Crossroads

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Chapter 12

Lincoln

“And if I didn’t know before, I definitely do now. This girl is a force to be reckoned with, a storm full of spirit and devotion, about to knock me off my feet and into the pits of forbidden desire, right where I belong.”

PAST

I can breathe.

For the first time in I don’t remember how long it actually feels like I can breathe. I can actually feel the oxygen flow into my lungs, feel the air leaving my throat with every breath I take.

My heart seems to beat louder, too. It thunders in a vigorous pattern, reminding me of my existence every time it pumps in my chest, and I bathe in it. Bathe in the feeling of being alive, of being tangible and present.

I haven’t left the house for a month now. Medical research has become my go-to distraction for whenever it feels like it’s all too much. I’ve read into psychology as well, I want to find a way to understand how my brain is working right now. It’s confusing as hell, though. Maybe I should’ve gone for neurology after all...

And then there’s Mia. She’s... Well, she’s Mia. It’s impossible not to notice her as soon as she’s in eyesight. She’s become my second obsession, if I’m being honest. Watching her move, read, eat, sleep... It is fascinating beyond understanding. Her existence grounds me, exhilarates me, and absolutely stuns me every goddamn time I look at her.

Just like now. I can’t look away, even though I should. She’s just so fascinating, the way her glasses gradually slip down her nose with each page she turns, her legs crossed on the lounge chair while she nervously bites her nails at every anxious passage of her book... It’s mesmerizing. And as wrong as it is, I just can’t stop myself from being drawn to her, like a moth to the light.

It’s a fitting image, really. She is the light in the darkness, the brightest star in the night sky, illuminating my very being with her mere existence, while I’m this hideous insect, my existence being futile, to say the least.

“You know,” she suddenly closes the book in her lap and takes off her glasses to look at me. “At first I thought damn, this stuff has to be made up. But the more I read about the Greek Gods, the more I realize that this is the type of nonsense no one could possibly could come up with on their own.”

I can’t help but chuckle, leaning back on the couch as I take a sip of coffee.

“I mean, seriously? I don’t even follow anymore on who impregnated who, and who ate which kid, and how many women Zeus slept with. Like really, that guy was the first playboy in the history of... Everything. It’s ridiculous!”

She lifts up her book and gently throws it on the couch table, a smile playing on her lips when she heaves a sigh.

“And still, you’re reading it.” I nod towards the book on the table, that smile on her lips now broadening when she shrugs.

“What can I say? I’m an overzealous reader. Once I start with something I can’t put it down until I got the whole story.”

“I can see that in you.”

She smiles at my words before she grabs her mug from the mantelpiece and brings it to her lips. “I’m sure you do.” Her lips move against the porcelain before she finally takes a sip, studying me intently until she speaks up again. “Are you ready for tomorrow?”

Definitely not.

Mia arranged a meeting with a therapist for me. We’ve had another argument about that, too. I fucking yelled at her, and the second I did, I could tell that I hurt her. Not just by what I said, but by the way I said it, and that just made me realize that I have to get my fucking act together. I promised I’d try. If not for myself, then at least I owe it to her that I actually give it a shot.

“I think so,” I finally answer.

“Try again, Link.” She warns me, not tolerating any lies in this house.

I noticed she started calling me Link a lot. To be honest, I don’t remember the last time she used my real name, and I can’t deny that I like it. She has this way about her... This way about making you feel at home, like you mattered. I don’t feel as lost when she’s around, even though that proved to be an issue at times when she visits her family on Fridays.

I haven’t spiralled the way I did the first time, but I still have a hard time when she’s gone. She usually comes home pretty early now as well, obviously not wanting to leave me alone for too long. And I hear it in her voice every time she enters the apartment, I hear the anxiety and worry, and I see the relief in her eyes when she finally finds me, usually hugging the blanket on her bed.

It’s getting harder and harder to stay away from her, though. I am attracted to her, that is undeniable, and I know that she gravitates towards me, too. Her body shows it, even though she tries to conceal it the best way she can, but she simply cannot hide the effect I have on her. The fire in her eyes is too potent to be smothered, too hot not to burn up with it.

“Link?”

Her voice brings me out of my thoughts, and I raise my head to find her sitting up now, her eyes curiously searching my own. “Are you okay?”

“I think so.”

I repeat my previous answer, not knowing what I’m thinking and how to express it, and it only takes a second for Mia to catch up, her legs untangling before she gets up from her seat and places her mug back on the mantelpiece. She steps towards me and within seconds I feel the couch shift, her petite frame taking in the space right next to me as she places her hands on my own.

“Talk to me.”

She speaks to me with so much conviction, that I can’t help but listen to her. I’ve been trying to open up to her, show her that I want to change myself.

“Honestly... I’m afraid of going outside,” I finally admit, and I swear the simple expression of sympathy on her face sends my heart tumbling inside my chest. The way she expresses her emotions is so unique, so sheltered... But it’s there. She’s not one to show them blatantly, she gives you little hints, makes you work to understand what she feels.

“Oh, Link...” Her hand moves to my temple, and I immediately sigh from the feeling of her fingers raking through my hair. It’s a movement she’s done often when I fell asleep in her arms, trying to soothe me whenever I had a bad day. “I’ll go with you, I told you already.”

“I can’t ask that of you.”

“I’m not asking, I’m just doing. You should know by now that I’m not one to argue about things like these.”

Her touch is gentle, but her words portray so much strength and determination that I’m almost afraid to answer.

“I know that, yes.”

My hands seem to move on their own when they find their place on her hips, slowly circling around her back and pulling her closer. I turn a bit to face her and she tucks her feet beneath her lap, her knees touching my thigh when she looks at me. She doesn’t say anything though, her fingers continue to rake through my hair while her other hand rests on my shoulder, caressing my skin with her thumb. A hint of vulnerability crosses her features when her eyes suddenly focus on her thumb, watching as it traces the contours of my collarbone.

“How are you doing?”

I haven’t asked the question enough. Her attention is always so focused on me, our whole lives seemingly revolve around my issues, that I sometimes forget she’s human, too. Mia is the kind of person that seems invincible, and I might just believe that she actually is, if it weren’t for the microscopic emotional outbursts her face reveals at times.

“I’m worried.”

“About what?” I ask as my fingers brush some hair out of her face, tugging it behind her ear.

“You.” The answer comes straight away, no hesitation whatsoever in her voice when she gazes straight at me, her eyes piercing into my soul without any shred of shame in their ocean blue orbits.

And if I didn’t know before, I definitely do now. This girl is a force to be reckoned with, a storm full of spirit and devotion, about to knock me off my feet and into the pits of forbidden desire, right where I belong.

“Don’t be.” I whisper the words, my voice nowhere near as confident as hers.

“I can’t help it.” She brushes her thumb across my temple as she looks at me, her warm breath fanning down my face and igniting me from the inside as I try to get a read out of her.

I know she’s being vulnerable right now. I know this is not normal. She usually pulls back when we get into this weird emotional, personal, touching zone... It’s obvious she doesn’t want to break the rules she set herself, the ones that forbid any inappropriate touching whatsoever. She already breaks them every night when she lets me into her bed without any questions asked, just embracing me in her petite arms.

“I’ll be fine,” I try to reassure her, being absolutely overwhelmed and confused by this situation, my mind working on overdrive, trying to figure out what to do. What I know is that the only thing I want right now is having her close to me, and if I have to suppress my needs for that to happen, then I sure as hell will.

“I know you will be. I keep telling you that,” she says as she suddenly smirks at me, and I just can’t help it, I immediately ignore my previous promise and trace my thumb over her bottom lip, somehow just needing to feel her right this moment.

“Yes, you do...” I can basically feel her eyes burning into me as I just watch her slightly parted lips, her breath tickling my skin before she swallows. My eyes flick to her neck and I watch her carotid dance beneath her skin, the way her pulse races and thunders amplifies every emotion to an ungodly level.

“Please don’t look at me that way...” She finally whispers, and I instantly look back up before she even finishes the sentence, those ocean blue irises aiming at me like a missile at its target.

I study her for a second, and I come to the conclusion that she is serious about her rules, but also feels the highly illegal attraction simmering between us. It would be hard not to, really.

“Tell me your rules again.”

She blinks a few times, not moving an inch though, as she reads me intently.

“First...” She finally starts. “We’re honest. Secrets are okay, but no lies.” I nod my head. “Second. You tell me when it gets too much. No matter when and where,” she squeezes my shoulder while saying it. “And third...” her eyes immediately settle on her hand on my shoulder, “No inappropriate touching.”

It’s painfully obvious that she’s fighting herself, that she wants something she won’t allow herself.

“We never discussed the lines of inappropriate...” I have no idea what’s going on with me, why or how I’m being so bold right now. But my finger again brushes against her lips, my other hand cupping her neck, drawing circles on her skin.

“We didn’t. You’re a doctor. You know a lot about the human body... Surely you know the limits of adequacy.” There’s a devilish smirk playing on her lips, and I simply cannot ignore just how fucking sexy it is.

“Is that right...” I move my hands down to her back again, and within one swift motion I have her straddling my lap, her hands resting on my shoulders as she stares at me wide eyed.

“Lincoln...”

“Mia...” I breathe out her name, watching as she shudders almost invisibly at the sound of it. “Is this inappropriate? Because technically, anatomically, no inappropriate parts of our bodies are aligned...”

Her eyes scream at me, begging for reason, but I simply can’t give it to her.

“Technically...” I place my arm on her back and push her towards me, her arms now circling around my neck as I minimize the gap between us. “Technically, there is nothing inappropriate about this.” I move one of her arms from my shoulders, my fingers wrapping around her own, interlacing them so my palm is resting on the back of her hand. I steer it towards her chest, letting the tips of her fingers glide along her collarbone.

“Link...” She interjects.

“I’m not touching you, Mia...” I move her hand up to her neck, her fingertips skimming over her skin until they rest on her carotid, letting her experience her raging pulse. “This is all on you... Do you feel it?”

She hesitantly nods her head, her blue eyes searching mine as if she’s trying to find the meaning of life in them.

“Do you feel the way your pulse quickens? Your breathing gets heavier, too...” And just like she needs to prove a point she releases a heavy breath, her chest rising and falling with every second that passes. “Your lungs can’t inhale enough oxygen to steady your blood flow, your thundering heart makes sure the blood rushes through your system so goddamn quickly, not a single breath you take can level out the oxygen saturation in your blood...” I move her hand towards her heart, flattening her palm right above it, and even through the fabric of her shirt, and her own hand that is still placed beneath mine, do I feel the heavy thunder of her heart vibrating against my fingers.

“Link...” She tries once again, but her voice is almost inaudible by now.

“Close your eyes, Mia.”

“Lincoln, I...”

“Please... Just do it.”

And again, I see the hesitation in her eyes, giving up control is not something she does lightly, I presume.

But she does it, and I feel my heart swell at the sole sight of that, to be honest. Knowing that she trusts me at least this much fills me with a sense of pride.

I move her hand upwards again, gliding it over her sternum before gently skimming her fingertips along her throat, watching how her skin breaks out in goose bumps at the contact of her fingers on her jaw. “Do you feel the friction of your skin?” I ask while continuing my journey across her body, making sure I discover every single inch of skin with her delicate fingertips. “Do you feel how it prickles against your own touch?”

She only lifts her head as a response, giving me full access to her neck, her fingers digging into my shoulder while I move the other hand down to the side of her neck. I can’t help but notice how she just slightly hooks her fingers, letting her nails scratch across her skin in the most gentle manner I have ever witnessed.

“Link... I...” Her breath fans across my skin as she breathes my name, and I swear it must be the best fucking thing I have ever heard in my entire life. “I need you to touch me... Please...”

I correct myself. This is the best fucking thing I have ever heard in my entire life.

“Link...” She breathes again, and this time I don’t hesitate before I lean in, letting my nose run across her neck.

“Do you feel how your nerve endings are on absolute high alert, Mia?” I speak, my lips almost untraceable as they move against her skin. “Do you feel my breath cooling your skin when I speak?” She shivers and all of a sudden jerks forward, her hands resting on my shoulders as she takes me in, her eyes hooded with lust and desire.

“This is...” She exhales. “This is tormenting, Link... I...” Her head suddenly rests on my shoulder, her whole body rising and falling with every breath she takes.

“This is what I feel like every time you are close to me, Mia... It’s torture.”

Obviously, she doesn’t respond to that. I can basically feel the stress radiating off of her in waves, this probably is not how she expected today to go. Hell, I didn’t expect this day to take this turn.

“Just to be clear... It’s torture. But it’s the best fucking thing ever.” I feel the need to add, not wanting to scare her away. Not that Mia Esperanza seems like the kind of woman that gets scared away easily...

“I...” She suddenly lifts her head, hands still resting on my shoulders as she looks at me, cheeks flushed and eyes on fire, her whole being practically glowing like the sun in the middle of August.

We stay like this for an excruciatingly long moment, her body gradually retreating to its usual form, the color leaving her cheeks as her eyes change back into the deep and calm ocean blue they were before.

“We talked about this, Link...”

“We did. You stated the rules, I played by them.” I can’t help but smirk at my own words, a sudden sense of complacency running through my veins.

And in a flash there’s this huge grin crossing her face, a grin so bright it lights up the whole room with it.

“What is it?” I ask as she suddenly starts running her palms up and down my arms.

“You’re becoming cocky.”

“Excuse me, what?”

“Yeah. You’re smug as hell.”

I can’t help but chuckle at her words, because I do feel them.

“That grin on your face tells me you don’t really mind that.”

“No, I don’t,” she says while moving off my lap, sitting on the couch with her legs still sprawled across my lap. I can’t help but frown because I miss her legs around me, the space she held before suddenly feels cold and lonely. “It’s beautiful. You’re beautiful when you’re cocky.”

Now I can’t help but full on laugh, her words distracting me from the lonely feeling that immediately crept into my heart as soon as she left my lap.

“Wow. I’ll make sure to remind you of that when I get on your nerves.”

And now there’s this expression on her face, her eyes glistening while her lips curl into an even bigger smile. I don’t know what it is, but I feel my heart physically long for her, right in this moment. Even though she’s right here, right next to me, I feel like she’s so, so far away... Because she is. She is unreachable to me. Or at least she should be.

But then she takes my hand, and all the longing and doubt and caution are thrown into the wind, because all I need to feel is her skin on mine to ground me again.

“I’m sure you’ll do that, Link. I’m sure you’ll do.”

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