“Where to now?”
I shrugged, content to be here with Blake, a quiet reprieve from a day full of activities.
“The world is our oyster. Dancing, music, more shopping.”
I laughed. “Oh, God. Please no.”
“Back to the room?” He raised his eyebrows suggestively. “I have more exploring to do.”
I bit my lip and fidgeted nervously. I couldn’t stop thinking about what we’d done. I couldn’t remember coming that hard with his mouth on me before. The experience had been intense, but I knew where it was taking us.
Blake caught my chin, forcing my eyes on him. “What’s going on?”
“Nothing. You’re just… You’re preoccupied with...that.”
“Am I? I want full access to your body, including your ass. I want you everywhere in every conceivable way.”
The more I tried to avoid his eyes, the more intently they bore into me.
“Erica... Mark didn’t—”
“No,” I answered quickly, eager to shut off the topic. “That’s not it.”
“Then what is it? Something makes you uncomfortable about it. Your body tenses up, and that doesn’t happen with us. There’s something you’re not telling me.”
“Do you want to discuss our sexual histories, Blake? I thought you wanted to keep the past in the past.”
He released a heavy sigh and stared out to the lake. “I need to know your limits and why you have them. I’m going to be your husband—”
“If you’re going to be my husband, you should talk to me and not keep things hidden.”
He was silent, and I knew I was walking a fine line with him once more.
“Blake, this trip wasn’t about my birthday. It’s been so wonderful, but so much of it has been about facing parts of my past that I’d put away a long time ago. Seeing Elliot... I’m glad we did it, but I knew coming here would dredge up old memories, things that hurt. And I’m facing them.”
“Are you implying that I’m not?”
“Do you think you are?”
“If this is about what Sophia said, there’s nothing there that’s worth talking about.”
“Was she the only serious relationship you had before me?”
He cursed, staring out at the lake. “I messed around before I met her. I was young. I started to grow up and thought I should try to get serious for once. We met through a mutual friend.” He drew circles into the soft sand. “I guess you could say we found a common interest, and I gave it a try with her.”
“And after her?”
“I messed around some more. But it was different.”
He hesitated, shaking his head almost imperceptibly. “Until you, I never wanted another relationship.”
The finality of the words made me think the subject had been closed once again. As if someone had opened a door to let in some air and quickly shut it, leaving the space between us stifled and tense again. But at least he’d opened it. As much as I didn’t want to explain my reservations, I figured the best way to get him to keep opening up was to set the example.
I fidgeted with my watch, messing with the delicate joints of the band. “I was the same way.”
He looked at me, questioning me with his eyes.
“Before Mark, well...there was nothing before him. I was a virgin. I was messed up for a while after that. But as time wore on, I pushed past it. I couldn’t let the rape rule my life, and I decided I couldn’t swear off men and sex forever, as much as I may have wanted to sometimes. But everything was...emotionless, I guess. It was hard enough for me to get past the physical triggers. I couldn’t bring myself to go any deeper and fall for someone.”
I winced, not liking the memories that came up. I didn’t like the way it sounded when I said everything out loud either. I sounded like a damaged, cold-hearted tramp. “They weren’t all one-nighters. I mean, I dated people, but nothing was ever serious. I never gave anyone a chance to break my heart. I’d already been broken so badly.”
He reached up and tucked my hair behind my ear. Fine strands blew in the wind across my cheeks. I inhaled the cool air into my lungs, exhaling the memories that flashed through me.
“So tell me what bothers you so much about anal play. What happened?”
I sighed, feeling anxious suddenly. “I was seeing someone for a little while. I’d had a few beers, I’d agreed to let him...do more. Fuck, you don’t want to hear this, do you?”
He reached for my hand and held it in his lap, drawing gentles lines over my skin with his fingertips. “No, but I want you to tell me.”
I shook my head listlessly. “He hurt me.”
He stopped his caresses, his eyes fixed on me protectively.
“I don’t think he meant to. It wasn’t like with Mark, but he came before I could get him to stop. I don’t really blame him. I guess he was just being an idiot guy, thinking with his...well, whatever. There was something about it that was a little too close to what I’d been through. He never knew why, but I never called him back. And I’ve never done that since.”
“You know I would never hurt you.”
My heart twisted at the sweet, softly spoken words. “I know you wouldn’t. I just have a hard time imagining that I could enjoy it when it was so not enjoyable.”
“You would enjoy it.”
My face grew warm, and I was grateful for the darkness. I didn’t want him to know just yet that I would let him do anything, push me past any limit, including that one. I didn’t want to admit tonight that sometimes the things I was most afraid of turned me on as much as they terrified me.
We made love that night. Despite the emotions that had come to the surface between us, we didn’t ravage each other the way we’d done so many times before. We didn’t talk about our past. We barely said anything, only our names on each other’s lips.
Maybe he wanted to remind me that it could be that way between us. Maybe he didn’t realize that I already trusted him implicitly with my body, and the slow, passionate way he loved me was proof that he could be whatever I needed, whenever I needed it.
Blake’s eyes never left mine, and when he came, the look there destroyed me. I could see into his soul, and what I saw shattered through me.
I returned to work on Monday morning, oddly refreshed considering the hours of travel. I caught up on the email that had built up over the weekend and registered a surprising sense of peace. The weekend had been emotionally intense, but cathartic in many ways. Not seeing Elliot for so long had weighed on me to a degree that I hadn’t fully appreciated until we’d reunited. Emotionally I had distanced myself from him, pushing him away over time before I could feel the sting of knowing that I was secondary to his new family now. But the second I walked into his and Beth’s home, I knew I couldn’t run away from those old feelings.