I was alone in the house.
Kate had gone down to the taverna; we’d missed each other, she was gone by the time I got in from the fields. Oh, doesn’t that sound pretentious! Like a grand plantation or something when it was only a relatively small vegetable plot. Still, it was getting bigger and it was big enough to keep me busy for most of the day.
I was more than physically tired. Hoeing is not rocket science; you can think about a lot of things and still get the work done. So my mind was tired too but it just wouldn’t shut down. I sat at the kitchen table in all my dirt, with a sweating glass of lemonade in front of me, and once again my thoughts were of that night on the roof; examining every word said, every touch given.
Oh, I’m such a coward! And I was rationalizing my cowardice to both Kate and myself. And to Nick most of all … he must know I’m a coward because he’s proven he understands, that he’ll help. He’s proven that he loves me.
“Araminta – may I join you?”
At the sound of his voice, I scrambled to my knees, heart pounding wildly. He was a darker shadow against the night sky, the outline of his body etched against the shimmering starfield. He moved toward me; one by one the stars disappeared until there was only Nick, filling my vision and my heart. He sat down beside me and the heavens snapped back into place.
“You’re not at the taverna …” I was trying to sound playful and only succeeded in sounding stupid. It was one of those ‘there’s your sign’ moments.
“No, I’m here.” Stating the obvious for the demented American. In the faint light from the stars and the half moon, I could see the smile on his face, the gleam of his teeth. “I thought it time we talked.”
“Yes, talk.” I could feel him watching me closely, waiting for a hint of what I was thinking, what I was feeling. “There’s many ways to talk, it doesn’t always take words.”
“If you want something to be clear,” I said carefully, “it’s probably best to use words.”
“Araminta, are you still afraid?”
“No! Not afraid … it’s just … Nick, I don’t think I’m capable of giving you what you’re wanting. Not the way you want it.”
“Because of him?”
I shrugged. “Maybe Patton ruined me, maybe I was just born this way. I don’t care for sex, I don’t feel anything. It wouldn’t be fair to you.”
He shifted closer. So close I could feel his body warming the chill from mine. “You’re wrong, I know you have feelings for me. And I know they’re sexual.” He cupped a breast, his thumb brushed lightly over the nipple. Back and forth, and a sort of pressure built up until it overflowed and raced down to pool between my thighs. I closed my eyes and let out a soft breath.
“Everything seems to be connected,” he whispered. “You’ve never felt this before?”
I didn’t answer. I was not about to do a comparison study between the only two men in my life, at least not out loud. But no, I’d never felt this before. Patton was a biter. And what was called a ‘wham, bam, thank you ma’am’ type of man, except he never had seemed very thankful. I had often wondered how he’d managed to find women for his affairs, but then they never lasted long according to gossip. He was a one night stand kind of guy. And I did hear the gossip; you never have so many friends as when there’s scandal to stir things up.
I grasped his wrist and moved his hand away from my tingling breast.
“Don’t …” I managed to say.
“Latria mou (my beloved),” he murmured drawing me against his body. “I think I’ve been waiting for you all my life.”
“No …” I shook my head. “That’s going too far. Nick, we don’t know each other, not really. I can’t believe I mean that much to you …”
“I knew as soon as I saw you, it’s as simple as that. On the ferry, watching you over the back of old Stefan’s cow. I can’t explain it, I know it makes no sense, it just was.” I felt the warmth of his breath as he laughed softly. “I don’t mean I wanted to jump you and have my way with you, but I knew you’d be important to me … special. And I knew I’d have to be patient, that you’d been hurt … damaged in some way. I knew that even before your ex showed up.”
I took in a deep breath. “You’re determined to prove me a liar.”
“Not a liar, just mistaken. I’m fully aware you’re trying to reinvent yourself, that you’ve needed time to do so. What I don’t understand is why I can’t be a part of that now. I want to be someone you can’t do without, Araminta, someone that’s necessary for your happiness. If you refuse me, I’ll survive. As will you. But happy? I don’t know about that … not the deep down contentment that comes with being with the right person.
“And you do feel something for me, you can’t hide it. Not from me.” I could feel him shake his head in dismay. “I’m a rich man, in my own way powerful. I’m head of a business that requires decisive thinking and iron control. And here I am, acting like a teenager, worse than I ever was at Harvard. My father would disown me.”
“And your mother?”
“Oh, she’d tell me I’m not trying hard enough. Mother believes in American ingenuity.”
“Our lives have been so different, are different now. It’s just not logical.”
He pressed his lips against my forehead. “Darling Araminta, there’s nothing logical about love. Our lives were meant to be. We wouldn’t have met if our histories were different, if our lives had not happened just so. It’s fate, and one should never struggle against fate. You’re mine, just as I am yours and I will not let you go.”
His lips traced the line of my cheekbone, feathery butterfly wings, until they found my mouth and settled there. Teeth softly nipping, tongue softly tracing until I opened to him and found myself sinking into the kiss. It wasn’t enough; I wanted more of him, I demanded more. My body was on fire and I thought ‘don’t stop, please don’t stop, show me more’.
Suddenly I was terrified. Full of lust and terrified of this loss of control. Over the years with Patton, I’d become an ice maiden and took pleasure in maintaining control while watching him lose his. Now I was the one losing control, I was the vulnerable one. Nick had proved his point; Lynda had been right. I seemed to have all the necessary equipment, but I was still afraid, afraid of losing the fragile sense of self I’d been building on Dyvos.
I jerked back and tried to push Nick away. But he wouldn’t push. He just tucked my head under his chin and made shushing noises while his warm hands stroked my back.
“One step at a time,” he said. “One step at a time.” He pulled back so he could look into my eyes. “It’s your move next, Armaminta, I’ve pled my case. If you decide to live dangerously just one more time, my door’s always open for you.”
He kissed my forehead again, and rose effortlessly to his feet. I watched him disappear down the steps, wanting to call him back but not quite able to do so. I lay back on the mattress and tried to calm my aroused body. It didn’t work because I couldn’t forget that kiss. My breast still tingled from his caress.
I didn’t get much sleep that night.
I was sitting at the table, sipping lemonade and feeling sorry for myself, when it suddenly occurred to me what a coward I was. You always followed your gut instinct and it served you well. If I’d been as wise as you, I’d never have married Patton, because even in the excitement of having a man want me enough to offer marriage, there was a little voice telling me to take it slow, wait a bit. I managed to muffle that little voice because I thought Patton was offering me everything I wanted: a relationship, the opportunity to be a wife and mother, and most of all settling into a community where I would belong.
It’s funny how being army brats affected each of us differently, isn’t it? I wanted stability and sold my soul for it. For you, it was different, it made you travel to your own beat and you didn’t give a damn what others thought of you. I needed to be more like you, would have saved me a lot of wasted years and a lot of pain.
So, here I was sitting at the table, mourning because I was too damn afraid to take what I so desperately wanted, and I thought ‘what would Lynda do?’ Follow your gut instinct and my gut instinct was telling me I’d never find another man like Nick and I’d be a fool to throw this chance away. Even before he awakened my body, I knew I loved him. I’ve never felt this way about another man, not ever.
And so, dear sister, I got up from the table and showered and got myself all dressed up in my Impressionist clothes and climbed the hill to Nick’s place. I must be besotted; I forgot the flashlight and anyone with sense would have turned back to get it, but not me, no, I stumbled on in the dusk and arrived at Nick’s front door with only a few scratches and a bruised knee.
I never hesitated. I pounded on the thick oak door like a woman gone mad. I wanted to make sure he heard me and I never did notice the bell pull. He didn’t keep me waiting long.
He opened the door wide and I walked into his arms.
And Lynda, you were right. Love with the right person is an amazing thing.