Gunner leaned closer until the tip of his nose almost touched mine. His eyes were narrowed with fury and he looked just as enrage as I was. “What the fuck,” he growled in a voice lower by at least two octaves, “did you call me?”
It wasn’t the curse that angered him and we both knew it. It was an attempt to make me submit. But I didn’t give up. I wouldn’t give up. Electricity poured into the air, but I wasn’t sure if it was the wild attraction I still felt for him or the anger flaming in both of us.
“Don’t,” I growled warningly. “Don’t try and intimidate me, you asshole. You have no right.”
“Oh?” The simple syllable poured fury. “I have no right? And why the fuck is that?”
I’d never seen him so angry, so out of control, so... so wild. It would’ve shocked me if I hadn’t been just as angry, just as out of control, just as wild. We were both animalistic right now. Rationalism didn’t work here. “Because you’re a player, a fucking teaser, a jerk who uses my fucking feelings!” My voice dripped venom. “You’re being kind and nice one day, and the other you’re so fucking distant! Decide already!”
Now his forehead touched mine and had it been any other situation, like this whole state, it would’ve been romantic and attraction-filled – on my side, of course – but right now it was another shove from him to make me submit. It was still a battle, after all. “Don’t you fucking talk to me like you know what the fuck I feel, bitch,” he growled.
“I am right and you know it!” I snarled back, glaring hard into his endless eyes. He glared hard back at me, none of us daring to break the connection. The one who did, after all, loses.
“You are an idiotic little bitch who knows nothing,” he spat.
“And you are a pathetic, narcissistic shithead who thinks he’s so much older and wiser than the little ‘naïve’ girl who’s so much beneath his fucking league!” I shouted.
His eyes blazed, blue and green battling there just like our bickering right now. He was so mad, and for a split second I actually feared him and reconsidered, but that moment left when he pressed his forehead even harder into mine, his nose squashing mine, and growled in a low, deep, raspy voice, “You are a skank that needs to fucking behave.”
I glowered at him hatefully. “And you are an asshat that needs to get over himself.”
Then we were just glowering at each other with hatred mingled with so many other emotions. Our breaths intertwined with how close we were, and I felt him in every part of my body, start with the parts that touched to the parts that I could phantomly feel his touch. My skin was taut, sweat covered my body although it was really cold and my heart hammered in my chest so hard it was a wonder he didn’t hear. The attraction I’d always felt for him was now wilder than it’d ever been. The sexual frustration of being so close to him and doing nothing to ease it was so great, I found it hard to breathe. The electricity was wilder and stormier than ever that I was starting to think it was not possible for only one person to create it.
All those contradicted emotion stirred the biggest of all: the craving for him. It was more than unbearable. I needed it to stop. Tears of actual pain watered my eyes and I wriggled as hard as I could, not breaking our glowering-session. But I needed out. I didn’t care about losing anymore. I just wanted to get away from him as far as I could, just as much as I wanted him to be even closer.
But the latter was not possible so I had to get away from him. I wriggled and struggled and tears of shame and frustration and pain and agony started streaming down my face. But he wouldn’t budge. Wouldn’t help me. He just held me there sternly, harshly, severely, and tortured me knowingly or unknowingly. At the moment it didn’t matter. All I wanted was for him to let me fucking go. But he wouldn’t. And so my torment was the biggest I’d ever experienced.
And suddenly, before I could comprehend, could realize, what he was doing, Gunner leaned even closer and pressed his lips to mine.
I froze at once, all fight I still had had in me until that moment disappearing. I couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. My eyes widened, my tears dried up with shock, and I was as frozen as a statue.
His eyes bore into mine, penetrating them to no end until it was obvious who the winner was. But I couldn’t think about it right now. I couldn’t about anything.
And then, his lips pressed harder and I gave in to the sweet, electric sensation I dreamed about for so long. My eyes fluttered shut and my body melted at once, feeling his soft mouth on mine. I knew it was probably a dream, probably something unrealistic, because it couldn’t be happening, right? Gunner Murray wasn’t really kissing me now, right? He’d probably just slipped onto my lips, right? He would probably retreat in a few seconds once he realized what he was doing, right?
He pressed harder, and, shocked that he was actually kissing me, I gasped. Apparently it was all he needed because his tongue slipped inside and collided with mine. My body shivered and every coherent thought I might’ve had shattered into millions of pieces. The electricity was greater than ever, the attraction so wild and hot and sexual I was now sure it couldn’t be just me producing it. He deepened the kiss, and suddenly, in a blink, the restraints we both weren’t aware of having disappeared and wild, animalistic instinct took over.
He released my wrists and wrapped his arms around my waist, raising me even deeper into his mouth. My arms found their way around his neck and I pressed myself tighter and closer to him. Our mouths were now battling in wildness and passion and lust, our tongues warring with each other almost violently, our mouths colliding and molding into each other’s.
My hands wandered to his soft, silky hair while his grabbed my frizzly one and tugged hard. I groaned deep in my throat and he growled right back. His hands wandered from my hair to my back and to my ass, grabbing it tightly and harshly. I gasped into his month and tugged his own hair while he clenched my hips in physical punishment.
It was luxuriating, unbelievable, making out with Gunner like that. It seemed like none of us could stop it, no mater if we wanted to or not. He was so strong, so passionate, and I felt all too willing to melt in his arms and return even stronger passionate feelings to him. My heart was beating so hard I feared it would burst out of my chest, my skin was so taut that even the smallest of touches made my blood boil with lust and the electricity current in the air only seemed to grow with every second that passed.
But, as furious and as wild as it came, it was over. Gunner torn his lips from mine, still holding me close though, and I snapped my eyes open at once, looking at him with unhidden vulnerability, so weak it made me mentally curse myself. We were both breathing hard now, sweating although the cold air, looking into each other’s eyes with similar wonder. I had never known this was what a kiss was like. What a make-out session was like. It was my first kiss, and I would’ve never thought it would be with Gunner, of all guys.
He seemed to have other thoughts, though. For once, his expression wasn’t guarded, and emotions were written all over him. He looked like he saw me for the first time, and at the same time he looked like he knew me already, like he owned every bit of me – and he probably did.
Then he traced my lips with his thumb, and the wild lust returned into me – and him, from his hazy eyes. Something inside me sagged in relief, because for the first time ever, I knew how he felt, and I knew the attraction between us was mutual. As his thumb kept on tracing my lower lip and his eyes followed, I felt so many things stir in me, so many emotions settling in. Oh thank God, he was attracted to me! How could that even be possible? Why me? How could I be the lucky girl?
But... was I lucky? Gunner seemed to catch himself and dropped his hand from my face. I saw it, then; I saw his face closing up again. I felt his body tensing, hardening, and his eyes turned cold and distant and severe. I didn’t need any special hint to read the situation: playtime was over.
And the madness with which this wonderful make-out session had started returned into me in a cold dose, and I was the first to break the silence – to break the magic that had already started dissipating. I untangled myself from his arms – and he let me – and stood up. At once I felt humiliated, because he was closed-uptight again even after everything he shared with me about his life and I shared about mine, even after this amazing kiss.
I was done.
“You think it probably shouldn’t have happened,” I said, both of us slightly surprised at how cold my voice was. “You think it was mistake, that it wouldn’t happen again, and you’re about to avoid me again like you just did. But I will be the one in charge for once, and I’ll avoid you first.”
He said nothing, but I didn’t need him to. I’d already figured out how he worked. “Stay away from me,” I said, my body shaking a bit with the force of how much it wanted Gunner. “don’t talk to me, don’t look at me, don’t even be in the same room as me. I want nothing to do with you – not until you’re ready to decide already. I’m done being some kind of a puppet, or toy, for your amusement.”
I looked at him so he could see the mortification I went through whenever he pushed me away. “I’ll quote a song for you to make my point: ‘You’re hot and you’re cold, you’re yes and you’re no’. I’m done being hopeful that you would decide to have something with the likes of me. After what just happened, I know you feel the attraction I always thought was one-sided. I know you’ve probably felt so from the beginning, just like me, or at least as the time passed you started feeling it. Frankly, I don’t really care. I just care about saving myself from another slap-down by your highness.
“You’d better decide what do you want from me. Do you want to be my friend? Do you want to be my lover? Do you want to have something – anything – with me? You want to keep your distance? I don’t care. You know how I feel about you, and now you know what I think about your attitude. I’m sick throwing myself at your feet.
“Meanwhile, stay the fuck away from me and leave me alone. When you decide whatever you decide, you know where I live. Otherwise, avoid me like you know so well. I’m done here.”
And then, without sparing him another look, I turned around and walked back to the mansion, not bothering even to get my boots. I was shaking with anger and shame and my heart was heavy with sadness, with agony of the decision I had to make. It was either that or letting him step all over me, which I was sick of.
And so, I’d been the grown-up I always wanted myself to be and practically told Gunner to fuck off.
My mood wasn’t very great for the remaining days until Christmas, but I worked twice as hard covering up any trace of sadness. I feigned smiles and laughters, and convinced everyone I was totally fine.
The silver lining in all this was that Gunner avoided me as I expected him to. I barely saw him, and it was great, because for once I was avoiding him too.
Such a shame I couldn’t avoid me feelings and dreams. Because what’d happened back in the valley... it appeared in my dreams night after night and made me wake up all hot and bothered. My mind continued replaying those minutes we were kissing each other so wildly and desperately throughout the days. At classes I could barely notice a thing and the teachers kept scolding me for daydreaming. Jez and Chase talked to me, and sometimes I would wonder into my bubbly world where I was kissing Gunner and he was kissing me back, and then they would both make snap out of it.
At least, no one suspected that something was wrong with me – or Gunner, for that matter. I looked as I normally did, while my insides were going crazy with memories and feelings. But at least, I was in control now. Or at least, I thought I was.
What really bothered me about the whole situation was the fact that Gunner’s control back then was paper-thin. He fooled me by making me think he was just as closed as ever, even more so, when apparently it was just a façade. Because the truth was, his control was lacking and he looked more closed than ever because he worked on his control. But one slip with me... and he again showed “forbidden” emotions. I didn’t know if it should’ve made me happy that I was the one who made him lose control both times – in the heart-to-heart and the kiss – and display his true feelings, or that I should’ve felt guilty for making him express so much when it wasn’t in his nature – or simply wasn’t on his agenda. Either way, fact was, I made him lost control. Me. Rae Marie O’Reilly, the nobody, the cute-but-invisible girl. The outsider. How could someone like me get to someone like Gunner like that? He was so out of my league, so out of this planet, that it was astounding someone as simple as me succeeded in doing what he probably feared the most, if fear was the right word for that.
Maybe... maybe because I had this kind of mysterious power over him he wanted to keep his distance from me. Maybe that was the reason he didn’t have a girlfriend or a lover; he didn’t want emotions. He didn’t want to feel. Yet here I was, threatening to make him a human again, and not just the emotionless killing machine he believed himself to be.
And in addition to all that, I finally understood something. When he’d said to me the day he told me about his life, “There are some things that have a point of no return”, I hadn’t agreed with him. But now I did, because he was right; after that kiss we shared? There was no returning for us. From the moment he kissed me and the attraction sprang to life mutually, it would be impossible to avoid unless we kept avoiding each other as we were doing now.
Anyway, Christmas Eve arrived eventually. It was going to take place in the lounge, where a big Christmas tree with many decorations that Jez and I worked to put on was placed. My grandmother arrived about just in time and when I saw her entering the lounge, I couldn’t help but jumping on her with a bear-hug. I didn’t even realize how much I missed her until then.
“How are you doing, sweetheart?” She asked me – in English, this time – after I finished squashing her. Henry let me off of organizing stuff so I could sit and catch-up with my beloved Granny.
“Fine,” I said with a real smile, the one only she could bring out of me. “They’re treating me well,” I added in Gaelic.
She nodded, her vivid blue eyes searching my face. “I can believe the latter,” she said in Gaelic, too, “but I don’t believe you’re fine.”
I looked away. “I’ll be fine,” I insisted. “I swear.”
She opened her mouth to say something else but then the entrance of Maddox and his wife, Evelyn, cut her. Maddox looked just like a month ago; blueish-black hair, gray eyes matching his father’s, tall and big and muscular wrestler-like, strong and capable like always.
His wife was a perfect match for him – at least on the outside. She had dead-straight brown hair, slightly uplifted black eyes and a slender, tall body with no curves at all that still managed to look sexy. Her smooth, gold skin and those eyes showed she was from some kind of caucasian origin. She was exotic and exquisite and had a no-bullshit aura around her. She was probably the businesswoman Maddox had said she was.
“Eve,” Maddox said when they reached to Gran and I (after they greeted everyone else), “this is the girl I told you about, Rae. Rae, this is Evelyn, my wife.”
Evelyn smiled at me, and it looked practical – like everything about her, actually. She even wore some kind of business suit instead of normal holiday clothes. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Rae.” She gave me a practical hand to shake.
I shook it hastily and then Maddox turned to Gran. “This is Rae’s grandmother. Mrs. O’Reilly – Evelyn.”
Gran and Maddox’s wife shook hands too and Gran smiled at her with what I knew was curiosity.
After the introductions were made, it was time to eat like a one, big, happy family around the Christmas tree... not.
Tension lurked everywhere. Gran and I sat together and talked quietly in Gaelic from time to time, and it seemed like we were the most comfortable than everybody else. Ryder was talking with Gunner about something and he looked really nervous about it; Danger and Jez sat side by side, both of them trying to make a conversation but then it drifted off and they fell into somewhat awkward silence, while Jez flushed a little and Danger seemed a bit lost; Maddox and Evelyn talked about serious matters, so it seemed, and Henry just watched everyone and threw a word from time to time.
Or, in another word, awkward. It didn’t seem like they were doing it every Christmas, this meeting. And now that they did... well, it was strange. Not that I cared, being with Gran – and Flanny, who put her warm head on my legs – was more than enough for me.
Of course, I avoided Gunner completely, just like he did me. It was another kind of awkward, being in the same room as him, each on the other side of it with another person, and knowing that we shared a heavy secret.
A secret that made me wish for more.
I think that when it was finally the end of the awkward Eve, everyone was relieved. I parted ways with Gran – regretfully – and after a few words, she left, leaving me alone in this hellhole again.
And when I went to sleep that night, all I dreamed about was me kissing Gunner down at the stream in the valley, and his beautiful looks shining in the light of the dusk’s dim light, as I wondered how had I gotten so lucky by winning his attraction to me, and why the hell couldn’t he decide already what he wanted from me.