Book: Outside The Ropes

Previous: 22: Man Up
Next: 24: Numb

“BEFORE WE GO,” GAGE’S CAREFUL TONE SET me on edge.

He shifted his eyes to me, giving me a sidelong look as he started the car. He pressed some of the buttons on the console, turning the heat up and music down before continuing. “You didn’t say anything, and I’ve got to know, where’s your head at with this?”

The vulnerability he let show on his face and the way his leg bounced melted me some, but at the same time it increased my own nerves.

“I don’t know,” I responded with the truth. I felt lost out at sea, just waiting for the tide to push me so I knew which way to paddle.

He waited for more, but I couldn’t look at him as I said the rest. Instead, I stared straight ahead, at the lights of the restaurant and city life beyond.

“We’re going to hurt each other. It’s only really a matter of when or how hard. And the way we are, the way we fight…” I stole a glance at him, the muscles in his jaw flexed as he clenched his teeth. “But everyone hurts each other. It’s what people do.”

That was the end of my certainty. I turned towards him and said what I was still trying to convince myself of. “I’m willing to take that risk though.”

His hand moved to my cheek, a smile touching his lips. “I don’t want to hurt you. Ever.”

I grasped his hand, pulling it off me. “I think we’re taking it too seriously. What was it you had said? An adventure. I liked that. Let’s be that.

He nodded, eyes lit with excitement. “Where should we start? Your place or mine?”

My heart skipped, and whirlwinds of uncertainty started in my stomach. “Yours.”

I figured it easier to call a cab and leave than try and kick him out if we go downhill fast. Plus, Dexter stays with Leona on school nights, so we'd be alone at Gage’s.

 

“Have you had dinner?” Gage hung up my jacket in the hall closet.

“No.” I stared at him, unsure of how to act or what to do.

He seemed nervous, too, and a part of me thought I should put us out of our misery and kiss him, but it hadn’t gone over well the last time I did that.

He licked his lips, only increasing my urge to jump on him.

“I made dinner. I haven’t eaten yet either.” He gestured for me to walk to the kitchen.

My feet froze at the entrance. He had the table set for two with a salad, and the typically tidy kitchen was immaculate.

Gage slipped his hand to the small of my back, pressing me forward into the room. “I was hoping you’d say my house. Otherwise this would have gone to waste.”

I walked to the table, out of his touch, the whirlwinds picking up speed in my gut.

“I made steak and shrimp, with sweet potatoes and parmesan green beans. I still have to cook the steak, it should only take a couple of minutes.” He pulled containers out of the refrigerator and turned on the center grill of his stove.

I envied that he had something to do to keep occupied. “Can I help?”

We prepared the meal together, but the awkwardness returned as we ate. I didn’t know what to say. I wanted to avoid any mention of this past weekend, but it wouldn’t leave my thoughts.

“I got dessert too,” Gage said, lifting his eyebrow enticingly.

“You made dessert?” I was surprised. This guy was so rigid about his eating, and here we were having steak already; I had thought that was enough of a cheat for him. Especially since he ate a lot, like usual. That man ate healthy, but in large quantities.

He shook his head, sitting back from his plate. “I didn’t make it. I bought it. Figured, you’re done with your shoot, so you could take a break tonight.”

I smiled with excitement, no longer interested in the food in front of me. “What is it?”

He went into the pantry, and came out with two bags of M&M’s. Extending them to me he said, “Ones plain, but the other one's peanut butter. I thought you might like that?” He lifted his shoulders with the question.

“I do. Thank you.” I bit my bottom lip, trying to subdue the nervous laughter, but my stomach still vibrated with it as I took the bags from him.

He sat, pulling his chair close, eyes dancing over me with amusement. “It’s not much, but I’m glad it made you smile.”

I didn’t know what to do with this version of Gage. He was too hesitant and nervous. This dating thing didn’t seem to suite us.

I opened the bag and offered him some before pouring several into my hand. I ate them one by one, drawing out the time before we had to talk or act.

By the way he watched me, like I was his dessert, I knew our ‘date’ would be over soon and he’d get to the real reason for having me here.

His face darkened as his jaw worked. “How many people have you been with?”

I almost choked on the candy in my mouth, but forced it down, going rigid at his question. “How many have you slept with?” I returned.

He took a deep breath and nodded, visibly letting go of some of the tension in his body. “Point taken. What I really meant was, there’s no one else now, right? The cop is still out of the picture?”

I nodded, still trying to subdue my residual anger. “There’s no one else. And what about you?” My mind jumped to his randoms. “Even casually?”

He stretched his jaw while shaking his head. “Nope. And there won’t be.” His hands traveled over the top of my jean covered thighs, building heat. They moved up my legs until he gripped my hips and shifted me to face him with a quick jerk that sparked a fire. “I want the same promise from you. I can let go of our past, as long as it’s only me now.”

“As long as we last, it’s only you.” I bit back my smile, afraid to let it go. “And we’ll forget our past?”

His hand gripped my hip tighter at that, like a warning, and my stomach dipped.

“Except, I have to know one thing.” He paused, but I didn’t respond, a slow cold fear spreading. He hesitated as he watched me for a reaction. “That,” his eyes flicked to my scar, “was it someone that can still hurt you?”

I scooted back, out of his touch. Not able to handle it with the thoughts crashing in my head. I could answer this one question; I had to if I wanted him to drop it. I just had to work up the nerve and figure it out.

I carefully planned my three words and said them with even more care. But I couldn’t look at him. “No, she died.”

It was and wasn’t the truth. She was dead, but she still hurt me. All the time.

He grabbed my hands, leaning into my space again. “Who?” his voice was desperate.

I closed my eyes, pulling everything back in so when I looked at him I was in control. “You said one question.” I rose to my feet and dropped my eyes over him, slow and heated, making my intentions clear.

He pulled me into him, a good thing since my feet wouldn’t budge. Letting go of my hands, he slid his to my waist, firm and strong as they circled around me. My body melted under his grip.

“You won’t pull away this time?” I had to ask.

The air around us burst as he stood, chair skidding back behind him. His gaze was electric as he looked down at me. “No.”

Then his lips were on me, inhaling me, hands gripping my hair as he tilted my head back. All too soon his lips left mine, but his eyes were still on fire. “Bedroom, now,” he ordered, pulling me in that direction.

But he couldn’t make it that far before he was on me again. He pinned me to the wall in the hallway, nibbling my lips and flicking his tongue in my ear, dissolving any of my hesitation.

He broke away to pull me up the steps, only to pounce again at the top. This time he lifted me, his hands traveling over my body in waves of heat as he walked us the rest of the way to the bedroom. Our kiss was desperate, trying to hold onto lightning.

I pulled at his shirt, trying to lift it from his body, close to tearing it in my need. He lowered me on the bed, braking his kiss just enough to slip it off.

His hot lips ran down my neck and his hands slid under my tee, soft on my stomach, making it tighten in a delicious sensation that moved between my legs.

He tugged at the edge of my shirt, but pulled back, looking at me for approval. I sat up, sliding it off, and then ran my hand over my camisole and shook my head, setting the rules.

After a breathless moment he climbed over me, pushing me back down to the mattress.

I pulled him on me, wanting to feel his weight, be surrounded in his heat. I pressed my hand into the muscles of his back as we both tasted the skin on each other’s neck and shoulders. I was lost in touch and sensation, and I needed more. I moved my hands to his pants, undoing the button. He pulled his hands off me to undo the rest, kicking them off as his fingers moved over my jeans.

We couldn’t seem to move fast enough, both pulling and fumbling with the strain of wanting. There was no time for us; we needed to do this before it all fell apart. That’s how it felt, an ecstatic rush of need. A race on time. Desperate to touch and know the other, every inch.

I didn’t get to run my hands over him for but a second, his silky smooth skin stretched over the solid length of him, ready to go. He pressed me into the mattress as he raised up, using his hand to rub himself over me, spreading my wetness between my legs.

He groaned. “I want you so bad. I can’t take my time, not this time,” He panted into my ear.

“Good,” was my only response and barely audible. I needed him in me, and the strain made it hard to breathe.

“Damn. Wait.” He rolled away and grabbed a condom from his nightstand.

I squeezed my legs together as he rolled it on, the ache in me building with anticipation. I kissed along his neck, unable to keep off of him.

Then he positioned himself over me and slid in, stretching me to the point of almost pain, a satisfying searing heat filling me. His groan encouraged me to move, rocking my hips beneath him. He pulled me tight to him, his lips finding mine as he panted into them, in between brief, wet kisses. We breathed the same hot air through our mouths and absorbed each other’s moans, collecting them like prizes. I wanted his moans, and I circled my hips, clenching the muscles between my legs until I had my reward.

His thrusts grew deeper, harder, faster, breaking the dam of tension in my core with a surge of physical pleasure. I cried out, unable to hold back anything. My mind no longer in control. I was all feeling and my body spasmed with it. And still he kept going, taking me on the ride all over again, my body in his control, responding to his every touch, every thrust. He took me to the edge of pleasure and pushed me over.

When I floated back into myself, he was laying on me, forehead pressed to my neck as he sucked in ragged breaths, his own muscles twitching with his release.

I wasn’t sure if the beating I felt was my own heart, or his, but I throbbed with each pulse.

After a while our breathing steadied, but he still laid on me, his arms wound around my waist.

“I’ll be right back,” he broke the silence, getting up and removing his condom.

My muscles still felt weak, but I slid off the bed and escaped to the bathroom to clean up and put pants back on.

When I came out he had the covers pulled back and was lying in bed. “Come here.” His voice was husky as he ran his hand over the mattress beside him.

I scurried over before I could change my mind and curled into the warmth of him, trying to ease the fear creeping back in.

His finger tips trailed down my arm, then over my hip. “You put your jeans back on,” He said with a frown. “You’re going to stay tonight, right?”  He looked down at me, eyebrows slanted in.

“Well, I thought—“

He pulled back from me, lines marking his face. “What? You’re staying tonight. You have to.” He rolled to his side, hands pulling at my hip to face him. “That was only the start. I need this night with you. I’ve been wanting this for so long. Stay.”

Knowing that his plans weren’t cuddling and sleeping made it easier to agree to. “Alright.”

***

Even after three nights of running my hands all over that body, I still wanted more. And so did he.

“I don’t care how late it is. Let me pick you up after work.” He murmured into my neck in-between soft kisses.

I slid my hands inside his jacket, feeling hard muscle under his soft cotton shirt, and his arms encircled me, keeping me warm against the damp wind.

“Trichelle's driving me since we both have to close. Plus, I need to go to my house.” Even though I was trying to pull away with my words, my hands couldn’t stop their path along his torso, trying to soak him up.

The lines of his jaw deepened as he looked down at me. “Then what about tomorrow? Cancel your thing, come with me.”

I let my arms drop with a groan, “You cancel. Leona and Aliya are both performing and bought me a ticket already. I can’t flake.”

He pulled back some, his eyes more gray in the drab weather as they swept over me. “I can’t, it’s an important business night with Silas. And you have to work tomorrow, during the day?” His frown deepened as I nodded. “Sunday then?”

My lips slid to a smile. “Sunday.” This small space would be good; I had been so wrapped up with him since Tuesday that I couldn’t think straight.

He leaned in, trapping me against his car. His warm breath caressed my neck, and his clean sent surrounded me. I felt the now familiar tickle of need that only he could satisfy.

“Or you could call off work now and come home with me.”

It was tempting. But I put my hands in-between us, a weak barrier, and shook my head. “I’ve got to go. I’m going to be late for work. I’ll see you Sunday.”

***

I jumped awake, alert, but unsure why. I slid from the bed, grabbing a hand weight from the corner of the room, heart pounding.

The window rattled as someone tapped on it again. That was the noise that had woken me. I tiptoed to the window and peeked out the corner, releasing the breath I held when I saw Gage. He had a ski cap on against the cold and his blue eyes pierced through the night.

He was preparing to tap again, shifting on his feet as I stepped into view of the window and pointed to the front door.

His smile was quick to appear, that same triumphant smile from after his fight, and it made my stomach spin.

“What are you doing here?” I whispered harshly, opening the front door.

He stood with one hand braced against the doorframe, his wool jacket unbuttoned, showing off his tieless suite underneath. It was kinda rumpled and the collared shirt was unbuttoned at the top. But the look in his eyes liquefied me.

When he kissed me, I could smell and taste the alcohol. He walked me back into the house, lips madly moving against mine and closed the door behind us.

I pushed away from him. “You’ve been drinking?” I asked needlessly.

His smile this time was more predator after prey. “Hmm.” He nodded, stalking towards me.

I took a step back, hands up to stop him. “And you drove here? You shouldn’t do that,” I admonished.

He paused, but his smile glided up on one side in victory. “You’re right. I shouldn’t. Looks like I need to stay here.”

“I’m serious,” I whisper-shouted, mindful of roommates sleeping.

He nodded, reaching an arm around me. “I am too. I won’t do it again.” He pulled me in close, nuzzling my hair. “Now, about where I’m sleeping…”

I pushed away again, idea bright in my mind. “Oh, let me get you some blankets, you can stay here on the couch.” I bit my lip to hide my smile.

His eyes met mine with a playfulness that I’d never seen before, and it reminded me that we were young and made to have fun.

He lunged towards me and I jumped back, elated that I had successfully dodged him. I was on my toes, ready to run at his next move, but it came so quick I didn’t have a chance.

He hooked his arm around me, smile turning sultry as he pressed against me. “You’d make the future Cruiserweight Champion sleep on the couch?”

Something about his tone caught my attention, and his smile only confirmed it. I leaned back to look at him. “What?”

Excitement filled his face. “I’ve got a fight against Desmond Dennaki.” His hands gripped my waist, emphasizing what he said. “Silas has to work out the details with his manager, but all parties agreed to it tonight. He’s ranked in the top ten, so when I win, I will be too.”

My heart nearly exploded for him. “That’s amazing. I didn’t realize that’s what this business meeting was about.” I slapped his arm. “You didn’t tell me that. This was a big night for you.”

His eyes dropped to my lips. "And I want to celebrate with you.”

Silent, I walked him back to my room, closing the door behind us. Flicking off the lights, I turned to him, hands on his chest. He let me push him back onto the bed and I straddled his waist.

His hands traveled over my thighs, under the thin fabric of my sleep shorts. He gripped my legs, keeping me on top of him as he scooted himself back to lie out on the mattress. He cupped my butt and pulled me to him, kissing the top of my breasts.

Flipping me over, onto my back, he continued his hot kisses as hands roamed over the swell of my breasts, outside of my tank top. He moved his lips, biting my nipple through my shirt, and sucking through the fabric. His hands hovered at the edge, fingers running along the seam at the top.

I helped him out by pulling the top down, letting my breasts spill out. He ran his tongue from one nipple to the next, taking his time to run along the valley in between. My fingers raked through his hair and as far down his back as I could reach, before tugging at his jacket to take it off.

He sat up on his knees, removing his jacket painfully slow, eyes glued to me the entire time. I squirmed with impatience as he started undoing each button of his shirt underneath.

When I sat up to help him, he grabbed my hands, moving them off of him. “No. I’ll do this.” He stood up, off the bed, out of my reach. “I want to watch you get undressed too.”

The rush of heat surging through me at his words took over, drowning any hesitation.

I kept my eyes locked on him as I lowered my shorts, keeping the same slow pace he had started, sliding them off one leg at a time. He pulled his shirt off, his tattoos still visible in the shadows of the room. His hands moved to undo his pants as I slid my cotton panties off.

I could hear his breathing strain as he watched me. He dropped his boxers and took himself in his hands, stroking in a way that made my legs ache, and core drip.

“What about the shirt?”

I hit a wall; every muscle felt the impact. “No.” I wasn’t wearing a bra underneath so my tank top had to stay on.

“Alright,” he sighed, stepping back to the bed and I released my own sigh of relief.

“Alright,” he said again, running one hand flat down the length of my torso, ending between my legs. Releasing my anxiety with the pressure he put there, all my thoughts centered on what his fingers were doing and the pleasure building.

My hands ran all over him, one tracing the curves of muscle while the other gripped the length of him, gliding up and down, pleased when Goosebumps broke out on his skin. Sensation was taking over and I bit the tight skin on his shoulder as I fell apart under his fingers.

In one quick motion he was in me, condom already on. His slow, controlled rock made his muscles pull and flex under my hands. His hands were running all over me.

I stifled my cries in his skin, biting and sucking his shoulder, but they still escaped. Trying to keep the noise down was dizzying.

One of his hands was gliding up and down my side and he ventured to slide his fingers under my shirt. I pushed at his hand on impulse, but he stilled, not moving his body or hand.

He had been running kisses along my jaw, he didn’t move his lips away as he said, “I want to touch you, all of you. Please.”

My heart hurt with the sudden constriction. I could understand his need, I wanted to touch him everywhere, but…

His kiss was gentle on my lips as he shifted to look me in the eye. “We don’t have to take off the shirt. I won’t look. It’s just my hands.”

I nodded, a small barely there consent that twisted my stomach painfully.

He moved back over me, continuing his slow rocks as his hand carefully ran along the bottom of my shirt. “Shh,” he soothed. “It’s okay, Baby. I got you.”

It was only then that I realized I had made any noise. Every step his hand took made me tighten and squeak with fear. It was unreasonable, I knew, but it was there.

I tried to concentrate on his soft lips on my shoulder, and I wanted to run my hands along him, but I was frozen.

He cupped my breast from under my shirt, hand firm over the top of the one scar he had seen, the one just under the side of my left boob. Then his hands glided around, and my stomach clenched as he traveled over the other scars along my side and back. But he didn’t flinch, even though I knew the one along my side was felt, the only one that was raised up, where a bullet had burned its path.

When his hands met along my back, he crossed them, pulling me into him in a tight hug. His lips buried into my neck and he held me still for a moment, waiting for my breathing to calm before beginning his rocking again.

He didn’t touch me there anymore and I began to relax, until the pressure of him in me built and I exploded with satisfaction and a strange new relief.

***

I lay on top of him on the couch, letting the aftershocks of orgasm fade away. Music still playing softly in the background from our failed dinner.

It seemed sleeping with Gage had the opposite effect than I had imagined. The more we did it, the more we wanted it. And now we couldn’t even make it through a meal without attacking each other.

He played with a lock of my hair, twirling it around his fingers.

“Are you nervous? About your fight?” I asked. Silas had worked out the details and it was in two weeks. Sooner than expected, but Desmond was going overseas right after so there was no time to wait.

His chest vibrated beneath me. “No. I don’t take fights unless I’m certain. I know I can win this one.”

I lifted my head, to look at him. “How can you know?”

His eyes danced over me, and his liquefying smile returned. “Because I know what my strengths are, and I’ve seen his weaknesses. I know. I don’t take chances on my career.” He pulled me back down to him, settling me on his chest. His hand stilled just above my shoulder. “What about you?” He was deathly quiet. “Are you nervous about tomorrow? About court?”

I had been avoiding thinking about it. “Yes,” I admitted only to him. “But I just want it over with.”

His strong arms tightened around me. “I’ll be there with you. And hopefully those bastards get the maximum sentence.”

I let out a deep breath. “You don’t have to stay after you testify. It could go on all day and I know you have business things to take care of.” He seemed to always be working out or doing “business” stuff with Silas, if he wasn’t with me. But I didn’t question it cause then I might have to answer some as well.

He scooted back, looking down on me with agitation. “Are you kidding? Of course I’m staying. There’s nothing else I need to do, except be there with you. I’m not leaving you alone there. End of discussion.”

His tone made me bristle, but I breathed through it, focusing on his words. And if I was honest, it was a relief to know he was going to be there with me.

His hands ran up and down my arm, pulling me to look at him. “Don’t you know yet? You are important to me.”

There was no denying the look in his eye. He meant what he said. But I couldn't respond, couldn't allow myself to read any further into those words. So I dropped my head and rested on his chest, gripping him a bit closer. I didn't want to think about how important he had become to me, it was too quick, too soon, too much. It wasn't supposed to happen like that.

My heart crumbled as he huskily sang the words to the song playing in the background, a slow rock song about feelings that wouldn't go away.

His voice was gravelly with emotion, not the prettiest singing voice, but it fit with the moment and slid through my cracks.

I buried my head on his bare chest and closed my eyes, hoping I’d be able to keep him for a while.

Previous: 22: Man Up
Next: 24: Numb