I pulled away and whispered the three words I wanted to say when I had awoke to him that morning, and I was finally free.
My swollen eyes fluttered open but I had a hard time keeping them that way. It took me a few times before I got them to stay open, and the first thing I saw was Ryan looking back at me. He didn't say a word, but brought his hand up to my face and gently caressed my cheek. He smiled apprehensively while he continued to stare at me, and I smiled back and leaned into his warm hand, wishing that I was strong enough to say what I desperately wanted to, the first thing that I had thought when I had woken up. Three words that, if I spoke aloud, would free me from the prison I had created for myself.
"Thanks for staying," I whispered hoarsely because my throat was sore and dry from all of the crying the night before. My naked body shivered next to his. It was finally beginning to be winter in the Vegas desert, and the lack of heat in my apartment made me unusually cold. I snuggled closer to Ryan to have some sort of warmth, even if he wasn't much warmer than I was.
The frown on his face for a quick second smoothed out as his face became calm. "Thanks for asking me to stay." He kissed my forehead and pressed me to his chest. After the seconds turned to minutes, he gently rolled me onto my back and hovered over me, his unsure eyes scanning my own. I looked expectantly back at him, waiting for him to say something. His mouth opened, but closed again so he could kiss me. The kiss caught me off guard, and I had no chance to pull away in fear of my terrible morning breath. His lips moved quickly, prodding my own for an appropriate response. He didn't flinch at all when his tongue found its way inside my mouth and just as I begin to let myself get into it, he sighed and pulled away but still held my face in his hands.
"Valarie," he said quietly and my body shivered, but this time not from the cold. I looked up into his eyes and again my heart started pounding. I was more than sure that I had recovered from the night before by the way my skin began to itch to feel his, a feeling that seemed to get stronger the more I spent time with him. I could feel the strong connection between us strengthen more so as we continued to stare into each other’s eyes.
"There's something that I wanted to say to you last night," he finally said, breaking the silence. "And I wish that I could say it now, but after last night, I think that I should wait. I don't want to scare you away when I just got you." His thumbs swept under my eyes as he leaned in to kiss me again. My body started tingling again in anticipation for his touch, but something nagging in the back of my head stopped me.
"Wait," I said, putting up a hand between our mouths. He pushed my hand away playfully and tried for my lips again but I turned my head.
"Your breath is fine," he groaned before he nipped at my neck.
"That’s not it. Just listen a moment." I pushed him down beside me and pushed myself up onto an elbow. "Last night before I fell asleep, you said 'all we can do is keep breathing.' what did you mean by that?"
His lips pressed together into a thin line and he looked down at the covers. There was something that he wasn't telling me, I could tell by the way he wouldn't look at me. I drew my fingers across his bottom lip and pressed gently. "Ryan?"
His eyes slowly came up to meet mine. "We all have our secrets. You asked me give you time to explain yours, and I need you to do the same for me. Remember when we first met, I told you there were things that I know about you." His eyes looked back down to the mattress as he swallowed hard. "I still want to tell you everything. It kills me that I can’t yet, but I can tell you this." He looked back at me, but I couldn’t read anything on his face. “I know about him.”
My heart felt as if I had thumped to a sudden halt inside my delicate chest. My head began to spin as I turned away from him to hide my face.
"How do you know?" I choked out, trying to find my way off the bed, but Ryan’s hands gently clasped over my shoulders and pulled me back.
“Give me a chance to explain what I mean.” He placed his palm over my heart and waited for me to calm down. I tried to mimic his breathing before I finally was, to a degree, calm enough to hear his explanation.
"When I found you, you were barely holding on. The way you were going, you were looking only to keep yourself busy. I knew right away that you were hurting, and I couldn’t figure out why. I didn’t figure it out until we were in the shower and you called out the name Tyler. Last night, it broke my heart to see you like that. Whatever happened, whatever he did to you, you can’t keep doing this to yourself to get over it. You have to breathe. That's the only way to make it through this life. We just have to keep breathing." He sat up and pulled me into his lap, cradling me like a little child. "I'm here for you Valarie. Whatever you need, just tell me. I'll take care of you if you ask me to." His lips sought mine, and held them softly. "I'd do anything you asked me to, just ask."
Somewhere, from a place I had been trying to repress, I felt the dormant feeling overflow and spill throughout my body. My blood pumped furiously through my body as I twisted in his arms and kissed him with my arms pulling him tightly to my chest. I pulled away and whispered the three words I wanted to say when I had awoke to him that morning, and I was finally free.
"I love you."
He pulled away from my embrace and looked back at me with incredulous eyes. I smiled through the tears that blurred my vision, but I didn't miss the glowing smile he wore as he tried to wipe my tears away.
"Why couldn't you have let me said it first," he laughed, his own tears decorating his flushed cheeks. "I wanted to say that last night but then I figured it wasn't a good time." He kissed my forehead gently before he began laughing again. "I wasn't sure you'd ever be able to love me."
"How could I not love you?" I whispered gently as my fingers explored the curves of his shoulders and chest.
"As much as I tried to fight it, I couldn't do it. If you were anybody else, I think I would have just walked away awhile ago, but I'm glad it was you." I held his eyes, making careful that he knew I was being sincere, especially the next words to come out of my mouth, I needed him to know I meant it. "You saved me from myself. I don't care how stupid that sounds, because it's true. Thank you," I whispered as fresh tears threatened to fall down my cheeks.
"Babe," he whispered, rocking me in his arms. "Don't be thanking me for anything."
My skin felt as if it was on fire not only under Ryan's touch, but under his gaze too. I had forgotten how it felt to be looked at the way his eyes burned into me. His finger nails dragged up and down my arm and coaxed the goose bumps from my body. As my lips searched for his, he moved us so that he was once again lying on top of me. His hands moved gracefully down over my body, allowing for the feeling in my body again.
"Ohhh," I moaned as his fingers disappeared in between my legs, gently massaging the soft, warm flesh hidden between there. He kissed my neck as his fingers teased my opening and I moaned louder. I felt his smile against my neck as he pushed his fingers inside me and my walls clenched around him. Slowly, he pushed them in further and pressed his fingers against my wall.
"Unh," I managed, releasing my lip from under my teeth. "Ry-Ohh." I stuttered over the words.
"Like music to my ears," he breathed again my ear, then thrust his fingers in as far as his top knuckle. I cried out and panted, thrusting my hips towards his hand. There was not a doubt in my mind that he knew how my body worked. With a single touch of his finger, he could make my entire body light on fire. I tried not to think about just how much more sexual feelings he dragged out of me compared to Tyler. I would not compare them.
“Ryann.” His name tumbled out of my mouth as I thrust my hips in unisons with his hand, but he stopped.
"I want a taste of this," his heavy voice said, tapping his finger against my hardening bud. He disappeared under the covers and I felt his hot breath against my wet slit. I braced myself by grabbing the sheets in my fists and when the tip of his tongue licked the wetness outlining my lips, I felt my body grow weak. His fingers parted my lips and his tongue ventured over my bud before his mouth closed over it and he began sucking.
"Ahhh," I cried again, wrapping my legs around his neck. His mouth worked at a feverish pace, quickly nearing me to my first, but surely not my only orgasm of the day, when a high pitched tone broke through the room accompanied with a buzzing.
"Nooo," he groaned against my mound, sending a vibration throughout the area and sending me over the edge. My legs clamped around him like a vice, holding him against me, and I turned my head against the pillow to stifle the profanities I screamed, effectively drowning out the other noise. When I had finished, and my body relaxed against his, he pulled the covers off of him and smiled.
"I don't ever want you quieting yourself when you're with me, got that?" He kissed the corner of my mouth. "I’m sorry but I really have to answer that." He ran his tongue along my parted lips before he got up and retrieved his still ringing cell phone from his pants.
"You better have a good fucking explanation for calling me at this hour because I was just about to have sex with my girlfriend," he growled into the phone quite unlike how I had ever heard him talk before, but I saw the corners of his lips twitch upwards at the word "girlfriend." I watched his expression flicker from anger, to worried, to blank, all within the same second.
"I'll make it when I can." He hung up and turned back to me with a disappointed look, but I could still see the hunger in his eyes when he took my waiting body in. "Fuck," he groaned, taking his hard member in his hand and stroking. "As much as I hate to say this, we're going to have to do this the quick way." I didn't bother asking why because my mouth was more than happy to oblige, even if I still hungered to have him inside me.
He dropped down onto the bed for my awaiting mouth, and it only took minutes for him to spill himself inside gratefully. When he had sufficiently cleaned himself up, I walked him to the door. I hated to see him go, but I knew it wouldn’t be for that long.
"Wear something pretty tonight," he told me when after we had said our goodbyes. "I'll pick you up around nine."
"Why?" He smirked. "I'm going to show you what it's like to be Ryan Ross' girlfriend." He pulled me in for a quick but passionate kiss. "I love you," he said smiling.
"I love you too," I replied like a giddy little school girl.
"I love the way that sounds coming off those perfect lips." He gave me another quick kiss before he made his way down the hall and I returned to my apartment to shower. But just as I turned on the water, a loud banging at the door interrupted the process.
"Valarie!" I heard Lucas yell through the door. I cringed as I heard the tone of his voice. I hadn't been to school three days in a row and I hadn’t call him in the morning to tell him I wouldn't be there again. I should have expected him to show up some time; I had turned my phone off. He was the closest thing to family that I had and he was always taking care of me. I had shut my own parents out of my life just after I had lost Tyler and although my mother called me weekly and left messages, I had not spoken to her or my father in almost a year.
He stormed past me before I could finish and sat himself down on the couch, patting the spot next to him. I obeyed, getting myself ready for the speech he surely had prepared on his way over.
"Okay, let me have it."
"What are doing?" he said angrily. "I know Christmas break is next week but this is senior year. You can't just give up half way through. I’m going to graduate and you’re going to be right there next to me, even if I have to drag you across the damn stage. And for heaven sakes, don't turn your phone off. You got me wondering half to death if you were still alive. I didn't want you to spend your anniversary alone but I couldn't make it over here to check on you I had to take care of my little brother. I was so worried about you."
"Lucas, there’s nothing to be worried about. I’ve been with Ryan." “Who the fuck is Ryan?”
“My boyfriend,” I replied nonchalantly, not even thinking that I hadn’t explained anything to Lucas yet.
“Since when do you have a boyfriend?” His anger was gone, but there was something else underlying his tone.
"Well we only just made it official yesterday, but the truth is I'm in love, Lucas. I’ve only known him for like two months, but I know it. Ryan makes me happy again. I thought it would be years before I felt like this again, but he changed that." I turned my body towards him excitedly and began speaking more animatedly. "I feel like I can breathe again. For the first time in a long time I don't feel like I'm just walking through life. I love him," I said, and started to cry. Lucas looked momentarily disoriented before he hugged me.
"Is this the guy you met in the bar?" he asked quietly. I nodded against his chest. "And does he know how old you are." I froze in his arms, having realized that I hadn't gotten around to telling him that I was still in high school. He must have thought I was at least 21.
"Shit," I whispered. I pulled myself out of his arms, wide eyed and tear free. "What am I going to do?"
"If he loves you too then it shouldn't matter." He kissed my forbear comfortingly, but there was still something wrong, I could feel it. He always had something to say, and the fact that he seemed so calm about Ryan when I knew he didn’t approve scared me.
“Please, just don’t be the girl that disappears when she gets a boyfriend.”
“I wouldn’t do that Lucas. You’re the only one I have left that can still handle me.” I grinned playfully but he didn’t return it.
I gasped as Ryan lead me out the front door of my apartment building seeing that there was a white limosine waiting for us. He smiled at my reaction and took my hand in his, leading me down the path to the open door. He held my hand as I slid across the speak leather seats and then sat himself next to me, throwing his arm over my shoulder.
"Its taking all my strength not to take you right here in the back of the limo," he moaned, his hot breath reaching my ear. His hand grazed he top of my low cut dress as his other hand tugged at the soft curls of my hair. "You look exquisite."
"We have time," I breathed as his finger traced the curve of my breast.
"I wish you wouldn't say that," he groaned. "I can't get myself excited when I can't take care of it."
"What do you mean?"
"You look more than perfect, and as much as I would love to have sex with you right now, I need you to be looking like that when we get to our destination." He sat up and straightened his tie he wore under his blazer, still leaving me confused. "You'll see when we get there Val."
I flattened the creases of my tight fitting gold dress, suddenly self conscious. His hand enclosed over mine and pulled it to his chest.
"There's no need to worry, I already told you you look beautiful. I don't know how I got so lucky with you." He bent over and placed soft kisses on the back of my hand. "But I don't plan on letting you go."
"I would never want you to let me go."
His suddenly intense eyes turned to me. "You say that now but would you mean that later on?"
I pulled his face up to my level and smiled gently. It was funny to think that just days before I was afraid to admit my love for this man when at that moment the feeling burned through me, wanting him in everyway possible.
"As long as you want me, I'll be here Ryan. I dont have strength to leave you, so please don't hurt me."
"You are everything to me. I would never hurt you intentionally." He placed a careful kiss on my lips, as if not to disturb the brigt red lipstick. He kept his arm securely over my shoulder as we drove into he heart of he desert city. I watched the alive streets bustle whirl Ryan watched me, not even turning to look when I pointed something out to him. I could feel the blush on my cheeks after seconds of starring turned into minutes. It would take me awhile to get used to having so much attention paid to me.
"Sir, two blocks," the driver called over his shoulder. I could feel the excitemet radiate off of Ryan as he turned to me to give me instructions.
"When we get out of the car, there will be photographers, probably a lot of them. I don't want you asking any questions right now, all I need from you is to hold my hand, smile that beautiful smile of yours, and if anyone asks you who you are, I want you to tell them you're my girlfriend. Once you're inside, I'll explain it to you if you haven't figured it out by then. Do you understand me?"
I nodded despite all of the questions that floated around in my head. Ryan smiled and kissed the bridge of my nose. "We're here. Make me proud baby girl."
The limo had pulled up beside a nightclub, people crowded around the red carpet that led up the glass doors. I could feel my heart pick up as he opened the door and held his hand out to me. I took a deep breath to calm myself as much as I could before I stepped out into the media frenzy. There were people shouting his name from each direction, I had no idea where to look. Ryan leaned in towards me and said, "Smile and follow my lead babe."
He pulled me along towards the waiting crowd and smiled proudly. I turned my red lips upward and smiled along with him, but inwardly, I was panicking. What exactly had Ryan not told me about himself? He seemed to be pretty important to the people who kept asking him to pose for pictures. We stopped and smiled towards the cameras although I had no idea which camera I was smiling at. Ryan dropped my hand and placed his arm around my waist, pulling me close to him. Dozens of flashes blinded me all at the same time as their owners yelled for my name. Ryan pulled me towards the nearest reporter and nudged me towards her.
"Vegas weekly," she said over the noise. "We're all dying to know, who is this?" She looked at me, and it seemed as if the noise died down just to hear my response.
I beamed brightly and said with surprising conviction, "I'm Ryans girlfriend, Valarie."
"And do you have a last name?"
I hesitated for a brief moment. I had legally changed my name to Smith after I had married Tyler, but after everything, I wasn't so comfortable calling myself that anymore.
"Lawrence," I replied, before the flashes started again and this time I could hear my name being called and questions were directed at me. I barely had a moment to start answering one when another was thrown my way.
""How long have you and Ryan been together?" Someone near the front yelled. I was surprised at how smoothly my answer came out.
"We've been seeing eachother for awhile but we only just recently made it more official." I could feel the gentle squeeze on my waist.
"How did you meet?" another shouted. Again, the words came out with such ease, it was as if I had memorized my lines.
"We were at the same bar a couple of months back and I couldn't resist." I laughed lightly as if it was amusing; it almost was. Our story wasn't exactly like that, but they didn't need to know how things actually happened.
"Actually, it was me who couldn't resist her. I saw her across the bar and I knew I had to have her," Ryan said beside me, grinning from ear to ear.
"Valarie! How old are you?"
As I turned in the direction of the voice, I began to panick. It was probably not a good way for Ryan to find out my actual age. What was I going to say? I did not want to look like an idiot infront of such an audience, but Ryan unknowingly saved me when he told the reporters that we had to be inside, and they feverishly started snapping before we disappeared. But when I looked around and my eyes drank in the club before me, my blood raced through my veins to the surface, my whole body felt as if it was blushing, and I immediately wished that I was back outside getting grilled with questions.
"You did good," Ryan said, moving infront of me. "But this is the real test." He thrust his long arms outwards and he exclaimed proudly, "Welcome to my life."