More Than Words
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Jessie’s hands slid farther up my scalp, and her eyes met mine. Her expression was a mixture of drugged and shell-shocked, and she seemed uncertain what to do next. A spear of pure tenderness shot through me. I’d thought before she was inexperienced, and I was even more sure now. I kissed the side of her mouth. “Are you a virgin, Jessie?” I asked in a strained whisper.
She stilled in my arms, blinking, the slide of her pelvis against mine coming to a slow halt. “I … Is that …? Can you tell?” She looked embarrassed, and though some illogical, primal part of me rejoiced, I mostly felt frustrated. Even if Jessie wanted me, she deserved better than having her virginity taken by a man who would walk out of her life in less than two weeks. She deserved the prince she’d always dreamed about.
I sighed, using every ounce of willpower to rein in my body. I kissed her softly and smoothed back a piece of hair. “It’s not a bad thing. I just don’t want to lose control.” Lie. I desperately want to lose control in her body. “And you make it far too easy.”
Her expressive eyes moved over my face, and whatever she saw there made her smile. I leaned forward and kissed the freckles I could barely see in the dim hotel lighting, and she laughed, gripping my cheeks and bringing her lips to mine, rolling on top of me. I smiled against her mouth and allowed the kiss to go deeper for a moment before pulling away. The soft weight of her over me, along with her taste on my tongue, was going to cause any semblance of self-discipline to spin away just when I’d gathered it back. I groaned, rolling her onto her back and looking down into her face. “Why haven’t you been with anyone?”
Her gaze slid away from mine momentarily. “I—I mean, I’ve dated. I’ve just never let things go that far. I guess I made my studies my priority in college and then the move to Paris and …” She shrugged, the tiniest movement of one shoulder. “I haven’t found anyone who … tempted me to get that involved.”
I stared down at her for a moment, a strange fluttering inside me. Some stupid part of me wanted to be that man, wished I could be, but I wasn’t, and it would be wrong to pretend I was. She was Jessie—Princess Jessie—pure and sweet and good. Even if the man I’d become didn’t have a valiant bone in his body, the boy she’d once known had, and I needed that small particle of me to take the lead. I nodded, rolling away and standing quickly. “Do you want some water?”
Her eyes moved to my still-tented pants and then quickly back to my face. “Uh, no, I’m good,” she said. I went into the bathroom and took a long couple of minutes at the sink, downing a glass of water and willing my body to cool down. I heard Jessie moving around in the room, maybe getting ready to leave. Thoughts of the long, lonely night in front of me, of knowing I was going to wake up and spend the day just waiting for her again, assaulted me. I was so tired but unable to sleep … I looked at myself in the mirror, my tousled hair, my lips reddened from kissing. I wasn’t going to have sex with Jessie, but I didn’t want her to go.
Returning to the room, I was relieved to see Jessie perched against the pillows. She’d taken her hair down and was running her fingers through it in an attempt to fix what our make-out session had done. She looked at me and stifled a yawn as I sat back down on the bed, turning toward her. “Will you stay with me tonight?” I shook my head. “Just to sleep. I know that sounds like a line, but I swear, it won’t be anything more than sleeping. I just get …” I took a deep breath. “It’s hard for me to sleep sometimes.” All the time. “If I’m alone I mean.” I sounded pathetic. Because I fucking am. “I understand if you can’t—”
Jessie had been watching me closely as I rambled, and she suddenly put her fingers on my lips, halting my word vomit. Thank God. “Do you have a T-shirt I can sleep in? And I’ll need to set an alarm.”
Relief flooded my body. “Yeah.” I smiled. “Thank you.”
She nodded, and I grabbed a T-shirt from my suitcase, tossing it to her as she smiled and closed the door to the bathroom. I turned off the TV and riffled through my clothes, wondering what I should sleep in. Thinking that what I normally slept in—nothing at all—wouldn’t work tonight. I finally decided on a pair of boxers and a T-shirt. Hopefully Jessie would be okay with that, too.
When she came out of the bathroom, she paused in the doorway, pulling the T-shirt down and looking uncertain. She opened her mouth to say something but then closed it, hesitating again before pointing at her cell phone sitting on the bedside table. “I’ll set my alarm now so I don’t forget.”
She nodded as our eyes lingered, something flowing between us, but spoken in a language I didn’t know. It was like hearing a French song drifting from a shop as I walked by. The melody was elusive, the words foreign, and even as I was drawn to it, the music faded before I had time to turn around. She walked past me, and I paused, feeling confused, unsettled, yet still incredibly relieved she was staying. I ducked into the bathroom, where I brushed my teeth and changed clothes.
She was already under the covers when I emerged, the TV and all the lights except one turned off. I got under the sheets and turned my body toward hers. She smiled sleepily. “Tell me about the music you’re working on right now.”
A lump settled in my stomach. “I’m having a little bit of a hard time with it actually.” I let out a breath. “Not a little, a lot.”
“Oh,” she whispered. She regarded me, her gaze sympathetic. “I guess composers get writer’s block just like any other writers. What do you usually do to overcome it?”
Fuck. Drink. Anything to shut out his words. I shook my head, feeling disgusted with myself. “Nothing that’s been helping recently.”
She reached out and moved a lock of hair away from my eyes. It felt intimate, unfamiliar. Something about being in bed with Jessie this way almost made me feel shy. Laughable. I’d done things far more intimate with women I didn’t even know and had never felt shy, not once. Yet lying here in the darkness with her, whispering to each other felt warm and … right, different, but good. Because it’s Jessie. Because she’s safe. “How does it work exactly? The process for writing a film score?”
“Usually I read the script or watch an unedited version of the movie, depending on where the filmmaker is in the process. Then I write the music to fit the feel of the film.”
“Ah. And what’s the feel of this film? What type of story is it?”
I paused for only a moment. “A story of redemption … love.” Not that I knew anything about either of those things. Yet I’d faked it before. Fake. You’re a fake.
“Hmm,” Jessie hummed, her eyes searching my face for a few moments. “Can I tell you the way I felt the first time I heard the theme song you wrote for Un Amour Pour Tous Les Temps?”
I nodded, loving how the French title flowed so effortlessly from her mouth. It had been the piece that’d gained me notoriety, my first big break. Back then, his voice had been a whisper, but now it was a shout. It was as if the more my fame grew, the more success I attained, the louder his words became, drowning out the music. Why? Why can’t he leave me alone? But right now Jessie’s sleepy voice was a calm murmur and it was only her words that filled my mind.
“When I was a little girl, I had this swing in the backyard. That’s where I would go before I met you, before I was old enough to play outside my own yard. The swing had been hung by the previous owners in this huge peach tree right at the edge of our property. When I swung high, I could almost touch the branches, and I could see the rosebushes over the fence in Mrs. Webber’s garden.