Someone to Love, page 3
“Bathroom.” He nods behind me. “I’ll get a fire going and warm the place up. Heater’s out of commission, but I’ll fix it.” Cruise leans into the doorframe and examines me with a proficient thoroughness. His eyes lock over mine, and the hint of a corrupt smile plays on his lips.
God, he’s gorgeous. I’m pretty sure a face like that and a bed less than ten feet away is a dangerous combination.
“So what do you think?” He smolders.
“Um…” I’m concerned I’ve missed a boatload of clues that would have afforded a more experienced one-night stand aficionado the right to be testing out those mattress springs by now. “I think it’s nice of you to let me spend the night.” Really? Nice of you to let me spend the night? I’m pretty sure those words have never been uttered under this roof before. In fact, I’m betting niceties such as please and thank you have only been screamed under sexual duress in his deviant den, laden with chains and stale pizza.
He leads us back to the living room, and I take a seat on the sheepskin rug just shy of the hearth. I’m no detective, but I can deduce that the furry carcass I’ve planted myself on has seen some serious mileage in the soiled-with-sin department. Although, right about now, I’m so freezing I don’t really care about the questionably-defiled status of said dead creature. I’m so cold I might actually jump in the fire just to thaw out.
A bouquet of flames ignites in the small opening, and the room picks up a rosy glow.
“Thank you,” I whisper as the heat curls around me.
“Anything for you.” He growls it out with a perverse smile hedging on his lips. Cruise lands himself by my side. We watch the fire lick the air with its lusty forked tongues while I try to surmise the definition of “anything” and the physical agility it might entail.
“So what happened last summer?” In the event he thinks my girl parts might be a good repository for the hard-on blooming in his jeans, I thought I’d throw in the vague mention of his ex. “Rumor has it, that it was pretty harsh.” I brace myself for the unromantic tragedy that’s about to unfold. I’m thinking bare-breasted coeds are involved.
“Just your run-of-the-mill breakup. But everyone’s got one of those, right?” He taps my shoe with his and scoots in. The thick veins in his arms protrude like cables, and his muscles bulge for no good reason. It makes me want to touch them and see what they feel like.
“No bad breakup for me,” I whisper. “If you don’t give your heart away, you can’t get it broken.”
His pale eyes latch onto mine. He holds my gaze, heavy as steel.
“No truer words were ever spoken,” he says it low, sad as if he means it but too much.
Cruise softens and gives a little smile. He washes over me with a delicate gaze, and my insides pinch tight.
There’s something brewing inside him, inside me, and I’ve never felt this way before. It’s probably just his hormonal superpowers having their effect on me—our pheromones conducting their obligatory exchange. I bet he slays women nightly with that same “broken heater” routine. I suspect he’ll volunteer to keep me warm by way of body heat any moment now. Or at least I’m hoping.
“I can see why girls flock to you.” I turn my face toward the fire in an effort to break the spell.
“Why’s that?” He catches my gaze again, and this time its impossible to look away.
“Because anybody can have you.” I don’t bother telling him he’s gorgeous. I’m sure he’s well aware as evidenced by all the positive vaginal reinforcement. “You haven’t known me for three hours, and I bet if I ripped my jeans off, you wouldn’t turn down the offer.” Crap. I think I just subliminally propositioned him.
“You’re a smart girl, Kenny—beautiful too.” He gives the curve of a lewd smile and everything in me burns with heat.
I’ve never been called beautiful by a person of the penis before and this pleases me with a strange intensity. It’s as if I’ve needed it, craved it like a glass of water for my parched affection.
“So when do we get to the ripping of the jeans?” He inquires with far more eagerness than expected, and a titter of excitement prickles through me.
“I take it you think my experiment should commence with you.” Please God say yes.
“The experiment in which you attack the unsuspecting crotches of every living male on campus? Unless, of course, you plan on including corpses in your little jaunt on the wild side. We house those in the health and sciences building.” He gives a disbelieving smile. “Let the good times roll, Kenny.” It comes out a dare as he peers at me seductively from under his hooded lids—a dirty grin forces his dimples to twitch in turn.
“I’m starting with Pennington, remember?” I’m quick to shoot him down. Pennington probably counts as a corpse. “Besides, it would make my mother’s life if he were my first ex-husband. I think it’s the cash payout that has her drooling more than it is some romantic notion that her daughter and the son of her once upon a best friend, go down in matrimonial flames together.”
“It will be.” I take in his full lips, his high-set cheeks. He’s driving me insane by way of his five o’clock shadow. His lids hang heavy as he openly eyes my cleavage. “Although—I should probably get some experience under my belt before I go after a prize like Pennington. You know, practice the fine art of saliva swapping, among other things.” God, how I would love to practice the fine art of transferring bodily fluids with, Cruise Let-Me Deliver-You-from-Your-Virginity Elton.
He examines me an inordinate amount of time, uncertain of whom I profess to be. He picks up my hand and presses his lips over the back, soft and warm. It sets everything in me on fire.
“I’m more than happy to offer up my tutorial services.” He leans back and sweeps his eyes over me as if I were a meal, but there’s a sadness lurking in them just beneath the surface.
“So when do we begin?” I’m not sure I’m ready to give it all away right here in Massachusetts next to a blazing fire with a guy I hardly know, but a small part of me is begging for just that.
“Tomorrow.” He gives a quick wink while helping me to my feet. “Why don’t you get to bed.”
“Where you going?” My stomach bottoms out. He’s probably got an entire stream of girls lined up for the night who are more than qualified to handle whatever he’s willing to dish out—and because of my incessant need to preserve my virginity, I won’t be one of them.
“There’s a cold shower with my name on it,” he says, walking away.
I watch as Cruise disappears into the hall and the pipes squeal to life from the bathroom.
I can’t believe a player like Cruise Elton wouldn’t try to take advantage of me. It’s obvious virgins aren’t high on his to-do list tonight.
Maybe Cruise Elton isn’t the player he makes himself out to be.
Deep down inside I hope he’s not.
In the morning, I wake with a start from a disturbing dream where I’m drowning in a sea of long, soft limbs.
I’m not sure what I find so disturbing about it since it’s otherwise classified as a typical Friday night. I wipe the sleep from my eyes and throw myself in the shower.
After, I make an effort to put on a pair of jeans that have actually seen the inside of a washing machine this month.
Kenny’s door is shut, so I can only assume she’s still here. I imagine her sprawled over the bed, naked, with her hair fanned around her like long black feathers. I’d love to see that in person. If she wasn’t so damn sweet, I would have pressed a little harder to witness the sight firsthand.
I make breakfast for the two of us while a sea of dark clouds watch silent outside the kitchen window. They lay over the sky, heavy and full, like wool blankets ready to burst.
Kenny ambles into the room with her hair swept back in a ponytail. Her long T-shirt is tight over her chest, annunciating the fact she’s not wearing a bra. Not that I mind her beautiful round nip
The air sizzles—the room sparks to life with her in it. Kenny manages to brighten the house with a glow all her own.
“Morning, sunshine.” I give a crooked smile while jabbing at a mountain of bacon. I land enough on each plate to clog both our arteries, decades before it’s time.
“Morning.” She moans into the word. Her mascara is slightly smeared. She’s sleepy-eyed and sexy as hell.
“You dream about me?” I land two fully loaded plates onto the table and dart back for coffee.
“I guess the more important question is did you dream about me?” She takes a seat and looks up with those diamond-cut eyes causing my mind to draw a fucking blank. Everything about Kenny feels like a dream, especially the part about not sleeping with me last night, which is mostly my fault. I’ve yet to corrupt a virgin, and I’m pretty sure I’m not starting with Kenny.
Her eyes drift to a pair of leashes by the backdoor, and my blood turns to ice because I know what’s coming.
“So, where are the dogs?” She says it playful, far too innocent to be faking. I thought for sure the vulgar nature of the leashes, the thick metal spikes, the red leather tassels dripping from the collar would set off the fact they were exclusively for human purposes—or inhuman, take your pick.
“Are they outside?” She peers out the window still fixing her innocence on the prospect of a furry companion.
“There are no dogs, Kenny.” I lift my chin to her slightly amused, and my stomach drops at how gorgeous she is in this slightly disheveled state of early morning glory. “Those leashes aren’t for walking, young lady.” I swallow down a laugh.
“Looks like you run a pretty sophisticated playboy-for-hire ring.”
Her eyes widen and that dimple goes off, melting my insides in a way I’ve never felt before.
“Is that my first lesson?” She breathes it out like a proposition. “Leather and lace?”
A smile digs into the side of my cheek. “You’re not ready for that, sweetie.” A heated moment passes between us as I raise my mug. “Merry Christmas.”
“That’s today!” Her face brightens. “I forgot all about the fact it’s Christmas Eve. Merry Christmas.” Her smile slowly diminishes as she runs her fork through her eggs. “It’s weird though. I’ve never been away from my mom, or my brother, Morgan. He’s out in Oregon on a baseball scholarship.”
“I have a sister you can adopt for the holiday if you feel the need to rain down gifts on someone.” Molly is a certified head-case, but I leave that part out.
Kenny could slather me with gifts of the physical variety if she felt so moved, but I’m slow to bring up that prospect.
“I would love to rain down gifts on your sister, that is if I had the money.” She makes a face. “My neighbor is a stewardess and I was on standby for a cheap flight. She helped me get the ticket so I had to come. And here I am on Christmas, pretty much alone.”
“Looks like Santa just left a perfectly good brunette in my stocking. You’ll have to spend it with me.”
“Well if Santa insists.” She runs her tongue over her lower lip, and my insides burn with a fire all their own.
The sudden urge to rake the table clean and take her right here crops up, but I’m quick to resist the craving.
“Looks like we’d better get a tree,” I say, exhilarated by the idea of doing anything with Kenny. I take in the long river of ebony hair sweeping over her shoulder, her tan legs that ride up past her T-shirt, and wonder if she would ever want someone like me. “The tree—real or fake?”
“I want everything we share to be real.” She winks a quick smile.
So do I. “Sounds like a date.”
Magic in the Air
The Christmas tree lot is strangely jam-packed, on this, the final night to decorate over-glorified shrubbery. Kids run wild with cups of cocoa while clusters of people stand about, talking and laughing. I get the feeling this is what social gatherings will look like in the collegiate afterlife, once you gravitate outside the Greek system and procreation instincts take over.
The clouds overhead wear dusty purple skins, yet somehow the evergreens still manage to lend their shadows over the pale dirt that spreads wide for acres.
“Last day at the tree lot is always a madhouse,” Cruise says, navigating us through the melee. I watch as the muscles in his neck pop when he swallows, his jaw redefines itself with even the slightest inflection. He offers a soft smile to the kids who swim past us with glee, and that simple show of affection warms me to him. Everything about Cruise has my interest piqued, and it makes me wonder where these feelings came from. Had I been saving them up for someone like Cruise all along? Had my mother ever felt this way during one of her serial marriages? Maybe this is the magic that starts the ball rolling, then it evaporates, and you find yourself looking for an apartment with two kids in tow.
“It’s the opposite back home,” I tell him as we step through a cushion of pine needles at least a foot deep. “Everyone I know starts decking the halls the day after Thanksgiving—and the tree lots are bare two weeks into December.”
“Sounds like home is a nice place.” A plume of fog emits from his lips as he eases into a smile—this time it’s all for me. He picks up my hand and leads me through the crowd. “You mind?” He gives my fingers a gentle squeeze.
“Not at all,” I say as my shoes crunch over the discarded boughs. “We need to start somewhere if you’re going to teach me your womanizing ways.” I try to sound like it’s no big deal, but in truth, I feel weak, nauseated, and extremely giddy at the prospect of holding his hand. It’s electrifying—an honest to God high that rivals any narcotic known to man. The boys back home didn’t have the power to make me feel this way. And I certainly don’t have any desire to touch any part of Pennington, let alone any of his drunken frat brothers like I may have eluded. And since when did I add the fine art of lying to my personal resume? And for what? To trick him into some kind of twisted relationship? Although, someone like Cruise isn’t interested in something long-term for the same reason I’m not. It never works out in the end.
I shake the thought loose.
“You’ll be a man-eater by New Years’,” he guarantees as we make our way through the crowd gathered by the register. “There’s a special event today—local churches come out to buy trees for less fortunate families in the area. It’s sort of a tradition around here.”
“That’s so nice.” I like this altruistic side of Carrington. I try to catch my breath as he leads us to the distal end of the property, and a clearing opens up with dozens of trees to choose from.
Cruise heads over to a tiny anemic tree with sparse needles and gauges me for a reaction.
I shake my head at that one. I don’t tell him that’s the same tree my mother bought year after year because it was all we could afford—that I dreamed of trees fat enough to eat up the living room, dripping with jewels and a shiny white star on top. I suppose transferring all of my fantasies over to Cruise isn’t the greatest idea, but I can’t seem to help it. For some reason, I want him to be the one to make them all come true.
Odd, since I hardly know him.
“So you’re a size matters kind of girl,” he says it low, far too seductive for this early in the morning.
Soft bites of rain land over my scalp and I hold out my hand, surprised to find tiny white flakes amassing over my fingertips. “I’ve never seen snow,” I whisper the confession. “It’s magic. It’s beautiful.”
“You’re magic.” He takes a step in until we’re a breath apart. “You’re beautiful, Kenny.” He showers me with his gaze, watching as the snow freckles my dark mane.
Cruise leans in.
I can feel it coming.
My lips ache for him to do it.
My palms start to sweat, and my heart feels like it’s about to jackhammer out of my chest—killing us both in the process.
“This one,” I say breathle
“Looks like we got our first tree,” he says, never taking his gaze off me.
My insides bisect with heat at the thought of a future with Cruise that could string out into the unknowable future, spending Christmas after Christmas with his heart-stopping smile.
“Kenny…” His minty breath rakes across my cheek like a fire. “You mind if I kiss you?”
I shake my head, looking a little more than overeager in the process.
“It’s Christmas.” A smile slides into his cheek. “And it’s snowing. I think your first real kiss should be memorable.” He washes his eyes over me with heartfelt affection. “I want to make everything we share memorable for you.”
Good God he’s going to take me right here in the snow. I’m going to lose my virginity on God’s birthday in front of unsuspecting church folk. In just a few minutes, those children running wild will be screaming for another reason entirely.
“Merry Christmas, Cruise.” I pant out of breath like I’ve just sprinted for miles.
He wraps his arms around my waist and pulls me in. I can hardly look at him. Cruise is far too gorgeous for me to ever comprehend.
“Merry Christmas, Kenny.” His dimples dig in. “Thank you for my gift.”
“This.” He closes his eyes and sweeps his feather-soft lips over mine before indulging in something deeper—something that feels so alarmingly holy and right it makes my insides implode with pleasure. I give an involuntary groan as his tongue flicks over mine, flirting, caressing. The exquisite exchange goes on for miles.
We kiss for hours, weeks—decades as the snow piles up around us. It tries to cool the inferno we’ve lit, but it’s impotent with its efforts.
We’re building a memory that can last a lifetime—two lifetimes. It’s bliss like this with Cruise.
This is a Christmas wish come true.
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