by Tiffany Reisz
(events take place approximately 12 years before THE SIREN)
Grace paced the hall for five minutes before working up the courage to knock on his door. She couldn’t believe what a coward she was being. After all, they’d already…
She halted her train of thought before it could go any farther—if she thought about that night, she’d crumble on the floor and the dustman would have to clean up the pieces of her tomorrow morning.
Taking a deep slow breath, Grace strode to his door, reminded herself he was the one who’d called and asked her to stop by, and knocked. In the fifteen seconds between the knock and the door opening, Grace had the time to live, die, and straighten her little navy dress that she’d chosen because he’d once complimented her on it.
The door opened and Grace gave him a nervous smile.
“Hiya,” she said, feeling like an idiot.
“If I let you in, will you promise not to ravish me again?”
Blushing, Grace rolled her eyes and pursed her lips. She looked at him waiting in the doorway to his flat. Wearing jeans and a black t-shirt—she’d never seen him in anything but a suit and tie before—and grinning a little devilishly at her, her teacher Zachary Easton was without a doubt the most attractive man she’d ever seen in her life.
“No promises,” she said and found herself feeling suddenly at ease with him. At least he was comfortable enough to joke about that night. “I can’t be trusted.”
“Well, you are Welsh after all. Can’t let you near my books. You’ll steal all the consonants and use them all in one bloody town name.”
Grace laughed in rueful agreement. She’d grown up near Yr Wyddgrug. Took a magnifying glass to find the vowel in that mess of consonants.
“Heard a rumor you were a scouser, Professor Easton. Can’t let you near the silverware.”
He gave her a half smile and crossed his arms over his chest.
“Think it’s probably safe for you to drop the ‘Professor’ at this point, Grace,” he said and all the joking disappeared from his tone. Not cold or angry…he just seemed very much in charge.
“Alright…Zachary?” she said, not sure if Zachary was what he wanted to be called.
“Zach or Zachary. But no Zechariah unless you’re also my grandmother.”
“Not when I got up this morning. Are you going to let me in? If not, I’ll just go fetch a chair to set in the hallway.”
“Come in. But I’m watching you,” he said and narrowed his bright blue eyes at her. “I expect to still have all my consonants tomorrow morning.”
“Nid yw eich llyfrau rwyf eisiau,” she said. It isn’t your books I want.
“Not fair. I know French and some Spanish. Hebrew, of course. And enough Yiddish to get myself in trouble. So keep the Welsh to yourself,” he teased as she followed him into his flat.
“Hebrew. Really?” she asked. She’d expected the French and Spanish. Hebrew was a surprise.
“I’m Jewish. Or as my brother the Rabbi calls me, Jew…ish.”
Grace laughed. Zachary certainly didn’t seem devout about anything other than literature.
“Jewish, I wouldn’t have guessed,” she said, not at all bothered, just surprised. There was so much she didn’t know about Zachary.
“You didn’t notice?” He looked at her and winked. Suddenly his implication became clear and Grace felt herself turning scarlet red.
“I didn’t actually look,” she protested. And even if she had, she wasn’t sure what to look for. Until last Friday night, not only had she been a virgin, she‘d never even had a boyfriend. At school she was the quiet girl who went to the library to write instead of to lunch with friends. She had a few kisses, a few brushes with boys, but the one or two blokes who’d approached her seemed so young compared to her. But now she was the one who felt like a gauche teenager in the presence of this handsome, older man.
“Don’t blame you. Not one of the more attractive body parts God invented.”
Every part of you is beautiful, Grace thought, glancing around his flat and hoping talk of body parts was over for the moment.
His flat, like the conversation, wasn’t quite what she expected. His office at school was cramped and cluttered with books and more books but contained nothing personal. But his flat had…taste. He had leather furniture and a lovely dark rug covered the pale wood floors. There was little to no overhead lighting…just lamps everywhere. The light in the small kitchen was on and she could see a wine rack and a glasses hanging from underneath the cabinet. Zachary headed to the kitchen leaving her standing in the middle of his well-appointed living room. Something about the place bothered her. But she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Then she realized that it looked nothing like the flats of any of her friends. Their flats were cluttered with a mish-mash of found furniture with bicycles in the foyer and dirty dishes everywhere. Zachary’s flat was so…adult. At that moment standing in his flat…that was the first time she felt their thirteen-year age difference. In his office Friday night they’d been lovers—one man, one woman, two bodies coming together. Now she felt like a girl again and he was very much a grown man.
“Wine?” he called from the kitchen.
“Do you prefer red or white? I think I may have a blush in the fridge. Merlot or chardonnay?”
Red or white or blush…Merlot or Chardonnay…? She’d had wine before at a wedding or two. But she didn’t remember what kind it was. Neither of her parents were wine drinkers really. They may have honeymooned in France but they hadn’t picked up any French habits there.
“Oh, surprise me,” she said, trying to sound carefree when really she just didn’t want to make an arse of herself by picking the wrong thing.
Zachary came out of the kitchen carrying two glasses of wine—one a pale yellow, one a blood red.
“Take the Chardonnay,” he said. “It’s very good.”
She reached out and took the red wine. Zachary looked at her for a moment before smiling.
“The yellow one’s the Chardonnay, isn’t it?” she asked.
“Actually, yes. And it’s a white, not a yellow.”
Grace took a shaky breath. “I’m just going to go now. I’ll see you next week…or five to ten years from now.”
“Grace, stop. Sit. Please.”
Reluctantly Grace sat the glass of wine down on the coffee table in front of the sofa and sat gingerly down. Zachary sat next to her a few inches away. She pulled the hem of her dress down over her knees and flattened it against her thighs.
“Nervous?” he asked.
“Completely comfortable. Why do you ask?”
He laughed and it was such a wonderful sound that laugh…Grace watched him, watched the way the corners of his eyes crinkled a little and his whole face came alive. She decided then and there she wanted to spend the rest of her life making him laugh like that.
“No reason at all.” He leaned back into the sofa and crossed his ankle over his knee. She wondered if he knew he was possibly the most handsome man on the planet. She’d always wondered that—do beautiful people realize they’re beautiful or do they only see flaws? When she looked in the mirror she saw nothing but flaws—ridiculous red hair and a face and body covered in freckles. Freckles…of all things. Knees as sharp as knives, small breasts, and bloody freckles. Even when she turned eighty she’d still have those ridiculous freckles. But Zachary…he was art. No…he was poetry. She knew he played squash and tennis with a few of the other younger profs. She could see the sinewy veins in his forearms and part of her wanted to kiss them from wrist to elbow. In his fitted t-shirt she could see how broad his shoulders were. His face…she could see it even with her eyes closed…it was imprinted on her mind like the outline of a warm hand pressed to a winter window–masculine jaw line, strong nose and chin, and eyes that burned as blue as the hottest part of a flame.
“Are you going to start, or shall I?” he asked.
“Start what?” Making love, she hoped.
“Talking about Friday night?”
“Right,” she said, nodding. “Perhaps you should start.”
He exhaled and leaned forward. Picking up his glass, he took a drink of his Chardonnay–the white one—and took a long drink.
“Grace,” he began, setting his glass back down, “Friday night. First of all, are you alright?”
Blinking, Grace looked at him.
“Well, of course. Yes, I’m fine.” And by “fine” she meant “unbearably happy to the point of possibly needing committed to a mental health facility” but she didn’t bother to clarify that.
“Good. I’ve been thinking about you. Grace, I’m so sorry-”
“Don’t, please,” she said, finally finding her courage. “That was without a doubt the most amazing thing that ever happened to me and if you say you’re ‘sorry’ it will be like you’re saying it shouldn’t have happened. And if you feel that way, fine. Just don’t tell me. Please, Zachary.”
He stared at her for a long moment before smiling a little and taking another drink of his wine.
“I’m not sorry it happened,” he said and the relief was so profound, Grace nearly sank into the sofa. “I’m sorry it happened…that way. On top of a pile exams in my tiny office is no way for a girl to lose her virginity.”
Grace blushed again but didn’t let the embarrassment render her mute. He wanted to talk about it. Fine, they would talk about it.
“With the man she’s in love with—that’s the way a girl should lose her virginity.”
Zachary studied her with appraising eyes, smiled again and took another drink of his wine. She reached out and took a sip of her own. It took everything she had not to make a face at the bitter taste.
“I shouldn’t have said that, I suppose,” Grace said, setting her glass down.
“You said it Friday night. It’s not a secret. And I can’t honestly say there isn’t a large part of me that enjoys hearing that.”
“But can’t say it back, right? It’s fine. Truly it is. I’m not asking you to love me back.”
“What are you asking?”
Love me back, she thought, but didn’t say the words aloud.
“Friday night,” she began and paused. “Friday night, the last thing I expected when I went to your office was that you would kiss me, much less…I am eighteen. I should be able to talk about this without feeling like an idiot.”
“Grace, I am, was your teacher. I have never once slept with a student. Never intended to. I could lose my job over this, a job I love. And still here I am with you alone in my flat because since Friday night…no, since last bloody semester, you’re about the only thing I can think about. Now who’s the idiot?”
“You have two Ph.D’s. Safe to say you’re the smarter one here.”
“There’s education and there is wisdom. One doesn’t buy the other. But now we’re being philosophical and we can’t have that. Professor Rasmussen will kill me if I step on his territory.”
“Sassy Rassy—I wouldn’t want to get in his black books either.”
“Sassy Rassy?” Zachary asked. “Is that what you students call him?”
“Not to his face, of course.”
“I’m horrified to imagine what nickname I’ve earned.”
Grace raised her eyebrows at him in feigned innocence. She wanted to tell him but also wanted something to hold over his head.
“I do have a nickname, don’t I?” he asked. “God, I need more wine.”
He reached for her glass of red and took a long drink. Then another.
“It’s not bad. Not uncomplimentary. Most of the girls are a little overly fond of you-”
“A rash of mental illness seems to be breaking out among the young women of Cambridge.”
Grace laughed but pressed on. “So when you talk to any of us about anything and then you leave, there tends to be some fluttering and fanning of ourselves.”
“Physical and mental illness.”
“We call it a Zach Attack,” she said, grimacing.
Zachary groaned and collapsed back against the sofa.
“This is a career ending moment for me, Grace. I’ll never be able to talk to another student again.”
“You’re young. There are other career options for you. Male model perhaps.”
“I’ve already sent in grades. Don’t think you flatter me into higher marks.”
“I didn’t have you this semester, if you’ll recall.”
“You had me Friday night, if you will recall.”
Grace was stunned momentarily speechless. The wicked glint in his eyes nearly sent her crumbling to the floor again.
“Not that I’m complaining,” he added hastily.
“If I didn’t believe the scouser rumor before, I do now,” Grace said, shaking her head. “You’re deliberately trying to embarrass me now, aren’t you?”
“Can’t help myself. You’re so lovely when you blush.”
That made Grace blush even more. She couldn’t believe he thought she was beautiful too.
“I think I’ll need my wine back if we’re going to continue this conversation.”
Zach pulled the glass of red toward him possessively and shook his finger after.
“Mine. I drink. You talk. Tell me, please, what possessed you to neglect to tell me that you were a virgin before and during that time I was ravishing you on my desk.”
“So now you’re the ravisher? That’s a comfort. And nothing possessed me. It just didn’t occur to me to bring it up. Didn’t matter. Everyone has a first time. I wanted it to be with you.” The first and the second and the millionth, she added in her mind. “Because of, you know, the aforementioned.”
“The aforementioned? I believe you’re the only person alive who’s ever referred to being in love with someone as ‘the aforementioned.’”
“Sorry,” she said quickly. “My father’s a barrister. I’ve picked up his cant, I’m afraid.”
“It’s quite poetic. You don’t have to apologize. But that hardly answers my question. At no point did it occur to you to say, ‘Zachary, this is all well and good but I’d rather my first time not be on top of exams in your office? Could we possibly go to your flat instead? Or a hotel? Or anywhere that doesn’t involve paper cuts on sensitive parts?’”
“I don’t think I’ve got any paper cuts. Not there anyway. And I was afraid you would have stopped. You know you would have.”
“For the moment. But not forever.”
Grace stared at him. She couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing.
“Are you saying you wanted us to be lovers?”
All along she’d assumed Friday night had been a fluke, a lucky break. Zachary was alone and tired and bored when she’d turned up desperate and ready. Sex with anyone probably seemed preferable to grading another exam. But now it seemed he was saying that it wasn’t about the sex, it was about her…
“No,” Zach said simply. Grace’s heart fell through the earth but she didn’t let anything but her eyes betray the sadness his terse “no” inflicted on her. “I’m saying I want us to be lovers. No past tense.”
“No past tense?”
“None whatsoever. Do have any objections to that idea?”
Grace’s hands fluttered over the edge of her skirt. She felt like wings had sprouted from her shoulders and were threatening to carry her off into the sky.
“None whatsoever,” she breathed.
Zachary sat the wine glass down on the table and shifted his body to face hers.
“Come here,” he said.
Grace rose from her seat and took the two steps necessary to close the distance between them. Reaching up, Zachary took her by the waist and pulled her down into his lap. She straddled his thighs and met him eye to eye.
“Now if we’re going to do this,” he began, “we have to have some ground rules.”
“I know,” she said. “No telling anyone, et cetera.”
“Well, I’d appreciate if you didn’t take out an advertisement in the Sunday Times about it. But the deed is already done and we’ll have to accept whatever consequences there are. That wasn’t what I meant. Rule #1-”
“You’re using your professor voice,” Grace said, enjoying the heat his nearness imparted to her. “Just letting you know.”
“Very well then,” he said, and she watched as he bit back a smile. “Lesson number one then—you have to tell me everything. This won’t work if you keep things from me. If I do something you don’t like, you absolutely must tell me. If I’m hurting you or making you uncomfortable, I need you to tell me. Promise me?”
“Yes, Professor Easton.”
“You’re going to get into trouble if you keep doing that.”
“Sorry, Professor Easton.”
“I’m going to have to kiss you just to stop you from doing that, aren’t I?”
“Very likely, Professor-”
The rest of the sentence was cut off by Zachary gripping her gently by the back of the neck and bringing her mouth to his. They’d kissed Friday night…passionately kissed. But that moment was such a haze in her memory. Everything happened so fast. Zachary looking up from his work. The question in his eyes followed immediately by the realization that he didn’t have to ask, he already knew the answer. And then the door shutting and her back against it as he devoured her mouth, her neck and shoulders with his mouth. She remembered his hands under her skirt slipping into her knickers within minutes of their first kiss. The whole time she thought she should say something, slow things down, warn him…but she couldn’t bring herself to. This man was her dream. At night she’d wake when the moon was high and whisper his name into her pillows. She’d see the hazy silver outline of him against the sheets next to her in bed. She couldn’t risk losing what could be her only chance to be with him. And everything he was doing to her, she’d already dreamed it. It didn’t feel like the first time when he sat her on the desk and opened her legs. It felt like the thousandth.
But now she knew this moment wasn’t her one and only chance to be with him. She willed her heart to slow, willed her breathing to settle. Opening her mouth, she touched his lips with her tongue—the red wine far sweeter now that it mingled with the taste of him.
His kisses were deliberate and thorough and heat pooled where their mouths met and sunk through her until it settled deep in her stomach. His hands massaged her hips and thighs as they kissed and Grace pushed herself as close to him as she could. The silk of her underwear pressed against the rough fabric and zipper of his jeans.
She heard him gasp a little when she pushed her hips into his.
“Sorry,” she said quickly and moved back. “I didn’t mean-”
“Grace, lesson number two—never apologize for pressing any part of your body into my erection.”
“You’re really going to give me lessons?” she asked, smiling into his lips.
“Yes, but I fully expect you to give me a few lessons in return.”
Grace shook her head as she made her first forays into touching him back. She put her hands on his strong biceps and ran them up his arms to his shoulders.
“What could I possibly teach you?”
“You can teach me Grace. I plan on getting my third doctorate in you.”
Inhaling slowly, Grace bent forward and wrapped her arms around Zachary’s shoulders in an embrace. She couldn’t believe this man she’d been dreaming of since her first day at Cambridge, her first class with him, was kissing her, touching her, saying he wanted to know everything about her.
“I’m not a very interesting subject,” she said as Zachary slipped a hand under her dark blue dress and stroked her pelvic bones. She hated how boney she was. He was substantial–tall and muscular and he filled out those jeans perfectly. “What do you want to know?”
“Tell me how you like to be touched. And where?”
The knot in Grace’s stomach tightened. Did he really expert her to tell him what to do?
“Do I need to remind I’ve only had sex once in my entire life? If so, I’m happy to remind you…I’ve only had sex once in my entire life.”
“But surely I wasn’t the first person who’s ever touched you.”
“More or less,” she said. “I’m fairly boring in that area.”
“Never even touched yourself?” he asked cupping her bottom with both hands.
“Oh, God.” Grace buried her head in the crook of his neck. “You’re killing me. You can’t get your doctorate in me if I’m dead.”
Laughing, Zachary pulled his hands out from beneath her loose summer dress and took her by the waist again.
“Very well. If you won’t tell me, I’ll just have to find out myself.”
Gently he rolled them so she was on her back underneath him. He shifted a little to the side and kissed her again long and slow while his hand roamed over her chest and neck. She shivered as his fingertips tickled her collarbone.
“Light touching she likes,” he said into her ear.
“She does like,” Grace agreed.
“Does she like have her breasts touched?” he asked as he slowly slid the straps of her dress down her shoulders. Grace immediately regretted going with the dress that demanded she go braless. The lights in Zachary’s living room were low but she still felt so embarrassed and exposed as he pulled her dress down below her breasts. She closed her eyes as he ran his fingers delicately over her breasts. He grazed her nipples and she felt them harden with desire and need.
“You’re panting, Grace.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just-”
“Lesson three—never apologize for panting.”
“Will there be a test later?”
“Yes, but don’t worry,” Zachary said as he rose up over her. “You’ve already passed.”
Grace started to say something but then Zachary took one of her nipples in his mouth and sucked lightly on it. She arched beneath him, blinking from the shock of pleasure. Zachary moved slowly from one breast to the other, kissing her nipples until her breasts felt full and swollen. It wasn’t until she heard him laughing softly that Grace came back to herself again.
“What?” she demanded.
She raised her head and saw Zachary grinning down at her.
“Even your nipples have freckles.”
Grace covered her face with her hand.
“I curse you, my Irish mother,” she said, shaking her head.
“Don’t you dare. I’ve never seen more beautiful breasts in my life. I had no idea until you that freckles could be that intoxicating.”
“Intoxicating? How much wine did you have before I came over?”
“Just enough to steady my nerves.”
“Your nerves? You were nervous? About me?”
“Course I was. No bloke on earth wouldn’t be nervous if a girl as beautiful as you was stopping by.”
“The mysterious Cambridge illness seems to have effected you too.”
“I hope I’m never cured of it,” Zachary said before dipping his head to her breasts again. Closing her eyes once more, Grace laid her head back and resolved to relax. Zachary knew what he was doing. She couldn’t even begin to imagine how many women he’d been with. He’d even had a girlfriend last term—some gorgeous blond doctor, the medical kind, named Isla. Grace remembered seeing her and Zachary having lunch together on the lawn one day September. She’d never considered herself a violent person, but Grace remembered thinking how much she would like to look down and see a fistful of blond and bloody hair in her hand. It had been crushing to see his girlfriend, a woman in her mid-thirties who was no doubt as brilliant as she was beautiful. But for some reason, Isla had disappeared from Zachary’s life and in February Grace had gone to Zachary’s office with a new poem she’d been working on. Wanting to be a grown-up, she’d asked him if he and Isla had any fun plans for Valentine’s Day—she and her flatmates were going dancing. He’d winced and said the only plans Isla had for him on Valentine’s Day was to likely burn him in effigy. Grace made an attempt at sympathy but she must not have pulled it off very well because Zachary kept looking at her…looking at her like she was the reason Isla wanted to burn Zachary in effigy. Now she had to wonder if perhaps she was.
She rather liked that thought.
Zachary’s hand roamed from her breasts down her stomach and slid beneath her dress again. This time his hand spent only a few seconds on her thighs and hips before coming to rest between her legs. With his thumb, he teased her clitoris as he made slow circles over her underwear. He touched for a long time. She thought she should stop him, do something for him, but it felt so wonderful she let him continue his attentions. Grace’s heart raced and something wound tight in her stomach…tight…tighter… Zachary increased the pressure of his touch and pushed into her. Her hips lifted off the sofa and she came hard with a shuddering gasp.
“Grace, you just had an orgasm on my sofa,” Zachary said as he pulled his hand away from her and kissed her under her ear.
“Sorry. I didn’t mean to. I-”
“Lesson number four,” Zachary began.
“Let me guess—no apologizing for orgasms.”
“It could possibly be the most important rule.”
Grace turned onto her side and Zachary held her close and tight to him. She pulled her dress back up feeling suddenly self-conscious.
“That was amazing,” she said as he kissed her cheek and forehead. “Can I do something for you?”
“Most definitely.” He ran his hand up and down the side of her body.
“What can I do?”
Zachary brought his hand to the side of her face and tilted her chin to meet his eyes.
“You can come with me to my bedroom and let me make love to you,” he said, his voice low and heady. She’d never seen the blue flame of his eyes had burning so bright or hot before. “Properly this time. Will you do that for me?”
“Yes, Professor Easton,” she said, grinning to hide how moved she was.
“Lesson number six,” he said taking her hand in his and gallantly kissing the back of it. “When I’m inside you, you have to call me Zachary.”
“I do like that name.”
“Then I shall give you ample opportunity to say it tonight. Or hopefully, moan it.”
Grace sat up and started to stand. But before she could get to her feet, Zachary was already on his. He didn’t let her walk, instead swept her up and carried across the living room toward a door on the other side of the room.
“You’re really going to carry me to bed?” she asked as she clung to his shoulders.
“You had a less than perfect first time. I’d like to rectify that, if you don’t mind.”
“No,” she said, pressing her cheek to the side of his neck.
“You do mind?”
“No…my first time, it was perfect. It was with you.”
In his arms, Grace not only heard Zachary sigh, she felt it too. Biting her tongue, she resolved to not say anymore outrageously infatuated things to him. But considering he was taking her to his bed, she wasn’t sure how long that resolution would last.
One lamp was already on in his bedroom—a small bedside lamp that cast soft and low light around the room.
“You left a light on…you knew this was going to happen, didn’t you?” she asked as Zachary bent and laid her across his bed. He sat next to her and brushed her hair off her forehead.
“I can’t say I knew. But I will I say I hoped. Warm enough? Comfortable?”
Grace nodded and Zachary reached down and slipped her sandals off her feet. He ran his hand up her bare legs and let them come to rest on the center of her stomach. She felt her stomach tighten and twist underneath the light pressure.
“Zachary, I have to tell you something.”
“Anything,” he said. “Lesson number one, remember?”
Grinning, she put her hand over his where it still rested on her stomach.
“Friday night…I meant it when I said that the last thing I thought would happen when I came to your office was that you and I….that we would make love. I wasn’t really prepared.”
“No. I was more than ready that way. It’s only, I’m not on birth control. I mean, I am now. I went to the school clinic on Monday, but Friday night…I’m sorry.”
Grace bit her bottom lips as she looked up at Zachary. She feared she ruined it, ruined the moment. His face was implacable as a mask. Slowly he nodded.
“As I said, we’ll take the consequences as they come. I had a condom in my wallet that night and got too caught up in the moment to use it. If anything happens, you’re hardly the one to blame. Tonight, neither of us will be so foolish,” he said, opening the drawer on the bedside table. He pulled out a box of condoms…a very large box.
Laughing and blushing, Grace rolled onto her side and pulled her knees to her chest.
“I’m having trouble walking just thinking about it,” she said and laughed again. She looked up at Zachary and expected to see him laugh too. He didn’t.
“Did I hurt you that night?” he asked.
“Lesson one,” he reminded her.
Exhaling, Grace slowly nodded.
“Yes, it did hurt. I was a little sore the next day. But just a bit. Hardly a Bell Jar scenario.”
“My God, did you just reference Sylvia Plath in my bedroom?”
Grace dissolved into giggles at the look of shock and horror on Zachary’s face.
“I just broke one of the rules, didn’t I? I was hoping to keep this is a secret from you—but Plath’s one of my favorite poets.”
Zachary sighed heavily.
“Herr God, Herr Lucifer,” Zachary began.
“Beware, beware. Out of the ash I rise with my red hair and I eat men like air,” Grace finished the line in a dramatic monotone.
“A red-headed Plath fan—what have I gotten myself into? Well, I’m relieved we didn’t have a ‘Bell Jar scenario’,” he said. “I think if I made love to a girl and she ended up in the hospital hemorrhaging because of it, I’d become a monk.”
“You’re Jewish, remember? I mean, Jew…ish.”
“Forgot.” Zachary smiled down at her and said nothing for a moment.
“What is it?” she asked as he seemed to study her.
“I don’t recall ever having a girl in my bed as beautiful as you and wanting to talk to her as much as I wanted to make love to her.”
Grace flushed at the compliment.
“I love talking to you too. I’ve never been able to talk poetry to anyone before. I really appreciate you indulging me so much this year. I know reading my nonsense isn’t your favorite way to spend your office hours.”
Zachary reached up and ran his hand through her hair.
“‘And though it was brittle cold and the wind was singing and winter snapped at her heels / she didn’t run and she didn’t want to. / She never even noticed it was raining’.”
Grace sat up and met Zachary eye to eye.
“That’s from my poem,” she said. The poem, called “With Him” was one of her little bits of nonsense she’d showed him last fall. “You memorized my poem?”
“I thought it was lovely. ‘Brittle’ cold instead of ‘bitter cold’ and the image of late fall feeling like winter chasing after you like a wolf…it’s a wonderful poem. Of course I memorized it.”
A knot formed in her throat and Grace leaned into him and wrapped he arms around his shoulders. He pulled her close and held her.
“Lesson number one,” she whispered. “Tell you everything, yes?”
“Yes,” he said softly into her ear.
“I wrote that poem about you.”
Grace nodded mutely.
Zachary pulled back just enough to meet her eyes. They looked at each other for one single perfect moment before he brought his mouth to hers. Grace clung to him as they kissed. The room seemed to rock like a stormy sea underneath her. He was her ship and she knew as long as she held onto him, they would sail through.
Grace stiffened as Zachary gathered the fabric of her dress in his hands and started to pull it up.
“Please,” he said in a near whisper. “Let me see you. All of you.”
Nodding, she said nothing. Only lifted her arms and let him pull her dress off her. He pressed her down onto her back and slid her underwear down her legs and tossed the bit of white cotton aside.
He gazed at her for a long time and she forced herself to say nothing as he looked at her.
“Forgive me,” he said as he stretched out on top of her. “I think I stopped breathing there for a moment.”
His mouth was on hers again. Grace wrapped herself around him wanting to absorb all of his heat into her naked skin. Although he was still completely dressed and she wore nothing but her freckles, she found herself feeling surprisingly unselfconscious for the first time that night. Being naked with him seemed so natural.
As they kissed, Grace explored his back with her hands. He had marvelous shoulder blades. And the valley down the center of his back…she could spend her whole life there.
Zachary moved from her mouth to her neck and kissed his way to her breasts again. He lingered over her nipples for a moment before moving lower once more. He slipped a hand between her legs and pushed her thighs open.
“Zachary-” she gasped as he dipped his head between her legs.
“I’ll stop if you tell me to, Grace, but I’d prefer if you didn’t tell me to.”
Grace took a quick breath and said nothing else. Using his fingers, Zachary opened her and he took her clitoris gently between his lips. The sheets knotted in Grace’s nervous fingers as Zachary made love to her with his mouth. It felt strange and wonderful and terrifying all at the same time.
“Are you even remotely enjoying this?” Zachary asked, raising his head to smile at her.
“I’m trying,” she said, unable to ease her death-grip on the sheets. “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous.”
“Too much too soon?”
She shook her head. “I don’t want us to stop. Please.”
Zachary turned his head and dropped a quick kiss on top of her thigh before crawling up her body again.
“Forgive me,” he said, kissing her neck and chest again. “You were my first virgin. You’ll have to teach me how to control myself.”
“You’ve never been with a virgin before me?”
“Not one. Even the girl I had my first time with had been with one boy before me.”
“Boy? How old were you?”
“Significantly younger than eighteen,” he said and grinned. “Which is why it never occurred to me that you might be more self-controlled than I was as a teenager. Tell me what you’d like me to do. Something that won’t leave you white as a ghost.”
“Well, there is something a little disconcerting about being the only one in the room naked.”
She gripped the fabric of his t-shirt and Zachary took the hint. He pulled away from her just long enough to yank his shirt off and let it join her clothes on the floor. Reaching underneath her, Zachary pulled the covers down and draped them over her body. Grace stared up at the ceiling as Zachary unbuttoned jeans and stripped completely naked. He slid under the covers with her and stretched out again on top of her. She gasped a little from the pleasure of his warm bare chest pressing against her breasts.
Seeming to sense her thoughts, Zachary’s hand roamed down her body and he slipped a single finger inside her.
“That doesn’t hurt, does it?”
She shook her head. “No. The opposite, in fact.”
He made slow circle inside her and Grace felt herself growing wetter the more he touched her. A second finger joined the first one and Grace instinctively opened her legs wider.
“Still no pain?” he asked.
She shook her head. It felt tight now, but not painful. She felt like her body was tensing and trying to draw him deeper inside. She wanted him inside her…inside her body, inside her heart.
Curiosity got the better of her and Grace reached down and wrapped her hand around Zachary’s erection. He flinched at her touch and she started to pull her hand back.
“Lesson number…damn, I’ve forgotten what number we’re on,” he said breathlessly.
“I can’t remember either. Five? Six?”
“Lesson number something. What you are now doing is a wonderful thing and you shouldn’t stop. Flinching in this regard is a good sign.”
“There’s so much to learn about sex,” she said. “I really should be writing this down.”
“There’s even more to learn when we start actually having it.”
“When is that?” she asked, eager to try having inside her again. She ran her fingers up and down him loving how hard he was, how smooth his skin was.
“Now, I think,” Zachary said and Grace stroked him once more. “Definitely now,” he said breathlessly.
He pulled away from her and took a condom from the box. She tried to ignore her nervousness as he slipped it on and braced himself over her.
“Open you legs as wide as you can,” he said, touching the side of her face.
She complied, shifting underneath him and spreading her legs wide. Zachary opened her with his fingers once more and pushed an inch inside. She lifted her hips and he pressed completely into her.
Grace winced and her whole body tensed from the pain. Quickly and carefully, Zachary pulled out of her.
“I’m sorry,” she said hastily.
“Grace, you’re the only lover I’ve ever had whose apologized for first, having an orgasm and second, for being tight.”
“I suppose I’m not allowed to say I’m sorry for saying I’m sorry.”
“No, you’re not.”
“What now?” she asked, praying that “stopping” wasn’t the answer.
“We forego missionary position. Not one of my favorites anyway. Turn over,” he instructed and Grace nervously rolled over onto her stomach.
“You’re on your stomach and I’m going to get my lube out, but please don’t worry. I’m not planning on sodomizing you. Not yet anyway,” he said and kissed the back of her shoulder.
“That is a comfort,” she said as she pulled one of Zachary’s pillows to her chest. While he was reaching into the drawer again, she pressed her nose into the pillow and inhaled. His sheets smelled just like him—warm and masculine and clean.
Zachary pressed into her again and took her knee in his hand, pulling it up to her chest. She heard him opening the cap of the lube and she winced as she felt the ice cold liquid on his fingertips.
“I know,” he said and laughed gently. “I’ll try to warm you up as quickly as I can.”
“I’m fine,” she said, feeling awkward just laying there while he applied copious amounts of the cold liquid to her. He set the tube aside and slid two fingers inside her again.
“I’m going to try to open you a little. Tell me if I hurt you.”
Grace was too embarrassed to answer. She merely nodded as she hugged his pillow tighter to her chest. Zachary’s fingers spread apart inside her. He turned them and spread them wider.
“No,” she whispered. “None.”
She felt his hand turn again and this time she knew he was pushing a third finger into her. Her body rebelled at first not wanting to let it in. But she breathed through the discomfort and soon Zachary had three fingers buried deep inside her.
“Zachary…” she breathed.
“You said I was suppose to moan your name when you were inside me. Following orders,” she said.
“Good girl.” He kissed her shoulder again, long and deep and she sighed with desire.
Zachary pulled his fingers out of her. Again she felt him at the entrance of her body.
“Relax,” he said into her ear. “Try not to tense.”
“I’ll try,” she promised. He pushed slowly into her, filling her inch by inch. She felt her muscle contracting around him again but no pain this time.
“Better?” he asked.
Slowly he started to move inside her. He pulled almost completely out before sliding back in.
“Do you like it this way?” he asked, brushing her hair off her neck and caressing her back.
“Yes,” she admitted. Back when this act was still only a fantasy to her, she’d always envisioned laying on her back with Zachary on top of her. She saw now how shortsighted that image was. For some reason, being on her stomach with his chest into her back and his mouth at her ear felt far more intimate than missionary position.
“I’m glad. This is my favorite.”
“We’ll say it’s mine too.”
As he moved in her, Zachary explored her body with his hands. She wasn’t completely on her stomach. With her leg bent at the knee, Zachary could reach around her and cup her breasts. He caressed her arms and side before reaching low and finding her clitoris again.
The speed of his thrusts increased. She felt him shift and move completely on top of her. Both hands were now on either side of her head. Talking had stopped. Now all she heard was his ragged breaths mingling with hers.
She turned her head to the side and looked at his left hand as it gripped the sheets. She reached out and touched his hand, wrapping her fingers around his thumb. He moved his hand over hers and twined his fingers over and between hers. Looking at their interlocked hands, she decided that she’d never seen a more beautiful image in her life. She would write a poem about this. She would call it “Love.”
“Grace…” he breathed and she heard a tightness in his voice.
He kept thrusting. Grace closed her eyes and arched her back to take him even deeper into her. Pressure built in her stomach, her muscles tightened around him, and she came with a quiet shudder.
Zachary pushed into her. She could feel that his muscles were taut as steel bars. She knew he was trying to be as careful with her as he could and she loved him for it. He was such an odd combination of seducer and protector…the perfect combination.
A low groan escaped the back of Zachary’s throat. He thrust into her one more time, his entire body seemed to tense and then he relaxed on top of her with a sigh.
They lay in silence for a long time catching their breaths. Zachary was still inside her. Their hands were still intertwined.
“About lesson number one,” Zachary said after a minute or two.
“The lesson about us telling each everything?”
“That one. You should know something, Grace.”
“What?” she asked, pressing back deeper into his arms. No poem had ever moved her like this moment.
“I love you too.”