Absolution
Author:Amanda Dick

“Hey, remember this?” she smiled, half-turning towards him.

 

He listened for a second, then grinned, rocking out to Lynard Skynard’s Sweet Home Alabama. She giggled in spite of herself, light-headed suddenly. To see him happy like this, in her living room, with her, was all that mattered. Everything else seemed to fade into insignificance.

 

He nodded at the couch and helped her sit, before sinking down beside her. Any residual awkwardness she felt when he did things like that had disappeared. He snagged the beer bottles off the coffee table in front of them and handed hers over.

 

“Hey, I just poked my head into your studio,” he said. “Is that a new painting on the easel? The paint still looks wet.”

 

“Yeah it is, I started it this morning. I just woke up and suddenly I knew what I wanted to do. It’s for the exhibition.”

 

“Really? That’s pretty cool,” he said carefully. “Are you happy with this one?”

 

“Yeah, I think I am. It feels right this time.”

 

“Glad to hear it,” he smiled, raising his bottle. “To you, then. And to the exhibition.”

 

She returned the smile, clinking her bottle against his.

 

“I know it’s gonna be amazing,” he said, taking a sip.

 

She blushed, cradling her beer in her lap. Jack sank back into the cushions beside her, his shoulder touching hers. She glanced over at him, as he stared up at the ceiling with a contented sigh.

 

“Happy?” she couldn’t help asking, guessing the answer.

 

He turned to her, smiling lazily. “More than you’ll ever know. I haven’t enjoyed myself like this for a long time.”

 

“Me neither.”

 

His smile faded as his gaze wandered slowly over her lips, her flushed cheeks, the lock of hair that had fallen forward over her eyes. She was comfortable under the scrutiny for the first time in a long time. She lapped it up, watching him watching her.

 

She let her mind wander, her gaze following suit. The soft fullness of his lips, the tiny freckles that dotted across the bridge of his nose and cheeks, only visible this close, the gentle creases in the corners of his eyes. Slowly, he leaned towards her, eyeing her lips and yet pausing ever so briefly to gaze into her eyes, delving deeply, asking the silent question that she felt herself answering just as silently. She may have even nodded, she couldn’t be sure, but a slow, delightful smile played on his lips as he leant in.

 

He kissed her softly at first, and she closed her eyes. She lost herself in the moment, drawing him deeper and making her forget where she was and how she came to be here. Suddenly, none of that seemed to matter anymore.

 

His hand curled around her neck and he pulled her closer. The kiss intensified and she reached for him, locking onto his forearm to seal the bond. He relieved her of her beer bottle, reluctantly withdrawing to slide it onto the coffee table next to his, the glass bottles clinking against each other. With both hands now free, he leaned closer, cupping her face tenderly, gently probing inside her mouth with his tongue. A slow shiver ran through her as she responded, giving herself over to the sensation of his hands on her. His body was so close to hers she could feel his heart beating, his breath warm and sweet. Time seemed immaterial as her mind emptied.

 

Then she was floating – literally.

 

Her eyes shot open. She was in his arms and he was carrying her through to the bedroom.

 

“Jack,” she whispered breathlessly, doubt creeping in as she watched him negotiate the living room doorway.

 

“Don’t worry,” he said huskily. “Just trust me.”

 

Struggling desperately to ignore the insecurities that were clawing up through her stomach, she nestled into the side of his neck. His cologne was woody and fresh, and she tried to concentrate on how good he smelt rather than what might happen next.

 

Jack pushed open the bedroom door with his foot and her heart began to pound harder. He carefully set her down on the edge of the bed. Reluctantly letting him go, she grabbed handfuls of the bedcovers. Anxiety coiled inside her, tightening the muscles across her shoulders and back, her mouth clamped shut as she stared at the floor. Her breathing became heavy and laboured. She wanted to do this, but the admission alone terrified her. As if reading her thoughts, he sat down next to her and reached for her hand, his body radiating warmth.

 

“We don’t have to do this now if you don’t want to,” he said gently, his eyes locking onto hers. “We can wait.”

 

She willed her heartbeat to slow down. “I don’t want to wait.” If she waited, she might never do this. “But this is all new to me. I don’t know what to do.”

 

He squeezed her hand. “It’s all new to me, too. Don’t worry, we’ll work it out. Let’s just take our time, okay? We’ll find a way through this.”

 

“Your ribs,” she mumbled feebly.