Scarlett said nothing for a second, not sure of what to do.
“I know you’re awake, you’re always awake. I can see the light under the door. Can I come in?”
The door opened a crack and Jim appeared, his eyes cloudy with the effects of alcohol but his movements sure and strong. He looked huge stood in the doorway of her small room, his pale, chiselled face contrasting with the darkness of his messy hair and broad shoulders. The light from her bedside table lamp barely reached him and Scarlett suddenly felt very vulnerable and exposed, bathed in soft light and wearing only a small t shirt and white cotton underwear due to the warm summer night.
“C-can I help you?” she stuttered, pulling the covers up over her body.
He stalked into the room, his eyes stony cold and piercingly blue.
“I just noticed that you’re awake and I wondered if you wanted any company. I don’t feel like sleeping.”
He was stood at the end of her bed, the smallest hint of a seductive smile playing at the corners of his mouth. Scarlett glanced down to his lips and remembered how they had felt on her lips and neck. Her insides were on fire with heady anticipation. She could barely believe that he was here, in her room.
“Sure,” she shrugged, trying to be cool but feeling incredibly hot.
He took his jacket and shoes off and climbed onto her bed, sitting across it with his back against the wall while Scarlett observed him dumbly. She watched the muscles in his arms flex as he pulled himself onto the bed, he was dressed smartly in a tight, dark polo shirt and waxy black trousers, looking like he’d walked off a catwalk or straight out of an exclusive west end club. His clothes fit him well and she was reminded of their first meeting, when she’d caught a glimpse of his perfectly sculpted body, his defined pecs and abs and sturdy thighs.
“Herman Hesse?” Jim asked referring to the book she was clutching and pulling her out of her stupor. He was looking at her with a glint in his eye, his eyes creased with amusement. She hoped he hadn’t noticed her ogling.
“Yeah, you know him?”
“Of course. I basically am Harry Haller. A man entangled in an irresolvable struggle between my spiritual self and my animalistic urges,” he winked at her and then growled which made them both laugh, somewhat breaking the tension.
“I really didn’t have you down as a big reader,” Scarlett said, playing with a strand of hair nervously.
“There’s a lot you’re yet to find out about me.”
Jim reached forward, plucking the book from her hands and placing it on her bedside table. He had closed the distance between them so now she could see very clearly a lusty longing in his pale blue eyes that looked like fire behind ice. She could smell whiskey and tobacco and mint and musk and her senses were overwhelmed as he pulled the covers away from her to reveal her pale, goose bumped thighs.
He placed his hand on her leg, he felt warm and strong, then he leaned forward and captured her lips in a long, sensual kiss. He tasted like alcohol and chewing gum.
Overcome with desire, she threw her arms around his neck and pulled him towards her, their kiss becoming passionate and needy. He was suddenly on top of her, having adeptly positioned himself between her legs after throwing the cover off her completely. His hands were moving underneath her t-shirt, holding her waist firmly as his tongue explored every inch of her mouth and she entwined her fingers in his hair. She felt him press his hardness against her and recognised an ache in her core that wanted the layers gone so that she could feel his skin against hers.
As if reading her mind, he broke their kiss for a moment to undo the buttons on the neck of his shirt and remove it in one fluid movement. As quickly as he was gone, he was back again, his lips on hers but his hands occupied with undoing his belt.
This is moving quickly, Scarlett registered, her hands roaming over his body. He felt even better than she had imagined. He was made of hard edges and supple skin, hot and alive and moving above her, reacting to every touch. He broke their kiss again and Scarlett looked down to see he was only wearing tight black boxers which were barely containing his huge erection. She bit her lip apprehensively.
He was studying her face intently, breathing hard, those insanely blue eyes roaming across her features as if trying to read her reaction and determine his next move. She felt his fingers on the bottom of her t-shirt, slowly riding the fabric up so she lifted her arms above her head and he removed it quickly, making her momentarily blind as her shirt covered her face. When she could see again, Jim was staring down at her, his eyes wide, his tongue licking lazily at his lips as he reached forward and cupped one of her breasts. His thumb lightly grazed her nipple.
He leaned forward, taking her into his mouth, his tongue darting across her nipple, stimulating her in ways she’d never felt before. So she gasped and wrapped her legs around him, prompting him to return to her lips and press his himself against her, now only a few layers of cotton separating them.
They carried on like this, hands roaming feverishly, tongues tasting every inch of each other, until Scarlett felt Jim tugging at her pants. He doesn’t know I’m a virgin, she thought, a sense of unease cutting through her enjoyment. Well, sort of a virgin…
She pushed him away and sat up, suddenly self conscious and uncomfortable. She covered herself with a pillow.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, his hair wild and the elastic on his boxers straining to contain him.
“I...I think that’s enough,” Scarlett said in a small voice.
She felt babyish. Jim was used to having a different woman every night and yet here she was throwing the towel in after a bit of heavy petting.
He paused for a beat, his face tense. But quickly recovered, running a hand through his hair.
“Sure,” he said, nodding and fixing a smile on his face as he sat back, “That was fun. But you really are the queen of giving me blue balls.” He laughed in a good natured way and winked at her while he adjusted his crotch.
He reached forward and kissed her again, this time it was sweet and simple. A goodnight kiss.
Feeling brave, she pulled him closer. “I suppose I could return the favour,” she whispered into his lips as she plunged her hand beyond his waistband.
* * * * *
Drew was sat in the kitchen, waiting for the kettle to boil and reading the sports section of the Metro. He should have been happy, he had just handed in his last assignment of the year which meant he was completely free for the rest of the summer. But for some reason he couldn’t seem to get into the spirit.
Granted, they were technically re-sits - university wasn’t going great - but nonetheless, he’d completed his first year despite hating every second. He didn’t need to worry about it for a whole two months and could just enjoy having fun with his friends. His stupid, horrible friends.
As Drew was pouring his tea he heard the patio door open behind him.
“Hey!” Drew turned to see Scarlett, her hair tied up in a loose pony tail, her exposed shoulders pink from the summer sun, “So, are we celebrating?!”
Drew managed a half smile, “We certainly are, I’m a free man.”
Scarlett smiled at him, a huge infectious smile that spread across her whole face and gave him a warm feeling deep in the pit of his stomach.
She reached for him and held him in a tight embrace. He could smell coconuts and peaches and sun cream. “That’s amazing! What’s the plan?”
“Tab is meeting M at the Rose beer garden so I was about to head there.” He could feel her waist beneath her dress, slim and toned and curvy. She broke away from him.
“Great, I’ll text Jim to meet us there.”
She pulled her phone out of her bag and quickly began texting, her brow crinkled in concentration.
“So are you and him, like, a thing now?” Drew asked nervously.
Scarlett looked up from her text, her face suddenly tense, “No, no, nothing like that. Its just a bit of fun isn’t it? Nothing serious or like, a thing.”
Drew nodded, taking a sip of his tea instead of replying.
“I mean, is that...okay?” Scarlett asked, her features becoming increasingly concerned.
“What? Of course!” Drew erupted into laughter, perhaps a little too enthusiastically, “Of course its okay! I mean its great! He’s great, you’re great. Its great!”
Scarlett bit her lip awkwardly and fidgeted with the hem on her dress. A loose golden brown curl fell across her face.
“I mean, he’s my best friend,” Drew carried on, placing his cup carefully on the side and considering his words, "Has been since I was a baby, y’know? I love him that guy even if he is a huge douche. Its just...he can be a bit of a nightmare when it comes to girls and I care about you a lot. That’s all.”
Scarlett nodded her understanding, “Thank you for caring about me.”
Drew smiled reassuringly. He remembered when he came back from the bar to find them both gone the night of Scarlett's birthday. He'd been furious with them. Angry at Jim for turning his sights on Scarlett and disappointed with her for falling for it. But now he was looking at her, her face clouded with worry and remorse, he knew he couldn't hold it against her. He'd done everything he could to make her happy for the last 5 months and he wasn't about to start inflicting misery and guilt on her, she didn't deserve it after everything she'd been through. Besides, it wasn’t her fault that he was head over heels and she didn’t feel the same.
There was times when he thought she had, when their connection had felt so strong he was sure they could have been soulmates, the other half of each other. The conversation was always easy, he would do anything provoke that dazzling smile and when he wasn't being distracted by her beauty he was learning so much, whether it was facts about his favourite bands or musicians or chords to songs he'd never heard which quickly became his favourite. He respected her, he fancied her, he could even love her if he let himself fall...
But that feeling of hope and burgeoning affection had turned into bitter disappointment. Now she had this “not-a-thing” going on with Jim and he wasn’t going to compete with his best friend over a girl, no matter how special she was. He knew all too well that Jim always won when it came to girls.
“Come on then,” he said, putting his cup in the sink and throwing his arm around her shoulder, “you owe me a drink!”
* * * * *
“Over here! Yoo-hoo!”
Tabitha stood up and waved maniacally at Jim who was weaving his way through the Rose & Crown beer garden carrying a full pint. He responded with a small wave and made a beeline for the wooden picnic bench she had been saving for her friends.
“Where is everyone?” Jim asked as he settled opposite her. Tabitha quickly checked herself out in his Ray Ban sunglasses, pulling at the sides of her hair to make them spikier.
“On their way!” she replied cheerfully, taking a sip of her vodka and soda, “M’s on the tube and Scarlett and Drew are walking together now.”
“They’ll probably be ages. End up getting distracted gossiping or picking flowers or something,” Jim smirked.
Tabitha tilted her head to the side, “That joke is so old. Why do you keep making it? Are you jealous of their friendship?”
Jim laughed heartily, “Are you kidding? No. No I’m not jealous of their bff status. Though Drew did play a lot more FIFA with me before she came along.”
“Well its old!” Tabitha threw a scrunched up rizla paper at Jim and it bounced off his head, “What’s going on with you and Scarlett anyway? What’s that all about?”
“Nothing really. Stop being nosy,” Jim reached into his pocket for a cigarette and lit it, hoping Tabitha would change the subject.
“Excuse me, I have a right to be nosy. She’s my friend and I’m worried about her.”
“Jesus, Tab. I’m not that bad.”
“Yes you really are, you’re a total fucking man whore and Scarlett is too sweet for your shit.”
Jim scoffed, “You lot are always underestimating her. You think she’s this weak, little girl but she’s not. You saw what she did to Ros. And she lived on the streets for fuck’s sake! She can handle herself and she can certainly make her own decisions.”
“She’s been through a lot, Jim. She’s vulnerable,” Tabitha said in a low voice, leaning across the table to impress her point, “Just be bloody nice, alright?”
Jim rolled his eyes, taking another drag of his cigarette and scanning the crowd in the beer garden to see if any of their friends had arrived yet.
“I bet Drew didn’t get this talk when he was into her,” he murmured.
Tabitha shrugged, “Of course not, Drew respects women.”
“Give me a break!” Jim flicked his cigarette away, his nostrils flaring in annoyance, “What Drew does is far worse than what I do. He falls head over heels with a new girl every week and there’s always loads of drama and heartbreak. That girl Charlie or whatever her name was-”
“Oh my God, do not defend Chelsey!”
“I’m just saying! She was a 19 year old fashion student. Hardly gonna be love and marriage was it. Drew needs to get a grip. You all do.”
Tabitha shook her head slowly, her lips pursed, “Scarlett was different to the others and you know it. But if that’s what you have to tell yourself to sleep at night...”
Jim was about to reply, something barbed and defensive, but Tabitha was already waving and beckoning to Scarlett and Drew who were snaking their way though the beer garden, arm in arm.