Oh, my...that first kiss! A first kiss can make you swoon, fill your tummy full of zingy tingles, take your breath away. It’s fireworks and fiesta, marching bands and ticker-tape, all the bells and whistles...or maybe it’s as gentle as lingering summer sunshine and the soft touch of a whispering breeze. What is more wonderful than that first kiss? I’m telling ya, people – nothing!
The kiss that follows in this excerpt from A Different Kind of Honesty is a little different. It’s not the first kiss this couple have ever had - not as themselves, anyway. They kissed six months before this (and did a little more than just kissing...) but that was a one-time only event. Way back then, neither of then truly knew who the other person really was. Maggie Lawless only knew her one-night lover by his undercover alias, Joey Pescolloni. Undercover FBI Agent Tony Valentino – aka Joey – struggled with the fact that he had to keep his real identity a secret, for Maggie’s protection as well as his. It meant their one-night relationship couldn’t go any further, no matter how much they both wanted it differently. That 'first kiss' lingered in both their dreams from that day on.
Now, the truth is out. All bets are off. The theme of the book is, of course, honesty. And here, knowing for the first time the real truth about each other, Maggie and Tony can at last have that truly honest ‘first kiss,’ the one that will change their lives in ways they could never have predicted all those months ago. I hope you like it.
'Maggie leaned past him and pressed the start button and a solo, sultry horn smoked its way into the room. Tony recognized the song from some TV ad or movie soundtrack or something. He thought it was Dinah Washington.
Maggie lifted her glass and took a tiny sip. “Talking about things changing,” she said, moving across the room, “everything must have changed for you. The job, I mean.” She perched against the back of the sofa. “Ramon told me they pulled you out fast.”
Tony lifted his hands and his shoulders in a ‘that’s-the-way-it-goes’ gesture.
“Could’ve happened any time. Well, goodbye to it. It won’t happen again.”
He stretched over and chinked his bottle against her glass. Too much space between them again, but it didn’t seem to matter any more; he had all the time in the world to get closer to her.
“Do you miss it?” she asked.
He puffed a breath out between his lips and settled against the counter. “No.”
He ran his finger around the lip of the bottle. The bubbles in the beer made a fussy, hissing sound. “It’s done. They won’t be putting me undercover anywhere for a while, even if I wanted to go. Not in New York anyway. And the legal eagles have been working it for some time now, even before I came out. The whole court process starts off in a couple months. Or so they tell me.”
Maggie nodded. “I don’t know how you did it. I mean, the name and everything, for all that time. Being someone else.” She glanced away and a look he couldn’t identify crossed her face. Confusion, perhaps? Anxiety. The space between her eyes corrugated in concern. “Were you someone else?”
Tony thought hard, shook his head. “I don’t think so...not entirely.” He rubbed a finger across his brow. “It was like being both, me and Joey, all at the same time. Him on the outside, me on the inside.” He looked out across the room to the lights of New York, wondering. He’d never thought of it before, the way she’d asked, at least not coherently.
“And you know something?” he said, still staring out of the window. “That was fine. Until one day something happened and I started to hate that name. Joey Pescolloni.”
Her voice was no more than a whisper. “What happened?”
“I met you,” he said simply. “I met you and I wanted to tell you everything. What I was doing, who I was. All of it.”
She lowered her head and made a little stifled sound, a release of something. “But you couldn’t.”
He closed his eyes, remembering that chilly, fall morning. The cream and gold corridor outside her room, her kiss still hot against his mouth as he started to walk away from her door. Something stopping him; a fine, invisible chain unraveling behind him and snapping him back, strained and taut. He’d slumped against the wall, head tipped, his eyes running over the stupid, over-elaborate plaster cornice that roped along the edge of the ceiling like icing on a wedding cake. His fists bunched against his sides, pressing down as if he could push himself down through the floor, down into the earth till he had nowhere else to go but up, screaming the truth. The physical effort he’d made to stop himself from banging on her door and grabbing her to him, telling her everything, just to hear her say his real name over and over as he made love to her. When he pushed himself off the wall, the heel of his shoe had left a dirty half-moon on the flock paper.
He opened his eyes. He was still here in her room and she was there, quiet and unmoving. Just waiting for him, giving him his time, his space.
“No one knew everything,” he said. “Not my supervisor or the men I was with. Not my wife, my family. Only I knew it all and it filled me up, but it was okay. I was sorta big enough to hold it all, you know?” He lifted his beer to his lips, but changed his mind and put it down.
“And then...you. You happened and that was somehow too big for me. I needed you to know it all too. I wanted you to have the truth.”
Behind him, Dinah began to sing again. Embraceable You. Maggie moved towards him and set her glass on the counter beside his beer. She touched her fingertips to his face.
“I can have it now.”
Taking the half step that brought him close enough to lean his forehead on hers, he laid his hand over her fingers on his cheek; his mouth so close to hers he felt her light, hesitant breath against his lips.
“Maggie,” he said quietly and he felt her breathe in. “Six months...six months of dreaming about you, thinking I’d never see you again.” He slid his hand behind her head, the scent of her hair the same one from before of roses, of something rich and heavy he didn’t know the name of and he buried his face in it, filling himself with her.
“I thought it’d kill me...but now, it’s like I died and came to life again.”
“I didn’t even know your real name.” Her fingers rested lightly against his chest as her voice wrapped itself around his insides. “All that time, thinking of you as Joey.”
He touched a finger lightly against her lips, hoping against hope. “That’s a figure of speech, right? All that time, thinking of me?”
She looked up, and her eyes were full of something he recognized deep inside, something familiar he tried to name, but the word escaped him.
“No,” she whispered. “Not a figure of speech.”
As he kissed her, the word came back. It was something that had eluded him all his life except for one short, perfect night, and never again since...the one thing he needed above anything else, and he knew now just as he’d known then that she was his only source; she was the beginning and the end.
It was honesty.'
A Different Kind of Honesty is available in print and digital editions from the Amazons, Fictionwise, etc, or direct from The Wild Rose Press.