I check the time. 11.03pm. Damn, was it only two minutes ago I last looked at my phone? What is wrong with me? I take another sip of my drink and try to focus on the conversation the others are having.
“Seriously, Emma, do you ever stop smiling like a lunatic? What the heck is Jack doing to you?” Tessa turns to the woman I met tonight. Emma is the fourth girl in this group of friends, and I like her just as much as the others, and she made me feel just as welcome.
It’s Friday night, and we’re spending this girls’ night, as Amy called it, at an Irish Pub somewhere in the middle of New York City. O’Reilly’s is everything you want an Irish Pub to be: it’s full of charm and character with the typical dark wood paneling in the dimly lit interior, prints and metal signs decorating the walls, and a bar of polished mahogany, where you can get Guinness on tap.
We met at 8pm, and since then, Amy, Lauren, Tessa, Emma, and I have gotten to know each other a little better, and we’ve listened to some live music, presented to us by three guys who play here every week: Paul, Henry, and Jack. Their music is fantastic—a good mixture of rock and pop—and I get right away why the place is packed tonight. These guys are highly popular, and rightly so.
I’m still trying to remember who is who, or better, who is with who. Of course, I know Ben and Amy are married. Lauren is engaged to Henry, the band’s keyboardist. Paul, the lead singer, is Tessa’s fiancé. And last but not least there’s the drummer, Jack—the guy who is supposedly responsible for the smile on Emma’s face.
Even though I prefer a quiet evening at home, I also enjoy the occasional night out, and this night out is certainly entertaining. If only I weren’t so distracted. Another peek at my phone tells me exactly three minutes have passed. Gosh, I’m hopeless.
“I’m telling you, Jack must have a magic dick,” Lauren, who sits next to me, throws in.
“Oh my goodness, Lauren!” Emma gasps while we all burst out laughing. “You have such a one-track mind.”
“Sorry.” Lauren laughs. “But it must be true. Same goes for Kaitlyn. She has the same goofy smile on her face.”
My head shoots up, and I stare at Lauren wide-eyed. “What?” I croak. “What are you talking about?”
"Aw, come on,” Lauren says with an impish grin. “You keep checking the time. You’re counting down the seconds until he gets here.”
“Who?” Emma asks.
“Aaron,” Lauren explains.
“What? You are dating Aaron?” Emma tilts her head and narrows her eyes at me. “I thought he was in love with Amy.”
Amy snorts. “He is not in love with me. He just likes to piss off Ben. Well, used to because now he’s otherwise occupied.” She bites her lips and wiggles her eyebrows at me.
With a chuckle, Lauren places her hand on my arm. “I’m sorry, Kaitlyn. We just like to tease. So when’s he getting here to put you out of your misery?”
I shake my head and laugh. “Yeah, I get this comes as a surprise to pretty much everyone. Still, it’s not as serious as you all make it sound. We’re just enjoying some time together.” Or so I keep telling myself. “But to answer your question: he said he’d finish work as soon as possible, so I’m not sure when he’ll be here.”
I let out a small sigh of relief when the conversation moves to another subject after that. I’m not sure I can handle any more analysis of the situation between Aaron and me right now; I’m confused enough as it is.
Shifting in my seat, I check the time again. 11.28pm. Maybe he won’t show up after all. I look at my phone, but he didn’t text. Maybe I should send him a message? I bite my lips and draw in a long, slow breath. I rub my hands on my shorts, hating the fact that I’m feeling so restless. My stupid knee won’t stop bouncing slightly, and my fingers tap my thighs.
I freeze a moment later, and my breath hitches in my throat. As I’m facing the entrance, I spot Aaron as soon as he steps into the pub. He scans the room until his eyes fall on me. Our gazes lock, and my lips stretch in one of those goofy smiles, mirroring his.
Okay, no, that’s a lie. The smile Aaron gives me is not goofy—it’s sexy and seductive. It’s a promise—a sensuous one, which I know from experience he will keep. My racing pulse sends the blood rushing through my veins, heating up my body. I let out a long breath, almost in relief that he’s finally here. I sit up straight as I watch him approach, and with every step he takes, my heart hammers in my chest more and more frantically. I tuck my hands under my thighs as my fingers are already itching with the need to touch him.
He comes to a stop next to my chair and only takes his eyes off me to acknowledge the other four women sitting around the table. He nods and lifts his hand. “Hey, everyone.” I didn’t think my heart could beat any faster, but when he looks back at me and lowers his head, it does, so much that I’m sure it’s about to burst out of my chest. “Hey, Sunshine,” he murmurs before he closes the last inch between us. He softly presses his lips on mine for a lingering kiss, and instantly, pictures flash before my inner eye of what these lips can do to me.
Shit, I need to cool down, but I don’t stand a chance. Aaron cups my face with his hands and strokes my cheeks with his thumbs. The spicy, masculine scent of his aftershave envelops me and leaves me breathless, conjuring up more mental images of him and me.
Much too soon for my liking, he pulls back from our kiss. “I’m gonna join the guys. Enjoy your evening, ladies,” he says with a playful smile before he lowers his mouth to my ear. I tilt my head and lean into him when he whispers, “I’ll see you in a bit.”
His raspy voice and his words send a pleasant shiver through my body, and I can’t keep the blush from creeping up my neck. Aaron brushes his lips over my cheek before he turns and walks over to the guys, who sit around a table in the other corner of the pub.
When I lift my gaze, four pairs of eyes are on me, studying me. I clear my throat. “What?” I ask, fiddling with the hem of my top.
“Wow,” Lauren says, leaning closer to me. “When Henry looks at me the way Aaron looked at you, I know I’m in trouble. Best kind of trouble, though,” she adds with an amused smile.
Of course, I choke on the sip of my drink I just took. I cough, trying to catch my breath. “What? No!” I manage to say.
Tessa laughs. “I have to agree with Lauren. He was undressing you with his eyes, girl.”
“When did this thing between you start?” Emma asks.
Damn, is it hot in here? Well, definitely hotter than a few minutes ago. I let out a long breath, fidgeting in my seat. “About three weeks ago,” I respond.
“Three weeks?” Lauren asks. “Seriously? That is... interesting.”
“Interesting?” Tessa laughs. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
She shrugs. “I’ve known Aaron for a few years, and as far as I know, he never dated the same girl for more than a week. Damn, he means business. Right, Amy?”
“Uh, what?” Amy’s posture stiffens when she looks at her friend. “Well, yeah. This is new, and it might be as serious as we make it seem after all.”
Staring at her, I rub my chest, trying to get rid of the sudden tightness I feel. My mouth goes dry, and I have to swallow hard to get rid of the lump in my throat. I replay the past three weeks in my head, and I realize they might be right.
Somehow, Aaron and I have fallen into a routine. He comes over before he leaves for work. As he works almost every day, sometimes he starts a little later than usual to spend more time with me. Other days, he finishes a little earlier. That’s when he drops by, and even though it’s the middle of the night, I’m still awake, waiting for him. And that’s not the only routine. When he comes over, we give in to our physical craving first, letting our bodies do the talking before we have conversations about anything and everything.
Even though I know this isn’t like anything I’ve ever experienced with any man before Aaron, the realization I’m dangerously close to developing feelings for him that I won’t be able to shut off that easily overwhelms me all of a sudden. I clear my throat and get up from my chair. “Excuse me. I’ll be right back.” With my gaze lowered to the floor, I make my way to the restroom. I need a moment to catch my breath and stop my racing mind.
After washing my hands, I lift my gaze to the mirror above the sinks. “Damn, what am I doing?” I mutter. “I can’t fall for him. Bad idea, really bad idea.” Shit, this is turning into a typical brain-against-heart conflict. I’m feeling more than flustered, and the uncertainty about the situation is making my heart race and my palms sweat. I can’t be sure if this thing between Aaron and me can last longer than this summer. Why would a guy like him waste more time than necessary with a girl like me? The more important question is, though, why am I aching already at the thought of the end of our fling, which isn’t really a fling?
Things evolve so quickly between us that my brain has no chance to process it because my body’s cravings are so much louder—cravings that Aaron thoroughly satisfies. But I’m still yearning for more of him, of his touch, of his affection, of all of him. This is no longer only physical, and it’s scaring the crap out of me. Of course, all I can come up with are worst-case scenarios, even though, so far, he’s not said or done anything to make me feel like I’m his flavor of the month.
I’m so deep in thought that I flinch when the door to the restroom opens and a woman walks in, tearing my mind out of its dark places.
I shake my head and grab my purse. With a heavy sigh, I exit the ladies’ room and make my way back to the others. When my phone vibrates, I dig through my purse to find it, and for a moment, I’m so immersed in my search that I don’t watch where I’m walking. And sure enough, when I turn the corner, I bump into someone.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” I say as two hands grip my arms to prevent me from falling. I look up into an unfamiliar face of a middle-aged guy with a strong jawline and defined cheekbones.
“No, I apologize. I should have paid more attention to where I was going,” he says with a half-smile on his thin lips. And that, along with his voice, sends an ice cold shiver down my spine, and his heavy Russian accent only intensifies that unpleasant sensation. I swallow the big lump in my throat. How his grey eyes bore into mine makes the hair lift on the back of my neck, and all I want is to get out of his grip, but something about him is so intimidating that I don’t dare to move.
“Kaitlyn!” someone calls behind him, helping me snap out of my daze. Russian guy finally lets go of me, and I look past him at Amy, who approaches us with furrowed brows. I straighten my clothes and clear my throat as she comes to a stop next to me. Her gaze wanders over the guy with the wry smile, who puts his hand on my upper arm. Even though he’s barely touching me, I clutch my purse and lean away from him, struggling to relax my limbs.
“Take care,” he says with a nod directed at me. “We don’t want you to get hurt now, do we?” he adds before he continues on his way.
We look after him until he disappears into the men’s room. “Who was that?” Amy asks with her brows still drawn together. “He looked a little creepy.”
I frown. “No idea. I bumped into him when I turned the corner. But I agree, he was creepy.”
Amy shakes her head and turns to me. “Hey,” she says softly. “Are you okay? I’m sorry if we made you feel uncomfortable.”
I lift my hand and lower my gaze. “No, it’s fine.” I look at her with a weak smile. “It’s just... this is not only new to you, but to me too. I’m not too sure yet what I’m feeling.”
Amy gives me a warm smile. “Talk to him, figure this out together. It’s new to him, too.” She takes a deep breath and looks at her watch. “I actually wanted to tell you we’re leaving. The babysitter needs to go home.”
With a wider smile, I nod. “Okay,” is all I say when I follow her back to our table, where the guys have joined the girls and everyone is getting ready to go home.
I stand next to Aaron, and he gives me a subtle smile. “You want to leave too?” he asks. When I nod, he leans closer so only I can hear him say, “Come on then, Sunshine. I want my bedtime story.”
His bedtime story.
And that’s no codeword for sex. He really wants his bedtime story—my book, which I’m reading to him. After more begging on his side, I finally caved and let him read it, but after a chapter or two, he realized we were wasting the little time we could spend together, so he suggested I read it to him. I’m not entirely sure how he convinced me to agree to this, but I’m sure his lips and hands were involved. So now, I get to enjoy the best foot massages ever while I read my story out loud and, at the same time, even spot some mistakes, which I can correct last minute before I send the manuscript off to my editor.
Aaron grabs my hand, intertwines our fingers, and places a soft kiss on my knuckles. When he gives me a smile that makes me all warm and fuzzy inside, the confusion about what I feel for him vanishes.
Yes, I’m falling, and I can only hope, he’ll catch me.