Two weeks. That was all the time he had left, before they cut off his benefits. The Feds had already extended the deadline twice; they weren't about to do that again, no way, not with the swelling deficit and the endless war and the blizzards that had slammed the country over the winter.
The mortgage payment was due in mid-April. He sipped his beer. It tasted flat and sour, but he couldn't afford another one. What kind of a world was it, when you couldn't even drown your sorrows in drink?
On the tube above the bar, the Canadiens were trashing the Bruins again. Jimmy's other patrons yelled and swore at the screen. Nick couldn't focus on the game. He'd grown up with most of these guys, but now he felt walled off, insulated from their enthusiasm. He was trapped in a glass box, money leaking out like oxygen. Soon he'd smother.
And nobody would care, that was the worst of it. His dad barely recognized him these days. The old guy's body was still pretty healthy, but his confused mind found the past more real than the present. The kids were far away in LA, with Mary and their new stepfather. He was lucky to get a call from them once a month. His friends--well, unemployment was a bit like the plague. Everyone acted like it was contagious.
"Can I buy you a drink, handsome?"
The lilt in her girlish voice dragged him partway out of his funk. "Um--excuse me?"
"Sure, but you look like you could use stiff one, if you know what I mean."
She was a tiny slip of a woman, with a butter-cream complexion, emerald eyes and a riot of ginger curls under her bright green cap. Freckles dusted her pert nose. Her cherry-red lips bowed in a provocative smile that clashed with her apparent youth. His ears burned at her label--him, handsome?--and he felt an ominous stirring inside his boxers.
"Have we met?" Nick surveyed her critically. Not too many women ventured into Jimmy's place, with its grimy floor, smoke-darkened ceiling and reek of hops. He would certainly have remembered someone like her. Hell, she looked too young to even be legal.
"Not yet, but I've a feeling we'll be getting to know each other quite well in the near future." Her brogue was more pronounced than most of the folks in the neighborhood. Maybe she's a tourist, he thought as she bounced up onto the stool beside him.
She leaned close and held out her hand. "You can call me Caitlyn." She favored him with another of those suggestive smiles. His one beer went suddenly to his head. "And you're Nickie, if I'm not mistaken."
"How do you know my name?" Nick was so flustered by her nearness and her unexplained knowledge that he forgot to withdraw his hand from hers. She brushed her thumb across his. Motes of pleasure skittered up his spine.
Her skin felt satiny and warm, despite the fact that she must have just come in from the raw March night. She wore a fitted jacket, a teasingly short skirt, tights, and high-heeled boots, all in a green that exactly matched the garland of paper shamrocks Jimmy had hung over the bar. She looked great, but--strange. Even in this Irish neighborhood, on the eve of Saint Patty's, few people wore more than a token green scarf or tee shirt.
"Ah, but you're quite well known in some parts. Lucky Nickie, some call you."
"Lucky?" Nick snorted. He couldn't keep the bitterness out of his voice. "You must be thinking of someone else. I haven't had a stroke of luck in years."
"Is that so? Well, how about this fine Bushmill's I've just bought for you?"
Jimmy grinned as he set two glasses of amber liquid in front of them. "Compliments of the lady," he stage-whispered. "Guess she likes you."
"Slainte!" Caitlyn raised her glass and swallowed almost half in a single gulp.
"Slainte!" The whiskey burned on its way down, smoky, smooth and unutterably delicious. A glow kindled in his stomach and spread along his limbs. "Thank you," he choked out, when he could finally speak.
"Good?" She squeezed his hand, which she still held captured.
"Wonderful. It's been a long time."
"Mores the pity. A man like you should be able to drink what he wants." She slid her hand up his arm, kneading his biceps as if testing his strength. The lump in his groin swelled further. Stop it, he told himself. She's just being friendly.
The dreamy look on her face as she touched him told a different story, though. Her eyes were half-closed and her ripe lips were parted. His gaze drifted to the pale vee where her jacket fastened across her swelling breasts. He could see the rise and fall of her breathing under the taut green fabric. His cock and his heart both ached.
He hadn't been with a woman since Mary left. What was the point? Ten years of marriage, the joys and the struggles, challenges and achievements, had simply dissolved on that day. His whole life had vanished like dew in the summer sun. Stewing in regrets, replaying that decade over and over, trying to understand what went wrong, he hadn't wanted anyone else.
He didn't understand this, either, this fey creature at least a dozen years his junior, flattering him and leading him on. Had someone put her up to this? If so, she was a fabulous actress. Her expression suggested that she might come simply from stroking his arm.
Suddenly she seemed to wake from her lustful trance. "Go buy a scratch lottery card," she ordered. She pointed to the display next to Jimmy's register. "Money Mania will do."
Indignation replaced Nick's confusion. "What? What are you talking about?" he sputtered. "I don't have cash to waste on gambling. Why, in two weeks..."
"I recommend that you follow my instructions," Caitlyn interrupted, her eyes flashing like green jewels. She grasped his hand in both her own. "Do you not trust me?"
"I don't even know you, lady." Still, he couldn't manage to hold on to his anger when he gazed into those remarkable eyes. She raised his hand, brushing her lips across his knuckles. Electricity sizzled through him. His erection grew heavier, his balls tighter.
"Trust me," she whispered. "You will not be sorry. Go, do as I bid." Her angel's face under its coppery halo was uncharacteristically serious. "Please, Nick."
He had to believe her. He couldn't help himself. As he signaled for Jimmy's attention and handed over the last five dollars in his wallet, he marveled. It seemed that poverty and cuckolding, two years without work, nearly three without love or sex, still had not completely killed his hope.
Caitlyn handed him a bright red-gold penny. "Use this," she ordered. His hand trembled as he hovered over the ticket, the coin clutched between forefinger and thumb. Caitlyn gripped his thigh. She might have intended the gesture to be reassuring but the effect was quite different. More blood surged into his cock. He struggled for control. "You should not worry," she purred. "Sure, but I will take care of you."
He scraped the penny across the ticket, gradually exposing the numbers underneath.
"Don't hold your breath, Nickie," she laughed. "I would not have you collapse. And look, look at the ticket. You have won."
Won? Nick stared at the values he had revealed. Two thousand dollars. Two thousand dollars!
"Hey!" he shouted out to sports fans around him. "I won! Two thousand bucks!" He waved the ticket in the air. "Jimmy, a round for all my friends!" He bowed in response to the scattered applause. "And another whiskey for the lady and me."
The second Bushmill's went down even more smoothly than the first. Nick couldn't tell if his light-headedness came from the alcohol, the win, or Caitlyn's proximity. "Thank you!" he babbled, wringing her hand. "This will cover the mortgage payment, with some left over. I can take my pa out for a nice St. Patty's dinner..." Caitlyn watched him, a feline expression of satisfaction on her delicate features.
"How did you know?" Nick asked, finally getting a grip on his excitement. "What did you do? And how can I thank you?"
"I've done nothing but point you in the right direction. 'Tis your own luck that has brought you this gift." Her hair gleamed like spun fire. "But if you truly want to express your gratitude"--she paused, a rare blush painting her downy cheeks--"you might take me home with you."
"Take you home?" Nick couldn't hide his shock. Despite her lascivious moods and his physical reactions to her, he couldn't imagine touching this young girl in an intimate way. Then he looked at her, really saw her, and something shifted. She was older than she looked, older perhaps than he was. And she wanted him. He could imagine, oh yes. He saw himself running his hands over the ripe curves betrayed by her holiday costume, licking his way down the creamy expanse of her belly, parting the moist auburn curls that hid her coral secrets. Above the yeasty stink of old beer, he caught a whiff of her warm musk, like a breath from some tropical ocean.
"Yes," he nodded, slipping into his battered leather jacket as she threw some bills on the bar. "Let's go home."
A chill wind from the harbor assaulted them as they stepped into the street. Newspapers and fast food wrappers skittered around their ankles. Caitlyn clasped his arm, snuggling against him. The top of her head barely reached his shoulder. Her petite perfection inflamed him. The swelling in his jeans made it tough to walk.
She let her hand drape down across his front. Shockingly casual, she cupped the bulk at his groin.
Nick shivered, on the edge of losing control.
"Are you cold, Nickie?" He couldn't see her face, but he could hear laughter in her voice.
"No, no, I'm fine...but you must be freezing..." She didn't have a coat, just that green knit jacket straining over her breasts.
"Not in the least. Let me show you how warm I am."
She pushed him out of the illuminated pool created by the streetlight, up against a blank brick wall. Her strength astonished him. Her scent made him dizzy. Before he knew what was happening, she was crouched between his legs, pulling at his zipper.
"Caitlyn...no, stop, I can't..." She ignored his half-hearted protests, deftly releasing his cock from its painful confinement. The raw March air was a sensual shock on his bare skin. The next instant, that chill turned to fire as she swallowed him.
"Oh..." He couldn't believe it, couldn't bear it. Caitlyn's mouth was a boiling cauldron. Her agile tongue stirred him this way and that. She sucked as though his cock was an enormous straw and she planned to draw every drop of the come out of his balls. He knew that he'd erupt in a matter of seconds. She backed off, though, exposing all but the tip to the frigid night. She flicked at the sensitive ridge under the bulb, gathering the liquid that oozed from the slit, her touch a searing contrast to the cold breeze playing along his shaft.
He twined his fingers in her auburn curls, urging her to engulf him once again. She understood and took him deep again, tightening her lips around his rod and opening her throat. Her tongue still played along his flesh, but now she let him set the pace. In and out, fever and chills, he stroked, while Caitlyn urged him on with sweet whimpers of lust.
He'd never known anything like this, except in his dreams. Mary had been a good Catholic girl. She'd been deeply offended when he suggested that she kiss his cock. Of course, she wasn't too good to betray him with her bastard boss...
Nick pushed the thought away and concentrated on the miracles Caitlyn was performing. That was the past. It couldn't hurt him now, in this glorious now in which an exquisite woman devoured his cock with a hunger that was almost frightening.
He closed his eyes, letting sensation bear him away. Heat, cold, wetness, the scrape of her teeth, the caress of her tongue. His balls coiled tight. His cock felt so hard he thought it would burst. Caitlyn did something--he didn't know what, only that it was ecstasy--and he was suddenly coming. He didn't have time to pull out, to offer her a choice. He poured himself out, helpless, overwhelmed, flooding her sweet, hot mouth with his come.
Nick shuddered against the wall, suddenly cold. Caitlyn rose and pressed her body against his, kissing him for the first time, making him taste his own jism. He kissed her back, running his hands over her curves, unable to believe his good fortune. Without breaking the seal of their lips, she unbuttoned the tailored jacket and brought his hand to her breast. It fit his palm as though made to order. The taut, fat nipple at the center poked rudely at his flesh. He squeezed the elastic nub between two fingers and she gasped into his mouth.
His cock was rising again. It was unbelievable but indisputable. He rubbed the knob against the rough denim of her skirt, making a damp furrow between her thighs. With a growl of impatience, she released him just long enough to pull the skirt up around her waist. Her naked flesh gleamed pale in the shadow. Her tights stopped at her thighs, held up by garters that were no doubt bright green.
She crushed herself to him once again. His cock rooted in the nest of soft curls hiding her sex. She ground her pelvis against his still growing hardness. "Take me, Nickie," she moaned. "Make me yours."
He slipped his hands under her warm, bare buttocks. She weighed next to nothing. Holding her tight, Nick lowered her onto his raging cock. She reached down to part her lower lips and guide him into her channel. She was wetter than a dream. Her soft folds clung to his rigid flesh. Her legs locked around his waist. He arched up, burying himself to the hilt.
"Aye! Aye, Nicholas!" Her cries were surely loud enough to alert the neighborhood, but he didn't care. Deep and then deeper, he plunged into the heart of her. She welcomed every thrust, moaning and thrashing as he filled her.
He reached down, searching for the little nub Mqary had revealed to him, the key to a woman's pleasure. Caitlyn's clit was a slick, hard marble that burned like a hot coal. He brushed a fingertip over the tip and she writhed in his arms . He circled the base and she clenched down hard on his buried flesh. He pinched the swollen nub and she screamed, exploding into a wild climax.
Nick wanted to last, to bring her to ecstasy again and again before he let go. But her convulsions, the feel of her sex fluttering madly around his cock, made that impossible. While she still shuddered in his arms, he swelled and burst, filling her with his seed. Caitlyn yelled, a unearthly keening that shattered the darkness. Then she came again, shaking so violently that he nearly dropped her.
They panted in each other's arms. The wind died away. Quiet rose around them, broken once by a distant barking dog, then by a scrap of some Celtic tune from a passing car radio. Caitlyn unknotted her thighs. Nick lowered her to the ground. She pulled down her skirt, though now that he knew she wore nothing beneath she looked more indecent than ever. Her jacket still gaped open. The nipple peeking out started him hardening yet again.
She smiled up at him, her eyes sparking like jewels even in the dark. "Well, sure and that was a fine way for you to say thanks, Nickie. I only wish everyone was as grateful as you."
"Do you still want to come home with me?" There was something in her tone of voice that worried him, something that suggested finality.
"Of course. I want to wake up next to you on Saint Patrick's morning." She stood on her tiptoes so that he could kiss her. "Then I want you to pay a visit to the employment office. I have a feeling that the perfect job is waiting for you."
"And you'll stay with me? Move in? Marry me?" Aching and desperate, Nick grasped her shoulders and pulled her against him. He could feel her slipping away.
"So hasty, Nicholas!" she laughed. "You are already speaking of marriage? You barely know me, as you yourself pointed out not an hour ago! You have no idea who--or what--I am."
"I know you," Nick replied, his mouth set in a grim line. "I want you." He kissed her, fierce, tender, letting her see all the hurt that she had so miraculously healed. Letting her know how fragile that recovery really was. "I need you. You're my luck, Caitlyn. The luckiest thing that ever happened to me. Please, don't take that away."
The hardness in her eyes scared him. "I love you, Cate. I don't care what you are. I don't care if I'm poor forever. If I have you beside me, I'm the luckiest man in the world."
"Well." Caitlyn slowly rebuttoned her forest-hued jacket, pensive. "It would violate traditions, certainly. Some of my--colleagues--might complain about having to take over my workload. Still, I might be able to make some arrangement." She smiled up at him, her cheeks dimpling. "After all, it's not as though you were asking for a pot of gold."
Caitlyn slipped her hand into his. Nick felt the weight lifting from his heart. "No--only you, Caitlyn. Only you."
She kissed her fingertip then laid it on his lips. "Let's go home, Nickie."