EVER encountered the cliché tale where a couple finds one another while stuck in an elevator? You know the drill. Enter protagonist one, followed by protagonist two, followed by the elevator doors closing oh so slowly, almost as if the electronic devices themselves were lost within the sensuality of the moment to come. The elevator starts to move up and the audience holds its breath in anticipation waiting for the moment when, yes, you guessed it, the power cuts out and the elevator stalls.
This is where protagonist one turns to protagonist two and discovers, in a sudden moment of epiphany, that he or she is in love. This revelation is followed by hot monkey sex the likes of which is supposed to be both scandalous and sexy, appealing to the secret exhibitionist hidden deep within each and every one of us. After sharing a wild moment of passion, the couple then declares their everlasting love, whereupon the elevator comes back to life and it is assumed the couple lives happily ever after. Admit it. Most of you have heard it in some form or another, but I can promise you one thing: few, if any, have ever encountered quite it like I have.
It started off following the traditional formula: protagonist one entered the small silver cubicle followed by protagonist two and a giggle. Yes, a giggle, but I'm not going there. The silver doors slid closed at their usual pace, but for some reason, it didn't feel that way. Every moment seemed to be drawn out, fraught with tension and anticipation. After clicking closed, the elevator began its graceful ascent to my apartment floor, and yes, you guessed it, partway there it ground to a halt. No, it wasn't a power failure. I could have dealt with another power failure. He stopped it, by hitting the emergency stop button. You know, the one that stops the elevator in place should something unexpected go wrong? Ok, I admit it, that is even more cliché than a power failure, but it is what happened next that I’m truly trying to draw your attention to.
Lips crashed down to claim lips and fingers buried themselves in strands of silken hair. Heated pants filled space with warm breath, interspersed with gasps and moans of pleasure escaping moist, swollen mouths. He thrust deep, burying himself into slick, tight heat, and pounded flesh till a cry of pleasure rent the silence asunder. The elevator whirled to life and continued its upward journey. The last few moments within that confined space were spent in shell-shocked silence until a soft ping signaled the end, silver doors sliding open with a soft whirr.
He grabbed her hand, stepped out and sauntered away, glancing back at me one last time as he turned the corner, greatly enjoying my distress. I never felt more broken and invisible than I did on that day. Kayden, my best friend, had just taunted me by having elevator sex with some drunk slut while I was forced to stand and watch the remaining strands of our friendship shatter away into a million pieces, each too small to grasp, yet sharper than the one that came before.
Barely conscious of that which surrounded me I let him walk away without so much as a protest leaving my lips. Not a very manly reaction, I know, but let's blame it on my having to live through the soul-scarring experience of watching straight sex. The moment I gathered enough sense to move, I, too, stepped out onto the landing of my apartment floor, for, if truth be told, Kayden doesn't even live in this apartment block, let alone this floor.
I took my key out of my pocket and headed to my apartment door, only to stare blankly at the handle before me. For some reason, the sheer concept of placing the small key into the lock and turning it was completely beyond me at the time. So much for having a high IQ. Defeated by the evils of mechanics, I sank to the floor and buried my face in my hands, no longer seeing anything at all. That is the moment disaster chose to strike.
I was pulled out of my self-pity with a vengeance. The sounds of shattering china preceded the sharp flare of pain that traveled up my leg, drawing a sharp cry from me. Glancing up, I met a pair of the bluest eyes I have ever seen; the clarity of the shade was so piercing it left me breathless. Unfortunately, the owner of these orbs was not amused, and the glare that I was on the receiving end of would have frozen my heart solid if not for the fact that it was already in shattered pieces around me. "What the hell are you doing sprawled across the floor? Are you drunk?" he demanded, derision apparent in every syllable.
I'd like to be able to tell you I replied with a suave comeback, effectively stemming his rage, whereby he then proceeded to ravage me senseless against the door of my apartment, seeing as I'm so irresistible and all that, but life doesn't work that way, does it? Instead, being the relationship-challenged nerd that I am, I dropped my gaze and shook my head, stray strands of sandy brown hair falling into my rather plain, boring, hazel eyes.
"Hey." He knelt down before me, the derision in his voice strangely gone. "Are you sick? Do you need a doctor?"
When he reached out to touch me, I brushed his hand away and shook my head once more, doing my utmost to avoid looking back up into his eyes again. I feared that I would lose myself within them, thus spilling all the sordid details of my rather tragic evening to someone who was in essence a complete stranger to me. And all for a pair of pretty blue eyes. What does that say about the depth of my character? “I’m okay,” I replied softly. “I’m just tired.” And it was true. My encounter with Kayden had drained all the energy out of me with the efficiency of a sadistic vampire feeding on life-giving energy instead of blood.
“You sure?” he queried, and I could feel the intensity of the question in his gaze burning into me. Seems I didn’t have to look into his eyes to feel their impact upon me. Not giving me a chance to reply he reached for me once more, and this time managed to grab the arm I attempted to use to brush his touch away with. “Here, let me help you up.” And that was the end of that. He pulled me up with him, handling my weight as if it were nothing.
It should have been a dazzling moment, one in which I gracefully landed on my feet and nonchalantly thanked him for his assistance in a way that let him know I appreciated it, even though I didn’t need it. Should have, could have, and would have, however, impact nothing in the great scheme of things, and what really happened next is something I will never admit to, to anyone except him, that is. I whimpered—yes, like a little puppy in pain—and crumbled back down to the ground. If I hadn’t been in so much pain at the time, I would have been humiliated beyond belief.
“That’s it. You’re obviously not ‘okay,’ as you so nicely put it.” He swung me up into his arms, easy as can be. I guess my lanky five-foot-seven frame was no challenge for his rather robust six-foot-three or so. Feeling the sheer muscle pressed intimately against me, I wondered if perhaps he didn’t make a living being an athlete. Athletics aside, he carried me to the apartment next door to my own, carefully sidestepping piles of boxes on his way to the bathroom. That is when I really did have an epiphany that evening. Sexy Blue Eyes was going to be my next door neighbor. Oh hell.
Placing me down on the toilet, he then proceeded to run his hands over every inch of my body, and I couldn’t help but wish I could change his intentions. Every cell in my brain knew he was checking me for injuries, yet every cell in my body seemed to ignore that reality, sending trickles of pleasure through my body, heading straight to the last place I needed it—until he reached my ankle, that is. Sharp pain coursed through my body when he shifted it, killing every other thought except the desperate one to breathe from my one-track mind.
“It’s swollen.” He mused before standing and leaving me alone with my misery. I heard him shuffle a few boxes around and jumped in surprise when a door slammed open with a dull thud. “What’s up with the broken dishes scattered all over the hallway, Dylan?” A second male voice intruded upon my mind. “Taking a shot at being Greek?”
“Michael, great, you’re here. Do you have your kit with you? I have no idea where I packed my first aid supplies among all this mess, and I have someone in the bathroom that may require some medical attention.”
“You just got here and you’re already picking up strays?” Michael responded, peering into the bathroom as he did so. That is when I was faced with the second most gorgeous pair of eyes I had ever seen. Nothing beats clear, deep blue, at least not in my opinion. Michael’s eyes are deep emerald green, and at the time, they were sparkling like the gems they seemed to resemble. I got the impression Michael was laughing at Dylan for some reason or another. Thinking back to that moment, I sometimes wonder why I wasn’t overcome by a rush of jealousy. Considering the way my evening was going, that would have been a rather logical reaction, but it never occurred to me that Michael could be Dylan’s lover, not even for a moment. I guess there are some things you just know without being told.
Michael ran a glance over me from head to toe and paused when he saw the discoloration of the skin around my ankle. A soft whistle escaped his lips, and he glanced up at me once more. “How did you manage to get that winner of a bruise?” he questioned, shaking his head. “Wait right here. I’ll get my kit and then I’ll check it out.” World’s shortest conversation accomplished, he turned and ran out, not giving me time to react. Seemed to be a trend that night, but I guess that would be the rather literal definition of being swept away, now wouldn’t it? Not quite what I pictured the experience to entail when I read all those romance books and yes, that is a secret I’ll keep even from him. As far is he knows, I’ve never read a fiction novel in my life, and that’s the way it’s going to stay. Men simply don’t read romance novels, or so I’ve been told.
Michael didn’t leave me completely alone. The moment he slipped away, Dylan was back. He leaned against the doorframe, watching me as I sat, feeling much like a petulant child, upon the toilet seat in his bathroom. “The name’s Dylan Kincaid,” he introduced himself, in case I missed Michael’s censure a moment earlier. “I’d offer you some water, but Michael will kill me if I do.” He took a few steps into the bathroom and seated himself across from me, balancing far too gracefully than a man his size had a right to on the edge of the bathtub.
“Why would he do that?” I inquired with a raised eyebrow. My lips quirked up, a trickle of amusement making its presence known despite the rather degrading situation I found myself in. You can’t tell me that picturing Dylan—Mr. Six-Three, hot, sexy blue eyes, solid athletic build and insane strength—being ordered around by anyone isn’t a funny thought. Okay, so maybe, if anyone could do it, Michael could. He has an overwhelming personality and knows how to get what he wants. He is a little taller than Dylan, but far more lean. Not quite as lanky as I am, but then again, only geeks, like me, get that privilege, and Michael is no geek. “Not into hospitality, is he?”
Dylan smiled at me. I didn’t expect it, and the simple motion left me breathless, but we’ll blame my shortness of breath on the pain coursing through me to keep my sense of masculinity intact. “No. Apparently you’re not supposed to give an injured person anything in case an operation is required.”
I glanced down at the bubble that was pretending to be my ankle and chewed my bottom lip while my thoughts raced about like ping pong balls in my head. I didn’t want an operation. I’m allergic to anesthetic, and the thought of getting cut open without something to knock me out was not promising to say the least. Okay, I admit it, I was absolutely terrified, but I wasn’t about to admit it in front of a hot, sexy, Adonis of a man who I was hoping to hit on in the future. I’d already made a bad impression. No need to make it even worse by bursting into hysteria, right?
“So, I’ve introduced myself. Now it’s your turn.” Dylan abruptly changed the subject in a valiant attempt to distract me from thoughts of operations. Not very successfully, I might add, because the thought of even more pain simply refused to leave me, but you can’t blame a guy for trying.
I released my lip and licked at it, trying to rid it of the sting I’d inflicted upon it, and yes, I saw how Dylan’s eyes followed the path my tongue took, his own breath short. Unfortunately, he, unlike me, couldn’t blame it on injury and pain. That left me feeling all smug. “Avery.” I left it at that. What did my surname matter anyway? If everything worked out I fully intended to become Avery Kincaid, and if not? Well, it’s a lot more difficult to track someone down without a surname.
“Avery?” he repeated, and I could hear an undertone of disbelief in his voice. I don’t know why, but my name always gets a strange reaction. I blame that on the strange town fate decided to dump me into. I mean, Avery is a perfectly normal name if you ignore what it sounds like. “You mean Avery as in—”
“Birdbrain.” I cut him short. I already knew where that sentence was going. Been there, done that, got the birdseed. “Yes, I’m a warm fuzzy home for our feathered friends, though if one pays careful attention to intonation, one will realize it is pronounced ‘a-ver-ree’ and not ‘a-vee-air-ree.’”
The chuckle that escaped his lips that night was warm, and for the life of me I couldn’t take offense at it, even though I was convinced he was laughing at me. “I was going to say Avery Brooks, but let’s go with your version.” He reached over and ruffled my hair. Yes, he actually had the audacity to do that, but then again, as I was to learn, Dylan doesn’t understand the concept of boundaries and propriety. Not that I minded all that much. My brain temporarily took a detour from Operation Lane straight to “Oh hell, what I wouldn’t do to get into his pants” Boulevard.