Marise found herself again parking at Kasen’s loft. He stood waiting for her as soon as she ended the call. He wasn’t going to let her be by herself, even though it was against his better judgment. Without saying a word, he grabbed her bags and followed her inside.
“Thanks again Kasen, I know I do not possibly deserve…” Kasen held up a free hand and silenced her. He had known something was wrong when he picked up the phone and heard her broken voice on the phone.
For the first time in two years, he heard his name roll off her tongue and it was ambrosia to his ego. He had been a little short with her earlier, and when she called, he was already in the process of ordering flowers to make it up to her. Now that she was here, Kasen wanted to apologize in person.
“Marise, I am sorry for being so short with you earlier. I just know this wass our last two weeks to practice, and I think overdid it.” Marise smiled a small smile and shook her head no.
“Kasen, don’t worry about it, I know that I was not being all that attentive when we were dancing anyway.”
An awkward silence fell in between them. There was no more to say.
“Here, I will show you to my room where you can sleep. I will take the couch.” Kasen walked briskly to his room and Marise followed. Although he didn’t ask the question, he wondered how long she would stay. Forever, if I had my way.
Kasen knew his thoughts were nothing but trouble so he merely backed out of the room to the safety of the living room couch. There was no way he could have her that close, so near his bed, and be able to contain himself.
There was nothing more to say, and Marise had seen enough television in her life to know that if she asked him to linger, even for the slightest moment, she would be in his arms. No, just because her life was up in shambles, it did not mean that she would go running into the first available arms around.
This time, Marise would make her own choices, and follow her head and not her heart. She had to. She was beginning to see that she was the only one she had in this world.
Unfortunately, Marise spent most of the night lying awake trying to count sheep and not feel sorry for herself. So, I lost my baby and my husband. My mom is a freak, which was ok, as long as mom’s kept her escapades to herself. She couldn’t sleep. What would be the chances that Kasen would drink tea? She needed something to calm her, and staring at the walls did not help. And she sure as hell didn’t want to start snooping through Kasen’s drawers.
Tiptoeing out of the room and into the kitchen, Marise was stumped. Every cabinet was clean and tidy, stainless steel and way too neat. Everything was put away. Marise honestly wondered if anyone was this tidy. She didn’t realize that she was drumming her nails against the granite counter top until light flooded the kitchen.
Marise gasped, reacting to a shirtless Kasen, rubbing his eyes and looking quite delectable. She was caught going through his cabinets and all she was wearing was a t-shirt and nothing else. Could the night possibly get any worse?
Yes, it could. Kasen mumbled something about the lights and snapped his fingers. The recessed lights flickered on to a soft yellow hue and the large white fluorescent light shut off. The granite counter tops looked like liquid in the intimate lighting.
“Marise, what are you doing up at this hour?” Kasen said when he finally stopped rubbing his eyes. Kasen always had been a light sleeper and he had known as soon as he heard the bedroom door open that Marise was prowling. His baser nature wanted her to come to him on the couch where he could comfort her in his own intimate way, but he knew that was not what she needed.
“Sorry if I woke you. I just needed something to put me to bed, but I couldn’t find anything.” Marise stammered.
“It is ok, I am a light sleeper. I just wanted to make sure that you are ok.”
“Yeah, I am fine.” Just then, her stomach growled and its low gurgle seemed to echo in both of their ears. Kasen’s lip tucked up in the corner into a knowing smirk. He winked at her and started to move towards the refrigerator.
“Your stomach doesn’t sound fine. Let me make you something that always helped me when I was little.” Kasen moved quickly around the kitchen, pulling out a cutting board a knife and various things.
Marise was stuck staring at his back as he cut up some slices of cheese and an apple. Good, Kasen thought, she won’t be able to see how turned on I am with her walking around in my t-shirt. On the stove, Kasen had begun to warm milk with honey. In a few moments, Kasen had made her a small plate of apple wedges and brie, with honey drizzled on them. Next to the plate, he put a mug of the warmed milk in front of her. It smelled sweet. She smiled at him and Kasen felt his cock stir. He backed away from Marise and stayed at the far end of the center island.
As she reached for a slice of apple, Marise looked at Kasen up and down. He felt like she was studying him.
“So tell me about you. Where did you grow up?” Marise said around a mouthful of apple.
“There is not much to know. I grew up in France. I lived only a few kilometers from Cannes.”
Marise quirked her eyebrow at him.
“Sorry, miles, I still tend to think European sometimes.”
Marise laughed and Kasen’s breath caught in his throat. It was a melodious sound, rich and full of personality. He wished that he could get her to open up more. Maybe he could at least get her to tell him what made her call him.
“When did you move state-side?” Marise reached for another slice, and she watched his eyes as he watched her hand.
“About ten years ago. I just finished my studies and this city reminded me of the city I grew up in. Tell me about you Marise, where did you grow up?” Kasen said, quickly changing the subject. He knew about himself, he was aching to know more about her.
“Here, this is my home. Although I did go to Paris for a few weeks before I started college.” Marise said with a shrug of a shoulder. That seemed as though all she was going to share.
“Why then and why Paris?” Kasen was curious about everything about her.
“I needed an adventure before college I think. I wanted to see something new. Since I took French for years, it seemed like the most reasonable solutions.”
“I see. Any brothers or sisters?” Kasen loved his large family. They were loud, rambunctious but still full of hugs and kisses and smiles. Everyone except his father. His father was the exception to the rule, but Kasen realized in his twenties that is what probably brought his brothers and sisters the closest together. Their mutual disdain for the Captain.
“No,” sighing Marise picked up her mug. “I was an only child and sometimes it felt more like an orphan child. My father was hardly ever around and my mother treated me like a nuisance.”
“Only child blues?” Kasen wanted more than anything to hear her laugh again. She was beautiful when the light reached her eyes.
“I have the only child blues, as you call it, but only sometimes. After all, I had a husband to keep me occupied.” Marise smiled a little and stared at him.
Kasen didn’t miss the past tense way she referred to her husband. She had never even mentioned her husband’s name. There was trouble brewing and he could feel it surrounding her like a cloak.
“Had?” Kasen needed to keep on pressing her, if he didn’t, she’d keep it all in like she did when she was stripping. He didn’t want that. Correction, he couldn’t live with that.
“Today was my anniversary. But now it is my divorce date. I caught Darryl with someone else. Well two other people. In my bed, in my room, on my anniversary.”
Kasen waited for the tears to start, the uncontrollable crying and the hysterics that usually follow an announcement like that. Nothing. Marise grabbed another apple slice and bit into it.
As she looked at the honey dribbling down her Kasen wondered where the emotion was. She just stared at her fingers.
“Marise?” Marise looked up at him and cocked her head to the side. She regarded him with sleepy lids and a slight smile. Is she about to go hysterical, Kasen thought, as he watched a lazy grin form on her face.
“Kasen, have you ever had your heart broken?” Marise said, calmly, as if she was trying to figure out the speed of light. Maybe she was in hysterics, but she didn’t know what to compare the feeling to.
“Only once. A broken engagement, years ago. Why?” Kasen did not like where this was going.
“What does it feel like? I’ve never had to experience anything like this, but I don’t think that my heart is breaking. I am waiting for the bottom to fall out, for something to crack, and nothing. Is that normal?”
“I think you are in shock. That is all it could be. Do you want to talk about it?” Kasen did not want to be dragged into the middle of this, but at the same time, if Darryl had laid a hand on her then Kasen would personally lay him out.
“There is nothing to talk about really, it is over. He was in my bed with another man and a woman. How can you possibly cheat twice in the same moment?” Marise laughed as she picked up the empty mug and took it to the sink.
She was washing the mug with a vigor that Kasen could tell she was welling up with something. Yet, he couldn’t tell what she was thinking.
Kasen could feel tell Marise was on the edge of anger. Anger, he was well acquainted with.
“Marise, it is normal to be angry.” Kasen had walked to the side of the center island where she had stood. Now he was a mere foot away from her. Now he could see her eyes clearly. There was a fire in them and she put her arms to her side and clinched her fists.
“Kasen, I am more than angry. I am furious. I spent eight months sliding up and down that damn pole trying to pay of his gambling debts. I have gone without seeing him for years… I even had the miscarriage by myself. No, this goes beyond angry.” Marise said with more passion than he had ever seen from her.
Kasen was shocked motionless. All he could do was stare at Marise. Never before had he witness her temper, or any other emotion. She was like a robot, but he had still cared for those soft smiles and dimples. Now, seeing her alive with emotion, even anger, made him want her more. Yet, he knew he couldn’t touch her. He would be the rebound guy, the one she went to for a shoulder to cry on, and he could not do that to her. No matter how much he wanted to.
“Do you love him?” Kasen regretted having to ask the question, but he couldn’t help himself. He had to know. Sure, she was angry with her husband, but anger eventually goes away, love shouldn’t.
Marise stood at stared into the depths of Kasen’s eyes. In them, she found no hidden agenda, nothing that said she repulsed him. It was concern, compassion and caring she grabbed as she looked into his swimming pools of blue. Never once did Darryl look at her like that. That is when Marise knew the answer to Kasen’s question.
Marise had anger at her mother and father, anger at Darryl, anger at all the tips and eyes staring at her while she was up on the stage. It had been almost four months since the last time she was on the stage, and yet she felt it still haunt her. Was it once you are a stripper you are always a stripper? Could she not take enough hot baths to wipe that part of her life from her body? Of all the emotions that she felt for the people who surrounded her, love wasn’t one of them.
“No, I don’t love him, and I don’t know if I ever did.” Marise sighed and turned to face the sink again. She had never felt this raw on the inside. She had never admitted it to herself, but she knew that she didn’t love Darryl, he had been a way to escape the loneliness.
Kasen walked up behind her and just stood there with her. He wrapped his arms around her body and pressed her back into his chest. Dipping his head so his chin rested on her head, Kasen expelled a loud sigh. A shudder of breath entered her body and she finally let go and pressed her back toward him. She welcomed his embrace and warmed to his touch. She realized that she just needed him to hold her.
Marise knew it was not good to lean on him like this. Yet, it was an emotional need that she could not deter. She needed it, and now that she had it , she did not know what to do with the rest of it. She felt the pad of his thumb resting comfortably beneath the swell of her breast. It was sending tingles of fear and desire sprawling through her veins.
It was a bad idea for her to be in his house. It was a terrible idea for her to call him. It was a horrific idea that she had come out of the bedroom. And now, the only ideas she could seem to muster was about letting Kasen make love to her. She could use it, and she know that she would feel release, but what happens after? What would the aftermath be?
Marise expelled a pent up breath and shoved off the counter. She had to be smarter to make it through the next phase of her life. Kasen held her still, and although she did not want to leave the comfort of his arms, there was danger lurking there.
Marise felt the air change. For the months that she had worked in the club, she knew sexual tension as if it was a part of her nature. There were always girls that were wound up and often wound up together in the locker room fondling each other.
What Marise felt between her and Kasen was far more than sexual, and therefore, far more dangerous. Marise was vulnerable and she knew it. It did not help that she could feel the rise and fall of Kasen’s chest on her back.
Kasen knew of the danger, but he did not care, he was holding his Marise. For once, he was holding her without having to pretend that he was only doing so for the sake of dancing. He wanted to hold her just like this, and see if she could feel the waves of emotions that overcome him when he is around her.
A month ago, Kasen had finally admitted to himself that it was more than just infatuation with his assistant. He could even say that it was more than just concern for her welfare. Now, holding her, breathing in her scent, and being the strong shoulder for her to cry on, he could admit to himself that he was in love with her.
Kasen didn’t make a move. He was scared that if he moved, she would walk away from him. He did not think he could hold her like this and just let her walk away. Too many things in life he had cherished, too many things in life he had wanted, and all the things that he wanted, he saw in Marise.
Marise broke the silence first.
“Kasen, I’m sorry for leaning on you like this. I wouldn’t be doing this, shouldn’t be doing this, but I feel safe. What I’m trying to say is thanks.” She bowed her head and settled enough to feel the air from his nostrils on her neck.
“No need to thank me. I am sorry for grabbing you and I…” Marise whirled around and pressed her index finger to his lips.
“It’s ok, I needed it.” Marise cocked her head to the side and stared into Kasen’s eyes. “Kasen, I need to ask a favor.” She said with her head cocked to one side. His eyes grew cold, and he could feel his body tense. She grabbed him by his hand and pulled him, although he was extremely unwilling to follow her into his bedroom.
“Marise, you are distraught. I don’t think…” Kasen stammered as she pulled back the gray comforter and eggplant sheets.
“Kasen, that ‘s not what I want. I want you to hold me. Do you think that you could do that? It is just comforting and I…” Marise’s voice trailed off. She did not know how much more to say to it than that. He just stared at her for a long moment. Marise must have assumed that silence was a rejection and crawled into the king sized bed.
She was under the covers when she felt a weight on the other side of the covers. She held her breath as she felt his hand snake around her abdomen and lay right underneath her breasts, again. It was if they belong there, Marise mused to herself. The warmth from his palm and his gentle breathing was almost a lullaby. Marise scooted closer to Kasen underneath the blankets and pressed her bottom against his crotch. It was unintentional, but it felt so right.
Marise let out a sigh and snuggled into the blankets. Kasen had just given her peace with just being there, and for now that made her content.
Absently, his thumb began to draw circles on her stomach. He must have heard her sigh and then a soft moan escaped her lips. He stopped rubbing and held still. She took his hand and guided it lower until it rested on the top of her cotton bikini. She led his hand until his palm was over her sex.
Kasen’s breathing became ragged and he held very still. He did not want to do something that she would regret. Kasen believed he had everything under control until she spoke:
“Rub me, Kas…”