Authors: Raine Miller
As Denny and Neil squared off, a
wave of nausea so overpowering took hold of me, and I knew I’d be hideously sick. I clamped a hand over my mouth and slammed myself toward the loo, so incredibly grateful the door wasn’t very far away from the bar. Both men let me go.
Thank God for
the little blessings.
As I heaved over the toilet,
expelling all the wine and happy-hour veggies I’d consumed while drowning my sorrows, I pined over my pathetic love life. How utterly revolting, wretched, and pitiful was I. A guy who cheated, and one who saw me only as a little sister. Fuck my life.
Once I was done
puking, I made my way to the sink, where I leaned on it with both hands, panting into the mirror, and gathering the strength to splash some water on my face. Neil beat on the door, and barged in a second later looking fairly dangerous. In contrast to me looking like shit.
cowl on his face told me he was not in the least bit happy with me. But despite his opinions, he didn’t lecture or fuss; he just pulled out some towels, wet them, and pressed the wad to my face. “Hold that to your head. I’ll be right back.”
“Denny?” I asked weakly from behind the towel.
“Gone. That fuckin’ twat won’t be bothering you again.” I heard his heavy footsteps retreat and then the door of the loo shut with a click.
I groaned in my misery and tried to breathe
, thinking if I could just crawl into a corner somewhere private, I could lick my wounds in peace. Tearing the wet towel off my face, I looked around the small room for the best covert access. I seriously considered hopping out the window as a means of escape. How could I ever face Neil again after this debacle? Embarrassed didn’t even begin to cover what I was feeling right now.
“You’ll be leaving out the front door tonight, darlin’, and not the fuckin
’ window.” I whipped my head around to see he’d returned with a glass of water for me. He was still wearing that frown too.
“I wasn’t going to,” I said meekly, mortified he read my shame
as if it were a newspaper headline.
You were thinking about it, though.” He brought the glass to my lips. “Here you go. Little sips.” His kind attentions overwhelmed me to the point I had to close my eyes. I just couldn’t look at him anymore and keep myself together. I sipped the water instead and let him tend to me.
Selfish of me, I know.
“Better now?” he asked hopefully, in that low tone I recognized since as long as I could remember. I loved the sound of Neil’s voice and I always had. Listening to him talk was a beautiful sound to me. Strong, but gentle. Soft, yet firmly convincing.
I nodded weakly, wishing I could
slip through a crack in the floor boards so he couldn’t see me in such a pitiable state. Why was he here hovering? Shouldn’t he be busy with Cora grinding his soldier’s edge off?
are you doing this, Neil?”
He ignored my question and frowned at me instead.
“Let’s get you out. You’re so finished here for the night.”
put his hand at my lower back with a firm touch, and steered me out of the pub, completely taking charge of the situation.
was far too weak to put up any sort of fight and I loved the feel of his hands on me, anyway.
Even if he were
just being the concerned big brother tonight, I’d take what I could get. Any little bit of Neil was better than no Neil at all. I am not stupid.
against the window of his car, I welcomed the cold glass pressing into my temple, hoping it might cure my scrambled head. Not very effective though, when I could smell his deliciousness right beside me.
Neil just drove and stayed quiet. He wasn’t a talker anyway. He spoke if he had something to say, and I got the feeling he really wanted to say something to me now, but I’d forced things
to become so awkward between us, he probably didn’t know how to begin. Nor want to. I felt like a complete and utter mess. Scratch that. I was most definitely a complete and utter mess.
I offered the first olive branch
I’m—I’m so—sorry for ruining your night with…Cora—”
He snorted at me. “I wasn’t there for Cora tonight,” he said, shaking his head.
He wasn’t? This was news to me. As much as I wanted to hope, I forced my fluttering heart to calm. “You weren’t
there for Cora tonight.” I said the words slowly and deliberately, an edge of questioning sarcasm in my tone that asked the burning but unspoken,
then why in the hell were you there tonight, Neil?
Nah, I wasn’t.” He looked over at me, his expression giving nothing away.
It was apparent h
e wasn’t going to tell me why he
there either and the realization annoyed me greatly. “So, if you know about Cora then why do you stay with her? She’s running around on you as soon as you go away. She’s a cheater. Every time, Neil. She doesn’t love you like I—like—like she should do!”
The silence in the car screamed in the small space between us.
“I’m not with Cora anymore.”
“You were when you first got back. I saw you with her more than once.”
He narrowed his eyes. “
But, I’m not with her anymore, Elaina,” he said with a bite.
“Really.” I couldn’t say much more, I was so surprised at his declaration. Neil and Cora were
finished? If I wasn’t sitting in a car and felt better, I might just jump up and do a jig in celebration, but my head continued to pound, and my stomach continued to storm.
Really, there’s nothing there,” he sailed right back. “I’ve known for a long time what she gets up to and it doesn’t matter anymore what she does when I’m away.” He turned his head slowly to me, taking his eyes off the road. “We were just using each other from the get go…”
We were just using each other?
Lovely. Picturing that twat getting even five minutes of Neil’s attentions made me insane with jealousy. Images of him and Cora making love, touching each other, kissing passionately, flashed through my head until I couldn’t help but groan against the cool window of his car. “Oh…I didn’t know.”
, now you do.”
jealousy wasn’t the only thing I felt either. There was also the violent urge to be sick again.
I managed to sputter.
The second round was mostly just a lot of mortifying gagging and retching. There was nothing in me now except for the water I’d sipped. Neil didn’t say anything once it was over. He
kept quiet, bundled me back into his car, and drove us away. I closed my eyes and let him take care of me sure this was all a nightmare I would eventually wake from.
In the morning I would deal with facing up to the spectacle I’d
made of myself in front of Neil, but not now.
Now I would pretend this was all just a dream…because it was the most my poor heart could manage to do.
I could smell him again.
The scent in my nose was so wonderful I didn’t ever want to leave where I was in my beautiful, Neil-scented dream. I opened my eyes and saw darkness and unfamiliar surroundings…and him.
was on his side watching me in the bed. Well, more specifically, in his bed.
y,” he said softly with a smirk to go with it, not more than two feet from me.
I bolted up fast and found the blinking glow of the clock.
“I—I—I’m at your flat? Mum will be—”
“—Just fine,” he cut me off smoothly. “I
rang your house and talked to your mum. She knows you’re with me so you can relax. How do you feel? Any better?”
I brought both hands to my head and rubbed, realizing I was missing my dress as I sat
up in Neil’s deliciously smelling bed. Bra and knickers only. I turned my head slowly to look at him in the dim light. “You undressed me?” I couldn’t imagine the scenario of what that must have been like, and was again annoyed with him, because damn it all, if Neil was undressing me, then I sure as hell wanted to be awake when he did.
odded and then gently tugged me down to where I’d been positioned when I’d first opened my eyes. I settled back into my side arrangement and focused on him.
I decided to wait for him to explain. No need for me to start blabbering
out a bunch of nonsense if I didn’t have to.
“You fell d
eeply asleep after you were sick the second time. I carried you in and when I laid you down I could see your dress was spotted with…ah…puke…so I took it off you.” I had to give Neil credit for keeping it cool because he kept his eyes on mine throughout that entire awkward explanation.
, what he did share embarrassed me so much, I couldn’t move, or speak. My mortification paralyzed me to the point I could only manage one thing. Cry. I did it quietly but the flood was unstoppable once it began. I couldn’t take my eyes off him this time as they spilled over with tears.
darlin’, it’s only me.” He brought his thumb forward and brushed at my tears.
ust stared at him and kept crying. I couldn’t look away and I couldn’t stop my tears.
“Are you kidding
me?” he said. “I got to see you in your knickers and watch you sleeping in my bed. I should be the one crying…in gratitude.”
“Don’t tease me. Please don’t,” I whimpered,
holding up my hand, hating the sound of my voice and totally shocked at my predicament.
Surreal. Nearly naked and in bed with Neil after being sick in front of him twice and passing out.
I clamped a hand over my mouth. “I must stink to high heaven, and—and I need some water or something.”
He helped me sit up again and handed me a glass from the bedside table
along with two
One, I was impressed with his forethought, and two,
his total calm with me in the absurd situation. He said nothing while I downed the pills and sipped my water. He merely watched with that intense expression of his. I had absolutely no idea what he thought about all that’d been said and done between us tonight.
The covers slipped down to my waist, exposing me in
nothing but a light blue bra, nearly all of me on display for him to see.
, he saw all right. Neil’s eyes roved over my skin and then flicked back up to my eyes and held them. It was impossible to know what he was thinking in that moment of supreme weirdness. I was unable to tell, and at a complete disadvantage with him. Was he repulsed by me? Turned on a little because I was nearly naked in his bed
he was a man? A soldier home on leave, and more than a little horny, in need of a woman? Did he even see me as a woman or just as a responsibility? Who in depths of hell knew? I surely didn’t. Why had he picked me up and brought me to his flat in the first place?
can promise that you don’t stink to high heaven, and are the prettiest wino I’ve ever had the pleasure of smelling in my bed.” He sniffed in my direction. “Eau du Cabernet?”
No bloody fair,” I said pitifully.
“Sorry, that was awful.
” He brushed my cheek with his thumb. “I’ll be good now, I promise.” Another sweep of his fingers took the rest of my tears away before he set the glass aside and faced me again.
I dug deep for the courage to ask him what he was doing with me.
I had to know or I knew I’d surely go mad. “What was all that tonight, Neil?”
He shook his head slowly.
“I’m just in awe that you’re really here.” He reached forward again, this time entwining his fingers with one of my hands, until he gently held them suspended between us. “I can hardly believe it,” he whispered. He stayed quiet for a minute, just holding my hand before he spoke again, his eyes carefully watching. “You never answered my question back at the pub you know.”
gasped and shook my head, pulling on my hand to unclasp it from his. “No, that was bloody stupid and I didn’t mean it.”
s at resisting were completely pointless because Neil wasn’t having any of it. He just gripped my hand harder. “Tell me, Elaina. Who do you want that you think you cannot have?” His voice was liquid soft and hard as steel, both the same time. I couldn’t lie to him. Not when he asked me like this, face to face. The tension between us so raw, there was nothing to stop the hemorrhaging of my heart as it bled out all over Neil’s bed sheets.
,” I whispered, sure that my world was about to collapse in shambles once the truth was out there.
The most remarkable thing happened then. Neil closed his eyes for just a second
, as if in relief at my answer, before bringing his forehead to rest against mine. We stayed like that for a bit, just the normal night sounds of London and the touch of our heads and hands, reminding me that this was indeed real and not a dream. My heart pounded deep in my chest, serving as another reminder that I wasn’t dead and had just survived something miraculous.
miracle occurred when he nudged his head down and found my lips.
Neil kissed me.
I let him explore me
, his soft beautiful mouth merging with mine, learning the feel of my lips as I learned his, gaining the experience of knowing what it was like to share the intimacy. His tongue was even softer, seeking entry in a gentle way but one I couldn’t refuse either. I was aware only of us coming together and trying to ride the immense wave of attraction I felt for this man.
took his time with our first kiss, but he could have taken me anywhere, done anything to me, asked anything of me. I would have been willing.
Nibbling on my lips in the softest way, tangling
his tongue in with mine, he made me ache for more, and at the same time, want to weep in thankfulness that he’d finally come for me.
This is really happening.
I don’t know how many
long moments passed before he stopped kissing me and pulled back. “Let me be the first to tell you that you were wrong.” He stared at me, his thumb brushing back and forth at my cheek, his expression firm and solid.
It was my turn to close my eyes in relief
this time. “I was wrong?”
Dead wrong, Cherry.” He nodded slowly, his eyes searing. “You may have me.”
What?” The ability to comprehend information had obviously left me.
“You can have me,” he repeated, still
holding my hand intertwined, his expression still burning into me with his dark, soulful eyes.
hy—when did you know this—wait—you came to the pub tonight—you came tonight…because…?”
“Because I heard you’d broken off with that
fuckin’ arse, Tompkins, and I was home on leave to actually do something about it for once. Do you have any idea how long I’ve been waiting for this?” His voice had a definite edge to it now. “For the timing to work out for
?” He sounded frustrated.
“You were waiting.” I was in such disbelief I
again repeated his words, trying to accept everything he was telling me. “You’ve been waiting...”
“I have.” He leaned in toward my lips but didn’t touch them. “Waiting and waiting forever
. For you. Waiting for you to grow up. Waiting for you to see me as something more than just a friend of Ian’s. Waiting for the right time to tell you how I feel about you.” He whispered so close, I could feel the brush of breath from his beautiful words. “Just a very long time of waiting, Elaina.”
I felt more tears threatening to spill.
“I don’t want to wait anymore.” His eyes melded into me and held on.
“Please don’t make me wait for you any longer,” he pleaded. “I can’t do it, Cherry. I just can’t.”
Such beautiful words. And they came from his mouth to my ears, about me…
“So tell me now, please.” I took a deep breath and reached out a trembling hand to his face. I needed to touch him and feel the warmth of his skin. I needed to feel him in order to help my poor brain accept that this was really and truly happening in the moment—not some beautiful fantasy dream I would have to wake up from. It sure felt like a dream though.
Neil has been waiting for me…
Here we both were
talking about our feelings and wants and desires. Neil had me close enough to touch in his bed at his flat.
Again, I summoned my courage and asked, “I want to—no—Neil, I
to know exactly what you feel for me,” I whispered. “I have to hear you say it to believe it.”
He took hold of my shaking hand and brought it to his lips, his eyes never wavering from mine, and said the three words I’d dreamed about for forever, but never believed would come.
“I love you,” he said clearly, just before kissing my hand again.