I wonder how many synonyms my thesaurus knows for embarrassed?
I'll bet there are plenty. I can think of several off the top of my head. But abashed, chagrined and sheepish aren't really strong enough for the way I feel right now, as Pepe waits for me to confirm or deny my lust-filled post on Yipstack.
Mortified. Yeah, that sounds about right.
“Maybe the author does not want to say,” he whispers. “But a pretty girl told me once that writing was easier for her than speaking. I hope if she has anything to tell me at least I would get a text to me directly.”
“But that sounds excruciating,” I blurt out, finding yet another word for this moment. “Texts can be ignored. Or laughed at.”
He sits back a couple of inches. As if offended. “I’m not the kind to laugh, chaton. Don’t you know that already? Just like you don’t laugh at all those things I do wrong in English. That is not how it is with us.”
Oh. I really like the use of “us” in that sentence.
“You’re right. I’m sorry.” I believe I’ve actually offended him. And I don’t know how to untangle myself from this tricky place. I’m stuck in awkwardville, but I finally understand something important. Those girls who take the guy home with them? They don’t have any special magic, or a secret playbook. It’s just that they’re willing to crash and burn.
And I don’t think I am. Not with Pepe, anyway. That would hurt too much.
“I should go,” I say suddenly.
“Ah.” Pepe sighs. “Yes, okay.” He stands up, too.
I retrieve my jacket from its hook in the other room. And then Pepe takes it out of my hands and holds it up so that I can more easily slip it on.
He is so polite that I can hardly stand it.
Then Pepe takes my hand in his. The slide of his thumb against my palm is the most distracting thing I’ve ever felt in my life. Is it weird that he’s holding my hand? Do friends do that?
Sure they do, the wine in my bloodstream assures me. We walk silently out of Capri’s, and down Wall Street until it joins College Street.
We turn left and walk another block. This is it. The bitter end of the semester. And I don’t even know if Pepe is taking any English classes next term. If it’s all math, I might never see him.
Reluctantly, I take my hand back when I’m standing outside the gate to Fresh Court. “Have a great holiday,” I say in a shaky voice.
“You too, chaton.” He smiles at me. “I will let you go. It is late.”
“Right,” I say slowly, my heart beating wildly inside my chest. It’s now or never. If I crash and burn, I’ll have three weeks to recover. So I walk to the edge of this cliff and I step off it. “Is it too late, though? For me? And you?”
His thick eyebrows lift in surprise. “Never.”
Okay. Wow. “Walk me home?” My voice breaks on the last word, but I got the sentence out. Barely.
“Of course,” Pepe says immediately. He takes my hand again and leads me through the gate. Fresh Court is ringed by historic dormitory buildings and old-fashioned gas lighting.
I choose the slate path which stretches toward my building. We don’t speak. I don’t know what will happen now, and I may still goof everything up. But for once in my life I feel brave. Taking a risk hasn’t killed me yet, anyway.
The walk to my building takes just two or three minutes. Pepe’s bear paw is wrapped around my hand, and I don’t want to ever let go.
“Ah, you leef in Parker,” he says as we reach my entryway door. “I stayed here last summer for training camp.”
“The heat doesn’t work all that well, does it?” I babble. “Wait. If it was summer then you didn’t care about the heat…”
Big brown eyes measure me. “You are cold? I know une solution.”
I don’t even see it coming. He leans in to kiss me, and there’s no time to panic. Those full lips brush mine, and they’re even softer than I’d imagined. The woodsy scent of Pepe envelops me, and his scruff tickles the corner of my mouth. My entire body breaks out in goosebumps while Pepe makes a low sound of approval.
Then he slants his broad face, and the next kiss happens in slow motion. First there’s a delicious pressure as our mouths find just the right angle. His kiss is firm and deliberate. The snick of his kiss makes me tingle. Everywhere.
I clamp my hands down on his shoulders because I don’t want him to stop and I’m too stunned to say so.
And he doesn’t. He kisses me again and again, right there on the doorstep. His lips part mine, asking permission. I open on a gasp, and his tongue sweeps inside. He tastes of red wine and tenderness.
Thunk goes my head against the door, and I have to grab his biceps to steady myself.
“Attention,” he chides, cupping the back of my head. “Let’s take you inside.”
Hell yes. Let’s. Except I’m suddenly sober as a judge and starting to panic. I still don’t know my lines. My room key shakes in my hand as I try to think what to say. Do I offer to take his coat? Do I make more conversation? And then how to get more of those kisses?
Pushing through the entryway, I open the second door, and I’ve never been happier that Nadia has a boyfriend. Our room is empty. My hand finds the light switch on the wall and… I don’t flip it.
My fingers hesitate on the switch plate as my eyes find Pepe’s. And he knows. As my hand drops away from that light switch without turning it on, he steps closer. His hips bump against mine, and excitement pings through my insides.
I expect to get another kiss, but first he cups my chin and stares at me in the dim light.
The pause makes me nervous, and I hear myself blurt out a question. “Why do you call me chaton?”
“Aw, chérie,” he says, his smile growing. “Because you are just like a…baby cat.”
“Oui. Big eyes and timid.” His hands land on my hips, and then his mouth dips right to my neck. I’m still trying to picture a kitten, but he’s already begun making love to the sensitive skin just over my collarbone.
I shiver. “I’m not timid.”
“Noh?” His tongue dips into the V-neck of my sweater.
“Definitely not,” I babble, as electricity pings throughout my entire body. “Dunno why you’d say that.”
“Good to know,” he mutters, raising his chin, claiming my mouth with his bigger one. The next kiss is bottomless. In that moment I realize that I’d never been with a guy who knew exactly what he was doing. Pepe kisses me with great intention. I relax into the rhythm, overwhelmed by the cascading sensations I’m experiencing. Joy. Nervous anticipation.
Heat. So much heat.
“You have the most beautiful throat,” he rumbles against my lips. His big hand comes up and a thumb traces a line from my chin to my breasts. “When you are telling me about the grammar rules, I just want to taste you right here.”
Yes! Yes! Do it! With shaking hands I push his hockey jacket off his shoulders and it falls to my floor with a jingle. I need him to know that I mean business. So I reach for the buttons of his shirt. I spent the whole evening trying not to undress him with my eyes. He stops to watch me. I make quick work of all the buttons, and reward myself by placing a palm over the center of his fuzzy chest.
“Take it back,” I say, my hand stroking his pecs. My voice sounds a thousand times more courageous than I feel. My naughty hand slides down over his abs, because I can’t help myself.
“Take what back?” Hard muscles undulate beneath my hand, tempting me.
“I’m not timid,” I insist again, probably more for my own benefit than his. I can do this, right? I can get very very naked with him and let it all unfold, like a brave girl who takes what she wants.
In answer, he grasps my wrist so my hand is now under his control. He sweeps my palm over the ridges of his abs, past the waistband of his jeans, until my palm covers his prominent erection. The noise I make is both shock and excitement. My other hand reaches out to grasp the side of his neck. I tip forward and place a kiss there, and then I kiss my way down to the hollow at his throat. And who knew I had a thing for chest hair? But it’s his. It’s an intimate glimpse of him I’ve never had before.
Touching him makes me so hungry.
With gentle hands, Pepe lifts my top over my head. As the cool air hits my skin, he kisses the juncture of my neck and shoulder. And it’s as if all the nerve endings in my body realigned themselves to that spot.
I might become the first girl who’s ever had a shouldergasm. Or maybe that’s a thing?
Then his skillful hand slips down my shivery belly. He unzips my pants to dispatch them on the floor. I kick them off, trying for gracefulness and failing. Pepe steers me over to my bed and pulls me down with him. “Qu'est-ce que tu veux, chaton?” What do you want?
Just you. Like this. I pull him into another perfect kiss, because words have failed me. But I manage to open the button on his jeans, and unzip them. And Pepe makes the sexiest noise I have ever heard in my life. It’s part moan and part curse, with a chaser of gratitude.
I guess talking isn’t the only way to get my point across.
“Chaton,” he groans, swatting his clothing away. “Tu es très belle.”
Wowzers. Compliments sound twice as good in French.
Soon we’re skin on skin, and I’m drunk again—on kisses, not alcohol. My body is crying out for more, but Pepe seems happy to kiss me all night long. I’m not complaining, either.
“Jhosephine,” he whispers against my lips. “I do not have a condom. I was not expecting to love you tonight.”
That’s an interesting way to put it because I think I love him all the time. Nevertheless, this is a problem I can fix. I wiggle away from him for a second, just far enough to reach over and fish the condoms out of my nightstand. Then I hand them to him.
I expect Pepe to be as quick with the condom as he was with all of our clothing. But that’s not what happens. He’s holding the strip of three in his hand, studying them. Then his brown eyes turn to me.
And I see hesitation there.
The strip in his hand is three condoms. Every first year student gets a set during orientation. They say Welcome to Harkness in a continuous stream of text across the strip. And, comically, there’s a phallic print of the Harkness bell tower stretching across the trio. Some designer had a good time with that.
Mine have never been used. And Pepe—since he’s clever about literally everything except for English grammar—has just made a leap of logic about why I still have these, and what it might mean.
“Chaton,” he starts. “Are you sure that—”
I put a hand over his mouth. “Please,” I whisper. And just in case that’s not clear enough, I add, “It’s your turn to be the tutor. That’s all.”
“Okay,” he says. “Bien.”
Everything is bien. I’m nervous but also happy as I lie back on the bed. I watch with wide eyes as Pepe suits up, his big hand rolling the condom down his…
Whew. It’s hot in here. Maybe the heat works after all.
Pepe lies down, spreading his big body out over mine. “You make me so happy tonight,” he rumbles into my ear. Then he is everywhere at once, with shameless hands and a wicked tongue. Kissing me. Stroking me. I wrap my arms around him and listen for every sweet nothing which falls from his mouth.
“Breathe, chaton,” he says when the big moment arrives. I inhale, and he makes the most delicious noise as he joins us. It’s only awkward for a moment, until he kisses me again. “C’est bon, C’est bon,” he chants as we make love. “Magnifique!”
My thoughts exactly.