Almost two years ago, when this story was being written, I was at the very beginning of my path. It was an amazing time. I wrote a chapter a day, I was buzzing, I was in love. With Wrennie, with John, with writing a modern story, unrestricted, passionate, excited. I was drunk on feedback from readers, on the feeling of connecting with others. Reviews were becoming more and more personalised, people were getting engaged, there was a dialogue – and I had never been happier.
I met my future best friend then. We were making our first tentative steps in what, I now understand, was, in the words of Rick Blaine, “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Just before I finished this chapter, she sent me a song that she thought matched this version of my characters best of all, and since then it has always been their soundtrack in my mind. I listen to it quite often.
Hope you enjoy!
Love you, my dearest readers,
You feel John’s chest rising under your hand. His fists are still clenched, and you momentarily wonder if that would actually escalate into physical violence if you didn’t stop him.
Also, you’re certain that it has very little to do with you. Like you thought, there’s some tangled web of nasty secrets and dark past here. And our dear Dr. Claufield is in it too. Thrandon’s smirking by the railing, enjoying his fag.
One thing you are sure of is that you seem to have some control over John at the moment, and the last thing you need is a donnybrook. If they wish in their free time come at each other like two roosters, they can have at it. But not now, not when you’re involved. Last thing you need is to be ‘that chick Thorington messed up Thrandon’s clock over.’
You are rather sure whose face will be messed up. John is only an inch shorter and twice as wide in the chest.
Another thought comes. Is he actually going to fight with these hands?! The ones that can perform the best ventricular endoscopy on colloid cysts in the world? To arse up his dexterity is a crime against humanity! No fucking way you’re letting him do it in front of you!
You give his shoulder a little push.
“John…” Your tone’s authoritative. At least you hope so. He’s frozen, nostrils flared, but then he takes a sharp breath, and his eyes lose the furious gloss. He looks at you. “Can we, please, go inside?”
He lets you pass ahead of him and follows.
The party is raving. As most of people working in stressful environment, medical students and scientists tend to approach the notion of ‘letting off some steam’ a little bit too enthusiastically. There’s booze, loud music, and dancing.
You give John a sideways look. He’s still fuming, lips pressed together, jaw muscles tense.
A slow dance starts, and to your complete shock you hear your own, rather squeaky voice, “Would you dance with me, Dr. Thorington?”
You immediately feel like an barmy clot. Are you mental, Wren? About a hundred different scenarios of him refusing you rush in front of your eyes. No, he doesn’t dance. No, he would not dance with you personally even to save his life. No, never with a chavvy little thing like you. And your favourite: him smirking disdainfully and just leaving.
“I’d love to, Miss Leary.”
He picks up your hand and leads you into the midst of dancing couples. And then you are mortified, because what the fucking fuck, Wren? Did you really just aske him to a dance? Are you really going to dance with Dr. Dark and Sexy?! And yes, he got him moniker back, sometime around the moment when you saw his black three-piece suit and the red tie. Blimey, are you?! In front of all your colleagues and a bunch of his acquaintances?! To a slow sensual music?! Call an ambulance, Wren Leary obviously had a stroke!
He envelops your hand in his large palm, his second hand slides on your shoulder blades, and you forget that there’s someone else in the room. You press your fingers into his and exhale. He starts moving, leading, but not domineering, setting up the rhythm, and you feel an electric current running through every single neuron in your body. You are gliding, his wide chest in front of your eyes, and you feel hot, heady blush flooding your cheeks. He’s looking at your face – you feel his gaze as a warm caress, on your lashes and eyelids, your cheeks, your lips – but you can’t seem to dare lift your eyes.
“Wren…” Did you even hear that whisper, or you are imagining it? You slowly raise your eyes. His irises are dark, stormy blue, pupils dilated, expression tender and sensual. You feel his thumb brushing the edge of your shoulder blade, and you feel a flash of heat running through your spine, from your pelvis up, into the base of your skull. Your body is oversensitive, skin tingly, your fingers twitch. You slide your gaze at his lips. They are slightly open, and he notices your looking. The tongue darts out, and he licks the bottom lip. You swallow.
“Wren…” Is he asking about something? For something? Permission?
The music stops but he doesn’t, still swaying, his eyes on your face. And then a frisky tune blares, and he jolts out of the hypnosis. He steps back, and your back is instantly cold, where his large palm was. But he doesn’t let go of your other hand, and the two of you are frozen in the middle of wildly jumping and wriggling crowd. His thumb brushes your knuckles, and you take a shuddered breath.
The music is abruptly interrupted by Dr. Maya Claufield making an announcement. John lets go of your palm and stuffs his hands in the pockets of his dress trousers. Something at the bottom of your stomach flutters from this view, and to your terror you recognise the heat spreading between your thighs. To your suddenly aroused body the gesture somehow seems very erotic, and you step away from him. Sod it, Wren, after five months of absolutely no interest in it at all, now you are randy?!
“For today’s cause we decided that a mock auction would be a lovely, facetious idea.” Maya gives a low sensual chuckle, and the audience cheers. She has everyone twisted around her perfect manicured finger. “As our research is to enhance the understanding of human DNA, we decided we will auction two objects donated by our guests, intertwined in perfect union. A tie and a ribbon of sorts perhaps?” She suggestively lifts a brow. “Would a male and a female guest care to donate such items?” People are chuckling, some men are reaching for the knots on their ties. “How about our lovely couple in the center of the dance floor?” Oh, no. Fuck, this is not happening. “Dr. Thorington and Miss Leary, we could not possibly have ignored what a wonderful couple you make! Such a beautiful, sensual dance. The darkness and the strength on one side, the delicate flame on the other. Please, applause to our dearest representatives of the science community!”
The audience is clapping, and every pair of eyes is on you. You want to die. Right here, right now, anything just to escape this. Anything! An aneurysm would be the best! You are shaking, and panic floods you. And that moment you feel John’s arm wrapping around your waist, and he pulls you into his side.
“Maya, dearest, your matchmaking is getting old.” His tone is light, assured, and he laughs. Everyone joins, and he kisses your cheek. You lift your eyes at him, and you wonder if Dr. Claufield can see the hatred that is splashing in his eyes. No one else seems to, since they are chuckling at his joke and nudging each other with their elbows. You breathe easier, his palm on your skin calming, secure. The warmth from his body alleviates your shivering, envelops you.
“Besides it’s my third favourite tie.” He sounds pouty. More laughter ensues.
“Really, John, you are not giving it up?! Not even for a charitable cause? Perhaps, Wren dearest, you could convince him.”
His fingers press onto your waist, and you feel composed and safe. You look into his face, and his eyes are warm, encouraging. Common, Wren, you can do it. You reach and pull at the knot of his tie, and the crowd roars. He smiles to you, the big cat smile that you’ve never seen before. The blue hiding behind the blackness of lashes, corners of lips raised, little wrinkles running from the corners of the eyes. Husbands smile to their mischievous wives this way.
“But we don’t have the second item!” Maya reiterates her attack. “Is that a ribbon I see in your hair, Wren? Perhaps, John can return the favour.”
More clapping follows, and he turns to you. Oh, fuck, as if pretty much undressing him in public wasn’t enough, now he’s going to tread his fingers in your hair. What’s next?! Will he have to remove your garter with his teeth?