“Little ballerina,” my grandfather whispers, luring me awake. I can’t open my eyes, but I have a feeling I should. Suddenly, my window bursts open and a gust of wind and rain blows the sheet off my body. I spring out of bed, terrified. I dash out of the bedroom and toward the nearest light source, which comes from beneath Reid’s bedroom door. I knock frantically.
Loud stomping moves across the room, and he swings the door wide open. “My god, Cara. Are you all right?”
I can’t answer through the sobbing. I rush into the light, right past him and take deep breaths. Before I know it, he’s wrapping his arms around me and whispering, “What happened?” over and over again. His warmth comforts me as does his scent. He smells soapy and fresh. Alive.
“I think this place is haunted.”
“What makes you say that?”
I pull out of his arms and notice for the first time that he isn’t wearing a shirt, just pajama bottoms that hang loosely from his hips, like the first night we met. Much to my embarrassment, my eyes travel all the way down his well-sculpted torso, from his broad shoulders and firm pecs that have the perfect smattering of hair, over his defined abs, and down his happy trail. Yes, he has a trail of happiness, and I’m definitely staring at it.
He shakes me a bit. “Cara?”
“The window burst open,” I tell him and shiver from the memory.
“Did you forget to lock it?”
“I don’t know. I don’t remember. I think it was my grandfather. . .” I trail off.
“It was the storm, I promise. These windows are old.” He sits me down on his bed and then darts out of the room, I suspect to check things out and shut the window. When he returns, he sits beside me.
“There was something else.” I try to remember why I got so scared.
“What else?” he asks quietly and then gently squeezes my hands, making my anxiety melt away.
“I think I heard my name, or it was the nickname he had for me.”
Embarrassment replaces any remaining fear. It had to have been a dream. I’m starting to come out of it, and realize where I am and what’s happening. I also realize that I’m only wearing a t-shirt and panties. I try to roll with it, but I can’t help pull my hands out of his grasp and yank my t-shirt down over my thighs.
It doesn’t go unnoticed. He stands up and turns away, then clears his throat. I check out his back, which is as well sculpted as his chest. The first night we bumped into each is such a blur, so I’m a little surprised at how muscular he is, but I’m even more surprised at the tattoo he has on his shoulder. I did not notice that before. It’s an angular lion standing on its back legs and roaring with sharp claws. A monogram of K-L-G is weaved between flames around it, all in black. A tattoo doesn’t fit his personality in the slightest. How did that come to be?
Climbing off his big bed, I tell him, “It was just a dream, I’m sorry I woke you.”
“It’s okay, I wasn’t sleeping,” he says as he slips on a t-shirt, much to my disappointment. “I was working.”
“This late?” I ask as I head toward his door.
He looks over his shoulder at me and nods, and then quite clearly flexes his jaw. Time to go. I’m sorry I interrupted his work and cried in front of him again. Will I ever stop crying in front of this guy?
“Goodnight, Reid,” I murmur.
“Cara, wait,” he says and takes a few steps toward me. His eyes meet mine before he puts his hand on my shoulder and runs it down my arm. Warm tingles glide up my spine. “Are you sure you’re all right?”
I look away and shake my head. “Yeah, totally.”
“Do you want me to walk you to your room?”
“No,” I jump in, too embarrassed as it is. “I’ve got it.”
He takes a step back and studies me for a moment, before crossing his arms. “Goodnight, Cara,” he says as softly as he did in the dining room.
I turn to go, but still feel his eyes on me until I’m out of his sight. Back in my room, I turn on the light and shut the door. I crawl back into bed and pull the covers up to my ears.
My eyes wander from my ballerina painting over to the wall I share with Reid. I replay our moment over and over again, rubbing my hands together, trying to erase the feeling of his hands holding mine, but it’s impossible. I feel him, I smell him, and I see in my dreams all night long.
Copyright © 2018 Ellie Malouff
All rights reserved.