Chapter 14He smelt like the soap I’d showered in earlier, like the fabric softener in his clothes.

I had nothing to hold onto but him.
He pulled me into him and I inhaled deeply.
I don’t think I had ever been kissed like that before.
He was tender and searching and slow. I felt him all the way in my bones and everything inside me clenched tight. He dug his fingers into my spine and I arched toward him – but there was nowhere to go but deeper –
I gasped at how much I wanted to be one with him.
It frightened me.
I had known him – about him – only one hot second, but he dominated just about everything about me now. I thought of him in my future and I was starting to forget what my past had been without him in it. I felt like I couldn’t be close enough to him now –
I pulled back from him, putting him at arm’s length.
He was breathing as hard as I was, his fingers curled around my wrists.
“Too much?” he groaned.
I wanted to scream for the fact that I couldn’t see him right then.
“A… Little bit… Yeah…” I said, between breaths.
He laughed wolfishly and I giggled, blushing all over.
“We should take a walk. Yeah. Should we take a walk?”
“Too late for that, kid.”
He let go of my wrists and I held on, still.
“Wait…” I breathed, wanting to maintain the feel of his bare skin under my palms.
“Why did you take off your shirt?” I asked, stepping closer again, tracing his contours with my fingers.
“I hate the heat.”
“But it’s not hot,” I chuckled.
“Isn’t it?” he asked.
There was something in his voice that made me want to jump up and hit the ceiling to get away from him. He grabbed me and before I knew what was happening, we’d tumbled onto the sofa. I was laughing so hard, it shocked me.
He pulled me close and I snuggled up against him, resting my head in the curve of his neck and shoulder.
It was strange.
He was able to set me on fire and still calm me all the way down.
“What would you be doing right now, if you weren’t here?” he asked quietly.
“This,” I said. “With a book, in my bed… Maybe I wouldn’t even be reading it. I’d be thinking. Heavy.”
“Thinking about what?”
I shrugged. “Trees. Stars. A snail I saw on the way to class,” I chuckled. “Should I socialize tomorrow? Should I take the trash out now or later? Will anyone see me?”
“Will anyone see you?” he repeated, humour in his voice.
I sat up, leaning against the arm rest. He adjusted his position so that his head was now in my lap. But I couldn’t see him and I wanted to.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and flipped it to the torch function. His eyes twinkled in the blue light, his features relaxed as he gazed up at me.
“Small talk is shit,” I said.
He took the phone from me, holding it up where he let his arm rest across his forehead.
“So when I go outside and I take out the trash and I see someone I know, I can’t just walk on by like they’re not there, even though I’m quite content to ignore them.”
“So ignore them then,” he said with a shrug.
I sighed heavily, looking down at him. I leaned forward and pressed a gentle kiss to his forehead.
“You’re you,” I said, idly trailing my fingers over his short, soft hair. “You – seem like you know who you are. Like you’re – complete. I envy that.”
“What makes you think I’m complete?” he asked quietly.
I sighed again, thinking about this. There were many small things that almost didn’t matter when I looked at them individually. But they gave me some idea of what he was like.
“Maybe it’s arrogance, but you just took your damn shirt off!” I chuckled in delight. “That could have gone very, very badly..!”
He laughed. “Maybe I know you well enough to know that it wouldn’t.”
I slapped him on his chest playfully and he laughed again.
“And you came to me, randomly,” I said. “Only someone truly confident in themselves would approach a total stranger without any thought into what anyone would think.”
“Really?” he asked, tilting his head so that he could look at me properly. “Isn’t that how all strangers meet?”
Maybe he was right.
Maybe I was grasping at straws and I said as much.
“You’re so new to me,” I said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone like you before.”
He sat up slowly, shoving me gently to make room for him. He leaned against the arm rest and tucked his arm under my knees, lifting my feet so that my legs were stretched out over his thighs.
“Don’t hold me in such high esteem,” he said quietly. “I’m human. I’m prone to fucking things up, just like everybody else.”
It wasn’t so much what he said, but the way that he said it. He sounded so serious, so ardent, that all else seemed small in the face of it.
And it made me wonder where it all came from.
What had he done that made him accept his flaws so easily?
Was this about the girl he was with before? Had he done something to screw it up? Was it even any of my business?
“We’re all human,” I said. “Which means I’m prone to fucking up as much as you are. I might even fuck this up.”
I rose to my feet, right there on the couch.
It was hard to balance with the poor visibility, but I focused on him and what little light we had from my phone.
“And how would you do that?” he asked, gazing up at me.
I thought back to that girl and I saw how different we were.
I wasn’t skinny or small like her. My hair did not wave in its natural state like hers apparently did. She was so obviously confident in who she was, just like he was and it was clear that she gave him more than I was prepared to.
What did he see in me?
I hunkered down beside him and I took my phone from him, blocking the light.
“I am very boring, Dominick,” I said quietly. “There is nothing spectacular about me. I’m the bare minimum.”
He sighed heavily, shifting where he sat and then suddenly the room was flooded with light.
“Why do you think of yourself that way?”
My eyes adjusted to the light and I looked first at his face – and then I was heavily distracted by other things. I tried to get off the sofa, but ended up sprawled on the floor, which surprised him to say the least.
“Hey,” he said alarm in his voice. “What just happened? Are you okay?”
He hovered over me.
His body looked like it had been painted and sculpted by God’s own hand and that he had never been born a baby but had been lowered to Earth a grown man, to wake up to a life and a family that knew him and a past well lived and everything.
In a daze, I reached up and touched him, trailing my finger down the centre of his chest and lower, to his pecks. There were eight of them.
I released my breath through my teeth.
I wanted to kiss every inch of that chest and lie on it and eat off of it and – maybe even bite it. He looked like chocolate with a beating heart.
Maybe I understood why he wanted the lights off.
I could never, ever pay any damn attention to what he was saying if he was speaking to me without his shirt on.
The man was dripping sin and he was fire under my skin.
I remained where I lay, pulling my hands back toward myself, stuffing them under me to keep from touching him again. His expression became smug, the corner of his mouth tilting up in a smile.
I caught my lips between my teeth, trying not to grin like an idiot.
“Dilia..?” he said again.
I turned my head away from him, squeezing my eyes shut. I squirmed, all but bouncing off the ground when his lips were suddenly on my throat.
Ohmigod…” I whispered.
He dropped slow kisses along my throat, digging his fingers into my hair, sending spasms of pleasure throughout my body. “Dilia..?” he whispered.
He nipped at my ear and I whimpered, feeling my core tighten so hard that it hurt. I couldn’t help it when I pulled my legs tight, begging for some relief.
I took a deep breath and looked at him. Or at least I tried to.
His lips were on mine, hungry and demanding. He lowered himself onto me and feeling his weight on me made me just want to spread myself out and have him have me however the hell he wanted.
When we came up for air, he had my lip caught in his teeth and it stung, but it hurt good.
I wanted to fucking scream!
He released me and as I recovered, he stretched over me, apparently reaching for his shirt.
His torso was just inches from my face and I couldn’t help but giggle stupidly.
It was all such a rush!
I lifted my head and pressed a kiss to his abdomen, nipping at the flesh and I felt him clench as he laughed.
He did pull his shirt on eventually before lying down beside me.
“I see what you mean about distractions,” I chuckled. He reared up on his elbows, his eyes on me. He rolled over me, placing his hands on either side of my head.
“You’re a fucking distraction just lying here, woman…”
That accent!
I smacked him until he opened his arms and I scrambled to my feet.
He followed me with such fluid grace that I was sure that if death came to greet me in the guise of him, I would not even fight any of it. I bit down on my finger, trying to calm my damn nerves.
He stood before me, his eyes blazing with that fire I’d seen earlier.
“How does the underwear fit?”
“Oh my word!” I moved away from him.
“Where are you going?” he chuckled, following me.
“I don’t know!” I squealed, turning around to look at him.
His fists were dug deep in his pockets as he stood there, his head titled to the side. He looked so incredibly sexy in that moment.
“Why do you keep running from me, Dilia?”
It was a serious question, an echo of one that he’d asked me before.
How did I explain this? How did I tell him that this was insane and the fact of the matter was that I was more afraid of myself than I was of him?
That crashed into me hard.
I had been broken before in love – or what I thought was love. All those times, I had blamed myself for all the times that this had happened to me. All those times, the feelings had come on slow.
Not this time.
This time, they hit me like a storm – like somebody had opened a bucket of all these feelings and dumped them over my head, drowning me.
I wasn’t entirely sure that I was good with how much I wanted this – how much I wanted him.
“Hey… Wait… Why are you crying?” he said gently, closing the distance.
He wiped the tears from my cheeks and I stood there, laughing without humour.
“I’m scared…” I whispered. He cupped my face, looked into my eyes, concern etched into his features. “Of what?” he asked. “Is it me? I’ll slow down, I promise –”
“I haven’t known you that long, I know –”
“I won’t touch you unless you ask me to –”
“I’ve never done this before!”
We were talking over each other, neither one listening to the other.
“I made a promise to myself that I would wait until I was married!”
This stopped him talking all at once.
And there it was – that look that they all seemed to give me when I spoke about the only vow that I fought the hardest to keep.
I held his gaze defiantly despite the tears falling.
He nodded his head slowly. “I understand,” he said gently. “I won’t ever force you into anything you’re not comfortable with, Dilia… But you don’t have to be afraid of me.”
But it wasn’t him.
It was all me.
And slowly, I was beginning to realize it.
He stepped closer, tentative in his movements. And then he held me close.
We didn’t speak again for a long while.

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