They’d been skirting around it for well over a year. The sexual tension had been growing between them, but the timing (as timing often is) had just been off. When they met, he was just out of a relationship. Then when he was ready she was in one. Then when she was out of it his mother had taken ill. Then when that had passed it was something, then another thing.
Through it all, they’d remained close friends. He felt drawn to her as she did to him. She’d watch him at play and it would terrify and intrigue her.
She’d joke, “For someone who says he’s not a sadist, you sure do play the role well.”
He’d shrug. “That’s what they want.”
She knew that she wouldn’t be enough for him. She was too green, too inexperienced, too *tame* to satisfy his needs. And the carousel of women…he never seemed to really get attached to any of them. They’d come and go from his life like bees on flowers. Hovering around for a bit and moving on to the next one.
So when she felt her lips go numb as he watched him with someone else, or when he pulled his shirt off over his head at the beach, or when he simply smiled that smile, her logic brain would kick in and shut it down.
It would never work.
He watched her more intently when she wasn’t paying attention. Her face in profile was already so beautiful, but when he’d catch sight of her looking directly at him with…those eyes…he couldn’t stand it. He’d drown himself in other distractions and convinced himself it was better for everyone.
He’d just broken up with Greta when they’d met. It took him so long to get over that betrayal that he’d built a wall around his heart – a wall of charm and wit and strength and absolutely no trace of vulnerability.
Except when she looked at him. He couldn’t hide it then, and though she never acknowledged it out loud, he thought for sure she could sense it. She was kind that way.
Too kind. Too good. Too pure.
He didn’t deserve her light. She didn’t deserve his darkness.
The night of her bad scene, she called him first. He dropped his date off at her car and made a beeline for her apartment, where he found her huddled on the floor by the sofa. The sight of her in such a state ignited a rage that burned to his very core.
“What happened? What did he do?”
“I …no, he didn’t,” suddenly she felt like she’d been overreacting.
He dropped down to his knees beside her and put his arm around her, pressing her face against his chest. “Please tell me what happened.” He closed his eyes, breathing deeply, trying to stay calm.
“I just…I wanted to be *more*….”, she sputtered through choked back sobs. “I wanted to be able to take more. So you could….” her voice trailed off as she realized how ridiculous it sounded.
He could feel his heartbeat echoing in his ears. So he could what? What was she talking about?
He pulled her into a tight hug and pulled her away so he could look at her tear stained face. Watery lashes and smeared mascara framed the deep hue of her eyes as she looked back. She was searching his face. For what?
He realized, he’d been searching hers.
He leaned in and kissed her. Softly. After over a year, he’d finally the courage to do what he’d thought about doing since the moment he saw her – timid and wide-eyed at the dungeon party so long ago.
She sniffled. He’d kissed her. She wasn’t wrong. He felt something. But no, he needed it. How many times had she seen him with others. He needed to give the pain and she had tried tonight. Tried to be strong enough, but she couldn’t take it.
She looked away again, and her skin jolted when he placed a finger under her chin to lift it back up toward him.
He was looking right at her. She’d seen flickers before, but he always masked them so well she thought them imagined. There it was. His passion. His desire. His vulnerability.
She wanted him, so badly. She’d been wanting him the whole time. Gathering all the courage she could muster, she looked up at him one last time.
“Can you do this without having to hurt me?”
The question struck him to his core. The wall had shown her only one facet of his ability to connect with people. She thought him a sadist. She couldn’t possibly understand how very deeply that affected him.
Or how very deeply she’d affected him. He stared at her lips, her eyes, her cheekbones. He took in the whole of her face and saw the beauty in her soul that she’d never tried to hide. He’d just been looking the other way.
Consciously he let down his guard. He’d risk it, for her. With tears welling up in his own dark eyes, he nodded gently, then asked, “Can you?”