"Sanctuary" by Mala

"Were you followed?" I asked softly, turning from the windows of the room that was always cold and empty without his presence.

He shook his head just slightly, closing the door my small, attic apartment and taking off his black wool coat. Rain clung to his wavy auburn hair and the lashes that curved over his beautiful green eyes. "I'm safe," he assured in the voice that never ceased to make my knees weak.

I crossed over to him as he folded his coat and put it over the back of the well worn leather sofa. Something flickered in his face. . . sudden, utter desolation. . .and then was gone. "Are you?" I wondered, taking in the way his tight jeans clung to his lean hips and how his black turtleneck spanned the width of his chest.

"I will be, cherie," he assured, drawing me close, leaning in for a kiss. . ."Once I have this."

Our mouths met but I broke away before my mind could get too clouded by the heady taste of him. . .the feel of him so firm and sure. "Michael," I chided, gently placing a palm against his cheek and meeting his passionate but troubled gaze. "What have they done to you now?"

He shuddered and wrapped his arms around me, burying his face in my hair. When he spoke, it was muffled, harsh. "The usual. Manipulation. Lies. I am their robot. They own me, heart and soul."

"Shhh. . ." I soothed, stroking his silky hair like he was little Romain. "Its all right. The Section has no power here."

"I know," he whispered into my neck. "J'se."

I was his sanctuary. . .had long been so. Did Section One know? Did they care? I hoped not. Prayed not.

"How's the boy?" he asked, voice choked once again.

I winced. "The boy". The son he'd saved but could never acknowledge if he wanted to keep him alive. "Romain is fine," I assured gently. "He's at school." Not mine. Never mine even though his hair was black and eyes dark like mine, even though he called me "Mama." There was an unmistakable stamp of Simone in him. Yet even if I knew the truth, everyone in the building and the neighborhood thought he was the product of my affair with this shiftless but sexy French artist they saw occaisonally visiting my place.

I held tight to Michael, feeling his heartbeat and his conflicts like they were my own. "Everything will be fine," I assured quietly. "At least for the moment."

"At least for the moment, " he echoed bitterly, lips pausing at my temple. "At least for the moment I am free."

I pulled back, tugged at his wrist. "Come, my love. . .be safe and free. . . with me." Sadness and seduction entwined in my voice.

And in a flurry of motion, we tumbled to the sofa. His lips . . . his hands. . .searching for salvation while I searched for the soul he hid so well. "I love you," I told him in the heat of things. Because it was what he had come to me for.

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