Chapter 26 - Danica
I am rendered speechless. And I have little time to say anything because Aldrich’s lips are not touching mine. So softly, so gently. The butterflies in my stomach flutter to life and ignite with a fuzzy warmth. No, a flame. My eyes close and I sigh, slowly moving my hands out of Aldrich’s grasp to latch them behind his neck. And I’m kissing him back before he decides to pull away. I feel Aldrich’s hands rub down my shoulders to the small of my back. His hands latch there as he pulls me closer, making me press against his body.
After a long, blissful, moment, Aldrich pulls away. My eyes remained closed, and a smile on my face. When I do open my eyes, I see my smile mirrored in Aldrich’s face. I pull my lips between my teeth, flattening my smile, but it’s going to be awfully hard to keep this smile off my face now. I start to giggle softly, uncontrollably.
“What?” Aldrich chuckles, his arm tightening around my waist.
“I don’t know,” I say, shaking my head, shrugging. “I just . . .”
I trail off when I can’t find the words to say. Before I can try to speak again, Aldrich’s mouth claims mine, My voice comes out in a mumble. Aldrich is mumbling too. But neither of us can understand a word. He’s chuckling; Aldrich’s fingers play at the exposed skin on my back, beneath my shirt. Goosebumps run up my spin and I shiver. When Aldrich breaks away, we are both breathless.
“I’ll never be able to leave now,” I whisper, looking into Aldrich’s eyes. Then, just as quickly as the words left my mouth, Aldrich’s smile fades. I’ve spoken too much.
“You’re not leaving yet,” he whispers, looking away from me. “We’ll figure it out by then . . . . .”
I nod as Aldrich turns his gaze back to me. We look into each other’s eyes, and for the moment, everything stops. Aldrich’s smile returns and he tries to pull me closer. He presses his forehead to mine. I close my eyes, savoring the moment. I wonder if this is what my grandparents felt when they met. Bliss.
“You have to be here tomorrow, right?” Aldrich asks softly, his forehead still touching mine.
“Yeah,” I reply with equal softness, nodding.
“I’ll bring you here, bright and early. I’ll stay with you until the event is over, and then I am going to take you to dinner. But not here, in the hotel restaurant. We’re going to go elsewhere, okay?”
The word scarcely leaves my mouth before Aldrich starts to kiss me again. When he groans, I can tell the feelings are more than mutual. Aldrich’s hands find their way up my back and into my hair. He pulls out my braid, letting it fall around my shoulders. He tangles it around one hand, the other pressing against my back. As if I need encouraging. I stand on my toes, tightening my arms around Aldrich’s neck. I don’t want it to stop.
Aldrich holds my hand beneath the table as we eat with his father, Claire and Laila. Given the fact that Laila is still being hostile towards me, there is a slight awkwardness every time Aldrich’s father tries to bring the two of us into a conversation. Aldrich’s father is so nice. I can see where Aldrich inherited his eyes, smile and gentlemanly manners from.
“Ona bi trebalo da bude ovde za tuširanje,” says Mr. Djokovic with a smile.
“What shower?” Aldrich asks, his eyebrows furrowing as he glances between Claire and his father.
“The wedding shower,” Laila says dryly, rolling her eyes. “Mislio sam da ste vi i vaš otac bili su bliži.”
Claire gives her daughter a look that says she’s appalled. Laila merely shrugs and goes back to her phone. Aldrich’s glare is similar to shooting daggers, but he remains calm and composed.
“We are close,” he says, his gaze never wavering. “In case you’ve forgotten, Laila-” he emphasizes her name, which makes her look at him. “I’ve been making sure Danica recovers and I haven’t been to speak with my father in a few days. Not including the dinner party.”
Laila’s expression is stoic as she turns back to her phone. What is with this girl and her phone? When she’s not cleaning at the house, she’s on her phone. When’s she’s not doing that, she’s reading. The reading . . . okay, cool. She likes to read. But the phone? How is she not tired of it?
“Laila,” I say, turning in my chair to see her around Claire. “I always see you reading . . . have you read Aching Heart by Danica Kensington?”
Laila looks up from her phone, but not directly at me. Not at first.
“No, I don’t think so,” she says, shaking her head. “What’s it about?”
I glance at Aldrich before going on. As I explain the story, Laila becomes interested, leaning forward as she sets her phone on the table. I leave out any spoilers, summarizing the book just enough to get Laila to want to read it. When I finish, I know I’ve won her over.
“That sounds a like a great book,” Laila says, pulling a pen and notepad out of her purse. “I’m gonna check it out tonight. The author is Danica Kensington, right?”
“Yes,” I reply, nodding. “She, the author, lives in Beaverton, Oregon.”
Okay, now I am just boosting myself, but getting Laila to put her mind on something else. The change of subject has Claire and Aldrich’s father interested as well. I straighten in my chair, looking at Aldrich to find a knowing smile playing at his lips. I shake my head with a subtle movement. By the time Laila figures out it’s my book, she will probably learn something new. How to be aware of others’ feelings.
Aldrich and I are watching a movie in his room later, and I can barely keep my eyes open. My head is resting against his shoulder, his arm around mine. I keep blinking to stay awake, but it seems impossible.
“Moj slatki?” Aldrich says, using his free hand to turn my chin up, facing him. “Let sleep take over. Don’t fight it.”
“B-but,” I say with a yawn. “I like spending time with you . . . I want to be awake.”
He chuckles and as I stop fighting to keep my eyes open, I feel something soft and warm on my forehead.
“Idi na spavanje, moja slatka,” I hear before losing the sleep battle.
I open my eyes, finding myself encased in the comforter. And I seem to have grown an extra arm - or two - in the night. I try to roll over, but find it hard because the arm draped around my waist is planted firm.
“A few more minutes,” a husky whispers in my ear, sending shivers of goosebumps down my spine. “Don’t worry about the time. Just sleep a bit more.”
“Aldrich?” I whisper back slowly.
I smile to myself and try rolling over to face him. But he tightens his arm further, pulling me towards him.
“You smell like fruit,” Aldrich whispers, nuzzling my hair. “Is that your soap?”
“My shampoo,” I whisper back, smiling when his warm breath hits the back of my neck. Suddenly, he turns me over and hovers above me. My breath quickens, my chest heaving heavily.
“You should let me help with your hair again,” Aldrich says, pecking my forehead.
I smile; last night before we started the movie, I had taken a shower to wash my hair. When I came out, Aldrich offered to help dry my hair. It was like getting a head massage. Aldrich’s hands were so gentle, and it reminded me of when Gram would do my hair before bed, when I was a little girl.
“I’d like that,” I say, smiling up at Aldrich. “So . . . what’s this about wanting a few more minutes of sleep?”
Aldrich chuckles, “Let’s just say this,” he replies, flopping onto the pillow beside me. “I liked watching you sleep and holding you in this manner has helped me sleep the best than I have in a long while.”
The way he says this . . . I blush and look away, but Aldrich cups my cheek and pecks my lips quickly. Then he plops onto the pillow next to me. Watching me. Smiling at me. Gram is gonna flip when I finally tell her about this.