Swallowing hard, I try to push down the lump that’s formed in my throat so I can respond. “Vinny, I can’t.”
His arms snake around my waist, locking me in. “You can.” His tone changes from soft to firm, almost commanding. It does something to me, stirs something inside of me and I feel the surge of arousal from his forcefulness. Everything on the street ceases to exist, and my body becomes completely in tune with him. It unnerves me how I can be so completely turned on by something that should make me run the other way.
He buries his head in my neck and breathes deep. “You feel it. I know you do.”
He’s not wrong. I feel it too. All the way down to the tips of my toes. I want him. Badly. But I’ve gone down that road before with him. And I know I’d be starting something that he would finish. Sooner than I was ready to. Again.
His arms, loosely wrapped around my waist, tighten, pulling me to him until our bodies are touching. I can feel the heat radiate from his hard body, and the hunger in his stare. “Kiss me, then tell me I’m wrong.” His voice is hoarse and strained.
Unconsciously, I lick my lips that have gone dry. He groans, the erotic sound setting fire to my body instantly and my breath catches as he looks down at me intensely before sealing his mouth over mine possessively. His kiss is aggressive, but well skilled, leaving me no choice but to follow his commanding lead.
I don’t even notice my bags dropping to the ground, but it frees my arms. My hands reach up and dive into his unruly hair. Entwining my fingers, I pull hard, deepening the kiss. Vinny growls and squeezes me hard as he lifts me off my feet, bringing me closer against him. I can feel his throbbing erection against my stomach and it makes me lose my mind. My body aches for him and I kiss him back with such force it takes even me by surprise.
Too soon, he gently settles me back onto my feet. My knees are so weak from his kiss that I’m thankful his grip is still tight around me, for fear I might fall.
“I want you, Liv. I can’t stop myself. Tell me you don’t feel what’s between us and I’ll go.”
I don’t look up at him, my mind is still racing as fast as my heartbeat and I’m afraid what looking into those beautiful, pale blue eyes will do to me in my already weakened state.
“Look at me.”
Something about his tone makes it so I have no choice but to obey. My judgment becomes clouded at the sound of the strength of his will and demand. It takes over me, bringing me into my own little universe where only the two of us exist and I feel the inexplicable need to please him.
My eyes open slowly and I look up at him. His focus so intently keen on me, I find it difficult to breathe. “Tell me you don’t want me.”
I want to tell him I don’t want him, but I can’t. Because I do. I’ve never wanted anything more in my life. The feelings he conjures up in me are just so overpowering and consuming. “It’s not that I don’t want you,” my voice comes out as a mere whisper.
“Then what is it?”
“It’s you.” I shake my head, not fully understanding myself. “It’s just you. It’s all too much, too fast, and too intense, and it scares me. Scares the hell out of me.”
The corners of Vinny’s mouth curl up, and I watch as his face visibly relaxes before my eyes. “I want to promise you I’ll slow down, take things slower, but I don’t want to start things off on a lie. I’m not sure I can do slow around you, Liv.” His voice is back to gentle and sweet. “But I’ll promise you I’ll try. If that’s what it takes, I will…I’ll try.” Vinny pulls back his head to look directly into my eyes. “Trust me about one thing, Liv…whatever is going on between us, it’s going to happen. You can make it as difficult as you want, but we, Liv, are going to happen. Neither one of us can stop it.”
Somehow, down deep, I just know he’s right.
Vinny doesn’t give me the chance to back out or reconsider agreeing to see where things might take us. He senses that time and distance between us will make me change my mind, and he’s probably right. Most definitely right. I’ve only been away from him for an hour and I’m already having second thoughts as I pull up to the gym I’ve agreed to meet him at. He’s talked me out of yoga and into trying a kick boxing class he teaches just outside the city.
He’s already at the front of the room when I walk in. The few women surrounding him look like they’re going to an athletic wear photo shoot, rather than to really exercise. He catches my eye as I walk in and crooks one finger at me, beckoning me to the front of the room. The ladies surrounding him trace his line of sight, curious what has taken his attention away from them when they’ve obviously worked so hard to keep it. They scowl at me as I approach.
“Ladies, we’re going to get started in a minute, why don’t you go take your places.” He’s talking to them, but his eyes have never left mine. I point to myself, smirking, questioning if he is directing his words at me, but he grins and shakes his head no.
“Front row. Right in front of me, Liv.” He gives me a crooked smile and reaches down, grabbing the hem of his shirt and pulls it off in one swift motion.
I roll my eyes in his direction, but take my position in the front nonetheless. The view is just too good to not be front and center anyway.
“Warm ups ladies. Or are you ladies already ready for me?” He smiles at the full class of hopeful women and I watch their reactions in the reflection of the mirror in front of me. I think I might even take in the scent of female pheromones wafting their way to the front of the room, determined to attract their intended target.
Vinny’s eyes find mine and he grins at me knowingly. I roll my eyes playfully in response. He walks the class through a series of stretches and I catch glimpses of him in the mirror as he weaves his way through the class giving instructions. He stops when he gets to me and puts his hand firmly on my lower back as I bend over stretching to touch the floor with my hands.
“A little deeper.” He applies pressure as his hand slowly strokes up and down my spine. Leaning down next to me, he whispers into my ear so that only I can hear him. “Jesus Christ, you have an amazing ass, Liv.” I feel his words slide over me and I’m grateful we’re in a room full of people, instead of alone.
The forty-five minute class is harder than I expected, but Vinny makes it fun. He’s playful and attentive to the class. I can see how they all look at him, but he keeps a certain distance from them as a few try hard to entice him as he works with them individually. I find myself wondering if he’s always this professional with his students, or if his act is merely for my benefit.
I’m a sweaty mess after the class, even worse than I would’ve been in yoga. “That was fun, I can’t believe how fast the time went by.” I wipe the sweat from my forehead as I speak.
“I’m glad you liked it. You’re good, a natural at swinging those legs.”
“You ready to get something to eat?”
“I really need to shower.”
“I could use a shower too.” Vinny arches his eyebrows suggestively.
“That wasn’t an invitation.”
Vinny finishes packing up his stuff. There’s a few women still hanging around talking, but most have already left. Standing in front of me, he reaches around my waist with his one free hand and pulls me closer to him, uncaring if people are still in the room. “That’s a shame, I was looking forward to you washing my back.”
“I think you’re going to be taking care of yourself today.” I arch one eyebrow playfully, the double meaning in my statement intentional.
Vinny laughs, shaking his head as he throws his arm around my shoulder, holding me close as he leads us to the door. “I’ll shower alone, but it won’t be as much fun. But I’m taking you to dinner. Give me your address, I’ll pick you up in forty-five minutes. I’m not taking any chances by giving you more time than that.”
We drive to a part of town I haven’t been to in years, not far from our old high school. I’m surprised when Vinny parks behind the library and comes around to open my door without explanation.
“Why are we at the library?” Vinny takes my hand and helps me out of his truck, grabbing a bag from the back seat.
“Come on, I’ll show you.”
We walk for a few minutes and I finally catch on to where he must be taking me. The tree. For years after Vinny left school, I couldn’t look in the direction of that damn tree. It was our spot. A few months after I started tutoring him in the library, the weather had finally warmed up enough and Vinny had insisted we needed to study outdoors. So we found a quiet place under a big tree and spent almost every afternoon after school under it. To me, it was our tree, a special place where I fell in love for the very first time.
Vinny opens the duffle bag, pulls out a blanket and spreads it over the grass, motioning with an exaggerated hand gesture and bow for me to sit.
“Our dinner.” He reaches in and pulls out another bag, handing it to me before he sits close on the blanket.
I know what’s in the bag, but I check anyway. I can’t believe he’s remembered so much. Most afternoons we’d share a hero. Roast beef and provolone, mayo only on his half.
“I can’t believe you remembered all of this.”
“Of course I remembered.”
I try to force a smile at Vinny, but he sees on my face that something’s bothering me.
“What’s the matter?”
“Nothing. I guess I’m just surprised that you remembered all this.”
“Remember? Liv, those months with you…I’d never forget.”
When we spent time together all those years ago, I never doubted that there was something between us. I was young and inexperienced, but my heart told me he cared about me too. Then it just ended. And I spent the next year of my life feeling stupid for thinking he felt something for me too. To say I was devastated would be an understatement. It crushed my faith in so many things…young love, trusting my judgment on boys, giving my heart to someone else. “Then why, Vinny? Why did we stop spending time together after you left school?”
Vinny sighs, raking his fingers through his dark blond locks. It makes his unruly hair even more wild and only that much sexier. “My life was just so screwed up. My mom had problems, I’d just got kicked out of school, and I didn’t understand things about myself.” He reaches for my hand. “You were young, Liv. You weren’t ready for what I needed from you.”
Softly, the words escape my lips before I can catch them. “I didn’t care about any of that. I just needed you.”
I watch Vinny’s throat work as he swallows. For a second, I catch a flash of the boy I once knew in the man, only this time, he’s forlorn instead of angry. But the flash quickly passes, shuttering over the sadness. “You needed someone better. I would’ve dragged you down.” His words are spoken resolutely. It’s clear by his clipped tone he intends the conversation to be over. We’re both quiet for a long time, neither of us wanting to speak first.
I don’t even realize I’m staring at our joined hands, avoiding eye contact, until Vinny finally puts his hand under my chin, forcing my head up to meet his gaze. “Do you understand?”
“Sort of. I guess.” My tone wavers. Because, the truth is, I really don’t understand.
“I cared about you, Liv. A lot.”
I can tell he’s sincere and it makes me feel better. A little at least. I smile half-heartedly at him as he runs his knuckles gently along my cheek. “You better eat. When I look at you sitting here, it reminds me of all the things I never got to do with you.” His sweet smile is replaced by a dirty grin. “To you. I have a whole list of things I wanted to do to you.”