Not My Type: Adele Ch. 03byfirstkiss©
The muscles worked furiously in Nate's throat as he swallowed again, this time dryly. There was a strange sense of expectancy in the air as I waited for him to respond. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't move. I couldn't believe I said it aloud.
An internal struggle danced across Nate's face. I could see him fight with himself for a moment and I hated myself a bit for subjecting him to that, feeling very acutely that his life would be so much simpler if we never met each other.
Then Nate smiled at me, just a small, slow smile that revealed nothing of what was going on behind his lovely brown eyes. "Eat your lunch, sweetheart," he prompted.
I could feel my chin wobble a little, as if I was going to cry. How could he not acknowledge what I'd just said? I fought the urge to take a deep, shuddering breath and instead looked down at my sandwich, my appetite gone. Tears swam at the corners of my eyes, but I refused to give them leave to fall.
Beneath the table our knees still touched. Nate reached down and squeezed mine with a tender, encouraging sort of pressure. "Eat Adele and then we'll talk. Can't face these sorts of things on an empty stomach, now can we?"
"You can preach on an empty stomach," I said a little petulantly. Instantly I regretted my tone, knowing how hurt and childish it made me sound.
Nate chuckled. "Yeah, that may be, but I wasn't planning on preaching to you."
There was a husky catch in the back of Nate's throat and I raised my head in time to see his eyes darken. His gaze flickered down to my lips and then back up to meet mine. Gone was the mild-mannered Reverend. In his place was a man whose breath came just as raggedly as my own, whose pulse in the wrist resting against my knee was just as fast.
We were slipping and we knew it. But not on empty stomachs. I smiled at him.
The sandwich was good, even if I only managed to eat half of it before I had to admit defeat. Nate finished the remainder of mine. There was tea to wash it down with, and a few homemade cookies for dessert, no doubt made by the ample, intrusive Mrs. Macintyre. I smiled at the thought that she'd hate Nate sharing them with me. Outside, the snow whipped against the windows, falling faster and thicker as the minutes slipped by. Esther watched our silent meal with wise, golden eyes but said nothing.
Wordlessly Nate rose, collected our empty dishes, and rinsed them off in the sink. He bent briefly to ruffle Esther's golden ears before he turned back to me and held out his hand. I took it without speaking and let him pull me to my feet. He lead me silently from the kitchen to the adjoining room, one crowded by a long, low couch, a matching armchair, an upright piano by the window, and a big fireplace centered on the wall. He stopped on the carpet in front of the hearth, released my hand, and crouched to lay fire to the already waiting kindling. It caught instantly and chased the damp chill away.
When he stood again Nate turned to face me and captured both my hands in his. I could tell there were words perched on the edge of his lips, but instead he let his eyes roam over my face. I stood stock-still and let him look. My heart beat so fast I was sure it would simply just stop if he so much as said one word. I, in turn, didn't trust my voice not to betray my fear and excitement. Both were palpable.
We stood so close to each other I could feel his chest brush mine as it rose and fell with the rapid rhythm of his lungs. Nate was just tall enough that I had to tilt my chin slightly to meet his eyes, and it made me dizzy to look up at him for so long without speaking, without moving. Or maybe it was just him that made me dizzy. I couldn't be certain when everything was such a muddle in my brain.
Nate's mouth hovered over mine, so temptingly close, and yet for unending minutes neither of us moved. The moment drew out so long, stretching so delicately that it seemed as if anything could make it snap. I didn't want to lose it though. We'd lost it twice already -- a week before at Rhi's and again earlier that afternoon in the church. This time though there was no one to interrupt us. We were alone with only the wind-blown snow singing outside and the crackle of the fire in the hearth at our feet.
My throat ached with wanting him to kiss me.
I would have thought that with all the time it took us to get to that point, that my first kiss with Nate would be frenzied -- a desperate battle and a passionate surrender. Instead it was a gentle brush of his mouth against my own, just a few seconds of clinging contact, soft and sweet like a benediction. Still, I felt it down to my toes.
Confused, I opened my eyes to meet Nate's. From the innocence in his kiss I expected to see the polite, Reverend's smile reflected back at me, instead his eyes were dark with something unnamed. He held his body taut, sternly controlled. I could feel his muscles tighten, holding on to something he wouldn't unleash.
I knew his struggle. It was the same as the one inside of me, the one that longed to curl my arms around his strong neck and melt against him, the one that wanted to beg him to kiss me again, so long and hard that I'd forget how to stand. I would have given him everything in that moment, if only he asked.
We were playing with fire hotter than the one that burned at our feet.
I bent my head and studied our clasped hands, mine so pale and slender within his strong, finely sculpted fingers. My thumbs stroked over his knuckles, a soft promise of understanding. I raised one of his hands to my mouth and kissed the back of it. Nate in response tipped my own hand upside-down and pressed a kiss in my palm.
He was smiling as our eyes met.
"Would you like to see the rest of the house?"
His voice was husky, full of all the same aching hunger I felt in my belly. I nodded.
He tilted his head to one side in that increasingly endearing way he had. "Well, this is the livingroom," he chuckled. The outward gust of his breath brushed my tingling lips like a teasing caress. Nate took a step back from me, and with one hand still enfolding mine, led me back out across the hall, and through the doorway opposite.
"This is my study." The room was dark, the curtains drawn. There was another fireplace here, this one unlit. The walls were lined in bookshelves, each crammed to the bursting point. In the centre of the room there was a monstrously large desk covered in a layer of papers and file folders. There was no computer, but there was an old typewriter on a small table in the corner. The big banker's chair behind the desk looked well loved and well used. There were a few other chairs scattered about the room, each replete with floral cushions and crocheted doilies. I traced a finger over the one at my elbow.
"Mrs. Macintyre?" I giggled.
Nate eyed the handcrafted bit of lace with something akin to weary acceptance. He sighed heavily. "Yes."
It looked like a Presbyterian Minister's study should, although perhaps a little messier. My own office, by comparison, was painfully neat. I had to admit to myself that I rather liked the chaos. It looked like a comfortable place to spend time.
"The dining room is through there," Nate nodded towards a door at the back of the room. "I never use it though. I suppose its hosted innumerable elders and local officials, but during my tenure it's been woefully neglected."
"You should have everyone over for dinner," I suggested. I could easily see Nate residing at the head of his table, his blond head thrown back with laughter, surrounded by his friends in a room filled with love.
"It's no fun planning a dinner party without help."
I knew what he was insinuating, but instead of answering him, I just squeezed his hand. Nate took up the hint and we went back out into the hall. To our right a staircase rose a little steeply to the second floor.
Nate went up first and I followed. At the top of the stairs there was a small landing where four doors branched off.
"Bathroom," Nate nodded towards the first door to the right. "Spare room is through there," I poked my head into the doorway to catch a glimpse of chintz papered walls and an old iron bedstead stacked with more cushions.
"My bedroom's the small one at the end," Nate said vaguely. He cleared his throat with a gruff cough and for a moment I wondered a little wickedly if he wasn't going to suggest we check it out. I almost giggled like a fool.
"And this," Nate swung me around and pulled me through the third door. He flipped on the light and the room's contents came into view. "This is my music room."
I don't know what I'd been expecting, but it wasn't a music room. My laughter rang off the low, sloping ceilings. A drum set dominated one corner, opposite a baby grand piano. There were a few slouchy, battered armchairs and no less than four guitars, both electric and acoustic, scattered around the room.
"Wow," I teased as I stepped further inside. I flicked my fingernail against one of the drum's cymbals. The faint note floated between us. "This is impressive. How in heaven's name did you get the baby grand up the stairs?"
Nate smiled slowly, pleased with himself. "With difficulty and help. And a few muttered prayers. Do you play?"
"Oh God no," I said with a laugh. "I'm the least musical person on the planet, I'm afraid. Not for lack of trying though. I was forced into a few years of piano lessons as a child."
He gestured towards the piano. "Help yourself."
I shook my head so vigorously my curls bounced against my cheeks. "Oh no, trust me. It was so long ago, I don't remember a thing about it."
"You're not giving yourself enough credit," Nate chided.
I shook my head again. "No, you don't understand. I was like, seven, and I was so bad my piano teacher begged my mother to let me quit. Apparently I was wasting everyone's time."
Nate took my elbow and propelled me towards the piano. "And you don't remember anything you learned?" He sat down on the piano bench and patted the empty space beside him. Warily, I sat down on the narrow bench. We were thigh-to-thigh, and hip-to-hip.
Instantly my hands spread to cover the keys, just as they had more than twenty-years ago. "Middle C?" I offered as my finger hovered over the centre key.
Nate's smile was beatific. He nodded. I pressed the key down, the ivory cool and smooth beneath my finger. The note sang crystal clear in the quiet room.
His hands covered my own, his long fingers curling down to envelope my own. "E-G-B-D-F," he murmured as he pressed each of my fingers down in turn onto the note in question. "That's the treble scale."
"Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge," I echoed, amazed that the silly little mnemonic had stayed with me all these years.
Nate chuckled in my ear. "Precisely. See? You remember."
"It doesn't matter anyway, I never practiced. And I was awful at keeping time," I confessed.
"Well that's easy," Nate reached past me to the little pyramid shaped wooden box perched on the top of the piano. He wound the key on the side, opened it, and set the weighted arm inside swinging. Instantly it began to tick a loud, steady rhythm. "It's a metronome. It keeps the time so you don't have to." He pressed my fingers down, over and over, to the rhythm laid out by the instrument. When he removed his hand from on top of mine, I kept up the repetition of the five notes, each to the tempo of the metronome.
"Perfect four-four time," Nate teased.
I let my fingers stop and the room grew quiet. I was all too aware of the man beside me, of the warmth of his body in the otherwise cool room. Unsure of what came next, I curled my hands on my lap
"When did you learn piano?" I asked softly.
"I don't remember a time when I didn't," Nate replied. He stretched his hands out over the keys, flexed them, and began to play. "I began on the piano before I could read. I was seven when I begged my parents to let me learn guitar too. They insisted I learn classical guitar first - the electric guitar and the drums didn't come until almost high school."
I watched mesmerized as his fingers moved up and down the keys, beautifully, confidently, playing out a piece of classical music I was ashamed to not know the name of. He didn't need even need sheet music. Nate's body swayed to the tempo, his leg against mine moved and flexed as he pressed the pedals, dampening the notes when he needed to before letting them soar free.
He played perfectly. I could hardly breathe with the wonder of it all. It made my chest ache with the loveliness of it.
"Thank you for playing for me," I whispered when the song ended and the last, lingering note had died away.
Nate turned his head to look down at me. A gentle smile sat at the corner of his lips. "No, thank you. It's been a long time since I've had anyone to play for."
"I've heard you before, you bring your guitar to Rhi and Joe's all the time," I reminded him.
He shook his head. "That's not the same. That's just silliness, just for fun."
This means more than that.
He didn't say it, but the words sat in the small space between us. I shivered.
"Look," Nate said in his low, richly timbered voice. "About what happened downstairs by the fireplace..."
I held up my hand. "Please don't ruin it by apologizing."
Nate's answered chuckle reverberated down to my toes. "Apologize? I wasn't going to apologize, sweetheart." He paused and gave me a slow smile, one filled with intent. "I was going to do it again."
He captured my lips with his own, just as gently as he had downstairs.
I wanted more, of course, but I reined myself in and let Nate lead. His mouth slanted over mine, soft and hot, with just enough insistence to remind me that there was something burning more fiercely beneath the surface. I moaned into his kiss and Nate answered by cupping my cheeks in his capable hands. When our lips parted he hovered close.
"You are so lovely," he murmured. He brushed another brief kiss across my lips, hardly more than a whisper of skin against skin.
I didn't know what to say. There was a sizable lump in my throat that wouldn't let me speak. Instead, I just smiled up into Nate's brown eyes. I was totally wrapped up in the moment -- any protests I might have had seemed to have fled the moment Nate touched me.
His hands moved gently to brush the curls from my face. He stroked one yellow ringlet with a small chuckle. "I knew there was a reason I met you."
"And what reason is that?" I breathed.
"So I didn't have to be alone any more."
All the air left me with an audible gasp. It was all happening too fast, the situation was sliding rapidly out of my control. I hadn't come to Nate's for this, had I?
I think he sensed the panic racing through me because he kissed me again, a little less cautiously than before. When his tongue teased against my bottom lip I thought I might fall over from both the shock of it and the pleasure.
It was wrong. I knew it was and I think Nate knew it too. He was so taut sitting beside me on the uncomfortable piano bench, so careful not too stray too far over the invisible line he'd drawn for himself.
Gently, slowly, Nate deepened the kiss and against my better judgement I found myself welcoming him with enthusiasm. I'd never been kissed quite like that before -- with a sense of wonder and reverence that made tears prickle at the edges of my eyes. How could it be wrong if it made me feel so wonderfully special?
I tried to enjoy the stolen moment while I was in it, because I knew I'd be wracked with guilt later. But really was there any punishment worse than wanting Nate and not being able to have him?
With a gasp I pulled away from the scalding heat of Nate's mouth. My heart felt like it was in my throat. I didn't move too far away though, just far enough that Nate's brown eyes came into focus. He watched me watch him and I knew he could see how much I wanted him. My need was reflected back at me, just as evident on his own face as it had to have been on mine.
Oh, I was going to burn in hell for this.
And then, as if I needed proof that I'd be punished for my transgressions, the lights went out. The music room was plunged instantly into an ominous, gloomy half-light. I jumped. Nate reached for my hand.
"Don't worry," he assured me as he pulled me to my feet. "It does this all the time." He lead me through the maze of instruments and back out into the hall. "The power goes out anytime there are more than three flakes of snow. Truthfully, I'm amazed it's lasted this long." We navigated the stairs carefully. Esther was waiting at the bottom to lead us into the livingroom where the fire still burned cheerily in the hearth.
Nate and I moved to the window and pushed aside the curtains. I gasped. He whistled lowly.
What had begun earlier that morning as a gentle dusting of snow had at some point grown into a full-fledged blizzard. I couldn't see more than a few feet from the building. Even the bright light from the lighthouse was hardly more than a blur through the mass of wind-whipped white. Somewhere out there my car was buried in the parking lot. I shuddered to think of the state of the road.
"What am I going to do?" I whispered. I craned my neck, trying desperately to see if perhaps there was a break in the clouds somewhere outside my immediate line of vision. There wasn't. It was an endless wall of white.
"There isn't much you can do but wait it out," Nate answered.
"Here?" I squeaked. "Alone? With you? In the dark?"
Nate chuckled. "Seems like it."
I closed my eyes and wobbled a little on the spot. There was a headache forming between my eyes. I pinched at it with the hand not being held by Nate.
"I won't take advantage of you," Nate teased. "I'm perfectly trustworthy, you know."
It wasn't Nate I had a problem trusting.
"What will people say?" I whispered.
"No one will know. I'm the only person who lives down here; if the road is impassable they'll never know the difference."
I considered the logic in that, but there was still a lot of fear nagging at me. "Someone will find out," I muttered. "They always find out. You have a reputation to protect."
"I am so damn sick of worrying about my 'reputation'," Nate growled in a tone tinged with uncharacteristic cynicism.
Surprised, my gaze flew up to meet his. There was a dark scowl on his face, one which did little to mar the handsomeness of his features. I'd never heard him swear before.
"I should think you'd be used to it by now," I whispered. "It sort of comes with the territory."
He sighed heavily. "I know. It's not something I can turn on and off when it suits me, no matter how much I'd like to wish I could."
"So what are we going to do? I can't stay here, people will assume the worst."
Nate turned his attention back to the snow-buffeted window. It was mid-afternoon, but the storm had turned the world so dark it easily could have been hours later. "I can't let you drive back to the city in this. You'll never make it."
I laughed softly. "I am a good Canadian girl from Montreal. I can drive through snow storms. It won't be the first time."
He shook his head. "They only plough my road on Sunday mornings. I can get stuck out here for days at a time during a storm. A wrong turn on the road and you can end up in the sea. No one comes this way during the week; there would be no one to help you if you needed it. I can't let you risk it, Adele. It's too dangerous."
A million worries and complications crowded in my head, pushing out any ability for rational thought. I knew travelling blizzard-drifted back roads was dangerous, but it seemed a safer alternative to being snowed-in with Nate.
He clasped my shoulders and gave them a reassuring squeeze. "Adele, sweetheart, this is the twenty-first century. What I do or don't do in the privacy of my own home is no one's business save my own. You're not about to be branded with a scarlet letter."