Nicole woke up slowly the next morning, regaining conscience of her limbs one by one. She felt as well rested as if she had slept for over a day. As her mind made its way back from whatever she had dreamed last, Nicole remembered she wasn’t at home. She was currently at one of the city’s top hotels, in the suite next door to Allison. And she was supposed to be alone in there. But, if that were true, then to whom belonged the arm circling her waist?
She managed to smell the singer’s perfume in the air and the whole previous night came back to her. The talk, the confessions, the apologies. The hug. Not knowing what would happen when they were both awake, she decided to enjoy the warmth of that embrace. The alarm clock on her nightstand told her it was a little past five in the morning, which meant she had barely slept a couple of hours.
A memory made her turn around inside Allison’s arms. When they were dating, Nicole spent a few weeks in Allison’s tiny New York apartment. She had always been an early riser and she used those quiet moments to observe her girlfriend as she slept. She used to look so peaceful and serene. Even back then, that was the only moment Allison didn’t put up a barrier around her.
That serenity was still there as Nicole gently moved a lock of hair from the singer's face and caressed her skin.
At that moment, there was no Lauren, magazine, Dianna, Jake, interview, Simone or the last ten years. Nicole felt as if only the two of them were even real. She slid her hand down Allison’s neck, across her shoulder and followed her arm all the way to her bent elbow that lay on top of the comforter. The skin was warm beneath her fingertips and she started the way back, observing as goose bumps broke all over. Nicole was dancing her fingers on Allison’s neck when the singer opened her eyes and stared deeply into Nicole’s. She could read inside those hazel eyes a thousand questions, but there was only one possible answer.
With a surge of confidence, Nicole glided her hand to the back of Allison’s neck and pulled her to a kiss. She could feel the last ten years mingling in their breaths; all the longing and heartbreak tainting their tongues and guiding their movements. It was desperate, as if they feared what would happen when their mouths disconnected.
Not one to let herself be easily dominated, Allison pulled Nicole on top of her and used her hands and fingers to caress every inch of that body she could reach. Allison’s touch on her skin was like licking fire and Nicole raised her torso, trapping Allison between her knees, and got rid of the boring pajama’s shirt. Allison splayed her right hand on Nicole’s stomach and slid it up, between her breasts, across her collarbone and over her nape. She used her grip to pull Nicole down for another kiss that was all teeth and tongue; a delicious battle to know who was in control, giving and taking in equal parts.
Allison planted her foot on the bed and pushed her body forward, trying to roll Nicole around and lay on top of the other woman. She wanted to feel her beneath herself, to control their pace, but all she managed to do was reach the end of the bed and knock Nicole on the ground.
Nicole bolted up. She wasn’t on the floor, she was on her hotel bed. By her side, Allison slept peacefully, but there was no arm around her waist nor was there the smell of perfume in the air. It had all been a dream. A too real dream. Nicole raised one hand to her lips; she could have sworn the taste of the singer’s kisses still lingered there. But, maybe, she was just going insane.
“I should probably take a cold shower before I lose my mind.”
“Wake up, Allison.” Nicole called out from the bathroom door. “It’s already 7 o’clock and I have a bunch of things I need to do before we leave.”
Allison blinked her eyes open, darting them around, trying to figure out where she was. This happened most mornings when she was traveling around the world and it usually took her a few minutes to remember what city she was in. But, that time, knowing the city’s name wasn’t important. That time, she had Nicole’s face to be the first sight to greet her in the morning, just as beautiful as it was when they were dating. Her dark hair was wet and messily thrown back, there wasn’t a drop of make-up on her face and still, she would be able to put any Hollywood starlet to shame.
“Huh? Nicole? What are you doing here?”
“This is my room, remember? You fell asleep here.”
The words triggered Allison’s memories. She remembered she couldn’t sleep all by herself in her too-big-suite and she went to Nicole’s room in the hopes that they could smooth things out after that morning. She wasn’t expecting to clear the air about their break up, but she was glad it had been done. Looking at Nicole now, Allison could see that something had changed between them, that they didn’t feel the need to be so defensive all the time.
What she couldn’t remember was falling asleep. Somewhere after their hug and their tears and their absolutions, they laid down, side by side, to continue talking. The conversation came so easy that it didn’t feel like they had spent any time apart. The next thing Allison knew, she was being woken up by Nicole’s voice. Not how she would’ve liked to sleep with her ex-girlfriend again, but it was a good start.
“True…” She stretched on the bed, all feline like, and tangled the sheets at her legs. A smirk made its way to her lips when she noticed Nicole was staring. “Good morning, Nic. How did you sleep?”
“Good morning, Al.” Nicole wondered why Allison had to look so attractive that early in the morning. “I slept well. What about you?”
“Like a baby. You know, I believe your voice still does wonders for my sleep.”
“Well, I’m glad to be of service. Now, could you please go back to your suite? Simone will come looking for you soon and she’ll probably think I’ve kidnaped you or something.” A scowl marred Nicole’s face and Allison wanted to run her fingers over it to smoothen it out. “Besides, I still need to work a little before we start on your day.”
“You mean you sleep with me and then you shoo me out of your bedroom? I might start thinking I’m a nobody.” Allison tried masking her real question with mockery, but Nicole could still hear it.
“You know you’re not a nobody and I didn’t sleep with you, Allison.”
“No? What was that, then?”
“We slept on the same bed, but we did not sleep together. Can you see the difference?”
“Not yet, but maybe my brain is still asleep. Who knows?”
“Yeah. Who knows?”
During their conversation, Allison got up from the bed and Nicole was reminded that she was only wearing a loose shirt and short shorts. The soft fabric seemed to cling to her every curve and the bottom piece showed enough of her legs to make Nicole think she would need another cold shower before leaving the suite.
She was starting to hate her professionalism.
“Will I see you for breakfast?”
Allison asked from the door that connected both rooms. She turned around to face Nicole and caught the other woman checking out her barely covered body. She smiled to herself.
“Uh… of course. Breakfast.”
Nicole felt bad about practically throwing Allison out of her room like that, especially after the conversation they had finally had the night before, but she needed to make her daily call to Dianna and she didn’t want to run the risk of her boss hearing more than she should. Not to mention that it would be extremely hard to focus on work with Allison, in nothing more than tiny clothes, just a few feet away.
Her laptop was already placed on the table that sat on the corner of the room and she started it before calling Dianna’s number. She wasn’t really sure what the other woman expected to hear from her, but orders were orders. On the other side, the phone rang only twice before a strong voice came through.
“Good morning, Nicole.”
“Good morning, Dianna. I hope I’m not too early.”
“Not at all. I’m already at the office.” Somehow it didn’t surprise Nicole. “How’s the interview going? Do we already have our cover story?”
“Things are going great. Jake took some amazing shots yesterday and I already have a lot of material. Mostly about her professional life. I’m letting Allison have the time to trust me before we talk about more personal stuff.”
“Makes sense. Good job, Nicole.”
Since she wasn’t in the same room as Dianna, Nicole let a brilliant smile grace her lips. From what she had heard about the other woman, compliments like that didn’t come easily.
“Just a quick question before I let you get back to work.” The sound of the keyboard could be heard on the background. “What do you know about a Simone Marino?”
“She deals with Allison’s PR. Why?”
“Because she sent me an email last night, implying that your relationship with Ally isn’t exactly appropriate. Her words, not mine.”
“Look, Dianna, Simone came to my room late last night, making all kinds of threats. I told her the same things I told you and I can assure you have nothing to worry about.”
“Good. May it continue like this.”
Dianna’s words kept churning in Nicole’s mind long after she hung up the phone. She wanted to say to herself that she couldn’t believe Simone had sent that email to her boss, but the truth was that she could. After seeing the kind of contempt she had seen on the woman’s face the night before, she wouldn’t put anything past her. Nicole believed there was something more to that than just wanting to protect Allison, but it wasn’t anything more than a theory. She would have to keep her feelings to herself.
Since it was still a little early to go downstairs to eat breakfast, she decided to do some work. Maybe if she focused enough on that, she would be able to stop thinking about Simone and about an extremely sexy Allison that decided to cause havoc in her dreams.
Nicole transcribed her recordings from the interviews sessions with Allison and typed some of her notes. She liked to start a file with everything she had on her subjects as soon as possible; not just their words, but her mannerisms and actions as well. She believed doing so allowed her piece to be as close to reality as possible.
After a few pages had been written and saved, Nicole decided she deserved a break. Allison’s first engagement wouldn’t be for another couple of hours, which meant she had enough time to make one last phone call and have breakfast.
Dialing the numbers was like second nature already; her fingers were trained to do those movements without her conscious thought. She had been pressing those same keys for a few years now, but she couldn’t remember a single time when she had felt as nervous as she did that moment. She didn’t know what to say to Lauren when she picked it up. She didn’t even know if she was going to pick up. All she knew was that she needed to try and talk to her girlfriend.
The call went straight to voicemail.
“Hey, Lauren, it’s me. Look, I know I’m probably the last person you want to talk to right now, but I really think we need to talk. This is just a big misunderstanding, baby. I love you! Please call me. I can explain and--”
A shrill sound interrupted her words. The message’s limit had been reached and anything else she’d say wouldn’t be recorded. Nicole sighed deeply and put the device besides her laptop, before grabbing her room key and leaving the room.
“Now I have to wait.” She smiled sadly at the reflection she could see of herself on the elevator’s mirror.
“Wait for what?”
Through the mirror, Nicole noticed Allison had boarded the elevator with her.
“It’s nothing, Al.”