"Holy shit." I said it out loud, and stopped in the middle of the sidewalk, mid-step, staring at the picture on my phone. "He's...hot."
I scrolled the picture on the screen, increasing the size to get a closer look, noting it was a scan from the back of a book. "Oh, that's right," I thought, "He's a writer."
He was definitely hot, for a guy the age of my parents. He had a thin nose and high forehead, dark eyes with fine lines at the corners, and dark hair that fell around his face in waves. He didn't look anything like his sister, my Aunt Eileen—she was pale and blonde, sort of plain—he looked dramatic. "I hope he's not a snob."
I pushed through the crowd and into the terminal looking around for the escalators my mom had told me would be a good place to watch for him. I scanned the people standing nearby, but none of them looked like the face on the screen of my phone. I checked it again, and then read the bio beside it.
"Jamie Doyle was born in Wexford, Ireland. He has published eight novels including Streets of Arklow, Over the Wire, and Marrakesh which won the Genneson Literary Award in 2002. Mr. Doyle has lived in Boston, Belize, and Cairo. He currently makes his home in Dublin."
"Sounds like a big deal," I thought. "God, I hope he's not full of himself."
My Aunt Eileen wasn't really my aunt, but I'd called her that my whole life. She was my mother's best friend from college. They'd lived together for a few years before my mom got married, and stayed in close touch even after Eileen moved halfway across the country. I loved Aunt Eileen; she was a lot of fun, full of energy. She often visited in the summer when she was off from teaching, and when she did, the house filled with infectious laughter.
I'd never met her brother, but I'd heard her talk about him. She'd said they were very different, he was more serious and reserved, but the two of them had always been close. I had no idea what to expect, which made me apprehensive. He would be in my car for the entire two hour drive to my mom's. What if we found nothing to talk about? I wasn't normally self-conscious or doubtful, but I definitely felt the beginnings of nervous butterflies in my stomach. Maybe his handsome face had something to do with that.
"Excuse me. Are you Charlotte?"
I jumped and turned to the voice at my elbow. It was him, and my first thought was that the photo hadn't done him justice; he was gorgeous. It took me a few seconds to recover from my surprise.
"I— Yes. Hi. You're Mr. Doyle? I'm sorry, I didn't know the flight had come in already. Were you were waiting a while?" I put my phone into my bag hoping he hadn't seen what I'd been looking at when he'd walked up.
"Not at all, we just now arrived." He smiled and I felt like my insides were liquifying. His accent was fantastic. He radiated cool. "I hope you haven't been waiting long."
"No, I just—wait—," I said, perplexed, "How did you know who I was?"
He smiled again. "My sister told me to look for a girl with long brown hair, around a meter and a half tall, with a slim build and pretty face. An excellent description, now that I've seen you." He peered at me a little closer. "Though she failed to mention your lovely green eyes."
For a second I stared at him, slightly undone. It seemed impossible he was flirting with me, but his compliment made me blush. I watched the way his face creased when he smiled, noticed his soft brown eyes, and the silver threaded through his dark hair, and decided he was even better looking than he'd been ten seconds ago, if that was even possible.
"I appreciate you coming out for me. I hope it wasn't too much of a bother." He put out his hand. "Please call me Jamie."
I shook his hand, regaining my composure—though the heat that transferred from his hand to mine zipped straight through me, ending deep in my belly where a little thrill of arousal stirred. "It was easy, and I'm glad to do Aunt Eileen a favor."
The drive was smooth for the first hour. We talked the entire way, about family, the places we lived, and then about what we did—his writing and my three years of college. I was surprised to find him very easy going and comfortable to be around. He was remarkably down-to-earth. I felt a little embarrassed to have worried he'd be a snob. When he talked about his work, there was obvious affection for the craft of writing, but he was modest about his own publications. If he was such a big deal in the literary world, it hadn't gone to his head.
We hit traffic on the highway and eventually came to a complete stop. There must have been an accident ahead of us, because no one was moving. We sat for twenty minutes at a dead stop, but I was enjoying his company so much I was almost sorry when at last the knot of cars began to loosen and traffic started to creep forward again.
We were about twenty minutes from my mom's house when the topic of conversation got more personal. I found out he'd never been married and wasn't currently (and hadn't been in a while) in a relationship.
"To be honest, I haven't got the time for anything...substantial," he said. "I wouldn't be much use as a partner these days. I'm away more than I'm home, and when I'm home I'm locked in my office with my head in a story, scribbling away. But what about you, you must have a queue of fellows hoping to catch your eye."
"Hardly!" I laughed. "I've dated a little, and I did have a boyfriend for a few months."
"But...?" Jamie prompted.
"But, I broke up with him. He was a great guy and all," I said. "I mean, he was smart and funny and good looking, but...I just felt like he wanted me to be someone else a lot of the time. He was always telling me not to say stuff, or not to talk politics or whatever. It bothered him if I knew something he didn't, or if I had a strong opinion that was different from his."
"Hmm, well, if you're smarter than he is," Jamie said. "He probably felt threatened."
"Yes!" I said, excitedly. I'd thought the same thing. "That's exactly what it was; I was threatening. How stupid is that? He actually accused me of trying to make him look dumb in front of his friends." I couldn't keep the indignant tone out of my voice. "It's not like I was competing or showing off or anything."
"I'm sure you weren't." He laughed softly, almost to himself, and I felt a stab of fear that he was laughing at me. When I looked over he turned his face toward me, smiling.
"I'm not laughing at you, love," he said, putting his hand on my arm to reassure me. "I'm laughing because I went through the same thing at your age, except I was the boy with the fragile ego." He removed his hand, but a pleasant warmth lingered where he'd touched me.
"I went with a girl for a while. I was crazy about her, but I was woefully unprepared. She was much stronger a force than I could handle. A marvelous, enchanting, seductive force but I couldn't have hoped to understand it or even appreciate it fully, though I thought I did." He laughed again, remembering, and was quiet for a few seconds. "I was in over my head. I'd wager your man was as well."
"My friends thought I was stupid to argue with him," I said. "They were all 'if you really love him, you'll want to make him happy'. They'd turn themselves inside out to suit their boyfriends. Maybe I'm just selfish, but that sounds like total bullshit to me." I felt my face go red, partly from the accidental swear and partly because I was getting pissed off all over again.
"Indeed," Jamie said after a brief silence. "I'm sure you're better off without him, Charlotte. You deserve a man who can meet you on your level—all levels—without needing to be above you in some way. And, trust me, there are men who will find your self-confidence and intelligence very attractive. I know I do."
I looked at him, unable to hide my surprise. Had he meant what he'd said? Had he meant it in that way? Maybe he had been flirting with me earlier. Maybe he still was. He met my gaze with a small smile, but I wasn't sure how to interpret it. I was too chicken to say anything, and I didn't find my nerve before we arrived at my mom's house a few minutes later.
When I heard Jamie and I were leaving the same day, I immediately offered to drive him to the airport, since I was going back to school in that direction anyway. I had to bite my lip to keep from grinning when he accepted my offer. The thought of another couple of hours alone with him was enough to keep me in a dull but constant state of arousal.
Throughout the weekend we had brief conversations, but there was nothing flirtatious or suggestive. I told myself I'd misinterpreted what he'd said at the airport and in the car and tried to leave it at that, except my eyes were drawn to him any time he was in the room, and more than once he saw me looking at him, but before I could look away he'd smile a small, sly smile that made my whole body go hot.
He and I took a walk on Sunday, down to the lake following a well-worn trail through the trees and down to the edge of the water. It was overcast, a little chilly, and to the west the sky was dark and threatening. I said if we were quick we'd be able to make it all the way around before it started to rain.
We walked slowly, and talked about the places we'd grown up and what we loved about them. We talked about cities we'd spent time in, and what our ideal spot to live would look like. It was all very casual, but my heart was beating fast just for being alone with him Jamie. I could feel how aroused I was, an anticipatory ache building inside me.
"I've been thinking about what you told me the other day," he said as we rounded the northern most end of the lake. "About the advice your girlfriends gave you." He glanced at me and I nodded, curious to see what he had on his mind. "About changing yourself for someone else, for their idea of who you're supposed to be.
"I think it would be a crime if you felt you had to change for someone else, Charlotte. I've watched you these past two days, and you're such an attractive girl; smart, self-confident, fearless." I felt myself go pleasantly warm.
"I know a lot of women believe they can't be whole without a man. Personally, I think that's—as you say—bullshit." He smiled when I looked at him. "I would guess you do too."
He stopped walking and looked up at the sky, squinting at the clouds. A fine mist had been falling, but it was starting to turn to real rain. "I think we'd better step it up a pace," he said, and started walking a little more quickly.
We'd only gotten twenty paces along before the sky opened completely. Cold rain poured down on us. I squealed with surprise. "We've still got a half a mile to go," I said as we both broke into a jog. "We're going to be soaked." I struggled with the hood of my jacket, trying to pull it over my head.
"Is there somewhere to shelter?" Jamie asked, looking around. There were no buildings on this side of the lake, only a dense swatch of pine and spruce trees bordering the northern side of the lake. "Over there?" He pointed and without another word, we both put our heads down and ran for the cover of the trees.
We were soaked by the time we made it under the dark branches of the trees. My hair and face were streaming and my clothes clung to me, wet and cold and heavy. I ran my hand over my face to clear the rain from my eyes and looked over at Jamie.
He stood with his arms held awkwardly from his side, his jacket dark with rain, water dripping from his fingertips. He looked at me and we both burst into laughter. We were panting from having run so fast. For a few seconds we just stood laughing, breathing hard, and dripping onto the soft ground beneath us.
I wrung out the bottom edge of my skirt, and plucked at the fabric of my top, trying to draw the cold cotton away from my skin. I could feel that the water had soaked through my thin jacket and shirt. I would've been surprised to find a dry square inch of fabric. I looked up at Jamie. His smile was huge.
"I haven't run that hard in ages," he said, shaking his head. Still laughing, he ran his hands through his wet hair, sending a stream of water down the back of his jacket. He looked over at me, still a little breathless, and I felt my head swim a little at the sight of his face, wet with rain, grinning so much that the creases at the corner of his eyes joined with the little curves around his mouth.
I backed in, closer to the trunk of a tree, hoping for a little more shelter. The thick branches of the pines spread out above us, creating a space that was strangely intimate. Water collected on the overhead branches where it dripped, cold and heavy, onto the tops of our heads. The air smelled of pine resin and wet earth, and the rain was one solid noise around our shelter. Once we'd gotten over our initial surprise and recovered from the mad dash out of the rain, we were silent for a few long minutes, both of us busy wringing water from our sleeves.
"I'm soaked through," Jamie said. He'd unzipped his jacket and was examining his wet shirt. "I couldn't be wetter if I fell into the ocean."
"I feel like I did fall in," I replied. I wrung water from my long hair and ran my fingers over it to try to smooth it down. I was aware of Jamie looking at me as I did. When I looked up, he smiled.
He took a step toward me and reached out, pushing a lock of wet hair away from my eyes. "Ah, but Charlotte," he said. His fingertips grazed my temple as he tucked the stray hair behind my ear, and I froze, as a wave of heat spread through me. "Even soaking wet you're beautiful."
I stayed frozen for a second, my heart suddenly beating faster. He was so close, and so attractive. He tucked another strand of hair behind my ear and slid his hand down my cheek and under my chin, holding my face gently as his eyes searched mine. I had no doubts about his feelings; there were plain on his face.
"When I said I found you attractive, I meant it," he said after a while. "To me, there's nothing more attractive than an intelligent and beautiful woman with opinions she's not afraid to voice. I like a woman who knows what she wants." He looked at me, his face serious, and I felt a delightful shiver pass through me.
I wanted him, but for the moment all I could do was stare at him in disbelief as he bent and pressed his lips to mine. He kissed me once very softly and as he drew back, a sudden, sharp ache flared inside me. I felt momentarily light, like I'd been lifted from the ground. I reached out and moved toward him in one motion, grasped the front of his jacket, and kissed him.
For just a moment I didn't hear the rain, didn't feel the cold weight of my drenched clothes, just the softness and the heat of his lips against mine. He responded, kissing me back, our lips meeting passively at first, then more intentionally. We kissed slowly and carefully, and my whole body buzzed with arousal. I felt it in my breasts and belly, and lower down as wet heat built inside my pussy.
His mouth was so warm and soft against mine, so gentle it made me feel like I'd never been kissed before. This was nothing like other kisses I'd had, it was like they had been practice, a warm-up for the real thing: for this. And I wanted more already. I thought I'd never wanted anything else so much before. I ached for it. My heart was beating fast again, as fast as it had beaten while I'd been running from the rain.
I moved closer to him and angled my head, inviting him to kiss me more deeply. His mouth opened against mine and I felt his tongue testing and searching. I let it slip between my lips and when it touched mine, I clutched at his jacket lapel. He drew back, maybe thinking I was trying to push him away, and looked at me, concerned.
"No, don't stop," I said. I took his hand and laid it over my breast. His fingers flexed immediately and he studied my face for a moment, clearly surprised.
"Oh love," he said. "Your heart's beating so fast." A lock of hair fell over his temple, a bead of rainwater gathering at its point. I watched it swell and finally drip, vanishing as it soaked into the wet fabric of my shirt. "Like a little bird's wings," he said as he brought his mouth back to mine.
We kissed again, my hand over his, resting on my breast. He stepped me back a pace and pressed himself against my body, dropping his mouth to my neck. I felt the sudden solidity of the tree trunk behind my back and then the searing heat of his tongue on my cold skin.
"You taste like the rain," he murmured as he kissed my throat. "Soft and clean."
I felt the pressure of his lips against my skin, the throb of my pulse beneath it and I couldn't help but moan. His fingers stroked my breast, sending ripples of pleasure through my whole body. His other hand slid down my hip, gathering the fabric of my skirt upward until he could move his hand beneath the hem. There was the shock of the cold fabric dripping onto my bare thigh and then the slight heat of his palm as it spread out over my skin.
As his hand made its way up and between my thighs I had a moment of panic. Did I want this? Should I want it? Did it bother me that he was twice my age? Did it bother me I'd only known him three days? Did it bother me that his sister was someone I'd come to think of as a member of my family?
All questions faded from my mind as his fingers moved between my thighs and curved around my sex. The crotch of my panties was the one place the rain hadn't soaked, but as his fingers slid over the fabric, pressing up against my pussy, I could tell I was wet from excitement. He stroked for a few seconds while his mouth continued to explore my neck and throat, trailing kisses. I jumped when he bent his fingers, applying pressure, and then my knees went and I slid down, pressing myself even harder against his hand in the process. I squealed, partly from surprise, but more from the sudden streak of pleasure that zipped through me.
"I've got you," Jamie said as both hands moved to catch me. He straightened, holding me by the waist, and looked at me. He lifted my arms and positioned them to wrap around his neck. "Hold onto me, love."
I knitted my fingers at the back of his neck as his hand drew my skirt up again. Once more I felt the heat and pressure of his hand and realized with a thrill he was slipping it inside my panties. A moment later his finger slid over my vulva and I gasped as the sensation made my head swim. He stroked slowly without slipping between the outer lips, watching my face. Then his finger dipped inside and continued stroking lightly, teasingly enough that I found myself moving my hips in response, unconsciously trying to direct his touch.
"My God, you're wet," He said. "Maybe you did fall into the ocean after all."
He smiled a knowing and unbelievably sexy smile and shifted his weight slightly. I felt his fingers fan out, pressing the outer lips of my vulva apart, and then the barest touch as he dragged a finger along the length of my sex. I bit my lip and waited as he moved with agonizing slowness, circling over and around, searching and exploring, but steering clear of my clit. I squirmed each time his finger moved close, stimulating the flesh around it, and he would focus there for a while, moving even more slowly than before until he had me moaning with a mix of pleasure and frustration.
I had one clear thought as he touched me: this man was skilled. The boys I'd had sex with previously hadn't known what they were doing, at least, it hadn't felt anything like this.
I could feel my body tightening inside as he navigated my most private landscape, urging me a little closer to the peak. How many times he did this, bringing me closer and closer, I don't know. Time was no longer a concept I needed or cared to attend to. I felt the cold rain, the wind that stung my exposed legs, the rough wood behind my back, but they were dim sensations, nothing like the feeling spinning inside me, tethered to the motions Jamie's fingers made over my pussy.