Not My Type: Adele Ch. 05byfirstkiss©
My breath rattled through my chest. Every cell in my body tensed, waiting for our moment, waiting for Nate. His touch felt hot as his calloused fingers brushed over my abdomen. Nothing had felt as good as his careful, almost naïve caress. We were going to make love.
"I fully intend too," he repeated as if he had tuned into my thoughts. "But not tonight."
I slumped against the carpet while disappointment swept over me.
I knew why without having to ask. He couldn't.
I whirled between hating his sense of conviction and honour and loving those things about him. I didn't want to regret anything with Nate and I certainly didn't want him to have regrets either. Sleeping with him tonight would be wrong, but with his weight pressed above me, our bodies heated by the fire and each other and my lips still tingling from his kisses, it felt like we were making much more of a mistake by stopping now. I kept that thought to myself.
"I understand," I whispered. "I know."
A flicker of something akin to disappointment flashed in Nate's eyes and reminded me that he was human. He wanted me and it had been much too long since I felt wanted. That alone satisfied me, at least for now.
I kissed him softly. "Perhaps we should get up off the floor?"
His smile was beautiful. "A very good idea, sweetheart."
Nate kneeled beside me then gave me a hand to sit up.
"So how does one distract one's self after that? More Scrabble?" I teased. I patted my mussed ringlets down although they were more than likely beyond help.
"Hmm. . . I don't think board games are going to do it at this point."
He chuckled. "A cold dip in the Atlantic might just do it."
"I think I saw an iceberg out there earlier," I joked. "Should be just about cold enough."
Nate rubbed his jaw. "Doubtful."
I got the impression he was speaking more to himself than to me and I sympathized fully. I ached from head to toe and could have screamed with the want, but I held myself perfectly still, waiting for him to make the next move.
"I think I should call it a night."
Our eyes met and even though his were ringed with fatigue, there was no way Nate made it a habit of going to bed that early every night. Perhaps all the steely control I'd forced him to exercise had worn him down.
"I'll bring you down something to sleep in and there are plenty of blankets. The couch is quiet comfortable and it'll be warmer down here for you than up in the spare room."
"What about you?" I whispered, unable to stop myself.
Nate gestured over his shoulder to the blazing fireplace. "The chimney runs up through my bedroom. I'll be fine." He rose to his feet in one graceful movement and held out a hand to help me rise. I wanted to press myself against him, but he slipped from my grasp before I got close.
"I won't sleep anyway," I thought I heard him mutter as he left the room, closing the door behind him.
Nate brought me a pair of plaid flannel pyjamas, clean white gym socks, and a mountain of pillows and blankets. He invited me to make use of all the clean towels I wanted and offered to warm me some water for washing up. I declined, hoping the cold water would clear my head.
Upstairs, the candlelit bathroom was so chilly I raced through my usual night time routine. The pyjamas Nate had given me were too big and too long, but they were soft and warm. We passed each other on the stairs as I descended. The candle I carried cast quivering, eerie shadows against the walls.
"Good night, sweetheart."
I didn't trust my voice to respond. The way he called me sweetheart made me feel things I never expected to feel after Harry. Instead, I just leaned over and kissed his cheek. I considered a different ending to our night but let the moment pass.
Nate finished his climb up the stairs, leaving me half-way down when I said, "Sweet dreams."
He paused at the top of the banister then smiled down at me. It was too dark to read the expression in his eyes. "They will be."
I stood motionless and watched as he continued down the hall to his bedroom at the end. The door closed with a soft click and I was left alone.
The candles still flickered in the livingroom. Nate had built the fire and left me a small nest of blankets and pillows on the couch. I moved about the room, extinguishing candles before I lay down and drew the blankets around myself. The fire crackled in the hearth as wild winds howled and pummelled the house. But even if it had been quiet, I wouldn't have slept.
I curled on my side, hugged a pillow to my cheek, and sighed. The smell of freshly-extinguished candles floated around me like ghosts. The unmistakable scent never failed to bring forward a rush of memories. I remembered the moment I saw Harry's head between a stranger's naked thighs. I remembered the argument that followed and every hurtful word said that night. I remembered the scent of burnt out candles in the air. Would it now remind me of Nate and a night which could never happen between us?
I didn't sleep.
A movie was playing in my head and it starred Nate. Nate and the husky tenor of his voice, the movement of his fingers across the strings of a guitar, his laugh low in my ear, stirring the hair against my neck, and his hands and his mouth, both hot as they traversed my skin.
I bit back a moan of frustration.
I shouldn't have come here this morning.
I shouldn't have let myself be alone with him.
I shouldn't have gotten stranded by the storm.
I really shouldn't have kissed him.
It would be easier if nothing had happened between us. That way I could leave in the morning and we could treat each other as we always had. Instead I let myself slip into doing something reckless. I hadn't spoken any words, but I felt like I had made Nate promises with my body that I couldn't keep.
I don't know how long I lay there without moving, how many minutes became hours. I strained to hear him move in the bedroom above me, but the blizzard outside suffocated every sound. I lay snug and warm in Nate's flannel pyjamas, tucked beneath the blankets that smelled of him, but I'd never felt as lonely as I did lying here listening to the storm, knowing he was lying upstairs doing the same thing.
If I was bold like Rhiannon or brave like Lilly I would have rushed upstairs to him instead of foolishly wishing he'd come downstairs to me.
My cell phone rang, scaring me half out of my wits. It was a low tone, quiet enough that I wouldn't have heard it if I'd been more than a foot or two away. I rose and collected it from the coffee table. The display screen read 'Rhiannon'.
Damn. I'd forgotten about Rhiannon.
It was two a.m.
"Sorry to wake you," Joe said the instant I told him hello.
"I wasn't sleeping." My heart raced. "Is everything okay?"
"Better than okay. We have a daughter." I heard the smile in his voice. As it was I pictured the look of exhilaration on his face. Joe paused a moment to let the news sink in. "Rhiannon's fine, the baby is fine. Everything went off without a hitch. Six pounds, eight ounces."
Joe chuckled. "Little, but perfect. I can't wait for you to see her, she's beautiful." His words, always carefully chosen before uttered, now rushed forward. I had never heard him sound so happy.
"We decided to name her after the two strongest women we know. It was Rhiannon's idea. So she's Sophie, after Mrs. Nichol and Adele, after... well... you."
I sat on the edge of the couch, narrowly missing it altogether and landed with a thump on the floor.
Sophie Adele. Tears stung my eyes.
I cleared my throat. "T-that's... I-I don't even know what to say to that."
His laugh was deep and clear, even over the static in the cell phone reception. "I hope you'll say you're pleased. Rhi'll be pissed if you're not."
"Of course I'm pleased! How could I not be?"
"I'll let you get back to sleep," Joe said. "I just thought you should know. Will you tell Nate the good news for me?"
I smiled into the phone. "Sure," I replied. "Good night, Joe."
It wasn't until after I set down the phone that Joe's words sunk in.
Tell Nate the good news for me...
I'd always known Joe was smart but I didn't think he was psychic. Obviously he was much more observant than I had given him credit for. I hoped he had the good sense to keep it from Rhi and Lilly. The last thing I needed was the two of them barraging me with questions, not when I didn't know where things with Nate stood, and especially not when they both would jump to improper conclusions. Joe and Adam would respect Nate's reputation, I didn't know if I could promise the same for the girls.
I stood and made my way to the picture window.
Nothing happened. Nothing other than a few soul-shattering kisses.
I drew back the curtains to reveal the still storm-blocked view as snow pelted the window.
I wrapped my arms around my waist and thought about little Sophie Adele. Tears rolled down my cheeks. Rhi and Joe were so lucky. I hoped they understood just how much.
I didn't know whether my tears fell for Rhiannon and Joe and their new baby or whether they fell for me. If my body hadn't betrayed me I'd be a mother too, like Rhiannon was now. I'd have two children to love and nurture. If my body hadn't betrayed me, I wouldn't be alone.
I dropped to my knees and let the sobs take me. The harder I cried the more I knew it was for the babies that I'd lost. Both miscarriages happened early in my unplanned pregnancies. I'd been ecstatic to discover I was expecting while Harry's response had been lukewarm at best. With him between jobs, he had been worried about how we would stretch our finances to cover three. Or so he claimed. It wasn't until my second miscarriage that I noticed how relieved Harry seemed. If he felt a tinge of loss at all, he never showed it.
I cried in a way I hadn't since then; big, heaving sobs which shook my body. I kept quiet though, afraid Nate would hear me. This was my own private grief, and it wasn't one I was ready to share, even with him.
A cold, wet nose settled against my hand where it lay wrapped around my waist. I looked up through my tears to find Esther's brown eyes watching me in the firelight. She rested her soft head against my arm in silent companionship. I wrapped my arms around her warm, solid body.
"Were you ever a mother?" I cried into her silken fur. "Did you ever have sweet little golden puppies? Or did they take that choice away from you?"
Esther breathed a sigh of understanding and rested her chin on my shoulder.
"I never really had the choice," I explained to her. "I want to be a mother so badly and I don't know if I ever will, if I even can. It hurts so much to think I'll never have that. I'll play the loving aunt and all the while it'll hurt so much inside. The worst part is that no one can know."
I raised my head to look at Esther's wise, old face and slicked back her smooth ears. "It's awful to be jealous of your friends."
The golden retriever nestled her muzzle into my hands and I knew she wanted to comfort me. I took what consolation I could get, canine though it might be, it was better than nothing. Yet the empty hollow in my chest remained.
With a weary sigh, I wiped away the dampness on my cheeks and rumpled Esther's beautiful ears one more time in thanks. I rose to my feet, suddenly exhausted. My blankets and pillows waited expectantly on the couch and I burrowed back into them. Esther laid herself down on the floor beside me where I could reach for her if I needed to.
Sleep eventually took me but images of golden-haired babies haunted my dreams.
I woke up to bright light and the faint sound of a piano. I had forgotten to close the curtains the night before and the morning sunlight reflected off the freshly fallen snow with blinding brightness, which meant the skies were clear. The music came from upstairs and was something classical I recognized, Bach maybe, or Mozart. At any rate, it was beautiful.
It was the smell of fresh coffee, not the music or the light in my face, which drew me up from my cocoon of blankets. I followed the scent to the kitchen where an old-fashioned percolator sat on top of the woodstove, bubbling away. On the table lay a plate of carrot muffins, along with a sugar bowl and a small, porcelain jug of cream. I poured myself a coffee and sat with a sigh at the table to nibble at a muffin.
The click of toenails against the hardwood presaged Esther's arrival. She poked her head around the doorframe and acknowledged me with an exhaled huff. Then she turned and made her way back down the hall. I heard her lumber slowly up the stairs. The music grew louder.
At first I'd thought Nate was upstairs listening to a recording of the music but I realized with a jolt that he was playing it. I pictured him at the piano, still rumpled from the night before, in a pair of flannel pyjamas, his lean body swaying to the tempo as his fingers danced across the keys. I wondered if he always played the piano in the mornings. Perhaps it was part of his routine, a way to wake up like a shower and a cup of coffee was for me.
Or maybe there was more to it.
I sat back and cupped the warm mug between my palms. The melody increased pace along with volume, until the frenzied notes filled the small house, and in each note I sensed a little frustration and a little anger. I knew without even being in the same room that Nate's handsome face was sternly composed, that he held himself taut and controlled on the piano bench, and that his fingers unleashed all the feelings he couldn't speak onto the keys.
But what if those feelings were merely based on a fleeting attraction? Did the wildness of last night happen because of sexual frustration and good old proximity? It wasn't as if Nate had a lot of romantic prospects lined up. Or so I hoped.
Last night by the fireplace, I had felt so sure about what I believed and what I wanted. But I kept coming back to how impossible Nate and I were. We wanted what we couldn't have and it was just too damn hard. I wondered if he had come to the same conclusion this morning.
The music spoke for him and told me everything I needed to know.
I think he knew, just as I did, how impossible we were, how difficult it was to hold back the wave of desire between us. In the bright light of the morning after the storm, it was easier to take out all those frustrations on the piano instead of facing them, just as it was easier to sit alone in the kitchen than it was to climb the stairs and have the talk neither of us clearly needed to have.
When the coffee was gone I slipped back into the livingroom and traded my borrowed flannel pyjamas for my outfit from the previous day. I found a pot of water warming on the woodstove and used it to freshen up. My hair was a wild tangle and I didn't dare venture upstairs to find a comb, so I sat on the floor by the fireplace and used my fingers to make the best of it.
The music continued on, pouring from note to note, song to song, for longer than I thought possible. I should have gone upstairs, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. I didn't want to give Nate the chance to turn me away. I was afraid of what I'd see on his face, afraid of what he'd say.
It took me a while to notice another noise under the ebb and flow of the piano. It began as a gentle rumble and increased in volume until it almost competed with Nate's playing. Curious, I rose and rushed to the window.
The sun off the snow shined so bright it took me a moment to make out the sight of a white pickup truck, with a plough attachment on the front of it, making its way down the road towards the house.
It approached at a snail's pace, pushing away the wet, heavy blanket of snow in its path. It was a rather odd sight, such an ordinary truck taking on such a deep barrier of snow. It certainly wasn't one of the big, municipal ploughs and anyway, Nate said they only cleared his roads on Sundays.
Nate played on, even when the noise of the plough scraping against the gravel road must have become apparent to him. A sinking feeling settled in my chest. He had called someone to come and clear the road so I could leave. He wanted to get rid of me.
The plough stopped near Nate's doorstep with a disconcerting boom. The passenger side door opened and a heavily bundled figure tipped out, making his way through the almost knee-deep snow. I crossed the livingroom, went out into the hall, pulled my boots on, and threw open the front door.
The well-wrapped figure looked up as I stood in the doorway. He pushed back his heavy, fur-lined hood and drew off the navy blue ski cap he wore low down over his ears. A shock of auburn hair glinted in the bright morning sun.
I wished I hadn't opened the door. It was only a matter of time now before Lilly and Rhi bombarded me with questions about spending the night here.
"Your rescue has arrived." He bowed with a regal flourish, one made even more comical by the knee-deep snow in which he stood.
I couldn't help but laugh.
He was a good-looking guy, definitely the best-looking of the handsome Tanner clan, with the same generous width of shoulder as his father and older brother, but lacking their towering height. Matt had an easy charm about him, one that hinted he was always about to crack a joke. I doubted he ever had a serious thought in his head. Between the wide, warm smile and the cobalt blue eyes he was a force to be reckoned with.
"I didn't know I needed rescuing," I replied.
"I have been informed that you do," Matt grinned up at me. "My sister-in-law insisted that I come and dig you out so that you may come and 'ooh' and 'ahh' over my gorgeous little niece."
"You came all this way for that?"
Matt shrugged. "Well, you know how stubborn Rhiannon can get. Plus Joe was breathing down my neck about it too and I'm sure as hell not going to argue with him. So here I am. Where's the Rev?"
I gestured over my shoulder where the frenzied strain of music continued unabated. "Upstairs at the piano."
"Cool!" Matt smiled even harder. "Let's get his ass down here so he can help shovel your car out."
"Be my guest," I invited as I swung my arm wide.
Matt trudged through the last few feet of snow until he stood at the door. He paused as the music washed over him full force. His bright blue eyes widened. "That's Nate?
I nodded with pride. "Yup."
"Holy shit," Matt breathed out and swung his head around until our eyes met. We were pretty much the same height. "He's freakin' good!"
I stepped aside as Matt moved past me, trailing snow in his wake. He kicked off his boots and climbed the stairs as if mesmerized by the music. The sound of a truck door opening caught my attention and my head snapped back in time to see a tiny person leap down into the snow.
At first I thought a kid had been behind the wheel of the plough until I realized it wasn't a child but a woman standing in the footprints left by Matt. She smiled hesitantly up at me and pushed back the hood of her jacket.
Her voice was hardly more than a tiny chirrup and I wouldn't have heard her if Nate hadn't chosen that exact moment to stop playing. Male voices sounded overhead and I stepped outside to hear her better.
Even dressed in a snowsuit and standing beside the battered old pickup, the girl looked gorgeous. She had dark hair cut short to her head, a style that only truly beautiful women have the ability to pull off. Her skin was almost as pale as the snow around us. For a moment I wondered if she was a figment of my imagination, a fairy or a pixie come to life.
"He never remembers to introduce me. I'm Felicity Stewart," she said with an embarrassed smile. My expression must have remained blank because she continued on to say, "Of Stewart and Sons Automotive."