Not My Type: Adele Ch. 04byfirstkiss©
Nate returned to the living room with two mugs in hand and a big book tucked under his arm.
"It's still snowing like crazy," he revealed as he passed me my cup of tea before settling on the opposite end of the couch. The cold had left his cheeks flushed. He stretched out his legs and pushed his toes against my thigh. Even through the layers of our clothes I felt how chilly they were.
I jumped a little, laughing. "It's cold out too!"
He wigged his toes against me. The little gesture felt deliciously wicked. "Oh, I'm sure you'll warm me up."
I couldn't contain my laughter. I never ever thought I'd be flirting with a man of the cloth.
"I'm sure I will." I tweaked one of his toes. They were long, but then again his feet were quite big, so I supposed it was all in proportion. Of course that thought made my mind wander into just what the rest of Nate was proportioned like. I believe I blushed.
"What are you reading?" he asked with a grin.
I held up the worn book so he could read the title embossed in faded gold across the cover.
"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife," Nate quoted. "Pride and Prejudice—nice."
"It's one of my favourites," I confessed. I loved the idea of a couple ending up together despite all prior misunderstandings. A small part of me wanted to believe it could happen like that in real life. "What are you reading?"
Nate turned over the thick book so I could see the cover. The Bible. I should have known. I almost laughed aloud.
"Isn't it dreadfully boring?" I asked.
"Parts of it, yes," he admitted. He opened the book and flipped through it until he found the passage he wanted. "And then some of it is quite extraordinary." Nate cleared his throat and began to read.
"How beautiful you are, my love! How your eyes shine with love behind your veil. Your hair dances like a flock of goats bounding down the hills of Gilead."
I grinned. "Like a flock of goats?"
He held up a hand to still my comment and his eyes twinkled. "Your hair dances when you move, I'll have you know. Hold on, it gets better.
"Your lips are like a scarlet ribbon; how lovely they are when you speak. Your cheeks glow behind your veil. Your neck is like the tower of David, round and smooth, With a necklace like a thousand shields hung around it. Your breasts are like gazelles, twin deer feeding among the lilies...
"The look in your eyes, my sweetheart and bride, And the necklace you are wearing have stolen my heart. Your love delights me, my sweetheart and bride, Your love is better than wine; your perfume more fragrant than any spice. The taste of honey is on your lips, my darling; Your tongue is milk and honey for me..."
I sat speechless. It was lovely, yes, but it wouldn't have affected me half so much if it had been read by anyone else. Nate's husky voice filled the words with meaning I never would have found on my own.
"Song of Songs," Nate said softly. He closed the book on his lap.
"That's..." I trailed off, flustered.
"I was going to say, 'beautiful'."
"Goats and gazelles, though? Really?"
Nate pressed his now much warmer toes into my thigh. "I'm sure at one time it was a great compliment. Besides, there's something rather attractive about the way gazelles move. Light and free... graceful."
"Yes, but can breasts be light, free, and graceful?"
Nate's gaze wander traveled over my sweater, where the lilac cashmere clung to my modest frame. "Yes," he said in a gruff tone. His eyes had gone dark.
A blizzard was raging outside yet I had to resist the urge to fan myself with Pride and Prejudice. I wasn't ready yet for Nate to know exactly how much he affected me.
Had I already turned the page from off limits to definite possibility when it came to Nate?
"Why did you join the church?" I asked quickly before the conversation veered back into a forbidden direction. I had to know why someone as passionate as Nate obviously was would dedicate himself to a life where that part of him was discouraged, or if not discouraged then at least reined severely in.
He watched me for a moment. "That's a long story."
I gestured over my shoulder at the snow-blinded view from the window. "I've got time."
Nate didn't answer.
"I should know, Nate. Don't you think I deserve to know?"
He pressed his lips together in a fine line before nodding.
"Once upon a time..." he began while he ran a long-fingered hand through his light hair. "Once upon a time I was going to be a rock star."
My eyes widened with surprise.
Nate held up his hands in mock astonishment. "I know, I know. Shocking. But music was my life. I ate, breathed, and slept it. In high school a few of my friends and I started a band. It was the early nineties -- alternative grunge rock was in... we all wanted to be Kurt Cobain... without the drugs, of course." He laughed dryly.
"And we were actually pretty good. The guys and I devoted ourselves to the band wholeheartedly. I even went to university close to home so we could stay together."
I opened my mouth but Nate answered my next question before I voiced it.
"University of Toronto, Bachelor of Arts Honours for Musical Performance and Theory, naturally. I studied and performed classical music all day and then played rock gigs at night. We actually gained quite a local fan base. We were even lucky to open a few shows for some pretty major acts. It was exciting. We were going to make it."
He looked up at me then. Haunted was the only word to describe his expression. Had I realized it was going to be such a hard story to tell, I wouldn't have asked him anything.
"What went wrong?" I prompted gently, my curiosity unabated by my reticence.
"Things were going really well, we'd cut a demo a few months earlier and it was getting airplay on the local radio stations. We had an agent lining up record labels interested in recording our first album... we just had to decide which offer to take. Adrian, our lead singer, wanted to go out and celebrate—"
"You weren't lead singer? But you have a beautiful voice!"
Nate smiled at me. "Thank you, but I wasn't. I was too shy and I didn't have the right sort of personality to be the front man of a rock band. Adrian though, he was born to it. He had the larger-than-life persona and the distinctive voice. I could write the songs, but he made them great.
"When Adrian took the stage people noticed. Everyone loved him. And the women... he made them appear like magic and always had his pick. He was funny and charming, just so cool... there's no other word for it. Adam reminds me of him at times."
"So what happened?"
"We went out to celebrate that night--Adrian, our bassist Travis, and our drummer Brad. There was plenty to drink and then Adrian found us a group of pretty girls. It was every guy's dream and we couldn't believe we were living it. I remember I had a midterm the next morning in advanced musical theory so I cut out early. I was only a few credits away from my degree and once I graduated we'd all be free to advance our music career."
Part of me wondered if Nate had gone home alone or with one of the pretty girls, but I didn't dare ask.
"That night Adrian decided to drive home instead of calling a cab. He ran a red light and t-boned a tractor-trailer. He died on the scene. Travis was paralyzed from the neck down, and Brad, by stint of being in the back seat, only broke seventeen bones, including all the ones in his right arm. He never drummed again."
"Oh my god! Oh Nate, I'm so sorry." A wave of anguish and sympathy hit me so hard I swayed. The copy of Pride and Prejudice tumbled from my lap and thudded onto the floor.
His eyes were hollow. "It wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed. I wouldn't have let it happen. Brad and Travis couldn't say 'no' to Adrian, they'd do anything he suggested, but I would have stopped it." The heartbreak in his voice nearly broke mine.
"But what if you weren't able to stop him? What if you'd had enough to drink to get in the car with the rest of them?"
Nate's mouth twisted into a sad scowl. "Well then I'd have been like the rest of them, we were more than just a band, we were like brothers... and then I wouldn't have been the only one of us left to go on and live my life unscathed by what happened."
"I don't for a moment think you're unscathed," I pointed out gently.
Nate treated me to a wry smile. "That's what Adrian's mother said too. I went to his parents a few months later to ask for their forgiveness, I didn't know what else to do, I was a wreck. I blamed myself for everything and barely scraped through the last of my classes. I could hardly play a note of music; it reminded me too much of what I'd lost."
"Adrian's parents forgave you?"
Nate reached over and took my hand. He wove his long fingers through my own. I squeezed them, trying to impart a little understanding through my touch.
Nate met my eyes. The lines around his eyes and lips softened, the darkness in his gaze had faded.
"They forgave me and more--they welcomed me. My parents tried to help me but they didn't understand the loss the way Adrian's parents did. In time I began to see the good in life again. Adrian's father is an amazing mentor -- he made me want to learn everything I could so I could turn around and teach others how to escape the darkness in their lives, how to find the peace I found in forgiveness."
The pieces fell into place. "Adrian's father is a minister too?"
Nate nodded. "Funny thing really. It never occurred to me to ask Adrian what his father did for a living, and Adrian never talked about it. All that time Adrian was so cool, so rock-and-roll, and at home he has this Presbyterian Minister for a father and none of us had any idea. "
"And so you found God," I murmured.
Nate shifted until he was close enough to lean his head against the back of sofa only inches from mine own. "I like to say He found me," Nate joked. "He'd taken a lot away from me, but He'd given me so much too. I had to give back."
"But why did you choose the Ministry?" I asked. "Couldn't you have just led the choir or something?"
Nate chuckled. I must have sounded petulant but our lives would have been a lot easier in that moment if he didn't have that title of Reverend tacked on the front of his name.
"You don't choose the church, sweetheart, it chooses you. That's why it's a vocation... like music, like medicine, like teaching... like law..."
My heart stopped.
"Why'd you become a lawyer, Adele?"
"Because it's all I knew," I confessed. "My father is a lawyer, so are my brothers. I grew up with it always. Every night around the dinner table our every conversation was steeped in it. We lived it at our house. You learned music as I child... well, I learned law. I can never remember wanting to be anything other than a lawyer. I don't know what my life would be without it."
I thought about it, thought really hard. Everything I'd ever done, ever thought, had been shaped by the rules I learned so young, the dictates I believed in and defended every day.
"Because it differentiates right from wrong. Because it protects us and gives us something to trust in."
Nate moved closer to brush a soft kiss against my lips. "What you and I do is the same thing, sweetheart. We just answer to different bosses."
He gave me time to let his words sink in. I turned them over and over in my mind and I knew there was logic in them. On some levels he and I weren't so different.
Nate slid down to rest his head in my lap. He let out a weary sigh and stretched his legs across the couch. I picked up my book from the floor and set it down on the end table, careful of the candle at my elbow before I rested one hand on Nate's chest. It had been an emotional afternoon for us both. On impulse, I ran the fingers through his soft hair. He closed his eyes and made a low sound of approval so I kept it up.
It was Nate's job, his calling, to comfort others, but I couldn't help but wonder who comforted him. If I asked I'm sure he'd say God, but God couldn't hold him and reassure him with His touch.
I guess that's why He gave us one another, to do that in His stead.
The thought shocked me. I don't know where it came from and I froze. Nate opened one chocolate brown eye and looked up at me.
"You alright, sweetheart?"
"Yeah, I am." For the first time in a long time I believed it.
I don't know how long we stayed like that, with Nate's head resting on my thigh and my hand over his heart. Esther snored softly at my feet while the fire in the hearth crackled and spit. The wind battered the little house but we were together. . . and safe
I dozed off and Nate must have too because we both jumped with a start when my cell phone rang.
Nate sat up and rubbed sleepily at his face like a little boy woken from a nap. My heart skipped a beat.
I reached for my cell. The display screen said 'Rhiannon', but it was a male voice on the other end when I answered.
"Rhi's contractions started this morning," he explained in his low, languid voice. "I'm taking her to the hospital. Everyone else is already there, waitin' to meet us. Thought you should know."
"She's going into labour now?" I glanced out the window. "It's a blizzard out there!"
"I noticed," Joe drawled with a mixture of exasperation and love. He would drive Rhiannon to hell and back if she asked it of him, a little snow certainly wasn't going to stop him.
"Want me to pick you up on the way? She's asking for you."
I giggled. "Asking?" Rhiannon Barnes-Tanner did not ask for things.
Joe chuckled, in on the joke. "Insisting, then."
"Well she can insist all she wants, but I'm not at home. I went out this morning to visit... a friend... and the weather's got me stranded out of town."
I don't know why I didn't tell him I was at Nate's. Within our circle of friends Joe was the most trustworthy to keep my secret, but I didn't feel ready to share it. Anyway, he'd jump to conclusions just as anyone else would, something I couldn't handle right now since I hadn't come to any definite conclusions myself.
"You okay?" Joe asked. I imagined the look of brotherly concern on his dear face.
"Yes Joe, we're well stocked and very... snug. Tell Rhi I'm sorry I can't be there. Will you keep me updated though?"
"Sure thing," he promised. "There's gonna be enough people at the hospital anyway with my parents and siblings and Adam, so don't worry your pretty head about not being there."
I smiled. Even though he was Lilly's big brother I'd really only gotten to know Joe since his marriage to Rhiannon. I was surprised how much I liked him because Lilly always painted him as the overbearing, overprotective sort. But I'd come to equate his quiet, careful manner with an innate sense of responsibility and an enormous capacity for love. He didn't say much but what he did say was well thought out, and always, always the truth.
"Tell her I love her," I added with a whisper.
"I will. She loves you too, Adele. Even if she doesn't say it."
No one knew better than Joe did that expressions of affection weren't Rhiannon's strong suit. She was proud and brash and she demanded attention, but her overconfident, glamorous exterior hid a lost little girl who desperately needed to love and be loved in return.
Tears welled at the corners of my eyes. Rhiannon was about to become a mother and I wouldn't be there. "Thanks Joe. Good luck."
I ended the call and turned to find Nate watching me with a gentle smile.
Just the thought of what Rhiannon and Joe were experiencing at this very moment made me tear up more and ache for the babies I'd lost. I tried not to think about it often because it still hurt so damn much. A wave of jealousy rose up as I pictured Rhi with her baby. Joe would be a great father. They were about to become a family. I truly felt happy for them. But that didn't stop me from feeling a little sorry for myself and very guilty too.
I wrapped my arms around waist and turned back to the window, not wanting Nate to see yet another layer of my hurt. Goodness knows I'd laid enough of my problems at his feet for one day.
He joined me at the window but made no move to touch me. After a long silence, I peeked at him. His eyes were closed, his chin down. It was a gesture I recognized.
"Are you praying?" I asked, surprised.
"Yup. You want in on it?"
"I-I don't know," I admitted. I thought it over for a minute. "Could you just tack my name on the end? Just to let Him know I'd also like whatever it is you're asking for?"
Nate smiled but still didn't open his eyes. Another long silence passed before he raised his head and his warm gaze met mine.
"Did you ask for a safe delivery and healthy baby?" I whispered. The question sounded funny once it left my lips. Nate wasn't asking Santa for a good Christmas present after all.
Nate reached over and slung his arm over my shoulders. "I did."
"Did you ask for that from me too?"
"I did," he assured me. He gave me a gentle squeeze. "You can ask Him yourself, you know."
I shook my head. "I'm not there yet. But I trust you to put in a good word for me."
There was that soft chuckle again—the one that always sent shivers to my toes. "That's what I do."
On the other side of the windowpane the snow still fell so heavily it blocked out any semblance of a view. I worried about Rhiannon and Joe's short drive to the hospital. I worried the doctor might not be able to make the trip to help them. I worried something might go wrong with the baby. I worried that something might go wrong with Rhi.
I felt so small and helpless. I hated feeling helpless.
I pulled my arms from around myself and wrapped them around Nate's torso instead. He enfolded me against him and rested his cheek against my hair.
"They'll be okay," he murmured, reading my mind. "Rhi's a strong person. Women have been giving birth since the dawn of time. There's nothing to it, really. And she has Joe there with her -- you know he'll take care of her. Besides, they're being watched over."
Like I had been watched over every time I had a miscarriage?
"You're sound so sure about it." I couldn't keep the bitterness from creeping into my voice. "How can you be so sure?"
Nate's mouth grazed the top of my head. "I have to be. It's in the job description. Even if you could be with her there's nothing you could do to help. It's beyond our control, sweetheart. All we can do is trust."
Trust. Not something I was good at. Not anymore.
I eased out of Nate's arms but he held me Nate tighter, stopping my escape. Eventually I let myself relax into his embrace.
I could have stood there with him, like that, all afternoon but after a time Nate stepped back and held me at arms length. He brushed the curls from my face and gave me a light kiss.
"Do you like Scrabble?"
The question came totally out of the blue. I realized Nate was trying to distract me from my worries and I was silently thankful for the change of topic.
With a laugh I admitted that I did like Scrabble. I hadn't played in years but with my arsenal of obscure legal terms I almost always won. It would only be a matter of time before Nate found out he was up against a formidable opponent.
He pulled the game from a lower shelf and set it up on the coffee table in front of the fireplace. We both sat cross-legged on the floor and under Esther's watchful golden gaze, proceeded to battle it out. But I'd underestimated Nate's Scrabble-playing ability. At every turn, he countered me with odd terminology. He was a merciless opponent, which I relished because I loved to earn my victories.