Authors: Leigh Talbert Moore
Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary
We stood, and he followed me to the bed. “I thought about following her tonight,” he said. Then he let out a brief laugh. “It’s so weird. I kind of really want to know what she’s doing.”
That idea was intriguing. What would happen if Julian caught his mom going to Bill Kyser’s house?
“Maybe you should follow her,” I said.
“Yeah, but then what?” he sighed as I turned back the blankets. “I guess she’ll tell me when she’s ready.”
“She should tell you now.” I sat on the bed facing him. “Who do you think it is?”
He slipped the long-sleeved flannel shirt he wore off his shoulders as I watched. “I don’t know. When Wade said that today about her being at the building center, I thought maybe it was some guy he works with.”
“Somebody like Wade?” My brow lined as I admired his physique, standing there in only a white tee.
He sat on the side of my bed, pulling off a Chuck. “That would be…” he breathed a laugh. “Unexpected.”
“Well, it’s not,” I said, shaking my head.
“What?” He frowned, pulling off his other shoe.
I jumped, trying to cover. “I mean, I’m
it’s not. Somebody like that, I mean.”
We sat for a few seconds facing each other. I couldn’t help it—I had to cover a yawn with my hand.
“You getting tired?” he asked, pushing one of my curls back.
“It’s almost midnight.”
“Get in,” he said, standing up. “I’ll sit beside you til you fall asleep.”
I stood and stepped into my bed. Then I stopped. “You want to climb in for a few minutes?”
He grinned and slid in behind me. “I was hoping you’d say that.”
I turned so my back was pressed into his chest. One of his arms went around my waist, and the other was under my head. I felt him kiss the top of my shoulder, and warmth flooded my body.
“Will you fall asleep?” I asked.
“Probably.” His breath against my neck tingled my skin. “But I can set my phone to vibrate early.”
He took his arms away, and I scooted around to watch him set the alarm. He slipped it in his back pocket and looked at me.
“It’s nice being here with you,” he said, stroking my cheek with the back of his finger.
“I like you being here with me.”
He cupped my cheek and kissed me softly. I kissed him back, and he rolled above me kissing me deeper as I wrapped my arms around his neck. I felt his hand slide slowly down the front of my nightshirt. My heartbeat picked up, and I slid back.
“Wait…” I whispered. “I… I mean, are you sure?” I hadn’t told him it would be my first time, and I was actually kind of afraid to tell him after how Jack had responded to the news. Jack had completely shut down and taken me home. It was about the most humiliating thing that had happened while we were together.
“I mean, Mom and Dad are right there,” I finished softly.
He looked at me for a second and then nodded, lightly kissing me again and resting his hand on my stomach. “I can wait.”
I rolled so that my back was pressed into his chest again. He was softly stroking my arm, and I could feel his warm breath on my neck. It was the best I’d ever felt in my life, and I was just starting to drift when I heard him whisper. “What was your favorite part of the book?”
My forehead lined. “What book?” I whispered.
The Sun Also Rises
,” he said, nuzzling against my shoulder.
Chills skittered down my arms, and I laced my fingers through his, thinking about my homework assignment. I’d forgotten he’d heard it.
“The part where Brett leaves Jake’s apartment early in the morning, and he’s watching her walk away, up the street.”
I could feel Julian’s brow furrow against my skin. “I thought he was impotent.”
“He is, but they’re in love. She keeps coming back to see him, and they kiss each other and they want to be together, but they can’t. They keep trying to play it off like his injury should be funny.”
Julian lifted his head, and in the darkness I felt him frowning at me. “That’s your favorite part?”
“No.” I breathed a laugh. “Not
part. The part I like is when he watches her leave. He’s very sad, and he says something like ‘It’s easy to act hard-boiled during the daytime, but at night it’s a different story.’”
We were quiet for a minute.
“When was that written?” Julian asked.
“Right after World War I.” My eyes were heavy. “A long, long time ago.”
He nodded. “It’s still true.”
He hugged my middle and leaned forward to kiss me behind the ear. I pulled his hand up to my lips then I closed my eyes and fell asleep warm and not the least bit sad anymore.
He was gone when I opened my eyes again. The alarm was sounding, and it was time to get ready for the day.
Summer was normal enough about getting her notes back in English class, and I avoided getting sucked into another bizarre cross-examination with her. No telling what she’d seen me do lately.
We all turned in our assignments and had some discussion about them. I thought about my conversation with Julian last night and him sleeping over. I was tired today, but I didn’t regret letting him in. Falling asleep in his arms was heaven. He caught up with me on the way to math.
“You look tired,” he said, lightly resting an arm across my shoulders as we walked.
“I’ve had the strangest two nights,” I said, slanting my eyes at him. “Something keeps waking me up.”
“Maybe you’ll get better rest tonight,” he said.
I frowned. “I’m not complaining.”
He grinned, catching my waist. “Hey, I was thinking I might borrow that book when you’re finished with it. You’ve got me interested.”
I pulled it out of my bag. “Here you go, and I think you’ll like it. It ends at the bullfights in Pamplona.”
He held the thin volume, studying it for a moment. “Let me guess. She takes up with a bullfighter.”
plus, Mr. LaSalle. That’s exactly right.”
His mouth slanted down on one side. “I’m starting to not like our heroine.”
I stopped, placing my hands on my hips. “Why? Because she’s honest? I’d think you’d be able to relate to her more. She has needs that must be met.”
We were quiet for a minute.
“I don’t see why his injury has to be such a problem,” Julian said. “I mean, they could use their imaginations.”
I shook my head. “People were more conservative back then.”
We were walking again, and he elbowed me in the side. “Were not.”
“Well, either way, it wouldn’t have been such a sad story if they’d used their imaginations.”
“Why does it have to be sad?” He held out his arms. “If they loved each other, they could make it work. He could keep his lady satisfied.”
“Julian,” I laughed. “Cohn takes it harder than Jake does, actually.”
“What, the prep school guy?” His brow creased, and I couldn’t help it.
“You have a great memory!” I cried.
“I just thought what Summer said was funny,” he shrugged.
“You should be in AP class with me.” I poked his side. “You’re very smart. You should challenge yourself more.”
“I’m as challenged as I want to be,” he breathed, and I couldn’t argue with that.
Mrs. Harris was at her door as usual. Julian dropped his arm from my shoulders, and we filed in like good little soldiers.
I was having trouble concentrating again, but I focused on my notebook and tried not to gaze left every five seconds like a moony cow. The most I’d do was glance at his hand, which I could see pretty easily without turning my head. He was usually taking notes as well, but occasionally, I’d see him stray off into a little sketch. I couldn’t tell what the subject was.
After school, I drove to the paper office in Fairview. I had the picture from Julian’s reception on my digital camera, and I hoped Nancy would let me start writing stories for publication as well. I wanted to build my portfolio to get on my college’s paper staff, but I had only gotten one clip last semester.
Nancy was in her office on the phone when I arrived, so I wandered around the newsroom for a few minutes until she was finished.
had been in existence in Fairview since 1907, and the archives were amazing to comb through last year.
Finally she called me in. “How’s my best intern?”
I dropped in a chair. “Just stopping by to check in. Got any work for me?”
“Actually, I just got off the phone with Miranda Jordan down at the glass blowing studio in East End Beach?” I nodded. “I was thinking you might do a little piece on it for me. Take some pictures, write it up?”
I almost jumped out of my seat. “Nancy! I was just hoping you’d let me write more this semester!”
She grinned. “I figured I’d stick you on the art beat since you have a connection.”
“You’re so great,” I smiled, getting up. “I’ll get started!”
She leaned forward on her desk, then paused. “Oh, and I talked to Curtis about putting in a word for you in New Orleans.”
My eyebrows flew up. “And?”
“He said he’d be happy to make a call, but I’ll follow up. He’ll forget.” She turned around and started working on her computer, and I knew she didn’t expect it. Still I stepped around her desk.
“Thank you so much,” I said, hugging the back of her shoulders.
She shrugged me off. “You’re a hard worker, and I use those archives all the time. Consider it repayment.”
“If you say so.” I went to the door. “Oh, and I’ve got pictures from that reception for you.”
She spun around and stood up then. “Let’s see them.”
We walked over to the larger computer out front and uploaded the images. The one of Julian with Mr. Kyser and his mother popped up, and my breath caught. I wasn’t sure if Nancy would see the resemblance as quickly as I did, not knowing the truth.
“That’s a good-looking kid,” she said, elbowing my ribs.
“I think so,” I smiled.
“This is good.” She sent the picture to the photos account and straightened up. “Keep it up, and you won’t have to worry about anybody’s help. You’ll make your own way.”
“Thanks. So I’m going to take off. How long do you want the story?”
She waved her hand as she entered her office. “As long as it needs to be. Not too much, but something solid.”
“Very specific,” I muttered.
“Focus on getting lots of good pictures,” she called back. “That’ll sell it.”
I nodded and grabbed my bag, running out to my car. This couldn’t have worked out better. I’d make contact with Miranda and if there was time, I’d stop off at Mr. Kyser’s office. It was right down the road in East End Beach.
The glass blowing shop was unexpectedly chaotic. Miranda was wrangling a herd of elementary kids through a “hands-on” painting activity, and paint was flying everywhere. They were creating self-portraits, and the long worktable was divided by a center line of make-up mirrors.
“We tell the parents to dress them for mess,” Miranda said. “Sorry, I should’ve told Nancy to warn whoever she sent.”
“I’m not really in anything nice,” I laughed, dodging a little boy’s backswing.
I weaved through paint-covered fingers and took several shots of little ones recreating themselves on canvas. I got a nice one of Miranda guiding a little hand through a sweeping motion.
Budget cuts had forced the elimination of art classes in several schools, and the small private academies in the area couldn’t afford additional art teachers. It was a great service Miranda provided once a week for three hours, and I was trying to decide which angle to take—the importance of early art exposure or the need for additional funding for art in schools. I decided just to take lots of notes and pictures and talk it over with Nancy.
I left the center an hour later surprisingly paint-free and drove straight to Mr. Kyser’s office in the Phoenician I building on the Gulf. It had been weeks since I’d visited his penthouse office, and I was dropping in unexpectedly. The letter was still tucked in my bag from my earlier trip to his home. If I didn’t make the pass today, I’d have to hide it in my drawer again. It was too risky carrying it around with me. It could fall out or anything might happen.
The receptionist was new, so I introduced myself and asked to see Mr. Kyser. I said he was expecting me and that I was with the paper, but she still made me wait. He had someone in his office, she said.
I had just sat down in the small waiting area when the door cracked, and I saw the back of Will’s head. I grabbed a magazine and tried to shrink behind it into my chair, but he stopped and turned back, leaving the door slightly ajar.
“You can blow me off,” Will snapped, sounding just as unpleasant as ever, “but if you don’t do something, they’re going to throw him out on his pampered ass.”
“I’m not blowing you off.” Mr. Kyser’s tone was dismissive. “And lower your voice.”