I stared at the manuscript, resisting the urge to grind my teeth in frustration. It had been an hour since I first sat down to work on it. A long, excruciating hour that made my brain ache. I desperately wanted to write, but the words refused to coalesce. After several false starts, multiple changes in musical inspiration, and three or four distractions, I was torn between the urge to create and the urge to give up.
It had been weeks since I worked on it. Life had conspired against me and this work seemed to be resisting the jump start I was trying to give it. I wondered if I should chalk it up as deceased and shuffle it aside like so many others. A creative miscarriage brought on by stress, much to the grief of the author who was torn between mourning it and fury for its passing.
I leaned back in my chair and ran a hand through my hair. It was finally starting to grow out. I was looking forward to it being long enough to tie back into a ponytail or a braid. Anything to keep the maddening fly-aways under control with out my ever present headscarf. A rock song that sounded like perfect stripper dance music blared out of the speakers of the computer before me. It felt patently false, like every word that I pounded out to the page.
“Ninety percent of sitting in the chair,” I muttered to myself, reminding myself of a variant of the magical formula of how to write a novel. Reportedly, it was ninety percent of sitting in the chair, nine point nine percent tears, and one tenth of a percent inspiration. I felt close to adding more to the tears category, though my pride kept me from bursting into tears. “Tea, I need tea,” I sighed, pushing away from the desk. My guts roiled with self disgust.
Vicious, spiteful memories from my youth rose up in whispers at the back of my mind. I stared blankly at my coffee cup. I looked at it and wondered how it was that I came to be in possession of a cup that so perfectly resembled a cabbage. It seemed to be the ideal distraction from the despair bubbling up inside as I tried desperately to find away out of the ennui closing in around me. In a dazed bit of a sulk, I gathered my tea and boiled some water on the stove.
The kettle rattled and clattered to announce that the water had reached boiling just as my new writing partner made his presence known. He took one look at me and pronounced, “You're thinking too hard.” I resisted the urge to glare at him. In the span of the last few months, he managed to pick up on my moods and their relationship to my writing effortlessly. He leaned against my kitchen counter and crossed his arms over his chest.
I could feel him looking at me expectantly. He was waiting for some snarky comment, some dry witticism, or a quick summary of the puzzle that had me so stymied. Instead, I poured the water into my mug and tried to will my tea to steep faster. I could feel his gaze on me like a phantom touch. I focused my attention on stirring sugar into the brew. I didn't need to look over to know there was an amused smirk.
I stalked back to the computer and plopped myself down, ungracefully, into my chair. As I gave the screen a sullen glare, my blond haired companion leaned down and looked as well. “This series of vignettes are actually quite good. I don't know what's making you so surly over this,” he said pleasantly. He looked over at me, a sudden grin on his face. “Oh, I know what it is,” he purred, “You are stumped on what to write next, aren't you?”
And there it was, the thing I was trying very hard to ignore, the very thing that he knew I couldn't ignore – the sexual tension between us. I reached for my tea and stared very hard at the period in the middle of the last line of text I wrote. He shifted his position into a half crouch at my side, somehow managing to move closer to me. His face was beside mine, almost close enough to touch as he said quietly in my ear, “You could write about me. Turn me into a character in one of your stories.”
One arm was wrapped around the back of the chair low near the seat. The other was resting lightly against the edge of the desk, his hand inches away from mine. A part of me was screaming that I had to flee. It was an unreasoning terror that held me motionless as his honeyed voice quietly assailed my resistance. “I'll answer any questions you have,” he said, looking from my face to the computer screen, “Any question at all. After all, I'm here to help.” There was something suggestive in how he said the last statement that made things deep inside me uncoil to go soft and molten.
I stared at the screen, my hands hovering over the keyboard. I frantically struggled to think of something to say. He leaned away from me. Suddenly, I let out a breath that I hadn't realized I was holding. “I guess the basics would be a good place to start,” I blurted, feeling like a bumbling idiot. I didn't see the predatory grin that flashed over his face at my apparent acceptance of his solution to my writer's block. “I don't need to know where you were born or anything like that. Um.. How about your social life? Are you seeing anyone? What are they like?” I rambled, the words escaping me before I could stop them.
“Social life? Well, it's much like anybody else's, though there is someone that I have in mind. She's a bit shy, though,” he said. I opened a separate document file and started a bulleted list. I gave the roughest of physical descriptions of the man to my immediate right. He was a hair over six feet tall and built like an athlete. I suspected he played something like rugby from the times I had seen him wearing a jersey for Manchester United. His shoulder length hair was a honeyed gold that brought to mind the sheen of wheat in the late summer sun and had an unexpected amount of curl to it despite it's apparent weight. His eyes were like the color of peridot, though at the moment they seemed to have a deeper sheen to them. The tan was clearly genuine; a fact that oddly relieved me.
The thought that this intense man was willing to fake and bake a tan just didn't sit right with me. His hands were not the hand that one expected from a writer. They were broad and work hardened. As I looked at the great paw sitting just beside my own dainty digits, I wondered for the thousandth time if the skin was as tough as it looked. Somehow aware of my curiosity, he lightly touched the back of my hand. I suppressed the urge to jump in surprise and merely played it off as though I had gotten distracted, careful not to look anywhere other then the computer screen.
“What kind of hobbies do you have?” I asked, realizing that in the last several months of working together I didn't have the faintest clue what he did to relax. It seemed that all we talked about was the writing we were working on. The current series of short stories was supposed to be a companion piece to a larger work that he was in the midst of editing. He said nothing and I looked over.
His expression had gone still, though a smile still played on his face. I set my hands down in my lap and waited. “You are going to fight this as hard as you can, aren't you?” he said finally. I started to look away when he set his right hand on my knee. The heat in his touch seeped in through my clothing and soothed the faint ache in my arthritic left knee. “You are just going to cut me off, compartmentalize everything, and turn this into an intellectual exercise, aren't you?” he said, his frank assessment gentled by the warm amusement in his tone.
I was torn between taking offense at his efficient summation of my efforts and embarrassment over his effortless perception of what I was up to. I tore my eyes away from his face and looked down at that hand resting on my knee. “I know you,” he said quietly. He moved closer, his expression turning from amusement to something more sober, something solemn. “You can't run forever,” he added, “I'll hunt you down. I will chase you and I will catch you.”
“Oh come on,” I scoffed, warming to the quick flash of exasperation that came at his choice of analogy, “I'm not running away.” I looked over at him, allowing the annoyance to show, taking comfort in it. “Anyways, you don't know me that well,” I added.
“I don't, do I?” he said, dark amusement creeping into his voice. “Right now, you're choosing to be annoyed and offended rather then admitting that the idea of being pursued just got you hot and bothered. You are trying very hard to ignore my hand on your leg and the feelings that evokes. You are distressed and excited by the fact that I know this and I'm forcing you to look at it. It makes you feel like you're being undressed. That excites you and the excitement distresses you. But, I don't know you that well, do I?”
I swallowed past the lump in my throat. A flush burned on my cheeks and set a pricking sensation over my upper chest. The hand on my knee moved to the outside of my left thigh and slowly inched upwards as he leaned close to me. “You want this. You want me. And you're terrified to take the chance,” he said, his eyes holding my gaze as though I were charmed. I opened my mouth to argue with him but I couldn't make a sound as he rose.
“You are petrified by pleasure,” he murmured, his left hand moving up my side to the side of my face. “And you can't help it,” he said in a honeyed tone as he slowly leaned down towards me. A shiver ran through me from head to toe. I couldn't speak. I couldn't think. Panic lashed at me and insisted that I had to flee. All my cleverness failed me. My barbed comments and snark lay about me like wrapping paper torn off a gift.
His mouth was just above mine as he delivered the killing blow. “You're mine,” he breathed, “I just have to claim you.” I gave a startled squeak as he moved suddenly. A crushing kiss bruised my lips even as his hand snarled in my hair. Boldly, his tongue pushed into my mouth to curl along mine and set a shudder of pleasure down my spine. A muffled moan of pleasure that I hadn't realized making escaped me even as my eyes closed.
The taste of his mouth, the scent of his flesh, and the boldness of his action left me dizzy more surely then the way I grew breathless. Somewhere in the confusing mix of pleasure, terror, desire, and some other sensation that I couldn't define, I realized that this precise moment had been what I wanted from the moment I had laid eyes on him.