Skin of the Night

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Chapter 46: Every Step Of The Way

Jason and I had just finished setting the table when the doorbell rang from downstairs. We’d ordered sushi, and it had arrived half an hour ago. I therefore deduced that this had to be William. Swallowing a lump in my throat, I glanced at Jason with a nervous look on my face. While his brother had seemed to calm earlier, I worried he hadn’t entirely forgiven me yet.

Truthfully, I did feel like I owed him an apology. Our argument in his flat earlier had been silly and unnecessary, and it had been blown out of proportions. I hadn’t meant for it to turn out that way when I tried to explain my feelings to him. In retrospect, it must have hurt him, however little, to hear my concerns. Had our roles been inverse, I knew I would have been. I didn’t want to hear him doubting in us, so I should have returned the favour.

I owed it to him to express more security toward whatever we were doing, because he went out of his way to ensure that I never had any reason to doubt his loyalty and interest in me. In that way, he was a remarkable man. There wasn’t a toxic tissue in his body.

“You get it,” Jason said while looking at me with resolve in his pretty eyes.

“If he slaughters me, my blood will be on your hands,” I muttered and turned for the hall, but unexpectedly, Olivia stormed toward the front door before I’d managed three steps.

“Hello?” she spoke into the intercom with a cheerful and angelically innocent voice. He must have thought there was a child present. After confirming his identity, she unlocked the door downstairs by pushing the button and ripped the front door open to wait for him. With my arms folded, I watched her, intrigued.

As he reached the top of the stairs, my breath caught in my throat. He was so bloody sexy, and he didn’t even try. The fairest man I’d ever seen, he made my heart tingle without any effort. He must have been designed just for me; tantalising to a fault. He ticked every box, and even added a few of his own; things I hadn’t known I desired in a man before I met him.

Sure, he drove me crazy and ill with temper in the blink of an eye, but he always knew he was doing it. He just didn’t always care, because he had integrity. When it truly mattered to him, he would stand his ground, regardless of what it did to me. And I admired that about him, because I was the same.

I couldn’t have met a more kindred spirit. Hotheads that we were, our flames combined to keep us in our element, fuelling each other to become an even stronger, sizzling heat. And he was exactly that - in my element; my temperament. I had always wondered why and how he understood me so well, but when I pondered over it, it wasn’t really that surprising. Like Jason had once said of us, we were similar. Only another fire would know how to read the dance of my flames. And he met them with a force equal to my own. We balanced each other. Neutralised each other.

I sighed at the dazzling look of him and wondered for a moment how the devil I had managed to capture his interest. My insecurities shouted that I was punching far above my weight, but my confidence yelled that I was entirely in his league. I decided to listen to the latter. Besides, William Night was not attracted to insecure girls.

Towering over Olivia’s short person, he looked directly into my eyes over her head, and I saw lightening dance in his. I sensed no anger, but I sensed challenge. A bag hung over his broad shoulder. From the look of him, he intended to spend the night. The sight made my lips twist with amusement. He surely didn’t hesitate to make himself feel at home, what with inviting himself to spend the night like that, without asking for my permission. He truly was such an alpha, obeying only himself.

“Oh, my God, William.” Olivia groaned while her body melted against the doorjamb. “You’re even more handsome than I remembered,” she brought herself to tell him. I pursed my lips, but it didn’t help the snort of a laugh charging out my nose. Drunken Olivia was always entertaining. Her filter completely abandoned her.

His gaze dropped to meet hers, and I watched a self-assured smile claim his mouth while he winked at her. “Thanks, Olivia. Care to remind Cara of that every once in a while? I fear she’s starting to take me for granted.”

My nostrils flared. I was not.

“If she does, I’ll personally deal with her.” She turned to send me an icy glare that took me aback.

“Hey!” I unfolded my arms to wave them in the air. “Whose side are you on?”

“His. Definitely his,” she said and pointed her thumb at him over her shoulder. “Have you seen what you’ve harvested, Cara?”

I looked to the ceiling in my despair.

“Marry him, Cara,” Olivia cooed and liquefied where she stood, visibly charmed. She was incurably susceptible to bastards, even though William was in an entirely different league to Colin. I rolled my eyes at her.

“She’s drunk out of her mind,” Jason commented behind me and chuckled to himself.

“Absolutely. Nothing else could explain why she’d ever want me to marry Will, of all men,” I playfully replied and sent my lover a sneer. He was not amused.

“Bitch,” he muttered and pushed past Olivia to enter the flat.

“All yours,” I teased back.

“Ever the challenge,” he teased back and toed off his shoes. After shrugging out of his black leather jacket, he approached with an intimidating resolve in his strides and eyes. He halted when he reached me, and as I turned my eyes up to acknowledge him, I nervously swallowed. In the light blue and piercing colour of his eyes, I saw impatience reside. Something was on his mind, and he wanted to air it. Now.

“Mind if I borrow Cara for a minute, Olivia?” he asked of my best friend while he continued to stare at me.

“Not at all,” she replied supportively.

“It’s not going to be a minute,” Jason warned her. “More like hours.”

William’s comely lips tucked into a smirk while he shot his brother a mischievous look. “If you actually need us, you may knock,” he murmured and gripped my arm to drag me toward my bedroom.

“But I’m hungry,” I complained. “Can’t it wait?” I pleaded.

He sighed and let go of me, albeit reluctantly.

“Fine, we’ll eat first, because you’re much easier to deal with after you’ve filled your belly. You’re a right prima donna when you’re hungry.”

Deal with? What was on his mind?

“At least I have an excuse. You’re a prima donna at any time of day, Will, hungry or not,” I fired back. His eyes gleamed and I saw a ghost of a smile on his mouth.

“And there you proved my point,” he mumbled.

I heard Jason’s poorly stifled laughter behind us. Meanwhile, William guided the way into our living room to grab a seat by the table.

“Sushi. Nice,” he remarked appreciative. Olivia rushed past my person, sprinting, to grab the vacant seat next to him. He watched her descend beside him with a curious look in his eyes. Her eager, which amused me, clearly perplexed him.

“How happy were you when you met her again, William?” she enquired of him while Jason and I grabbed our seats in front of them. William’s light blue eyes flickered in my direction before they returned their focus to Olivia’s brown pair.

“Over the moon,” he told her with a dry, nonchalant tone. If I hadn’t known better, I’d think he was being sarcastic. But he was only being William.

“That tone isn’t very convincing,” she pointed out, disappointed. If she wanted rainbows and butterflies, she was knocking on the wrong door. When it came to the spectrum of romance, William wasn’t on the gooey end.

He scoffed. “Well, at first, I was more shocked than anything else. Then furious, because she lied to me about her name and her studies. Then annoyed, because she told me she wasn’t going to sleep with me again. Then I was happy, because I decided I’d make her eat her words. And she has. How did they taste, Cara?” he queried and looked to me.

I groaned and focused on the sashimi I was bringing onto my plate. “Great,” I muttered. Smug, he chuckled, and Olivia giggled beside him.

“I reckoned they would. Anyway, enough about us; what’s the story of you and your ex, Olivia?” William probed her.

“What’s the story?” she echoed and rested her cheek in the palm of her hand while she admired the sight of him. “We were in a relationship for two, almost three, years. During the last six months of it, he had an affair with a girl named Jessica Flynn. I found out when he dumped me for her. They even had sex on my birthday last year.”

William stiffened beside her, eyes widening. When he looked to her, pity poured from his face. “Christ, that’s awful. I’m sorry you had to go through that.”

His evident sympathy melted my heart. If you didn’t know him well, William was a man that could easily be thought to lack a heart, because he was much too direct and blunt to come across as particularly caring in his nature. Frankly, he could come across as heartless and insensitive. But after having observed him as though my life depended on it for a little over a week, I knew such wasn’t the case at all.

William had a remarkably benevolent heart, but he reserved it for very few people. He had what I considered to be a heart of steel. Solid, heavy, impenetrable. Truly, it was a vault, because once he let you in, he’d protect you from the viciousness of the world like an impervious fortress. Only over his dead body would he let those dear to him be subjected to harm. But gaining access to that vault was no easy feat. He was fiercely fastidious about whom he granted permission to enter, and I was one of the few.

Lucky me.

I had no idea how I’d managed it. It surely hadn’t been my intention. But clearly, William saw something in me that he considered worth the risk. And after having witnessed the sheer beauty of his heart firsthand, I was humbled by the offer. I certainly did not take him for granted, nor would I ever. And if he as much as dared to accuse me of that again, I’d grab him by the balls.

I was grateful, and he better believe it.

I’d realised the benevolent essence of his heart from the way he handled both Andy and Jason. He always looked out for them. As of late, that pertained to Andy in particular, because he’d been lost during his chaos with Chloe. Meanwhile, William had supported him every step of the way by guiding him away from trouble and telling it to him straight. When Andy had been his own worst enemy, William had been battling Andy’s demons both for and alongside him.

William could be rude, insolent, and intensely overbearing, but it rooted in genuine affection, and that was why I forgave it. He always meant to help. His intentions were pure. He merely communicated them in a way that was easily misconstrued. The more I got to know him, the more convinced I became of his sincerely good heart and firm principles.

“Yeah.” Olivia sighed and looked away from him.

“Please don’t let him give you trust-issues, Olivia. Do not give him that power. I swear we’re not all like him. I myself would never resort to infidelity. Practicing respect is a virtue to me. And the same applies to Jason over there,” William urged her and cocked his head in Jason’s direction.

My chest tickled at his declaration. He’d never resort to infidelity? Part of me wondered whether he’d only said it to charm me, but upon further pondering, I actually believed him. He wasn’t the type. He’d dump me before he did anything with anyone else. I was as confident about that as I was that the sun would still rise tomorrow. It wasn’t in his character to cheat. Then again, he wasn’t my boyfriend, I reminded myself. So if he did cheat, would I have a claim? Yes, I would, because we had agreed during our date to remain exclusive while we explored our potential.

Though I was unaware of it, the thought of our date planted a pout on my face. He’d been unbelievably sweet. He had proved to me exactly how compatible we were, and then I’d gone and messed up our harmony today by declaring that I was intimidated by the speed we were moving at. It wasn’t fair to him. Again, I reminded myself that I would need to apologise for it. The sooner, the better.

I was mainly quiet while William pep-talked Olivia through her troubles, because I was enjoying their conversation too much. He was treating her so well, and it meant the world to me, because Olivia was more vulnerable than she let on, and she was my best friend. The fact that William seemed to care about her spoke volumes, as I was certain that it reflected his feelings for me.

When we finished eating, Jason and Olivia headed for the sofa to find a film to watch together while William and I cleaned the table.

“The Notebook. Please, Jason. Please,” Olivia grovelled with her hands held together in front of her face. Beside her, Jason sat with the remote to the Apple TV.

“Haven’t you cried enough already?” he argued through a moan.

“Not nearly!” she countered flustered.

“Fine,” he whined in comical despair. “But only because it’s you. I swear you’ve made me watch that film more times than what’s healthy for any man. I can recite far too many lines from it.”

“Yes!” she cheered and clapped her hands.

I was smiling to myself when I grabbed the plate William extended to me to place it in the dishwasher.

“She’s... very innocent,” William quietly commented. Steering my eyes to his, I found them watching me, intrigued.

“She is,” I confirmed. “You sound surprised.”

His lips twisted with slight amusement. “Well, it’s not what I expected. Especially not when you’re her best friend. You’re not innocent at all.”

“Angel and demon, hand in hand,” I playfully replied. He chuckled.

“I’ll be the devil to your demon,” he affectionately stated, and my heart leapt to my throat. “Together, we’re hotter than hell,” he playfully continued and sent me a wink.

I giggled at his ridiculous joke and shut the dishwasher to turn it on. Though I hadn’t expected it, I was immensely grateful that he was here. He’d been right. Waiting until tomorrow to see each other again, after our earlier argument, would have been a mistake.

I turned my back to the dishwasher and reached forward to hook my index fingers into the pockets of his trousers. Tugging him toward me, I smiled up at him.

“We need to talk about earlier.” My voice was quiet and amorous, so not to set off alarms in him.

Cupping my cheeks in his large hands, he sent me a half-hearted smile. “We do.” After placing a peck to the tip of my nose, he took my hand in his to guide the way to my bedroom.

Neither Jason nor Olivia made a comment when we passed them, because they were too busy arguing over the volume. When we entered my bedroom, I shut the door after us and proceeded to lock it. Then, after collecting a deep breath, I turned to face him. Gracefully, he approached my bed, and after taking a seat on the edge of it, he tucked his hands in his pockets, crossed his outstretched legs in front of him, and watched me with a guarded expression in his eyes. His defence was up, and it hurt to see.

Sighing, I folded my arms and wondered where to start. As I fought to weave my thoughts together, I strode toward him and decided to straddle his lap. After circling his neck with my arms, I rested my bum on his groin. While smiling crookedly up at me, he removed his hands from his pockets to smooth them across my lower cheeks.

I stared deep into his eyes for a long minute, merely savouring my circumstance. Life had thrown me the treat of a lifetime, and I wasn’t about to ruin it. “I’m sorry for what I said,” I started and played with the hair at the nape of his neck. Curling it around my fingers, I studied the complexion of his gorgeous face as it patiently regarded me. His eyes were soft now, and I appreciated it.

“I didn’t mean for it to come out the way it did,” I continued. “I’m not doubting us, or the direction we’re headed in. It’s just that you intimidate me, and I’m not used to... this. This is my first experience with dating and – you know... Feelings of this kind. I’m not schooled in how to handle them, but I’m trying.

“Truth is, they scare me. Intense feelings freak me out, because I rarely experience them. Whenever I do, I tend to remove myself from the source, and this time around, that happens to be you. But I won’t fall victim to old habits, because William... I actually trust you. So I’m genuinely sorry. You didn’t deserve to hear it. You’ve been nothing but perfect toward me. Had I been in your shoes, I would have reacted far worse than you did. Frankly, I think I’d slap you.”

He laughed and shook his head at me. “Trust me, Cara. Part of me definitely wanted to spank you.”

I blushed and lowered my face to nuzzle my nose to his. “Forgive me?” I pleaded in a vulnerable whisper.

“Of course,” he cooed and placed a chaste kiss to my mouth. “And I’m sorry as well. I should have expressed more sympathy toward your feelings in all this. I realise you’re scared, and I should have handled it better. I didn’t mean to disrespect you. I got caught up in my own opinion, and hurt, frustrated feelings – failed to be objective – and I’m sorry for it. I was minding my own stakes in this, when really, I should have been tending to yours. But Cara...” He clasped my head in his hands and stared deep into my eyes.

When he continued, his voice was attentive and loving. “You mustn’t forget that you’re not alone in this. Sometimes, I think you do. As though I am a threat, you’re making me your enemy, when I’m truly fighting alongside you in this. I’m right there with you. We’re supposed to be a team, darling. If there’s one thing I promise you, it’s that I’ll be with you every step of the way. I won’t make you go it alone. We’ll deal with potential problems as they arise. And from now on, I’ll try and pace myself to your preferred speed, okay? I know I can be a bit aggressive, but I’m working on it. I just get so eager. Very impatient, because I see such potential to us, and I don’t want to stall embracing it.”

My heart hammered. He never ceased to astound and impress me. There was such profound depth to him – so many layers that I couldn’t wait to peel away. Sometimes, when his core shined through, the sheer beauty of it blinded me.

When I first met him, I hadn’t been prepared to fall in love at all. My mind had been utterly absent from the concept of it. However, William’s inspiring character was forcing me to face it – forcing me to both acknowledge and embrace it.

I was falling irrevocably in love with him, and for the first time since I’d realised it, it didn’t scare me anymore. His faith in us fuelled my courage. He uplifted me. Made me stronger. With him, I was maturing. He was teaching me that daring to admit weakness truly implied strength.

“I’m not scared anymore,” I whispered breathily and traced tender kisses across his sharp right cheekbone.

His hands trailed down my sides until they settled on my bum again, squeezing and stroking. “Good, because you have no reason to be. This isn’t trivial, Cara. This is profound. I’m serious about you.”

My heart jolted. A most gripping emotion passed through the tissues of it, making it tingle and flutter inside my chest. Leaning away, I was arrested by his eyes alone. A surge of intense heat flooded my face. Quietly, I dared to confess, “I’m serious about you, too.”

His responding smile stole my breath away. Elated, his eyes romanced across my face. “How about some reconciliation-sex, my love? It’s supposed to be great, but then again, sex with you always is.”

My love. The endearment chanted in my mind, repeatedly, and my chest tightened. A dense emotion engulfed it, imprinting in my heart. It felt right. And it felt so good. I wanted to be his love. Not just a love, but his love. It had only been two words, but they’d sounded like a declaration of devotion.

My inhalation was slow and careful. Apprehensive, but expectant. Sex with him right now was precisely what I wanted. Scratch that; it was what I required. Needed. I needed to feel close to him - to be consumed by his passion. I wanted him to remind me of why I felt so cold and desolated when his hands weren’t touching me; when he wasn’t blessing me with his attention.

I hadn’t known it before, but before I met him, my world had been dark, bleak and idle. And amidst the black sky of it, he’d arrived like the birth of a star. My personal sun, charging my world with life and wonder.

How I craved him. Merely the thought of feeling him within me again made me wet. My vagina tingled with yearning for his flesh. My nipples erected as arousal simmered through my veins. Letting out a nervous breath, I grazed his lips with my own.

“Claim me as your own, Will,” I whispered.

His eyes glowed, and I saw his jaw shut tight. Struck by my words, his fingers clawed into my bum. “Fuck, Cara, you have no idea how much that turned me on,” he huskily stated. Swiftly, he flung us around so that I lied beneath him on my mattress. My breath caught in my throat upon the extreme force of my emotions. They were throwing a feast in my chest, and the sensation of it extended all the way to my toes and fingertips. I felt electric.

“This is going to be slow and intense, darling,” he warned and trailed the tip of his index finger down my cheek.

I swallowed and nodded up at him. I knew he was going to consume me now. He was going to rip out my heart and claim it as his own, to have and to hold. Finally, I was brave enough to allow him. I was ready.

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