Someone to Love, page 13
I jog in a spastic manner while fiddling with the handle in the event the gigantic mutant rats decide they want to scamper up my legs en route to gnawing off my face. Honest to God, if I lose my virginity to a fucking sewer dweller, I’m going to scream all the way back to California.
I break out of the rat tank and make a run for Cruise’s bedroom. Thankfully, his door is wide open, and I manage to avert a second unfriendly run-in with pine that most likely would have ensured emergency rhinoplasty.
“What the hell?” Cruise jumps up on his elbows as I dive under the covers. He lifts the comforter, and a seam of moonlight falls over his bewildered, more than slightly gorgeous face. “Kenny?”
I let out a breath. “Is roll call really necessary?” On second thought, this is Cruise.
I scoot into him as close as humanly possible in the event the vermin takeover decides to spill into his quadrant of the house. Cruise lets out a warm breath over my neck as he spoons alongside me, cradling me with his strong, bare arms.
Gah! What if this was all some evil ploy to land me in his bed naked? Of course, I’m not naked, but I’m willing to bet good money (that I’m currently deficient in at the moment) that Cruise Elton is.
I reach down and touch his equally bare leg, thus confirming my theory and pull away from his person as if he were on fire.
“You’re naked.” It comes out accusingly as though he planned it all along.
“I won’t bite,” he purrs, reeling me back by the waist.
“I bet if I ask real nice...” It comes out sarcastic because we both know he’s not above a caustic orthodontic assault if the situation warranted it.
“In that case, I’ll do anything you want.” He nuzzles his face into my neck, and I can feel his stubble grazing against my skin, his soft lips as they pull along in a slow hot line. “Are you wearing a jacket?” He pulls back the covers just enough to reveal my odd selection of nighttime accouterments.
“Yes, I’m wearing a jacket—and a sweater, and a T-shirt, a pair of sweats, and tights, and two pair of freaking socks. That’s what happens when you move to the Ozarks. You wear your closet to bed, so you don’t cryogenically freeze overnight.”
“But think of how well preserved you’ll be in twenty years.”
“You’re phenomenally funny, Professor Elton.”
“No, I’m not. I’m an ass.” A heated breath escapes his lungs.
Something in my chest loosens at his well-timed, self-depreciatory remark—and just when I was gearing up to discount him to the playboy rack once again.
He rolls onto his back, and I carefully take him in.
The room glows the faintest shade of blue, and thanks to the moon and all its reflective glory, there’s way too much light for comfort. I stare down at his body, his rippling abs, the hard V that sits just below his waist. The sheets artfully cover his telephone pole, and I breathe a sigh of relief. Knowing me, I would probably run screaming and land in bed with the six-foot rat taking up residency on the other side of the wall.
Who am I kidding? With Cruise lying here like the Sultan of Seduction, it’s almost too much to bear.
“What brings you for a visit?” He runs his gaze down my ridiculous state of dress. Perfect. I’m pretty sure I’m the least sexiest woman to have ever graced his bed.
“The rats of Massachusetts have gathered in my room for a state-wide conference,” I whisper in the event their tiny ears perk up at attention and they decide to migrate over. “You, my friend, have an infestation of the vermin variety.”
“Every rat in Massachusetts has congregated in your bedroom?” His left dimple goes off, mocking me, and suddenly I find his vexing good looks annoying as hell.
“That’s right,” I say accusingly. “And I bet you’ve been planning it all along.”
He belts out a laugh that startles me.
“You got me.” He holds out a hand. “I had a big meeting with all the rodents in the neighborhood and orchestrated the entire event. I’ve got an alligator working his way through the sewage pipes as we speak.”
“No way.” I cover my ears. “If I listen for one more minute, I’m going to pee standing up for the entire next year.”
“I’m teasing. I assure you the throne is still a safe place to rest on your laurels.” Cruise sits up and pulls me to my knees. “Clothes”—he drills into me with those lucent blue eyes—“on or off?”
My heart beats erratic, and my mouth runs dry. With everything in me I want to say off, but the only thing I’m able to squeeze through my vocal cords is a choking sound.
“I heard off,” he whispers, unzipping my jacket and removing it from my person. He cinches a smile as he lifts my sweater and T-shirt from me in one slick move. My arms stay frozen in the air as he grazes over my bare chest with his eyes. He gives a tug at my sweats, and I wrap my arms around his neck as he peels them away.
He looks at me, unsure of what to do with my underwear then runs his thumbs inside the elastic, and his breathing picks up at a quickened pace.
His warm hands round out my bottom and I gasp at his touch.
Cruise Elton strips the underwear from my body, and I don’t do a damn thing to stop him.
The moonlight rinses out the room in a blue wash, sanitizing us from the trappings of reality. Everything feels dreamlike in this altered state. I try not to lose it as this erotic fairytale unfurls around me with Kenny playing a starring role as the princess.
Kenny didn’t say a word as I peeled off her clothes. She wasn’t exaggerating when she rattled off the clothing inventory a moment ago. Every last thread was present and accounted for.
It’s too bad about that pest control problem she’s having.
Best two dollars and ninety-nine cents I’ve ever spent. The lady at the pet shop thought I should purchase at least three, babbling something about the social nature of field mice—and who was I to refute her theory?
Kenny shivers as we lie side by side, so I pull her in, touch her soft skin against mine, and everything in me pumps to life.
A part of me wants to apologize for not fixing the heater, but the truth is I managed to fix it Christmas morning. I thought for sure she’d crave a little body heat by now. If I didn’t buy the damn rats, we’d probably have frostbite to contend with by midterms.
I lie next to her, trying to steady my breathing, and for the first time in a long while I’m unsure of what to do next.
“Boy, you took everything off, swift as a magician,” she marvels.
“Practice makes perfect.” Shit. I’m not sure if bragging about how many times I may or may not have disrobed a woman is a good thing right about now. Besides, this isn’t any other woman—this is Kenny.
“I’m naked,” she whispers as if alerting me to some shameful secret. I pull the covers over the two of us and nestle her bare bottom into my stomach.
“I won’t tell if you won’t.” I twist my hips away from her in the event I accidentally introduce her to my hard-on and send her running for weaponry. She’s got to know I’ve got one, right?
“So now what?” She eases into me until her back fuses against my chest.
I close my eyes and drink down her warmth, her amazingly fucking soft skin—the way her bare chest rests on my arm and sears me with pleasure.
“You make the next move, Kenny.” I trace out her ear with my lips. God, I hope she moves in the right direction.
She spins around and takes a deep breath. Her hands land over my chest, and she moves her fingers in soft smooth circles.
“Show me what to do,” she whispers. “I’ll do whatever you want.”
Whatever I want.
I swallow hard as I pull her in, and this time my bodily protrusion greets her by gliding against her thigh. Kenny’s dark hair stains the room like a shadow, and her pale features glow, soft and luminescent like a tissue-covered lamp.
“You’re so beautiful.” I press a kiss over her cheek and l
“I think tonight’s lesson is snuggling,” I say, gently rolling her into me until we’re spooning again.
“Snuggling?” She burrows her hair into my neck, scented with flowers and vanilla, and her skin burns an erotic hole right through me. I close my eyes, taking in the ecstasy and the misery as if she were writing a poem over me with her flesh.
I let out a dull moan and feel the vibrations hum through her body as if we were the perfect conduits.
“Snuggling,” I whisper in her ear. “Once you have your way with all those hundreds of guys, you might want to catch a breather after. Maybe catch some Z’s.” Just the thought of her bare skin touching anyone else’s is enough to send me in a rage.
“Oh, right.” There’s a marked disappointment in her voice. Like maybe she wanted me to take advantage of her, but was too shy to ask.
Tonight’s endeavors are entirely up to her. If she wants, she could still turn this ship around, navigate my dick into the harbor it so desperately longs to dock in. I have a condom at the ready. God knows my entire existence is crying out, screaming at every cell in her body to want me as bad as I want her.
But Kenny doesn’t make a move.
And neither do I.
I hold Kenny all through the night, watching as the moon radiates its beams over her like a love song. I would spend every night like this if she let me. If I’m lucky, the mice will breed, and she’ll never want to be two feet away from me. But I don’t want our first time to be the result of manipulation on my part.
In fact, I want to put it off until after I tell her exactly how I feel.
And hopefully, she’ll feel the same way, too.
The next afternoon at the gym, I decide to share a few details with Cal without consulting my better judgment.
“You let her decide what to do, and she laid there like a limp rag?” Cal extends his hands, and the weights shift to the left. “Sorry.”
“No—she let me decide. And I decided not to. Besides, that isn’t what she wants.”
“Of course it’s not what she wants. That’s precisely why she didn’t ask for it. She’s probably gay. Face it, you’ve got the wrong anatomy.”
“She’s not gay. She’s just young, sweet, and innocent. She needs to be in a committed relationship.”
“You tell her how you feel?”
“What the hell are you waiting for? Those three little words have been uttered time and memoriam in order to secure young, sweet, ‘innocent’ ass.” He takes the weights and hoists them onto the bracket. “Man up already, would you? I’m getting frustrated listening from the sexually deprived sidelines. If I wanted to experience a dry season, I would focus on my own sex life.”
“Maybe I will man up.” I pluck the towel that perpetually hangs from his neck and wipe the sweat off my face.
“Guess who came in yesterday and purchased a membership for the year?” Cal sits on the bench across from me with that I’m-not-shitting-around expression he gets during tax season.
I don’t need to play twenty questions to know its Blair. “What the hell is the deal with her? She’s at Garrison, too.”
“She told Lauren things didn’t work out with her and lover boy. She says she’s back for the long haul—that she wishes she never left. Rumor has it she’s got her sights set on a familiar old boyfriend—or was it fiancé?”
“Nope, not fiancé.” I get up and head out of the room. “She didn’t say yes.”
And, after meeting Kenny, I’ve never been happier.
A Dozen Long-Stemmed Heartaches
On the Sunday before I bare far more than my mortal soul in art class, I decide to brave the snow and grab some coffee with Lauren and Ally.
Lauren called, said there was some kind of relational emergency and that she needed a hot brunette with a great body ASAP. To be honest, I didn’t like the sound of it.
Cruise has been helping his mother with repairs all weekend at both the hair salon and bed and breakfast. I’m not sure how he magically morphs into a handyman once he leaves the house, and yet the heater remains mysteriously irreparable. Although I’m not complaining. I’ve spent the last week lying naked in his arms with his protruding affection jammed firm against my thigh, and, well, okay, it might have slipped in a more intimate location a time or two, but he was quick to reposition himself.
I’m sure he’s long given up trying to have his way with me. He probably thinks I’m asexual, that I’m not even remotely interested in him or men in general. But the truth is, I’m ready to cave. I’m one heated breath away from turning around in the middle of the night and diving into his delicious dimples. I don’t care if he impales me with that power line between his legs or if it manages to jet right out of my throat in the process. Everything in me cries for his body. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for. But God knows I’m waiting for something.
Per rules of the universe Starbucks is packed wall-to-wall with bodies. You’d think the only working heater in all of Massachusetts was right here in this shop, and if Cruise’s home, and the classrooms at Garrison are any indication, it just might be.
The thick scent of coffee seduces me with its slightly burnt aroma, and I inhale deeply as I get in line.
“Kendall!” A loud, rather abrasive woman’s voice hails me from the front. I spot Aunt Jackie waving and head on over.
“Guess who I talked to today?” she asks, offering me a big rocking hug. Her perfume and hairspray launch an assault on my senses and for a moment I lose the ability to breathe.
“Pen?” I haven’t seen Pennington since our botched double date. I can’t believe he had the nerve to bumble his way to second base while in a public establishment. Of course, I had the nerve to molest Cruise’s hand while on a date with Pen, so I guess we’re sort of even.
“No, silly.” She flicks her wrist, and her diamond-encrusted tennis bracelet threatens to fall off. There’s something about the way Jackie presents herself that scares me a little. Maybe it’s her obvious fake lashes. I’ve been known to don falsies on occasion myself, but these in particular look like she plucked the wings off some poor unsuspecting butterfly, way too transvestite for this early in the afternoon. Or maybe it’s the heavily penciled eyebrows that give her that perpetual look of surprise, or the thick black outline of her lips—a look I thought was canceled along with Baywatch. Nevertheless, the fifties are calling. They want their go-go boots back. “I talked to your mother!” She beams. “You’ll never guess what she said.”
“She’s getting married.” If that’s the case, I think I’ll skip the nuptials and cheer from the sidelines once the dissolution is on the horizon. A heavy feeling overcomes me at the thought of her racking up another tally mark in divorce court. I hate the thought of Mom getting her heart broken once again.
“Bitter much?” She puts in her order, and I wave at Ally. “Make it two!” She turns back to me. “I’ve got this,” she whispers without even asking if I wanted a double espresso. But I’m more than thankful. At the rate I’ve been mismanaging my anemic funds, I might have to familiarize myself with the local soup kitchen in less than a week.
“So what’s the big secret?”
“The girl is lonely.” Jackie makes a face. “She got that stewardess friend of hers to get her a ticket. So she’ll be out for a visit.” She punctuates it by tapping me on the nose.
Lauren breezes in and trots on over. Her dark hair is whisked across her forehead and her mascara looks smudged as if she’s been crying.
“Um…” I look back at Aunt Jackie. “It’ll just be a minute.”
“Take all the time you need. I’m leaving,” Jackie insists. “She’ll be coming out in a couple weeks, so you might want to make arrangements.”
“Isn’t she staying with you?” I ask as she heads toward the door.
“I’m having the house painted. She’s all yours, hon. We’ll do dinner!” And with that, she walks out into the snow-covered world. A younger man with a goatee takes her by the waist and gets her settled in the passenger seat of his dated Monte Carlo.
“Who the hell is that guy?” I whisper mostly to myself. “And who paints their house during blizzard conditions with no end in sight?”
“Who cares?” Lauren pulls me off to the corner. “I think my boyfriend might be seeing someone else.” It speeds out of her. Her glassy eyes blink in quick succession as her cheeks explode a bright shade of pink.
Ally comes up from behind. “That two-timing asshole!”
“Shh!” She hops up and down in a heightened state of panic. “He’s on his way.”
“Perfect,” Ally snipes. “I feel an accident coming on with a boiling pot of coffee. We’ll fry his balls and see how far that gets him with the ladies.”
“No!” Lauren darts a finger in the air. “No frying of the balls. Get back behind that counter. I’m going to have Kendall hit on him and see how he responds.”
“What?” Now it’s my turn to jump out of my skin. “I’m not hitting on anybody. I don’t even know how to do it.” True story. I tried to “hit” on Cruise, and now I’m sleeping naked next to him in hopes to trick him into liking me. God only knows where I’ll end up with her boyfriend.
“Pretend he’s Cruise and flirt,” Lauren instructs. “Just be your cute little self, and he’ll fall all over you.” Her face crumbles at the thought.
“Then what?” I clutch at my chest in horror. I suspect third degree burns will be called for in the event he falls for our poorly hatched plan.
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