How It Happened

“Did you have fun?”

“Oh, it was wonderful,” she exclaimed. “I was really nervous at first, though.”

“I could tell,” he smiled, and when she blushed he added, “You did just fine, for your first time riding.”

“Tomorrow I’m going to be sore in places I didn’t even know I had muscles, aren’t I?” she laughed, and he paused for a microsecond before he laughed himself. “Yes, you probably will,” he said.

He poured her a drink that she barely touched, while he started a quick and simple meal for them. She offered to help.

He declined. He could feel her watching him while he went about the tasks, wondered if she was surprised at how capable he was in the kitchen. She sat in silence, watching him, thinking a little sadly about how often he must have to prepare meals for himself.

Hungry, at first they ate in silence. “It’s very good,” she said at last. Her tone was all appreciation, with no surprise or condescension. “Do you enjoy cooking?” she asked. He told her that he didn’t mind it, but it wasn’t his first choice of pastime. It was more a matter of necessity. She didn’t say anything to that, just looked at him and nodded, understanding. It was the same for her.

After dinner he invited her to sit in the living room for a bit. “I’ll be right back,” he said, excusing himself to run upstairs. It ended up taking him 15 or 20 minutes, and when he returned he found her roughly where he’d left her, asleep. He smiled again. She looked so sweet, and so vulnerable.

He reached out to wake her gently. At his touch she woke up, startled and unsure at being in a strange place with a man standing over her. It took a moment to register. He watched her awaken, fear flitting briefly over her features, then relief, and finally embarrassment.

“I fell asleep,” she murmured in her still-sleepy voice, as if he might not have realized. Then, “I’m sorry. I must not be used to so much fresh air.”

“It’s OK,” he reassured her. “You looked so peaceful I hated to wake you.”

“You showered,” she observed. He looked fresh and, oh my, he smelled wonderful. She was suddenly aware that she probably smelled of horse.

“Yes ma’am, I did. That’s why I woke you. I didn’t want you to stiffen up too much.” He offered her his hand. “Come with me. You can wash up.”

She followed him up the stairs to the second floor and paused when they got to the main bathroom, but he continued toward his own room. She looked at him questioningly. “This way,” he beckoned.

He turned and continued to walk toward the master bedroom, noting with pleasure as he did that although she looked confused, she followed anyway. She stopped in the doorway of his room, and he walked on and stepped into the open door of the master bath. A moment later he popped his head back out. She was still standing outside his room.

“C’mon in,” he called. “I have a surprise for you.” She didn’t move, worry lines deepening on her forehead. He supposed he didn’t blame her for being cautious, but he also wished she didn’t think it necessary.

He walked back to her, taking her hands in his. He didn’t pull her, just stood there and held her hands, smiling, asking her to trust him with his eyes. “It’s OK, sweetheart. Really.”

She stepped into the room, knowing she was a fool for his endearments, nevertheless following his lead. As she got closer to the bathroom, she could hear a low rumbling sound.

In the master bedroom, an enormous tub full of bubbles was waiting. She could tell from the movement of the surface that it was a jacuzzi tub, humming jets churning the unseen water below. “I thought you might like to soak your muscles after all that riding,” he said softly.

She stood there surprised for a moment, feeling a strange mix of being touched and nervous and disappointed because it looked so inviting, but…

“I… Oh… I can’t.” she stammered. She meant it in many ways, for reasons she didn’t have it in her to articulate, but there was one reason that seemed so simple and absolute and didn’t make her have to think about it, and she latched on to that one like a life-preserver. “I’m allergic to bubble bath.”

He smiled and held up a small bottle of floral scented shampoo. “You told me that once,” he said, “I remembered. It’s just shampoo.” Before she could say anything else he said gently, “Go on. It will do you good. There’s a towel there for you, and I’ll come back in a while to bring you a bathrobe to put on when you’re done, so you’ll have something to wear while we wash the trail dust out of your clothes. Help yourself; it’s all yours.”

He smiled, gestured one last “go ahead” with one hand, and then left, closing the door behind him before she could raise many more protests. She stood there uncertainly in the middle of the room, listening to his footsteps retreat. She looked at the door; there was no lock. She would have felt better if there had been; if she didn’t have the sense that she would have to trust the honor system. She acknowledged to herself — though it was more like an accusation — that trust was not her strong suit. She looked at the tub. It was huge. The jets were frothing the shampoo into a thick lather of bubbles. She realized that even just after her short nap she was starting to stiffen up, and right now hot soapy water sounded absolutely divine.

OK then, she decided, and a moment later her clothes were in a neat pile on the floor and she was testing the temperature of the water with her foot. Too hot yet. She debated turning on the cold water to cool it, then frowned. A bath might be good for relaxing, but she didn’t relish the idea of soaking in dirty water. There was a shower stall just to the side, and she stepped in. The floor was already wet from his shower earlier. She washed quickly, feeling more herself as she washed the worst of the day’s dirt away, and feeling oddly aware in her own body of the fact that she was in his space and how recently he had been there himself.

After the shower, a bath seemed almost silly, but still the tub beckoned. And how sweet of him to think of it, and to remember her allergy to bubble bath, she thought. Testing the water with her foot again, this time she found it a bearable heat. She sank in happily, dreamily, feeling the soap-infused water massaging her tired body awake as it burst forth from the jets.

From downstairs he heard the water running in the shower and found himself glancing questioningly up at the ceiling. A few minutes later he heard the water stop again and the sound of her footsteps, and then — silence. And then he could picture her, in his shower, washing her hair and rinsing her body before sinking into the bath he’d drawn for her.

She had only been in the bath for maybe 15 minutes – though it seemed like both much less and much more – when he knocked cautiously at the door. “I’ve come to bring you a bathrobe, and take your clothes down to be washed,” he called softly. “Is it safe for me to come in for a second?”

She looked nervously around her and down, reassuring herself that she wasn’t exposed. “I’m, um. Yes. It’s ok to come in. For a second.”

He opened the door, laid the bathrobe on the corner of the counter, took in the scene. Except for her flushed face and the hair that was dark and wet-straight but for the nearly-dry tendrils curling at her temples, she was completely hidden by the bubbles. Still, she blushed crimson and started to laugh nervously when he looked at her.

“Well, you are shy, girl. I can’t see anything, you know.”

She giggled nervously. “I know. It’s just… I’m vividly aware of the fact that I don’t have anything but bubbles on right now.”

That made him laugh his deep, rich laugh, the one that made her toes curl. He’d brought her some wine. “Something to help you relax,” he said, sipping from his own glass as he handed one to her.

Any man this interested in relaxing her was probably not to be trusted, she thought. She decided that she liked him far too much to let plain sense hinder her, though. She took the glass from him, noting the way the light played on the crimson fluid inside, her hand coming up coated in foam that she could not shake away. She sat up slightly in the tub, carefully, still mindful of the delicacy of her position. The wine was a little warmer than she liked it, but it was good, its sweet tang exploding over her tongue. He sat on the edge of the tub, looking down at her, talking to her casually. A warm hazy sensation settled over her. She did feel relaxed. In fact, she felt downright tipsy. She realized it was probably foolish to drink much more.

Though she’d barely touched her wine, he could see in her eyes that it was starting to go to her head a little bit. She wasn’t much of a drinker. Now she seemed less aware of, or at least less nervous about, her relative vulnerability and his proximity. The wine was having the opposite effect on him. He was acutely aware of how near he was to her and that not much more than air separated him from the sight of her naked body.

“Steady,” he thought to himself, knowing how skittish she could be and how easy it would be to push too far too fast. He didn’t want to lose this moment.

He reached out and scooped a handful of bubbles from the surface of the water near where her feet were. He watched her face to gauge her reaction to his movement. She merely watched him thoughtfully with her sea-colored eyes. “How is the water?” he asked, reaching back to the same non-threatening area of the tub to feel for himself. The water was deliciously warm. “Mmm. Nice,” she said in a tone of complete satisfaction.

She took another sip of her wine, inadvertently sitting up just a hair too much in the process. She was still safely covered in bubbles, but for that moment as she was partially out of the water, he could sense just the slightest hint of the warm pink flesh beneath them. As she settled back and went to set her wine glass down, he reached forward to take it from her, his hand brushing over hers in the process. He felt more than heard her breath catch at his touch.

Setting the wine glass out of the way, he continued to hold and stroke her hand. It was pink and wrinkled and tender from being in the water so long.

“I should get out soon,” she said softly, looking at their hands rather than in his eyes. Then she glanced up at him, and he murmured agreement as he leaned down to kiss her. The bathroom floor dug into his knees in the process but he hardly noticed it, as he felt her soft lips yield to him, then her mouth open to let his tongue in. He was overcome by the taste and feel of her mouth and her tongue dancing with his.

One hand drifted down into the water again, still going carefully, reaching low and running his hand gently along the outside of her leg. The soap in the water made her skin tantalizingly slick to his touch. He trailed his hand upward, sorely tempted to stop and explore more of her, but continuing instead past the curve of her hip and her waist, gently, carefully, upward, upward, teasing her as the kiss deepened. She didn’t resist. When his hand closed over one breast and he gently rubbed its taut nipple with his thumb, she gasped, pleasure winning out over alarm, instinctively arching to meet him.

He helped her out of the tub then, half-lifting her in his hurry for her. He started the tub draining and waited the minute she wanted to rinse the soap away in his shower again, all the while watching her form through the shower walls. She could feel his eyes. He met her at the shower door, wrapping the towel around her, drying her in his embrace, hungry to capture her mouth again. She pressed against him, on tiptoe, just as eager for the feel and taste of him; hands in his hair, hands undoing the buttons of his now-damp shirt, hands on his chest, on his stomach, at the waist of his pants…

They stopped for breath and looked at each other, disheveled. She clutched the towel around her with one hand to keep it in place. Something about her eyes told him that in that moment she was remembering herself, questioning what they were doing, how everything seemed to be happening so fast. He was tempted to press on. Don’t stop now was what he felt, but he didn’t want to lose her now by pushing her. Not having her now was the regret he didn’t think he could bear.

“My clothes.” she said as they stepped over them, and he felt disappointment that she might suddenly want to dress now. “Can we wash them?” she continued, and he smiled with something like relief. He had said he was coming in for that purpose, hadn’t he?

“Of course we will,” he started, about to say that there would be time later; realizing that maybe she needed a moment to pull herself together; tempted not to allow it for just that reason; thinking better of it after all. “If you want, I’ll take them down now and start them,” he promised, “don’t go far, ok?” He lowered his head to kiss her again.

She smiled, then pressed against him again as she returned his kiss. “No, I won’t.”

With one scoop of his arm he had her clothes and despite his wish to be nonchalant, all but ran them down to the washer to start them. He wanted to give her time if she needed it, but still he hurried, not wanting to give her too much time, time to start over-thinking the situation in his absence. On his way back, he grabbed the bottle of wine. Her glass had hardly been touched before, but his own was close to empty.

Once he had left the room, she was able to catch her breath again. She finished drying off — aware without his arms around her that her skin was damp by the chill of the air. She put on his robe, so large on her that she felt as if she were swimming in it, and put his bathroom quickly back in order, then walked out into his bedroom.

The room carried something of his scent; strong, masculine, sexy. She walked around, soaking it in, looking at the simple decor, trying to get a better sense of this man from the things with which he surrounded himself. In the process she made a wide circle around the bed, as if not going near it would take the fact of it away. She was there, in his room, and she wanted to be there, and yet she felt so conflicted about it, so unsure. He had not made her any promises — she would not have wanted him to make promises he couldn’t keep — and yet what might happen next felt like a promise in itself.

Her mind buzzed with a hundred thoughts. No, she didn’t want to think now. She wanted to drown out all the careful voices in her head, the ones warning her against getting hurt, against the possibility of regrets in the morning. She walked around the room, drinking the wine he’d poured her a little too quickly, unconsciously distancing herself from the door while deliberately immersing herself in one of the paintings.

When he returned upstairs, he looked for her first where he’d left her, in the bathroom. It had been tidied; things put in their places, her towel neatly hung up. His wine glass sat on the counter, but neither she nor her glass were to be seen. He turned back to his room to find her standing near the far wall, at an angle that indicated she’d been looking at the pictures, taking in the feel of his personal space.

She was wearing the bathrobe he’d left for her, her tiny frame almost lost in it, like a child playing dress-up. She looked at him cautiously, sipping what remained of her wine. She noticed the bottle in his hand. “More, please?” she asked, smiling shyly, nervously, holding her glass toward him in a hand that trembled slightly. Her eyes were glazed a bit, and he noticed that in the short window he’d been gone she’d almost finished the glass.

Liquid courage, he thought. He wished she didn’t need it; he wished she was coming to him clear-eyed and unafraid; he was glad she was coming to him at all. And then he had her in his arms, his mouth on hers, his hands finding their way to part the robe and expose her flesh to his touch, her body his for the asking, his for the taking.

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~ by lorakceel on November 15, 2010.

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