Graham lowers his mouth to mine and kisses me. "You want a typical tour of a typical house or do you want to go to the basement and see my childhood bedroom?"
"That's not even a question."
He leads me to the basement and flips on the light. There's a faded poster of the table of elements hanging on the wall of the stairwell. He flips on another light when we reach the bottom of the stairs, revealing a teenage boy's bedroom that looks like it hasn't been touched since he moved out. It's like a secret portal straight into the mind of Graham Wells. I finally learned his last name over dinner.
"She refuses to redecorate it," he says, walking backward into the room. "I still have to sleep in here when I visit." He kicks at a basketball lying on the floor. It's flat, so it barely rolls away from him. "I hate it. It reminds me of high school."
"You didn't like high school?"
He makes a quick gesture around the room. "I liked science and math more than I liked girls. Imagine what high school was like for me."
His dresser is covered in science trophies and picture frames. Not a single sports award in sight. I pick up one of his family photos and bring it in closer for inspection. It's a picture of Graham and his three older sisters. They all favor their mother heavily. And then there's the lanky preteen with braces in the middle. "Wow."
He's standing right behind me now, looking over my shoulder. "I was the poster child for awkward phases."
I place the picture back on the dresser. "You'd never know it now."
Graham walks to his bed and takes a seat on the Star Wars comforter. He leans back on his hands and admires me as I continue to look around the room. "Did I already tell you how much I like that dress?"
I look down at my dress. I wasn't prepared to meet the parents of a man I'm not even dating, so I didn't have a whole lot of clean laundry. I chose a simple navy blue cotton dress and paired it with a white sweater. When I walked out of my bedroom before we left my apartment, Graham saluted me like I was in the navy. I immediately turned around to go change, but he grabbed me and told me I looked really beautiful.
"You did tell me that," I say, leaning back on my heels.
His eyes drag up my legs, slowly. "I'm not gonna lie, though. I really wish you would have worn your scuba gear."
"I'm never telling you my dreams again."
Graham laughs and says, "You have to. Every day for as long as I know you."
I smile and then spin around to read some of the awards on his wall. There are so many awards. "Are you smart?" I glance over at him. "Like really smart?"
He shrugs. "Just a little above average. A by-product of being a nerd. I had absolutely no game with the girls so I spent most of my time in here studying."
I can't tell if he's kidding because if I had to guess what he was like in high school based off what I know about him now, I'd say he was the high school quarterback who dated the head cheerleader.
"Were you still a virgin when you graduated high school?"
He crinkles up his nose. "Sophomore in college. I was nineteen. Hell, I was eighteen before I even kissed a girl." He leans forward, clasping his hands between his knees. "In fact, you're the first girl I've ever brought down here."
"No way. What about Sasha?"
"She came to dinner a few times, but I never showed her my old bedroom. I don't know why."
"Whatever. You probably tell that to all the girls you bring down here. Then you seduce them on your Star Wars comforter."
"Open that top drawer," he says. "I guarantee you there's a condom in there that's been there since I was sixteen."
I pull open the drawer and push things out of the way. It looks like a junk drawer. Old receipts, file folders, loose change. A condom in the back. I laugh and pull it out, flipping it over in my fingers. "It expired three years ago." I look at Graham and he's staring at the condom in my hand like he's wondering how accurate expiration dates are. I slip the condom into my bra. "I'm keeping it."
Graham smiles appreciatively at me. I like the way he looks at me. I've felt cute before. Beautiful, even. But I'm not sure I've ever known what sexy felt like until him.
Graham leans forward again, scooting to the edge of his bed. He crooks his finger, wanting me to come closer. He has that look in his eyes again. The look he had that night in the restaurant when he touched my knee. That look sends the same heat through me now, just like it did then.
I take a few steps, but stop a couple of feet from him. He sits up straight. "Come closer, Quinn." The desire in his voice whirls through my chest and stomach.
I take another step. He slides his hand around the back of my knee and pulls me the last step toward him. Chills break out on my legs and arms from his touch.
He's looking up at me and I'm looking down at him. His bed sits low to the floor, so his mouth is dangerously close to my panty line. I swallow when the hand he has wrapped around my leg begins to slide slowly up the back of my thigh.
I'm not prepared for the sensation his touch sends through me. I close my eyes and sway a little, steadying myself with two firm hands on his shoulders. I look down at him again, just as he presses his lips against the dress covering my stomach.
He holds eye contact with me as he slides his other hand to the back of my other thigh. I'm completely engulfed by my own heartbeat. I feel it everywhere, all at once.
Graham begins to bunch my dress up in his hands, little by little, crawling it up my thighs. He slides his hands and the dress up to my waist, then presses his mouth to the top of my thigh. I move my hands to his hair, gasping quietly as his lips move over my panties.
I can feel the intense heat from his mouth as he kisses me there. It's a soft kiss, right against the front of my panties, but it doesn't matter how soft it is. I feel it all the way to my core and it makes me shudder.
I clench my fingers in his hair, pressing myself closer to his mouth. His hands are on my ass now, pulling me toward him. The soft kisses begin to turn into firm kisses and before he even has the chance to pull down my panties, a tremor starts to rush through me, unexpected, sudden, explosive.
I pull away from him with a whimper, but he pulls me back to his mouth, kissing me there harder until I'm gripping his shoulders, needing his strength to continue standing. My whole body begins to shudder and I struggle to remain quiet and remain upright as the whole bedroom spins around me.
My arms are shaking and my legs are weak as his kisses come to a stop. He slides his mouth against my thigh and looks up at me. It takes everything in me to hold eye contact with him as he pushes my dress up a little more and presses a kiss against the bare skin of my stomach.
Graham grips me at the waist. I'm completely out of breath and a little in shock at what just happened. And how fast it happened. And the fact that I want more of him. I want to lower myself on top of him and put this condom to use.
As if he can read my mind, Graham says, "How accurate do you think that expiration date is?"
I lower myself onto his lap and straddle him, feeling just how serious his question was. I brush my lips across his. "I'm sure the expiration date is just a precaution."
Graham grabs the back of my head and dips his tongue inside my mouth, kissing me with a groan. He slips his fingers in my bra and pulls out the condom, then stops kissing me long enough to tear it open with his teeth. He turns me, pushing me onto his Star Wars comforter. I hook my thumbs inside my panties and slide them off as he unzips his jeans. I'm lying back on the bed as he kneels onto the mattress and puts the condom on. I don't even get a good look at him before he lowers himself on top of me.
He kisses me as he begins to slowly push himself into me. My whole body tenses and I moan. Maybe a little too loudly, because he laughs against my mouth. "Shh," he says against my lips with a smile. "We're supposed to be touring the house right now. Not each other."
I laugh, but as soon as he begins to push into me again, I hold my breath.
"Jesus, Quinn." He breathes against my ne
ck and then thrusts against me. We're both a little too loud now. He holds still once he's inside me, both of us doing our best to stay as quiet as we can. He begins to move, causing me to gasp, but he covers my mouth with his, kissing me deeply.
He alternates between kissing me and watching me, doing both things with an intensity I'm not sure I've ever experienced. He pauses his lips so that they hover just above mine, occasionally brushing them as we fight to remain silent. He keeps his eyes focused on mine while he moves inside of me.
He's kissing me again when he starts to come.
His tongue is deep inside my mouth and the only reason I know he's about to finish is because he holds his breath and stops moving for a few seconds. It's so subtle as he fights to remain as quiet as possible. The muscles in his back clench beneath my palms and he never once breaks eye contact when he finally does pull away from my lips.
I wait for him to collapse on top of me, out of breath, but he doesn't. He somehow holds himself up after it's over, watching me like he's scared he might miss something. He dips his head and kisses me again. And even when he pulls out of me, he still doesn't collapse on top of me. He puts all his weight on his side as he eases down beside me without breaking the kiss.
I slide my hand through his hair and hold him against my mouth. We kiss for so long, I almost forget where I am.
When he breaks for air, he watches me silently for a moment, his hand still on my cheek, and then he dips his head and kisses me again like he doesn't know how to stop. I don't think I know how to stop this, either. I wish more than anything we were somewhere else. My place . . . his place . . . anywhere other than a place where we have to stop and go back upstairs eventually.
I am not inexperienced when it comes to sex. But I think I am inexperienced when it comes to this. The feeling of not wanting it to be over long after it's over. The feeling of wishing I could bury myself inside his chest so I could be closer to him. Maybe this isn't new for him, but based on the way he's looking at me between all the kissing, I would say there's more confusion in his expression than familiarity.
Several seconds pass as we stare at each other. Neither of us speaks. Maybe he doesn't have anything to say, but I can't speak because of the severe intensity building inside my chest. The sex was great. Quick, but incredible.
But this thing that's happening right now . . . the not being able to let go . . . the not wanting to stop kissing . . . the not being able to look away . . . I can't tell if this is just a side to sex I've never experienced or if this goes deeper than that. Like maybe sex isn't as deep as it gets. Maybe there's a whole level of connection I didn't know could exist.
Graham closes his eyes for a few seconds, then presses his forehead against mine. After releasing a quick sigh, he pushes himself off me, almost as if he had to force his eyes shut in order to separate us. He helps me up and I look for my panties while he disposes of the condom and zips up his jeans.
It's quiet while I dress. We don't look at each other. He picks up the empty condom wrapper from the floor and tosses it into the trash can beside his bed.
Now we're facing each other. My arms are crossed over my chest and he's looking at me like he isn't sure if the last fifteen minutes actually happened. I'm looking at him like I wish it could happen again.
He opens his mouth like he's about to say something, but then he just gives his head a quick shake and steps forward, grabs my face and kisses me again. It's a rough kiss, like he isn't finished with me. I kiss him back with just as much intensity. After a minute of the kiss, he starts to walk me backward toward the stairs. We break for air and he just laughs, pressing his lips into my hair.
We make it up two steps before I realize I haven't looked in a mirror. I just had sex with this man and I'm about to have to go smile at his parents. I frantically comb my fingers through my hair and straighten out my dress. "How do I look?"
Graham smiles. "Like you just had sex."
I try to shove him in the chest, but he's faster than me. He grabs my hands and turns us until my back is against the wall of the stairwell. He straightens out a few strands of hair and then wipes his thumbs under my eyes. "There," he says. "You look beautiful. And innocent, like you just took a typical tour of the house." He kisses me again and I know he probably means for it to be short and sweet, but I grab his head and pull him closer. I can't get enough of the taste of him. I just want to be back at my apartment, in my bed with him, kissing him. I don't want to have to go upstairs and pretend I want pie when all I want is Graham.
"Quinn," he whispers, grabbing my wrists and pushing them against the wall. "How fast do you think you can eat a slice of pie?"
It's good to know our priorities are aligned. "Pretty damn fast."
* * *
Despite all the Thursday nights that Graham has returned home smelling like beer, I've never actually seen him drunk. I think he chooses not to drink more than one or two beers at a time because he's still so full of guilt over losing his best friend, Tanner, all those years ago. The feeling of being drunk probably reminds him of his devastation. Much like how sex reminds me of my devastation.
I wonder what he's devastated about tonight?
This is the first time he's ever had to be escorted home by a coworker on a Thursday night. I watch from the window as Graham stumbles toward the front door, one arm thrown haphazardly around a guy who is struggling to get him to the house.
I move to the front door and unlock it. As soon as I open it, Graham looks up and smiles widely at me. "Quinn!"
He waves toward me; turning his head to the guy he's with. "Quinn, this is my good friend Morris. He's my good friend."
Morris nods apologetically.
"Thanks for getting him home," I say. I reach out and pull Graham from him, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. "Where is his car?"
Morris throws a thumb over his shoulder, just as Graham's car pulls into the driveway. Another of Graham's coworkers steps out of the car. I recognize him from Graham's office. I think his name is Bradley.
Bradley walks toward the front door while Graham puts both arms around me, placing even more of his weight on me. Bradley hands me the keys and laughs.
"First time we could get him to drink more than two," he says, nudging his head toward Graham. "He's good at a lot of things, but the man can't hold his alcohol."
Morris laughs. "Lightweight." They both wave goodbye and walk toward Morris's car. I step into the house with Graham and close the front door.
"I was gonna take a cab," Graham mutters. He releases me and walks toward the living room, falling onto the sofa. I would laugh and find this humorous if I weren't so worried that the reason he decided to drink too much tonight might have something to do with how upset he was after holding his new nephew. Or maybe it's his feelings about our marriage as a whole that he wanted to numb for a while.
I walk to the kitchen to get him a glass of water. When I take it back to him in the living room, he's sitting up on the couch. I hand him the water, noticing how different his eyes look. He's smiling at me as he takes a sip. He hasn't looked this happy or content in a very long time. Seeing him drunk makes me realize just how sad he looks now when he's sober. I didn't notice his sadness consumed him even more than it used to. I probably didn't notice because sadness is like a spiderweb. You don't see it until you're caught up in it, and then you have to claw at yourself to try to break free.
I wonder how long Graham has been trying to break free. I stopped trying years ago. I just let the web consume me.
"Quinn," Graham says, letting his head fall back against the couch. "You are so fucking beautiful." His eyes scroll down my body and then stop at my hand. He wraps his fingers around my wrist and pulls me to him. I'm stiff. I don't give in to the pull. I wish he were drunk enough that he would pass out on the couch. Instead, he's just drunk enough to forget he hasn't initiated sex since that night he slept in the guest room. He's just drunk en
ough to pretend we haven't been struggling as much as we have.
Graham leans forward and grabs me by my waist, pulling me down onto the couch next to him. His kiss is inebriated and fluid as he pushes me onto my back. My arms are above my head and his tongue is in my mouth and he tastes so good that I forget to be turned off by him for a moment. That moment turns into two and soon he has my T-shirt pushed up around my waist and his pants undone. Every time I open my eyes and look at him, he's looking back at me with eyes so different from my own. So far from the despondence I've permanently acquired.
The lack of sadness in him is intriguing enough for me to let him have me, but not intriguing enough for me to respond to him with as much need as he's taking me.
In the beginning of our marriage, we used to have sex almost daily, but Thursdays were the day I looked forward to the most. It was one of my favorite nights of the week. I'd put on lingerie and wait for him in the bedroom. Sometimes I would throw on one of his T-shirts and wait for him in the kitchen. It really didn't matter what I was wearing. He'd walk in the door and I'd suddenly not be wearing it anymore.
We've had so much sex in our marriage, I know every inch of his body. I know every sound he makes and what those sounds mean. I know that he likes to be on top the most, but he's never minded when I wanted to take over. I know he likes to keep his eyes open. I know that he loves to kiss during sex. I know that he likes it in the mornings but prefers it late at night. I know everything there is to know about him sexually.
Yet in the last two months . . . we haven't had sex at all. The closest we've come until now is when he made out with me in the bathroom at his parents' house.
He hasn't initiated it since then and neither have I. And we haven't talked about the last time we had sex since it happened. I haven't had to keep up with my ovulation cycle since then and honestly it's been a big relief. After finally going a couple of months without tracking my cycle, I realize how much I would prefer never having sex again. That way, every month when my period comes, it would be completely expected and not at all devastating.
I try to reconcile my need to avoid sex with my need for Graham. Just because I don't desire sex doesn't mean I don't desire him. I've just forced it to be a different kind of desire now. An emotional one. It's my physical desires that never end well. I desire his touch, but if I allow it, it leads to sex. I desire his kiss, but if I kiss him too much, it leads to sex. I desire his flirtatious side, but if I enjoy it too much, it leads to sex.