The morning light wasn’t the first thing he noticed. It was Friday, and it was the sixth day he’d woken with an arousal that wasn’t going anywhere. His groin had long past the point of aching. He looked at the ceiling and wondered if the damage that his balls were enduring would be permanent. Would this constant frustration cause any lasting side effects? He’d never been like this before, his previous relationships were all extremely sexual from the start, even when he was with Kay they didn’t date long before they had sex for the first time. And yes, he didn’t have sex every night with his previous partners, but there wasn’t this anticipation regarding it either. It was like he craved her. Whether the abstinence had caused this feeling or not, he wanted Jen more than he’d ever wanted anyone.
He pushed that thought away. That was dangerous given how intimately he was holding the object of that desire. She was snuggled up to him, his arm wrapped around her and draped down her back, and her leg looped over his so that her pelvis was angled towards his. If he wanted to make this easy, he should have slept on the sofa.
He felt her body waking, the muscles tensed and stretched as she slowly came out of her slumber. Her face nuzzled his shoulder as she groaned her goodbyes to whatever she’d been dreaming. He loved it when she woke, he’d never meet someone who was so expressive in those final moments of sleep. It was beautiful to watch her eyes open for the first time, and the wonder and joy register in them as she realised that she was awake. Her defences were only down for a short time, so he appreciated every second of the moment.
She pushed away from him, blinking and he signed as he watched her eyes dull. The moment was over. He didn’t resist her as she shuffled away from him to create a foot-wide gap between them. The absence of her in his arms was akin to having something precious ripped away from him and his heart and chest tightened in response. It was this reaction that worried him. Every day it was more defined. He wanted to believe that it was a symptom of the abstinence and that once they were lovers, it would lessen, but he wasn’t convinced.
He thought he’d loved Kay. She was his first love, the first time he’d experienced that emotion, and his benchmark going forward. He’d liked the other women he’d been with, but none had created that feeling of euphoria and invincibility that he’d had with Kay. And yet, this was different. He felt vulnerable, not invincible and the joy she brought him was more grounded less head-in-the-clouds. She still occupied his every thought, and he yearned for her in the same way, but the love was different. He felt more like himself and less like the man she was asking for. He didn’t really understand it, but it felt right.
He rolled onto his side and looked at her staring back at him. They examined each other as they lay facing each other. He should have been staring at the ceiling, counting backwards from two million or recalling football scores or chanting some calming mantra in his head to counter the raging erection. Instead, he watched the object of his desire and accepted the fact that this was going to be yet another day of him being hard, semi-hard or aching.
“No dreams?” she whispered her first words of the day.
“The evidence would suggest otherwise,” he dropped his eyes downwards, dipping his head to the centre of his body where his cock stood proud before returning his attention to her.
“No bad dreams?” she altered her statement with a small exasperated sigh.
“No bad dreams,” he repeated with a lazy smile, “Only hot erotic dreams of us consummating our love.”
“You’re impossible,” she laughed, “How are you going to survive today?”
“Today? Why today?” he searched her face for the answer.
“It’s the night of the first performance,” she frowned as he realised what she was saying, “You are going to have to trust me not to elope with Belinda.”
“Is that a possibility?” he smiled.
“It’s probably the only possibility,” she laughed, “While you’re getting ready at the theatre, I’ll be with Belinda. And I think my transformation is going to be more harrowing than yours.”
“You will be fine,” he laughed at her apprehension, “It is the gala opening night and will be attended by celebrities, corporate heads and other high-flyers, so you can’t go in steel capped boots.”
“I’m sure that real people will be there too?” she lifted an eyebrow.
“If they can afford the twenty thousand dollars plus a head ticket price, maybe,” he shrugged, “It’s not only a fundraiser, but they are using it to increase awareness, so they purposely aimed the ticketing towards the right people.”
“You’re kidding right?” she stiffened lifting her head off the pillow, “Twenty thousand dollars? You didn’t pay that, did you? That’s insane.”
“It’s a fundraiser, and no, we were allocated tickets,” he shrugged, “But that’s what Celebrities pay to be seen at the right events and to enhance their public image.”
“Celebrities? There will be famous people there?” she cringed, “Will I have to speak to them?”
“Don’t panic,” he reached over and put a gentle hand on her shoulder, “I’ll protect you.”
“How? You’ll be on stage?”
“That’s the easy part,” he laughed, “It’s the getting in and getting out that’s the tricky part.”
“Photographers? You’re not serious?” she guessed, “They are going to take my picture? I can’t do this.”
“Yes, you can,” he soothed, “We will all be there together, and I’ll make sure you’re safe. Now, what were you saying about me surviving today?”
“I thought this would be difficult for you, being apart, but now I see that you have the easy job.”
“Yeah,” he nodded, “I just have to dance on stage nude in front of them, you might have to speak to them, I can see how I got off easy.”
“You’ll be nude?” her eyes widened as she blushed, “But?”
“It’s what I do, Jen,” he laughed softly, “Everyone attending knows the format of the event, and I won’t embarrass you by advertising in neon lights that you own that part of my anatomy.”
“You won’t?” she stuttered.
“I can if you want,” he couldn’t resist teasing her, “I’m happy to write your name all over my body in indelible ink if that would help?”
“No,” she blushed a deeper colour, “Don’t you dare!”
“I’m actually looking forward to this,” he softened his voice, “It will be the first official event where we attend as a couple. I get to show you off as mine. I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel.”
“And you’ll be alright?” she questioned, “You won’t get anxious?”
“For me, with my issues around other men trying to steal you away, the most difficult part, of the whole weekend will be the meet and greet portions,” he grimaced, “There are a number of times when you’ll have to mingle with the other patrons. I’m going to struggle if I see someone flirting with you.”
“Do you discuss the weather much, at these things?” she asked suddenly.
“No,” he frowned, “The weather? Rain and stuff? No, never. The talk tends to be around my work, the charity we are supporting, and other current events, the weather isn’t something an erotic dancer is expected to talk about.”
“How about we make it our secret code,” her face lit up with excitement.
“Why?” he said the word slowly as he couldn’t quite see where she was heading with this.
“Because I’m terrible at this and I’m worried that I’ll stuff up again like l did with Reed,” she answered.
“And how is the weather going to help with that?” he frowned.
“If you bring up the weather every time you suspect someone is flirting with me,” she nodded, “Then I’ll know and take steps to either move away from him or make sure that you know I’m not interested.”
“Let me get this straight,” he paused to as he tried to work it out, “I should just randomly mention the ultra-violet levels instead of punching the guy in the nose?”
“Actually,” she rolled her eyes, “Maybe if you started to talk about the possibility of rain when you first start feeling that way, or the likelihood of a storm before the point where you punch the guy, that might work better?”
“Punching him might work better,” he grumbled.
“Trusting me might be even better,” she countered.
“I do trust you,” he huffed, “It’s them that I don’t trust.”
“If you trusted me then you wouldn’t have to worry about them,” she narrowed her eyes at him, “You’d know that I wouldn’t be interested in anyone but you.”
“But that’s not the case,” he turned his eyes away, “Not yet.”
“It is the case,” she exhaled, “Maybe I should be writing my name on you with an indelible pen. I’m here because of you. I’m not putting myself through the hell that I’m going to endure this weekend because I want to torment myself. I’m doing it for us. I’m doing it to be with you.”
He frowned but didn’t reply.
“I’m not like them,” she said in a soft voice as if she’d read his mind, “I’m not here for Drey Anders nor for Drew Miller. I’m here for you, not your name. And I’m sure as hell not here for the stilettos that Belinda’s going to force me to wear this evening. The things I do for you.”
“I appreciate the sacrifice,” he smiled.
“So, you should,” she grumped dramatically, “Tell me again why I’m doing it?”
“Because I love you and I want the world to know it,” he didn’t take his eyes off her.
“Oh,” she blinked and looked as if that wasn’t what she expected him to say.
“And because of that,” he shook his head with a smile on his lips, “I’m going to add weather forecaster to my list of conversation starters tonight. I’ll start with rain predictions, possibly attempt a storm warning, but if I see a category seven hurricane, expect my fists to be raining down.”
They both laughed. They were still lying facing each other on the bed and stayed that way. The morning vanished as they talked. Their conversation was peppered with teasing, innuendos, laughter and honesty. He’d never felt so free before. There was nothing he felt he couldn’t tell her. She took everything in her stride, and he just opened himself to her.
It was his growling stomach that eventually forced them out of bed. They went for a late lunch at the café across the road from his apartment and drank coffee and ate while continuing their banter. He was disappointed when he looked at his watch and realised the time. She noticed this and frowned too, but for a different reason.
“You have to go?” she grimaced, “Which means that Belinda will be expecting me.”
“Are you going anywhere else?” he felt his muscles bunching. He knew that she was going to have her hair done and other stuff that girls did before big events like this, but he’d purposely blocked that out until now.
“I’m going to be with Belinda,” she laughed, “I’m sure she will protect me from any unwarranted attention.”
“Maybe,” he sighed, “And maybe I’m just going to have to trust that you won’t run off with another man.”
“In the next four hours?” she frowned, “Unless he’s a police officer and he’s just arrested me, or a paramedic who’s treating some injury, then you’re safe in that assumption.”
“It’s only going to be four hours,” he frowned, “But I’m missing you already.”
“Yeah, four hours of torture for me,” she growled, “As you’re missing me, just remind yourself of the pain and humiliation I’ll be enduring. Did you know that the Mafia use beauticians to extract information and confessions? They’re trained to find every pain receptor in your body.”
“Don’t martyr yourself for me,” he laughed, “I like you the way you are. Don’t let them do anything drastic.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll fend them off if they suggest anything radical or permanent,” she sulked, “I’m not interested in Botox, tattooing or any form of dying – hair or otherwise.”
“Good,” he laughed as the taxi pulled up. He kissed her quickly on the lips, “Be good, know that I’m thinking of you and I’ll see you soon.”
He watched her from the taxi window until he couldn’t see her anymore then he forced himself to not overreact. He knew what she’d be doing in the coming hours, and he trusted her. She wasn’t like the other women in his life. She wouldn’t do that to him.
As soon as he arrived at the theatre, he pushed himself into work mode and repeated that mantra when he needed to. They did the final lighting and sound checks, ensured that everything in the dressing room was where it should be, and then he headed back to his flat to shower and dress. He was expected to be at Jay’s place to meet the guys and the ladies, so he hurried. They had a limousine booked to pick them all up and take them to the waiting red carpet at their scheduled arrival time.
He was wearing the Armani tuxedo when he arrived at Jay’s door. He paused at the door. He knew that he looked good, that wasn’t his concern. Jen had been texting him, and he knew she was safe, annoyed, but nothing a long bath wouldn’t cure. What had him worried he couldn’t quite put his finger on. Was it because he was about to make their relationship official and that might change it? It might be because he was about to introduce her to his world and expose her to the pressures and nastiness that often accompanied it. The press was rarely kind and, although he wasn’t an A-list celebrity, he was a well-known bachelor, and the gossip pages did enjoy the rumours that circulated around him. Would she run from that exposure?
He walked into Jay’s flat still concerned. They guys were standing around in their identical suits to the one he was wearing, Sam was reminding Jay about something he needed to do at the end of the night while Mark was talking about the single women he knew would be there and putting odds on the possibility of each ending up in his bed tonight. Mark was the king of one-night-stands so, despite he was arriving without a partner there was no question of him not having a woman on his arm and in his bed by the end of the evening.
“Hi,” the small voice behind him had him turning to face her, “What do you think?”
He finished his turn to find Jen standing in front of him. She was biting her painted lips, her charcoaled eyes looked double their normal size and popped blue, and she had a faint blush on her cheeks which highlighted her cheekbones even more. She always looked stunning, but the makeup made her look jaw-droppingly beautiful. And that wasn’t all. She was dressed in a beaded dress with a scooped neckline, capped lace shoulders, and it was short, very short, but instead of leaving her legs exposed, the dresses beading continued as strings that hung down to her knees. The material was a shade of midnight blue and the beads matched but picked up the light to highlight the patterns that they made. It was a stunning dress that highlighted her eyes and made her seem taller than she was.
“Please tell me that you like it,” she frowned when he didn’t say anything, “I feel like I’m wearing a beaded curtain.”
He opened his mouth, but no words came out.
“If you think I look hideous, I’d rather know now,” she whispered in a hiss, “Even though I’ve been prodded, pulled, waxed, plucked, and painted, you can tell me. I have my jeans in the guest room?”
“You look beautiful,” his voice was breathy, and his heart was racing, “It’s very short.”
“Shh, don’t tell anyone,” she looked around as she leaned in to whisper to him, “They made it into a pair of shorts.”
“Shorts?” he looked down to where the skirt ended.
“Yeah, I had a small fit when I saw the length, so they altered it for me,” she smiled, “It’s that cool? They adjusted it for me. It’s still too short, but I feel a little better knowing that I’m not going to expose myself.”
“Expose yourself?” he was finding it difficult to string words in a sentence.
“Getting in and out of cars,” she added more information.
“Drew, this is for you,” Belinda appeared from somewhere, he didn’t know where because his eyes weren’t moving from Jen.
Belinda was wearing a long red dress, but that was all that registered with him. She pushed something into his pocket that matched the blue of Jen’s dress and then stood back and nodded.
“There, now you match,” Belinda sounded proud, “She looks great, doesn’t she?”
“Yes,” was all he could say.
“Drew, mate? Are you alright?” Sam asked with a smirk on his face that told Drew that he knew that he wasn’t, “You’re looking a little pale, do you need to lie down?”
Drew didn’t bother answering.
“The car’s here,” Mark called out as he headed for the door before he tacked on the catchphrase he used before performances, “It’s too late for any regrets.”
“Let’s go,” Jay growled with a fist pump as he took Belinda’s arm.
“Onwards and upwards,” Sam laughed as he gave Drew a shove towards the door, “Don’t be shy Drew, your date is waiting.”
“Are you ready?” he offered her his arm and smiled as she looped her hand around his and allowed him to steer her out of the apartment with Sam locking the door behind them.
The car ride was noisy. They guys didn’t drink before dancing, but they did have a lot of nervous energy to burn. They acted like children riding in a limo for the first time. Jen looked nervous but still managed to laugh as Sam tackled Mark while complaining about losing the vehicle bond they’d paid to hire it, as he tried to stop him from putting his head out the sunroof. Sam’s hair was standing out in all directions by the time the limo pulled up, and the door was opened.
Mark was the first out, as per usual, the flashes from the camera’s could be seen from inside the vehicle. Drew heard Jen gasp and turned to see her eyes widen and her hands shaking. He took her hands in his and turned her to look at him.
“Just focus on me,” he kept his voice calm, “Pretend they don’t exist. All you need to do is smile and don’t let me go. I’ll do all the rest.”
“You could pretend they’re all naked,” Sam suggested as he swung himself out of the open door, to another round of flashes.
“We are next,” Drew’s eyes didn’t leave her, “I’ll get out and hold my hand out for you. Are you ready?”
“No,” Jen stuttered, “Drew, I don’t know.”
“You can do this,” he said with certainty, “You’re my girlfriend, and we’re going to walk down a short strip of carpet to prove that. That’s all. Just ignore everything else. Ready?”
“But what if I fall?” her voice quivered.
“Then I’ll support you,” he looked her in the eye, “I will make sure nothing bad happens to you. You need to trust me. Can you do that? We have to go now.”
She nodded, but he still hated letting her hand go as he stepped out of the vehicle. He felt his heart beating in his throat as he extended his hand back into the vehicle for her. It hung there. She wasn’t putting her hand in his. He had a moment of panic. What if she decided that this was too much? What if she didn’t get out of the car? What if she decided she didn’t want him or his crazy world?
He was about to climb back into the vehicle when he felt her small hand in his. He closed his eyes for a second as he breathed again. He felt the smile tug on his lips as she emerged from the car. She looked scared but beautiful. She teetered on the high heels for a second, which had him dropping her hand and looping his arm around her waist to steady her. She looked up and smiled a thank you.
He guided her up the walkway and passed all the photographers, pivoting her for the odd picture and doing his best to make sure they captured her in the best light and angle. He wanted this experience to be the best possible for her and hoped that she’d be pleasantly surprised rather than embarrassed by the resulting images.
At the end of the walk was the official photo area, it was a papered wall with the sponsor’s names, logos and emblems displayed on this background. They all lined up and smiled as a group.
“I feel so short,” Jen hissed without dropping her smile.
He looked down at her and realised that even with her heels on she was still so much shorter than the rest of them. It didn’t help that Belinda was almost a foot taller than her too.
“That’s because you are short,” Drew laughed.
“There’s a box over there,” Sam offered.
“Jay’s offering to put you on his shoulders,” Mark leaned in to whisper.
“Shut up,” she hissed through her teethy smile at them as she fiddled with the beads on her dress, “Or I’ll ram a string of beads up your noses.”
“Now, that’s a photo I’d pay to own,” Mark laughed.
Once the last picture was taken, they moved inside, and it was time for the guys to go backstage to get ready. He turned to her and took a deep breath as he held her hand tightly.
“How’s the weather?” she smiled at him.
“Rain, definitely rain,” his eyes flicked up to the room which was filling with women in colourful dresses, but it was the groups of tuxedo-clad men that had his attention.
“Remember that everyone here knows I arrived with you,” she whispered, “And I’m leaving with you. Don’t let that rain get any heavier.”
“Be good,” he whispered, “I’ll be looking for you.”
“You’ll find me,’ she lifted herself up onto her toes to kiss him lightly on the cheek, “Right where you left me.”
They parted, his hand came free of hers. He couldn’t help but glance back to take one final look at her in that sea of painted people before Sam pushed him through the door. He felt like he was leaving a sizable part of his heart with her, leaving a hole in his chest. It made him feel light, and it felt liberating to have that precious part of him in her hands. But there was also a small shot of adrenalin mixed with pain as the fear of what it meant to be so exposed. It was exhilarating, and he wanted more.