He woke to golden beams streaming in from the half-closed blinds, the soft morning sun alighting carefully on his face and across his closed eyelids. It turned the insides of them into a flesh-red, pulling him out of the colorless dark of his sleep. He stirred slightly, and sighed with content.
Before he opened his eyes, he took a moment to revel in the feeling of the supple, warm body that his arms were wrapped around. He shifted his head gently so he could feel her soft, waterfall hair, like a whisper, move against the skin of his cheek. She felt so full and ample beneath his hands, the sensation of her warm, naked skin unlike any other sensation he had ever known. He was an adrenaline-chaser; he enjoyed mountain biking, rock climbing, wake boarding, parasailing, and he had even gone skydiving. All of these activities sent thrills vibrating through his bones, and in the moments he was partaking in them, he saw the world in more vibrant colors, as though a famous painter had designed it specifically for the pleasure of his eyes. But this, the feeling of a perfect woman curled up beside him in the morning, her skin against his, this was something better than adrenaline. He found this notion difficult to believe because he had spent months of his precious time pursuing that sensory overload and the feeling of his blood rushing under his skin, and now, after a lifetime of devotion, he had found something better. Before, it had always been about his pleasure and exhilaration, and now, he had shared that intimate experience with someone else.
He opened his eyes, and despite the beams of sunlight pouring in from the blinds, her small single dorm was still dim with shadows clinging to the walls and corners, like sweat on the brink of falling off skin, allowing his eyes to adjust easily. The first thing he saw, the first thing he wanted to see, was her face.
Her eyelids fluttered softly as she slept. Her eyelashes curled beautifully away from her face, and they trembled like butterfly wings as her eyelids moved. Her cheeks were smooth like a pebble and full of a rosy color that gave him the urge to smile. Always such a cheerful person; she was one of those people who were always doing something, who were always overwhelmingly busy, and yet she always had time for anyone who needed her. She smiled at everyone she saw, and even now, as she lay still and peaceful in his arms, it looked as though the slightest of smiles rested on her lips. Her lovely, kissable lips that he had succumbed to the night before. It had been so easy for her to break all of his walls down, and no one had ever done that to him before in such a short time.
One small kiss would wake her, and he could pull her closer to him and see her smile and hear her voice. He wanted to feel her move against him. But she looked so peaceful, so relaxed, and he was loathe to ruin her moment of bliss.
He didn’t have to wait long.
When her eyes opened, he watched with a mixture of fascination and dismay as the peace melted away, gone as quickly as a shadow, and was replaced by consciousness as her first thoughts of the day filled her mind. Her eyes were bright and intelligent, but still blurry with sleep. She blinked a few times and inhaled deeply, twisting her torso oh-so-slightly and stretching her legs. Her skin slid against his, and a thrill shot through him, starting in his heart and bursting into his abdomen like a broken dam. His cheeks flushed, and he shifted his hips so she wouldn’t feel his arousal and think he was an ass who only thought about sex. Sex wasn’t what he’d woken up thinking about, and he hadn’t even thought about it until the moment when she stirred. Her easy, graceful movements, saturated in an intoxicating sensuality, made it difficult for his body not to notice.
She was looking at him now, the morning light slanting across her face. As she looked into his eyes, seeming to be searching for something, the rest of her face remained blank, and it was difficult for him to guess what she was thinking about. It couldn’t have been too bad, though, because after a moment she smiled, and he felt his body humming in response to the sight. His arms tightened around her and he pulled her closer to him.
“Hey,” she whispered in a raspy morning voice. Her cheeks were flushed.
“Hi,” he replied, and lifting his hand from the curve of her hip, he brushed a stray hair away from her face. His hand lingered there behind her ear, and then he cupped the bottom of her face in his palm. He did what he wanted to do most, which was kiss her.
She closed her eyes, and so did he, and together for a few moments, they drowned in the sensation of soft, plush skin. It was brief, only a few seconds long, but somehow fulfilled everything he had been looking forward too. He pulled away so they could look at each other, but he kept her body held tight to his. Her torso moved again, and when it did, the side of her leg brushed passed his hips. He felt a burst of sensation, and her eyes widened.
“I’m sorry,” he stammered, his cheeks growing hot. “It’s not— I’m not—”
A grin had bloomed on her face, making her cheeks into round apples, and she brought a slender finger to his lips.
“It’s okay,” she giggled softly. “I understand. I just wasn’t expecting it.”
Ashamed, he looked down at the comforter. Even though she had said she was okay with it, he still withdrew his hips from her, creating a bubble of space between them and their midriffs. He didn’t like the feeling of the empty air; he wanted to feel her skin. But he stayed there, determined not to make her feel pressured.
“It’s okay,” she repeated, her voice becoming smoother. “Especially after last night,” she added.
A flood of memories from last night rushed through him, and for a moment he was so overwhelmed that he couldn’t breathe. When he remembered the first time she had kissed him, leading to the domino effect that brought them to this moment of waking up in bed together, he couldn’t help but smile. Was it possible that had happened less than twelve hours ago? It felt as though last night had been a glorious lifetime all in its own.
The happy memories giving him courage, he leaned in for another kiss.
This time, she stopped him.
Her smile was gone now, and her eyes were solid and serious. A lump formed in his throat, and he felt his heart fall to his stomach, all of his doubts from the night before crashing down on him, manifesting into a cruel, twisted reality.
She dreaded the conversation that was about to come, berating herself for not having it last night before she had turned her flirtatious personality onto him like a stadium light, using all her charm to seduce him into her sheets. An awful premonition had crept along the back of her neck when his eyes started to light up in response to her attention, but she had convinced herself that he wasn’t the type to take one night to heart. He was so involved in his sports, and she told herself he wouldn’t have time to focus on her.
“Nick, what do you want from me?” Her eyes shifted back and forth as she looked from one of his irises to the other.
“I…” he wondered for a moment whether or not he should tell the truth, to reveal the lake of emotions he was feeling for her right now. Would it scare her? Would it reassure her? The latter, while the best-case scenario, was probably less likely. He started to speak again, preparing a lie, but when he looked at her face, it died in his throat.
“I want to wake up every morning feeling what I’m feeling right now.”
Her head fell back onto the pillow with a soft thwump, and she sighed heavily. The dread, the expression of “what have I done?” filled her beautiful face. His insides were breaking into a thousand sharp pieces, the soft thrill of waking up beside her this morning buried in an avalanche of disappointment that he imagined was heavier than being trapped under a real avalanche of snow. His arms loosened and hung limply around her; he knew that clinging to her would make this situation worse.
A long, horrible moment stretched out between them, and with each passing second he could feel the snow getting several hundred pounds heavier.
“Please say something,” he whispered finally, his voice breaking.
Keeping her head on the pillow, she tilted it toward him, her intelligent, calculating eyes sweeping over his face.
She didn’t want to bring her wounds to the table of the conversation, but it seemed that after all the time she’d spent confiding her broken heart to Nick that he hadn’t grasped how shattered she really was. Somehow, in his mind, he’d managed to glue all of the shards of her heart back into a whole apparatus, an apparatus that was capable of loving.
“Nick, you know he just left me.”
“It’s been three months,” he replied, trying not to sound harsh.
She winced anyways. Could people really move on after such a short amount of time, especially after they had invested so much of themselves into a relationship? Was she abnormal? Was she weak for not moving past it?
“It feels like yesterday,” she murmured, hating to admit it. Despite his pain, he managed to find her hand and give it an encouraging squeeze. She smiled sadly in response to his gesture, and the sight was both beautiful and heart wrenching to him.
“He’s the only guy I’ve ever been serious about. It’s too early for me to be serious again. With anyone. Even someone awesome like you,” she smiled at the ceiling, and although she didn’t look at him, he knew the smile was for him. “You know I have so much respect and admiration for the devotion you have for your sports.”
“I know. I thought you admired me, too,” he murmured.
“Nick, I do, I just¬—” she stammered, flustered. “Not like this. I’m sorry, I should have told you how I was feeling last night before I brought you home. That was my fault. But for me, last night was… last night was like—” her eyes flitted about her dim room as she looked for a word.
“Last night was grilled cheese and tomato soup. Comfort food,” she smiled at the absurdity of what she was saying. “Do you know what I mean?”
“Yeah,” he replied. Despite his disappointment, putting him on the brink of tears now, he smiled and managed to say; “Oreos. Last night was Oreos.”
“I love Oreos,” she beamed at him.
“Me too,” he gushed. As they smiled at each other, giggling a little, he swallowed his tears and felt a blossom of hope growing out of the devastated ruins of the inside of his chest.
“Right now, I need comfort food, not medicine. I’m not ready to heal. I still love him, and a part of me believes I won’t ever stop.”
He seized on the string of hope he was feeling, and he kissed her before she could stop him. He kissed her hard and deep, and she made a small noise of surprise, a questioning mmm? that he delighted in. Last night, she had been all about surprises, and now it was his turn. Her hands rested on his shoulders, but she did not grab him. When he pulled away, she was staring at him wide-eyed, like a deer on the side of the road.
“I can be your grilled cheese and tomato soup,” he said, gently stroking her cheek with his thumb. She smiled, pleased at his response, but still somewhat alarmed at this sudden change in him.
“But, that’s not what you want,” she whispered, keeping her face temptingly close to his. “You want something serious.”
“I can negotiate,” he replied, smiling in what he hoped was an endearing way. It must have worked, because she responded with a big grin. “We’ll be friends, like we were, but when you need some comfort food, I’ll be here. Last night was amazing.”
“It was.” Her eyes closed as she remembered. After a long moment, she opened them, and her eyes sparkled with unshed tears. “You really are wonderful, you know?”
Pulling her close, he closed the tiny distance remaining between their lips and she encircled his neck with her arms. His hand found its way to her her hip again, and he felt her body move like a wave beneath his palm. She surprised him when she lifted her top leg and wrapped it around the back of his, pulling their hips together. He shivered, and deepened his kiss.
With patience, he would win her over. He would help her forget her pain, and she would fill the loneliness inside of him that he didn’t know he had until last night, that he didn’t realize he’d been filling with adrenaline. They would be each other’s comfort food.
He grinned against her lips as she pulled him over top of her, her hands exploring his back and shoulders.
It was a good place to start.