Then I clicked from webpage to webpage, watching the clock in the corner of my screen, willing the numbers to change faster.
When class was over, my relief was short-lived.
The cast list had been posted.
I was still Phaedra, which was good. How embarrassing would it have been if Eric had changed his mind? Kelsey got Aphrodite like she wanted. Rusty did get a soldier, just like he’d predicted.
And Cade was Hippolytus.
I knocked on Garrick’s door that evening, nervous despite our agreement to take things slow. We hadn’t really talked about doing anything tonight, and despite our tenuous relationship, we’d yet to exchange numbers. So, I hoped I wasn’t being needy by seeking him out a second night in a row. Hamlet, definitely, was glad to have me out of the apartment. We still weren’t coexisting very well.
My worry eased when he opened the door and said, “Oh thank God. I’ve been thinking about coming round to your place for over an hour, but I was afraid I’d knock on the door and you’d have people over or something.”
“Maybe we should actually exchange numbers then.”
He said, “Are you going to put me in your phone under some secret code name so that no one knows who I am when I text you dirty things?”
My eyes widened. “Are you planning to text me dirty things?”
His eyes danced with amusement and that blinding grin was back on his face. “I’m not ruling it out.”
Oh. Oh. My nerves shot back up.
He took my hand, and pulled me into his living room where a book was open on his sofa. It was poetry, of course, because he was perfect, and woefully out of my league. He marked his page, and placed the collection on top of a pile of books at the edge of the sofa.
He reached and laced our fingers together in the space between us. I wanted to lean into him, wrap myself around him, and not move from his arms until I had to, but I still felt awkward. Were we in that place yet where we could just do that? Or did we have to work our way up to it?
“So… Cast list?” He asked.
I groaned and leaned my head back against his couch.
“It’s not that bad, is it?”
“That depends on whether or not Cade is speaking to me by the time rehearsal rolls around in two weeks.”
I didn’t have to worry about easing into it, because Garrick had no qualms about pulling me to him. My head fit perfectly onto the curve of his shoulder.
“Cade seems like a reasonable guy. I’m sure after a while to process everything, he’ll be better.”
I nodded, hoping he was right, but not feeling confident. Cade was reasonable. Trouble was… reason probably told him to stay the hell away from me if he didn’t want his heart stomped on. And maybe that would be for the best.
He deserved someone better.
“All right,” Garrick said. “Enough about that. I don’t like that sad look on your face. Unfortunately our options for the evening are limited, since we can’t actually go anywhere. So how about a movie?”
I pulled a smile onto my face. When he smiled back it took less effort to hold it there. “A movie sounds good.”
He picked something funny, probably in an effort to cheer me up. Then he flicked off the lights, and joined me again on the couch. As the opening credits began, He leaned back, pulling me with him. He was stretched out on his back, and I was on my side, fitted between him and the back of the couch. I hesitated a moment before laying my head against his chest.
I tried to watch the movie, I really did, but it was hard to concentrate with his steady, even breaths ruffling my hair, and his hand tracing up and down my spine. It was somewhere between ticklish and seductive. I was hyper aware of the way every once and a while, his finger would continue a little farther down my back, until he barely touched the stretch of skin between the bottom of my shirt and the top of my shorts. He would stay there for only the barest of seconds before returning up my back. Then his finger danced up to the sensitive skin at the back of my neck, and I had to hold back a moan. I glanced up at him quickly, but he was focused on the movie, completely unaware of the madness he was driving me to.
Finally, I decided it was time for him to get a dose of what I was feeling. I uncurled the fist I had resting on his chest, pressing my fingertips ever so slightly into his chest. I started by tracing the abstract design on his t-shirt, something from a band, I think. But once I’d done that I kept trailing my hands across his chest, across the curve of one pec, down the sternum to his ridged stomach, back up his chest to the muscles stretching from his shoulder to his bicep. When my hand took one of his moves, barely tracing along the hem of his t-shirt, his hand on my back stilled.
Somehow, the stillness set me even more on edge.
Feeling a little brave, I went back to the hem, pushing my fingers up and under his shirt, using my fingernails to draw the barest of touches across his skin. The hand on my back moved, sliding up past my neck and into my hair. I flattened my hand, pressing my palm against his warm skin. The hand in my hair tightened, not enough to hurt, but just enough so that he could use it to tilt my head backward slightly.
He gazed at me, no trace of teasing grin, his blue eyes appearing black in the darkened room. His eyes danced around my face, flicking most frequently between my eyes and my lips. The anticipation was killing me, and I dug my fingers into his skin. His breathing wasn’t so steady anymore, but he still only looked at me. I licked my lips, and his gaze stayed there longer, so long that heat was pooling between my legs just because of the anticipation alone, and I squirmed trying to relieve the pressure.
When I lifted one of my legs, curling it around his own, finally, he took action.
The hand in my hair pulled me forward, and he met me halfway.
All of the anticipation of the last ten minutes focused into the point where our lips met. The connection was too small to bring to mind fireworks, but it was something close, like the excitement of holding a sparkler— the rush of feeling the sparks creep closer to your hand.
His mouth stayed closed, and even though I’d tasted him several times before, the mystery was killing me.
It felt like a first kiss.
He pulled back, and pressed his forehead against mine.
“Thank you,” he said.
Thank you? Was that like a thanks, but no thanks? Thanks, but I’m watching a movie, leave me alone?
“For giving this a chance. I know you were, probably are, afraid. But you’ve made my life immensely better already.”
I don’t know if it was being an actor that made him so honest, so unafraid of being vulnerable, or if it was just who he was. I wished I could do the same, but that wasn’t who I was.
“Can I ask you a question?”
His hand in my hair trailed across my jaw.
“Of course,” he answered.
“Why did you take this job? Not that I’m not glad you are here, but you said yourself you were miserable.”
“I was…not anymore.” He leaned back in and kissed me again, humming as he pressed his lips against mine. It did not slip my notice that he hadn’t answered my question, but I didn’t care enough about the answer to stop kissing him, especially when his mouth finally opened, and I tasted sweet and mint and his breath mixed with mine.
His tongue slid against mine, and my hand beneath his shirt came back to life, curling around his side, pulling closer until my pelvis pressed into his hip. The kiss was leisurely and divine, but too slow, slow, slow.
I wanted more. I wanted our bodies flush, I wanted our lips crushed together, not softly teasing. I didn’t want to lose the contact with his skin, but I wanted to take control. My other hand was trapped beneath me, propping me up on my side. So I slipped my hand out of his shirt, and placed it on his face instead. I pulled him closer, trying to change the pace.
He allowed it for a moment, our lips moving faster, breath escaping as our heads tilted and our mouths battled. And God, it was good. I kept pulling, not satisfied, not close enough, until he angled up and rolled onto his side to face me. A sigh of success escaped me, then he took the hand I had on his face, and pulled it away, away, until it was trapped behind me, held there, pressed into my lower back by his hand.
Then again, he leaned back, changing the pace, brushing against my lips, slowly, softly. It was maddening. I tried leaning into him, but he held strong, pinning me back, taking his time. I groaned in frustration.
And he smiled.
“What is it, love?”
Any number of words could have come out of my mouth, some of them incoherent, most of them not very nice. Luckily, the ones I managed were exactly what I meant.
“Too slow,” I whined.
I was actually whining.
“I told you I could do slow,” He said.
“You jerk.” That was actually one of the nicer words going through my head. He didn’t even have the decency to be worried. He just laughed. I squirmed, trying to pull my arm free, and he appeased me with a kiss, this one a little harder, a little more satisfying than the last. And just when I was forgetting why I’d been so frustrated before, he pulled back again.
It was absurd, but I actually felt like I might cry. His lips trailed along my jaw to that spot below my ear that made every taut muscle in my body go limp.
“I wasn’t trying to be smart,” he whispered. “I’m trying to give you what you want. It’s hard when I let myself go, when I kiss you how I want to. Because all I can think about then is how your skin tastes, and how much I want to taste it again.” His mouth burned against my neck. His teeth grazed against me, and on impulse, my hips surged forward, just barely making contact with him. He groaned in response, his whispers turning gruff, losing their softness. “I remember the weight of your breast in my hand, and the way you reacted to my fingers inside you.” I bit my lip against the whimper building in my throat. I wanted his hands on me. I wanted our clothes off. “I think about having your body beneath me. I think about being inside you. I think about it, and it consumes me. And going slow is the very last thing to cross my mind.”
I lost it. I couldn’t hold in the whimper, and I felt like I was going to fall apart from his words alone.
“So, I have to kiss you slowly. Unless you’ve changed your mind. Have you? Changed your mind?”
YES! Please, oh God, yes.
This was like torture.
But reason unfurled in the back of my mind, taking over, keeping me grounded. What if we tried to have sex and I chickened out again and I ruined everything?
“No, I haven’t changed my mind,” I said. Then added, “You jerk,” because that was torture, and by the smile on his face, he knew it.
“Hmmm… then slow it is.”
I was still a little angry with Garrick when I left that night, but when he walked me to my door, and asked what I was doing the next day, I wasn’t angry enough to blow him off. Cade wasn’t speaking to me, and I hadn’t heard from Kelsey, so I told him I was free, and we made plans for dinner at my place.
I slept in until noon, my bed too comfortable for me to pry myself out of it. Then I distracted myself with an extra long shower, followed by homework, then a book. When I checked the clock, it was still only 3 P.M.
I grabbed my computer, and searched, “Philadelphia Theatre.”
I found a theatre alliance website that gave info on a bunch of theatres in the city, as well as job postings and auditions. I clicked through, seeing what shows were currently running where, reading job descriptions, and bookmarking a few pages.
My cell rang, but it sounded far off. I tried following the sound, but the ringing ended before I was able to narrow it down further than the living room. Luckily, whoever was calling was persistent, and called again a few moments later. It was definitely somewhere near the couch. I pulled back cushions, but found nothing. I checked under papers and books, still nothing. Finally, I dropped to the ground and peered under the couch. There it was, lighting up the dusty darkness beneath my furniture. And right beside it, glaring at me, was Hamlet.