ONCE UPON A HOT ROOF
by Rhonda Collins
Diana roamed her loft restlessly. It was evening, and the hotAugust night sizzled. All her windows were open and she prayed for ahint of breeze, but it seemed the gods of the air had all left forcooler climes. The air conditioner in her building had given up theghost with the first onset of the heat wave and had yet to befixed.
Desperate for some relief, Diana had already stripped to joggingshorts and a thin T-shirt, but the material was plastered to her skinwith sweat. She stared at her computer ruefully. She had work to do,but feared a disk crash in the heat. Her computer was even moretemperamental than she was, and she couldn't afford to replace thatdisk. After standing at the window for ten minutes watching the heatcurl up from the pavement below, she collapsed, gasping, onto hercouch--muttering imprecations upon the slow-moving Super, who neverfixed anything if he could help it. "You'd think he'd at least fixsomething that'd keep him cool!"
As she lay there, panting and sweating--feeling very wilted--shewas a little dismayed to hear a tap on the celestory windows aboveher. "Damn! Of all nights for a visit. I'm hot enough, thanks!" Sheand Vincent had grown very close of late. Not quite as close as Dianawould have liked, but they were very comfortable with one another.Enough so that Diana knew he'd come up to share her air conditioningas well as her company.
Diana trudged up the stairs, acutely aware of her bedraggledappearance. She wished there was somewhere to hide. But when sheopened the door to the roof, she felt a little better: Vincent lookedas miserable as she felt.
Vincent mopped at his forehead with the back of his arm. His haircurled in damp ringlets around his face, and he pushed at itimpatiently. "It seems that you are as miserable as I."
Diana managed a weak smile. "Yeah. My A/C's out. I figured you'dfind a nice lake somewhere down Below and be swimming."
He groaned. "Don't mention it. The Mirror Pool and Falls arecrowded with children--and adults. It's not as hot down there as itis up here, but it is warmer than usual."
Neither of them spoke for a few moments as they both thought ofsplashing in that cool water. Diana thought she'd die for wanting it.When she glanced up, what struck her most forcefully was the factthat Vincent hadn't altered his clothes one bit. He was still layeredfrom head to toe in the heavy clothing he usually wore. No wonder helooks like he's gonna pass out! Damn the man's insecurities! "I'm notquite as miserable as you are, Vincent. At least I'm not dressed fora goddamned snowstorm! For Heaven's sake, why don't you shed some ofthat baggage before you pass out?" She reached out impatiently andgrabbed his cloak, pulling it off in one swift, smooth motion. Shetossed it aside and reached for the laces of his tunic. She wasgenuinely concerned ...he didn't look well at all.
Vincent backed away from her searching hands...until his backencountered the corner of the roof. He was trapped.
A reckless feeling surged through Diana. She grinned. This is fun,she thought. Maybe the heat's finally cooked my brain! She assessedthe situation. Vincent was trapped in the corner with no place to gounless he ran over her...which she knew he wouldn't do. Her eye fellon the hose, which she'd used to clean off the roof awhile back. Shegrabbed it and aimed it at him. "Unless you start taking off some ofthose clothes, you're gonna be very wet, mister! Startstrippin'!"
Vincent's eyes widened in disbelief. He braced himself. "Youwouldn't."
He grinned then, canines flashing. "I dare you!"
Like the Cheshire Cat, Diana's smile widened. She never couldresist a dare, and he knew it. She sidled over, turned the water on,then blasted the water at Vincent with the sprayer--catching him fullin the face before he could duck--and soaking him.
Instantly, Diana found herself flat on the rooftop with Vincent ontop of her wrestling for the hose. She managed to wriggle away, butlost the hose. This time, an extremely wet and obviously delightedsemi-feline male stalked her across the rooftop, the hose sprayingher as he came.
Diana sputtered and backed up, laughing through the water sprayingin her face. She hadn't even dared to hope for such a reaction fromVincent. Diana ducked below the spray and sprang, catching Vincentunaware. He'd been so sure he had her trapped. Once more, he lost thehose.
Diana managed to thoroughly soak him by the time he had her downonce more. They were both laughing and panting for breath as Vincentreached across her and turned the water off. She tried to move, butVincent's weight pinned her down.
He grinned down at her mischievously as she stuck out her tongue."It seems your ploy was semi-successful."
"Only semi? Damn! I must be slipping." She raised her head to lickthe water dripping off the end of his nose. "But you're right. Youstill have your clothes on. Besides..." she paused as he nuzzledunder her chin. "...um...besides...you have the advantage--there'snot much to be hidden under a wet T-shirt."
He raised his head slightly and peered down. "You're right. I doappear to have the advantage," he commented smugly.
She laughed again as he shook his head, raining water down on her."Enough, already! Share and share alike?"
The laughter that rumbled through his chest delighted her. Hereached for the ties of his tunic. "I suppose it would be thegentlemanly thing to do."