Chapter tune: Goo Goo Dolls – Iris
Caution: This chapter is really long (almost 4000 words) – I’m sorry about that, but I couldn’t find a spot to cut it, so I thought I’d leave it as is 🙂 Also, beware of a little action towards the end (key-phrase being a little) 😉 ❤
Andrew closed the passenger’s door the moment Raina stepped out of his car. “We’re here.”
She beamed in excitement as she saw the restaurant he’d decided to take her. It was rather old school; white linen covering the tables, well dressed waiters roaming around, a divine smell lingering in the hall. But it wasn’t glamorous or pretentious. It was small and intimate, like the place someone would bring an important date. But you’re not a date, you’re only an annoying roommate who just burned his dinner, Raina thought.
The little time they spent together in his car was more pleasant than all their previous encounters combined. Raina couldn’t quite put her finger on what changed. Maybe he really appreciated her poor efforts to cook? Maybe there was something bothering him all this time that he finally managed to resolve? Nonetheless, she decided to just enjoy their time together, as awkward as she was still feeling around him.
“Again, thank you so much for the dinner. This restaurant is wonderful and the food is… so amazing. How did you say you know this place?”
“It was a lucky discovery from some time ago. I used to come here a lot… Now I only order in sometimes. I suppose I’m also grateful you gave me an excuse to come again.”
“You’re welcome” she smiled.
“So” he said while raising his glass “To your exquisite cooking skills, and the many delicious dishes to follow.”
“Why, Mr. Thorne” she replied, faking coyness “Did you just make a joke about my poor cooking skills?”
“I believe I just did.” he replied, obviously very pleased with himself.
They talked for some time over food and a very nice bottle of wine. It was insane how chatty he was tonight. Raina learned that he would soon take on a big position in the company he worked for, although he couldn’t see himself staying forever. Andrew’s dream was to be CEO of his father’s company after his retirement – which would be an admittedly hard goal to achieve, given that his father wasn’t the majority shareholder anymore; he’d been forced to sell his share of the company, all thanks to his lovely mother and their nasty divorce.
That was the only time he talked about his family. He didn’t talk about about anything belonging in the past really. Raina kept wondering what his relationship with his mother was – thanks to her own tactlessness, she knew it was not good; plus, she still remembered scary Edith, as she sometimes called her inside her mind. But what exactly had happened for him to cut all contact? However, she didn’t want her curiosity to get the best of her, so she decided to stop thinking about it and just focus on her free meal and their unexpectedly nice, long talk.
“So, are you comfortable in the apartment?” he suddenly asked her.
“Oh, y-yes…everything is great. Definitely a lot better than my old place. It’s spacey, cozy… and – don’t laugh – I really appreciate that it has central heating.”
“As opposed to?”
“Well, in my old apartment there was just an A/C in the bedroom. So, I had to tough it out with blankets and a portable heater in the rest of the rooms.”
“Unfortunately not! But I’d gotten used to it, so it’s not a big deal. Really appreciating the upgrade though.”
Andrew listened carefully. He really liked the fact that there wasn’t an ounce of complaining in her voice, just her stating the facts, not to mention quite cheerfully at that. What a strange creature… “Well, I have to say I admire you for being able to stand it. If it was me, I would have moved out immediately. How were you able get any work done in there?”
“I just… tried to not think about it. But sometimes, when it would get really cold, I’d go in a coffeeshop nearby and spend all of my day on my laptop – and all of my money on cookies and flavored hot chocolate.”
“You have to eat well, Raina.” he lightly scolded her.
“Yeah… I know. But I can’t help it! I have a sweet tooth I can’t control.”
“Well, if you think about it, you could use all that money on a new heater or A/C, so you won’t have to drag just the one around.”
“See, I tried to reason with my tooth over that argument, but it simply told me no regrets.” she chuckled.
Andrew smiled, a rare smile that made Raina’s heart swell. Strangely, he seemed very interested in her; particularly in her book – or her attempts to write one anyway. He kept asking her questions about the characters, plot, as well as the things she drew inspiration from. And she couldn’t lie to herself, she enjoyed the attention and the fact that she could so easily talk to him about these things. There was no judgment, no strange looks from his part.
“I can show you some pages when we get back.” she proposed.
“Sure. I’d like that.” he replied, and then his smile froze on his face.
Raina saw him staring towards the door, watching a red-haired woman who had just entered, carrying a little toddler. She wasn’t too impressive at first sight for him to stare like that – she looked rather pale, tired and unkempt -, but it was apparent that Andrew already knew her. She saw his jawline tightened and his brows furrowed. The change was subtle but she had always been good at catching mood shifts like this one. Whoever that woman was, Raina knew that he was not happy to see her there.
Andrew hadn’t enjoyed a night out like that in a really long time. Raina looked utterly and inexplicably absorbed by whatever life theory he had begun explaining to her. She was cute – no, gorgeous – , and he couldn’t deny the insane chemistry between them, but he tried fervently to stop any deep thoughts about her. Even though his insides were going haywire whenever she touched her pretty neck shyly in front of him.
The truth was, he never really understood what most people who tried to come closer saw in him. Sure, he’d heard them call him a genius, cool and detached – like those were such important qualities for a person to have – but nobody really took the time to get to know him. He hated how cliché that sounded, but it was true nonetheless. Not that getting close to someone would do him any good anyway. With the exception of his sister and maybe his best friend Patrick, people would eventually either disappoint him, or be disappointed and leave themselves.
When he saw his red-haired ex the moment she walked inside the restaurant, he knew he shouldn’t be surprised. They both had enjoyed the restaurant’s refined cuisine together from time to time, and it was only natural that she would still visit. But obviously, he hoped that tonight would not be one of those times. Tough luck. And how could he not notice her? The woman was a mess.
She stumbled a little as soon as she entered the door, her hair being pulled by her baby who was babbling and squealing – quite annoyingly actually, making almost all restaurant patrons turn their heads to look (except for Raina, of course, who was still focused on their discussion. She knew how to make a decent conversationalist, he had to give her that. Plus, she looked cute – no, she looked gorgeous. Shit.).
Taking a look towards his ex, he was relieved to realize that he actually didn’t feel a thing. Whatever he was once feeling – good or bad – just wasn’t there anymore. But the same couldn’t be said when he laid his eyes on the toddler. His heart shattered at the sight of her. She had gotten so big already… And despite the appearance of her mother, she looked clean, well-fed and… happy. Was she happy? Of course she’s happy, she’s just a baby. And she’s not your problem anymore, he thought bitterly.
Approaching towards the counter, the woman spotted him staring. Now neither of them could pretend they didn’t see the other one.
“Ingrid.” he muttered, standing up from his chair and looking somewhat irritated.
“Andrew… uh… hi. How have you been?”
Silence. He seemed to not mind it at all, but the woman was clearly feeling uncomfortable. So naturally, she tried to find a way to fill it – and bolt. “So… I see you’re here with company. I wouldn’t want to-”
“Oh. Excuse my rudeness. This is Raina Frio. Ingrid Dalton.” Andrew said coldly, but at least having the proper courtesy to make introductions.
The woman looked at Raina, a graceless smile on her face. “Hi, nice to meet you.”
Raina tried to remain cheerful, although the awkwardness in the room was too obvious to ignore. Plus, no matter what had happened between those two, the woman seemed sweet anyway. “You too!”
“You cut your hair.” Andrew said, after another short pause.
“Yes… I guess there’s not much time to get your hair done when you have a toddler and practically raising her on your own. That’s also why I’m here, to pick up our dinner. No time to cook tonight either, unfortunately… So, anyway, yeah… I cut it.”
“What about him? Isn’t he helping?”
Ingrid’s face turned tomato red. “Oh… He… he works a lot.”
After some more uncomfortable silence, Ingrid motioned towards her daughter. “Hey, uh… don’t you want to say hello to her?”
Andrew’s chest tightened. Don’t do that to me. He wanted to just ignore the happy toddler, but couldn’t come up with an excuse to do so. “Sure. Hello.” he said politely, which would have been almost comical if it wasn’t for all the tension in the room.
“She just smiled at you.”
“Yes, I noticed. Well. I don’t want to take any more of your time.”
“Oh. Of course. I don’t want to interrupt your date. So uh… goodnight!”
After Ingrid had taken her food and left, Raina kept staring at Andrew for some time. He calmly folded his napkin, took a sip of his wine and looked back at her.
“Just say what’s on your mind, Raina.”
“Andrew… that name… th-that was…”
“Yes. She’s the woman I was briefly engaged to.” he replied matter-of-factly.
“And t-that baby… is she yours?” she asked, knowing that she was pushing her luck.
“No.” he said icily, cutting her off. But he looked like something was torturing him. Like he was fighting between his tendency to brush all emotions off and his need to confide to someone. Eventually, after a short uncomfortable pause, he talked. “I thought she was. …until she became about two months old.”
Raina thought her heart just stopped. “Are you serious?”
That look on her… was it pity? That was exactly why Andrew absolutely hated talking about it. “Raina please… don’t make a big deal out of this. I merely told you because I don’t need your imagination running wild about that matter. But I don’t want to talk about it. Not now or ever.”
“B-but why? It might make you feel better.”
“Truthfully? Because it’s humiliating. I’ve never felt more ridiculed in my entire life and I’d just prefer to just forget all about it. And that’s all I’m going to say.”
Their way home was silent, and Raina’s little attempts for pleasant conversation the mood simply fell on deaf ears. When they arrived home, she immediately started walking towards her room.
“Again, thank you so much for dinner. I had a very nice time. So, uh… g-goodnight.”
No… don’t leave yet. “I’d like to have a look at those pages we talked about, if you’re still interested.” Andrew cut her hastily.
“You do? Oh, of course!”
She lead him to her room (fortunately it wasn’t as messy as she used to leave it), where he sat in front of her laptop and started reading while Raina waited patiently. After about twenty minutes, he looked at her, ready to give his feedback.
She raised her eyebrows in surprise. “Already?”
“I’m a fairly quick reader.”
“Aha. Well, I should have expected that.” she smiled. “So? What did you think?”
“Honestly? It’s pretty good. But don’t you think the whole… romance plot between the characters happens a little too quickly?”
“Well… that’s the last thing I’d expect you to say to me. And what do you mean too quickly?”
“I don’t think what I said needs further clarification.”
“Alright then… how would you write it?”
“Well… the first kiss scene for example. Imagine if we were on a date and ended up in someone’s house together.”
Andrew cocked an eyebrow. “Yes, except we would harbor romantic feeling for each other.”
“So, I believe you spent too many pages in frivolous descriptions – which are nicely written, by the way – but too little in terms of story progression and character development. At least in the part I read.”
“Oh…” Raina barely managed to hide her disappointment.
“Don’t get me wrong, I think you are a good writer. But, to give you an example, right before your couple shares their first kiss, they just go on a date talking about random uninteresting stuff – which would be fine if it helped their characterization, but it doesn’t.”
“I… I just wanted to keep that particular scene light… seeing as things get quite darker later.”
“Agreed. But it should still be interesting to read. What you should write about – in my opinion – is the tension between those characters right before said kiss. That would make it more engaging for your specific audience and, practically speaking, would fill out more pages for your book.”
“B-but isn’t there enough tension between them during their date? I kind of imagined they were already quite… impatient for each other the minute they headed home. I figured it would make the scene more steamy.”
“I think it’s a bit out of character. From the little I’ve gathered, they’re both quite closed off. She’s awfully shy, he’s annoyingly brooding. They wouldn’t just… let’s say, jump onto each other the minute they head home.”
Hearing the word jump come so unexpectedly out of Andrew’s mouth made Raina chuckle.
“What’s so funny?”
“Nothing, nothing! …Okay, tell me how you would write the scene.”
“I am not a writer Raina, and I’m definitely not a romance one at that. I’m just giving you my honest opinion as a reader.”
“Hmmm… Yeah but… how would you know about it? Have you ever read a romance novel before?”
Andrew contemplated his next answer for a while before speaking. “This… is just between you and me. I have.”
“Really?” Raina asked, secretly delighted for that revelation, and the fact that on top of that, he was shy about it. Adorable.
“Yes. It was during a summer me and my sister spent in out father’s house when we were teens. I had idiotically forgotten to bring all the books I’d packed and the local bookstore would not be open for another week. So I borrowed some of my sister’s books – all belonging in that genre. She always forgot all about them every summer anyway, when she spent the entire day at the beach with her friends.”
Yup. Adorable. “So you spent a week reading Allison’s romance novels? That is so cute!”
Andrew cleared his throat. “Cute? Yes, I suppose you could see it that way. For me it was an inevitable evil, as the alternative would be to spend an entire week with no mental stimulation, suffering through the company of my sister and her vapid friends.”
Not adorable. “Hey, don’t speak of Allison that way!”
“I didn’t express any opinion on my sister, whom I certainly respect. I was just referring to her choice of friends.”
“Um… I’m not sure how to respond to that, since I am one of them.”
“Oh… You’re right. I’m sorry if I offended you. I was only talking about that time. I’ll admit that her current selection of friends is definitely an upgrade.”
Aaand…. still kind of adorable. “…Thank you.”
“Why? I was only expressing my honest opinion. And by the way, your book… my sister would eat it up. I’m not saying it’s bad. But I sincerely believe you can do way better.”
Raina almost melted at Andrew’s comment, but decided to keep her cool. “Alright. So you know what you’re talking about, concerning romance plots. How would you write that particular scene?”
He took his time thinking about what to say next. “Well… I, for once, would not rush it. Everyone knows that suspense is what chains the reader, be it a mystery novel or a romance one like yours. For example…” he shot her an unreadable look, the intensity of which made that moment seem like an eternity “…how about having him wonder whether the rest of her bra is as pretty as that tiny piece she’d accidentally revealed… and if the lacy pattern goes all the way to the back.”
Well that was unexpected. “Um… how do you know she wears a lace bra?”
“I don’t. I just pictured yours.” he blurted out.
Raina froze. But Andrew, seemingly unfazed and not breaking eye contact with her, stood up from his chair. “I can see that little part of it, right there. I suppose I should admit I have been thinking about it all night.”
She felt a sudden heat rising to her cheeks. That was too honest. She instinctively stared at herself in the mirror. “W-what… really?!”
His gaze remained locked on her. “It provoked my curiosity… I’ve been thinking about things I shouldn’t.”
He shouldn’t? What did that even mean? “B-because of my b-bra?”
“Yes…” Approaching her from behind and looking at her through the mirror, he raised his hand as if to touch it; but he changed his mind and lightly caressed the fabric of her dress instead. “So… drawing some inspiration out of this, you could make your character wonder whether she had revealed it on purpose or not… if she’s as clumsy as she seems or if she just wanted him to look at it all night… try to make him lose control…”
He stepped closer, so that his face almost got buried through her hair, and inhaled deeply. “You could… write about how he couldn’t resist the way her hair smelled, especially when she was in such close proximity…”
Raina swallowed and closed her eyes. This was becoming… too much. But she couldn’t – no, wouldn’t – stop it. “What else?”
Andrew’s fingers trailed across her shoulder, slowly, following the length of her arm, until they softly brushed her own finger tips. His voice had grown lower, huskier. “The way her skin feels… soft… warm.”
She suddenly realized she was breathing more quickly, something he likely noticed at the same time. She felt him smiling against her ear. “Are you enjoying my suggestions? Should I continue?”
She nodded. “Y-yes…”
He carefully parted some of her hair to her side, the sensation of his fingers against her skin making her shudder. “He could be thinking if her lips would feel this soft against his” he muttered, while tracing his mouth tenderly against the back of her neck. “…if all parts of her would feel this warm under her clothes… That if he were lucky enough, he’d find out tonight.”
Raina couldn’t speak. Her knees were now barely holding her, and the only think she could focus on was the heat pooling up between her legs. Taking a step back, her ass accidentally found his crotch; the hardness beneath his pants was enough evidence that she wasn’t the only one affected by… this. He let out a small grunt, not even bothering to conceal his excitement, his big hands pressing harder against her skin.
She quickly realized this was the most erotic experience of her life so far; and they hadn’t even kissed. But she knew she needed it, so damn much, her whole body already desperately aching with want. She wasn’t sure how long she could take with him teasing her like that. And by the way his breath sounded heavy against her ear, there was no doubt the feeling was mutual.
With a swift move, he turned her around. As her eyes searched for his, she could see his gaze dark, burning with desire. But that wasn’t the only thing. He looked vulnerable. She could feel his sadness, a storm of tangled emotions in his eyes. Maybe he had been more affected by tonight’s encounter than what he cared to admit. Maybe all he needed was temporary comfort, and she… just happened to be there. And maybe it was wrong, but right now she was more than willing to give anything to him; no questions asked.
“Raina…” he whispered, lightly cupping her face with his hands, his ragged breath hot against her mouth.
She closed her eyes in anticipation, heart racing. Kiss me.
Driiiin…. A sudden piercing noise came from Andrew’s pocket. As he slowly realized what was going on, he immediately moved away from Raina – making her whole body protest at the sudden lack of contact – and took out his phone. He gazed at it for a couple of seconds, clearly trying to compose himself, and exhaled.
“I must take it. It’s from work.”
“At this hour?”
“Yes. We are releasing a new product that I’m responsible for, so I told them they could call me at any time.” he said calmly, picking up the phone. “Yes? Hold on a minute.” He turned his attention to Raina. “I have to go.”
“Wait! Shouldn’t we, uh… talk again later?”
He took some time to think before answering. He realized nothing good would come from pushing things further. “No need. I hope my suggestions were of help, Raina.”
“Y-yes, they were! So um… do you think you could come back and help me some more when you uh… finish your work? I think there are more things we didn’t cover.” she said, mentally punching herself for the clear desperation in her voice.
He looked at her, a strange mix of indifference and sadness in his eyes. “I’m sorry. But I don’t think there’s anything more I can offer you at the moment. …Now excuse me.”
And just like that, the ice prince was back. Raina suddenly felt like crying, as she came to a shocking realization. She had developed an enormous crush on him. Not tonight, the damage had definitely been done a while back. Charlie was right all along. Maybe that’s why she was always following him around like a lost puppy – Charlie’s words – and desperately trying to get closer to him.
She plopped on the nearest chair, her knees still trembling. She felt like she couldn’t breathe; her heart beating so fast, she thought it would fall out of her chest. Endless questions were roaming through her mind. When had her feelings for him started to develop? Was it just a crush? Or maybe was it more than that? And more importantly… what the hell had just happened?
A/N: Ooops, that really wasn’t such an impressive ending, was it? Lol! I’m sorry! That was my first attempt to write something a bit more sexy and I still feel kind of awkward about it… please don’t laugh at me! (or do, I’m not your mother ;p ) But I do intend to push a bit further in the future and make things hotter, just a heads up! I’m not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to write full-on smut though (there’s the issue of pictures which I don’t want to be super explicit – gotta keep it classy ladies, lol :p )… but it’s definitely something I’m willing to try! Ah, someday, maybe! >.<
And I’m sorry about this long talk about romance novel structure etc… If you feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about, then you’re right, lmao :p I am definitely no expert at this (and neither is Andrew lol), so if it sounded like a whole lot of gibberish to you, it’s because it probably was… I just wanted their conversation lead to that particular ending scene 😉
Also, I am really sorry for being so late – again! I know I said it wouldn’t take long, but apparently I lied :p Truth is, I had this chapter sitting in my drafts for I don’t remember how long, but I was just too bored to go in game and make the restaurant and search for poses and take pictures… you all know how it is anyway, lol!
Aaaand I guess that’s all I wanted to say – thank you so much for reading! 😀 ❤