Food, Cats, and Being in Love

I don't want to think about it
I don't want to talk about it
When I kiss your lips
I want to sink down to the bottom
Of the sea

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32. Chapter Thirty-Two

I woke up in the morning when the alarm on Vincent’s phone went off. He bolted out of bed beside me and went in search of wherever he’d left it. I buried myself under the blankets and gripped the pillows tightly. The room was more illuminated now, and I could still feel the heat from his body on the sheets.

Oh God.

Memories from the night before felt like a faraway dream. A really good dream. Even though Sean and I had sex before, it was never like that. Sean had been right. We’d liked each other but in a more friendly way. There was no spark. No chemistry. No passion or desire. Just an act. But with Vincent, it was like I couldn’t get enough of him. It was all kissing and tongues and fingernails. Like we were goddamn animals. And not in a gross, grunting, nature documentary kind of way. Like Miss Logical Piper took a vacation and my heart took over, and I didn’t care about anything but what I wanted so selfishly and recklessly.

And it was amazing. Except for that one tiny little problem.

Now I was lying in a bed warmed by his body. Naked. And he’d got up to shut off his phone. Naked. And then when the blaring of his phone alarm went off there was silence. I didn’t know what he was thinking, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to. What if he was regretting it? What if he was only into it because it was dark and he couldn’t see all my flaws? What if he was now looking at the shape of my body under the blankets and my frizzy hair and thinking he’d made a mistake and ruined our friendship?

I couldn’t breathe. Until I heard him move to find his clothes. And then I realized he wasn’t being quiet because he was staring at me, but because he thought I was still asleep and didn’t want to wake me up. When I heard the bathroom door close, I sat up sharply and had a small panic attack. We had to drive all the way back to Boston. A five-hour drive. And since I’d just woke up it was unlikely I’d crash again so soon. So at some point, we were going to have to talk about the fact that we had sex.

Which wouldn’t have been a big deal if not for the fact that he’d also had sex with my sister. And just the day before I got to meet the product of that. And she was sweet and kind, and when we stood in her bedroom looking over her collection of droids, she’d asked me if it was okay for her to call me Auntie Pip. And I’d said yes.

And then…

I was the worst human being in the whole world. Disgusting. Despicable. I had to get out.

I launched myself out of bed and scrambled for my clothes. I knew I couldn’t run away and make it all the way back to Boston without talking to him. But I didn’t want to talk to him there while we were alone. While I was still lying in the bed he’d given me my first real orgasm in.

So I threw my clothes on and booked it out of the door before he could finish. The hotel had a breakfast bar, and I didn’t know where else to go. Maybe I lied. Maybe I really was a comfort eater. Because thinking about Vincent just made me really want an omelet. So I located the breakfast room, or whatever it was called, and waited for the guy to cook me up an omelet and some bacon. I was nervously shifting on my feet because I knew any second Vincent was going to show up looking for me. And I’d forgotten my phone, so it wasn’t like he could call or I’d have anything to focus on in the meantime.

Once I got my meal, I found a table at the very back and proceeded to read the hotel’s pamphlet thing a few times. And by read it I mean I was hiding behind it. But it didn’t matter because he spotted me the second he walked into the room. He went and got himself a bagel and little packets of cream cheese and then came right to the table.

“Hey,” he said as he took a seat. But there was an uncomfortableness there. Or maybe it was just me. Because my mouth was full of eggs and I couldn’t respond, and my eyes might have gone wide when I finally looked at him.

He was so pretty.

“Sorry I left,” I said once I swallowed my food. “I was starving.”

“Yeah, no. It’s fine.” I watched him spread cream cheese on his bagel, and then he lifted his hand to lick some off of his thumb, and I almost died. He caught me looking, and there was another awkward silence. “So um,” he said. “We should probably leave soon.”

“Yeah. I agree. I got an—order that I have to work on.”

“Right.” I went back to hiding behind the pamphlet and pretending to read about hotel policies. I was suddenly not very hungry. My stomach was flipping and flopping, and I couldn’t stop twisting my napkin. Finally, he reached out a hand and placed it over mine, stopping me from tearing the napkin to shreds.

“Are you alright?” he asked. “Be honest.”

“I’m fine,” I replied. “Just nervous.” He pulled his hand away and nodded.

“Me too. We should probably talk.”

“Well, we have five hours alone in a car to do that.” He chewed on his lip and went back to his bagel. But then he just stared at it.

“Honestly, I’m not even hungry now,” he said.

“Me either.”

“Check out is at eleven. We should get going.”

“Yeah, okay.”

We hurried to clean up the table, pretending like we were back to being “just friends.” Even though my heart was pounding so fast, I felt like I was going to faint and I realized I probably looked weird with my frizzy, untamed curls and the fact that I wasn’t wearing shoes.

We stayed silent all the way back up to the room so we could get our stuff and clean up. I rushed in ahead of him and went right for the bag I’d left on the bed we’d broken in. But he stopped me before I reached it.

“Pip, wait,” he said. I felt him take my hand and I turned around, chewing on my lip and not knowing what in the hell I was supposed to do. “Please don’t shut me out?”

“I’m not. I’m just….”

“Panicking?”

“Something like that.”

“I didn’t mean to make this weird between us. I’m sorry.”

“No. It’s not your fault. I—I mean I did it.” He cocked his head to the side just a tad.

“Well I mean—I did a great deal of it.”

“No, I mean—I initiated it. Is what I meant to say.”

“Doesn’t mean you’re at fault, Pip. I wanted it too. I could have stopped it. I didn’t want to.”

“I know. I didn’t want to either. It’s not—It’s not that I didn’t want it. Or that I didn’t—enjoy it. It’s that….”

“Paige.”

“Yeah.” He shook his head, and his fingers squeezed my hand.

“She doesn’t have to know. Realistically. There’s no rule that says we have to tell her anything,” he pointed out. I nodded.

“I know but….” That was the problem. I wanted her to know. Okay, I didn’t want her to know we’d had sex or anything because that was private. But I didn’t picture him as the guy I had to love in secret. I didn’t want to have to hide him. And I certainly didn’t want to be his secret—whatever. “It’s that I don’t want to—keep you—a secret. I don’t think that—that’s what I want from you.”

“Right. Yeah. No, that’s not what I meant. I just mean—we don’t have to hide, but it’s not like you have to go call her right now and tell her that you spent the night with me or anything. Our lives are still ours. I don’t want you to be my secret—anything—either. But I don’t think that means we have to jump right into inviting me to family holiday dinners or giving your sister the details about our—sex life.” I squinted. “Sorry. Was that too blunt?”

“No. I just feel—guilty. Like I did something wrong.”

“If Paige and I were never together and Erin didn’t exist, would you still feel guilty?” I bit my lip and shook my head. “No. Then it doesn’t matter. If you want to be with me then just be with me. If you don’t then—just tell me.”

“It isn’t weird for you?” I looked back at him, and he gave a nervous smile.

“Pip, I wanted to be with you the moment I saw you sitting in that little coffee shop.”

“But you dated my sister.”

“Sometimes I wish I’d made a different choice. Asked out a different sister. Gone about things differently. But we can’t change what happened. I always knew we were better suited. Even then. And maybe if we were in the same grade or had the same classes, I would have asked you out first. Things just didn’t work out that way. But they can work out now. If you want to try.”

I pinched my eyes shut and felt him step closer to me. His hand released mine, and I felt it on my face and in my hair. I leaned toward him and felt his lips just out of reach.

“I just ate like ten mushrooms,” I admitted when I opened my eyes and looked back at him. He smiled.

“I don’t care how many mushrooms you eat,” he said. And when he kissed me it happened all over again. I didn’t forget about Paige or how guilty I felt. Or even Erin and all my insecurities. But I leaned into him, and I knew that even if I told him I didn’t want to try, then I would take it back. Because I didn’t think I’d be able to spend another “hang out” with him without thinking of his lips on my skin and his hands on my thighs and…

“Is that a yes or a no? I can’t tell,” he said, breaking apart our lips. I’d made a noise. Similar to the “mm” sound he made when he tried my food. And it took me a minute to get my eyes opened again.

“That’s a yes,” I agreed. Because even though I felt guilty—I felt elated. And I already knew I was in too deep.

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