Unravel, p.11

Unravel, page 11



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  I would accept any last minute reason quietly and politely, all the while knowing the truth. He thinks I’m too strange, and I wouldn’t shed a tear over it either. I might be intrigued and mildly infatuated with Liam, but I don’t know him well enough to cry over.


  I cried over him once ten years ago, an entire decade ago. Will I ever tell him about that? I honestly don’t know the answer to that either.

  I would say it hurts that he doesn’t remember me, but it really was a long time ago, and I do look incredibly different. At eighteen my face still held a round, babyishness that I’ve since lost. From the chin up, I appeared almost chubby despite being thin enough to count my ribs. Now there are slight hollows beneath my cheek bones. My eyes and lips appear larger in comparison. I have bluish smudges under my eyes, and a tiny crease between my eyebrows that doesn’t go away completely when my face is blank.

  Liam doesn’t look exactly the same either, I realize seated across from him at a table near the back of the coffee shop. There are tiny lines at the corners of his eyes that deepen when he smiles now. Faint parenthesis that connect the corners of his lips to the edges of his flared nostrils. Sitting right across from each other, I have a chance to study him a bit closer for once, and I notice the hint of silver at his temples. None of this detracts from his looks. In fact, the effect is just the opposite.

  It’s the way it goes though. Attractive men only look more attractive as they age. Woman only appear old and worn down. I’m nearly twenty nine and I feel old, even if I don’t exactly look it yet. Between my ankle and hips, even my one wrist that has been feeling a bit wonky as of late, I sometimes feel ancient. Sooner or later my outsides will catch up with my insides. I’ll be too old to dance. My life will be essentially over.

  “Do you still dance?” I ask, turning my tea cup a quarter inch so the handle is lined up perpendicular to the table edge.

  “Yes. Just for myself. Just for pleasure.”

  His inflection when he says pleasure is very pleasurable to my ears. Maybe it’s the particular cadence of his voice, or perhaps I’m already anticipating the pleasure he might be able to inflict on me, although I doubt it. I bet even Liam Thibault is incapable of making me feel.

  I’ve finally come to realize I don’t feel things the right way. I either feel too much, or not enough. Sometimes I feel more than I can tolerate.

  “Do you miss it, dancing for more than pleasure?” I ask.

  “Very much.”

  “Why did you quit?”

  Liam smiles again, but the corners of his eyes don’t crinkle in a real smile. “I was thirty-nine. Why do you think?”

  It’s a stupid question, and I shouldn’t probe too deeply. In the world of ballet, thirty-nine truly is ancient, but sometimes I can’t help myself. I’m often blunt to a fault. “Were you injured, or did you voluntarily quit?”

  “It was a bit of both. I probably should’ve bowed out a year or two prior, but it’s a hard thing to give up.” Liam intertwined his fingers on top of the table and taps his thumbs together. “Actually that’s not the truth. Not the whole truth.”

  I wrap my hands around my cup and wait for him to speak.

  “I dropped my partner. We hadn’t been dancing together long, and it was during rehearsal, thank god, but I dropped her. She was okay, but it was a hard fall.”

  “Things like that happen though, don’t they? I’ve been dropped a few times.”

  “Yes, but… like I said, it was past my time. I was getting roles by the merit of my name, not talent.”

  “You’re still talented. That’s not something you lose, is it?”

  “Ability then. I was beginning to lack the ability.”

  “You could always transition to modern dance or… something.”

  “I thought about it a few years ago, but it doesn’t interest me as much, and even that would be prolonging the inevitable.”

  I start to laugh, a little at first, but before long I am cracking up. “Then why are you having us dance like this? You created Unravel. You made it for other people to perform. Why choreograph a modern dance piece if it doesn’t interest you?”

  “You really do hate it, don’t you?”

  I shake my head. “I don’t hate it at all. It’s grown on me quite a lot now that I understand it, but that doesn’t answer my question.”

  “I honestly don’t know.”

  I take a tiny sip of my tea, which is a touch above luke warm and perfectly sweet. “Maybe it’s easier to watch people dance when they aren’t dancing in a way you wish you still could.”

  Liam is silent for a long moment, so long I chance a glance up from my tea cup. “I’ve never thought about it like that, but maybe you’re right,” he says.

  “In either case, I don’t believe traditional ballet would work well with the story you’re trying to tell. It wouldn’t be a good fit.” I stir my tea that doesn’t need stirring, and lick the spoon. I tap the curved, metal edge against my teeth very lightly a few times before I make myself stop. “I’ve never cared for modern ballet pieces. I prefer the classics I guess.”

  “You’re very opinionated, Penny.”


  “Don’t be sorry. I love it. Why do you prefer classical ballet?”

  Love it? I’m not sure if I believe that. A man like Liam Thibault isn’t sitting across from me because he wants to hear my opinions on things he has far more first hand knowledge about. “Lots of reasons.”

  “Which are?”

  “They usually have more elaborate costumes, and stage setting. The story is typically straightforward. You know exactly what you’re getting. Even if someone puts a unique twist on certain aspects, the heart of it remains the same.”

  I wait for Liam to laugh, and I couldn’t fault him if he did. I’ve basically just admitted to enjoying ballet for the prettiness.

  “Which version of Swan Lake do you like the best?” he asks.

  On the surface it’s a simple question, but between us, it feels loaded. There are numerous versions, with many alternate endings, but I know exactly what he means and I don’t play coy. “Bolshoi, or one along those lines.”

  “You want to see a happy ending,” he states.

  “I prefer it. The world is ugly enough. If I’m watching, I want to see something nice. If I’m dancing, I don’t care as much.”

  When I look up, Liam is wearing a huge smile. I can’t tell if he is amused at my expense, or just generally amused.

  “You think that’s silly, don’t you?”

  “Not at all. I think it’s… I think you are lovely and honest, Penny.”

  And I think sitting here and talking to him like this is outrageously dangerous. I keep hoping for Liam to do or say something to make me despise him, or at the very least like him a little less. I also suspect he is saying what he believes I want to hear in order to get what he wants. Which is fine. It’s the way these things work after all.

  I take another sip of my tea and grimace. “This has gone cold. Do you want to come back to my place and see where I’ve hung that painting?”

  Liam sucks in a sharp breath and stammers a bit. “W-We could do that.”

  It’s slightly less crass than asking him outright if he’d like to fuck me now, but I think I got the message across well enough.

  As we walk out, his hand cradles my elbow. Outside he holds his car door open for me, but before I can climb in, his hand slides around the side of my neck and he leans in to kiss me.

  It’s not tentative. There isn’t an ounce of hesitation, and his lips fit perfectly against mine. I almost wish they didn’t.

  Where is that first kiss awkwardness? If he smashed his teeth against mine, slobbered on me, forced his tongue in my mouth in a sloppy, vulgar way, I could dismiss him. I might even be able to say I changed my mind about inviting him in, or I could show him the painting placed opposite my bed, then invite him to leave right after.

  There’s no chance of that happenin
g now.

  But this is good, I remind myself during the short ride back to my place. Once we have both satisfied our curiosity over one another, we can be free of it. Liam will be real and imperfect to me, and I can stop fantasizing about him. And it will be the same for him.

  What I told Seth a few weeks back is true. I’m sure of it. He only wanted me because he hasn’t had me. It was true for Seth, and it’ll be true for Liam too. I try not to fault them for it, try and fail, but it’s biology. Men are wired to stick their cocks in as many moist, warm places as possible. It’s sexual reproduction, and it keeps the species flourishing, right? They say things they don’t mean, and do things they’d rather not do in order to fulfill that biological imperative.

  Is it any wonder I can’t ever get off with anyone? This is the nonsense flitting through my brain as I lead Liam upstairs. His hands are on my hips and his lips pressed against mine before I’ve even closed the door behind us.

  I’m glad he’s content to skip the chit chat over a painting we’ve both already seen and discussed previously. Those type of games aren’t really my style. We are both fully aware of what we came here to do.

  Liam’s lips taste like mint tea. He smells like lemons, leather, and the cold. There is an urgency to the way he is kissing me, like he’s been thinking about this for a while, but it’s restrained. He’s breathing heavy from the effort of holding back.

  I run my hands up the front of his slightly scratchy sweater. When my fingers encounter his collar, I tug it over his shoulders. He takes over and shucks it off. Liam breaks his lips off mine briefly. He lifts his eyes, looking for a spot to toss his coat, and freezes. “What is all this?”

  “I make things,” I explain, about the mess of fabric on a cutting table, the serger in the corner. My apartment is small, and I’ve had to utilize the living room and part of my bedroom as work space.

  Liam opens his mouth, probably to inquire further, and I lean up to kiss him again. I want to talk about sewing even less than I want to discuss that painting at the moment. Although I’m not sure where all this eagerness is coming from. I’m really not.

  He may be incredibly handsome, and the best kisser I’ve encountered to date, but it doesn’t mean I think he can accomplish what every other man I’ve been with has failed to do.

  It wasn’t their fault anyways. Don’t think for a second I am placing the blame on them. I’m not. It’s me. I’m the one broken. I’m the one who is lost in the sensation of Liam’s tongue sweeping against mine one second, and a moment later I’m overcome with the fear that he is comparing me to another lover, perhaps finding me lacking on some fundamental level.

  I can’t turn off my brain. These type of intrusive thoughts have plagued me my whole life, and the only thing I’ve ever found to quiet them is the movement of dance; straining, sometimes painful exertion. It drives all those errant thoughts and worries away, and one day when I am no longer capable of it, I will be well and truly screwed.

  That’s what I’m thinking of as Liam backs me through my open bedroom door without ever taking his lips off mine. The impending end of my dance career. Then he pulls the elastic from the end of my braid, and loosens my hair around my shoulders. I’m snapped back to him again. Liam becomes my whole world as we slowly and methodically peel back the layers of our clothes.

  Liam’s torso is all lightly corded musculature wrapped in alabaster skin. He doesn’t have the physique of a man who picks up and puts down heavy things in a gym. It’s lean, functional strength that gives him a solid feel beneath my palms. The smattering of dark hair across his chest is the perfect texture.

  He lays me back on the bed in a smooth, practiced movement. Someone like Liam must get lots of practice at this sort of thing. This upcoming show is the sixth time he’s choreographed and directed Unravel. I wonder if he sleeps with the principal in each city. Perhaps not the principal. It could be another dancer in the company. For all I know, he’s already slept with one or several of the dancers at the GCB. I’ve not heard any rumors, but it’s possible. There isn’t a woman there that wouldn’t be willing I bet.

  His teeth scrape against my nipple through the fabric of my bra, and I’m fully present again. The strangled, choking sound I make doesn’t sound sexy, it sounds strange. Does he think it sounds strange? I wonder what he’s thinking as he reaches beneath me to unhook my bra and slide it off me.

  The way he touches me, and looks at me, it’s nothing but lust and adoration, but I don’t know. My breasts are tiny, and I have a pronounced rib cage. I also have slightly visible abs, but not in the sexy, swimsuit model kind of way. I’m too thin, but also muscular for a woman thanks to all those long hours at the barre.

  I’m not usually this self conscious, but it’s been a long time since someone new has seen me undressed. I completely forgot that initial bout of insecurity and doubt.

  “Can we turn the lights off?”

  “Why would we want to do that?”


  Liam silences me with a kiss, He kisses me breathless, until I’m arching beneath him and hugging his hips with my thighs. Then he licks a line down the side of my neck, making me shiver, and I’ve forgotten all about a silly little fact like the lights are still on.

  I let my eyes drift closed against the feel of his lips tracing along my shoulder. My fingers tangle in his thick hair as he licks, nibbles, and kisses down my front. I have absolutely no control over the whimpers and tiny gasps escaping my throat.

  When he reaches for the snap of my jeans, I grab his wrist. I can barely breath to get the words out. “I need to talk to you about something.”

  Liam rests his cheek against my stomach and looks up at me, waiting.

  “I usually never tell people this, but you said you liked when I was honest.” Trying to temper my breathing, I tip my head back and stare at the ceiling. “I can’t… get off. With you. With anyone. It’s not going to happen, so I don’t want you to take it personally. It’s just the way I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t want to, or I won’t enjoy this. But I thought you should know.”

  He laughs lightly against my skin.

  “I’m serious, Liam.”

  “Okay, Penny.”

  I can tell by his tone, he either doesn’t believe me, or he’s going to try and prove me wrong. Perhaps I should’ve kept my mouth shut.

  The sound of my zipper coming undone can barely compete with my frantic, panting breaths. He peels the jeans down my legs slow, skimming his lips along the top of one thigh as he goes. His tongue is hot and wet beneath my knee, making me giggle breathlessly.


  I manage a nod. I’m also oddly frightened, not in an awful way, like I fear he might hurt me, but I’m not sure what to expect. When he starts purposefully tickling me, I’m completely caught off guard.

  “Where else are you ticklish, Penny?” he asks with a sly smile.

  I’m laughing too hard to answer him, but he finds all the offending spots without much trouble, my neck and along the sides of my torso. He doesn’t stop until tears are leaking out of my eyes and I beg him to stop.

  Only bare from the waist up, Liam stretches out beside me. He’s wearing a relaxed smile, but his erection juts against my hip hard and thick. I skim my fingertips along his chest. When I reach the dark trail that disappears into his waistband, he grabs my hand and lifts it up to his cheek. “Let’s discuss this, Penny.”

  Yup. Definitely should’ve kept my mouth shut. “There’s not much to discuss. I’m just… strange like that.”

  “Hmmm.” He walks two fingers down my arm and across my stomach. Without warning he palms my pussy over the silk of my panties and rubs lightly. “You’re very wet, Penny.”

  “I-I know but…” my words trail off at the feel of his tongue on my neck. His fingers skim along the edge of my panties, then push the fabric aside. “Seriously, Liam. It’s a waste of time.”

  He laughs again. “I would never say that.”

I would. It doesn’t mean I don’t l-like…” I like what he’s doing to me very much, so much my legs shake, and I can’t breath. “Liam, stop. Wait.”

  Liam stops. He waits. “What’s wrong?”

  “I told you. I can’t do this.”

  “What makes you think that?”

  “Because… I can’t! I never can.”

  A tiny, amused smile tugs at the corners of his mouth. Liam doesn’t argue with me, but he kisses me softly. His lips whisper between my breasts. He drags my panties down my legs and smoothes his palms along my inner thighs, spreading me open before him.

  “Liam, I’m serious.”

  “You really are, aren’t you? Serious, serious, Penny.”

  I lean up on my elbows to frown at him. “What is that supposed to mean?”

  He lowers his mouth to taste me, a long, slow lick that has me arching up off the bed. The murmuring, appreciative sound he hums against my clit vibrates up my spine. Before long the pleasure mounts so high, I twist away from him, or try to. Liam holds my hips still.

  “Liam, stop.”


  “This is taking too long. You’re going to be at this all night, and it’s not-”

  “You’re right.” Liam leans up over me, and reaches to turn my alarm clock around. “We can stop when it’s light outside.”

  “Liam,” I whine.

  He grins down at me. “Penny.”

  Liam starts again, with his fingers, his lips, his tongue. Everything he does to me feels amazing, but there is a point I reach, and it’s like a switch flips. I bump against the edge of release and have to back off. I beg him to stop several more times, and he does. Liam stops when I say stop.

  He kisses my inner thigh. “What terrible thing do you imagine might happen if I don’t stop?”

  “You must be getting bored. This is taking forever.”

  He laughs quietly. “I assure you, I am very far from bored, and that doesn’t answer my question.”

  “It’s too much. I feel… out of control. Like I’m not in control of my body.”

  “And that scares you?”

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