid and unspecific, energetic and wild. Dirty. Between them, they raised Hell that night.

Red wine, white cotton. His lust soaked into her, contaminated her, and she loved it. She knew she couldn’t bleach out these memories, rub out her desire with ice cubes. Probably because she didn’t want to. She had to remember her guilt.

She had to come. She knew that, felt it, but even as she did, last-minute thoughts assailed her. She wanted to have this moment forever, but the pleasure was impossible to sustain, to bear, though all its momentum seemed to be onwards. All things came to an end, but why this?

There were some men who could never make Angela come. When she knew this in advance, she’d bring herself to the brink, to the bare tingling edge of her orgasm, so that even the most inexpert of lovers- coupled with a quick trip into her mental banks of erotic fantasy material- could push her into ripples of ecstasy. Sometimes, she’d leave herself teetering on the brink for hours, whole days, until the building frustration and sheer saturation of her cunt sent her tumbling over into ecstatic bliss.

She could keep herself on the brink for as long as they wanted, but only when she came did she recognise herself, as though seeing herself in her lovers’ eyes even when they were both blind with effort and urge. Some women lost themselves when they came; Angela found herself. She felt as though she could reach out her hands, and there she’d be- hey, girl, what happened to you?

Gino was right. She was a whore, no more, no less. If she wasn’t so desperate to preserve her own precious lily-white hide, then she could have tried to get Tony out of this mess. He was the only one she’d surrender her one-woman world for…

She heard herself crying out, as though from a distant room.

What could she do? Run? Yeah, right. Even the Witness Protection Programme was as open as an all-night store, as far as Gino was concerned. The two of them would be out in the wind, waiting to die. She couldn’t make herself responsible for Tony’s half-assed crime.

But she knew she was; he was up to the hilt in her, breathing heavily, shaking with pleasure, warm, alive, oh fuck, FUCK...

A bloom of redness welled up against her eyelids, blossoming in a soft explosion as she felt him spasm against her, felt all his pent-up force and rage tearing through her as they came in unison under the useless moon.

She dug her nails into his back. Blood.

Tony made some harsh, incomprehensible sounds into her shoulder. Angela wasn’t sure whether he was laughing or crying, but whatever it was, it came from deep within him, somewhere that had remained untouched too long. She was in uncharted territory. No games, no rules. Just her, Tony, and whatever precariously bridged abyss had just yawned up inside him. Around them, the night.

She heard the car pull into the drive.

10.45 p.m, Nascosto Ranch

It was after Tony’s orgasm, his highest peak of ecstasy, that he saw something coming toward him, a dark silhouette creeping closer. Shock and surprise turned to undiluted fear as the figure pulled out what looked to be a gun. Tony raised his eyes in terror as he got up, spreading out his hands in a frightened warding-off gesture. Angela sneezed twice more, then looked up as she regained composure.

Her scream split the night like a machete.

The man’s features became clearer now, and that thing in his hands had indeed been a nine-millimetre gun. He aimed it between Tony’s eyes. There was a second of horrible recognition as the face became painfully clear - it was Uncle Gino. Uncle Gino had known all along what Tony had done, and now the old man was here to make him pay.

Angela’s deafening screams, ringing long into the night, piercing his eardrums, had been the final thing that Tony heard before Gino squeezed the trigger.

She looked once more into the pool, now red with Tony Puglare’s diluted blood, with his corpse floating face down and a large, gaping exit wound at the back of his shattered head. Blood and bone. Red and white. Around them, the remains of the blue.

Putting her towel down for a second, Angela bent over once more, but instead of sneezing, she vomited up the half-digested remains of dinner, a Quarter-Pounder extra value meal at McDonalds earlier that night. Rain fell hard on her warm, naked shoulders, tautening her skin, stinging her flesh like showers of road-grit.

She hadn’t thought it would be like this at all. She just wanted to make Tony happy, make him the happiest he had ever been his entire life before his uncle, his own fucking uncle came along to finish him off.

‘How could you?’ she asked venomously, as she shot Gino a reproachful glance.

‘He stole money from me, Angela,’ he answered with just as much spite and just as much vitriol. ‘I cannot tolerate that shit. I cannot let anybody get away with that shit, Angela, you gotta understand that.’

Angela stifled three sneezes, for some reason not wanting to sneeze in front of this man, even though she knew it would be meaningless to him.

‘I am not the heartless sociopath you seem to see me as, Angela,’ Gino went on. ‘I did not enjoy killing Tony. I did not like it at all,’ he sighed. ‘I loved Tony, Angela. I fuckin’ loved him. I had plans for him, in the future, to take on runnin’ the family after I am gone. But he stole money from me, Angela. Did he think he could get away with that? Did he think I wouldn’t notice that the money was missin’? He betrayed me, Angela; he betrayed the whole family and he stabbed us all in the back.’ Gino was now shaking a closed fist, but his voice still managed to retain some of its composure. The voice, Angela thought, of a man completely made of stone. ‘You do not steal from la famiglia, Angela, never. I could not let him get away with that travesty.’

Yeah, well, haven’t ya ever heard of forgive and forget? Angela thought, sniffing, as she let loose two sneezes: ‘Huh-ASHOO! HASHOO!’

‘Why did you feel so compelled to do this thing with him before I was able to kill him?’ inquired Gino Puglare out of simple curiosity. ‘Why do this...sneezy sex in the pool with him? It would have just been easier for me to simply wax ‘im and be done with it.’

Angela sniffed and then moaned with sorrow. ‘I just wanted to allow him to reach his fullest peak of happiness before he died,’ she explained. ‘I knew I could do nothing to stop you from killing him. You wouldn’t be swayed.’

‘So you insisted to me that I hold off the killing until you were through with him?’

She nodded.

‘And he wanted you to sneeze for him, is that right?’

‘That’s right.’

Gino scoffed at this. ‘A sneeze fetish?’ he laughed bitterly. ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard in my entire life.’

Angela shrugged. ‘Hey, I’ve seen worse.’ And then she sneezed quietly into her cupped hands.

‘That is the stupidest, most absurd sexual favour I have ever seen. Utterly ridiculous,’ he muttered with yet another scoff. ‘And to think, I ever even considered having him as boss after I die. A fuckin’ sneeze fetish? What a complete fuckin’ farce!’

He flapped his hand in disgust at Tony’s corpse, and then turned away, muttering bitterly under his breath words Angela couldn’t quite make out and she doubted that she really wanted to.

Yeah, well, if I had to choose between the sneeze fetishist and the heartless sociopath like you, Gino, I think I’d go with the sneeze fetishist in a second, Angela thought, but was too afraid to say.

She turned away herself, tossing away her towel after she’d completely dried off, and sneezing three more times lightly into the air.

Gino gestured to the car. ‘You comin’ or what?’

She stared blankly at him, his suit, the car.

I could.

I could give in to his wishes and make love to him.

I know I look good in white lace. I could be his wife. Be loaded. Be his submissive Latin bride.

I could learn to cook good pasta. Have babies. I could.

I should.

Too late, she realised she wanted Tony. She’d known all along, of course. She’d wanted to make their love proper, legitimate, dress the bed in its best white linen and let him sleep all night, her eyes on him, not caring what they spilt or broke, or having to clean up the marks they’d left. She’d got sick of sticky backseat sex; because of Gino, they’d never spent a proper night together. She’d even thought he’d be a good father. Once, drunkenly, she’d mentioned to Gabby that their child would be gorgeous. They could breed a race of beautiful Latin babies. There was genuine horror in Gabby’s eyes as she slapped Angela on the arm.

‘Don’t say that, Angie!’ She hissed. ‘Don’t even think  about it! Gino’s gonna fuckin’ kill you, you do somethin’ like that! Bite your tongue!’

Yeah, yeah. Bite your tongue, take your pill, wait.

She was sick of being invincible, protected at every corner by her own personal monster-man. She wanted to feel mortality, fear. She wanted to feel human.

‘I should’ve told him,’ she whispered. ‘Better that you killed us both.’

‘Stop with the drama,’ he said calmly. ‘You comin’?’

She sneered. ‘I just did.’

‘Why’d you do it, Ange?’ his voice was soft, pleading. ‘Why you, why not any of the other goomahs? I don’t give a fuck what they do. Why’d you do this? We had somethin’ good, no?’


He smiled like a snake. ‘You can say what you want. I know what it was like. You were on me like-’

‘Statta ‘zit!’ she screamed.

He moved fast for his age. He pinned her to the ground, still warm from the heat of her body a few minutes ago where she’d been writhing with Tony. Blood, real blood, his blood, now mingled with the wine. She tore and stabbed furiously at Gino with her fingernails, bucked and bit, but it just seemed to excite him all the more as he unzipped and thrust into her. Caesar conquering.

After a while, she stopped screaming. It wasn’t like it had never happened before.

I’ll get bored of you, she thought, letting her mind wander as he trembled and thrust against her, panting as though his heart might give out. She let him moan into her shoulder. You are nothing, Gino. You were once a status symbol and now you have turned into a millstone around my neck, a ton weight in the shape of a crucifix. You have become a vitriol-soaked joke in the back of my mouth. I have spiced your sweet lover’s name with anger, peppered it with a little hate. Make it harder to swallow. Make it hard for me. Make it hard. Make it tight. Force yourself in.

He was moaning now, shaking, coming...

She breathed in the scent of his lust. Like salt. Clinical, almost cold, and then too hot. Silence.

He was weak now, let her push him away.

She grabbed her clothes, which were still strewn about on the beach chair next to Tony’s, and put them back on. When she heard him call I love you, she burst into tears. She knew he didn’t mean it, but that wasn’t comfort enough.

Rage began to burn in her blood. Let me ruin you for a change, she thought. Spoil you and turn you rotten from the inside. Let me lash you to death with my cat-o-nine-tails tongue. Let me salt you like a slug, watch you die, and eat you for supper with a nice strong sauce. Tomato, I think. Could be blood.

‘Ange,’ she heard him yell. ‘Come back here. Come back. I fuckin’ love you.’

She’d get into the car; she knew that already. She’d sit there, listen to him rant, put the Closed signs up in my eyes and the real Angie would slither away inside to a place where she could think quietly. No point in running- she wanted to run the family someday. He had brought out the art, the love of war in her, he’d brought this on himself. She’d slip something into his Scotch, knife him in his sleep...too easy. Oh, oh, Gino. Didn’t your mama ever tell you not to take candy from strange women in black negligees?

She turned back to him. Smiling.

She’d wait. She’d be invincible for a little while longer. Bite your tongue.