In a Stranger's Bed Ch. 13byJazzMatthews©
Mia neared the door Graham had entered through. She was relieved to hear that he wasn't tossing furniture in rage, but she was troubled by the silence. With her heart strumming frantically in her chest, she paused a moment to knock before walking in.
"Graham?" she asked as her eyes flew all over the room until they narrowed on Graham. He wasn't doing anything that would require an ambulance to come. He was merely staring out the window, his weight shifted to rest his right forearm against the molded window frame while his left hand unconsciously toyed with his Zippo lighter.
Mia didn't say anything, and neither did he. She studied his masculine profile with adoration and tenderness as it remained passive. The tick she noticed coming from his jaw demonstrated that he was only so far from losing control. He was trying to be a man about it, bottling all his emotions within. They were eating him alive, and he was doing everything within his power to prevent a breakdown.
"They say anythang to you?" he suddenly inquired, his timbre a quiet tone.
She had to confess that it was awkward when he abandoned her downstairs. She had sat there idly for a few moments, not wanting to be rude about getting up, but she merely gave a kind smile to his grandparents and parents before excusing herself and following him upstairs.
She took a moment to close the door behind her. "Who?" she inquired.
"You know who," came the deadpan response.
Mia shook her head, despite that Graham wasn't looking in her direction. "They couldn't," she confessed.
Graham instantly turned her way, now propping his back against the window frame and wall while his arms crossed his chest.
Mia cleared her throat and gave a carefree shrug. "She just broke down in tears, and your dad tried his best to comfort her." She tucked a strand of dark hair behind her ear and lowered her gaze to the wooden floorboards. "I've never seen anyone cry so much in my life."
Graham huffed and rolled his eyes heavenward. "Sorry if I find it a lil' hard to find pity for her." Mia felt his eyes shift to her, almost burning with intensity as he proceeded to study her despondent features. "What, you think I should forgive her?"
She gave him another carefree shrug. "You don't have to do what I think, but I think you should. The woman looked miserable and devastated."
"She's only had a sample of what we've been through," he answered coolly. "I ain't impressed much by the dramatics and waterworks."
"But they're your parents!"
Dark blue eyes glittered with intensity. "You sure got some notion of accusin' me for bein' unforgivin' when you're the one who ran away without solvin' your own problems." He chuckled humorlessly. "You outta evaluate your own situation before you try and tell me how to deal with mine."
Mia opened her mouth to fire something back his way, but shortly closed it. She had no room to argue. She still harbored bad feelings toward her own father. How can she tell him what to do when she was sitting in the exact same boat? She would give him that much, but the last thing she'd allow him to do was to completely crush her pride.
She reopened the door with the intention of going out. "I'm sorry for the intrusion," Mia replied with a little heat. "I'll just leave you and your attitude together."
Mia glanced back at him with a frown. "What on earth for?"
Graham sighed tiredly. "You wanderin' around downstairs will only give them or my grandparents a reason to prod into somethin' I sure as hell don't wanna explain." His eyes touched on the bed to indicate where he wanted her to go. "Sit"
She shook her head. "I think I should stand." Graham's frown began to return and Mia quickly amended, "Lately, we've been doing more than sitting or sleeping on beds. I just don't want to do that in your grandparents' house."
Graham snorted. "As long as you don't breakin' anythang or scream like you're dyin', they could care less." Dark sapphire eyes traced her body in a quick glance over. "And if I was gonna jump your bones, I wouldn't need a bed." He looked past her. "That door behind you is givin' me a few ideas."
Mia instantly pulled away from the door, bringing herself to sit down on the side closest to Graham. Graham then walked around to the unoccupied side of the bed to lie down next to her. Mia became a little tense, half expecting him to reach for her. Instead, he just folded one of his arms behind his head and glanced at his Zippo lighter, idly running his thumb over the blue gem at the center of its Celtic cross.
Graham was losing himself to his own thoughts, his own fears and uncertainties about the future. Mia couldn't help but feel the pain he kept locked away from her. He wouldn't vocally express his feelings like his brother Grant or brood like Gage. He was somewhere in between. The muscles in his jaw would move as if he wanted to speak, but would then clench shut, forbidding the words to come. Genuine compassion overwhelmed her as she stared down into his downcast eyes.
She leaned in closer. "Graham, I'm so--"
At that, Mia shied away, which made Graham exhaled slowly. "I'm sorry. It's just..." He briefly paused to collect his thoughts. "When my grandfather first got sick, I sorta drew into myself. Didn't wanna talk about it, wasn't as sociable in school. My teachers automatically started to send me to the school counselor so they could straighten me out. All I wanted was to be left alone." He tossed his lighter up and caught it. "I can't figure out why people are always tryin' to fix somethin' right away. Just let it stay broke for a while, and let me have time to deal with it in my own way."
Mia shook her head. "Talking about it helps. It's not healthy to keep it in."
His eyes flitted upon her. "I won't talk if I ain't prepared to." He paused again, taking a moment to study her countenance. "You ain't gotta be sorry. There's nothin' to apologize for. My granddaddy bein' sick ain't your fault. It's just the way thangs are."
Mia's face changed into a pensive expression. "How do you feel?"
"Can't honestly describe it," Graham replied. "Just seems so damn surreal, like I'm havin' an outta body experience. I just ain't all here right now, darlin', and I just don't wanna talk about it."
They lapsed into silence, each dealing with their own thoughts. He wasn't in the mood to talk, and she completely understood. She wasn't going to force him to do something he wasn't ready to do yet. However, Mia didn't realize until that very moment that her thoughts had been so full of concern for his emotional pain that she had neglected something else.
Her wide eyes flew to Graham. "Tucker."
If she had thought that would get him flying down the stairs, she was wrong. He stayed in his nonchalant position without casting his eyes her way. "He's not hurt."
"But when we were in the living room, your grandfather looked as if he wanted to shoot him."
"I'm sure Tucker's already been set down for the night."
That's what I'm afraid of. Mia reached out to him, resting a hand on his folded arm. "Please? I would, but I don't know your family like that, and with what you had said about you not wanting me to wander downstairs..."
Graham loitered a bit before getting to his feet and heading toward the door. "I'll check on him. Stay here."
Once the door shut, Mia tuned her ears to what she could hear from downstairs. Almost immediately, she heard a door slam and muffled voices walking away from the house. She went to the window and witnessed two figures, which she took for Graham's parents, slammed their car doors and turned the engine over. Then they turned the car around and drove down the dirt-lain driveway. Mia wondered if Graham had encountered his parents before they left, but luckily, they didn't stay to cause another scene.
She turned to glance over his room. It had masculine colors of blue and dark mahogany wood, but it still had the evidence of a younger Graham who had once resided here. Mia browsed the bookshelf that still had encyclopedias, dictionaries and literary novels. They were probably books that he had to read for summer reading programs when he was in school. There were also a few newspaper articles framed and hanging upon the walls and on his desk.
On his desk, there was a particular newspaper clipping framed, the bold headline stating that he had won a local scholar award. He had a firm grip on an older gentleman's hand and holding his certificate as they both stared at the camera. A grin of pride and youth stretched wide across his boyish seventeen-year-old face, which was surrounded by rowdy black curls. Seeing evidence that Graham's boyhood had existed made Mia smile. If it wasn't for his occasional, mischievous smiles, Mia would have had trouble picturing that such a man had once been this younger boy with a bright future before him.
Graham found her in that exact position when he returned to the room. Mia turned into his direction, and Graham came to her. "You don't have to worry about Tucker," he assured. "He's leashed on the back porch having the time of his life with the old sofa chair. He'll be all right." He then diverted his eyes down to cast a fleeting glimpse at the object that once held her attention. He scoffed. "God, that's an awful picture."
"Actually, I think it's quite charming," Mia countered. "It's been hard to imagine you as this scholastic scholar. Now I actually see the proof."
Graham raised a dark eyebrow. "And how do you think I got into Duke in the first place?"
Mia tilted her head. "I don't know. You can be charming when you want to be."
"Charm had nothin' to do about it," Graham replied. "I worked my ass off to earn every scholarship and award I got so that I could get into a college I wanted. And contrary to what you might believe, I ain't all brawn all the time. I got some intelligence to go along with it."
She glanced down to the newspaper article again, reflective. "Yeah. I'll give you props for being clever. You manipulated me."
"I didn't force you to do a damn thang."
"No," she amended. "Not force." Mia backed away until she returned to the window and glanced out into the night. "Everything between us has happened so fast. I guess I'm a little sad that it's just a matter of time before we have to go our separate ways."
Graham was behind her in a second. He gently turned her toward him and with the use of his thumb and forefinger, he lifted her head so that her light whiskey eyes focused upon him. "Don't think about it," he murmured softly.
"Why not? It's always going to be there and it's hard not to."
For the longest time, it seemed, Graham did nothing but stand there, silently regarding her. Mia just didn't know how he was going to react to what she had just said. In a subtle way, she had hinted that it wasn't her temporary freedom from duty and obligation that she would miss. She would miss him way more than that.
"What if I just look the other way and let you go?"
Mia was surprised. "What you mean?"
"Your father ain't gotta know that I had you. If I just get you set up so that you can continue on with whatever you're doin', goin' out west to find yourself or whatever, I can do that." He shrugged and placed a hand into his pocket. "I know that it ain't my place to say so, but I find that I'd do almost anythang to see you smile."
Was this the same man who all but hated her earlier that morning? Was he really willing to do this just for her happiness? Just the sudden declaration of it stripped her of anything to say.
"Why are you starin' at me like that?" he asked.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"I'm not sure if I saw you drink anything at dinner."
A slight smile curved his mouth. "A man can have a change of heart."
"Considerin' with all that has happened to me lately, I can say yeah, he can."
Mia blinked. "What's the catch?"
"No catch." He studied her. "You gonna go?"
"No," she simply said. "You're right. I shouldn't be trying to run from my problems. I'll go back and try to mend things with my dad before they get worse. Maybe I can get him to sit down and listen to me for once."
She diverted her eyes away, her mind reflective upon what he had just told her. Mia smiled shyly. "What made you say that?"
His head popped up, his dark blue eyes bewildered. "What?"
"That you'd do almost anything to see me smile. I just wouldn't have thought you'd ever say something like that."
Graham drew a little closer. "I'm just full of surprises, darlin'."
Mia smiled. "Now that's something I believe, but why say it? You meant it?"
"I said it, didn't I?"
"That doesn't answer my question. Just what are you trying to tell me?"
Mia placed her fisted hands upon her hips. "Graham..."
"Just tell me straight out--"
"I care, all right?" All she could do was blink as he took a moment to take some air into his lungs. "I care enough that I'd want you to be safe off and happy at the end. So yeah, I care. You happy?"
Happy wasn't how Mia felt, but she had a sense of supreme elation. It made her wonder how deep his caring could go. Could it come a time before he took her back home that he would ask her not to go? To stay with him as he goes through this difficult time as his support and lover? Could his caring possibly develop into something deeper like love?
Mia was surprised at the turn her mind was taking. She was hoping almost desperately that Graham would ask her to stay, and she realized that she was willing to give up her own life of privilege just to be with him. She did care for him, this man of a thousand emotions, but somewhere along the emotional roller coaster, she fell in love with him.
That was it. She loved Graham Ryan. In just a short amount of time, she fell in love with his burst of temper, his killer smile, and his earnestness. He had to be the most earnest man she had ever known, far beyond her own father. Graham was the epitome of an honest man, and if she ever had a son, she would want him to be like him.
The way she was looking at him now almost made him uneasy. She was openly admiring him without thinking twice about it.
"What?" he asked. "You're lookin' at me like it's the first time you have. You okay?"
She was wonderful. Mia was looking at Graham in a whole new light, considering that her newfound love for him opened her eyes. And she was trying to push away the negative notion that he could possibly never love her in return.
Mia simply went up to him to bestow a lingering kiss on his strong jaw before leaning back to stare up into his beautiful blue eyes. "I'm great," she replied slowly. She placed a hand upon his cheek, cupping the scruffiness of his jaw. "That's the nicest thing anyone has said to me without thinking about my bank account. Thank you."
She stood on her tiptoes to give him a single kiss upon his lips, but once he had dipped down to receive her token of gratitude, their mouths refused to part. Graham savored the light, chaste pecks she gave him until his hungry need surfaced and he deepened the kiss to explore the divine sweetness of her mouth.
It was as if they were kissing for the first time. The electricity that crackled between them was just as magnetic as before. Mia would've fallen from the magnitude of their fiery passion if Graham's arms weren't around her for support. He drew back only a little to nibble on her pouting bottom lip, now a little swollen from the kiss. Then he lifted his head to stare into her luminous, light chocolate eyes, now hazy with desire.
"I can only pull back for so long, lil' bit," he whispered. "If you want me to stop, just tell me. You can say no if you want to." He took a hand to tenderly stroke the silky softness of her cheek. Mia closed her eyes, drawn to the motion of his hand and loving his gentle touch.
"No," she replied. Graham's features fell a little as he started to lower his hand, but Mia caught it in both of hers before raising it up to her lips to bestow a light kiss on it. "I want to."
And she showed him by slowly unbuttoning his shirt, revealing the masculine flesh that she had come to adore. She left it tucked within his pants, but her hands delved inside to explore. Her fingernails faintly traced the outline of his muscles, sensually scoring his side that only made Graham groan quietly with pleasure.
Mia pulled his shirt completely out, then proceeded to unbuckle his jeans and releasing his throbbing manhood from its prison. She wrapped her little fingers around him, her hand stroking up and down his shaft. It pulsed and jerked, as did Graham, who was holding to her shoulders to keep himself steady.
She was dedicating everything to memory. The way he was looking now, so lost in passion and barely conscious of her memorizing his handsome face. This was the man she loved. Someone she would give her very soul to, if he asked it. This could be the last time she would see him this way before she had to resume life without him. If this was all she would be granted, Mia would heartily take it. She could always look back fondly and say that she had loved someone with all her heart, even if he never returned it.
Mia lowered herself upon her knees, surprising Graham entirely when she took him into her mouth. His fingers wrapped themselves in her hair, his body tense due to the sexual current flowing through his veins, but it didn't stop his hips from moving. Her tongue swirled around the head of his rod, sucking upon the tip before dipping down to take as much as she could into her mouth.
"Oh, sweet Jesus," Graham strained. "Yes, my sweet, lil' darlin'. Just like that."
Mia took time to lovingly kiss and lick the underside of his erection, even going so far as teasing the sensitive skin of his scrotum. Graham groaned again, and before she could go in for the kill, he held her away from him. He persuaded her to stand to her full height, and his eyes bore into her as he attempted to gain some self control. His shoulders heaved and his powerful hand massaged her shoulders. All she could do was wait for another response.
Finally, a small, wolfish smile appeared. "Witch," he teased in a husky manner. "Who would've known that my lil' innocent was capable of such liberties."
Mia held her proud chin high. "You did it to me first. I only returned the favor."
Graham suddenly hefted her into his arms. Mia released a startled scream and placed her arms around his shoulders. "That's the thang about favors," Graham murmured as he carried her over to the bed and gently set her down. "They're never really returned. Just on borrowed time 'til I reciprocate." His eyes gleamed down at her as he stood by the bed, watchful. "How would you like me to repay you, darlin'?"
Mia, all but displaying the sincere admiration of her eyes, merely shook her head. "I don't want any favors," she responded in a soft voice. "Just you."
His eyes changed shades, and a dark, hidden expression developed within them. She wasn't sure if he was displeased with her honest answer, and if he was now going to turn away from her. He did, but only to go over to the door to lock it. Then he came back to her side and held out his hand. "Stand up for me, lil' bit."
Mia took his hand and rose. Graham held her close to his body for a few precious seconds, his cheek resting against the crown of her head while inhaling her subtle, tangy fragrance. She buried her nose into his open shirt, her senses surrendering to the heat exuding from him and barely contained sexual tension that pulsed within him.
"I don't know what it is about you," he whispered. "Just holdin' you in my arms gets me goin'."
His thumb traced the curve of her soft jaw, his eyes following the action before returning to hers. "Take this off," he commanded softly, gesturing to his shirt.