The memory of the kiss had to last her all week. Juliet had secretly hoped that Mr Spencer might ask her to stay after class and repeat it but he remained perfectly professional.
It just made her burn up inside even more.
She couldn’t wait until the following weekend so she could get to see him outside school again. Carl. She had to keep reminding herself she could call him that now.
But it was hard, because he had to be Mr Spencer in the classroom.
“I can’t believe you’re this excited to go to church,” Margot said. “It’s like you’re living in some kind of weird parallel dimension.”
Since Paris, Juliet had been living in another reality. Her entire world was upturned. She was dizzily crazy about a guy who was holding her at arm’s length. He seemed to have so much more control than she did which only intensified her own desire for him.
Band practice was the best escape from the chaos in her mind. Singing gave Juliet focus. Her bandmates were completely disconnected from school, there was nothing to remind her of Mr Spencer when she was with them.
Their sound was really starting to come together. Juliet had thought they sounded okay a couple of months back when they first performed, but it was only now that she realised how much better they could have been. Before, everyone was consciously trying to fit together. Now it was seamless.
Jax and Drew were managing other things behind the scenes too. Juliet had initially thought of it as a hobby, just fun, but Jax in particular was deadly serious. This was his life. He had a day job, as did the drummer and the bassist. Drew and the other guitarist were both college students.
Juliet hadn’t paid a lot of attention to what was going on with the management of the band but there was starting to be talk of demos and even a video. Drew had a friend who was a videographer, Jax knew someone who worked in a recording studio. The drummer knew someone who had recording equipment in their basement which might be even cheaper.
It was all favours and freebies and grabbing what they could get, but there was the increasing sense that something was happening. Juliet simply tried to focus on her singing. There was too much other stuff going on in her life to think about more complications. If they started getting more bookings it would only be trickier to hide it from Aunt Mary.
And she had something far bigger to hide from her aunt: that she was becoming involved with her teacher.
Rebecca. Of all the people Juliet had hoped never to be confronted by, there she was at church. Not actually touching Carl, but all over him in every other sense of the word.
Juliet couldn’t help herself analysing Carl’s ex-fiancée, trying to figure out what he might have seen in her. She had to admit that Rebecca wasn’t unattractive, just kind of severe and serious looking. Her hair was neatly plaited into a braid and she wore a navy cardigan over a long navy skirt.
But Rebecca’s face lost any pleasantness when Carl extricated himself and came to meet Juliet at the door. Any smiles were replaced with suspicion and hostility. Of course she put on her fake charm when Juliet was introduced to her but Juliet could clearly see through it.
“I do remember you, you’re Carl’s student. How interesting that you should start attending the same church,” Rebecca said.
Juliet was going to mumble something about exploring her spirituality again but Carl cut in. “Juliet’s actually here as my guest,” he told his ex-fiancée.
Juliet was shocked that he would admit this. So was Rebecca.
“Really? I shouldn’t imagine a Catholic school would approve of you inviting students to another church.”
Before Carl could reply Juliet was relieved to see Dan and Jenny arriving. Jenny greeted Juliet warmly and Rebecca raised her eyebrows and looked even more displeased.
Members of the congregation started to move towards their seats. “I guess we should go and take our places,” Rebecca said, addressing Carl directly to cut Juliet out. She clearly meant “we” as him and her.
But Carl took his own lead, turning to Juliet. “Let’s go and sit down,” he said to her, ignoring Rebecca.
Rebecca’s eyes narrowed but before she could react, Jenny jumped into to save the situation. “You’ll sit with us, won’t you Rebecca?” Somehow Jenny managed to usher the furious woman off with her and Dan. Carl cast her a grateful look.
Juliet couldn’t bring herself to look at the other woman so kept her eyes down and followed Carl to a row.
“I’m sorry,” Carl said. “I should have anticipated that it might be awkward if she came.”
“It’s not your fault,” Juliet told him. She felt bad that her own presence was causing so much disharmony, in a place of faith.
Carl wanted to avoid Rebecca and he also wanted to invite Juliet back. He had been postponing the invitation, still conflicted on how appropriate it would be.
He also wasn’t entirely sure how long his self-control would last. It would be a battle.
But the prospect of enduring tea and stilted conversation with Rebecca was worse. She was clearly suspicious about his friendship with his student, as Jenny had warned him would be the case.
So as they started to file out of their seats, he whispered to Juliet: “would you like to get pizza?”
Surprise and delight showed on her face. “I’d love to.”
Carl guided her straight to the door, he didn’t even want to stop for a drink and chat with friends.
“Leaving already?” It was Rebecca, trying to corner him by the door.
“Yes, I have to drive Juliet,” Carl said. He omitted the word “home” so it wasn’t technically a lie.
Rebecca gave Juliet a patronising smile. “I expect you have to get back early, what with school tomorrow,” she said.
“Something like that,” Juliet said. She tried to be polite but she wanted to kick Rebecca.
Carl wished Rebecca goodnight and he and Juliet left. As before he opened the car door for her. They set off, turning towards his place rather than Aunt Mary’s house this time. It was a drive into the unknown for both of them.
Juliet liked Carl’s house. It was tidy without being overly neat and he had shelves full of books. Juliet hated immaculate homes with polished glass all over the place, where you never felt you could relax.
Though she didn’t feel very relaxed yet. They were alone in his home, somewhere she had longed to be, and now she was boiling over with nerves.
She looked around. Many of his books appeared to be in Latin and some were beautifully bound in leather with gold lettering on them. He clearly read them - they weren’t just decorative shelf-filler - as several were on a coffee table and had bookmarks sticking out from them, and pieces of folded paper with notes. Juliet wondered if he was studying for something or just read them for leisure.
Next to the books, a pile of marking reminded her that he was her teacher.
Carl stacked the books into a pile. “I should have cleared this up before, I had to do some research earlier.”
“Research?” Juliet looked at him questioningly.
“For a possible doctorate.”
She was intrigued. “You’re going back to college?”
“I don’t know yet. It would probably be part time while I worked, but I haven’t decided.”
Juliet looked at one of them. ”Magna Vita Sancti Hugonis - the great life of holy Hugonis?” she attempted to translate.
“Close. The great life of St Hugh,” Carl told her. “So what about you, have you decided on college yet? What you’ll study?”
Juliet hadn’t. It was something she had been giving some thought to recently. “Everyone expects us all to go to college. But without knowing what I really want to do, it seems like a lot of debt to get into.”
“You could start general, pick a major later on,” Carl suggested. “And there are scholarships. You’re easily talented enough to try for one.”
“I know. It’s just that I’m not even sure of going at all, at least not immediately.” It was hard to explain. The one thing she was sure she did want, something that she had always wanted, was something she couldn’t admit even to her friends.
But there were other reasons too. Juliet had spent her whole life at someone else’s direction, under someone else’s rules. Living with Aunt Mary and going to St Gillian’s had been very safe and structured. She wanted to be free of all that. “If I go now, not knowing what I want to do, it will just be an extension of school. But if I wait and then there’s something I really want to do, it will be worth all the money and everything.”
“I guess most of your friends at St Gillian’s have college funds?” he said.
“Yes.” Juliet didn’t resent it, it was just the way it was. “Above everything, I’d like to travel some more. So I might work and save up for that. Maybe even work overseas.”
“That sounds wise. I’ve never regretted studying and working overseas, though it can make you restless when you come home,” Carl said.
“Do you get restless?”
“At times. Which is partly why I’m thinking of doing the doctorate,” he hold her. He changed the subject. “You must be hungry. Does pizza still sound good?” It did. “Great. I’m out of soda so we can order some with the pizzas.”
Juliet looked through a pile of DVDs by the television while he ordered. There were a couple of movies, a British TV series on the Ancient Romans, and then a DVD on Christian marriage. The woman on the front of it looked like Aunt Mary.
Carl noticed her looking at it. “It’s Rebecca’s,” he told her.
Juliet was relieved it wasn’t his, but refrained from saying so. She hoped he wasn’t holding onto it out of any desire to reconcile with his ex. She was pretty sure that Rebecca wanted to get back with him.
“Anything you’d like to watch?” Carl asked.
What she wanted to do was sit on the couch with him and break down his defences. None of the movies looked the right kind of thing for that, and the marriage video least of all. “What’s this Rome series like?”
“It’s pretty good. We can watch it if you like.” He went over and put it in the player.
Perhaps deliberately, Carl had chosen an arm-chair while Juliet sat on the couch. So no physical contact was possible between them. He really knew how to torture a girl, Juliet thought.
They watched the start of the first episode without speaking, and then the pizza arrived - something of a relief, as it broke the tension. It also meant that Carl sat on the couch beside her as it was easiest to share that way. But neither of them ate much of it. Juliet was too conscious of him sitting so close to her.
She deliberately leant back and towards him, just a little. It didn’t take long for her to be leaning against him, his arm around her. There was something very natural about the way it just happened.
Juliet was trying to concentrate on the history series but it was impossible. She turned her head to look at Carl, who looked back in response.
All she had to do this time was close her eyes to feel his lips come softly down on hers. Against the comfort and space of the cushions as he leant towards her, he was almost lying on top of her. He was only kissing her, but his body was pressed down against hers and Juliet had never felt more turned on. His strength and superior size made her feel both at his mercy and protected. As though he could do what he wanted with her, but also keep her safe.
She could feel the force of his own desire, pressing rock hard against her through the fabric of his clothing. He realised too and shifted, embarrassed, sitting up again.
“I’m sorry. I really lack self-control around you.”
“I’m glad.” Juliet wound herself around him this time, moving her leg across him so she was sitting on his lap, facing him.
He was trying to tell her no but he couldn’t manage it.
She took the lead and kissed his lips, across he angle of his jawbone, onto his neck. She heard his breath catch in his throat. He had moved his hands off her but now he was clasping her again onto him, his hands caressing her back.
“Lord help me, I want you so badly,” he said. “Being so close to you is like playing with fire.”
Juliet moved her head back to face him. “I want you even more.”
“I don’t think that’s possible,” Carl told her, bringing his lips on hers yet again. He managed to regain control. “We really have to stop. This isn’t right.”
Juliet slid off him and sat back against him, resting against his shoulder, her faced tilted towards his. Her entire body ached for him to touch her.
“I wish I could sleep with you. I don’t mean that,” she added hurriedly, seeing the consternation on his face. “I just mean be with you the whole night and wake up with you.”
Carl felt his heart turn over and other parts of his body grow even more heated despite his willing them not to.
“Until now it hasn’t been that hard following God’s teachings, even when I was engaged,” he told her. “I thought it seemed hard at times, but compared to this it was nothing. If I took you into my bed I couldn’t trust myself to do the right thing.”
Juliet’s idea of the right thing was very different from Carl’s, at least at that moment.
“Didn’t your fiancée stay over?” she asked. She couldn’t bring herself to mention Rebecca’s name.
“We were waiting until marriage,” Carl said.
“But weren’t you ever tempted?”
Carl didn’t want to be disloyal to Rebecca, not that she had shown him much loyalty spreading rumours, but he also didn’t want to lie. “Truthfully? No. It wasn’t until I met you that I started feeling this way.”
Juliet was happy and weirdly nervous at hearing this. At the same she found herself disturbed by the reference to Carl’s marriage. It seemed like such a distant, grown-up thing to have been planning. Yet he had been on that path, in a separate, adult world that she didn’t yet feel a part of.
Before she had felt thrilled at the gap between them: that he was so much older and had more life experience than her. Now she felt at a disadvantage.
Carl picked up on her mood change. “I am here for you, Juliet. I realise it must seem like I’m always holding back but it’s the only appropriate way right now. I genuinely love spending time with you.”