Authors: Rebecca Royce
She sat next to him, and he smiled at her.
“Is she okay?”
“Yes. She’s sleeping.” She took a sip from her water. “Are you enjoying your pizza?”
“Absolutely. Fabulous pizza.” He set his plate on the table. “She’s not going to recover?”
Sighing, she rubbed at her eyes. “No, the cancer will kill her. Soon.”
She hadn’t expected him to put his arm around her, although he’d done it on the walk, so maybe it was simply something he did with a woman, still it took her a full thirty seconds before she could relax enough to rest against touch.
“I’m so sorry. Where is the cancer?”
He squeezed her shoulder, and some of her tension ebbed. She might actually be able to turn her neck without it hurting.
She laughed. It felt so strange, she stopped. Her evening was taking one weird twist after another.
Ian turned his head and looked around the room. “Did you grow up here with her? Was your childhood spent inside this brownstone?”
She looked around the living room. The walls were peeling, the wallpaper long since giving in to time. As with so many things, the days of glory for her Granny’s old place had come to an end.
“No, I lived in New Jersey. My parents would go away every summer, for the whole summer, just the two of them. I stayed here with Granny. Some of my fondest memories are here. When she goes, I’ll have to sell it. I’ve already started to box things. Kind of morbid with her alive in the other room.”
“You’re organized. There’s a task in front of you, so you’ve started getting it done.”
His words were right on. She’d love to be able to wait, to look at something which needed to be done and think
. If she put off the unpleasant tasks, avoided them, she’d be completely unable to sleep.
“I guess it’s why I do what I do. I enjoy making life run smoothly, to make things happen on time and when they should.” She took a deep breath and inhaled his sugary scent, the kind of sugar someone who didn’t burn water might use for baking.
“No family to help you? Where are your parents?”
He’d hit on a topic she’d rather not delve into.
“The Cayman Islands.”
“On vacation?” He leaned back against the couch. “I went last year when the show was on hiatus. Beautiful. The hotel had the best rum punch.”
“No. Although I’d love to hear more about the rum punch. I can live vicariously. My parents live in the Caymans. Tax reasons.”
He stiffened, and she turned her head to look him straight in the eyes.
“Your parents are living in the Caymans to avoid American tax laws, and they’ve left you here to take care of your grandmother by yourself?”
She waved her hand toward Granny’s room. “They pay for all of her care. Whatever Medicare doesn’t cover, they do. I am grateful for their help.”
And it wasn’t as if she had to get used to them being gone. They’d been absentee most of her life.
“I get it.” He drummed his hand on his knee. “I’d like to be able to help my family if they needed me. They don’t. If they did, though, I’d need to be there, too.”
“Sounds as if you’re close.” She hadn’t expected to ever know him, or to want to. This Ian, the version who wasn’t late—although he’d made her five minutes tardy—was actually a nice person with whom to spend time He was easy, although his questions were weird. It almost felt akin to a job interview. He watched her so intently, hung on every word. Nothing she said was so interesting it warranted such rapt attention.
“We are.” He took her hand. “Why do you do it? Stage managing I mean?”
His abrupt shift in topics caught her off guard. It took her a second to reorient. It was almost one a.m. He needed to leave soon. If she wasn’t in bed by two, she would be a zombie at six when her grandmother needed her IV bag changed and her linens swapped.
“I’m good at it.”
“Yes, you are, and I’ve had some bad ones. I make all stage managers nuts. I know. You are really excellent at your job. Yet I find myself wondering, these skills you have, couldn’t they be used in any number of jobs? A good manager? Your abilities would be a total gift to many organizations. Why did you pick theater? You don’t watch the show most nights. I know; I’ve looked. Why theater? It can’t be the money.”
She didn’t even try to soften her nasty tone. With his demanding questions, he sounded exactly like her father. Why wasn’t she doing more with her life? Why not go manage something where she could actually earn?
“Woah.” He withdrew the arm from behind her and extended his hands toward her, wrists together as if he was under arrest. “You just expressed more emotion in a single word than I’ve ever heard you do in sentences worth of talking. Don’t tell me. Don’t shoot.”
She’d already begun, and refused to silence herself. “I do my job because I enjoy the way it makes people happy. For a few hours every night, the audience is transported somewhere else. They can leave their lives and go wherever we—and I count myself in the grouping—take them. Just because I can’t act doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate creativity. I do. I relish the whole process of it, from start to finish. While you’re under the lights getting the applause, you’re just a piece of it, not the whole kit and caboodle.”
Ian rubbed his chin. “Never said I was. The stage manager is pivotal to the show. The whole crew plays a role.”
Really, it was too much to deal with when her grandmother was dying in the other room. She stood.
“I think you should leave.”
Having him come home with her was a mistake. She should never have let him into her space. What had she been thinking? Of course, he thought what she did beneath him. Of course, if she didn’t do her job, he’d have no lights to shine on him when he made love to the audience every night.
Once she started, the words poured out of her. Every statement increased in volume.
“For the record, I do watch the show. I have to. So I can give you the cues the crew needs. I know every line. It would terrify me, but I could go on for you if you fell and broke your arm. I heard you tonight when you flubbed your line.”
She clapped a hand over her mouth. He hadn’t earned her rage. Her temper on the topic was for her father, her last boyfriend who had scoffed at her life decisions, and a hundred unfeeling people she had had the bad fortune to encounter over time. Ian hardly knew her. It was past the point for him to leave if for no other reason than so she could find her equilibrium again.
If she woke Granny, she’d never forgive herself.
Ian pulled her into his arms, catching her by surprise, and she almost fell. Instead, in his arms, she stayed stiff as board. What the hell was he doing?
“It’s okay, sweet baby. I’ve got you.”
She spoke into his chest. He was so much taller than she was, she felt downright tiny so close to him.
“You’ve had a rough time, haven’t you?”
His kind words undid her. Tears threatened to spill, and she beat them into submission. Teirney was not a crier. Still, the hug defused her temper. When she pulled away, he released her.
“Sorry about the yelling. You should still go.”
“Teirney.” He cupped her cheeks in his hands. “I did not mean to be disparaging at all. I ask a lot of questions. Tell me to mind my god damned business when I step over the line. I like to know about others’ lives. Someday there might come a time when I’ll have a similar moment in a show, when I’ll be given the privilege of bringing to life, for a few hours, the lines of a playwright or a screenwriter, and I’ll need to make it real. For the reason you said. So people can be there with me for a while.”
“I know. I mean your reviews were great. Clearly, you’re very good at it. Don’t listen to me….”
He interrupted her. “Honey. I wasn’t done. Don’t step on my line.”
He kissed the top of her head. “I’m really glad to hear you enjoy your job. I didn’t think you did. I misread you. You women are confusing creatures. My sister taught me early on sometimes a girl really wants a hug when she’s not making any sense.”
Wow, he was warm, and his actions left her ready to dissolve into a puddle on the floor near his feet. “I….”
“Teirney, you’re interrupting again.” He ran his finger over her eyebrow. “I can’t believe you reminded me about messing up my fucking line.”
Ian’s mouth pressed on hers, and she gasped. He was kissing her. Her mind couldn’t quite grasp the newness of it. Ian wasn’t a player, not that she knew of. He hadn’t slept his way through the cast and crew leaving heartbreak in his wake. What was he doing?
He pulled off a bit. “Kiss me back, baby girl. I want it. You do, too.”
She did. Every night since she met him at the first rehearsal she had wanted to kiss him, to feel his naked body above hers, to hold him close when he shuddered inside of her finally finding his pleasure after they’d become hot sweaty messes.
Teirney never liked to be out of control, but with Ian she thought she would—under the right circumstances.
She didn’t know how long they stood there kissing. His mouth was hot, and he tasted of pizza. Teirney wrapped her arms around his neck and he tugged her closer.
“Down.” He spoke against her mouth. “On the couch.”
She let him pick her up and put her on her grandmother’s lumpy, old green couch. A pin buried somewhere deep in the fabric dug into her. She wanted to move it but then Ian kissed her again. Her sex-starved libido decided she preferred to be kissed than comfortable. For the present moment, anyway.
At some point, the pin would have to move.
His hand moved between them, rubbing over her breast. Their noses bumped, and she had to remind herself their encounter wasn’t a movie. Things were bound to go askew.
“Oomph,” was the most sound she could muster. He didn’t seem to notice and deepened the kiss between them. She did love how he kissed. She had his total attention, or at least the kiss did. Ian seemed blissfully unaware he’d whacked her nose so hard. Hadn’t it hurt him?
She ran her hands through the small hairs on the back of his neck. He must have liked it because he made a moaning sound and bit on her bottom lip. She’d never been nipped before during a make-out session. Her body melted. Yes, he had done the biting thing completely right.
He squeezed her breast, and she arched against his touch, a mistake because the pin dug into her harder.
“Ian.” She couldn’t stand it anymore. “There’s a pin in my back.”
He rolled her to the side so he could dig at the couch. Seconds later, he found the pin—one of her Granny’s hairpins by the looks of it—and chucked it over the side of the couch. It took her a second to realize he’d thrown it on the floor. Where had it gone?
Teirney had never considered herself OCD, simply organized. But she knew she would step on it sometime barefooted and it was going to hurt like hell.
“Okay? You want to do this, yes?”
“This? Oh, are we having sex?”
Ian slapped his forehead. “If you didn’t know where tonight was headed, I’m doing something terribly wrong.”
“I thought maybe you wanted to kiss, hook up. I guess I didn’t know you meant to take whatever we’re doing all the way to conclusion.”
He ran his hand on her hip. “We can stop. Totally don’t have to go an inch further, sweet baby. Or we can. I want to. My telling you is not to put the pressure on. Simply to tell you where I am in terms of my thinking. I have a condom in my wallet. If you are game, there’s nothing stopping us.”
Did she feel like having sex with him? Nothing about being with Ian was as she pictured it. First off, her Granny had never been dying in the next room when she imagined them together. There weren’t pizza boxes or lumpy couches. Still, some sex had to be better than no sex. Even if nothing was as she would have planned it.
“Okay. Only, you have to stop calling me ‘sweet baby.’ It’s too weird. I’m not a sweet baby.”
Ian laughed. “Yes, ma’am, Miss Teirney, ma’am.”
“Your Texas accent is presenting itself.”
The A-list actor, who wanted her tonight and had a condom in his wallet, licked his lips. “Only because you’re making me really excited.”
Whatever good fortune smiled on him, he was a lucky bastard. Teirney wanted him, too. He kissed her again, reveling in the feel of her soft curves. For a tiny petite thing, she had curves to spare. Breasts that filled his hand and hips he could hold onto it. Sweet baby—and that was becoming her nickname whether she liked it or not—was beautiful.
The couch wasn’t ideal. He hadn’t had sex on one since he was in high school. Teirney hadn’t invited him into her room. She could be touchy. He wasn’t pushing his luck.
Ian hadn’t shaved, and he worried he might be scratching her. There wasn’t anything he could do about it. Surely she’d let him know. She wasn’t shy about expressing her opinion. No one ever told him anything he didn’t want to hear anymore, and her doing so made him really hot. When had he last endured a dressing down like the one she gave him earlier?
He reached into his wallet and pulled out the condom. In a second he had his pants off, followed by his boxers. Her eyes widened, and then she followed suit. She had long legs and a high waist. He loved how shapely they were, how they seemed to go on endlessly.
Ian reached between them. She was wet. That was good. That she was ready so quickly meant tonight would be good for her. In a few seconds, he had himself sheathed.
“Oh.” She stared at his penis. “You’re ready.”
He blushed at her words. Talking wasn’t usually something he did all that much when he was this turned on.
“You’re so beautiful. How could I not be?”
A little color stained her cheeks. “How sweet.”
“Not sweet if it’s the truth.”
Ian positioned his cock at the entrance of her pussy. As gently as he could manage, he pushed inside of her. She was tight. Oh, so sweet, and gripping him like a vise. What could ever be better?
Slowly, he moved. Teirney was all warmth beneath him. “You okay?”
Beneath him, she nodded, her gaze on his face. “Yep.”