I stood in my bathroom in a tank top and underwear with my pants around my knees, on the verge of hyperventilating. Garrick was outside the door, and it was like he was a magnet. My heart kept trying to leap out of my chest toward him. He had told me to take off my capris, and that I’d need to keep from wearing tight clothes over the burn for a while. He had offered to help me get the capri pants off, but that made me feel like I was going to vomit again. So instead, I began wiggling them off myself, trying and failing to keep the fabric from touching the damaged skin.
I slid the material a bit lower, and bit down on my lip to try and silence a groan.
“Bliss?” Garrick knocked lightly at the door. “You okay?”
“Just peachy!” I said back.
I pulled on the pants again and gasped.
“Bliss, just let me help. You’re worrying me.”
I closed my eyes, trying to think of a way around this. Hobbling awkwardly with my jeans around my knees, I found a skirt with an elastic waist in my hamper. I pulled it over my head, and down to cover my underwear, and then took a seat on the toilet.
I felt my cheeks, certain that they were probably a mortifying shade of red. Nothing I could do about it now. I said, “Okay. Come in.”
The door swung open slowly, and Garrick’s head peeked around the corner, followed by the rest of him. He took one look at my rumpled skirt, and the jeans bunched around my knees.
Then he laughed. Raucous laughter, actually.
“This is so humiliating.” How was I ever going to have sex with him now?
He pressed his lips together to stop the laughter, but amusement still danced in his eyes.
“I’m sorry. I know you’re in pain. You just look so…”
I leveled him with a glare.
His grin was intoxicating, and I couldn’t help my begrudging smile.
“Alright. Now that you’ve had your laugh, help me take off my pants,” I said with the same sarcasm I’d been relying on since he entered.
Either he didn’t catch the sarcasm or he just didn’t care because his eyes fixed on me in a way that I could only describe as downright predatory. Suddenly, much more than my leg was burning up.
He stared at me for a moment before dropping his eyes, and clearing his throat. Kneeling beside me, he took my leg into his hands.
I had already started to pull the capris down, so the burn was currently covered. His hand hovered by the zipper, which was now around the middle of my thighs. He cleared his throat again, and then slipped his hand down my pant leg.
I was pretty sure I was having one.
Using his other hand, he pulled the jeans down as far as he could, just over my knees. He looked up at me, cleared his throat again, and said, “Can I borrow your hand?”
I couldn’t speak, but I put my right hand forward, the palm of which was embarrassingly sweaty. He took my hand, and pulled it inside my pant leg to join his own.
“Keep your hand here, and pull the fabric as far away from your leg as you can. I’ll do the same at the bottom, and we’ll try to slip them off without touching the burn.”
I nodded, my hand ten times steadier than my heart.
He slipped his hand up and out, his light touch sending shivers through me. He did as he said, pulling the fabric away from my skin at the bottom, and then together we tried to pull the pants off.
It wasn’t the most successful mission. These jeans were indecently tight (thanks to Kelsey), and every once and a while the fabric bumped my skin, and I cringed.
“Sorry,” he apologized each time like it was his fault. I wanted to correct him, but I just loved the way he said “soo-ri” so much that I let it go.
After a minute or two of slow and careful maneuvering, my jeans hit the floor.
We both laughed—the way you see people in movies laugh after they’ve just diffused a bomb. And when I stopped laughing, I realized that his hand was still on my leg. One hand was cupped around my ankle, and the other was brushing softly against the skin around the burn.
If he kept touching me like that, I was going to melt into a puddle right here on the floor.
He seemed to realize then what he was doing. His eyes flicked quickly to his hands. Instead of pulling back immediately, he grinned, brushed his hand slowly down my leg, and then let go.
“No problem. Now we need to cool it off. We could run it under cool water.” I pictured my leg hiked up to the sink, or us both trying to maneuver in my bathtub. My face must have given it away, because he added, “Or just a cool damp cloth will work.”
I handed him a washcloth from a basket behind me, and he turned on the sink, waiting until the water was cool before wetting the cloth.
I sucked in a breath as he laid it across my burn, but the cool felt good, enough that I relaxed for the first time since we came into my apartment.
I nodded, “Much. I’ll never wear jeans that tight again.”
He quirked a smile. “Now that would be a shame.”
I was going to need a fan to keep myself cool if he kept saying things like that.
“Listen,” He began. “I’m sorry about this. I never should have pushed you to get on that bike.”
“It’s not your fault I know nothing about motorcycles, and didn’t realize it would be hot.”
“I can’t believe you’ve never been on a motorcycle.”
“Yeah, well, there are a lot of things I’ve never done.”
He quirked one eyebrow. “Like what?”
“Well…” I swear my heartbeat sounded like stu-pid, stu-pid, stu-pid as it pounded in my ears. “Um, until today I’d never met anyone who was British.”
He laughed, combing his fingers unconsciously through his hair. It made me want to comb my fingers through his hair.
He said, “That’s why you kissed me, isn’t it? All you American girls seem to love accents.”
I swallowed my smile and said, “I believe you were the one who kissed me.”
He stood, and his messy blond hair fell over his forehead, framing those devilish eyes. “So I was.”
He ran the cloth under the water again to keep it cool, but my body was too heated to really tell the difference when he placed it back on my skin. His other hand curled around my ankle again.
I kept my breath carefully steady, and said, “Your turn.”
“What’s something you’ve never done?”
“Well, I’ve never chatted up a girl in a pub before tonight.”
My jaw dropped. “Really?” How was that possible? He was gorgeous! Maybe all the girls just threw themselves at him before he even entered the bar, so he never had to bother with going inside.
He shrugged, and with the motion his thumb started brushing back and forth against the top of my foot.
“I know it goes against the English stereotype, but I’ve never been much for getting sloshed, um drunk, all the time.”
“Me neither,” I said. And I meant it, even though my head was still a bit fuzzy from all that tequila. “So what brings this non-stereotypical Brit to Texas?”
He shrugged. “I’ve been in the States for a while. I came here to go to school, and never went back. I actually just moved back to Texas though. Haven’t been here for a few years.”
“Me too. I just moved back here a few years ago.”
I’d grown up in Texas when I was little, but we moved to Minnesota when I was in 8th grade. It was always my plan to come back here for college.
He re-wetted the cloth one more time, and we sat there talking. He told me about growing up in England, and how different it had been living in the states.
“The first time some bloke told me he liked my pants, I was so shocked I thought I’d left home missing a few key things.”
“Pants? I don’t understand.”
“That’s what we call underwear, love.”
“Oh,” I laughed. “Good to know.”
“When I asked a classmate for a rubber, you call them erasers, everyone laughed so hard that I was ready to board a flight straight back to London.”
I tried to hold in my laughter, and failed. But I figured he deserved it after laughing at my pants, um… jeans, ordeal earlier.
“That must have been terrible.”
He reached for the gauze I’d pulled down from the cabinet earlier, and he carefully placed it over the burn, and taped down the edges as he spoke.
“You get used to it. I’ve been here so long now that I usually manage well enough. Occasionally when I visit London, and come back, I have some trouble adjusting, but in all, I’d say I’m fairly Americanized.”
“Except for that accent.”
He smiled. “Can’t get rid of the accent now, can I? Then how would I ever attract the attention of pretty things like you?”
“By reading Shakespeare in a bar, obviously.”
He laughed, and the sound spread through my skin, loosening some of my nerves.
“You’re cute,” he said.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes… ridiculously so, as we established earlier”
“Would you feel better if I called you ridiculously sexy?”
Just like that, the ease I’d felt earlier disappeared, and my breaths came too shallow. I had no answer. What could I possibly say to that?
“What’s that look for?” He asked.
I had no idea which of my multitude of emotions had shown on my face, so I shrugged.
“You act like no one’s ever called you sexy before.” That would be because they hadn’t. “Which I know can’t be true, not when you look the way you looked tonight. I could barely keep my hands off you, and we’ve only just met. I’d be embarrassed if I hadn’t enjoyed it so much.”
This was it. I may not have had sex, but I knew enough to know when a guy was putting the moves on me. And remarkably, I didn’t even care. All I cared about was the fact that he was sitting so close to me, and was driving me crazy. His hand was still leisurely stroking my ankle, and if he didn’t kiss me again soon I was going to combust. “Look at me, I can’t even keep my hands off you now.”
I swallowed, but my mouth suddenly felt like I’d swallowed a sandbox.
He pulled himself up on his knees, and his hand trailed from my ankle up the outside of my uninjured calf. His hips were a few inches away from my knees as I sat there dumbfounded on the toilet.
“Tell me I’m not crazy,” He said.
I couldn’t do that. I was nowhere near sane enough at the moment to advise anyone else on rational behavior.
“Tell me I can kiss you.”
That… that I could do.
“You can kiss—“
I didn’t even finish the sentence before his lips were on mine, and my burn was forgotten completely.
The kiss ended too soon.
An embarrassing groan of disappointment left my mouth, but it couldn’t be helped. Luckily, Garrick wasn’t done. He stood, and pulled me up by my elbows. He drew me in until our bodies fit together in a way that hadn’t been possible when I was seated.
“That’s better,” He said.
I didn’t bother agreeing. I just lifted up on my tiptoes and kissed him.
Compared to our earlier kiss, this one was slow, exploratory, and like kindling on a fire. One of his hands curled around my neck, his thumb pressing gently into my collarbone. The other danced from my hair to my shoulder to my hip, and then back.
For once in my life, I concentrated simply on the feel of a guy against me, the brush of his tongue against mine, the pinpricks of heat where his fingers pressed into my skin. I didn’t think about anything—not about my breath, or whether my hands were in the right place, or what he was expecting. I lost myself in him.