Something caught the hem of her shirt. Zara turned around and looked down at Amy’s bed where she lay sleeping. She smiled when she saw tiny fingers curled around the material.
Sighing inaudibly, she sat back down at the edge of the bed, running her hand over Amy’s small form. The hold on her shirt lessened and Amy kicked in her sleep as she turned and buried her head in the covers.
They had returned to her apartment about half an hour ago. Zara had seen to Amy’s bruises while Susan had seen to her own. The scratches on her arm weren’t too deep and with care and rest they would heal quickly. Matt and Nathaniel were staying over for the night after the episode at the park. Zara was secretly thrilled to have Nathaniel over, especially after the kiss he had given her.
As if on cue, a shadow fell across the room and she looked up to see the others enter the room.
“Hey.“, Susan called out as she came to her and hugged her shoulders lightly.
Zara smiled, “Hey, she’s finally asleep.”
Amy had been awake for quite some time seeking reassurance from Zara that she would be right there when she woke up. The incident that had taken place earlier had scared her. Zara had kissed her bruises and given her a hug, promising her that she wasn’t leaving her alone again.
Nathaniel knelt down next to the side of the bed, his eyes looking down at Zara.
She tried to calm the racing of her heart, suddenly feeling shy.
Tucking her hair behind her ear, she tried to avoid looking at him.
His words in the park came back rushing to her.
He had said that they would talk. But what was she supposed to tell him? That she had inadvertently developed a huge crush on him? That every time she now saw him, she wanted him to pull her into his arms and kiss her?
This was going to be difficult.
“Why don’t I and Susan stay here? In case Amy wakes up.“, Matt said in a low voice, his eyes glancing meaningfully between Zara and Nathaniel.
Zara didn’t look at Nathaniel, keeping her eyes focused on Amy’s dark head as she slept away peacefully.
“Come.“, Nathaniel’s deep voice jarred her nerves.
He had already gotten to his feet and had held his hand out to her.
Zara glanced at his outstretched palm.
Then taking a deep breath to try and calm her quaking resolve, Zara placed her palm in his. A sudden sense of security enveloped her when he helped her to her feet, pulling her close. She didn’t protest.
They walked out of the room, her hand encased in Nathaniel’s warm one.
The minute they were out of earshot, he turned to her.
“Are you hungry?”
Zara shook her head mutely, not trusting her voice to come out strong.
She felt drained. Defenseless and so very tired. She just wanted to curl up in a ball and go to sleep. Though Nathaniel’s embrace felt like a much better option.
He led her to the couch and sat down, not letting go of her hand.
He noticed it and sighed. Then he pulled her down, seating her right next to him.
“No more distance, Zara.“, he said roughly.
Her head jerked up and she saw the determination in his eyes.
“I don’t think that’s a very good idea right now, Nathaniel.“, she said softly, looking him in the eye.
Her pulse tripped when his gaze lowered to her lips and stayed there.
Then he spoke, his words seeming to voice her own desire, “I think it’s an excellent idea.”
She looked away.
They sat in silence for a few moments, his thumb rubbing circles over the back of her hand. His thigh was pressed along the length of hers, warm, solid and firm. Suddenly he transferred her palm to his other hand and gathered her into his embrace. Zara stiffened. But he didn’t let go nor did he lighten his hold. It took her only a few seconds to relax and lean into him more fully, her head on his shoulder.
He had changed into a clean tshirt and jeans that Matt had brought over from their dorm. Zara turned her head toward his chest, needing to be held for a reason she couldn’t seem to fathom. He smelt like soap and sunshine and she inhaled deeply, letting the scent calm her.
“I need to ask you something, Zara. And I need you to be honest with me.”
She stilled, her nose pressed against his shirt.
He leaned down and placed a soft kiss on the crown of her head.
Then he put his finger underneath her chin and raised hee head, making her look at him. His eyes seemed to search hers, as though trying to find answers that only she could provide.
Zara took in his features, feeling as though she was meeting him for the first time all over again. There were shadows under his eyes. His strong jaw was covered with a day’s growth of stubble. She noticed a small mole on the side of his neck that she hadn’t observed before. His eyebrows were dark and thick, perfect slashes against his skin. His skin looked far from smooth and she wanted to run her fingers over the sharp lines of his cheekbones. She thought he had the most imperfectly beautiful face she had ever seen.
“Do you still have feelings for Finn?”
Her eyes widened of their own accord.
“No.”, she said softly but firmly.
She saw his shoulders relax instantly and he seemed to sigh in pure relief before straightening again.
“Do you like me?”
The blood rushed to her cheeks.
A small smile tugged at the corner of his lips.
Zara began to push away from him.
“No, you don’t.”, he held her firmly by her upper arms.
“I like you a lot, Zara.”
She froze at his admission.
His brown eyes were sincere.
He hurried on, “I know that I’ve messed up things between us but I swear I can do better, if you’ll give me a chance.”
She couldn’t get her lungs to work.
He stared at her, his eyes worried.
Sweet Jesus, he liked her! He really did!
She looked up at him and nodded.
He opened his mouth and then stopped, his eyebrows shooting up.
“Really?”, he couldn’t seem to believe her.
She blushed and looked away, fiddling with the hem of her shirt.
Nathaniel hooked his finger under her chin and brought her gaze back to his.
“Last question.”, he said huskily.
She looked at his lips and then back to his eyes.
They seemed to darken turning a deeper shade of brown.
“If I kiss you now, will you let me or am I going to get slapped?”
He didn’t give her time to respond because the next thing she knew was he had pulled her forward and his lips had covered hers, gently caressing, as he moved them back and forth, making pleasure bite at her insides.
Zara grabbed his wrists as she struggled to stay upright, all common sense seeming to leave her body at his very touch.
Slowly she moved forward, kissing him back, trying to gather her wits again.
But then his tongue touched the seam of her mouth and heat exploded all over her skin. She collapsed against him.
A jolt shot down her belly, ending up in a rush between her thighs as Nathaniel’s tongue pushed against the barrier of her lips, licking her own and sucking on the tip even as he lifted her up and placed her sideways on his lap.
Zara’s arms curled around his neck, her fingers gripping his hair, a soft moan escaping her lips. He caught it in his mouth, his hands moving up her waist to settle just below her breasts, his thumbs resting on the undersides. Slanting his lips on hers, he plunged his tongue inside her mouth again and again, making her head reel.
She gasped and pulled away, running out of breath. His lips grazed her cheek and then landed on the delicate nape of her neck where he sucked and bit, nipping at the soft flesh and then soothing the sting with his tongue.
She pressed her thighs together, some part of her stunned at the effect he had on her body. Her nipples had hardened to tight peaks and brushed against the material of her shirt.
The next second, his hands moved to her face and he turned her back to him, his lips claiming hers once more.
He kissed her hard, pulling her lower lip into his mouth before giving her his tongue.
Zara couldn’t keep up with his rhythm. Her body felt heated, sensitive to his every touch.
And it was just a kiss.
When he finally pulled away, she felt bereft. She wanted him to continue. She wanted to rub her body against his and have him kiss her neck.
Then she wanted to do the same to him.
“You’re mine now, Zara.”, he caressed her spine, placing a kiss on her shoulder, his breathing harsh.
“Say it.”, he demanded, kissing her neck.
She shivered and clutched his head tighter.
“No.”, she denied him, a protective instinct kicking in.
He groaned against her skin and his hands returned to her waist.
“You’ll say it soon enough.”
Then his lips returned to hers.