James tested the water temperature with his index finger and when he found it scorching hot, he knew it was perfect for Lucy. He turned around and found the girl staring at him, a vacant look on her face.
“Listen, I’m sorry for everything that’s happening to you,” he started.
Lucy held up a hand to stop him.
“We don’t have to go there now. Please”.
And she started taking off her clothes in silence, her legs and arms flushed red from the cold.
“I’ll be out for a cigarette if you need me,” said James and turned to leave.
“Stay. Please?” Tears were still pooling in her eyes.
James closed the door and watched Lucy settle into the bathtub, visibly relaxing as the hot water gave relief to her sore muscles.
“You mind?” he asked, showing her the pack of cigarettes.
Lucy shook her head and rested her head on the towel rolled up behind her neck and closed her eyes.
James leaned against the sink and lit his cigarette, the smoke mixing with the steam from the hot water. He looked at his girlfriend and wondered what was going on in her head, what exactly were her thoughts, her ideas, how did she plan on dealing with everything on her own. Was she going to let him help her? Was she still his, in her mind and heart?
He pushed himself away from the sink with his hips, grabbed a chair from the far corner of the room and placed it next to the bathtub where Lucy’s head was. He sat and, trapping the cigarette between his lips, he grabbed the wooden brush on the side of the tub and began to carefully brush through Lucy’s wet waves.
When James started to brush her hair Lucy kept her eyes closed for a moment. None of them had said anything of relevance in a while and now he was just there, sitting calmly, brushing her hair; despite all the shit she had put him through, the silence, the worry, the pushing him away, he was there. Not asking for explanations, not demanding conversations. Just brushing her hair, softly, gently.
Lucy relaxed a little bit more under his touch, feeling the tension of the past week starting to dissipate. From the living room, Lana del Rey’s silky voice was singing softly, Darling, darling, darling, I fall to pieces when I’m with you.
Lucy opened her eyes and looked at James’ face: his bushy eyebrows knotted in concentration, the small scar running across the edge of the left one now pointed down like an arrow, his green eyes were calm and focused on her hair, she could see all his love pouring through them, his slightly asymmetrical nose that gave his otherwise perfect features, an edge, his square jaw and finally his plumped lips from which a cigarette hung loosely.
She closed her eyes again.
“Hu-hu?” he said, still focused on his task.
“I love you”.
James stopped brushing Lucy’s hair and sat still for a moment, those three words had been so soft that he feared he had imagined them. He placed the brush on the side of the tub and Lucy grabbed his hand, kissing the palm softy.
“I love you so much,” she said again.
James stood up, flicked his cigarette in the sink and moved to the side of the tub, a smile on his face.
“You do?” he asked, tentatively.
Lucy smiled back and slowly nodded.
James leaned forward for a passionate kiss and Lucy pulled him closer, grabbing his t-shirt until he had no choice but to let himself fall into the bathtub.
They both laughed cheerfully, then Lucy kissed him again and their movements became more passionate. James sat where Lucy had just been and pulled her on top of him, his hands on her naked hips; she broke the kiss and moved to his neck, licking and biting the skin until a soft moan escaped his lips.
“Wait,” he said hoarsely.
Lucy pulled back and James pushed himself up against the sides of the tub, when he was outside he lifted Lucy securing her legs around his hips and walked to her bedroom, gently releasing her on the bed.
He removed his wet t-shirt and watched Lucy kneeling in front of him, she slowly undid his belt buckle and zip and looking up at him said again “I love you”.
James pulled her up by her hands and pushed her on the bed again, removing his trousers and climbing on top of her.
“Say it again,” his voice low and full.
“I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you,” said Lucy with a grin and her laugh turned into a loud moan when James thrust himself inside her.
Lucy arched her back to welcome him inside and grabbed his hair pulling him close for a kiss. Their movements were needy, rough, almost as they were trying to merge into one person.
James pulled back from the kiss, his hips still moving in and out of her in a sensual rhythm, he gently tightened his fingers around her neck and looking into her eyes, he said.
“Don’t you ever run away from me, Lucy. I fucking love you!“.
Lucy took his hand and removed it from her neck then wrapped her lips around his index finger and slowly sucked on it, trapping the tip between her teeth before letting go.
“I promise,” she said.
James quickly pulled out from inside her and flipped her on her stomach, then quickly thrust himself inside again, Lucy’s mouth open in a loud moan.
He grabbed her hair with one hand and with the other interlocked his finger with hers, pinning her against the mattress, then steaded his rhythm and thrust after thrust took them both to a climax.
Lucy and James were seated in the garden patio on an outdoors sofa near the fire pit, James was leaning against the armrest and Lucy sat between his legs, her back against his chest, both of them wrapped in a blanket to shield them from the cold. They had decided to remain at the cottage for a few days before going back to London as a chance to spend some peaceful time together before the chaos of the upcoming days.
Lucy took a quick sip of her red wine and leaned her head against James’ shoulder, taking in his scent. She loved the smell of his skin, his natural perfume mixed with a subtle ever lingering hint of tobacco.
“When Harriet called me yesterday, she did so from your old number. Why do you still have it?” James asked, playing with her fingers.
“I needed it for work, sometimes it takes a while to get your info updated,” she said dismissively.
“Are you sure? You’re not still reading those messages, are you?” He pushed, slightly concerned.
“Fine. I did for a while. I know it’s dumb but I just couldn’t help it. Plus I need to keep all of that, it has Sam’s admission of guilt in it and I’m not gonna let him get away with it...”
James grinned and Lucy could feel it against her head.
“What? Do you really think I was just sitting here, crying myself to sleep for a week, without thinking about what to do next?”
James shook his head and chuckled.
“Well, obviously you can take care of yourself”.
“With my job and my past relationship I surely developed a thick skin”.
They were both quiet for a moment.
“You really got me worried Lucy. I didn’t know if you were ok, what you were going through. If it weren’t for Harriet who kept me informed I would have been in the dark. I thought you were rethinking our relationship, I was so scared of losing you”.
Lucy inhaled sharply.
“James, you have no idea how sorry I am,” she turned slightly to face him. “I fell back on my old habits as my boyfriend was the one I usually ran from. And if I have to be honest, I found myself thinking about us, I wondered if all this was worth it: the media, the pressure, Sam’s revenge...”
She placed her hand on his cheek and rubbed it with her thumb.
“Then I thought, fuck the media, fuck Sam! I love you. I want to be with you”.
James’ smile reached his eyes that were filled with happiness and love, he kissed the palm of her hand.
“I’m glad you did...I will do everything in my power not to let you down”.
Lucy kissed him gently then went back to sit against him.
“You know, one of the many texts I received was from a girl who claimed she had sex with you a few days before in LA...”
James almost choked on his wine.
“What? No! That’s not true! Lucy, please don’t believe...”
Lucy chuckled and interrupted him.
“I know James, I didn’t believe it for a second. I was with you in LA the day she said you met. You should have seen the look on your face though...”
James looked at her with disbelief.
“Bloody hell honey, you gave me a heart attack! I would never, ever, do something like that to you. I think you’d find out the moment it happened anyway, you’re kinda freaky and scary sometimes...”
Lucy laughed from the heart.
“Are you scared of me?”
James shook his head.
“I’m not scared but I wouldn’t want to be on your enemies’ list”.
Lucy poked him in the stomach and then wrapped themselves tighter in the blanket, her head back on his shoulder.
“What do you want for Christmas?” James asked out of the blue.
“Piece of mind?”
James kissed her forehead and her cheek.
“We’ll get that for you, baby. Anything else?“.
“No, I really don’t need anything. What about you?”
James shook his head.
“You already gave me the greatest gift...”
“Don’t,” Lucy warned him.
“Telling me that you love me,” continued James.
Lucy rolled her eyes.
“God you’re such a loser!” she said with a giggle.
“I don’t care,” said James with a laugh.
Lucy turned to face him.
“That’s it,” he said and took the glass of wine off her hand. “You deserve a lesson!” And standing up he grabbed Lucy fireman style and carried her inside the house.