A knock came at the bathroom door. "You in there talking yourself out of this, Buttercup?" Carson asked. I could hear the smile in his voice.
I pulled the bathroom door open and was met with Carson's beautiful face looking back at me. He was smiling, and before I knew it, he had taken my face in his hands and was kissing my lips in a way that distracted me from all my bathroom musings. It was what I needed. It was what I was here for, right? Maybe I needed the reminder. This didn't have to be complicated. I relaxed a little bit.
He leaned back and raised one eyebrow. I laughed a small laugh and shook my head at him, remembering that he had asked me a question. "No, let's go."
I grabbed Grace's hand as we walked out of the hotel. She looked over at me with a surprised expression on her face but didn't pull away. I was having a hard time looking away from her legs in those shorts and heels. From what I could tell, Grace's body was exceptional everywhere, but those legs… Christ, I never knew what a leg man I was until I got a glimpse of hers.
I took a quick glance over at her face and she still looked tense. I realized that I felt a little nervous too, but mine was with anticipation, not worry. She looked worried. That brain of hers was still working on this a mile a minute. I had known that that was what she was doing in the bathroom too by the way all the sounds stopped, and there was silence coming from the other side of the door. In my mind's eye, I could see her standing there talking herself out of this weekend and I felt a bolt of fear slide down my spine. I had her where I wanted her to be–I'd be damned if I was going to let her walk away. Not yet anyway.
Her feet slowed down a little bit as her eyes darted around nervously. "Carson, I–" But I didn't let her finish that thought. I knew she was trying to back out again.
I pulled her hand, leading her to the wall of the lobby, rather than toward the doors where we had been heading.
"Come here a minute," I said, stopping and turning to face her fully. She looked up at me expectantly, waiting for me to explain what I was doing. I took hold of both her hands and started, "Grace, this is different for me too." I looked into her eyes, hoping she'd understand what I was saying. "I know you're still questioning this and I don't want you to. If you want to leave, I won't stop you. But I really hope you'll stay, and I really hope you'll let yourself enjoy our time together. Because the simple fact is that, for me, two hours wasn't nearly enough. Tell me it wasn't enough for you either."
She searched my face for several moments, apparently finding something that relaxed her because she squeezed my hands and finally smiled up at me. "Not nearly enough," she said quietly.
I exhaled and smiled down at her. "Okay, good. Can we focus on that then?"
She nodded, still gazing up at me. "It's just… things seemed to change so quickly between us. I hated you and now I'm spending the weekend with you." She laughed quietly. "I'm having a hard time catching up with myself."
I knew exactly what she meant. I was feeling the same thing. But I was okay with it. I wasn't adjusting any "plan." I was flying by the seat of my pants, just as I'd always done. This was unexpected, but far from unpleasant. I was living in the moment, ready to soak up something I really, really wanted. I suddenly realized that Grace wanted to do that too. She just didn't know how. I could teach her a few things about physical pleasure, just like I'd said. My confidence in that arena was plenty high. But I realized in that moment that I could also teach her a little something about enjoying life as it came, about breaking the rules once in a while. "Yeah, life can change on a dime." I grinned. "Wild, isn't it?"
I leaned in and whispered close to her ear, "Lose control, baby. Just for a weekend. Let me take charge. I'll take good care of you, I promise."
She shivered and I saw her shoulders visibly relax. I kissed her forehead and looked down at her. She nodded her head, the expression on her face calm now.
"Thank you. Now man need food to have energy to drag woman by hair."
She burst out laughing. "Well then, by all means, let's get man sustenance."
I took her hand again and we walked out the front doors, this time both of us smiling.
Carson led me out the door and toward the strip. I was feeling relaxed now–he had somehow known that I was tense and said the words that I needed to hear to stop my wheels from turning. I wasn't sure how he'd known, but I was glad. I wanted to be with him, I just wanted to be able to enjoy it. And I hadn't known how to "go with the flow" until he asked me to give him the control. It was what I needed–someone to offer to take it from me so that I could relinquish it temporarily. I had never given up control before. Once I really thought about it, I realized that my whole life was based on control. I had never tried it any other way. So why was I willing to give it up to this virtual stranger for an entire two days? I wasn't exactly sure. I just was, and I was going to go with that. Final answer.
I grinned up at Carson. He looked down at me. "What?"
"Nothing. How tall are you anyway?"
"Six one. How tall are you, shorty?" He smiled.
"Five three. And speaking of stats, I haven't asked how old you are. Am I robbing the cradle this weekend?" He looked about my age but looks could be deceiving.
"I'm twenty-three also."
"Oh, I'm September. So I am robbing the cradle. I'm two months older."
He laughed. "Good. I'm into older women."
I looked around as we turned on to the strip, walking hand in hand, my head swiveling everywhere. "It's incredible," I breathed out. "The lights…" I looked up at the names of the hotels all around us, glancing into the casinos as we walked by.
"First time in Vegas?" he asked.
"On our way back, we can stop at the fountain. They do shows every fifteen minutes or so. I think you'll like it."
We walked in silence for a little bit as I marveled at all of the sights and sounds around me. I couldn't help noticing all the women whose eyes lingered on Carson as we walked past them. I gripped his hand tighter as we crossed the street amongst the throngs of people.
"Where are you taking me anyway?"
"I'm not telling you because you can't judge until you get there and try it for yourself. I thought we deserved some greasy goodness after our ordeal today." He stopped walking. "Wait, shit, you do eat meat, right? You're not a vegetarian?"
I laughed. "No, I'm not a vegetarian. But now I'm scared." I suddenly realized that I was starving though and I wasn't going to be picky.
He laughed and started walking again. "Don't be scared. You'll love it. I thought we could do something a little more upscale tomorrow night."
"The hotel gave me a gift certificate to Picasso! We could go there."
He smiled down at me. "It's a plan."
"Good. You know how I like a good plan." I winked up at him.
"Oh, I know," he said, dropping my hand and putting his arm around my shoulders, pulling me in to him as we walked. It felt nice.
"Hey, speaking of my gift certificate, didn't they offer you a comped room too?"
"Yeah, they did, but I thought you were giving me the brush off when you practically ran off the elevator, and I just figured I'd go on up to my room and not make things awkward up at the front desk."
I frowned. "I thought I'd see you up there. I wasn't trying to give you the brush off."
He smiled. "Yeah, I figured that out when you showed up at my hotel room begging me to take you in for the weekend."
I elbowed him. "Watch it, Stinger. I could still change my mind."
He laughed and squeezed me to him teasingly as he turned me into a restaurant called Pink's. I looked up at the sign. "Hot dogs?" I asked
"Yup. World famous hot dogs. Your eyes are going to roll into the back of your head. Promise."
"You did promise me that, didn't you? I didn't realize you meant hot dogs."
His eyes heated. "I promise all kinds of eye rolling, Buttercup. This is just first up on the itinerary."
I snorted. "We'll see…" I was having fun joking around with him. But the eye rolling talk had me nervous too and made me remember the supposed purpose of our weekend. Carson had already blurred the lines a little bit with a dinner date first and the reassuring words in the Bellagio lobby. Go with it, Grace. Deep breath.
The hostess seated us and within a few minutes, we had each ordered a beer and a hot dog. Carson ordered some god-awful sounding concoction of bacon and sausage and nacho cheese with a side of onion rings. I ordered a chili cheese dog. I hadn't had one of those in forever and was surprised at how good it sounded.
As the waitress took our order, I noticed her trying to catch Carson's eye. He politely ignored her, smiling over at me after ordering.
Our beers were set down in front of us a few minutes later and Carson lifted his beer to mine. "To malfunctioning elevators," he said, grinning.
I laughed, clinking his bottle. I couldn't believe I was cheering to that. If someone had told me that about four hours ago, I'd have thought they were insane. "To malfunctioning elevators," I said. God, I hoped I was still thankful to malfunctioning elevators by the end of this weekend. I took a long sip of beer.
The waitress brought our hot dogs and I made faces at Carson as he laughed at me for trying unsuccessfully to eat mine in a ladylike manner. Finally, I just gave up and dug in like he was doing.
His eyes danced with amusement as he said around a big bite, "If you're not messy afterwards, baby, you didn't do it right."
I rolled my eyes. "Ugh. You just get worse and worse, don't you?" But I couldn't help the smile that quirked the corner of my lips. I had accused him of doing his sex-on-a-stick act as a way to hide, but this was different. Those first couple times, he had used his sexual innuendos against me–using them to make me feel uncomfortable and then angry at my reaction to him. He knew the power he held. And he used that–in ways good and bad, I suspected. But he wasn't trying to do that now–at least I didn't think so. He was just trying to make me laugh. He was trying to help me let my guard down. And I had to admit, it was working.
I also had to admit that that hot dog was probably the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
He used his napkin to wipe some chili off the side of my mouth and as his eyes lingered on my lips, I felt that throbbing start in my core again. "Ready to get back?" he asked, his heated eyes lifting to mine.
I just nodded.
He paid the bill and then we were back out on the strip, hand in hand, only this time not walking with as much leisure as we had on the way to dinner.
We crossed the street and walked in silence back to the Bellagio fountain. My heart was racing now. I knew where this was leading and as much as I wanted it now, this was going to change everything.
There was already a small group of people waiting in front of the still water. Carson scooted me to the stone railing at the front and as I stood silently, waiting for the fountain to go off, he wrapped his arms around my waist and held me. I leaned my head back against him and enjoyed the feeling of his big body wrapped around me.
After a minute or two, music started playing and the water burst up into the air. I sucked in a breath as I realized that the water was "dancing" to the music! "Oh my God!" I exhaled. "It's stunning!"
I felt Carson's chuckle behind me. "Pretty, isn't it?"
"It's amazing. How do they do it?" I couldn't look away.
"I don't really know. They play all kinds of different songs though."
"Wow." I suddenly realized what song was on and I giggled. "Listen to what's playing." I looked up and back at Carson and grinned as My Heart Will Go On, the theme from Titanic, burst through the loud speakers.
He leaned down into me and in a mocking voice said, "Jack, Jack, don't ever let go… well, that is, unless I try once to pull you up on this two-person raft and can't do it. Then, God Speed, human popsicle. It was fun while it lasted."
I laughed. "You really are bitter about that, aren't you? You should try to let it go. There are professionals who might be able to help."
"I might look into that." He frowned and then quickly grinned and pulled me back harder against him.
We watched the show for a couple minutes in silence and when I took his hands in mine from the front, he leaned down and nuzzled into my hair, his scent intoxicating me again. I dropped my head back onto his shoulder, giving him better access. He took me up on my offer, kissing the sensitive skin of my neck, his warm breath tickling my ear. That now-familiar throbbing was starting and I wanted him to kiss me again. I wanted him all over me.
"Let's take this inside, Buttercup," he whispered, his voice sounding strained.
"Why do you call me Buttercup?" I asked softly.
"Hmm… maybe it's because you smell like a flower," he said on a smile.
I didn't say anything, I just smiled back and grabbed his hand and started walking toward the hotel as he grinned that heart-stopping grin at me.
I took her by the hand and led her as fast as possible to the hotel. As we made our way through the lobby, her shorter legs speed-walked to keep up with me. It wasn't very chivalrous, I knew, but I was a desperate man. I didn't think I'd been in this bad a shape since… well, since ever. After standing at the fountain watching her eyes light up with excitement at the water display and then holding her in my arms, drinking in the feel of her, the smell of her, my blood was coursing with need. And not just a general need, a need for her, a need that was clawing it's way through my body, demanding to be satisfied. I barely knew her, and yet everything about Grace Hamilton went straight to my head, like a strong shot of whiskey, making my brain spin. She affected me in every way a woman could affect a man.