Knock On Wood (Riders of Tyr #6)

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Santa Monica

Tamie

We don’t talk. We haven’t talked ever since I woke up and saw him prepare his bag. He beckoned at me to get ready and then we had breakfast in some dinner on the road. He ate looking out the window at the passing traffic and then he drove silently, watching the road and the rearview mirror.

He kissed me! The memory is so vivid I can’t resist and place my fingers over my lips. He kissed me. A true kiss. Not an assault on my mouth, not an aggressive act of possession.

Oh, I have been kissed. Daultrey never kissed me but all these men coming to Freddie, they all put their filthy mouths on me and took. They bit, they sucked, they forced. I controlled the vomit that came up my mouth and I always kissed back to keep them happy.

With Wood it was different. He wasn’t taking, he was giving. He wasn’t attacking, he was conquering. And there was one more reason that made that kiss different: I wanted it.

I so wanted it. For the first time in my life, I wanted a man touching me, kissing me, showing me how much he was aroused by me. I hadn’t even realized it till he pulled me down and placed his lips on mine. Those thick, hard lips, dry from the nightmare that plagued him, hot from the fire that burns him.

And then he stopped as if it was rotten and he pushed me away. I have felt his manhood swell under me, I know he wanted me like a man wants a woman. But he sent me away. Why?

I glance up to him as he drives with that determined look on his face. I wish for him to look at me. Like he did last night when he woke up from his nightmare. As if I was his only raft of salvation. His dark eyes were filled with tears, his face so vulnerable, so tortured. But he doesn’t, he just drives fast as if he is in a hurry to get rid of me.

Feeling a sharp pain in my stomach, I turn my gaze from him and I look out the window. And I see a sign the reads LOS ANGELES. Los Angeles! Are we close?

“Wood?”

Nothing.

“Wood, are we close to Los Angeles?”

Still nothing.

“Wood? Please?”

He sighs and tightens his jaw. It’s not anger, it’s something else, something I can’t put my finger on. But I stop thinking when he finally speaks.

“We’ll pass by it in 20 minutes.”

“By it?”

“We are heading to Berkeley, Tamie.”

So close to L.A! It’s been my dream to visit that city since I was a little girl. Walk on the Walk of Fame, eat ice cream at the Santa Monica Pier, enjoy Venice Beach. Los Angeles!

My heart picks up speed. Wood seems agitated, eager to get this road trip over and done with. I am not so sure anymore. I want to see Iris, I really do. But I am... scared. In those pictures she seemed so happy, so full, so... And I am broken, used, empty. I will be a burden in her life, a reminder of past griefs that she has moved on from. What if she blames me for all she’s been through? What if she hates me for leaving her behind?

“Can we stop to eat in L.A?” I blurt out before I start to cry.

“We’ll grab a bite on the way.”

“I... I really want to see L.A.” I try.

And for the first time after last night, Wood turns to me and looks me in the eyes. He is frowning but that doesn’t take anything away from his handsome face. His one hand leaves the wheel and goes through his messy medium length hair. My eyes follow that gesture from the way his fingers go through his hair like mine did last night, to the way his muscles flex like they did under my touch.

My throat goes dry at these thoughts and the memory of his lips on me make me shift on my seat uneasily. What are those feelings I feel when he is close, when he looks at me like that, when I gaze at his body?

“Is that so, kitten?” He asks. “You want to see L.A?”

Kitten. I want to be offended, to tell him that no kitten would have survived what I have but I can’t. All I can think of is him, holding me in those thick, tattooed arms of his like a little kitten and protect me from the world.

“Tamie?”

“I do,” I swallow hard. “I want to see L.A.”

“Well, fuck me but that’s the first thing you asked for without me pushing you for it.”

“So?”

“So,” Wood smiles on of those side-smiles of his, “L.A. it is.”

I smile widely like an idiot and to add to that assumption, I clap like a little girl enthusiastically. Then I blush and look at him waiting to see him mocking me for being such a fool. But his look is velvety, soft, tender. It makes me blush even more.

***

I don’t know if one can die from enthusiasm but I am close to finding out. We are strolling down the Santa Monica pier and the sun is shining down on me, warming me. People are swarming around, having fun, enjoying the day out in the sun. Couples holding hands, families, teenagers. Everyone is here and I am here too.

I walk barely containing myself amongst this crowd, my white sundress flowing in the light breeze. I get a lot of eyes on me by the men on the pier but then their look drifts at the man behind me and the all walk away hastily.

I look back and I see Wood at my heels. With his dark t-shirt, his jeans and biker boots he looks out of place among the people in their summer attire. Everyone parts as he walks in steady confident strides and there hasn’t been one woman here that hasn’t had her jaw dropped at his sight.

But he doesn’t seem to notice, nor does he seem to care. He brushes those looks off and just searches the crowds for possible threats, always alert, always vigilant. He is not letting his guard down not for one second.

Except for when he looks at me. His look softens and he gets a smiley glint in those dark orbs. He always looks at me, searching my face, peering through the layers I hide behind. And that should scare me. Only it doesn’t.

“Ice cream?” I try to pull my thoughts together and point at the stand.

Wood nods and smiles. He hasn’t talked a lot but as he is watching me with those deep eyes of his I know it’s not making him feel that bad being here with me. He might even enjoy it. The thought alone makes me happy. When he places his hand on my back lightly and guides me to the ice cream place, I accept that gesture without revolt and repulsion. I relax.

“What are you having?” He asks.

I look at the flavors offered and I am lost. So many colors and flavors and toppings and choices. It takes me a while but I end up with an extravagant cone with ridiculous sprinkles, cookies and a paper umbrella.

“Want some?” I offer my ice cream to Wood.

“No, kitten. Enjoy it,” Wood guides me to a relatively quiet corner on the pier.

“Oh, come on,” I get on my toes and I shove the colorful assortment under his nose.

Wood’s look is heavy, shifting from the ice cream to my lips and I suddenly know which one I would prefer he licked. I felt his lips last night but he never deepened the kiss. As he lets his thick tongue roam over the ice cream, I wish he had.

Mesmerized, I climb higher and I dart my tongue out and lick the ice cream too. For a while we share the same cone, our faces so close to each other. For a while I am enjoying the sun, eating ice cream with the most dashing man I have ever met. For a while I am normal. To others around us we would look... We would look like a couple.

We keep on eating the ice cream like that, his lips going over the sprinkled vanilla and mine over the cookies. I glance up to him and he is watching my lips move over the melting sweetness.

“We should head back,” Wood suddenly coughs and leans back against the rail.

“Just a little while longer,” I mutter.

He lets out a sigh and shakes his head in a nod. This man is bending to my will and he is not demanding anything. He is doing it he wants me happy or at least content. At the thought I smile and blush. His look turns deeper as my cheeks turn redder.

“Is this because of the sun?” Wood lets his thumb caress my blushing cheeks.

"Uhm...” I don’t know what to say to that.

How can I tell him it’s because he is looking at me like that, because he is touching me with those hard hands that seem to be the softest things that has ever been against my skin?

“OK, kitten,” he chuckles, “a little while longer. What do you want do next?”

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