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The One Where He Changes His Mind
I could die happy watching Bliss dance. She held her hands up to her chest, opened her mouth in a silent scream, and bounced from side to side. She shook her head, her hair whirling.
Just watching her made me feel younger, happier. And I loved that she could be this girl—carefree and exuberant—and also put forth the kind of performance she’d given yesterday at auditions.
Her performance burrowed under my skin and tore me open. She transformed on stage, and she took us all with her.
Last night had been the hardest night yet to stay away from her. Seeing her out with her friends, celebrating, I had wanted her to be with me.
I tore my eyes away from her waist and the strip of skin revealed there as she danced.
I said, “I’m guessing you saw the list.”
She froze, and it was so hard to hold in my laugh. I imagined the blush creeping across her skin, and then got to see it a few seconds later as she turned.
I would never get tired of hearing her say my name.”
“Hello Bliss. Congratulations.”
She ran her hands through her hair, taming it, and I had to fist my hands to keep from assisting.
Every morning when I woke up, I told myself this wasn’t a big deal. I could handle it… resisting her. But then I would see her in person, and it would be so much harder than I anticipated.
She said, “Thank you. I’m ,uh, pretty excited.”
“As you should be. Your audition…” There were so many things I wanted to say, but all of them seemed too telling. I stepped closer, and lowered my voice so no one else could hear. “Your audition was fantastic. There was no competition.” Then again, I was biased. I never saw anyone else when she was around.
Her voice was breathy and tempting when she said, “Thank you.”
“But Friday night…”
There were so many things I wanted to say about that night. How much I’d hated seeing her with Cade, how tempted I’d been to accept her invitation and join their party. I chose the most innocuous of my thoughts.
“As ridiculously cute as you were, please don’t get that drunk again. Eric will need you to be at your absolute best for this role.”
“Of course.” Her eyes were wide and panicked. “Absolutely. I promise.”
“And… I was worried about you too.”
I looked from the circle of her lips to the wisps of hair that still stood out of place and down to the leg she’d burned on my motorcycle.
“I don’t like being worried about you.”
She looked up at me from beneath her lashes, and I couldn’t resist not touching her in some way. I restrained myself to just touching a curl instead of her skin.
She smiled, and it devastated me. Leveled me completely.
“You should probably worry about yourself. Calling me ‘cute’ again is bound to get you injured, possibly maimed.”
I loved when she got cheeky. With how she made me feel, I might willingly let her maim me.
Like her skin was magnetic, my hand in her hair swayed in, and my knuckles brushed against her cheek.
I should have held my tongue, but I had impulse-control problems where she was concerned. “Since I can’t very well call you the alternative here, ‘cute’ will have to do for now.”
I’d just have to call her sexy in my mind. And maybe someday…
I cleared my throat and put a few feet between us. That was dangerous territory, thinking we had any possible future. I was her teacher, and she had Cade, and that was only the beginning.
I said, “why don’t you go take a seat for class?”
She left and I took a few moments to collect myself and put on my teacher persona before I had to face her again.
When class ended, I was eager to escape up to my office for a break, but then Bliss re-entered the theatre with Eric. I’d forgotten he wanted to talk to her about callbacks tonight.
She took a seat right beside me, and I concentrated on not reacting to her presence. The last thing I needed was for Eric to detect whatever was going on between us. Or not going on.
I looked at her, and her expression was strained, lined with fear. I wanted to take her hand and put her at ease, but I settled for a smile instead.
Eric said, “Bliss… I have to admit I’m surprised.”
She exhaled sharply, her hands fisted, and I realized what had her so scared. She thought she was in trouble. She thought we were in trouble. I wanted to assure her, but she didn’t look at me again. Her dread-filled eyes stayed locked on Eric. I hated that I’d even put her in a situation where she felt she had to be afraid.
When Eric began talking about her audition and callbacks, she released an audible breath. I didn’t realize how tense I was until she relaxed, and I allowed myself to follow.
That evening she took a seat in front of me in the theatre while Eric went to grab a few last minute things before callbacks started.
She sat stiff and uncomfortable. I leaned down, wanting to say something to diffuse the tension, but she beat me to it.
She said awkwardly, “Hey… friend.”
I laughed. How was it that even when she was adorable, I found her irresistibly sexy?
I said, “Not quite believable, but A for effort.”
She scoffed. “Someone’s an easy grader.”
“Someone just has a soft spot where you are concerned.”
She shivered slightly and tipped her head to the side. My eyes went to the neck that had fascinated me from the beginning, and I clutched the back of her seat to keep my hand occupied.
I had to learn how to hold my tongue around her.
“Sorry,” I said. “Sometimes I forget.”
Wishful thinking, mostly.
One of these times that wishful thinking was going to get me into serious trouble. Or slapped. If I were a better man, I would have backed off by now.
Instead, I leaned closer. I cleared my throat and said, “I have to ask you something.”
Before I could let reason catch up to my impulses, I said, “Cade.”
She turned, and the scent of her hair nearly did me in.
She raised an eyebrow and said, “That’s not a question.”
Ah, hell. I’d already gone this far.
“You’re still with him?” I asked.
Damn, she was really going to make me say it.
“I just—I can’t tell. You still sit together in class, but it’s different now. So, I thought maybe you two had broken it off.”
Hoped was the better word. I had not business hoping for that kind of thin, but it was one of those things you just couldn’t fight. Like the sun rising in the sky, the coming of spring, the fall of rain. Hope wasn’t something I could turn off; no matter how much easier it would be to do so.
She said, “There was nothing to break off.”
“Yes! Cade and I aren’t together. We never have been.”
That hope burned so bright that there were two suns for just a moment.
I tried to make sense of everything that had happened. I thought for sure it all had stemmed from Cade—her leaving the night we first met, that crazy cat excuse, all her odd behavior since then.
She insisted, “I didn’t run out because of Cade. I had to get my cat…”
I signed. “Bliss, I’m not an idiot.”
“I have a cat! I do! Um… she’s gray and adorable and her name is… Hamlet.”
My brows furrowed. “You have a cat named Hamlet?”
“I do.” She was so confident. “I definitely, definitely do.”
Maybe I was completely off. I hadn’t exactly had the best judgment as of late. It was possible I’d misjudged everything. Maybe.
“Fine. So, if you’re not dating Cade, what’s going on between the two of you?”
Her cheeks began to pink before she even answered, “Nothing.”
So maybe I wasn’t so far off after all.
“You’re a terrible liar.”
“It’s nothing. It’s just something that happened Friday when I was… how do you British people say it? Pissed? Sloshed?”
My stomach sank like it was weighted with concrete.
“Did you sleep with him?” I asked.
Just the words made me nauseated. If I let myself think beyond that, I’d go mental. I didn’t realize I had a death grip on the back of her chair until she said, “What? No!”
The relief was overwhelming.
“Good.” That was an understatement.
I was so glad I couldn’t even conjure an ounce of guilt. I was tired of beating myself up over this.
“What? Just because I can’t have you right now, doesn’t mean I’m okay with him having you.”
God, it felt good to be honest.
She blinked and shook her head. “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just refer to me like property to be owned.”
“Can’t we own each other?”
If I was going to go around feeling guilty all the time, I sure as hell intended to do something worth feeling guilty over.
“What has gotten into you?” she asked. “I thought you promised me we wouldn’t do this again.”
Now that Cade was out of the picture I was having trouble remember why I made that promise.
“I don’t know. I just… I’ve been going crazy thinking about the two of you together.”
“We kissed. Nothing else.”
Those words stung like a slap, and I flinched back.
She added, “It was just a kiss. It didn’t mean anything.”
“I don’t want anyone else to kiss you.”
Just knowing my lips hadn’t been the last to touch hers made me want to do something bad… something I definitely should do when Eric could walk back in at any minute.
“Garrick…” I didn’t like that exasperated tone she kept using, but I’d take it as long as she kept saying my name.
“I know I’m not being fair.” The way things had happened between us… that wasn’t fair either. “I’m being a right bastard actually. I keep telling myself to leave you alone, but the truth is… I’m not sure I can. And now that I know you’re not with Cade…”
“What are you saying?”
I was tired of saying everything. Words just got in the way. Words made me think I had to stay away from her, and for what? A job that was only lasting a few more months anyway?
No, I’d had about enough of words.
I’d always been an action kind of man anyway.
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