Chrissy woke up with a start. For a moment, she couldn’t place where she was. She felt disoriented, dishevelled and lost. Forcing her drooping eyes open, she saw she was in a car with a coat wrapped around her like a blanket. And she was not alone. She looked at her co-passenger and that’s when it all came back to her.
She was with Nikloi. Nikloi, who had kissed her senseless at Stonehenge.
She sat up straight in the seat with a jerk. Did she fall asleep in his car again? Oh, how could she after what had happened!
She wished she had died instead of falling asleep in his car. No matter how much she struggled, she couldn’t bring herself to control her uneasiness.
When did she fall asleep? And why was she covered in his coat?
He had thrown his coat the back seat while going to Stonehenge, she remembered.
She slowly raised her eyes to look at him and what she saw shocked her to her core. His face was blank but for his eyes which were communicating openly. He was looking at her with na.ked desire in his eyes.
Chrissy shivered in her seat even though the temperature in the car surroundings was quite warm. She had never seen him like this. Usually he was quite quick and effective in covering up his emotions. Never letting anyone know what was going on in that head of his. But not at that moment. His eyes slowly moved from her eyes to her face, went all over her body before returning to her lips.
Chrissy throat was parched. She gulped down a lump stuck in her throat. She didn’t know what to do. She had never had such an experience. And while she had had some miniscule experience with men now, between him and Henry, she still didn’t have the slightest hint of what desire was really like. She had never seen such blatant want . She didn’t even know what to call it.
Embarrassed and hassled, she quickly lowered her eyes. His coat had fallen to her lap and she was fidgeting both her hands in her lap. Such was her state that she didn’t even realise that they had reached back and were parked outside Betty Granny’s house.
When he stretched out his hand towards her, she squeezed back in the seat. A glimpse of disappointment flash through his face but he covered it up quickly. Turning his face away from her, he said, “Your house is here.”
Chrissy looked outside and saw Betty Granny’s house. The day had set and night had descended around. How long had she been asleep? And how long he had been watching her , she wondered stupidly.
Nikloi turned back towards her and picked up his coat from her lap. While doing so, his fingers rubbed against the fabric over her thighs. She sizzled in that area as if he had touched her na.ked skin but he seemed least bothered. He had been looking at her desirously few minutes back but now he had no interest in acting upon that desire. He didn’t want another rebuttal. She was dismissed as far as he was concerned.
But she couldn’t decide what to do. She felt completely stupid. She should just get out of the car and leave but still she couldn’t bring her limbs to follow her brain.
She wanted to say something, but she didn’t know what. She wanted to stay back but didn’t know why. She was a complete mess. If she had felt miserable earlier for
denying him and herself what both of them had wanted, now she felt extremely melancholic.
But she was only annoying him by this delay.
“You should leave now. Your family must be waiting”, he said impatiently, while still looking away.
So now she was officially dismissed.
What was she waiting for? Why wouldn’t she leave? She asked herself.
She pulled herself together. Getting her stuff, she turned towards the door to get out of the car. Just as she was about to open the door, she looked at his face to at least say goodbye. She opened her mouth but at the same moment, Betty Granny stepped out of the house along with Steven and came waving towards them.
“Oh there you are, dear! Come inside, it’s getting cold out here”, said Betty Granny, smiling warmly at both of them. Nikloi s
tepped out of the car to greet her.
Her opportunity was lost. She followed him out of the car.
Once out, Chrissy saw Steven was also coming out of Betty Granny’s house. He seemed quite happy and satisfied. She smiled at him weakly. Granny asked them again to join inside but Nikloi politely declined.
Betty Granny replied, “Oh it is ok, dear. I can understand you two had a long day.”
Chrissy’s eyes immediately flew to him and then to Granny. But he appeared not at all concerned. He didn’t even look at her while replying Granny, “Yes, it has been. And I have a lot to catch up. So I will take your leave now.” With that, he signalled to Steven and turned back to his car. Chrissy noticed he didn’t say a word to her.
Steven took the driver’s seat and he sat in the seat she had been sitting earlier and the car drove away. Granny was saying something to her, but all Chrissy could see was the car going farther and farther away, taking Nikloi with it. Tears were
pricking at her lashes but she had to control them. She couldn’t give in in front of her family. That will have to wait.
The ladies had gathered in the living area when Betty Granny and Chrissy walked in. They wanted to know all about her day. In spite of her pain, she couldn’t help but be warmed at their love and affection.
She sat down next to mother, asking her how she had been, if there was any problem during the day. Her mother replied that she had been absolutely fine. Chrissy hugged her hoping that just like every other time, her mother’s magical touch would ease up this new pain she was experiencing in her heart. If Mrs Smith noticed something different with her daughter, she didn’t say anything.
Much as she would have liked to be alone, Chrissy went through the rituals of telling them all she could about the day. Alice was highly excited that she went to Stonehenge after all these years and wanted to know everything about them. She skipped the part when they kissed, for obvious reasons, but even for the rest of the day she just stuck to the facts, eliminating all the emotions.
They had dinner together, where again, she gulped down something without realizing what it was, just to not arouse anyone attention to her lack of appetite. After dinner, she excused herself to retire to bed early owing to her journey and the long day. Alice wanted to chat more but quieten up at her mother’s instructions. Chrissy wished them all goodnight and went to the bedroom which she knew she would be sharing with Alice soon. But right now, she needed to be alone.
Once on bed, the entire day came rushing back to her. It was as if her heart was bursting out its pain by re-living the day and there was nothing she could do to stop it. Her surprise at finding Nikloi at the house with her family, his invitation to go to Salisbury, checking the beautiful inn, having lunch together like normal people.
She had to admit, she had enjoyed the day in his company before they had gone to Stonehenge. It was somehow possible to be normal and happy in his company. Today, unlike all other times, she didn’t have to be so restrained with her words as if she was under constant evaluation. She had relaxed, let down her guards. May be that’s why she hadn’t seen what was happening, where she was heading.
She turned to her side, facing the wall and let that tear drop from her eye.
She had known that her mother had been excited about this trip because she thought Chrissy would be able to visit Stonehenge. But Chrissy herself had not given it any thought. She had never imagined, Nikloi would actually take her to visit the Sarsen stones. But he did.
And she had the most memorable time of her life. Being among those stones was a dream come true and she would forever be thankful to him for taking her to the inner sanctum of stones. To touch them was like touching him. Something unattainable, untouchable, against her skin.
Like a live image, she could see her hand on the stones, covered by his hand, his arms embracing her arms, his lips covering hers.
There was a deep ache in her heart. Tears kept rol
ling off her cheeks. Every time she closed her eyes, all she see, all she could think, was the time in his embrace. She kept experiencing that kiss all over again in spite of him being miles away from her.
The taste of his tongue still live in her mouth.
When she couldn’t control the images in her head, she stood up from her bed. It was impossible to sleep because for that she had to close her eyes and the moment she did it, it brought back all the bitter sweet memories of the day.
She went to the window in the room and stood next to it. She could see the moon outside shining brightly up in the dark sky . Would he be as troubled as her , she thought.
Would he be remembering her? Her reaction to his kiss?
Her letting go of all her controls and giving in to her heart’s desires, even so very briefly?
Without knowing consciously, she had revelled in that kiss. Enjoyed in the knowledge that he desired her as a woman. In spite of having nothing in common
with the kind of women he moved around with, in spite of being a plain Jane and in spite of him not thinking very highly of her as he had been expressing in their every meeting, he still wanted her.
She had experienced that desire almost as strongly as him when she had kissed him back. He had been surprised by her reaction. The kiss was etched in her mind for her life, making the earlier two incidences fade to oblivion in comparison.
But then she had realized her mistake. And she had seen the shock on his face when she had pushed him away. Denied him what he wanted. Denied herself what she wanted. But she couldn’t have told him the reality. She couldn’t have accepted to him that she wanted him too in spite of the way he made her suffer every night for her shop before giving her the option of Regency Palace, in spite of the way he didn’t miss a single opportunity to show her down. But most importantly, in spite of the way he had kissed Susan right in front of her.
She couldn’t give in to him because there would not be anything left of her. He would use her just like all his other women and then toss her aside. She knew it first-hand because of their first kiss. No matter how strong was his desire, it was just that. A physical desire. She didn’t mean anything to him.
This was the most difficult decision of her life. She knew the damage she had caused today. He wanted her, at least physically he wanted her. He had made that clear at the time of kissing her as well as when he was watching her in the car. But she had hurt his ego. And being Nikloi Swaroski, he had decided to deal with that hurt in the only way he knew. He had shut her out. He had made it clear to her that he wanted her but would not act on it, not after the way she had turned him down.
She will have to live with this decision all her life.