All Your Perfects - Page 7

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I nod. "Yeah. They called last week."

I see the roll of his throat as he breaks eye contact with me and scoots his fork aimlessly around his plate. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"I'm telling you now."

"Only because I asked."

I don't respond to him again. He's right. I should have told him when I got the call last week, but it hurts. I don't like talking about things that hurt. And lately everything hurts. Which is why I barely talk anymore.

But I also didn't tell him because I know how much guilt he still holds over that incident. The incident that has been responsible for our third rejection from an adoption agency.

"I'm sorry," he says.

His apology creates an ache in my chest because I know he isn't apologizing for our snippy exchange. He's apologizing because he knows we were turned down because of his past conviction.

It happened when he was only nineteen. He doesn't talk about it a lot. Hardly ever. The wreck wasn't his fault, but because of the alcohol in his system, it didn't matter. The charge still lingers on his record and will forever put us out of the running when couples without criminal charges are approved in place of us.

But that was years ago. It's not something he can change and he's been punished enough for what happened when he was just a teenager. The last thing he needs is for his own wife to blame him, too.

"Don't apologize, Graham. If you apologize for not being approved for adoption then I'll have to apologize for not being able to conceive. It is what it is."

His eyes momentarily meet mine and I see a flash of appreciativeness in him.

He runs his finger around the rim of his glass. "The adoption issue we're having is a direct result of a poor decision I made. You can't control the fact that you can't conceive. There's a difference."

Graham and I aren't a perfect example of a marriage, but we are a perfect example of knowing when and where the blame should be placed. He never makes me feel guilty for not being able to conceive and I've never wanted him to feel guilty for a choice he already holds way too much guilt for.

"There may be a difference, but it isn't much of one. Let's just drop it." I'm tired of this conversation. We've had it so many times and it changes nothing. I take another bite, thinking of a way we can change the subject, but he just continues.

"What if . . ." He leans forward now, pushing his plate toward the center of the table. "What if you applied for adoption on your own? Left me out of the equation?"

I stare at him, thinking of all that question entails. "I can't. We're legally married." He doesn't react. Which means he knew exactly what he was suggesting. I lean back in my chair and eye him cautiously. "You want us to get a divorce so I can apply on my own?"

Graham reaches across the table and covers my hand with his. "It wouldn't mean anything, Quinn. We would still be together. But it might make our chances better if we just . . . you know . . . pretended I wasn't in the picture. Then my past conviction couldn't affect our chances."

I contemplate his idea for a moment, but it's just as preposterous as the fact that we keep trying to conceive. Who would approve a divorced, single woman to adopt a child over a stable, married couple with more income and more opportunity? Becoming approved by an agency isn't an easy process, so actually being selected and the birth mother going through with the adoption are even harder. Not to mention the fees. Graham brings in twice as much money as me and we still might not be able to afford it, even if I were somehow approved for the process.

"We don't have the money." I expect that to be the end of it, but I can tell by his expression that he has another suggestion. I can also tell by the way he's not readily suggesting whatever it is he's thinking that it must include my mother. I immediately shake my head and grab my plate. I stand up. "We aren't asking her. The last time I spoke to her about adoption, she told me God would give me a child when I was ready. And like I told Ava earlier, the last thing we need is for her to feel like she owns a piece of our family." I walk the plate to the sink. Graham scoots back in his chair and stands.

"It was just an idea," he says, following me into the kitchen. "You know, there's a guy at my work who said his sister tried for seven years to get pregnant. She found out three months ago that she's having a baby. Due in January."

Yes, Graham. That's called a miracle. And it's called a miracle because the chances of it happening are slim to none.

I turn on the water and wash my plate. "You talk about it to people at work?"

Graham is next to me now, lowering his plate into the sink. "Sometimes," he says quietly. "People ask why we haven't had kids."

I can feel the pressure building in my chest. I need to be done with the conversation. I want Graham to be done, too, but he leans against the counter and dips his head. "Hey."

I give him a sidelong glance to let him know I'm listening, but then I move my attention back to the dishes.

"We barely talk about it anymore, Quinn. I don't know if that's good or bad."

"It's neither. I'm just tired of talking about it. It's all our marriage has become."

"Does that mean you're accepting it?"

"Accepting what?" I still don't look at him.

"That we'll never be parents."

The plate in my hand slips out of my grasp. It lands against the bottom of the sink with a loud clutter.

But it doesn't break like I do.

I don't even know why it happens. I'm gripping the sink now and my head is hanging between my shoulders and tears just start falling from my eyes. Fuck. I really can't stand myself sometimes.

Graham waits several seconds before he moves to console me. He doesn't put his arms around me, though. I think he can tell I don't want to be crying right now and hugging me is something he's learned doesn't help in these situations. I don't cry in front of him near as much as I cry alone, but I've done it enough for him to know that I'd rather do it alone. He runs his hand over my hair and kisses the back of my head. Then he just touches my arm and moves me out of the way of the sink. He picks up the plate and finishes washing the dishes. I do what I do best. I walk away until I'm strong enough to pretend the conversation never happened. And he does what he does best. He leaves me alone in my grief because I've made it so hard for him to console me.

We're getting really good at playing our parts.

Chapter Nine

* * *


I'm on my bed. I'm making out with Jason.

I blame Graham for this.

I would have never invited Jason back to my apartment had I not seen Graham. But for some reason, seeing him there filled me with . . . feelings. And then watching him kiss his date on the side of her head filled me with jealousy. And then watching him grab her hand across the table as we walked past them filled me with regret.

Why did I never call him?

I should have called him.

"Quinn," Jason says. He's been kissing my neck, but now he's not. He's looking down at me, his expression full of so many things I don't want to be there right now. "Do you have a condom?"

I lie and tell him no. "I'm sorry. I wasn't expecting to bring you back here tonight."

"It's fine," he says, lowering his mouth to my neck again. "I'll come prepared next time."

I feel bad. I'm almost positive I'll never have sex with Jason. I am positive he won't be coming back to my apartment after tonight. I'm even more positive I'm about to ask him to leave. I wasn't this positive before dinner. But after running into Graham, I realize how it should feel to be with another person. And the way I feel around Jason pales in comparison to how I feel when I'm around Graham.

Jason whispers something inaudible against my neck. His fingers have made their way up my shirt and over my bra.

Thank God the doorbell rings.

I slide off the bed in a hurry. "It's probably my mother," I say to him, straightening out my clothes. "Wait here. I'll be right back."

Jason rolls onto his back and watc

hes me leave the room. I rush to the door, knowing exactly who I hope it is before I even open it. But even still, I gasp when I look through the peephole.

Graham is standing at my door, looking down at his feet.

I press my forehead to my door and close my eyes.

What is he doing here?

I attempt to straighten out my shirt and my hair before opening the door. When I'm finally face-to-face with him, I grow irritated at the way I feel in his presence. Graham doesn't even touch me and I feel it everywhere. Jason touches me everywhere and I feel it nowhere.

"What . . ." The word that just left my mouth is somehow full of more breath than voice. I clear my throat and try again. "What are you doing here?"

Graham smiles a little, lifting a hand to the doorframe. The smirk on his face and the fact that he's chewing gum are two of the sexiest things I've ever seen at one time. "I thought this was the plan."

I am so confused. "The plan?"

He laughs halfheartedly. But then he tilts his head. He points behind me, into my apartment. "I thought . . ." He points behind him, over his shoulder. "At the restaurant. There was this look . . . right before you left. I thought you were asking me to come over."

His voice is louder than I need it to be right now. I check over my shoulder to make sure Jason hasn't come out of the bedroom. Then I try to shield Graham from my apartment a little better by slipping more on the other side of the door. "What look?"

Graham's eyes narrow a bit. "You didn't give me a look?"

I shake my head. "I did not give you a look. I wouldn't even know what look to give you that would say, 'Hey, ditch your date and come over to my place tonight.' "

Graham's lips form a tight line and he looks down at the floor with a hint of embarrassment. He raises his eyes, but his head is still dipped when he says, "Is he here? Your date?"

Now I'm the one who's embarrassed. I nod. Graham releases a sigh as he leans against the doorjamb. "Wow. I read that one wrong."

When he looks at me again, I notice the left side of his face is red. I step closer to him and reach up to his cheek. "What happened?"

He grins and pulls my hand from his cheek. He doesn't let go of it. I don't want him to.

"I got slapped. It's fine. I deserved it."

That's when I see it. The outline of a handprint. "Your date?"

He lifts a shoulder. "After what happened with Sasha, I vowed to be completely honest in every aspect of my relationships from then on. Jess . . . my date tonight . . . didn't see that as a good quality."

"What did you say to her?"

"I broke it off with her. I told her I was into another girl. And that I was going to her apartment to see her."

"Because this other girl supposedly gave you a look?"

He smiles. "I thought she did, anyway." He brushes his thumb across the top of my hand and then he releases it. "Well, Quinn. Maybe another time."

Graham takes a step back and it feels like he pulls all my emotions with him as he turns to walk away.

"Graham," I say, stepping out into the hallway. He turns around, and I don't know if I'm going to regret what I'm about to say, but I'll regret it even more if I don't. "Come back in fifteen minutes. I'll get rid of him."

Graham shoots me the perfect thank-you smile, but before he walks away, his eyes move past me. To someone behind me. I turn around and see Jason standing in the doorway. He looks pissed. Rightfully so.

He swings open the door and walks out into the hallway. He walks past Graham, shoving him with his shoulder. Graham just stands silent, staring at the floor.

I feel terrible. But if it hadn't happened this way, I would have shot him down on his way out of my apartment later. Rejection sucks, no matter how it's presented.

The door to the stairwell slams shut and neither of us speak as we listen to Jason's footsteps fade down the stairs. When all is quiet, Graham finally lifts his head and makes eye contact with me. "You still need that fifteen minutes?"

I shake my head. "Nope."

Graham walks toward me as I step back into my apartment. I hold the door open for him, certain that he won't be leaving here as quickly as he did last time. Once he's inside, I close the door and then turn around. Graham is smiling, looking at the wall beside my head. I follow his line of sight to the Post-it he left six months ago.

"It's still here."

I smile sheepishly. "I would have called you eventually. Maybe."

Graham pulls down the sticky note and folds it in half, sliding it into his pocket. "You won't be needing it after tonight. I'll make sure you have my number memorized before I leave here tomorrow."

"That confident you're staying over?"

Graham takes an assured step closer. He places a hand against the door beside my head, forcing my back against the door. It isn't until he does this that I realize why I find him so attractive.

It's because he makes me feel attractive. The way he looks at me. The way he talks to me. I'm not sure anyone has ever made me feel as beautiful as he makes me feel when he looks at me. Like it's taking everything in him to keep his mouth away from mine. His eyes fall to my lips. He leans in so close, I can smell the flavor of gum he's chewing. Spearmint.

I want him to kiss me. I want him to kiss me even more than I wanted Jason to stop kissing me. And that was a lot. But I feel like whatever is about to start with me and Graham, it needs to start with complete transparency. "I kissed Jason. Earlier. Before you got here."

My comment doesn't seem to dismay him. "I figured as much."

I put my hands on his chest. "I just . . . I want to kiss you, too. But it's weird because I just kissed someone else. I'd like to brush my teeth first."

Graham laughs. I love his laugh. He leans in and presses his forehead to the side of my head, causing my knees to lock. His lips are right over my ear when he whispers. "Hurry. Please."

I slip around him and rush to my bathroom. I pull open the drawer and grab my toothbrush and toothpaste like I'm racing against time. My hands are shaking as I squeeze the toothpaste onto my toothbrush. I turn on the water and start brushing my teeth furiously. I'm brushing my tongue when I look in the mirror and see Graham walk into the bathroom behind me. I laugh at how ridiculous this is.

I haven't kissed a guy in six months. Now I'm brushing away the germs of one guy while the next one waits in line.

Graham seems to be enjoying the ridiculousness of this moment just as much as I am. He's now leaning against the sink next to me, watching as I spit toothpaste into the sink. I rinse my toothbrush and then toss it aside, grabbing an empty glass. I fill it with water and take a sip, swishing the water around in my mouth until I'm certain my mouth is as clean as it's going to get. I spit the water out and take another sip. This time I just swallow the water, though, because Graham takes the cup from me and sets it near the sink. He pulls the piece of gum out of his mouth, tossing it in the trash can, then he slides his other hand around my head and doesn't even ask if I'm ready yet. He brings his mouth to mine, assured and eager, like the last sixty seconds of preparation have been pure torture. The moment our lips touch, it's as if an ember that's been slow-burning for six long months finally bursts into flames.

He doesn't even bother with an introductory, slow kiss. His tongue is in my mouth like he's been there many times before and knows exactly what to do. He turns me until my back is against the sink and then he lifts me, setting me down on my bathroom counter. He settles himself between my legs, grabbing my ass with both hands, pulling me against him. I wrap my arms around him, lock my legs around him. I try to convince myself I did not go my whole life never realizing this kind of kiss existed.

The way his lips move against mine makes me question the skills of every guy that came before him.

He starts to ease the pressure and I catch myself pulling him against me, not wanting him to stop. But he does. Slowly. He gives me a small peck on the corner of my mouth before pulling back.

"Wow," I whisper. I open my

eyes and he's staring at me. But he's not looking at me in awe like I'm looking at him. There's a very noticeable dejected look on his face.

He shakes his head slowly, his eyes narrowing. "I can't believe you never called me. We could have been kissing like this for months."

His comment throws me off. So much so, I stumble over my words when I attempt a response. "I just . . . I guess I thought being around you would remind me of Ethan too much. Of everything that happened that night."

He nods like he understands. "How many times have you thought of Ethan since seeing me at the restaurant tonight?"

"Once," I say. "Just now."

"Good. Because I'm not Ethan." He lifts me, carrying me to the bed. He lays me down and then he backs away, pulling off his shirt. I'm not sure I've ever touched skin that smooth and tight and beautiful and tanned. Graham without a shirt is near perfection.

"I like your . . ." I point at his chest and make a circular motion with my finger. "Your body. It's very nice."

He laughs, pressing a knee into the mattress. He lies down next to me. "Thank you," he says. "But you can't have this body right now." He adjusts the pillow beneath his head, getting comfortable. I lift up onto my elbow and scowl at him.

"Why not?"

"What's the rush? I'll be here all night."

Surely he's kidding. Especially after that kiss. "Well, what are we supposed to do while we wait? Talk?"

He laughs. "You sound like conversation with me is the worst idea in the world."

"If we talk too much before we have sex, I might find out things I don't like about you. Then the sex won't be as fun."

He reaches up and tucks my hair behind my ear with a grin. "Or . . . you might find out we're soul mates and the sex will be mind-blowing."

He has a point.

I fold my arms over my pillow and lay my head on them as I roll onto my stomach. "We better get to talking, then. You go first."

Graham runs his hand over my arm. He traces the scar on my elbow. "Where'd you get this scar?"

"My older sister and I were racing through the house when I was fourteen. I didn't know the sliding glass door was shut and I ran through it. Shattered the glass and cut myself in like ten different places. That's the only scar, though."

Tags: Colleen Hoover Romance