A man didn’t want to meet the woman who would become an important part of his life in a state of absolute, and utterly embarrassing, unawareness. But that was how my first encounter with Tec went. She found me comatose at her doorstep.
The string of poor decisions that led to that mortifying occurrence began with the bank, the third I’d applied to, rejecting my request for a loan. It was a crushing blow on the little hope I had of getting my business back on its feet. Dispirited, and desperate for something to lift me out of my forlorn mood, I accepted Maro’s invitation to a party a friend of his was hosting.
It was more of a shindig than a party, and ordinarily I would have made excuses to avoid the raucous gathering. I didn’t, and perhaps fate wanted it so.
There was an abundance of alcohol, narcotics, ladies who were ready to put out, and food. The last two I barely touched, and as if to make up for my abstinence from them, I poured down my throat disturbing amounts of whiskey and rum, and experimented with some of the recreational drugs, mainly marijuana.
It wasn’t long before I found myself in a euphoric state where I was king of the world, my own world if no one else’s. Every sense of failure and disappointment faded, the thought and memory of them totally gone. I felt confident, proud of myself for no explained reason, and I kept that feeling with more indulgence.
Somewhere around three AM, I figured it was time to head home, and walked down the street into another on the hunt for a taxi. I ended up at the back of a house that had to be mine.
It wasn’t. It was Tec’s house.
When I regained consciousness, I was on the floor of her cousin’s bedroom, disoriented and confused about where I was. Then I met her, and sitting across of her at the kitchen table eating a meal, everything changed for me.
Everything would change again if I did what was uppermost on my mind at the moment, which was to kiss her. She was right there in front of me, with her lips, dark and pink in their natural state, parted in open invitation. Her eyes had acquired a subtle darker shade because of the passion glazing them, and the heat shimmering out of her merged with mine to wrap us in a lust-dazed state.
I could kiss her, like I’d done many nights when she haunted my dreams. Wet dreams, for I always woke up with a throbbing hard-on, or my stroking fingers working on my swollen member.
“Now’s not the time,” I murmured, accepting with a sigh of regret that my brain knew best in this case. Kissing Tec when she still objected to my presence would be a mistake.
“Excuse me?” The quick frown, which now knotted her forehead chased away the soft, lustful look, adding to my regret. “Now is not the time for what?”
“May I sit while we wait for your neighbour to stop being a threat?” I knew better than to explain my statement.
“She’s not a threat. I just don’t want her all over my business.” Once more her contrary self, she shot me a glare before moving to flop into a broad-arm leather sofa, adding in that testy tone I found charming for no rational reason, “You can sit. But only for the next two minutes.”
Wanting her close, because where I couldn’t touch her that was the next best thing, I lowered onto the sofa, leaving free the middle seat as respectable space between us.
That choice earned me a scowl. “Did you notice there are three other chairs?”
“I did.” I gave a nod, shifted my gaze to study her living area.
I’d only been inside her house that one time, but I recognised she’d made some changes. The sofa set was a Chesterfield design and leather where it had been smaller chairs covered in brassy velvet fabric. The plush carpet, which ran from end to end was definitely a new addition. And while the 32-inch television was the same one, it had acquired a new dark wood stand, and there was cable now. Also new were the cotton drapes over her windows and the presence of two paintings on the wall.
“You’ve redecorated,” I commented, appreciating the new look. “It’s simple, yet classy. I like it.”
“I’m glad the style of my living room meets your approval,” she said with heavy sarcasm that was accompanied by a sneer. “Your time is up nonetheless, so have a nice life, John.”
“I’m not leaving until you say yes to my invitation. Or, at least, agree to go out with me another time.” I rarely gave up without a good fight, and didn’t intend to do so where Tec was concerned.
“We won’t be going out, you and I. Not today, not ever.” She stood, crossed to the door, and flicked her fingers for me to follow. “Go on and hit the road.”
“You need to confront whatever it is that’s scaring you.” I walked over, took her hand, but quickly let go when she hissed and swatted at my wrist. “I didn’t mean any disrespect by touching you. I only wanted to walk you back, so we can sit and talk. Something about me scares you, and I’d like to know what it is.”
She threw me a scornful stare, unlocked and pulled open the door, and then slammed it close again with a curse. “Goddamn it! She’s still on her porch. Has that woman nothing better to do than to stand outside staring at absolutely nothing? And you, why did you have to choose today of all days to come calling?”
“I already told you, I’m here to take you out for a drink.” Whoever her neighbour was, I was grateful for her idle activity which kept me where I wanted to be. “Clearly, I can’t leave now, so why don’t we talk to pass the time?”
“Why? Because I don’t want you in my house. I don’t want you anywhere near me. I want nothing to do with you.” Scorn and fury turned her eyes into a firestorm, and the fiery orbs sent a wave of desire into me. “Those answers clear enough for you, or do you want me to explain in sign language?”
“I want you to sit with me and talk.” That wasn’t entirely true. At the moment, I wanted more than anything to hurl her against me and kiss her until all that fire turned into blissful heat. “It can’t be that hard a thing to do, relaxing with me for a few minutes, can it?”
“It won’t be hard. But it most certainly will be tedious.” She seemed to war with herself, and ended the battle with a fulminating stare. “All right. We will do it your way. Tracy has to get back inside at some point.”
Tracy had to be the neighbour, and I hoped that point was long minutes away.
“I’m sure she will,” I said in a conciliatory tone, and since she’d settled into a fauteuil, I made do with the chair next to her. “Would it be presumptuous of me to request a glass of water?”
“It was presumptuous of you to come without any invitation, so I doubt being forward bothers you,” she retorted, sneering at me as she rose and turned in the direction I recalled her kitchen to be.
It took only a minute for her to return with a bottle of water and a frosted glass, both of which she thrusted both into my hands. Pretending to play the gracious host wasn’t something she planned to do.
But I knew my manners well, so I said, “Thank you,” and met her stony stare with a smile. Calm as still water, I filled the glass and brought the content to half before setting it on side table with a mat. “How’s work?”
That one evening in her kitchen had revealed she was a website designer cum graphic artist, and I stalked her enough on social media to know she was doing well, especially in the last couple months.
The curt response was to let me know she wasn’t going to make a conversation between us easy. I’d expected no different.
“Mine is not. Not in the way I’d hoped it would,” I added, reconsidering my answer. “I’m in the hotel business. The White Dove? I own it.”
If my statement made an impression, her blasé stare didn’t reveal. “What’s the problem?” she asked in a voice just as uninterested.
“Outdated structures in dire need of remodelling. I can’t get a loan, so I’m left with accepting a partner.”
“You don’t want one.”
“No, I don’t.” She was perspective. A quality that tugged at my heartstrings. “My grandparents built The White Dove, as my mother’s their only child, they passed it on to me five years ago. It had been a four-star hotel in the eighties and early nineties, and I wanted to restore its former glory, so I left my job to become a full-time hotel manager. However, I didn’t envisage it would demand so much work.” So much money, I thought.
“You know, I’m sitting here listening to you and watching you, and I can’t match you with the guy who’d messed with alcohol and drugs, and ended up unconscious at my doorstep.”
The comment was made with only a faint frown altering her neutral expression.
I gave my shoulders a light tug as I said, “It’s hard to believe, but I’m not that guy. I don’t mess with alcohol and drugs. I never had until that night, and have not done so again since then.”
“Mmm.” The look in her eyes was sceptical. “So, what were you thinking that night? Did you have a death wish?”
“Do you really want to know?” I wanted more than vague curiosity from her. “I don’t mind idle conversations. But there are certain part of my life I don’t share just for the heck of it.”
“Then we won’t talk about it. We won’t talk at all.” She stood. “I’m thirsty, so I’ll get myself a drink, and we’ll give Tracy another five minutes.”
“Thecla.” I liked her full name. I’d tested it out earlier and expected her to snarl off my head. But she’d reacted with a look that was momentarily flustered.
Now, though, she threw me a warning glare over her shoulder. “It’s Tec, unless you’re eager to have your tongue yanked out of your mouth.”
“I don’t appreciate your dismissive attitude.” I followed and stopped her by the kitchen doorway with a firm grasp on her wrist. “I’m not here on a whim, and won’t have you treating my presence like some unwanted thing.”
“But it’s unwanted.” She tugged to free her hand, but I didn’t let go. “I neither want you here, nor want you touching me. So, unhand me. Right now.”
“You don’t want me here, and don’t want me touching you. Both for the same reason, because I affect you in a way that troubles you.” I loosened my grip, but didn’t entirely let go. “It’s right there in your eyes, the flare of desire you’d rather not feel. Do you see it in mine, too?”
I moved, so there was barely an inch between our bodies. “I can’t explain it. I saw you only once and I can’t forget you. I keep thinking of you, dreaming of you–wanting you. I keep wanting to kiss you. I want it now, desperately, to have your lips fused to mine.”
“What…are you doing?”
She’d asked the question in a halting whisper and her hitching breath proved she was as much affected as I was.
“What do you think I’m doing?” I imitated her low tone. “Tell me why I make you nervous.”
She swallowed, backed a step. “The word you used earlier was afraid.”
“Sometimes I mix up my adjectives.” In a swift move, I imprisoned her within the circle of my arms before she could escape. “You make me thirst. That’s the word I would use to describe the effect you have on me.”
Damn! I liked that in spite of her flustered state, she could weave her tone into a perfect sneer.
“For your lips. I want to know the taste of them. How they would feel against mine.” Soft, I imagined. Resistant, like her, and then passionate. “Will you willingly part them when mine prod?”
“No.” Her body vibrated against mine. The colour of her eyes went from brown to molten dark earth. “I will not be a willing participant in your act of seduction.”
“No?” I tipped my head down and it touched hers, held there, forehead against another. Our breaths fanned each others face. “Your heart is thudding, the same as mine. In some ways you’re already a willing participant. But I can banish whatever doubt you have left, if that’s what you want.”
Moving only my neck, I shifted to the perfect angle, and waited for her to move, to react. She didn’t.
“Thecla.” Everything in me demanded I take, I possess, and devour. “I’m going to kiss you, and you’re going to let me. You know why?”
Oh hell, I’m a goner. That voice of hers with its raspy edge sent a large dose of unbearable lust into my groin.
“You will let me because you want it. Tell me you do.” Don’t be contrary now, I begged in my head. If she was, I would have no choice but to convince her.
The soft demand almost stopped my breath. It definitely stopped my heartbeat for the briefest second. Like my dream, one of many, she would ask and I would respond by…
My thought and action coupled to become one. Holding her gaze, so she could read the need in mine, my lips touched hers, our breaths rustled out, and I kissed her.