Entertainment columnist Yves Santiago finds love and other problems with her creative non-fiction editor Elijah Weinstein in THE LUST DIARIES.
The Lust Diaries chronicles the sweet, filthy, romance developing between Elijah and Yves.
A Slant of Light (free prequel short story for newsletter subscribers)
In Her Closet, The Lust Diaries: Book One
The Shame in You--(Free Short Story for newsletter subscribers)
Everything She Never Wanted, The Lust Diaries: Book Two
Having it Both Ways, The Lust Diaries: Book Three
What Kind of Man (free novella for newsletter subscribers)
EXCERPT FROM IN HER CLOSET
I woke with a start, struggling through an alcohol-induced fugue to sit up in a bed that wasn’t mine. With dry eyes, sticky with last night’s mascara, I took in my surroundings. Polished concrete floors gleamed in the sunlight, filtering in between the heavy curtains that covered a wall of windows. A rectangle of buttery yellow framed a contemporary nude portrait that hung on a soaring wall of exposed brick: a portrait painted by the man sleeping next to me—the talented, Jamaican-born, Julian Webster.
He lay on his belly, exposing a wide back that tapered down to a narrow waist and a pretty little ass that the sheets barely covered. A smile spread across my face as I remembered how those strong arms held me in midair, while he lowered me onto his waiting cock. I rubbed my thighs. They were deliciously sore from our romp—yet another night of delicious, guiltless sex. Now, if I could escape without waking him, it would be perfect.
That wasn’t going to be easy.
Fit and muscular, Julian looked like he spent as much time at the gym as he did creating his one-of-a-kind paintings. His arm was thrown across my waist, trapping me in place.
I closed my eyes and channeled my inner ninja.
He took a deep, sonorous breath, and on his next growling exhalation, I shimmied out of his clutches and onto the floor. Not graceful, but at least I was free.
The concrete floor was warm, probably heated. I padded into the living space of the big, open loft as quietly as possible, hunting for my clothes. My panties—tangled around my left ankle—were easy enough to find. Shoes and bag were near the front door, but my dress was MIA.
I’d been pretty drunk when I stumbled into Julian’s loft the night before, but not so drunk that I would have arrived naked. I’d worn a short, flirty Diane Von Furstenberg. It was a priceless find that I probably would’ve never been able to afford if I hadn’t found it at my favorite consignment shop. My search for it would have to be quick because the clock on Julian’s microwave said it was seven fifteen.
“Shit,” I hissed under my breath before I grabbed my shoes and bag. I had a little over an hour to get to home, change, and head to work.
I continued searching as quietly as I could. The place was huge. Developers had bought up most of the old factories and warehouses near the waterfront and converted them into lofts. I’d never actually been in one until now. The ceilings, which were composed of industrialized steel and brick, soared upwards for about twenty feet. There were three main “rooms,” and each had its own wall of levered windows which Julian had covered with heavy drapes to control the light. The living room functioned as his work space and was crowded with easels, paints, and half-finished portraits. As I admired one of these, I was startled by the sound of someone clearing their throat.
I bit back a scream and clutched my naked breasts. “Holy fuck!” I cursed, turning around to find Julian leaning against a pillar at the center of the room, naked as the day he was born.
He was surprisingly tall, much taller than he seemed last night, but that might have been because I was wearing skyscraper heels. The morning sun adorned his copper skin in a way that made him look like an Adonis, but those brown eyes gave away his youth and innocence no matter how big and manly he was physically.
And he was oh-so-big and oh-so-manly.
Why am I rushing off again?
“Good morning,” he said again. His voice was soft and deep with an island accent. I remembered that from last night, too. The way it murmured and moaned in my ear, telling me how good I felt to him. He grinned at me with a smile as sweet as plantain, and I had to cross my ankles to keep my knees from falling open.
“I w-w-was l-looking for my dress,” I stammered. My eyes fixed on his semi-erect cock. Part of me knew it was counterproductive to stare at his cock when I knew I needed to get to work, but…fuck…it really was lovely.
“I can’t say I approve of dat. Kinda like ya in this right ‘ere,” he answered, his eyes on my tits.
Hmm…I wasn’t the only one feeling a little distracted at the moment.
“I’m sorry…” For him and for me, but mostly for me. “But I’ve gotta get going. I have to be at work in an hour or so. Have you seen it?”
“Yeah… but things got a lick’il reckless last night.”
I loved the way Jamaican accents mutilated the English language, making little sound like, lick’il and reckless, like something everyone should do at least once. I could listen to him talk all day. Except I didn’t have all day.
Julian turned and headed back into the massive bedroom and walked right up to the huge bed. “I’m sorry, star,” he said picking up a shredded heap of black fabric tangled in the sheets. “Ya dress didn’t survive the tussle.”
“Oh no!” I gathered the shredded remnants in my hands. The side was ripped straight down the seam. I couldn’t wear this home. I wasn’t even sure if it could be mended.
“Sorry, star,” he said again and brushed my hair off of my shoulder. “Was it ya favorite or something?”
“Not my favorite, but pretty expensive.”
“Lemme give ya somethin’ so ya can replace it—”
“Don’t be crazy. It wasn’t your fault.” I stood up and shook it off. Or at least I tried to. Damn, my first and only Diane and she was gone. “But I do need you to give me a shirt to wear, so I don’t have to ride the train home like this.”
Julian’s eyes dragged up the length of my body. “What if I don’t have anything that will fit ya? Will ya stay ‘here? In my bed?” He slipped his hands around my waist. “Surely, you can call off of work for one day…”
He leaned in and kissed me, and I swear I tasted the word yes on his tongue. Yes, I will get back in bed with you. Yes, I will fuck you all morning…
Yes, I will get fired if I don’t get my ass to work on time.
I pushed him away as gently as possible. “Listen, I would really love to but…”
He placed another soft peck on my lips.
“Wait…what was I saying?”
“Some foolishness about how ya got to work,” he mumbled against my mouth.
“Yes…work…work!” I away from him. “Fuck! I really, really have to go.”
“Oh,” he said and backed away, looking like I’d stolen his bike. Clearly, he saw my need to maintain employment as some sort of rejection. Silly boy.
“Just over dat way,” he said, pointing to his left. “There are towels and washcloths in the cabinet next to the sink.”
“Thank you.” I stepped around him and made my way toward the door he’d indicated. Once inside, I turned to survey a room that was roughly the size of my entire fucking apartment.
“Jesus,” I muttered under my breath.
The cabinet he spoke of was large and hand painted with a crazy amalgam of beautiful nudes, twisting and turning over each other until their skin, hair, eyes, limbs, and bodies created an abstract landscape. The bottom right corner of the cabinet was signed with his name.
Holy shit. This was Julian Webster’s loft. I was in Julian Webster’s loft. How the fuck did I, out of all the women that crawled all over him last night, actually end up in Julian Webster’s loft?
Last night, Julian was part of a group show at a small, exclusive gallery in Old City. As the lifestyles and entertainment writer for the moderately prestigious Philadelphian, I was charged with attending and writing about what was quickly becoming Philly’s most talked-about young artist. Barely twenty-four and a prodigy among his peers, Julian’s contemporary nudes echoed a more stylized Gauguin with the sensual, erotic aesthetic of Klimt. He was also a broody, reclusive type that made him damn near irresistible and pretty enough to make you stare. There was something to be said for a man brave enough to go completely bald. That smooth skin practically begged for the palm of my hand. He also sported what I liked to call the oops!-I’m-sexy-beard; just enough scruff to remind a girl that she was kissing a man, not a boy. Every woman in the room had ogled him last night, but somehow I ended up in the corner, chatting him up. Later, we wound up at a reggae club called The Dip, where I proceeded to get drunk off Jamaican rum and to wind my waistline to some dancehall. After that, we—well, I had to stop thinking about what happened after that. If I started down that path I would never make it to work on time.
I looked at my reflection in the mirror. The mass of dark brown hair that I had styled so carefully before going out last night was now all over my head. My large, honey-brown eyes were only slightly bloodshot. My lipstick had been kissed off, leaving my lips bare and looking thoroughly abused.
Morning after sexy—nailed it.
When I emerged from the bathroom I found Julian in the kitchen pouring coffee into a travel mug. His sweet brown eyes lit up when he saw me.
“You drink coffee?”
“I’m pretty sure my blood is 75 percent caffeine.”
He laughed. “How do you take it?”
“Black with a little sugar.”
He smiled. “A girl after my own heart.”
No, sweetie. I don’t want your heart. I got what I wanted from you last night.
“Here’s the shirt you asked for.” He passed me the travel mug of coffee before he came around the counter and picked up the shirt draped over the bar stool. Like a gentleman, he wrapped it around my shoulders. “I think it’s long enough to cover the important bits.”
I slipped my arms into the sleeves and stood still while he buttoned it for me. The shirt smelled clean, but like him, too. The scent of his cologne was soaked deep into the threads.
“Thank you,” I said when he was done. “Maybe now I won’t get arrested.”
“Good thing. Still don’t think ya will make it very far looking the way ya do. This attire is much better suited for my bedroom.”
I pouted. “You know I don’t want to say no, but…I have to go.”
Here was the part I hated. The part where I had to dash the guy’s hopes, when he asked to see me again. The part where I had to make up something clever to soothe a hurt ego so I could escape without the scene getting ugly. Luckily, Julian was the intuitive type. He didn’t ask for my number. He just slipped his card in the breast pocket while giving me another one of those kisses that made me want to quit all of my jobs and live in his bed.
He walked me to the door, and as I stepped outside, a brisk early morning breeze tunneled through the courtyard. I shivered and wondered if I had enough money on me for a cab.
“I hope to hear from ya, Ms. Santiago. Until then, I look forward to reading the column ya write on me.”
I kissed his cheek and gave him my best smile. “Good morning, Julian.”
“Good morning, Yves.”
Out on the street, I discovered that I was in still in Old City and easily found a bus heading up Market Street. I had just enough time to head home and grab a quick shower. I would be cutting it close, but it could be worse. It could be like the time I got drunk and woke up in Jersey and had to drag myself to work wearing some guy’s tuxedo shirt…and nothing else. At least I had my underwear this time. There was nothing worse than sitting bare-assed on a plastic subway seat. Who knew what communicable diseases you could get that way?
On the bus, I sipped Julian’s good, strong coffee, snuggled down in his shirt, and pulled out my phone. This bus ride was a gift. I could write my column and email it before I even made it all the way home. Thank God for smartphones. I probably would’ve been fired by now if it wasn’t for the convenience of writing on a Septa bus or train after spending the night in a stranger’s bed.
First I wrote about Julian’s work. It was hard to convey the vivid, dynamic impact of his paintings in words, but I tried, hoping the photos from last night would fill in what I left out. Then I wrote of the man himself, his passions and influences. His complete worship of the female figure and all its hills, valleys, and sweet, dark spaces. His boyish, dimpled grin. His calloused, but gentle and deft hands. The fit body of his, which he used to its full advantage, when he gave a brief demonstration of his technique.
Damn, the man was fine.
“Julian Webster…” I murmured. “Wait until I tell Ava.”
* * * *
I lived in an apartment in South Philly on Seventh Street between Washington Avenue and the famed South Street. Once upon a time, it was a single-family row house, but somewhere along the line, someone thought it was a grand idea to split the floor plan and make separate dwellings of the first and second floors. Both spaces were about seven hundred square feet. Tiny, but plenty of room for a single girl.
I loved my shitty little apartment, though entering said shitty apartment was always a bit precarious. I had a scrawny, black cat named Maniac who constantly tried to escape. Every time I opened the freaking door, she saw it as her opportunity to make a break for it. I guess that’s what I got for trying to turn a stray into a house cat. I must have caught her off guard, because I was already inside before she made her mad dash for freedom.
“Aha! Thwarted again!” I teased.
Maniac gave me a disinterested, haughty glare and returned to her perch in the living room window without so much as a meow. If I were the sensitive type, I might’ve taken it personally.
I dropped my bag under the hall table, slipped out of my shoes, and shucked Julian’s shirt on my way to the bathroom. My underused apartment looked like the dusty, abandoned rooms of a spinster. I made a mental note to allot some time to clean it this week. It wouldn’t be this morning, though.
While the shower heated up, I threw together an outfit and arranged for a cab to arrive in thirty minutes. Just as I was about to toss my phone on the bed, I noticed a voicemail and several emails waiting. I checked the email first. I’d pitched several articles and copywriting jobs at the beginning of last week and hadn’t heard back yet. The first two were rejections. Ouch. Rejections weren’t personal, but I had yet to grow immune to the sting. The next was an email forwarded from the account attached to my anonymous sex blog, The Lust Diaries.
I started Lust Diaries a year or so ago. It was just a silly little something to do—a place for me to explore my sexuality and write about the men I slept with. Over the last year it had grown in popularity, gaining more than a couple thousand subscribers—which isn’t a lot compared to other sex blogs I follow but a huge jump in readership nonetheless. Once in a while, I toyed with the idea of monetizing it somehow, but I wasn’t sure how I could make that happen and maintain my anonymity. Writing a sex blog made me a target for stalkers and crazies. I received a least thirty emails a week from men who wanted to dominate me, be my daddy, spank me, and stuff my holes with their life-altering cock. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t opposed to the idea of life-altering cock, but I did prefer a drink (or several) and a little conversation before I did the deed. As a result, I routinely deleted messages sent from my blog after only reading the subject line. But the subject on this one read: Regarding publication.
Curious, I opened it.
Good morning, Ms. Santiago,
I stumbled upon your blog last night, and I’m ashamed (and delighted) to say that I’ve read every entry from the first to last. I love what you have here. I would like to get together to discuss your work and present you with an opportunity to publish with Leaf Press.
Hope to hear from you soon.
Creative Nonfiction Editor
I stood there for a moment, gawking at the message. Part of me wanted to call him immediately, but the logical, realistic part of me was instantly suspicious.
How did he know my name?
Lust Diaries was completely anonymous, and it seemed unlikely that the nonfiction editor of Philadelphia’s largest publishing house would contact me this way. The blog was not connected to the work I did for the newspaper. I made sure of it. The last thing I wanted to do was shame my mother with the graphic telling of my drunken sexcapades, and I most certainly didn’t want to jeopardize my job. There were no written rules about this sort of thing, but I imagine it wouldn’t be welcomed, especially since most of those drunken escapades happened at or after events I was supposed to cover for the paper.
My knee-jerk reaction was to delete this email and move on with my day. Yet, for some reason, I stopped short of deleting it and marked it important. There was the remote possibility that this email could be a legitimate inquiry. I loved writing for the Philadelphian. But, it was just a free weekly rag, geared toward young professionals and college students, which gave me credibility and kept the bills paid. Any sort of offer from Leaf Press would be undeniably amazing.
After saving Elijah Weinstein’s info and checking a few more emails, I moved on to checking the only voicemail I had from last night.
“Yves…” a disembodied and too-familiar voice breathed from my phone’s speaker.
Oh, hell no. This better not be…
“I know we haven’t talked in a while, but you’ve been on my mind a lot lately. I miss you—”
“What the fuck?” I cursed, deleting the message as aggressively as my phone’s touchscreen would allow. “How did he get this number?”
The answer to that question was obvious. Only one person would give my number to my ex, and that’s my mother. This was so fucking irritating. What part of “we are over” didn’t she get?
I sighed angrily, realizing that I would have to change my number again, and I had just ordered new business cards for this one. This had to stop. Me and Mamí needed to have a conversation about this—another one. Hopefully, she would hear me this time.
After the quickest shower ever, I grabbed my laptop bag, purse, and keys and went downstairs to wait on my stoop for the cab. The morning was already well on its way to sweltering. It felt good. I loved summer. Part of me still associated it with those lazy, Italian ice, roller skating, water-sprinkler days of my childhood. Growing up was a huge letdown in that respect. Working at the Philadelphian and Burke’s Books, a bookstore near my alma mater, left very little time for lazy summer days—even less now that I’d taken on freelance writing jobs to supplement my minuscule pay.
Down on our shared stoop, my elderly neighbor Mrs. McKinney sat perched on the second step, working on what looked like her second cigarette. I sighed wearily and sat down next to her.
“Morning, Mrs. Mac.”
“Mornin’, little girl.”
She knew that I was twenty-five years old, but anyone younger than Mrs. McKinney must seem like an infant. The woman had to be at least seventy. She may have been pretty once, but now she was so heavily wrinkled that she resembled hand-wrung washing. She had a long salt and pepper grey braid that hung down to her waist, blue eyes slightly clouded with cataracts, and a crabby attitude that scared the neighborhood kids. There was a Mr. McKinney, but he died a couple of years ago. Mrs. McKinney hasn’t been the same since. She seemed a bit sadder—a bit slower. Her kids tried to make her move to a nursing home, but she put up such a fuss, they decided it was better to just to leave her alone. They came by from time to time to check on her—take her to the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and such—but mostly it was just Mrs. McKinney and like ten cats. She kind of smelled like stale cigarettes and dirty kitty litter, but who was I to judge? Especially since Maniac was one of the feral kittens she fed who had run into my apartment the day I moved in and never left.
“Can I bum a cigarette off you?”
Mrs. McKinney looked at me with her rheumy, blue eyes and tapped out a cigarette. “If you have a habit, you should be able to support it.”
I took it and pinched it between my lips. “I know, I know, but I thought I would try to quit.”
“Didn’t stick, huh?” She passed me a tattered book of matches.
I grunted, struck the match, and lit the long, thin cigarette. Mrs. McKinney smoked Virginia Slims. They tasted like shit, but they would do in a pinch.
“Kinda.” I gave her a sideways glance. Nosy old bird.
“Were you out with your pretty boyfriend? The one that drives the shiny, Japanese sports car?” Mrs. McKinney waggled her bushy, grey eyebrows and smiled mischievously. I couldn’t help but laugh.
“No. I quit him.”
“Hmm…He didn’t stick either, huh?”
“Shame. I kinda liked him.”
I frowned. “Really? Why?”
“He was always polite, and he helped me bring my groceries in once.”
“Yeah, he was nice. Really good-looking, too.” I smiled and took a drag of my cigarette. “He was a shitty lay though.”
“Oh!” Mrs. McKinney cackled with surprised laughter. “Well, good riddance!” she said, her boney shoulders shaking. “How many more do you think it will take?” she asked when she was done laughing at my expense.
“What do you mean?”
“How many more before one sticks?”
“I don’t know,” I said with a shrug. “I’ll let you know when one finally does.”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that I wasn’t really looking to make any of them stick. Falling into the beds of anonymous men topped my list of favorite pastimes. So much so that in the far back corner of my closet there lived an ever-increasing collection of shirts like the one I’d worn home this morning; a sort of shrine to my decadent nights. Those fabrics held the scent of the hungry strangers who knew me carnally but rarely knew my last name.
I wasn’t the sort of woman who would carelessly seduce a man to an end of my own design. That’s not how my mother raised me. “Good little Catholic girls don’t,” as she always said. I used to feel a little bit of animosity toward my mother for that, though I knew that I shouldn’t. She was raised just as her mother was, so she didn’t know anything else. But there had to be more to life than being a good girl, a good wife, and a good mother and I’d made it my personal business to find out. My life’s mission was to live as carelessly as a man. Eat what I wanted, drink what I wanted, and fuck who I wanted whenever I wanted—to do what felt good and make no apologies for any of it. In this life, there were only two people to answer to—God and yourself. And since God and I weren’t really on speaking terms, that only left me, and I was just fine with how I lived my life. There were very few disasters and even fewer regrets.
My cab rounded the corner a few blocks up. I took a couple more puffs of the cigarette then flicked it into the tin can Mrs. McKinney kept by the steps for exactly that purpose. “Thanks for the cigarette, toots,” I said with a wink as the cab screeched to a halt in front of me.
Mrs. McKinney waved me off with a dismissiveness that I knew was put on. She kind of liked me. I kinda liked the old bird, too.