Shoving my tank up, his hands cup my breasts, thumbs teasing beneath the smooth satin, and I can’t get close enough to him. Without his hands bracing my weight, I’ve slipped just low enough to feel him hard against me, too many layers between us. Panting, he unhooks my front-closure bra and shoves the cups to the sides, and despite my determined muteness so far, I cry out when he sucks a nipple into his mouth, hard. Arching into him, I bite my lip until it stings, and I’m rewarded with his growl as he swings me around, strides towards the bed and drops me on to it.
I’m transfixed by the sight of him jerking his shirt over his head without bothering to unfasten the buttons. He slings it to the ground, inside out, as I shrug out of my tank and bra. Stepping up and unzipping my shorts, his dark gaze is on my face. My heart thuds as I return his stare and begin unbuttoning his jeans slowly, brazenly.
Seconds later, he’s tossing my shorts to the floor and pressing me to the mattress. As soon as our mouths meet again, my heart cracks open, and the memories are a tidal wave, beginning with that first spellbinding kiss in the pink closet. He seems heavier, bigger, harder all over than he was even those few months ago, but his beautiful face is still all angled symmetry, except for his full mouth and the thick, curving lashes ringing his dusk-blue eyes.
His kiss is the same – hot and demanding, but never stingy. Perfect. I’m good for you even if you don’t know it yet, he told me, and then he waited months for me to know it. To believe it. To stop doubting him.
Tears seep from the corners of my eyes to snake into my hair, and I hold on and kiss him back, measure for measure. ‘I love you,’ I say, finally, and he freezes and pulls back, watching me. ‘I love you,’ I repeat, ‘and I’m so scared, Reid. But I have faith in us.’
Fingertips stroking the edges of my face, he shifts his weight from me, pulling me into his embrace. ‘That’s what faith is, right?’ he says. ‘Believing in what can’t be known? Fall into my arms, Dori. I’ll catch you, every time, and I won’t let go.’ His lips brush over mine, feather-light. ‘Say it again, please. I’ve waited so long to hear you say it.’
‘I love you.’ I push him gently to his back and lean over him. Stare into his eyes. ‘I love you. Please don’t let go.’
‘I’ve got you. And I’m not letting go. Again. Please.’
‘I love you.’
He closes his eyes and whispers, ‘Again.’
‘I love you.’
‘I love you too,’ he breathes.
‘I know,’ I say and he laughs, flipping me on to my back, lacing our fingers and pinning my hands.
I stare into his eyes, a slight smile pulling at my mouth, and I see myself as he sees me. I feel loved, and scared, and hopeful. I feel found. And I think, Here is the beginning of my faith. Here is my forever. Right here. Right here.
‘I love you, Reid.’
New York City – June
Sitting across from me, Emma’s eyes widen slightly, focused over my shoulder, and Graham coughs into his fist in a transparent attempt to conceal laughter.
I glance over my shoulder to see Cara and River emerging from the mouth of the hallway that leads to two bedrooms – Graham and Emma’s on one side, Cara’s on the other. Emma is still attending NYU, but she’s planning to postpone her fall semester for a role she just landed on Broadway, and she may or may not return next spring. When Graham is filming on location, Cara divides her time between the apartment and Graham’s parents, ten minutes away.
They were both more than excited to meet Dori and River, who flew into JFK last night. I have three more days of filming. Brooke left for Brisbane yesterday, but not before multiple confirmations of contact numbers and appointed Skype times.
‘No, walk like this.’ Hands on her hips, Cara strides forward – her feet echoing thump thump thump on the worn wood floor. A pink sheet, tied around her neck, billows out behind her, and rhinestones glint regally from the top of her head. Her expression grave, she turns to look back at River. ‘Now you try.’
Stepping into the room, adorned in a purple sheet, my son’s stride is not so forceful. Unlike Cara’s exaggerated stamping, the pads of his bare feet make no sound, and his gait is careful. I wonder again at genetics, and how Brooke and I could mesh genes and produce such an unobtrusive kid. And then I notice his head. More specifically, what’s on his head. Which explains Graham’s amusement.
‘Son of a bitch.’
My voice is muted, but Graham coughs once more to cover it, stifling another half-laugh. I’d really like to punch him, because somehow, some way, this is his fault. Dori places her soft hand on my forearm. My eyes jerk to hers. Dark and dancing with laughter, they almost convince me to laugh too. Almost.
‘Is my son –’ I inhale through my nose and keep my voice very low – ‘wearing a tiara?’
Hands raised in placation, Graham clears his throat, ‘Eh-eh,’ when I shoot him a direct glare.
‘Cara loves to play princess.’ Emma’s voice of reason pulls me from contemplations of violence. ‘She must have convinced River to be her prince.’
‘He’s not the prince, he’s the king,’ Cara chirps, drawing all eyes to her. Her hands clasped daintily in front of her, she rolls big brown eyes and tilts her tiara-clad head at the four of us, like we’re all a little stupid. ‘He’s carrying the prince.’
Sure enough, in a hold that would be better suited for a football than a baby – which I’m kind of thrilled shitless about at the moment – my kid cradles a blanket-swathed baby doll in his arms. ‘Jesus Ch–’
Dori’s fingers slide across my arm, a gentle reminder to swallow my words, and I breathe an involuntary sigh. I’ll never understand how she does that with a single touch.
‘What’s the little prince’s name?’ Dori asks, and Cara turns to carefully take the doll from River, as though it’s made of glass and wouldn’t just bounce across the floor if one of them dropped it.
‘Well I wanted to name him Tristan or Edward.’
Cara frowns at her father when he chuckles again and Emma swats him, but Graham just pulls her closer and kisses her temple, and she settles into his embrace. ‘Those are very princely names,’ he assures his daughter.
‘Yeah …’ She rocks the bald-headed baby doll, the eyelids of which are closed because, I assume, it’s horizontal. ‘But we named him Reid, because River said princes get named after their grandfathers.’
Dori’s hand stills on my arm.
‘He said what?’ My words are thin, but they seem to echo across the loft.
She continues to stare at the doll. ‘Okay, really, he just said “Reid” when we were choosing a name, which is you, so it’s obvious that’s what he meant.’
‘He said, “Reid”?’ My voice is a whisper.
Cara nods, unaware of what it does to me that the boy who never speaks when he’s awake chose to utter my name, even if I didn’t hear it. Dori knows, though. Her eyes are glassy when I slide a look at her, and her beautiful face swims through tears I’d rather not shed in front of Graham and Emma.
River tugs the purple sheet behind him as he rounds the end of the sofa, his eyes on mine, puzzled and anxious. That’s the last thing I want him to feel.
I open my arms and he climbs into my lap, still staring. His eyes are such a stormy, serious blue. Wisps of wavy blond hair poke up and out from around the tiara. Every feature is small and vulnerable. He scares the absolute hell out of me. My feelings for him scare the absolute fucking hell out of me. And that’s how I know they’re right.
Drawing the purple sheet up to my shoulder, he leans closer and I fight the urge to crush him close, watching Dori over his head. Her tears are incompatible with her blissed-out grin, like rays of sun hitting the ground during a rainstorm. Silly, beautiful girl – wearing my ring, sharing my bed, accepting my child, my past and my future.
My son’s small finger touches the outer corner of my eye, releasing a tear. Damn. I know Graham and Emma are watching, but no matter how exposed I feel, I can’t move. I don’t breathe.
‘No cry, Daddy,’ he whispers, warm breath under my chin, his cheek against my heart.
And then everyone is wiping tears away, and Graham and I look at each other in silent agreement that this moment is between the four of us and is going nowhere. Ever.
Cara takes River’s hand and tugs. ‘C’mon, River.’ Sliding off my lap, he allows himself to be led away, and none of us can contain our laughter when Cara murmurs, ‘That’s another thing you need to remember about families – sometimes everyone is just weird.’