Kat flattened her palm against my chest, pushing me against the wall, and then slid her fingers south.
I swear, her hands had hands. Each time I caught a wrist, no lie, three more sprung out of nowhere. In my hair, unbuttoning my shirt, grabbing my ass, reaching for my belt. She had the agility of an octopus.
Think of the nuns, Daniel. Think of Sister Mary Rosanne and her nose moles. All three of them.
“Kiss me,” she said.
“I can’t.” I caught her wrist again. Yet I hesitated a split second too long. Her mouth covered mine and she moaned. I also moaned. She tasted great. So fucking great. And soft. And hot. And then I was cupping her jaw, tilting her head back, and kissing the hell out of her.
But then I remembered: alcohol, absinthe, hash.
Off limits. No touchy. Or else you’re a douche-baggy.
I tore my mouth from hers and someone whimpered. It might have been me.
I know, I know. I’m a terrible bastard. I’m going straight to hell. Pray for my soul. But not yet! Don’t pray for me quite yet. Just give me another ten minutes . . .
She nuzzled my neck. “You want me, I know you do.”
I could only groan in response. I did want her. I’d wanted her since the first time I saw her. But I wasn’t creep.
“If you want me, take me,” Kat pleaded, doing this lithe, rocking thing with her body against my leg and hip like a pole dancer. I set my jaw.
The nuns. Think of the nuns! Sister Francesca, Sister Theresa, Sister Madeline. They’re all dead and they’re all watching you. And they can see your hard-on. So let’s make it a hard-off, okay buddy?
“Kat, honey, you need to stop. Think. Think about what you’re doing. You don’t want to do this.”
She lifted her head and BAM, the ground shifted. I felt it in my chest, painful and sharp. All sobering thoughts of my parochial childhood fled, left me bare to her beauty. Raw to it.
I sucked in a breath. J. H. Christ, she was stunning. Her lips were red and swollen. Her eyes were wide beneath absurdly thick, dark lashes. Whiskey eyes regarded me, heavy with lust. And trust. And too much alcohol.
Her pupils were still dilated.
“I don’t want to think,” she whispered, “I just want you inside me.” Her voice was velvet. Dark, sinful velvet. It made me think how my hands would look on her naked body. And that made me think of her naked body. And that made me think of . . .
Fuck a duck. God hated me.
I grabbed her wrists with both hands and tightened my grip. I’d been gentle up to now, but shit was getting real, and shit needed to stop.
“Stop,” I growled, louder than I’d intended, and harsher. Much harsher. But so it goes when all your blood is below the belt and desperation to feel anything other than desire makes you crazy.
She flinched, lifting her face from my neck, her movements finally ceasing. I was breathing heavy. Like I’d run ten miles with Quinn, and that asshole was fast.
Kat blinked at me. She was trying to bring me into focus. Her mouth opened and closed a few times. I lost myself in her. Again. It was too damn easy to swim in her eyes.
The moment went on and on. Her staring. Me breathing, lost to her. My hold grew lax.
And then she stiffened, wincing, and wrenched her wrists away. She covered her mouth with shaking hands and took a step back, away from me. She looked horrified.
Even though I’d spent the last fifteen minutes wishing (and not wishing) I was anywhere else, the terror in her eyes made me act without thinking.
I took a step forward. “Kat-”
“Oh my God.”
I reached for her.
“Don’t!” She held up one hand and covered her mouth tightly with the other.
It was a terrible moment. I didn’t move. Her face had gone white. My heart stuttered as I assessed the situation. Was she pissed? With me? Embarrassed? I knew she was shy, but . . . She better fucking talk to me after this.
But then she tilted to one side, tried to right herself, and had to fumble for the wall to stay on her feet. Real fear gripped me. She was sick. She wasn’t okay.
I need her to be okay.
“What? What’s wrong? What can I-?”
Then the freaking lightbulb went off. She was about to puke.
No time to think, I grabbed her, scooping her up in my arms as gently as possible, given the fact she was seconds away from foaming all over the carpet. And, you know, these clothes I was wearing.
I ran to the bathroom. I placed her on the floor in front of the toilet. Her hands gripped the bowl. I lifted her hair. She trembled. She threw-up.
I turned my face away, still gripping her hair, and gathered a deep breath. Holding it, I turned back to ensure she was safe.
The sound of her heavy breathing and bracing gags filled the bathroom. Watching was difficult, and not just because witnessing another person vomit is on the bottom of my list of pastimes, right next to hearing news about Justin Bieber, and listening to Justin Bieber music, and thinking about Justin Bieber.
That guy seems like a giant bag of dicks.
Watching Kat throw-up wasn’t gross. I mean, it was gross, but it was also difficult. It reminded me of times that were not so good, when I’d been a kid and held my mother’s hair in a similar way while she got sick.
But that was years ago.
Here and now, Kat was in pain. I was helpless. I hated being helpless. I wasn’t used to it, not anymore.
So I whispered stuff, like, “You’re okay,” and “I’ve got you.” All the while rubbing soft circles on her back.
Apparently, even while she emptied her stomach, I wanted to touch her.
I’d never had the opportunity to touch her before. We’d only just met a few months ago, while I was keeping an eye on Quinn’s piece of ass at the time, girlfriend a week later, and fiancé now—Janie Morris.
Kat had been shy; not just with me but with everyone. Chief among the things this job has taught me is that it’s the quiet ones you have to watch. So I did. I’d watched her. I’d stand in the hallway of Janie and Elizabeth’s apartment, or in the kitchen of Sandra’s place, or sit on the bench in Marie’s small studio. I’d watched and I’d listened.
I liked to give Quinn shit about it, but watching the girls had never been a hardship. It had just been time spent troubleshooting how to ask Kat out without scaring her off. Reconnaissance.
At present I, after what felt like forever, I was pretty sure Kat was finished being sick. She’d rested her forehead on her forearm, which was resting on the toilet bowl. And she wasn’t gagging anymore. I gently pushed her hair to one side, trying to see her profile.
“Hey, I’m going to get you water. Okay?”
“Uhhhh. . .” she said in response, which I recognized was pre-hangover-speak for “yes”.
I squeezed her shoulder then stood, crossed to the sink and filled a glass from the faucet.
A mumbled, “I hate this,” met my ears.
She shook her head, the movement was sloppy. “I hate this. I hate being drunk. I hate this.”
I smiled at her—a small smile, because she didn’t need a dumbass toothy grin right now—and assessed her prostrate form. “I’ve never met a person who likes it.”
“I promised myself I would never do it again.”
“What’s that?” I shut off the faucet.
“Praying to the porcelain gods.”
My eyes flickered over her. “You used to do this a lot?”
She moaned rather than responding. It was a pitiful sound and made me move next to her, pulling her backward and into my arms. Kat moaned again. I pressed the water glass into her hands then brushed her hair back, gathering it in my palm. She had nice hair, long and thick and fluffy looking. It was the color of dark chocolate.
Her hair had wilted since our dash into the bathroom. I didn’t care, I still liked it. And, to me, she was still beautiful.
Kat sipped the water, her eyes closed, and I held her. Her body was limp, pliant with exhaustion. I studied her profile. She was still pale, which was fine. People are pale after they throw-up. Pale and tired.
“Mmmm. . .” A pleased sound rumbled from her chest. If I hadn’t been holding her I wouldn’t have heard it.
“The water helped?”
She shook her head weakly. “No. What you’re doing.”
I frowned. What am I doing?
I looked at my hands. One was resting on her hip, the other was in her hair. I’d been brushing her hair with my fingers without realizing it, caressing her cheeks and temples.
“Don’t stop. Feels good.” Her words were slurred—but sleepy slurred, not drunk slurred—and she pressed back against my arm and chest where I cradled her.
“Okay,” I said, reinitiating the movement. I drew the strands away from her neck, barely resisting the urge to press a kiss against the beauty mark under her ear.
Because only freaks make the moves on a drunk woman.
You hear that, girls? Only. Freaks.
“Mmmmm,” she rumbled again, which made me laugh.
I was laughing for two reasons: first, oddly enough, I was having a good time; and second, I was an idiot. I should have asked her out before now.
Kat didn’t talk much during the knitting group meet ups, but her velvet voice had me hoping she would. Plus she was sweet. Kind. Always looking out for others. She was patient with her friends, wise in unexpected ways, and loyal.
So goddamn loyal.
I know, I know, women hate it when they’re called loyal, it irks them. Like I’m inferring she’s a dog.
But people need to understand, until recently, loyalty has been the major commodity in my life. So loyalty, being able to trust that a woman isn’t a devious sneak, is a big fucking turn on.
But her shyness made things tricky. So I waited. I had a plan: ask her to dance at Quinn’s wedding. Dance with her. Kiss the hell out of her. Ask her out while she was breathless and turned on.
I bit my bottom lip, pulling it into my mouth, and tasted her from earlier. I’d already kissed the hell out of her, just a few moments ago. I wondered if she’d remember tomorrow, or if she remembered now . . .
“Hey, Kat?” I craned my neck to see her expression better and stopped short.
She was asleep. She’d fallen asleep in my arms.
On the bathroom floor. After puking her guts out. And you’re the guy who held her hair, like a friendzoned shithead.
Fuck a duck.
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