Andrea was, as usual, running late for her meeting at CBS. She needed a five shot Espresso Macchiato, how could she get through a meeting without one? She spotted the Starbucks on the corner of Vantage and Ventura and slid into the loading zone out front. Diego was sitting on the sidewalk, leering at her, when she eased out of the XKE. Shirt opened to his waist, jeans so tight she could see the bulge in his crotch, and flip flops which exposed his chipped painted toenails, he was still what anyone would call eye candy. Not an ordinary street person, his skin was bronzed to a high gloss, teeth so white they reflected the sun when he smiled, his eyes a surprising emerald dazzled when he told Andrea how great her legs looked.

Andrea was proud of her body and she knew her legs were great. She worked hours with her trainer at the gym toning them. She eyed Diego up and down, appraising. She approved. His gaze followed her at she entered Starbucks. What a beauty, he said. He couldn't be more than twenty-five, Andrea thought, but what the hell, he wouldn't be my first.

Andrea came back outside with two cups in her hands. She hesitated before thrusting one cup toward Diego. Damn, she thought, he's beautiful. As their hands touched Andrea could feel Diego's magnetism, Damn, she thought to herself, this could be trouble. Shit. She glanced at her Apple watch. Meeting. Damn. Damn. Damn. She smiled at Diego. Listen, she said, I'm late for a meeting, I have to go. Work. Diego smiled and touched her hand as she turned toward her car. At the car door, she turned back to Diego and asked if he was coming with her. Inside the car Diego touched her thigh and muttered what a nice car she had. Andrea sighed. I've been lucky she said. Diego eased his hand further up her thigh. She moaned.

Andrea stopped Diego's hand from going any further. Not yet, she said. She reached into her purse and pulled out her phone. She punched in a number and when the voice on the other end answered she spoke rapidly and with purpose. Listen, she said, reschedule my meeting. Next week. Move everything to next week. Diego could hear the exasperated voice on the other end. I'm sure said Andrea. Absolutely not. Nothing until next week. It's urgent personal business. Right. Okay. We'll do lunch on Tuesday. Bye, she said.

Diego stared at Andrea as she put her phone away. You do want to be with me don't you, she said. Diego nodded and placed his hand on her thigh again. Go slow, she said, we've got plenty of time to get acquainted. Andrea eased the car in gear and seconds later they're on their way to her Hollywood Hills home.

Andrea was a successful screenwriter, mostly action movies featuring strong women who knew how to get what they want. Even though none of her films were produced, her scripts sold and sold for good money. In between sales she was a much in demand script doctor. So good in fact, that the three Jessica's – Alba, Biel, and Chastian - all had her number on speed dial.

With the money she earned Andrea rented a mid-century contemporary Whitney R. Smith house with a great view of the Hollywood sign from a couple relocated to Paris. She bought a vintage Jaguar XKE, filled the house with I.M. Pei furniture, adopted twin Burmese cats, and spent way too much money on jewelry and designer clothes which she never wore.

For all her material success Andrea was a lonely girl who dated infrequently. When she did date it was with industry insiders who could help her career but couldn't satisfy her needs. Andrea tried once and it worked out great with a rich lawyer until his wife showed up and used a .357 Smith and Wesson revolver to blast a hole in her Richard Greico signed painting which hung above her bed.

Out together, Diego would point to some stranger and say, I did them. This didn't bother Andrea, she knew she could satisfy Diego's needs, and, more importantly her own. She knew Diego was a street hustler, but it didn't bother her. After all Andrea reasoned, we're all hustlers, the game was one big hustle. His was tricks, mine is selling screenplays. It's all part of making it in a tough town, she thought.

Those first days and nights with Diego were incredible, reminding her of her college days. Diego instinctively knew what turned her on, the rougher the better. They made love for endless hours, in positions which seemed imaginable, some which seemed impossible. Andrea would do anything to please Duniego, so when he demanded other men and women share their bed she jumped at the opportunity to make him happy.

A few nights into their relationship Diego demanded they drive down Sunset and pick up a girl, maybe two. He wanted to film her with another girl, it would excite him he said. Andrea agreed. Anything you want.

This sexual activity went on for weeks until one night when filming her and another girl Diego stepped out from behind the camera and pulled the other girl away, screaming for her to leave. Diego smacked Andrea across the face, Bitch. Whore. He screamed at her before slamming her against the bedroom wall and taking her from behind. You're the devil, he screamed. Andrea smiled to herself. Finally, she thought, he loves me. Weeks and weeks passed with each night of sex becoming more and more violent. Andrea loved it though, but her work suffered.

One day Andrea went on a liquor store run for Diego. Exiting the store she bumped into her agent. Christ, said the agent, what the hell is going on with you? I've been trying to call you for weeks. You look awful. It was true. Andrea wore only a jacket over a bra and black pantyhose and mismatched high heels. C'mon, said the agent, I'm checking you into rehab right now. No, Andrea replied, I'm okay. I'm in love. Love, asked the agent, what sort of love turns you into this. She grabbed Andrea and pulled her toward the picture window of a real estate office. Look at yourself, this isn't who you are.

Andrea shook free. It is who I am, she said. Inside. I always wanted this. I've wanted this since college when my first boyfriend took me to a sex club. He handed me over to a dominatrix and I found out who I really am. No, said the agent. You're not some depraved deviant giving herself to perverted men. You're special. You've got a gift. I'm not going to let you ruin yourself over some piece of shit man you think you love. You're coming with me.

Andrea gave in. A few weeks went by and she was in a script meeting at Sony. Diego called her dozens of times, she resisted at first, but only to tease him. Then she received a text from him with a photo of another woman attached. She excused herself. How did you get this number, she asked. I got it, that's all you need to know. Come home. I can't, she responded. She returned to the meeting. Diego was infuriated and sent another text. Come home now. Now! But Andrea had shut off her phone.

Diego sent the girl from the photo away. He went into Andrea's closet and pulled out all her clothes. He methodically tied everything together with perfect square knots end to end, like one long magician's trick – first one, then another and another until they would stretch from the bedroom to the front door. He opened to the liquor cabinet and grabbed all the expensive bourbon. He emptied each on the bed, the string of clothes, the curtains and rugs. As he left the house he stripped off his clothes, doused them with more bourbon, struck a match and tossed it onto the clothes.

Outside Diego pulled a lounge chair from the garage and set it up on the lawn. He laid on the chair in all his glory and sent Andrea a picture of himself in all his nakedness and panned around to the fire. I warned you. Come home or else, Diego wrote to Andrea.

At lunch with her agent Andrea showed her picture after picture of herself on that same lawn chair. It was where she wrote her screenplays now. Naked and cross legged she sat and typed on a laptop. I can't wait for Diego to get out jail, she said. She showed her agent another picture. In the photo her eyes and nipples are circled with black ash and she was wagging her finger as an invitation. What do you think, she asked her agent, do you think he'll like this one? I want to look sexy for him.

Her agent shook her head.

Jake James is a writer living in California.

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Love is Strange

Jake James