Chris releases my hand, our eyes lock, and I read the silent message in his. Enter by choice, without pressure. On some level I sense that once I enter his apartment, the decision to do so is going to change me. He is going to change me in some profound way I cannot begin to comprehend fully. I think he might know this and I wonder why he would be so certain, what is etched with such clarity to him beneath the surface.
He has misplaced doubts of me in this moment, as he’d doubted me at the gallery. I can see it in his eyes, sense it in the air. I refuse to allow his lack of confidence in me, or anyone else’s for that matter, to dictate what I can or cannot do ever again. I’ve been there and I ended up on the sharp edge of a cliff, about to crash and burn. I’d recovered, and I am beginning to see that locking myself in a shell of an existence isn’t healing. It’s hiding. Regardless of what happens at the gallery, I’m done hiding.
My chin lifts and I cut my gaze from Chris’s and exit the elevator.
My heels touch the pale, perfection of glossy hardwood floors and I stop and stare at the breathtaking sight before me. Beyond the expensive leather furniture adorning a sunken living room with a massive fireplace in the left corner is a spectacular sight. There is a ceiling to floor window, a live pictorial of our city, spanning the entire length of the room.
Spellbound, I walk forward, enchanted by the twinkling night lights and the haze surrounding the distant Golden Gate Bridge. I barely remember going down the few steps to the living area, or what the furniture I pass looks like. I drop my purse on the coffee table and stop at the window, resting my hands on the cool surface.
We are above the city, untouchable, in a palace in the sky. How amazing it must be to live here, and wake up to this view every day. Lights twinkling, almost as if they are talking to each other, laughing at me as they creep open a door to the hollow place inside me I’ve rejected only moments before in the elevator.
I swallow hard as the song ‘Broken’ from the band Lifehouse fills the room because Chris doesn’t know how personal it is to me. I’m falling apart. I’m falling to pieces, barely hanging on.
This song, this place with the words, and I am raw and exposed, as if cut and bleeding. Who was I kidding with the refusal to hide anymore? This is why I’ve hidden. The past begins to pulse to life within me and I am seconds from remembering why I feel this way. I refuse to process the lyrics and shove them aside. I don’t want to remember. I can’t go there. I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to seal those old wounds, desperate to feel anything but their presence.
Suddenly, Chris is behind me, caressing my jacket from my shoulders. His touch is a welcome sensation and when his arm slides around me, his body framing mine from behind, I am desperate to feel anything but what this song, no doubt aided by the wine, stirs inside me.
I lean into him and hard muscle absorbs me. There is a strength to Chris, a silent confidence I envy, and it calls to the woman in me.
His fingers, those talented, famous fingers, brush my hair away from my nape and his lips press to the delicate area beneath, creating goosebumps on my skin. And still, I barely block out the words to the song, and their meaning to me.
As if he senses my need for more—more something, anything, just more - he turns me around to face him and his fingers tangle almost roughly into my hair. The tight pull is sweet, dragging me from other feelings, giving me a new focus.
“I am not the guy you take home to mom and dad, Sara.” His mouth is next to mine, his clean male scent all around me. “You need to know that right now. You need to know that won’t change.”
But the song does change and this time to another track on what must be a Lifehouse CD. ‘Nerve damage’ begins to play. I see through your clothes, your nerve damage shows. Trying not to feel…anything that’s real.
I laugh bitterly at the words and Chris pulls back to study me. And I am not blind to what I see in the depths of his green eyes, what I’ve missed until now, but sensed. He is as damaged as I am. We have too many of the wrong things in common to be more than sex, and the realization is freedom to me.
I curve my fingers on the light stubble of his jaw, the rasp on my skin welcome, and I have no idea why I admit what I have never said out loud. “My mother is dead and I hate my father so don’t worry. You’re safe from family day and so am I. All I want is here and now, this piece of time. And please save the pillow talk for someone who wants it. Contrary to what you seem to think, I’m no delicate rose.”
A stunned look flashes on his face an instant before I press my lips to his. The answering moan I am rewarded with is white-hot fire in my blood that he answers with a deep, sizzling stroke of his tongue. He slants his mouth over mine, deepening the connection, kissing me with a fierceness no other man ever has, but then, Chris is like no other man I’ve ever known.
His tongue plays wickedly with mine, and I meet him stroke for stroke, arching into him, telling him I am here and present, and I’m going nowhere. In reply to my silent declaration, his hand cups my ass and he pulls me solidly against his erection. Arching into him, I welcome the intimate connection, burn for the moment he will be inside me. My hand presses between us and I stroke the hard line of his shaft.
Chris tears his mouth from mine, pressing me hard against the window, and I know I’ve threatened his control. Me. Little school teacher Sara McMillan. Our eyes lock, hot flames dancing between us and some unidentifiable challenge.
Some part of me realizes the window behind me is glass, and all things glass can break. He knows this too, it’s in the dark glint of his eyes, and he wants me to worry about it. He’s pushing me, testing me, trying to get me to break. Because I slid beneath his composure? Because he really believes I am out of my league? And maybe I am, but not tonight. Tonight, as the song has said, I am broken and for the first time perhaps ever, I am not denying the truth of all of my cracks. I am living them.