Kieran stood staring down at his girlfriend – if he could even call her that. Either way, she was gorgeous and if he could, he’d spend all night with her.
“Mmm, that was nice,” she murmured as she leaned up on an elbow, a slow smile spreading across her face.
“I do try,” he joked, badly but she laughed and Kieran felt his body harden again. She was going to be the death of him.
She looked down the length of his body and that gorgeous smile turned into a grin. “Wanna try again?”
Yes, he did and his body was proof of that but he needed to go before it got any later. Sitting on the bed, he rubbed a hand through his hair, trying to scrub all the reasons he had to leave from his brain. Because in all honesty, he loathed having to walk out that door. His time with her was always so damn short.
“Hey,” she said, “this is a stress free zone, remember? I’m not doing my job if you leave here tenser than when you came.”
He sighed and rolled his shoulders, trying to release some of his stress. He felt the bed shift with her movements as she came up behind him and began to massage his shoulders. He immediately felt better. “I’m sorry, love. I’m always going to be happier coming than going. You know that.”
She leaned down and whispered in his ear, “Well, just keep coming then.”
He reached around her and pulled her into a hug, placing a kiss on a sensitive spot on her collarbone. She giggled and he groaned into her skin. Pressing into her, he tightened his arm around her body, crushing her breasts to his skin. She was smooth, soft, and so warm.
“One more for the road?”
Kieran woke up some time later to find the space in bed next to him empty. He sat and looked up to find Claire just standing, staring at the carpet. She’d started to get dressed but something must have caught her attention.
“Penny for your thoughts.”
She glanced up and smiled sadly. “Hey, you’re awake. Good. We don’t have much time.”
He looked over to the window to see that she was right, it was now dark out. “You look sad, love. What’s wrong?”
Waving a dismissive hand, she said, “Oh you know, the usual. You have to leave and I’ll be stuck waiting until the next time we can meet.”
The happiness he’d felt at the sight of her half-naked body evaporated. He closed his eyes and banged his head back against the headboard, feeling that familiar flush of anger and shame course through him. He had no one to blame but himself though. He kept dragging his feet and it was making them both suffer.
She walked over to the bed and crawled up to him, placing a hand on his cheek. “Al, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring that up, I know you’re doing your best. It’s just getting harder to let you go. I love you so much…”
He crushed his lips to hers and tried to put everything he was feeling into that one kiss. He knew exactly how she felt. Being with her was one of the few times he felt sane; secure in the knowledge that someone loved him and wanted him – not his name, not his money, just him. She let him inside her in all the ways that counted: emotionally, mentally, and physically. When he was with her, he didn’t feel so much like a freak.
“I love you too and I’ll make more time for us, I promise.” He traced the tattoo on her left arm, smiling slightly at it. His tattooed goddess. He bent down and kissed a trail from her elbow, over the ink and up to her shoulders. Her collarbones and neck were very sensitive, and even the lightest touch would make her shiver. He brushed her hair out of the way and kissed the hollow beneath her clavicle, pushed her down flat on to the mattress and made his way to her breastbone and down until his lips were over her heart. He looked up at her, catching her eyes. “Eu te amo mais do que tudo no mundo, Claire.”
He sealed his promise with a kiss on her soft skin.
Half an hour later, Kieran found himself in the Hotel elevator, alone. It wouldn’t do for people to see them together.
Already, the knot in his stomach was growing bigger and his shoulders were tightening. How long had this been going on, how long had he been living this lie? He wanted Claire, needed Claire but couldn’t have her. Not yet anyway.
Stepping off the elevator, he felt as if everyone was watching him. It was absurd because he knew they weren’t but even so – this would be the last time they met here, too many people knew who he was, who she was. His blond hair and citrine eyes were uncommon enough that people would remember. It wasn’t safe to use the same place too often.
He checked out at the front desk, and lifting his collar to protect his neck from the gusty wind, made his way to his car. He hoped she was warm. She never wore enough clothes, not even in the middle of January, the coldest time of the year in the Falls.
He’d buy her a new coat. She would hate it simply because he spent money on her but he’d buy it anyway.
Sliding into the front seat, he checked to make sure no one was following him before he pulled out and headed home.
It was late and he’d hoped that everyone would be asleep but the lights were blazing from almost every window in the house. Sighing, Kieran parked the car outside, not wanting the sound of the garage door to wake anyone up. Perhaps she’d just fallen asleep and forgot about the lights. Not bloody likely.
He opened the front door and walked in, pasting a smile on his face, just in case. But the house was blessedly silent.
Moving his way around the first floor, he turned off the stereos, the television and the lights. She wasn’t even home. He headed upstairs on lighter feet, undressing as he went. He’d just been saved from having to explain where he’d been all evening and was feeling much better.
In his bedroom, he finished disrobing and headed straight for the shower. He’d taken one at the hotel but it was part of his routine – shower, eat, get ready for bed. Habits helped stabilize him and these were hard to break. He hated not knowing what to do next.
After changing for bed, he went back downstairs and made himself a bowl of cereal. He wasn’t very hungry but ate anyway. He hadn’t bothered turning on the lights – after six years, he knew every sharp corner and every obstacle in the house, so it was with some surprise that he bumped into something on his way back to the stairs.
“Ouch, for Christ’s sake, Kieran!” Came a muffled voice, Lorde’s voice.
Kieran backed away and reached for a light switch, flicking it on. He had to blink before his eyes adjusted. “What are you doing in the dark?”
She glared at him. “I could ask you the same question!”
He stared at her for a minute, his jaw tightening. “Are you just getting home?”
Her eyes lost their defiant look, guilt darkening her face. “I was only gone for a minute and I was close enough that the baby monitor still worked.”
She held up the object in question before placing it on the side table. He wanted to ask her what she was doing out in the cold in the first place, but decided he didn’t care, not enough to have an argument anyway. He shook his head, walking around her and up the stairs. “I’m going to bed.”
It wasn’t until he reached the top that what she was wearing registered in his brain. Heels, a nice dress, jewelry.
And just who the hell have you been with? He thought.
Reaching the second-floor landing, he made his way down the hall to bedrooms at the far end. Opening the door a crack, he peeked in. Colin was fast asleep; sprawled out and content in knowing his world was safe and would keep ‘til morning. Kieran closed the door again and walked over to the next one, where Cynthia was sleeping. He walked in and watched her for a minute, marveling at how tiny she was and yet so full of life, even in sleep.
Leaning over the crib, he brushed down a stray strand of hair that was sticking up and gently touched her hand. Then he walked back out into the hall, closed the door and headed to bed.
Lorde was already asleep, having come up while he checked on the kids. With a sigh, he turned off the lights and climbed onto his side of the bed. When she rolled over and snuggled into his side, he instinctively wrapped an arm around her.
Kieran held his wife and thought of Claire.