Disclaimer: Sadly, I can claim no ownership over these characters.

Backstage Pass

Breathless, Stacy flashed her ticket at the usher near the door, jostling past him to enter the small auditorium. She'd run from the parking lot, nervously checking her wrist watch. Greg had called her office eight times that afternoon. "We're going on around 9:30," he'd said. And eight times, soft laughs lacing her words, she'd promised to be there.

Her watch read 9:35 when she fell into a plush, velvet-cushioned seat in the last row. Straightening her skirt, she caught her breath, and relaxed in her seat as the house lights faded. The murmur of the audience quieted as a short, balding man ambled onto the stage, captured by a crisp spotlight. Speaking into a hand-held microphone, he jovially thanked the audience for making Princeton-Plainsboro's first benefit concert a success, leading everyone in enthusiastic applause, before introducing the final act of the evening. The man turned and gestured, nearly throwing his arm out of his socket in excitement, toward the stage right wing.

Stacy craned her neck to see above the bush of curly hair in the seat in front of her. Several men emerged from the wing, some carrying instruments—trumpet, electric guitar, saxophone. A young, bearded man took his place behind a jamboree of percussion instruments. A tall, black man—Stacy recognized him as one of the hospital's pharmacists—walked to the microphone stand in the center of the stage, tossing his guitar strap around his shoulder. She scanned the members of the makeshift band and felt a smile tease her mouth as her eyes settled on the silhouetted profile of a man—her man—seated at the piano.

After the pharmacist introduced their first number, the lights washed the stage in shades of blue, matching the melancholy tones of the music. The cool glow reflected off of the dark, shiny surface of the baby grand, illuminating Greg's face. She smiled warmly, watching him. With his eyes closed, his head moved with changes in the music. His eyebrows lowered and lips parted during sudden key changes. His eyes dropped to his hands and his back curved, leaning over the keys for difficult solos. Stacy could see a line of sweat glistening at his hairline. Her gaze followed a gleaming droplet as it flowed down his forehead, his temple, and onto his cheek. Absentmindedly, she drew her tongue across her bottom lip.

The other band members—the guitarist-pharmacist, the bearded drummer, the round saxophone player—blurred and darkened at the edges of her vision. Her ears tuned into the rich, somber tones of Greg's piano. The melodies resembled those that he would play in the tidy, dark living room of their townhouse. She'd often return from a long evening at her office, hunched under the weight of her bulging shoulder bag, and find him there, head down, eyes closed, fingers poised over keys. Stacy's eyelids fluttered closed and she sighed heavily. She wished that she could slip onto the stage, unnoticed and silent. She wanted to curl her arms around his shoulders and press herself against his back, engulfing him in a gentle embrace. Wanted to tilt her face and lay scattered kisses on his cheek, watching his expression change—his jaw relax and lips part, his concentrated brow lines gradually fade. Wanted to lace her fingers in his hair and listen to his soft sigh accompany graceful, musical phrases.

The band played for thirty minutes. When Stacy heard the final notes linger in the overheated air, her eyes blinked open and squinted against the bright house lights. She remained in her seat, watching the band disappear into both wings, as a stagehand pulled a thick, red curtain across the stage. The audience filtered through the exits, their feet noisily shuffling over abandoned programs and candy wrappers. As their excited chatter dissipated, Stacy gathered her handbag and tip-toed to the front of the hall, eyeing a set of hand-crafted steps that led to the stage.

She climbed the stairs, her heels tapping against the wood, and pushed the curtain aside to peek onto the stage. Empty. Echoes drifted from the nearest wing and she grinned softly, detecting Greg's voice as he replied to a compliment. Muffled footsteps grew louder and she slipped through the opening in the curtain. He emerged from the wing, a towel draped onto his shoulder. She leaned against the cool, painted cinder-block wall and watched him bend down near the piano to collect a bottle of water.

"Hey," she said, her voice barely above a whisper, as she set her bag at her feet.

He straightened up, water flying from the tip of the bottle. His startled expression relaxed as his eyes found her. "Hey," he replied, a mischievous smile playing on his lips. "For a second, I thought I had a creepy stalker."

Stacy ambled closer to him, minding coiled cables of microphones and amplifiers. "Well," she said, reaching out to steal his towel. "I consider myself more of a sexy groupie." She dragged the towel along the damp hair on the side of his head.

He leaned his head into the soft pressure of the towel. "Tour bus is out back."

"The big bouncer at the door wouldn't let me through," she countered, lowering the towel.

"You must have used last week's password." After pausing to trail his eyes across her body, he added, "Or he didn't think you looked slutty enough. I have to agree."

Stacy directed him a scandalized smile—a poor substitute for a snappy retort. Playfully, she swatted at him with the towel, trying again when he danced out of the way.

"Pathetic aim."

"The last time you criticized my aim, you ended up with a splatter of green paint in the middle of your chest." The towel snapped at the air.

He lunged at her, avoiding the cracking tip of the towel. Stacy felt his hand grip her wrist and a cold, wet weight flow across the front of her blouse. She wrenched her wrist free of his hold, gasping, and raised her hand to pluck the soaked fabric from her chest.

"Like that? It's not green, but—"

"Shut up," she said, fighting back a grin, and took aim for his shin. She lurched forward, nearly stumbling over a bundle of cables, as his hand grabbed the end of the towel.

"Bad reflexes, too."

She held on to her end of the towel, allowing him to rein her in until they stood toes to toes, smirking devilishly at each other.

Stacy knew that she'd started a game, a playful exchange of taunts, and she knew that she'd lost as soon as she'd pulled back for the first shot at his hip. Her smile straightened to a serious line and, lowering her eyes, she loosened her grip on the towel. The cotton fibers slid slowly from her fist. Official defeat.

When she looked into Greg's face, she was surprised to find no self-satisfied smile. Her breath quickened as he discarded the water bottle and wrapped the towel around her, pressing it into the small of her back, to draw her closer.

His mouth covered hers, their lips locking in a warm, gentle seal. The pressure of the towel fell away and his fingers spread across her back. Stacy raised herself on her toes and grasped his shoulders, pushing against his body, against his mouth. God, his mouth. Her lips parted widely, inviting him to explore, and she pressed against his hips when his tongue swept the roof of her mouth.

A low, resonant sound reverberated from his throat and, instantly, she ached for him. Her heart pulsed frantically. Stacy slid her hands down his chest, moving lower, lower, to stroke him through the thick, strained fabric of his jeans. Another rumbling moan. She pulled her mouth from his and tilted her face against his neck, inhaling deeply. He smelled like a sweet, faint mixture of warm spices—clove, nutmeg, ginger.

"Mmm," she hummed, her hands passing over the button of his jeans. She observed the path of her own fingers, curling underneath his t-shirt to graze the stitches of the hem, and listened as his uneven breaths were interrupted by a hard swallow. She knew his sounds—quiet, ragged breaths laced with need; deep, throaty moans that wordlessly told her he wanted her. He wanted her. Her hands snaked under his shirt, palms flattening low on his back. She felt his fingers drop from her back and grip her hips, pressing her to him, holding her there. He wanted her. Stacy planted open-mouthed kisses along the sharp curve of his jaw, spilling sighing breaths over his smooth, flushed skin.

When Stacy's lips brushed an ear lobe, he suddenly lifted her, giving her little time to steady herself and wrap her arms tightly around his neck. She encircled his waist with her legs, feeling his hands supporting her. As he carried her, Stacy felt her skirt stretch, rising up her thighs, and swirls of cool air against the damp fabric of her panties underneath.

Greg stopped, placing a hand on her spine and bent forward to lay her on the closed lid of the piano. Stacy toed off her black pumps and let her legs fall, parted and exposed, to either side of his hips. As he leaned over her, she felt his hands gliding up her thighs, rubbing lightly. Stacy reached behind his head and brought it down to kiss him. She curled her fingers into his hair and shifted her hips, pressing into the tight bulge in his jeans. His mouth moved faster against hers, his tongue darting into her. She was the one to moan this time, feeling the warm pressure of his mouth and the smooth fabric of her panties sliding down her legs.

He broke their kiss to step from between her legs and strip the panties down her shins and off, stowing them in his back pocket. She watched as he stood up, his fingers hurriedly unfastening his jeans and letting them pool around his feet. Stacy sat up, pulling him into the circle of her legs, and reached past the waistband of his boxers. His shuddering breath flowed into her hair and she grinned, eyes connecting with his, fingers wrapping around his hot, hard erection. He throbbed in her hand, twitching when she moved her fingertips to the head. Sensitive. Watching his eyes close, she wondered if he ached as much as she did. If something inside his chest burned. If sometimes he forgot to breathe. Because, God, she did.

On the nape of his neck, her other hand guided him over her as she lay back against the piano. His hands cradled her head—a sweet gesture that made her smile into his shoulder. Stacy felt the weight of his head fall into the crook of her neck, nuzzling her. She tightened her legs around his waist and raised her hips to press against him, wet heat against wet heat. His strangled sigh was loud in her ear. She loved his sounds. She loved the feel of him, not quite inside of her, but hard and slick and ready. She loved him.

"Greg." A breathy whisper near his ear, then a soft gasp as he moved above her, pushing into her.

His chest heaved against her with the efforts of his thrusts. Steady, hard. Stacy slipped her hands beneath his shirt and clutched his back, feeling the muscles move under his skin. He rocked inside her, and she held on. She buried her face into the hollow of his neck, feeling the heat of her own breath.

She released a loud wave of groans, crying his name among mumbled sounds. She felt his fingers curling in her hair, heard his grunts in her ear. Stacy crashed her hips against him, wanting him deeper. Deeper. Oh, God, deeper. She felt a rush of tingles, waves and waves of pleasure, as he drove into her. Her legs tightened around him and he moved faster, his breath coming in short puffs against her neck.

He slipped a hand from underneath her head and brought it between them, touching her, rubbing her. She ground against his touch, hiccupped cries leaving her lips. Stacy writhed; she felt a steady build of pleasure—electric tingles and sparks—that exploded in a sudden crash of heat. He continued to move within her, thrusting harder as her muscles clamped tightly in fluttering spasms.

As she relaxed around him, Stacy heard him utter a broken growl, felt him push deeply, and tense. She pulled his body against her, holding him as he shuddered into the splayed strands of her hair.

He waited until their breathing calmed to pull out of her. She allowed him to lift her from the piano and set her on the floor, his hand around her waist to steady her. Stacy grinned and leaned against him, tilting her chin up to kiss him.

He mumbled against her lips.

Pulling back, Stacy looked at him questioningly. "What?"

"Kind of exposed here," he said, gesturing to his pants around his ankles. He bent to pick them up and fastened them, while she smoothed the wrinkles of her skirt. He smiled at her.

"We should go," she said, nodding to the door.

He nodded and stepped over equipment, heading for the exit. Stacy choked back a laugh as she spied a bobbing strip of red fabric peeking from his back pocket.

She finally released her laugh when she got into her car, watching him climb into his own to follow her home.