Read Spiral of Bliss 03 Awaken Online

Authors: Nina Lane

Tags: #Contemporary

Spiral of Bliss 03 Awaken (3 page)

BOOK: Spiral of Bliss 03 Awaken
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“So I have a poem for you,” Dean says.

“A poem?”

“Written by Guillaume de Machaut, a fourteenth-century composer of love poetry. Want to hear it?”

“Of course.”

“Okay.” He clears his throat.

 

I want to stay faithful, protect your honor,

Seek peace, obey,

Fear, serve and honor you,

Until death, peerless Lady.

For I love you so much, truly,

that one could sooner dry up

the deep sea and hold back its waves

than I could restrain myself

from loving you.

 

“Wow,” I whisper. “That was something.”

“Want to hear it in French?”

“You need to ask?” I love hearing Dean speak French.

“Je veux vous demeurer fidèle, protéger votre honneur,”
he murmurs in that baritone voice that I feel pulsing in my blood,
“assurer votre paix, vous obéir, vous craindre, vous servir et vous honorer, jusqu’à la mort, gente dame…”

By the time he’s finished, I’m melting. “That was the kind of poem a knight would use to woo his lady?”

“Better than ‘roses are red,’ huh?”

“I’ll say.” I smile into the receiver. “Thanks.”

“Just trying to get a start on courting you.”

“That’s a lovely start. And you’ll call me tomorrow?”

“When the clock strikes ten, my peerless lady.”

We say goodbye and hang up. I sit in his chair for a while longer, then get up to tend to my houseplants that are arranged on a rack near the balcony. As I’m plucking dried leaves from the stems, I notice my peace lily has bloomed, the creamy white flower turning its face toward the sun.

 

 

I do not think I have ever owned
big girl panties.
So after cashing my last paycheck from Allie, I go to the store to buy some. Old Liv is whispering that this is a complete waste of money, but New Liv is tackling life again, and new panties seems like an unexpectedly good place to start.

The lingerie shop is a haven of lace and loveliness—flowered wallpaper, a glass chandelier, vintage chairs and vanities, open cabinets filled with neatly folded satin robes. The scent of vanilla spice wafts through the air, and a Mozart sonata plays on hidden speakers.

The saleswoman approaches me with a welcoming smile. Her nametag reads Sophia, and she’s an attractive woman in her forties who looks like she knows all about the importance of what you wear beneath your clothes. After I tell her I need new underwear, she gets me measured right and explains all the various styles of panties, which I had no idea existed.

“What kind do you usually wear?” she asks.

I’m a little embarrassed by my answer. “Just cotton briefs.”

“And you’re looking for something different?”

“I think so.” I dubiously eye the racks of V-strings and thongs, then pick up a pair of panties called “cheekies” which look like they’d give me an atomic wedgie.

I put the cheekies back. “But, uh, maybe not quite that different.”

I pick up a package of briefs and study the label. I can almost feel Sophia’s dismay.

“Well, briefs are comfortable,” she remarks, taking my arm and steering me toward another rack. “But you might want to try the hiphuggers. They’re a cross between boy shorts and bikinis, so they offer you good coverage without being… dowdy.”

“I don’t want to be dowdy,” I agree.

Kelsey did say
big girl panties,
not
granny panties.

“Here, these are your size.” Sophia takes a few hiphuggers off the rack and hands them to me. “They’re sexy, flirty, and comfortable. Go try them on and let me know what you think. Would you like the matching bras too?”

I start to decline, but then figure I might as well try them on. Sophia gives me a pair of nylon panties to put on underneath and, with an armful of silky lingerie, I head to the dressing room.

After stripping down and putting on the nylon panties, I pull on a pair of lace-trimmed, floral hiphuggers and the matching push-up bra. I turn to look at myself in the mirror.

Well,
damn.

I’ve never been thin and willowy, but… wow. My curves are a good thing. The bra pushes my breasts up into a bountiful cleavage that complements my tapered waist, and the panties look both pretty and sexy stretched around my hips and rear end.

After examining myself from all angles, I do a few squats and stretches to make sure the panties don’t ride up.

“How do those feel?” Sophia calls from outside the room. “Would you like to try on the boy shorts too?”

“Sure.”

“We also have baby dolls and cami sets on sale. They’re very comfortable. Shall I bring you a few?”

“Why not?”

I spend the next two hours trying on more bras, as well as silk slips, teddies, and camisoles with matching shorts or little skirts.

By the time I leave the store, I have a bag filled with three hiphuggers and matching bras (on sale, three for the price of two), and three pairs of boy shorts and matching bras (on sale, twenty-five percent off), plus a camisole top and shorts, two halter-style nighties with a matching robe, and three fitted lace slips. Though the splurge cost almost my entire paycheck, New Liv is off to a good start.

As I walk home, a rush of excitement goes through me as I think about Dean’s reaction when he sees me in the lacy bra and panties. And I wonder why I’ve never bothered buying pretty lingerie before, even for his sake.

The answer comes without any thought. Because he’s always loved me exactly the way I am. Cotton briefs, plain white bras and all. Never once has my husband wanted me to be different from what and who I am.

Just the opposite, in fact. He’s never wanted me to change.

But I have changed. I’m a different person than I was six months ago. Hell,
one
month ago. No, I still haven’t figured out what I want to do, or how to put to use all the things I’m good at, and maybe I’m still not all that confident about my abilities—

“You’re such a mouse, Liv.”

Kelsey’s voice in my head stops my self-defeating train of thought.

Before Dean left, I told him that I desperately wanted to find a way to prove myself
to
myself. To be self-reliant and find my own path.

I know I can do it.

I’m smart. Dedicated. Loyal. Organized. I always carry an extra pen. I’m hardworking. Reliable. I know how to get stuff done. I’ve made mistakes and learned from them. I’m a good student. I’ve been knocked down and gotten back up.

A
mouse?

Fuck that.

CHAPTER TWO

 

 

 

Dean

 

 

March 8

 

 

ean, we have a problem.”

“I don’t like problems, Frances. I like solutions.”

“Okay, perhaps it’s not a problem yet. More like a wrinkle.”

“Don’t like wrinkles either.”

I grip the phone with one hand and shield my eyes from the sun with the other. The dig trenches are organized into a grid and sectioned off with string, the façade of the eleventh-century church and perimeter walls rising from the ground like dinosaurs.

“If you don’t like wrinkles, then you really won’t like this,” Frances warns me.

“What?” Irritation scrapes at my insides.

“Edward Hamilton is considering a large donation to King’s to fund a new law school building.”

“Oh, for fuck’s sake.” If I weren’t so frustrated, I’d laugh. Maggie Hamilton’s father has carried on his family’s legacy of big alumni donations to King’s, and he’s going to dangle this possibility in front of the board like a damned carrot until they do what he wants.

And what he
wants
is for them to fire me.

“Why doesn’t the board of trustees just bend over for him?” I ask Frances.

“Dean, he’s considering the donation at this point. He hasn’t committed.”

“He’ll
commit
once he sees me out on my ass.” I inhale and focus on the excavation site again.

Archeologists, volunteers, and students are scattered throughout the trenches, digging for artifacts and recording finds. The hills of Tuscany roll around the site like giants sleeping under green blankets.

“What do I do?” I ask Frances, both expecting and dreading her answer.

“Nothing,” she replies.

“I can’t do nothing,” I snap. “I’m sick of doing nothing.”

“Nothing with regard to the investigation, Dean,” she clarifies. “Going on that dig was the best thing you could have done. I’ve been reading your reports, your podcasts are brilliant, and the board of trustees has sent out a press release about the IHR grant and your contributions to the dig. Your job is to keep doing exactly what you’re doing.”

“For how much longer?”

“Ben Stafford has to make a recommendation to the university board of trustees soon,” she explains. “If he brings your case to them, they’ll have to further investigate and possibly hold a public hearing.”

“When’s the next board meeting?”

“End of May.”

“That’s almost three months.”

“They can convene earlier, if needed.”

“I’m not staying here another three months, Frances. No way. It’s been over two weeks already. I miss—”

I stop. The sun disappears behind a cloud.

My wife. I miss my wife.

“Work,” I finally say.

“You are working,” Frances replies. “And it’s good for your career. When you come back, you’ll go right from the dig into the conference. It’s an excellent move, Dean, but you need to stay there and finish the work.”

After a few more comments about the job, I end the call and walk toward the trenches. I grab a notebook and camera and start recording the features of the monastery located between the church and the cloister.

I haven’t worked on a dig since grad school, and I’d forgotten how much I like the work. Being outside, hunting for treasures, wearing jeans and old sweatshirts, not needing to shave. Digging in the dirt reminds me of being a kid, back when Archer and I would hunt for bugs and rocks in the garden. I like figuring out what an object is, what it could have been used for, when a structure was built.

Even missing Liv as much as I do, even wanting to be home again, it’s good here. I know what I’m doing. Thinking and talking about sediment samples, structural planning, building stages… this, at least, all makes sense.

Unlike the miscarriage.

Unlike the threat to my career.

Unlike the trouble in my marriage.

None of that makes any sense. It never will.

I take pictures of the perimeter wall, then go to assist on the other areas of the site. There’s a solid routine to my days here. Wake early, breakfast, shower. Talk to Liv, then get to work. Digging, cataloging, consulting, studying, recording, photographing. Sometimes a trip to Florence or Lucca. Soccer games. Dinner with my colleagues, followed by a campfire, drinking, music, or a movie.

Liv is always there, always in the back of my mind, my girl five thousand miles away shelving books, organizing a display of photographs, cooking dinner in our apartment that she’s made a home with all her houseplants and decorating touches.

I don’t want to be away from her, but being here, I’ve figured one thing out—I need to do the same thing with my marriage that I’ve done my entire career as a historian.

Study the data and figure it out.

I can do that. I’ve done it countless times before. I’ll do it again.

After consulting with the site architect about the drawings of the monastery, I return to my room and spend an hour reviewing site data sheets and writing up a report about yesterday’s finds.

I pick up the phone and dial my father’s number for my weekly check-in to see how he’s doing after his heart attack.

After he and I talk about his health, he asks about work.

“It’s good,” I tell him. “Still on-site.”

“Helen told us she’ll be attending your conference,” he says.

Though the thought of seeing my ex-wife doesn’t bother me the way it once did, my chest constricts at the mention of the Words and Images conference. I’m acutely aware that I could be relieved of my duties as conference chairperson if this harassment allegation isn’t resolved soon.

“When are you going back to King’s?” my father asks.

For a second, I’m tempted to tell him everything. Confess all that’s happened. Though my father and I aren’t close, he’s always supported whatever I’ve wanted to do. He’s always been proud of me, though at the expense of my younger brother.

“I’ll be back soon,” I finally say. “How’s Mom?”

After a few more minutes of talking, my mother gets on the line. She chats about her charity work and local events, then asks me to ship her some painted terracotta from a showroom in Florence.

I promise her I’ll look into it. After we hang up, I check my email. There’s a message from Liv along with a scanned drawing:

I print out the picture and tack it to the wall above my desk alongside a photo I took of her a couple of years ago. I could stare at the photo for hours—the faint freckles across Liv’s nose, her high cheekbones and dark brown eyes fringed with thick lashes. The top few buttons of her shirt are undone to reveal a V of pale skin and the swell of her breasts. Her straight, brown hair is loose around her shoulders, her lips curved with a smile.

Still scares me sometimes. How much I love her. All this stuff about her needing me, relying on me, depending on me… when I’m the one who can’t take his next breath without her.

I fantasize about her to get off every night, but haven’t told her what I think about during the day. All the things that make Olivia Rose Winter
Liv
—the way she arranges the cereal boxes in alphabetical order, always stops to pet dogs on the street, hums when she waters her houseplants, and gets emotional over sappy commercials.

And I think about the secret parts of her that no one knows about but me. The soft crease at the back of her knees. The curve of her collarbone. The crevice beneath her breasts. The small of her back where my hand fits perfectly. The ridges of her spine. The beauty mark beneath her left shoulder blade.

Mine.
She’s mine.

The possessiveness that grabbed me the instant I saw her is fathoms deep. It’s in my bones, my blood. It will never go away. And I don’t know what to do with my suspicion that it’s part of the problem.

I push away from the desk and go back outside. After more work and planning for the next day, I get some dinner and go to bed early. I’m always up before dawn to talk to Liv, and it’s still dark the next morning when I call her.

“Hi.” Her voice is slightly breathless against my ear. “I’m excited.”

“So am I.” I shift the phone to rub my cock, which is still half-hard from a hot dream. “Let’s talk about our excitement.”

“I mean, I’m excited because I got a job,” Liv says in amusement. “You know that French bakery down on Dandelion Street? I applied for a position working at the front counter, and I got a call this afternoon that they want me to start tomorrow.”

The pride in her voice makes me downright happy. “That’s great, Liv. I knew you’d find something soon.”

“It’s not what I want to do forever, of course, but it’ll be a good temporary job.”

“How many hours are you working?”

Liv gives me the rundown about her hours and new schedule, then tells me about the upcoming exhibition at the Historical Museum.

It’s my favorite time of day—lying on the bed in my rustic hotel room, dawn breaking outside the window, listening to my wife’s voice like music in my ear.

“Dean?”

“I’m here.”

“I also… um, I saw Dr. Gale today.”

Tension claws my shoulders at her mention of the counselor who brought up the whole “sex is a problem” bullshit.

“Yeah?” I manage to keep my voice even. “What did she have to say?”

“Well, I’ve seen her a couple of times, but ultimately she just verified what I already knew.”

“Which is?”

“That I wanted our baby.”

My heart constricts. “I know you did.”

“Have you thought about it at all? About trying again someday?”

“Some.” I stare out the window, where the sky is still pallid and gray from the night. “Scares the crap out of me.”

“Me too, but I was anticipating it, you know?” Liv says. “And I think I want it more than I’m afraid of it.”

Silence falls between us. I can’t look at the black possibility of what could happen to Liv if she got pregnant again. Yet the rational, researcher part of my brain knows that I was getting used to the idea of having a baby. That I’d started preparing for fatherhood.

And the pieces were falling into place because I was with Liv, the woman who stole my heart and my breath with one look. The woman I didn’t even know I was looking for until I found her.

BOOK: Spiral of Bliss 03 Awaken
7.29Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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