Skin of the Night

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Chapter 48: Just Stay Patient

William

I dropped a kiss to her naked chest, then her forehead, and tucked her in before I climbed out of the bed to have a shower. Even if I was feeling the drowsiness that almost always ensued after an orgasm, I didn’t feel tired enough to fall asleep. I blamed my earlier nap for that.

Was Jason still awake?

After shutting off the lights to let Cara sleep in peace, I dressed into my boxers and exited her room. As my eyes scouted the living area, I saw only Jason. Since earphones were plugged into his head, I gathered he was listening to music while he sipped on what looked like his fourth bottle of beer, sprawled across the sofa.

Bloody summer holiday. I envied the bastard. I couldn’t recall the last time I’d been on a proper holiday. Must have been two years ago, when I’d been to the Bahamas with Alex, Andy and Chloe. That holiday hadn’t been particularly pleasant either, seeing as Nathan – Alex’s father – had died of a spontaneous heart attack.

Jason didn’t notice me, so I headed down the hall to make quick process of a shower. He still didn’t notice me when I returned, seeing as his eyes were now shut, so I headed straight for the kitchen to grab myself a bottle of beer as well. It was only when I halted beside his figure in the sofa and bent over until my face were inches from his that he seemed to sense my presence.

“Fuck!” He squealed, much like a young girl would, and at deafening volume when his eyes opened to find me there. He recoiled against the back of the sofa like a frightened animal, blue eyes wide with panic. Soon enough, anger replaced it. I wondered with some concern if he’d managed to wake Cara. “Ah, shit, Will! Why have you got to be such an intolerable dick!?” he chided and clung to the cushions.

I leaned away. “Well, since you’re such a twat, somebody’s got to be the dick.” After a beat, I continued, “Be quiet. Cara’s asleep.”

“You should have thought of that before you decided to scare the living shit out of me,” he scolded.

“You’re right. I should absolutely have anticipated a reaction like that from a coward like you.”

He groaned, but said nothing. Gazing around again, I wondered where Olivia was. Had she gone home? I hoped not. A girl in distress was easily the best time to open her eyes, and by that, I meant that it was Jason’s golden opportunity to impress her and finally make her see him in the light that he had hoped she would for the past two years.

“Where’s your lady?” I queried and directed my eyes to his again.

Ripping the earphones out, he twirled them neatly together into a circle and leaned forward to place them onto the coffee table by the sofa. Jason had always been odd like that. Unlike myself, he’d never been particularly tidy, but there were certain things he added strange order to. His closet, for instance, had always been labelled: shirts here, trousers there, and boxers over there. Nevertheless, the floor of his bedroom had always been a complete chaos, filled with dirty laundry. I’d never understood it. Why did he bother do something halfway rather than follow it through entirely? I remembered how I had pitied our maid Lydia for having to clean after him.

“She’s asleep,” he answered and sipped on his bottle.

“Here?”

“Yes.”

I stared at him. “In your bed?”

“Yes.”

A frown bothered my face. “Then why aren’t you sleeping next to her?”

“Because she’s drunk.”

I failed to understand his reasoning. Grabbing a seat beside him, I had a sip of my own before I asked, “So?”

“And emotional,” he added, as if that was enough of an elaboration.

“So?”

He groaned and glanced at me from the corner of his eye. “So? Olivia gets silly when she’s drunk and emotional. She’s in need of comfort, and I don’t want to seem like a source for her to get it – not like that. She’s upset about Colin, and I don’t want to make a move when she’s clearly still bothered by him.”

I was fully aware he’d been in love with her for the past two years, even if I’d never met her myself until I first met Cara. And when I had, I hadn’t known she was one and the same. He’d only mentioned her over the phone a couple of times, and he hardly ever spoke about it since she’d been in a relationship back then.

When he’d first told me, I’d been divided. Part of me had envied him for being in love. I’d always wondered what that would feel like. But the remaining, larger part of me had pitied him. Though I hadn’t had the faintest idea of what it must be like to love somebody that way, I hadn’t imagined that it could be easy for him to want a woman in a relationship with another man. I’d always been a territorial lad, so the fact that Jason had fallen in love with a woman in a relationship had triggered my sympathy. It must have made him mad with jealousy on several occasions.

Now that I knew full well of what it was like to be in love, that notion of mine was amplified. Had I been in his shoes, I wouldn’t have handled it with even an ounce of the grace he’d managed. I would have lost my head. I was certain. In fact, I’d already lost it on several occasions with regards to Cara and her relation to that insufferable Robby.

“I can see that,” I murmured and shrugged my shoulders. “Either way, now’s your chance. Don’t let it slip away. You’ve waited far too long for this. If you let her escape, I’ll be very disappointed in you, and I doubt you’ll be able to forgive yourself.”

He faced me, and he looked underwhelmed. “Sometimes, you might as well have been Dad.”

He’d always said that – that I sounded so much like Dad. “He would have agreed with me.”

He had another sip. After he’d swallowed, he looked away from me. “I envy you for that, you know. People can say what they want about your methods, but you’ve always chased after what you want with a ruthless drive, completely unapologetic. And more often than not, it gets you where you want. Even Cara, you’ve managed to get, and I honestly doubted any man ever would.”

I arched my brow at him. “Cara’s not admitted to anything yet. All she’s said is that she fancies me. I would hardly say that I’ve managed my objective. And in any case, you should listen to yourself right now. You’re essentially saying you’re not assertive enough. So why not do something about it? You clearly know what your problem is. So ask Olivia out on a date. Sure, she’ll be surprised, but the worst thing that can happen is that she rejects you. If she does, she probably would have done it either way, be it now or later.

“Besides, it’s been five months since she broke up with Colin. And from the sound of her today, she’s completely over him. Yes, he still manages to rile her, but honestly, if Kate reached out to me like Colin has done to her, I’d be furious as well. She’s only human, Jason. And after what that tosser did to her, it’s no wonder she’d be upset. Don’t overthink this. Just because she went mental over him today doesn’t mean she’s still hung up on him. Honestly, I don’t think she is. Olivia today was merely a woman who felt violated and disrespected. She had every right to be irate about it.”

He was quiet for a long while, reflecting. “I’ll give it a thought.”

“Give it a go,” I argued.

He rolled his eyes at me. “And what do you mean you don’t have Cara where you want yet? She’s completely in love with you.”

Had she told him that? If she had, I was closer to my goal than I’d initially thought. If she’d confessed it to him, it was only a question of time before that would escalate into confessing to me.

“Has she told you that?” I probed, and I couldn’t help the hope that poured through my tone.

He shook his head, and my heart sank in my chest with my disappointment. “No. But she doesn’t need to. She’s my best mate, Will. I know her like the back of my hand.”

“Forgive me if that doesn’t reassure me adequately. She might be in love with me, but that doesn’t mean she’s willing to accept it yet. She’s got walls, Jason. Fucking massive walls.”

“I told you she was wrong in the head about attachment.”

“Do you think she’s been hurt once? Could that be why?”

He shook his head again. “No, Cara’s never been in love. I’m sure she’s just shocked at herself. You arrived at an inconvenient point in her life – she’s preoccupied with her ambitions.”

I groaned. He was only telling me things I already knew.

He sighed before he elaborated, “She’s not... she’s not a feeling type of girl, Will. She doesn’t have much experience with having to deal with feelings. She’s always been quite placid that way.”

“It’s fucking irritating.”

He laughed. I didn’t see the humour. There was nothing laughable about my feelings for her.

“She’ll come around. Just stay patient,” he advised.

“Yeah, but it’s bloody difficult. I fucking love her, Jason. I love her to bits. And I yearn to tell her.”

“I know.” His tone held sympathy that I absolutely despised. I didn’t want his pity. It made me feel pathetic.

“Do you think I could tell her first? Or would that scare her off?”

He stared strictly at me. “Maybe wait a bit, Will. You’ve barely started dating. Mind you, she’s only just ended things with Robby, and he meant a grave deal to her. She told me just before you arrived today that she hasn’t had time to process that fact at all, since you’ve been demanding her entire attention ever since it happened. She needs to be allowed some room to come to grips with everything.”

I frowned, horribly annoyed. I hated the fact that even though Robby was physically out of the picture, he still managed to stall our progress. I wished she would forget him already. I wished she would put him out of her mind, right now. In my head, Robby was irrelevant. He was old news. He wasn’t part of our lives anymore. My blood boiled at the notion that she still cared for him. It stirred my demons, my jealousy. I hated him. For three years, he’d had her, and just this past weekend, he’d been about to have her again, and that in spite of the intimate night she and I had shared just the day before.

That spoke volumes. So easily, she’d been able to push thoughts of me aside when it came to him. It was glaringly apparent that she harboured great love for him, even if it hadn’t outmatched the feelings she seemed to harbour for me. But how small was that margin? Had I prevailed over him easily superior, or had I won by a slim chance?

I’d told her I was sorry for how I’d behaved that dreadful night, and in almost every way, I was. But I wasn’t remotely sorry that he was out of the picture, hopefully for good, and I wasn’t remotely sorry that I’d cock-blocked him. In fact, I had bloody celebrated it. Only over my dead body would I have let him have her that night, or on any night onward.

If he as much as dared to approach her again, I would lose my head. Depending on her response to him, Cara would be the target of my anger. I’d never get violent, but I would resort to other means capable of keeping them apart. If that meant stirring her guilt and bad conscience, so be it.

This is where we might disagree again. You might think that since I claim to love her, my intention should never be to cause her pain. Well, what about my pain? Shouldn’t that matter, too?

Honestly, who do you think you are? Who are you to tell me how to love?

There is no such thing as a universally correct way to love and to be loved. If you believe anything else, you’re delusional; brainwashed by lies. Everybody is different, and their needs with them. Thus far, my way of love was the closest to ideal when it came to meeting Cara’s needs - why else would she want to be my lover?

My own needs were quite simple: Cara had to be mine alone. Sharing her with Robby - a past lover - was out of the question. To meet that need of mine, I expected her to abandon him. If she refused, why the hell should I bother to meet hers like some selfless fool without any self-respect to speak of?

You see, I loved her, but that did not mean that she had me wrapped around her finger. I bowed to no one when they did not deserve it. And if she couldn’t discard Robby for me, she most certainly did not deserve it. I would in turn refuse to meet her needs - I would drag her right down with me to return her own medicine. I warned you before that I was going to prioritise my own joy to the same extent that I would prioritise Cara’s, and that I expected her to treat me just the same. If she proved unable to do that, and instead prioritised only herself, she and I were going to have a problem.

It wasn’t that I was unwilling to sacrifice certain needs of mine in order to meet hers. On the contrary, I was willing to sacrifice plenty so long as it was a mutual practice. However, Robby was a hard limit for me. If she was unwilling to sacrifice him for the sake of us, especially when she knew how important it was to me, I would be forced to leave her out of respect for myself, and I would never forgive her for making me do that. I would hate her for bereaving our potential, and I would hate her for daring to offer me only scraps of her rather than the entire of her. Simply, I would loathe her for not valuing us as much as I did.

The two of them interacting under any circumstance was completely unacceptable. It was a fact I couldn’t ignore that Cara was weak for him. If I believed anything else, I’d be naïve. And that weakness of hers scared me. It fed my insecurities. If I fucked up, even just a little, would she return to him? Would that be it for us?

The first time I’d met her, she’d told me what a comfort he was, that he never bothered her, that he might as well be air to her. She’d led me to believe that she appreciated his stability and predictability. He was a source of security, and I knew she favoured that about him. Down the road, I worried my character might inspire her to miss that. If I came short, would she dump me for him and return to old ways?

That would fucking break me apart.

I said, “And yet I can’t help how clear things are to me. It blows that she’s not on my level.”

“I’m sure she is, she just expresses it differently,” he argued. “Cut her some slack, Will. I know it’s hard for you to see it, because you don’t know her like Livy and I do, but we’ve seen immense changes in her. She’s really warming up to you. She wants it to work out just as much as you do, but you have to understand that the Cara you know is different to the Cara I know. I knew her before you were part of her life, so you have to trust me when I say that the progress she has made is tremendous, and it’s all for you.”

I knew his points were valid, but I didn’t want to listen to him. Eager to embrace our potential, anything that stood in the way of that was difficult to respect. But since he was speaking sense, I would force myself to listen.

“I’ll give her a month. That’s all I can manage,” I muttered.

He groaned, head dropping in despair of me. “Then don’t expect her to return your confession right away.”

“As long as she doesn’t leave me, I’ll be fine.”

“She won’t.”

I wanted to be as certain as he was, but I couldn’t be. Not until she told me herself.

“Do you think he’ll reach out to her? Robby, I mean?” I asked and looked away from him. I feared he’d sense my anger and change his reply according to it.

“It’s not unlikely,” he said, and I sensed his hesitation. “They were best mates, Will. And they’ll be studying together again next term, for their Master’s. They also have a lot of mutual friends. They’re bound to bump into each other every now and then.”

I stiffened. The very idea of them interacting again made me want to vomit. That urge was intensified when revolting images of him trying to claim what was rightfully mine marched into my mind. I couldn’t stand them. Or him. I hated that he knew what she looked like when she orgasmed, I hated that the sound of her moans was a familiar melody to him, and I hated that her responses to his caresses had fed his illusion that he somehow mattered more to her than all the rest. Since I knew perfectly well what she looked like in bed, I hoped more than anything that Robby had never seen her quite as senseless with pleasure and wanton as I had. The mere thought of him in my place, doing to her what only I should, truly made me nauseous. We were not equals, so she had better not be treating me like she treated him.

I’d always appreciated that Cara was experienced. The fact that she’d slept with several men before I entered her life had never bothered me at all. I’d rather have a woman who knew what she liked and didn’t like than a woman who had yet to find out. Sex was simply better that way, from the start. But her past with Robby bothered me because I knew it rooted deeper than that. He wasn’t just another bed partner. It hadn’t only been sex between them. Cara could deny it all she wanted, but she was delusional if she believed anything else. They’d been sleeping together for three bloody years. That was longer than my relationship with Kate, for crying out loud. And what made it truly intolerable was the fact that he had feelings for her.

He was in love with her, too. Even though I knew that no one could love her as intensely as I did, he still loved her. If he was anything like myself, and claimed to love her as ardently as I did, I reckoned there was a very slim chance that he would let her go just like that. Had I been in his shoes, I’d constantly scout for a way to persuade her to choose me over him. It was perfectly plausible that he was lying in his bed right now, reassessing his strategies, while wishing Cara was there beside him.

While part of me hoped the silence of her absence was screaming at him to remind him of his defeat, another hoped for the opposite. The less he yearned for her presence, the better my chances.

“I fucking hate the idea of them,” I confessed.

Jason sighed and reclined to slouch on the sofa again. “You’re overthinking. Cara doesn’t want him like that, and he doesn’t want her that way, either. If they did, they would have been a couple years ago.”

“You’re aware that he’s in love with her, right? Or has she not told you of that?”

He blinked. “He is?”

With that, all his earlier arguments were reduced to worthless shit. What a severe dent to his ethos. He knew as much about her relationship with Robby as I did.

He continued before I could reply, “Well, so what? Just because he caught feelings doesn’t mean she did. And obviously she didn’t. Why else would she be with you?”

I was about to open my mouth to ridicule him when Cara opened the door to her bedroom. My head whipped around to acknowledge her, and as I did, I searched for any evidence that she might have heard our conversation. But judging from the groggy look of her, I highly doubted it.

“Hey,” I said, and even I could hear that my voice was drenched in soft affection. “Did we wake you?”

She shook her head. “No. I need the loo,” she drowsily explained and turned for the bathroom.

“Have you told her about Livy?” Jason asked of me, in a whisper, when we heard the door close behind her.

I faced him with a condescending expression on my face. “What do you take me for? Of course I haven’t. She might be my lover, but you’re my brother. It’s your business. I wouldn’t dream to meddle. Well, not like that, anyhow. I’ll share my opinion, but only with you.”

He grinned back at me, and it was a version I recognised all too well. When we’d been younger, he would always flash it to me before he said, ‘Will, you truly are my best mate, above all the rest. You know that, right?’ The look of brotherly affection that poured from his eyes after each time he professed it never failed to reach me. It was blatant that he sought my validation - yearned for me to requite his statement. And each time I confirmed it, he’d look so proud. How happy it had made him when he was only a boy, to be adored to the same extent by his elder brother. The fact that he’d looked up to me had never been more obvious than in those moments.

“Yeah,” I said, responding to his thoughts, “You’re my best mate, too, even if I do annoy you half the time.”

“All the time,” he playfully corrected.

“Half the time,” I repeated. “Don’t get cheeky with me.”

When Cara returned, she walked past her bedroom door and stopped only when she reached the end of the sofa where we were seated. The black bathrobe she wore, made of silk, triggered my fantasies. She looked like the gift of a lifetime, just waiting to be unwrapped under my hands. If I were to be completely honest, she looked like a gift offered to me by the God I had never believed in, as if He was trying to mock my lack of faith by granting me her to serve as blatant evidence of His existence, because oftentimes, I found it hard to believe that a masterpiece like her hadn’t been designed by divine intervention. I’d never felt closer to religion than when I found myself captivated by her, ceaselessly fascinated.

Would she mind another round, or was she determined to catch more rest right away?

“Where’s Livy?” she asked of Jason.

“She’s asleep, in my bed.”

She didn’t look remotely surprised. “What time is it?”

“Midnight.”

“Only midnight?”

“Yep.”

“Oh. I thought it was far past.”

Finally, she handed me her undivided attention. “Will, shouldn’t you get some rest? You’ve hardly slept the past few days.”

She could be surprisingly attentive. My heart throbbed, if only for a split second. “I’d like to have sex with you again. Would you mind?”

She gaped at me. “Are you being serious?”

I chuckled. Was it really so hard to believe that I desired her again? I always did. Was she not aware of that? “Yes.”

“You’re going to ruin my vagina,” she complained and then looked to Jason. “Seriously, he’s Viagra in the flesh. His stiffy is a constant! What’s wrong with your brother?”

Jason burst out laughing while I smirked up at her.

“Blame yourself,” I said. “Seeing as you’re the cause of my arousal, I would argue that you’re the actual Viagra.”

She tossed her head back, despaired, I thought. “Will, I’m knackered.”

“So it begins. Next thing I know, we’ll only have sex twice a month,” I teased.

Her head whipped forward again while Jason shook beside me.

“Don’t be so sure, mister,” she grumbled offended. “My libido might not match yours, but it’s quite potent, thank you very much. Besides, we’ve already had sex one and a half times today. And considering how long you last, that essentially translates to five.”

“A half?!” Jason’s laughter increased, leaving him to cover his mouth with his hand.

“I like” love “having sex with you,” I countered.

She turned bright pink. How I loved that colour in her cheeks. “That’s sweet of you to say, and it’s very much mutual. But I’d like to sleep now.”

Soft laughter drifted out of me. “I’m only teasing, sweetheart. Well, sort of. But yes, you may sleep. I won’t disturb you with my hard-on up your back.”

She slapped her face with the palm of her hand. “You’re so vulgar. I’m too tired to deal with it,” she moaned and turned one-hundred-and-eighty degrees to head for her bedroom again. “Are you coming to bed soon?” she asked on her way there without turning to look at me.

Swiftly, I necked the remainder of my beer. “Would you like me to?” I fished for reassurance.

She paused in front of the door. From this distance, I couldn’t be sure, but I thought I saw the side of her face turn crimson. “Yes,” she muttered.

“Want me to hold you, do you?” I continued to tease and was unable to fight back the smug smirk on my face.

She groaned. “You’re incurable.”

She always said that. “We’ve established as much. What’s your answer, Cara?”

“You can sleep on the sofa,” she muttered and opened the door.

She’d rather die than surrender her pride, wouldn’t she? I chuckled. She could be so silly.

“I’ll be with you in a moment. Got to brush my teeth. Have you kept my toothbrush?”

Halfway through the door, she stalled. “Your toothbrush?” She turned to look at me, puzzled.

“The one I used on Friday and Saturday morning?” I reminded her.

“If she hasn’t tossed it away, it should be there,” Jason confirmed beside me. “I haven’t touched it.”

“I wasn’t even aware you had a toothbrush laying around,” she informed me, and I could see that she was shocked. Was this a step too far for her?

“It’s my brother’s place as well,” I said, because I didn’t want to trigger her panic. “It’s not weird I’d have a toothbrush here. Anyway, he had a spare, so I made use of it last weekend. If it makes you uncomfortable, you can toss it in the bin tomorrow.”

She studied me for a moment. “No, it’s fine. I don’t mind. I’d rather you kissed me with a fresh breath. I’ve got a sensitive nose.”

Noted. As I processed the rest of her statement, I sensed my insecurity about our relationship – or whatever I was supposed to call it – diminish somewhat. Like Jason had said, she was progressing. I knew the fact that I was allowed to keep a toothbrush around was much more of a milestone for her than it was for me. I wondered if Robby had been allowed to have one available. I found myself divided, because while I wanted to ask, I was reluctant to remind her of him. I didn’t want her even thinking about him.

“Then I’ll keep it,” I said.

“Okay. See you in a bit.” She yawned and closed the door between us. I turned toward Jason again.

“Did Robby have a toothbrush laying around?”

He kicked my thigh. “You’re pathetic.”

“Answer.”

“Yes, he did, because it was convenient.”

“I fucking hate him.”

“I’m aware.”

“He’s competition.”

“He’s not. Get that into your thick head, you clown.”

“I’ll try. Anyway, I’ll see you in the morning. Try and spoon Olivia tonight. Just to get a feel of it.”

“Dickhead,” he muttered.

“It might be a nice change to spooning my to-be-girlfriend. Not that I mind, weird as that is.”

He scoffed. “That’s because you know as well as I do that I’ve never harboured sexual interest in Cara.”

“I’ve never been more grateful you’re blind and deaf, Jason.”

He laughed. “Get to bed, idiot.”

After brushing my teeth, I placed my toothbrush beside Cara’s and smiled to myself. It looked just right.

By the time I got into bed again, she was nearly asleep. It still reeked of sex in here, but she’d opened the window, to which I was grateful. Grabbing around her slender waist, I tugged her soft frame into the spoon of my embrace and placed a kiss to her naked shoulder. Responding, she snuggled deeper into my hold of her. It was quite the simple action, and yet it stirred immense feelings. Clearly, she wanted to be in my arms. She longed for the comfort my embrace could grant her.

“So you do want me to hold you,” I teased.

“All the time, Will,” she professed, and her smitten tone took me aback. In the dark, a look of disbelief occupied my face. I surely hadn’t expected to hear that.

“Good, because I won’t let go,” I replied, perhaps a bit too nonchalantly, and smothered her against me.

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