“Reid needs a friend who cares about him. When he had that accident last summer, it just seemed as though—” her hands twisted in her lap “—he didn’t care about his own welfare. He’s drinking less, going out less since you started coming around, and I just… wanted you to know you’re welcome here. I’d do anything to make sure he doesn’t repeat my mistakes.” Her voice fel to a whisper. “There’s no hope for me, I know… but I can’t bear the thought that there’d come a point where there’s no hope for him.”
“There’s always hope.” I heard myself say this, pushing aside thoughts of Deb and my parents and prayer and hope—and my loss of it.
She shook her head. “I’ve tried rehab three times, and failed every time. I can’t endure another three months away from home.” Her eyes brimmed, so like Reid’s eyes that I felt my stomach clench.
“Have you… have you tried AA?” Do women like her go to AA? Society women, who can afford to check themselves into luxury clinics for several month stints? I felt out of my element.
She shook her head. “Oh, no. It would be horrible if someone found out. I won’t embarrass my husband or Reid more than I’ve already done.”
She was trapped, not only by her addiction but by her privileged place in society and her son’s very public career.
She cal ed herself hopeless, but hope was stil alive in her, because she’s examined al the locked doors of her cage
—and people don’t examine locked doors unless they’re looking for an escape.
“There’s a confidentiality clause with AA. While it’s true that the press often reports on celebrities who check into rehab, I can’t remember ever seeing them report people attending AA meetings.” I leaned closer. “Mrs. Alexander, Reid wouldn’t want you to feel unable to help yourself. One of the reasons AA works is that the individual makes the decision not to drink, one day at a time. One hour. One minute even. You can do that, right? One minute?” Her eyes never left mine. Even with the consequences of years of alcoholism, I could see that she’s where Reid got his beautiful face. I imagined what they must have looked like together when he was very young, walking through a shop or in the park, his hand in hers, her beauty reflected in the little boy at her side. We sat quietly, and into the silence of those sixty seconds came the staggering ache of missing Deb. I wanted to cry for her and myself and my parents and Brad. I wanted to cry for Reid’s mother, and also for Reid. There are a mil ion ways to lose someone you love.
“There’s one minute,” I said. “You’re stronger than you know, Mrs. Alexander.”
Her eyes flicked to the clock on the wal and back to me.
“Please, cal me Lucy. I’l think about AA. But… don’t tel him yet.” I nodded, and she left the room.
“This may sound odd, given what I do for a living, but I’m not the slightest bit interested in seeing any of these movies.” The screen goes blank as Reid tosses the remote aside.
“And,” he draws my legs over his lap, “I can think of a lot of other things I’d rather do.”
“As in, a lot of kissing?” My words light a fire in his eyes and he stretches out on the wide sofa, pul ing me alongside him. Our bodies touch from knees to chest, and I’m feeling more daring than I’ve ever been with him. Trailing fingertips across the planes of his face, I brush his hair out of his eyes, touch the lips I want to touch me.
“Among other things,” he says huskily.
“What other things?” I’m making myself blush, but my usual y reticent mouth isn’t cooperating. He closes his eyes and leans his face into my hand, kisses my palm, wraps his arms around me.
“That, as always, is up to you.” His lashes feather up.
The lighting, perfect for a home theater, is too dim to see the blue of his eyes.
“As always, huh? So it was me who attacked you in that pink closet?”
He smiles wickedly. “I was just reading your mind that day.”
I stare at him, wanting to be audacious and brash; my shaky whisper is anything but. “Can you read it now?” shaky whisper is anything but. “Can you read it now?” One eyebrow quirks up. “Feeling reckless tonight, are you?” I nod. “Mmm,” he hums. “Let’s see what I can do about that.” His devilish grin appears in the same moment his fingers stroke the skin of my lower back, and then he kisses me, moving from gentle pressure to hot and deep and back to gentle. He pul s away to sit up and it’s al I can do to silence the protest that proves unnecessary when he hauls me up to straddle his hips, facing him.
I lean in to kiss him as his hands wander under my thin, loose sweater, unhooking my bra with a slip of fingertips that graze bare skin and leave a trail of goose bumps in their wake. He’s unbuttoned buttons and loosening clothing for better access, but he’s never removed anything. I don’t have the guts to pul the sweater over my head. Instead, I reach under the sweater and pul the bra straps down my arms, one at a time, pushing each arm back into the sleeves that hang over my hands, before dropping the bra on the ottoman behind me.
He smiles, probably having seen that trick a thousand times. Before I lose my nerve, I scoot forward until I’m pressed to him, wind my fingers into his hair, and kiss him like he kisses me when I haven’t seen him in three or four days—hard and hungry, sweeping my tongue across his lower lip. He grips me tighter and moans into my mouth, spurring me to move my attention to his neck, just behind his ear, one hand moving painstakingly down his chest, lower across his firm stomach, lower stil until he grabs my wrist. This movement feels familiar, though I could swear he’s never held me like this before.
he’s never held me like this before.
“Dori,” his breath is hot in my ear as he holds my wrist securely, and then he rests his forehead against mine, panting. “I… need to take a break.”
“What?” I pul back, confused. This is not a moment in which guys request a break.
“I need a minute or two.” Something in my expression must disclose my worry because his hands come up to surround my face. He closes his eyes and takes a deep, slow breath and then he looks at me more earnestly than he’s even done. “I want you too badly. I need time to cool down, because I want to be inside you.” Relief floods through me, fil ing me with the courage I lacked moments ago—short-lived, existing just long enough to force out four smal words, barely audible, that could change everything between us.
“I want you to.”
“What?” I lean back, cup her chin in my hand. “What did you say?”
She closes her eyes because I won’t let her hang her head, won’t let her turn her face away. “I said I want you to,” she murmurs.
Everything goes silent then. The echo of our breathing, so thunderous just a moment ago, fades. “Dori. I didn’t mean to imply that I can’t control myself. We don’t have to have sex.”
I brush her hair back on one side, checking her mood-displaying ears. Her rosy, tel tale ears. Her voice is just above a whisper, her eyes stil closed. “I’m not—I’m not a virgin, Reid. So… it doesn’t matter.”
Yeaaaah… probably best if I don’t tel her I figured that one out a while back. But— it doesn’t matter? What the hel does that mean? “It matters to me.”
Her eyes pop open and her mouth works for a moment, and final y she says, “Oh. I understand.”
I’m trying to read this, attempting to avoid a misstep with her, and for a moment I think she’s shifting—her foot’s gone her, and for a moment I think she’s shifting—her foot’s gone to sleep or her knees are locking. Then I realize she’s pul ing away, and she’s almost ful y standing before I grab her wrists. “You do not understand.” Pausing in her effort to escape, she inhales a shaky breath. “I’ve misrepresented what I am to you, to my parents, to everyone.” Her eyes brim with tears. “I’m a total fraud.”
“What, because you’re not a virgin? ” I sputter. “Dori, I of al people would never hold that against you. How hypocritical do you think I am?”
Her brow puckers, a wave of tears cascading down her cheeks, and I don’t want to talk anymore. I want to pul her back down onto my lap and kiss her until she can’t think of anything but me, and us, and what she wants right now.
“But you said it matters—” she sucks in a smal sob.
“Yes, it matters, goddammit.” I stand and take her face in my hands. “It matters that you never throw yourself away on someone you don’t real y want just because of some archaic black and white concept of morality. I don’t care if you’ve slept with one guy, or dozens.” She winces and I hold her steady. “You’re a good person, Dori.” She tries to move her head side to side in my hands and I won’t let her so she closes her eyes. “I’m not.”
“Oh yes, you are.”
She sucks in a shaky breath. “You aren’t…
I shake my head. “What? No. At times like this, I’m confused. And sometimes, when you leave, I’m frustrated as hel . But disappointed? Never.”
“I don’t understand.” She blinks up at me with her big Bambi eyes.
“Like I said.”
Pushing my hands through her hair, I pul her closer, and she leans into me. My thumbs sweep the remaining wetness from her cheeks. “Do you want me, Dori—or do you think having sex with me seems like the only honest decision to be made?” My thumb grazes across her mouth as the tip of her tongue snakes out to wet her lips—running over the sensitive pad of my thumb. It takes every scrap of self-restraint I’ve got not to crush her to me and forget this entire conversation.
She stares at her hands, curled against my chest. “Is it…
horrible… if it’s both?”
I exhale. “Not horrible.” But not okay, either. “Come here.” I sit back down, and she sits next to me, turned towards me, knees under her chin, feet hooked under my thigh. My fingers run lazy patterns over her hands, down her shins through her jeans, swirl around her bare ankles. She shivers once and waits, looking at me.
“Look, we don’t have to talk about—” Other guys? Your sexual history? “—the, uh, specifics of anyone who came before. I could tel you that everyone makes mistakes… but I can’t say that guy, or those guys, were mistakes for you.” Brows creased, she doesn’t reply. “Driving drunk and slamming into someone’s house— that was a mistake. You were exploring your body. Learning about yourself.”
“It was one guy,” she says, her voice breaking, and I feel like a total shit that this disclosure makes me euphoric.
“And then one day… it was just over. And I don’t know why, or wh-what I did wrong. I was s-so stupid.” God, guys are dicks. “Dori, you trusted him and he hurt you. He didn’t stick around, he lied, he made you feel used because you cared more than he did… and that misplaced trust felt like one huge mistake. But believe me, it was his mistake. Not yours.”