It had been a long night. He’d woken her around midnight. The covers had moved as he’d crept into the bed behind her. She was only half awake when his shaky hands had found her, and he’d edged his damp tense body up to hug her from behind. She didn’t react. She listened to him breathing out his anxiety as he held her. No words were spoken, and she wasn’t sure that he knew that she was awake or not. She didn’t turn to him, she just loaned him her back and allowed him to find the reassurance he needed from that simple hug.
As much as she wanted to believe that was her motivations for not turning into his hug, it wasn’t the whole truth. Having him holding her, his hands inside the t-shirt she’d worn to bed and his naked chest and body spooning her, had her questioning why she’d told him that they should keep this platonic. Maybe it was because she’d admitted to him how she felt about him and the sex they’d had, that she found herself aching for him. She knew that if she twisted to face him, she’d kiss him and that would only be the start. He wouldn’t resist if she pushed him onto his back, straddled him and impaled herself on that erection that was growing behind her.
She wanted it so much, but she knew that it wouldn’t help. One more night of pleasure won’t solve any of their problems and would probably drive them apart rather than strengthening their bond. She needed more than sex if she was going to make this work. She knew what he wanted from her, but his history had forced her to question his motivations. This was more than her own insecurities. There was that hidden admission in his words that was worrying her. She’d listened to him and read between the lines, which had led to the question - did he really want her, need her, love her, like he was saying, or was she just a warm body to fill that gap in his life? In other words, did he really love her, or did he just want to be in love?
With so many conflicting emotions in her head, she’d pretended to be asleep. She wasn’t going to confront him over this. He didn’t have the answer to it any more than she did. She doubted that he’d even considered it as a motivation for his feeling for her. He just thought he loved her. Pointing out the possibility that his love wasn’t real, without any proof or subtleties, wouldn’t help with his feelings of abandonment and inadequacies. Instead, she needed to build up his self-esteem until she felt confident that his love was truly directed at her or he came to realise that she wasn’t the woman he needed in his life. It was a risky game of Russian Roulette that she was playing.
She’d feel asleep knowing that her heart was on the line. And she’d woken in his arms, snuggled up against his warm skin. The fact he couldn’t sleep in clothing wasn’t helpful for her dilemma. Luckily, he was clearly struggling as much as she was and as soon as she let him go, he was out of bed and heading for the shower. She watched him retreat and loved him more for it. He was keeping his word even though it wasn’t what his body wanted.
She made a quick breakfast and then showered herself when he came out of the bathroom his white towel wrapped around his waist. One thing was sure, his power bill wouldn’t be increasing due to her staying here. She turned the water on, keeping the dial in the blue, and given the lack of condensation on the mirror, he’d had a cold shower too.
“What do you need from me today,” she asked as they left the apartment.
He turned to her as the elevator took them to the entrance, as his expression asked the question.
“You need to set some limits so that I don’t get this wrong,” she exhaled, pulling her coat tighter, “I’m not experienced in relationships, so I make mistakes. I didn’t understand what Reed was doing yesterday, if I did, maybe I would have been able to stop the situation before it got out of control.”
“Don’t see him anymore, that would fix that,” Drew muttered as he hailed the taxi.
“That’s helpful,” she scoffed, “This is serious, I need your help. I’m asking you to guide me as to what you expect from me today? Can I go out for coffee with Belinda? Can I sit where we sat last time?”
“Normally I’m not so,” he searched for the right word, “Needy. Given the nightmare I had last night, I’m going to be clingy today. I’m sorry about that. Please try to be patient with me.”
They climbed into the taxi, and she watched him as he gave the address.
“What was your nightmare about?” she asked when the cab was in traffic.
“I don’t remember,” he said too quickly for it to be true.
She gave him a look which he understood because he closed his eyes for a second before answering.
“You walked out taking the baby with you,” he said simply.
“The baby?” her eyebrows went upwards, “You’re dreaming about that?”
“It is still a possibility,” he muttered, “Until we know otherwise, I have to consider it.”
“Today then,” she decided to ignore that problem for now, “I’ll stay glued to my chair. But I’m not going to be able to do that forever. I understand why this is necessary now but I’m an independent person, and too much of this will suffocate me.”
“Thanks,” he whispered, “Before we go in, I have to apologise to the guys and Belinda. They will be waiting for us inside the theatre.”
“Do you want me to say anything?” she asked, “Is there anything I should do?”
“Hold my hand,” he pushed a short smile onto his face, “And accept my apology for that night.”
“You know that I’ve already done that,” she smiled as she took his hand and linked her fingers with his, “But consider your hand mine.”
The got out of the cab and, with his hand flush with hers, they headed into the theatre and Drew led her backstage. They were all in a small dressing room. Sam and Mark were in the process of putting on makeup while Belinda and Jay were talking at the rear of the room. Everyone stood and turned to them as they walked in and shut the door.
“I’m an idiot,” Drew tightened his hand around his, “I’m sorry guys for being such a moron. I should have known that she had better taste than to fall for Sam.”
“No sweat, man,” Sam smiled then his eyebrows came together in the middle, “Hey, wait a minute, better taste?”
“Jen would never be attracted to a blonde bimbo like you Sam,” Drew shook his head slowly, “Let’s face it, you can’t even surf and your fair skin blisters in the sun, so what’s the point of the Hawaiian beach style you’re going for?”
“Hey?” Sam pulled an offended face, “Are you calling me stupid? I have bronzed god skin not fair and blistery. And I can surf.”
“Bodyboarding is not surfing,” Drew rolled his eyes.
“Yeah, he has a point, Sam,” Mark joined in, “Although Bimbo? He’s got boy-bits, so that makes him a himbo, not a bimbo.”
“You guys are just envious of my skills,” Sam pulled a face at the others who were laughing at him, “Don’t listen to them. They’re lying. Bodyboarding is surfing, and women love my beach-ready look. There is nothing wrong with SPF50+ sunscreen, that’s being responsible and has nothing to do with my skin type.”
“Since you put it that way,” Mark turned to Drew, “I don’t see how he gets any action. He’s a fraud.”
“Fraud? No, I’m a steal really,” Sam implored both Jen and Belinda, “I’d be an upgrade for Jen, and she might not be able to handle all this.”
“Eyes off my girlfriend,” Drew growled which had them all turn, smiles dropping from their faces.
“Girlfriend?” Mark asked before anyone else could speak, “Are you saying that you’ve gone all ‘Drew’ on her?”
“You’re serious?” Sam questioned while Jay moved in and was saying something in sign language.
“Don’t go all ‘momma-bear-multiplied-by-three’, on me,” Drew was clearly trying to lighten the change in mood, “Jen’s agreed to try to put up with me and my ‘Drew-isms’.”
“Do you think that’s wise,” Mark started to say, but Sam’s arm swung out and clubbed him in the abdomen silencing him.
“That’s great, congratulations Jen, Drew,” Sam painted a grin on his face as he looked at them both. Then he turned to the others and with a forced expression added, “Isn’t that great? Fabulous news.”
“Yeah, great,” Jay’s rough words came accompanied by an identical forced smile to the one on Sam’s face.
“Ha, Ha, Yeah,” Mark clapped Drew on the shoulder, “Brilliant news, mate.”
“Jen,” Belinda stepped forward while casting an apprehensive look at the men, “We’d better leave. They need to get ready for the rehearsal.”
“Before we leave,” Jen felt herself scraping together the courage, “And before you decide that I’m a shallow, attention-grabbing, self-serving, bipedal cow. I’d like you to give me the chance to show you that I’m not dating Drew because of his fame or his looks.”
“That’s lucky,” Mark scoffed, “Looks? Fame? He’s got none of that. And what’s a cow on a bicycle got to do with this?”
“What I’m asking,” she did her best to ignore Mark’s comment, “Is that you give me the opportunity to show that I’m not a bitch before you decide that I’m not good enough for him.”
“You’ve got this wrong,” Sam held up his hands, “That’s not why we’re worried.”
“Not good enough?” Mark spluttered, “Have you seen Drew? I mean, look at him? He’s a car-crash in perpetual motion.”
“Don’t take it the wrong way, Jen,” Sam was speaking over Mark, “We don’t think you’re a bitch or a bipedal cow, I’ll explain that one to them later, we just get a little over-protective of our precious little darling. He is the baby of the group.”
“Nappy changing is not in my job description,” Mark grinned, “That’s Jay’s job.”
“You’re great,” Jay’s harsh voice added to the mash of people speaking, “Shut it Mark.”
“Ignore them, Jen,” Drew turned to look her in the eyes, “They think you’re great, but not too great, isn’t that right Sam?”
“Correct,” Sam smiled then frowned, “Why did I get singled out in that? What about Mark?”
“Go,” Drew jutted his head towards the door, “I’ll beat them to a pulp if they say anything about cows, bicycles or chickens. Alright?”
“You know where I’ll be,” she nodded as she turned to where Belinda was waiting and pulled her hand from his.
There was someone calling for people on stage as Belinda held the door open. It was clear that they had to leave, but she found herself pausing, she couldn’t let him go like this. She turned back to where he was standing, stood up on her toes and kissed his lips, then dropped back down onto her feet. It was more like a brush of her lips than a kiss, and she was gone before he could react.
His threat about the next time she kissed him wasn’t something that she’d forgotten. She’d probably pay for that later, but right now, she didn’t care. She’d kissed him because she’d needed the touch and the symbolism. Her cheeks were blushing red, and her heart was galloping in her chest, but she’d kissed him in front of his friends. He’d wanted her to claim him, and now she felt like she’d jumped off the edge of safe, flat land into the abyss of dating.
She followed Belinda out of the backstage area without saying a word. It was only when Belinda continued to the door that she put a hand on her arm to stop her before she left the ‘Stay-zone’.
“I’m just going to sit down over there,” she pointed to the same seats they’d been in yesterday.
“You’re staying here?” Belinda looked confused, “This goes all day. The guys all said that it will be boring. I’ve organised to go dress shopping for the function with Nicole, and you’re invited too.”
“Shopping isn’t my thing,” Jen shifted uncomfortably, “You go and have fun.”
“Don’t pretend that I don’t know who you are Jennifer Palmer,” Belinda put her hands on her hips and lifted her eyebrows, “I know that shopping isn’t your thing, but sitting here for six hours of dance rehearsal isn’t you either. What’s this all about? What’s going on?”
“I’m keeping a promise,” she smiled sadly, “Both to you and to Drew. Don’t make a big deal out of it. Staying here is the best way to avoid hurting him.”
“I’ll stay with you then,” Belinda’s shoulders dropped.
“No, that would be silly,” Jen laughed, “Who’s going to pick out the dresses for this weekend then? I’m counting on you not to put me in pink, frilly, or anything with flowers on. I’m sure that between Nicole and yourself, you’ll find one outfit that I won’t hate completely.”
“You’re going to need three outfits for the three events,” Belinda corrected her.
“Exactly, if one isn’t horrible, I’ll be able to put up with the other two.”
“Fine,” Belinda laughed, “I’ll text you pictures, so I have plausible deniability in the decision as to which ones to buy.”
Jen waved her off as she headed out the main doors towards the street. She was relieved that Belinda hadn’t argued with her. Belinda must have known how much she wanted to go. This was the first holiday she’d had in nearly ten years, even school vacations had been spent working next to her father, and there was a part of her that wanted to go out and see the city, do things she didn’t usually do, and laugh with her friend as they shopped.
She shook her head. What was she thinking? She wasn’t a selfish person, and there was a bigger picture here than one day of frivolous shopping. She settled down and took out her phone, it was going to be a long day.
It was after 4pm when the stage director finally let everyone go. Everyone was tired and ready to go by then. Jen was ready to be anywhere but in that theatre.
Belinda was still shopping and texting pictures. She sounded like she was having fun and had made some interesting purchases. Jen was pleased that Nicole was with her. Some of the dresses had seemed a little scary for her, but Nicole had reassured her that they will look great on. She’d given in, but that didn’t mean she felt confident.
“Where do you want to go tonight?” he asked as they got out of the taxi, “I’ll have a shower and change, and we could go anywhere you want to go.”
“Where do you want to go?” she grimaced.
“You’re the one who’s sat waiting all day,” he looked away as they entered the building, “You decide, I owe you that much.”
“It was my choice to stay there,” she smiled as he pushed the button for the lift, “If it had really been a problem, I would have gone with Belinda. It wasn’t so bad.”
“Don’t lie,” he scoffed watching the numbers ascending, “It was boring. But I appreciate you staying, I’ll make it up to you by taking you out tonight.”
“My choice?” she asked and only when he nodded, did she add, “Then let’s stay in. There’s enough on this weekend without having to go out tonight too.”
“Your wish is my command,” he smiled, the relief showing on his face, “But first I have a score to settle.”
He opened the door to the apartment then closed it behind her while spinning and pinning her to the interior surface. He stood with his hands either side of her, flat on the doors smooth surface, and his body close enough to touch. His head dipped down so that their noses were almost touching.
“Did you think I’d forgotten?” he whispered, his lips hovering close but not touching.
“Forgotten? What?” she played dumb.
“This,” his lips found hers and moved slowly in a long enveloping kiss.
Her hands came up and snaked themselves over his shoulders, as his arms went down to wrap around her waist pulling her closer to him. They kissed without words. She moaned as he held her keeping her from rubbing herself against the arousal that was growing in his pants. He didn’t take the hint and deepen the kiss nor did he rip her clothes off and make love to her against the door. She could feel the frustration growing. She needed his tongue in her mouth and his sex inside her now.
“You’re not making this easy, are you?” he growled as he put his hips out of reach of her hands, taking his mouth with the rest of his body, “I’m going to burn up if you don’t fall in love with me soon.”
“What?” she blinked, her arms still grasping for him.
“I can’t,” he was standing an arms-length from her, rubbing his face with his hand, “No sex until I get to make love to you, remember?”
“No,” she hissed as she doubled over, still leaning against the door, “Who decided that?”
“I’ll wait,” he interrupted, “It will be worth it just to know that you’re all mine.”
“But what about?” she groaned, “I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait.”
“How about something to eat?” he laughed as he laughed softly at her dishevelled state, “Maybe I can convince you over pizza?”
“There’s a good chance of that,” she pushed herself off the door and made it as far as the sofa.
They talked about their childhoods while they ate and laughed as they shared experiences and dreams. It seemed to suit them both to keep it light and away from anything that would ruin the mood. Which meant that the time passed quickly and without any awkward silences.
It was only 9pm when he suggested bed. She didn’t argue, he was performing tomorrow, and he needed his rest. She pulled herself off the sofa, and they both stood to look at the piece of furniture. He’d failed in his attempt to sleep there last night, and she doubted that tonight would be any different.
“Drew, how about you sleep with me?” she said quickly, the blush rising as she spoke.
“Jen,” he grimaced a little, “I’ve already told you, I won’t sleep with you until I’m confident that you love me.”
“I didn’t mean that,” she waved her hands in front of her, “I meant to sleep with me, not ‘sleep’ with me.”
He lifted his eyebrows as he waited for a better explanation.
“Sleep in the bed with me,” she exhaled, “It’s not like we haven’t done that before. You need a full night sleep, and I trust you not to take advantage of the situation.”
“What if you take advantage of the situation?” he smirked.
“Me?” she blushed, “Then I trust that you’ll stop me before I ravish you. You need your sleep, right?”
“Not that much, and you’ll putting a lot of faith in my very weak will,” he looked at her, “I’m tired tonight if you ravish me, I can’t guarantee that I’ll have enough energy to resist.”
“Pretty Boy,” she scowled him with a laugh as he pretended to be all floppy and weak, “Oh well, sleep on the sofa then.”
“No, too late,” he picked her up and carried her to the bed, “You’ve taken responsibility for me now. You can’t abandon me now.”
“Then you can forget the nightmares,” she said as he lowered her to the floor, “I don’t want you having any dreams about me leaving.”
“I’m not sure I’m in control of that,” he mumbled as he pulled off his shirts while moving to the other side of the bed.
“Then tell your subconscious to dream about something more likely to happen then,” she rolled her eyes and turned her back on him to change into the shirt she was using as pyjamas.
“Like what?” his words were accompanied by the sound of him climbing into bed.
“I don’t know,” she turned and moved the covers aside before lowering herself carefully, so as not to touch the gorgeous specimen lying naked next to her, “Something good.”
“I’m not likely to get any sleep if I dream about that,” he smirked, “Given my frustration levels, it doesn’t take much to turn me into a human tripod, which makes it difficult to sleep on a number of levels.”
“Tripod? Let’s not go there,” she gave him her best ‘really?’ look, “I’m sure that you can think of something that doesn’t involve me leaving or that other thing, your catalogue of possibilities can’t be that limited.”
“I am a man, Jen,” he laughed, “We aren’t that deep. But, for you, I’ll try to dream about something innocuous and dull. Happy?”
“Yes,” she laughed with him.
She didn’t resist when he shuffled over and draped his arm over her middle. It felt nice having him hold her as they talked. His touch felt natural and his fingers circling patterns on her skin relaxed her. It wasn’t long before she was having trouble keeping her eyes open. She edged closer to him so that she was nestled in his side and could feel his chest moving with each intake of breath, and she fell asleep to that sound.