Page 68 of The Dancer

I felt her tremble beneath my hand and knew that she was genuinely afraid. Whatever fears were in her mind weren’t going to be defeated that easily. She opened her mouth as if to speak and closed it again. The show of vulnerability touched me and only made me want to protect her even more.

“It’s okay, you don’t have to say anything, just listen.” As I pulled her head into my chest and wrapped my arms around her, I wondered fleetingly how something that felt so right to me could be a source of fear for her.

Travis had said she didn’t have much experience and it was evident, but how innocent is she? That’s so far removed from the mouthy brat who walked into my place that I was finding it hard to relate the two completely different personalities.

Which one was the real Annabelle? The brash no nonsense girl I first met? Or the scared young woman who now stood before me? And where is the middle ground?

Whichever one it was, she’s still a woman, one I had already begun to see as mine. “You smell nice.” I buried my nose in her cherry blossom smelling hair and inhaled more than the store bought scent.

She fit perfectly in my arms, but more than that she felt like she belonged. I couldn’t resist hugging her harder as something inside me came alive. I know she could feel me growing hard against her middle, but I didn’t pull away and neither did she.

We stood there in comfortable silence until I felt her relax a little bit more. She sniffed my shirt and left her nose buried in my chest making me smile over her head.

“Can you do something for me? I know right now you’re afraid to believe me, but can you try to remember everything I say and do to you?”

“Why?” She rubbed her nose across the front of my shirt. I doubt she realized what she was doing.

“Because I want you to remember it one day in the future. One day long after I’ve proven myself to you and you know without a doubt that this is real.”

“What exactly is ‘this’?” She pulled her head back and looked up at me. There’s my brave bold girl.

“I don’t have a name for it yet, but I can try to explain what it feels like.” The pain in the ass looked like she didn’t believe me.

“It’s like I woke up in a whole new world where things look and feel different. What used to matter most has changed. You’re the first thing I think about when I awake and the last the thing I see before I close my eyes at night.”

I didn’t feel like as much of an asshole as I’d expected and I knew it was because it was her. I was learning this relationship shit as I go. But the one thing I was certain of was that if I wanted her to open up, I’d have to make the first move.

I also know that it’s because I’d made up my mind that she wasn’t going anywhere no matter what the fuck she says that I found it so easy to say those words to her. I brushed tendrils of hair back from her face and kissed her forehead.

Instead of feeling like a complete ass, once I started sharing, a weight was lifted from my shoulders and those knots in my gut untangled themselves a little bit more.

I felt a new sense of excitement, like the feeling you get when you know something good is coming. The only other time I’ve been this excited about something was when I was first drafted to play pro ball.

Even that feeling hadn’t come close to what I now felt. I never imagined anything in life could matter more than realizing my dream. But as I stood there with my hands on her I knew that what was growing inside me was bigger than even that.

I had another flashback to early childhood and the feeling of unbearable excitement on Xmas mornings. That was the one time of the year that mom would go all out no matter what else was going on.

It didn’t matter that the gifts came from the bargain store, as a kid all that mattered was that there was something to open, something new to discover. And I was always happy with whatever I got. She made me feel like that.

“Don’t you at least want to know where this could lead? Aren’t you even a little bit curious about what we could be together? I know I am.” I already knew we were going to be amazing; I could feel it.

Now that I finally had my shit together and was thinking straight, I didn’t feel that nagging fear and doubt that had been hounding me. My shit was set and knowing me, once that happens nothing can stand in my way.