He carefully stroked her hair, feeling the thick curls there twist and twirl around her fingers in a strange sort of dance. He followed them with a small smile on his lips and tilted his head to the side. When she shivered he chuckled. “You cold?”

“’Course not.” Jazzmine tossed her head and smirked up at him from beneath thick, dark eyelashes and smeared eyeliner. “Ain’t like I’m lying here butt naked or somethin’ while you get all the damn covers.”

Toby grinned wider as he pulled the blanket back and suddenly became immersed in the Arctic. “I gotta way to warm you up.”

“Man, ain’t you ever get tired?” She flashed a surprisingly white smile as she trailed her fingertips over his naked chest, skirting around the edge of his pectoral.

“When I got a goddess snuggled up next to me like this? Enough to get any man’s blood boiling all over again.” His heart took to fluttering again as she pressed her naked body against his side and intertwined her smooth leg with his. “C’mere.”

As he wrapped his arms tightly around her, however, she pressed a manicured finger to his lips and shook her head, quirking a brow. “Not all of us got your stamina, boy. Gimme a few winks, that’s all I’m askin’.”

“You already given me enough o’ those for a lifetime, babe.” But he leaned back into the pillow and was rewarded by her head gently laying on his chest, where he tangled his fingers all over again. He’d never seen quite a mane like it. It’d been the first thing to catch his eye out there on the streets as she strutted along with her friends, their heels clicking against the sidewalk in a strange symphony. The boys had puffed up, stuck out their chests, preened and called out to them, and this little minx’d just lift that hand of hers and shoot them a seagull painted on her middle fingernail. He’d never wanted something so much in his damn life.

“You’re thinking,” she said quietly as she looked up at him again. “Careful there, boy, you gonna get a headache again.”

He laughed and shook his head. “Shut up.”

“Make me.” She captured a bead at the end of his nearest dreadlock and spun it between her fingers, studying the foggy surface with a growing smirk.

“Oh, you wanna go?”

“You couldn’t take me if you try, you know that, you or your damn brother. Buncha fools, you Ortiz brothers, all struttin‘ around like you a bunch of mighty fine musicians.” Jazzy tugged at the dread teasingly. “So don’t you even start or I’ma walk right out that door an’ you can just cry yourself to sleep.”

“Naw.” With his arms wrapped tightly around her again he dragged her on top of him and kissed her, hard and passionate. “I ain’t letting you out of my damn sight, I don’t give a damn what you say.”

Jazzy threw her head back and laughed, her neck long and tantalizingly exposed to him, and he leaned up to press a long series of kisses down it. “I’d like t’see you try, boy. C’mon, ‘nuff of that.” She smacked him playfully on the chest and he fell back again, licking his lips with a mischievous grin. “I done already told you I gotta catch a few winks, so you just hold your horses.” Those eyes of hers meant business, and she held his gaze just long enough to prove it to him. “I’ma get some water. You can’t stand it, you can just drag yourself into that bathroom and take care of it your own damn self.”

She tugged on her bra and panties to the sound of his laughter before she waltzed out of the bedroom and shut the door behind her, chin as high and spine as rigid as a princess. Wasn’t that hard to figure out where the kitchen was in the first place. You live in an apartment with four fucking rooms and suddenly things get a hell of a lot easier to find. She traced her fingertips over the peeling wallpaper as she hummed softly, looking down the hallway with a quirked brow and a slight pout before she disappeared into the living room. She slid past the couch and eyed all of the stuffing trying to escape through the slit fabric before she crossed into the kitchen and stepped over the empty beer bottles scattered around beside the trashcan.

Jazzmine took her time walking past the cabinets, eyeing each and every imperfection on them and drumming her nails carefully along the stained countertop before pausing beside the last one and opening it. Pots. The next bore her plates. There were bowls, spices, cleaning supplies, and everything else she wasn’t expecting to find before she finally reached the glasses in the first cabinet she passed and shook her head with a little smirk.

She waltzed her way back to the cabinet, smoothing her hand across her stomach and eyeing it before she leaned against the counter and flipped the faucet on. There was a moment of consideration, a pause, and then she turned the water level down until it was barely a sputtering. She tested it with her fingers for a long moment before finally tucking the giant glass beneath it and eyeing the hallway again over her shoulder.

While she waited, she quietly hummed and tapped her foot to some beat she‘d heard at that last show she‘d been to, all to get an eyeful of some dreads and a baseball cap. Everything in the apartment got her highest scrutiny, from the ashtray on the coffee table to the dishes piled up in the sink and stinking to high heaven. It was only when she heard a key fumbling at the front door that she quickly shoved the water level higher, filled her glass within three seconds, and whirled around to press her back against the counter.

Vic Ortiz sidled into his apartment with a newspaper tucked under his arm and made his way halfway to the couch before he shit his bricks. “Fuck!” He tugged his hat’s brim down over his eyes and put his back to the kitchen. “Jazzy, what the hell you doin’?”

“Getting a drink. What the hell’s it look like, Ortiz?” She took a long, leisurely sip and tucked her free arm around her stomach with a quirked brow.

“Getting a drink…” His tone was flat as he licked his suddenly dry lips and tapped the newspaper against his arm like a drummer having a seizure. “Well, I ain’t gonna distract you from it, then.” He’d made two steps toward the hallway before he heard her speak again.

“You scared or something?” The kid froze in his steps and Jazzy spread her lips into a broad smirk. “You tryin’a tell me you ain’t never seen a girl like this before? I mean, ain’t nothin’a be ashamed of or anything, but-”

“That ain’t it!”

“Don’t be such a prude. Just pretend like you at the beach or something, boy. You know your brother got the only working air conditioning in this fucking apartment.” He kept his head tilted down, staring at the floor, and Jazzy chuckled. “C’mon, quit trippin’. Kick back and have one youself. Want a beer or something?”

As she made her way to the refrigerator, she studied him from the corner of her eye and watched the way he slowly lifted his gaze and nudged his cap back. He followed her movements like a wolf. “Naw, I ain’t feeling that.” She draped her arm over the back of the refrigerator and leaned in to study the contents that she already knew far too well. “I’ma just…uh…”

“…get some water?” She rolled her eyes to the door itself and poked her head above it with a smirk. Vic quickly flicked his eyes back up to her face before he nodded and tossed the newspaper at the couch as he tucked his hand in his baggy pocket. “Fine, I’ll get it.”

“Thanks.” He collapsed on the couch and sent his shoes flying as he pulled a box of cigarettes out of his pockets. By the time she’d come with his glass of water he’d already filled his side of the room with smoke. He watched her as she perched on the couch beside him and offered the glass. When he took it and she gently tapped her glass against his, he nodded. “Where’s Toby?”

“Sleeping. Think I wore him out.” Jazzmine studied the way he looked away and took another long drag, his foot tapping against the floor. “Boy gotta get his energy back up before the repeat performance.”

“Girl, I don’t gotta hear ‘bout you being a damn jump off for my bro, shut your mouth.”

“Excuse me?”

“You heard me.” He scowled and tapped his cigarette against the ash tray. “Ain’t my business. You just keep your little performances to yourself, aight?”

She flopped against the opposite arm of the couch with a similar scowl as she pulled her legs to her chest. Took everything in him to keep his eyes off her curves and on the wall instead. “Honey, just ‘cuz you jealous-”

“Like I got anything to be jealous of. The hell you talking about?”

“I don’t gotta explain myself. You ain’t stupid and I ain’t either.”

A heavy silence hung over the room before Vic threw back the glass of water and drained it. It was only broken by the clanking of the glass against the table. “If you done…” Suddenly the lighting of the room blinded him and he whirled around to watch Jazzy shove his hat on her head and sashay off to the kitchen. “The hell you doin’?”

“Man, I don’t know what you talking about.” She tossed her hair over her shoulder, every curl swaying just above the small of her back and drawing his eyes downward. “I’m just putting my glass up.”

“Like hell you are. Gimme my hat.”

“Fuck your hat, wigga. Buy another one.” She turned it around until it perched sideways on her head and eyed him over her shoulder with a quirked brow and a smirk.

“Wigga?” Vic dug his cigarette into the ashtray as he came to his feet. “You one to talk, you damn snow bunny.”

“Shut up.” As she tilted her head back to take a long healthy drink Vic made his way toward the kitchen, fingers locked in his belt loops. “You got something to say?”

“Naw, but I gotta hat to get. Give it here.”

“Aww, you gonna cry if I don’t?”

“Jazzy, I swear to Jah, you give it or-”

She turned and faced him with a smirk, arching her back. “Or what?”

He froze in his steps as he locked eyes with her, looking more like a man than a boy of barely eighteen. He spread his shoulders to their full broadness and frowned. “The hell you playing at?”

“I’ma be hanging around here a damn long time, Vic.” Jazzy placed the glass on the counter beside her and crossed her arms just under her bra. “So we might as well try to get along, you know?”

She had a point. He took in her tousled hair, her wild makeup, the love bites on her neck, and inevitably let his eyes trail down to the inviting cleavage thrust toward him. “Aight. Whatever.” As his eyes danced back up to her eyes he held out a hand and nodded toward the top of her head. She stared at him for a long moment, her smirk mischievous and her eyes hooded, before she slid out from between him and the counter and strolled toward the living room. “Jazzy, I swear I’ma smack you.”

“You gotta catch me first, boy.”

He shoved away from the counter and came after her quickly, and she looked over her shoulder just in time to laugh and whirl out of his reach. They flew around the living room like two kids, him a little slower than he could be and her as graceful as a damn ballerina as she constantly flitted just out of the range of his hands. By the time he finally got her cornered he’d tripped and pinned her to the couch, a hand holding both her wrists over her head while the other grabbed his hat and shoved it on his head again.

Her chest heaved as she panted under him, wiggling to get comfortable, and he froze as his eyes widened and he felt that rush of adrenaline flow through him. “You got your hat don’t you, boy?” And he released her wrists and went to sit back on his knees, but she suddenly grabbed his shirt and tilted her head to the side. “Ortiz, that a twenty-two in your pocket? Or…”

“Shut the hell up.” He shoved her down on the couch and scrambled to his feet, backing away as his nostrils flared and he growled. “I ain’t like that.”

“’Course not. Nobody said you was.” Her arms remained over her head and she stretched out across the couch, one of her knees pointing to the ceiling as she rolled her head over to look at him from beneath her thick lashes. “But if you ever are…” Jazzmine let her words hover in the air for a long moment before she came to her feet as well. She approached him, and frantic as he was he stayed right where he was like he’d grown roots. Jazzy paused in her steps before she tapped the brim of his cap and smirked. “You know where I am. Catch you on the flip side, man.”

The instant that Jazzmine slithered into bed beside Toby again, he roused from his dozing and blinked sleepily at her. “Hey there. You get lost?”

“Naw. Just got a damn long drink.” She smirked and threw one leg over his hip to sit astride him. “You get a good nap?”

The contact drew a long groan from his lips and he tilted his head back, letting his eyes slide languidly shut again. “Yeah. Hella good nap. You tryin’a tell me something, girl?”

“Maybe.” She chuckled as he slid his hand up her back and fumbled with her bra for a hot minute before getting it loose and tossing it aside.

For his part, Vic stared after Jazzy like she was a siren as she disappeared into the hallway, feeling a painful lurch in the base of his stomach. “…fuckin’ ho.” He shoved his hat off and dragged his hand over his stubbly head, scowling. The smell of lavender floated up to him from his hat and he glared at it for a long moment before he heard a soft feminine moan drift out of Toby’s closed bedroom door. “Dammit.” He roughly rubbed his face and stormed down to the bathroom, nearly slamming the door behind him.

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