"I dunno," Tim replied. "Den? Library?"
"Where do those doors lead to?" Gabby wondered.
"I'm so glad you asked!" Tim jumped. He hurried across the hard wood floor and threw himself in front of the first wooden door. With his back to the frame, he waited for Gabby to follow. Where Tim's footfalls had been but a mere scamper of sound, her heels echoed as she slowly joined him. Bayliss grinned at her and cleared his throat. "You're never gonna believe this one," he assured her, yanking the first door open with dramatic flare.
Gabby gaped into the deep recess. Two shiny brass poles gleamed out of the bricked darkness. She raised a brow at Tim.
"Where do they go?" she asked him, peering carefully into the shaft and seeing only black. Tim peered in as he stood beside her.
"Down," he replied a second later. Gabby rolled her eyes.
"Who did you buy the house from, sugar? Batman?"
"Nope. It's been on the market off and on since the early eighties," Tim shrugged. "It was an absolute steal."
"Did you ask about the history of the place?" Gabby worried.
"It has been a fire house, a hotel, a private residence, a youth hostel, and a funeral parlor."
Gabby squeaked and darted back from the looming recess.
"FUNERAL PARLOR??!!" she exclaimed. "TIM!!!"
"Don't tell me you're worried about a few little dead bodies," Tim taunted. "Mature adult like you?"
"TIM!" she exclaimed again.
"You're mad I bought it without consulting you?"
"No.....no.....no...." she reassured him. "But? A funeral home??"
"Let's finish the tour before you completely freak out on me. You haven't even seen the third and fourth floors."
"How many days have you been staying here?"
"Well," Tim mentally calculated, bending long fingers to the count as he herded her towards the tiny, narrow hall and the central stairs. "You've been in Miami for ten days. I spoke to the realtor last Tuesday. Met her and toured the place on Wednesday. Bought it on Friday. I've stayed here for six nights," he decided finally.
"Have you heard anything.....funny?"
"Like rattling chains? Wind in closed rooms? Heads rolling across floors in empty rooms? Feet thumping down the hall?"
"Yes?" Gabby worried. Tim grinned and tugged her up the stairs.
"No," he sighed. "Wait till you see the bedroom."
"The bedroom? There's like nine bedrooms on the first and second floors, Tim."
"Yeah, but you haven't seen the one up here. Or the one on the fourth floor. You'll love them both," Tim promised. Gabby followed him as he danced up the steps like a cat, taking two at a time. He reached the landing and stared over the carved spindle railing at her. "Hurry," he urged. Gabby picked up her feet and trudged onward.
Tim opened the wide, double doors, and light rushed out onto the landing. Unlike the tinier rooms on the first and second floors, this bedroom covered literally the entire third floor from end to end and wall to wall, save for the central stairs.
Tim had gotten all his furniture and belongings out of storage, and had spent six days making himself quite at home. He had arranged a neat and tidy consolidation of stuffed chairs and the huge divan around the tv and vcr. Video tapes were piled around on the floor on an area rug in the middle. He had placed his bed underneath the wall of windows on the east side of the house. It was neatly made, although stacks of books waited to be put in a night stand or bookshelves. Gabby peered behind the door to her immediate right, and found a bathroom with an antique, clawfoot tub in it.
"Isn't it nice?" Tim gushed.
"Actually, it is pretty damned impressive," she conceded. "What does the attic look like?"
"Like this floor, with lower ceilings where the roof angles downward."
Gabby smiled as she glanced at the ceiling above her.
"Are you going to help me lug all my stuff up to the attic? You've been in my apartment. You know I have a lot of stuff."
"I'll help," Tim offered.
"Do I have to call it an "attic"? Can I call it a "penthouse" instead?" she wondered. "How are we going to get my bed set up that staircase?"
"I will help you lug it up the stairs if you like, but wouldn't it make more sense just to use the elevator?"
"There's an elevator too?"
Tim opened what Gabby had assumed to be a closet, and there were the two shiny poles once more.
"Oh!" Tim paused. He quickly closed that door and opened the one next to it, drawing back an iron cage front to reveal a green tiled elevator, circa 1920's.
"You made me schlep up three long flights of stairs?" she accused petulantly, stepping inside to admire the decor. Tim leaned on the accordian gate.
"So....do you like it?" he asked.
"Let's go see my room first, and then I'll decide," she insisted, crossing her arms over her chest. Tim skipped inside and secured the gate. He pressed his thumb into the "4" button on the mechanical panel, and they waited. The whole car lurched to life a second later. Gabby grabbed his arm in surprise.
"It needs some oil," he explained.
"How much did you pay for this place?" she wondered.
"Well, it doesn't sound like a lot, but it needs renovating on the first and second floors, you know, a little paint, some carpeting, replace a couple broken windows. Maybe we'll have to replace the central air unit in the next couple years. Close your eyes."
Gabby shut her eyes as the elevator crawled to a stop. Tim loomed behind her and put his hands over her face.
"Did you surprise me and move my stuff too?" she teased him.
"No," Tim laughed. "I knew you'd kill me if I went that far." He opened the gate with one hand, and put it back over her face. "It needs paint up here too."
Gabby opened her eyes to find light flooding all through the attic, across the hard wood floors. It was identical to the third floor except for the lowered ceilings. Not a problem for a woman who was her height. She began to imagine where she might put this and that among her tables and lamps as Tim ducked down and stepped up to the closest wall. It did need paint. It was a somewhat drab beige color.
"We can redo it in whatever shade you like, as long as it's not orange," Tim added. Gabby shook her head at him.
"Oh, Timmy. You've outdone yourself," she assured him. Tim ran his fingers along the beige wall and spun carefully to face her.
"I'm glad you like it," he smiled.
"Like it? I love it!"
"I haven't heard weird noises at night, so I don't believe you have to worry about boogie men or ghosts."
"For a house like this, I'm willing to share. Do I have my own bathroom too?" she asked, sneaking out of the elevator and opening doors at random.
"Third one," he told her as she discovered the fireman poles, and an actual closet. Gabby squeaked when she twisted the brass and glass knob and opened the correct door.
"It's eggshell and yellow!" she laughed, closing it again with a bang.
"I thought you might like that part," Tim nodded.
"There are tulips in my stained glass window," she added excitedly.
"Your favorite," he reminded her.
Gabby giggled and rushed inside, closing the door behind her. Tim leaned on a short wall as he heard water running. She was playing with the sink and the shower at once. A moment later, she emerged, and closed the door. She stood next to Tim and composed herself.
"What the heck are we going to do with those nine bedrooms and the first two floors?" she asked quietly and seriously.
"Rent them out? Start a daycare? Open a bookstore? Open a brothel?" he replied.
"Have you tested out the poles yet?" she asked as she removed her suit jacket.
"Only about twenty times," he admitted.
"Oh. I bet I know something you haven't done yet," she murmured seductively, taking his hand and pulling him back to the lift.
Once inside the elevator, Gabby closed the door and slid the gate home. Tim reached for the button to the third floor. Gabby tugged his hand away and kissed his palm.
"Can we turn off the light?" she asked.
Tim tapped a button on the switch plate that read "stand by". The small tile and metal box fell into pitch darkness. Gabby put her arms up around Tim's neck, straining upwards to kiss him. He bumped his nose all over her face.
"You want me to turn the light on?" he asked.
"No," she said, pulling him down to her level. Their lips met in a kiss that spoke of how much she had missed him while she had been in Miami. True, she and Tim had only officially been dating for a couple months, since he had been released from prison and placed on probation for the remainder of his sentence for the death of Luke Ryland. In those short few weeks though, she could feel a whole new man beginning to emerge, a man completely different from the morose and suicidal specter she had become reacquainted with a year and a half ago. This man had his dark and bellicose moods, to be sure, but she had heard him laugh and joke again. She had even heard him sing a little. He had taken her all over Baltimore to places he had missed seeing. He was opening himself up to her as he hadn't done for anyone in years. Underneath it all, he might have been very scared at the prospect of a relationship with the defense attorney who had secured his plea bargain and timely release. Who wouldn't be worried at the way that was going to look to people? But the point was, Tim was finally past wanting to die for what he had done to Luke Ryland. He was ready to start living again, maybe for the first time.
From the intensity of his kiss, Gabby could easily tell Tim had missed her as well. His large hands roamed over her breasts and down her back, loosening her shirt tail as she tossed her suit jacket on the floor. The buttons crackled with sound when they hit. Gabby kicked off her heels. They danced to opposite sides of the lift with metallic clanks. Tim knelt down to the tiles as Gabby dug her teeth into his neck and wrapped herself around his waist.
"So, how was Miami?" he whispered calmly as she untucked his shirt and yanked it up. She nuzzled along his chest. Her tongue darted against one nipple, and Tim caught his breath in delight.
"Fine," she told him. "How's your Mom?"
Tim chewed his bottom lip and groaned as she bit tenderly across his chest.
"She says 'hi'," Tim managed. "Did you remember to get crabs while you were in Miami?"
Gabby halted for a brief laugh.
"Gosh, Timmy. Isn't that a personal thing to ask a girl?" she huffed in feigned falsetto. His whole body quivered with rumbles of mirth which coursed through her as well.
"Did you get a case of those yummy Floridian crustaceans?" he reiterated more correctly.
"Yes," she answered huskily. "Shut up and kiss me."
"Yes, ma'am," Tim obliged, sliding his tongue into her mouth as she unsnapped his jeans and unzipped his fly. She coaxed his pants off his slender hips, kissing her way down his chest and along her waist. Tim jolted upwards as his warm, naked flesh contacted the tiles. "Yipes!"
Gabby stood up and wrestled out of her hose and underwear, tossing them into the air and hoping they didn't land on Tim. She felt his hands searching for her body in the darkness. They rose up her waist and expert fingers began to delicately undo her blouse. It soon joined the other clothes spread out on the floor.
"Have I told you how much I like that skirt you're wearing?" he whispered as she pulled off his tee shirt and sucked his neck.
"Thank you," she whispered back, drawing the weight of the length of his body on top of herself. Tim burrowed deep inside her, and they moved together on the icy tiles as the lift rocked side to side with them. Tim panted Gabby's name as she cradled him in her arms, stroking his hair and his back.
"Missed....missed you," he moaned anxiously.
"Me too," she nuzzled his ear as she purred. More than he could ever understand, Gabby had missed his strong arms around her, the sound of his voice in her ear, his breath against her cheek.
"Oh, oh, oh, oh."
"That's my Timmy," Gabby smiled, clinging tightly to Tim's broad shoulders as he drove deeper and deeper inside her. Too many nights in Florida, she had stared at her hotel room ceiling, dreaming of what was waiting at home for her...this heaven. "Oh baby. That's my Timmy." Nothing on Earth could ever compare to the tingling all along Gabby's spine and limbs as Tim thrust inside her and whimpered deliriously in her ear. Ten days away from him had been torture. She never wanted him out of her sight again, let alone out of her bed. The elevator trembled with their every move. She worried offhandedly if this was such a bright idea until they knew the limits of the thing. Tim was beginning to shake all over, and his words were growing incoherent. A large bite sank into her right shoulder. Tim seemed to come forever, buried against her and inside her as if he would never be able to separate himself again. Gabby closed her eyes and gorged herself on the throbbing that jolted through her body again and again and....
The elevator was moving!
DOWN! OH FUCK!!
Tim must have felt it too. The lights came back on, and for a brief second, she got a close up view of his sweetly satisfied smile as it turned into a frown of sheer panic. A second later, the unthinkable theory that they were descending much against their wills was confirmed.
They were both on their feet and dressing by the time the open door on the third floor went by the gate. Hose on. Blouse buttoned. She was still wearing her bra. Suit jacket on. Toes into her shoes as an after-thought. Tim and she ricocheted off each other and the walls as he pulled on his boxers, jeans, and tee shirt in record time. And then she froze. Tim held onto her arms for balance as he slipped his feet back into his worn, leather loafers.
Where were her panties?
Gabby blanched dreadfully pale as she scanned the tiny box. They couldn't have gone far. Not in the corners. The second floor came and went at a crawl. Not on the ceiling light. Not on the floor. Gabby moved Tim aside and looked under his boxcar feet. He realized she was missing something important by the urgent expression on her face. The elevator hit the ground floor and halted. The door opened while Tim and Gabby both had their backs to the gate.
"Ehn ehmm," a deep voice rumbled. The gate folded up. Tim spun around to face a puzzled Frank Pembleton.
"Frankie," Tim grinned.
"Uuuuuh, hi, Frank," Gabby said meekly, glancing Tim's body up and down. Just under the back hem of his gray tee shirt, a virtual banner of blue lace drew her focus. She darted her fingers up Tim's back. Frank watched Tim's eyes double and then reduce to normal. Gabby retrieved the missing article. Frank covered his eyes as she stuffed them into her suit jacket pocket. "That dryer. I'm going to have to remember to use bounce," she whistled casually.
"What were you two up to?" Frank wanted to know, not fooled for a second.
"I was giving Gabby a quick tour," Tim smiled innocently.
"Are we going to dinner? Mary's waiting in the car, faunching and raring at the bit."
"Am I dressed okay?" Tim worried.
"That depends," Frank smiled, glancing Tim up and down. "Is there any more underwear down your shirt?"
"Gees Louise," Gabby fussed, brushing them both impatiently out of the elevator and towards the front door. They hit the porch, and Tim locked the door with one hand while checking his back pocket for his wallet with the other.
"If you two are busy, Mary and I can drive around the block for ten minutes," Frank teased wickedly, leaning over Tim's lowered shoulders.
"How does Italian sound?" Tim asked blythely, standing back up.
"Maybe you'd prefer to order in? Or would you rather eat out?" Frank continued. Tim half gouged, half tickled him, and Frank shut up. Gabby buried her beet-red face in Tim's back, and followed him to the waiting car.
"What took so long?" Mary wanted to know.
"I don't know," Frank laughed. "But those two should get that elevator checked, cause it was really squeaking."