Dinner is slow and silent. By the time we head back to the room, I'm ready for a long hot shower. Peter unlocks the door and for the first time, he flips on the lights. I stop in my tracks just on the other side of the door. Peter rams into my back, nearly knocking me over. He grabs hold of my arm just above the elbow and steadies me.
"Holy shit." The room is…I have no words. My senses are overwhelmed with thick textures, red velvets and satins. There's a shag rug the color of a rose that covers the floor from wall to wall. One huge heart-shaped bed sits in the center of the room with a matching heart-shaped mirror on the ceiling. I'm standing there with my hands clapped over my mouth.
Peter shoves past me. "She's a nice old lady with interesting taste." Peter sits down hard on the bed and pulls his shoes off. He flicks his eyes up at me after a second. I haven't moved. "So it looks like a porn set from the seventies. What's the big deal?"
My eyes widen, and I look over at him. "There's a pole." I walk forward and slowly reach out my hand toward the brass pole in the middle of the room. I move carefully, like it might bite.
Peter has a crooked smirk on his face. "You're so prude."
I yank my arm back and turn on him. "Are you insane? This room would make a prude person have a coronary! They'd fall over on the bed and watch themselves die in the ceiling mirror. There's a pole!" My voice squeaks the last part.
Peter peels off his shirt and shakes his head. I watch him do it and wish I hadn't. His body is so beautiful that it's hard to look away, but I manage. My stomach does a little somersault just before I turn. "So hang your laundry on it and stop freaking out."
"What kind of married couple uses a pole on their wedding night?"
He grins. Peter pushes off the bed and walks over to me. He looks down into my face. He's standing too close, and from the look on his face, he's doing it on purpose. "I think you wouldn't be freaking out if you'd seen a pole dance before. You know the woman doesn't actually fuck the pole, right?"
My jaw drops. I make a high-pitched sound and slap his chest. "Yes, I know that. And I suppose you've seen plenty of dances on one of these."
"Yeah, but only at strip clubs." His eyes drink me in. They're so dark. He holds my gaze for a moment and adds, "How about a private performance?" I go to slap his face again, but Peter catches my wrist and stops me. It dawns on me that he could have stopped me last time, too, but he didn't. His eyes flick back and forth between mine. "Stop slapping me, Colleli."
"Stop giving me a reason to, Ferro."
Peter's look hardens. He drops my wrist like it's made of thorns, points to the bed, and uses a stern voice. "Sit." It doesn't sound optional. I wonder what the hell he's going to do. For once, I don't question him. I just follow his finger and sit on the edge of the heart.
Peter walks toward the pole and takes hold of it. He doesn't look at me. Instead his dark gaze is downcast and his long lashes hide his eyes. I don't know what I expect him to do, but he starts to move. I feel a smile spread across my face. "I know what a pole dance is, Ferro."
"Uh-huh" is the only thing he says. Peter moves around the pole, flashing his sculpted muscles at me. I roll my eyes and act like I'm bored. He smiles, but doesn't look up. It makes my heart pound. That shy smile is what drew me to him in the first place. It's one of the looks that Peter gives that makes me want to melt. At first I'm ready to laugh, but after that, something changes. The way he moves his body is titillating. I feel hot, and certain parts of me are demanding attention. I try to stop looking, but I can't.
When Peter reaches for the button on his jeans, I jump up and stop him. My hands fly to his before I realize what I'm doing, and how close I am to touching him in a way that I shouldn't. My pulse is pounding and everything sounds so much louder—my breaths, his breaths.
Peter freezes when my hands land on his toned stomach, right over his. Neither of us moves. For a second we just stand there. The compulsion to wrap my arms around him shoots through me. I want to feel Peter against me, but that door closed.
I shift and try to pull away, but Peter doesn't let me. I look up. Mistake. His eyes hold me in place, and all the air is stripped from my body. "No touching, Colleli."
"I wasn't…I mean, you can't strip for me." I remove my hands and step away, breathless.
He grins. "I wasn't.
"Then, what were you doing?"
"Taking off my jeans. I don't walk around commando. Do you?"
I shake my head. The thought terrifies me. "No."
Peter holds my gaze for way too long. The expression on his face says that he wishes things could be like they were. If he could rock-step his way back into my heart, he would. What he doesn't realize is that he's still there.
I shiver and turn away. I hate this room.
"You can wash up first. The bath is around the corner." He points at the red wall in front of me. I nod and grab my bag.
When I round the corner, I gape at a huge champagne-glass tub and keep walking. There's a door at the back. I assume the shower is in there, but when I pull open the door, it's only a toilet. Turning slowly, I look back at the monstrosity in the center of the room. "Peter…?"
"You want me to clean up in the sex tub?"
"You're in the sex room, Sidney. Get over it."
Fine. What an asshole. I poke around until I find the water and turn it on. I fill the huge glass tub, and look at the wall. From where Peter's sitting he won't be able to see me. I strip quickly and get into the glass tub. It's not as deep as it looks. My heart is racing. If Peter walks over, he's going to get an eyeful. There's nothing to conceal any of me. I wash as quickly as I can and nearly drown myself trying to scrub my hair.
After I towel off, I pull out my pj's. They're not guy friendly. I didn't expect to have anyone with me on this trip, and they were the pair I told Millie to pack. I have a threadbare white tank top and bottoms that are too short to wear. They're slightly longer than my panties, but they don't really cover anything. I don't want to be prude, so I tug them on and run a brush through my hair. I stand there way too long and look at myself. My headlights are on and very visible. I can't go out there and waltz by Peter like this.
"Come on, Colleli. I need to get in there." Peter's voice is coming from the corner. I know he's standing right there. I pull a towel off the rack and wrap it over my shoulders. It doesn't do anything to hide my butt, but it's the best I can do.
I try to walk past him quickly with my head down and my brush in my hand. Wet hair sticks to my cheek as I look at the floor. Peter's bare ankles catch my attention. My gaze flicks up and I see Peter standing there in his boxers. I want him to hold me so badly. I wish today never happened.
"Are you going to wear a towel to bed?"
"Yes and if you try to take it from me, I will kill you."
One of his eyebrows creeps up his forehead. "Feisty much?"
"No. Serious much. I didn't plan on having anyone with me. I packed comfy, which means this is old…"
"And filled with holes. Oh come on, Sidney. It's not like I'm going to judge you and your ratty pj's." He reaches for the towel, but I shriek and spin away.
"Don't touch me!" My heart is pounding violently. I clutch the towel tighter so he can't take it. I know I'm overreacting, but I can't stop. My emotions are short-circuiting and fear is pouring into me.
Peter steps back and raises his hands, palms up. "I'm not. I won't touch you. Sidney, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to…" His voice is so soft, so warm. I press my lips together hard and hold them like that. I'm afraid of what I'll say. Peter remains where he is. "I won't hurt you, Sidney. No matter what happens between us, I promise you that."
Glancing over my shoulder, I see his face and know he means it. My throat is too tight to speak, so I nod and walk over to the bed. I keep the towel around me and climb under the covers. I feel so stupid and afraid. I don't know if I'll ever be normal again, but I wish I were. I'm so sick of feeling this way, of overreacting. I can't read people anymore. I don't trust myself, and if I can't trust me, how can I trust them?
But Peter's in the same room with you.
But Peter's touched you.
It's always but Peter.
My mind wanders in darkness, seeking out memories that I'm always trying to forget. Dean's face comes into focus. His vivid eyes glitter like emeralds. He holds my hand and whispers sweet words in my ear. I'm younger and unafraid. He says everything I want to hear. I smile and lean into him.
The grass turns to carpet under my feet, and we're in the mall. My heart beats harder; my mind knows this memory well. I feel sick, but I can't stop it. The dream continues, and Dean is holding my hand like he's done a million times before. He's walking toward his van at the back of the parking lot. I follow him. I trust him blindly. We get in the back, and he kisses me. Dean's lips cover my neck and trail down my chest. It makes me giddy and nervous at the same time. I'm not ready to be with him, not yet. I want him to slow down, but he urges me to go on, saying he loves me.
I hear his voice like it's next to my ear. "I love you, baby. I just want to show you."
"Dean, slow down." I'm still smiling, but I'm nervous. I love him. I want to be with him, I'm just not ready yet. The idea of giving myself to him like that scares me a little bit. I'll be connected to him for the rest of my life. The words echo in my head like a gong as Dean presses kisses to my throat.
"Let's play a game," he tells me and grabs a tie he has in the back of the van. Dean is lying on top of me. My shirt is gone, and so is his. His eyes keep drifting to my black lacy bra before returning to my face. "It's like the trust game we played when we were kids. I'd fall back and you'd catch me."