Monday, June 14, 2010

Chapter 7 - One Condition

I drove to the airport. The ride was mostly quiet, but the blood rushing in my head was deafening. I tried to stay conscious as we unloaded the car. Once the gear was off, I hugged Max goodbye.

“Miss you,” he said into my ear.

Then Kris. “Au revoir, belle.” He winked.

I leaned against the side of Max’s truck and closed my eyes for a minute as they walked away. I opened them when I heard footsteps coming back. It was Sidney, jogging over in his suit.

“Hi,” he said, breathing a little hard. He held out an envelope in his hand. “I wanted to give you this. Don’t open it till Wednesday.”

“What is it?”

He stepped in to give me a hug. “I thought girls liked surprises,” he said.

“You’re getting pretty smooth, Crosby,” I smiled.

“Feel free to let me know if it’s working,” he smiled, turned and headed for the plane.

Tuesday night, I took a break from studying to watch the Pens game against Atlanta. They played evenly, but lost in a shootout. I knew that shootouts killed Marc, but I still thought they were fun to watch. I went back to my books, only a few hours before my big final.

An hour after the game, back at my desk, my phone sounded a text message. Three messages actually.

Max: Well that sucked.

Kris: Could have used your good luck tonight.

Sid: F-ing shootouts. Want to come to Florida?

I texted them all back at the same time: Win one for me in the Sunshine State.

Ten minutes later, from Sid: We are Canadian and have no idea what you’re talking about.

Wednesday morning, I got ready to head to the coffee shop for some breakfast and a last minute review of everything for my exam. I was packing my bag when the doorbell rang.

What the heck?

I opened the door, and there was a waiter with a table. He had a white suit coat on and everything, like room service in a hotel. He was pushing a wheeled table, with a big silver dome covering some dishes.

“Kahlan?” he asked.

“Uhhh, yeah,” I managed.

“I’m Stephen with Room Service. We had an order to deliver you breakfast today.” He pushed the cart toward me and I backed out of the way. He went straight to the living room and set up in front of the chair.

“Who ordered this?” I asked, but he ignored me.

He poured a glass of water, laid out a napkin and motioned for me to sit down. When I had, he pulled the silver cover off with a flourish. An impossibly perfect-looking set of French toast, eggs, bacon and orange juice was laid before me. A little basket of toast held a little bowl of butter, keeping it warm.

“And last but not least,” Stephen said, reaching into the refrigerated compartment. He put down a tall, narrow glass of picture perfectly separated Thai iced tea.

“Enjoy,” he said. “When you’re done, simply leave the cart on the porch and we’ll retrieve it later.”

I was stunned. “Um, Stephen, do I owe you anything?”

“No miss. But there is this,” he held out an envelope, “and I am supposed to tell you, ‘Good luck on your final.’” He smiled and swept out the door.

I tore open the envelope. Inside was a green card with a picture of a pink flamingo on the front. It was in his handwriting.


It’s not fair that Max and Kris get to see you every morning. So this morning, think of me. I am thinking of you.


PS: Good luck on your exam!

PPS: You can open the other envelope after you ace your test.

PPPS: I still want to kiss you.

After eating the delicious breakfast and savoring the Thai iced tea, I pushed the cart outside and headed for school. I was 30 minutes early for my test, which was good because I couldn’t stop thinking about breakfast. I texted Sid:

Thank you. That was the sweetest thing.

Two minutes later, I got a reply.

Wait till you see what else. Don’t open till after. Good luck!

I did some deep breathing to calm down and reviewed my notes one more time. I sat for the final, poured it all out, checked everything twice and finished in just under two hours. When it was over, I made myself walk around campus for 15 minutes. I was pretty sure I’d done well, though a few questions had me stumped. I came back to the Management building as Cara was coming out.

“So? What did you think?” she asked.

“Pretty good. 85% maybe?”

She laughed. “Me too, if I’m lucky. What was that crap about profit margin restructuring in tax shelter countries?”

“Okay, 80%.” I smiled. We hugged and did a little celebratory dance. I only had two finals left. We headed off toward the cafĂ©, comparing answers to some of the test questions.

“Any developments in Hockeygate 2010?” she asked over her plate of pasta.

“Well,” I almost had to laugh at myself. Out loud this was going to sound like a soap opera.

"Max kissed me and I almost came. Kris kissed me and I almost fainted. Sidney sent me breakfast this morning, somehow, involving a waiter coming right to my door with bacon and eggs. And he said wants to kiss me.”

Cara’s mouth fell open, and she threw her fork at me. I ducked, laughing, as it clattered to the ground behind me.


“Hand to God,” I said, doing exactly that. “It was scary, Cara. Both kisses felt so out of control. If either of them had tried to go farther, I don’t think I would have stopped then. Could have stopped, wanted to stop – I don’t know. I can see how it easy it would be to go way too far. And when they get back next week, I have no idea what’s going to happen.”

“The heat is on is Saigon,” she said, reaching for my fork.

I waited until I was back in the car to take out Sidney’s second envelope. I’d had it in my back pocket all through the exam. I turned it over and slit the sticker sealing it. Inside was another pink flamingo card.


No matter what you decide, I’m not going anywhere. (But you are.)


PS: Still really want to kiss you.

I unfolded the insert: a round-trip ticket from Pittsburgh to Halifax, Nova Scotia dated for the Christmas break.

I pulled up to the airport very late Friday night. The boys had won a game at the Panthers and another at Tampa Bay. They’d flown home right after Tampa, and were landing at 2 AM. I got out of the car and leaned against it, pulling my coat around me. It was nice on the tarmac of the private airport at night – all lit up but no noise. I heard a car door close somewhere to the left.

“Salut Kahlan,” Vero called, making her way over. She was wearing one of Marc’s coats, arms too long for her frame.

“Salut, Vero. How are you?”

“Good. Glad they won, they’ll be happy,” she said. “Late nights after bad losses are the worst.”

I nodded in agreement. A bad game or two could put our house in a funk for days. We watched as a light in the sky grew closer, larger, slower. When the plane touched down the guys staggered off, fetching their bags from the luggage carts. Max smiled when he saw me.

“I would like to see you at 2 AM every day,” he wrapped me in a hug.

Kris was right behind him. “Salut, Belle. It’s good to be home with you.”

They piled their stuff into the trunk and saddled up. I looked around and saw Sidney wheeling toward us.

“Did you like it?” he asked when he reached me. I nodded.

“Even better than breakfast?” I kept nodding.

“How was the test?” Still nodding.

“Excellent,” he leaned in and kissed my cheek. “Sweet dreams.” And he headed off toward his car.

I managed to get out of the parking lot before the questions started.

“The Kid told us he left you a surprise,” Max prompted.

I smiled. “Pretty good one too. He had some crazy hotel-style waiter bring me breakfast before my final. Right to the house.”

Max looked surprised, Kris exhaled audibly.

“That guy is good,” Kris said.

The next morning, Max appeared by my side on the couch.

“I brought you a present,” he said, sitting. “It seems the guys both gave you something before we left. I should have thought of that.” He leaned in. “I was busy thinking about kissing you.”

I blushed and looked away. When I looked back, he was holding out a flat package wrapped in purple tissue paper. I opened it and let out a squeal.

“MAX! Oh my God!” I gasped.

In my hands was an 8x10” framed cartoon cell from Walt Disney’s Robin Hood. It showed Robin and Marion dancing near a stream in Sherwood Forest. The song “Love” from the movie popped into my head.

I gaped at him. “This is my favorite movie. Ever.”

“I know,” he smiled. “They have Disney everything down there, but this was tough to find. You might be the only one who loves that movie so much.”

I stood and put the frame down on the chair. I grabbed Max’s hands and pulled him up. Then I threw myself on him in huge hug.

“Thank you, it is amazing,” I said. I was beaming.

“Consider it a graduation gift,” he hugged me back.

I sat back down and sang “The Phony King of England” at the top of my lungs, until Max threatened to throw me into a snow bank.

I could stay here like this, Max thought as he watched her remember all the words to the song. Just us. But merde, she’s a horrible singer.

“What is the personnel management system developed by Toyota in the 1980s?” Kris read from my study guide.

I was lying on the floor in the living room, staring at the ceiling. He was stretched out on the couch, one arm crooked behind his head. I could see his tattoo, covering his bicep.

“Oh who cares!” I said, sitting up.

“Pas moi,” and he threw the study guide into the air. “Where is Max?”

I looked at the clock. “Haircut, maybe?”

Kris was standing over me, hand out. “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Ball,” I shouted.

“What? Strike, strike!” he insisted.

I was sitting on a bench in the park, grading Kris’ snowball-throwing accuracy. It was fairly warm out for Pittsburgh in early December. Kris climbed back onto his makeshift pitching mound. He was wearing a dark blue ski coat with gloves. A wool hat covered his hair. He waved to the invisible, adoring crowd. I waved back.


“Eh? Better?” he trudged in my direction.

“A strike if I ever saw one,” I said.

He sat next to me on the bench, looking at our feet in the snow. “Kahlan, are you doing okay?” he asked, not looking at me.

I sighed. He hadn’t said a word about our kiss. At least Max had made a joke, put it out there and let me know it was fair game. But Kris didn’t make light of the situation.

“I’m worried,” I said, turning to look at him. “That kiss… Kris, that kiss.” I had to exhale.

“Moi aussi,” he made a circle in the snow, rolling his ankle. “I did not intend to kiss you like that. But I couldn’t help it.” He looked at me now. “You kissed me back.”

I nodded. “I couldn’t help it either. I wasn’t expecting it to be like that.”

The corner of his mouth smiled. “Good?”

“Epic,” I said.

He sighed. “I don’t know what to do. I want to kiss you every day,” he paused, and seemed to shake a thought from his head. “Why did I wait so long? I have known this… why didn’t I tell you sooner, before everyone else?”

“Kris,” I sagged against his shoulder. “Don’t. Please don’t.”

He looked down at me. “What do you worry about?”

“I don’t want to be alone,” I said softly. “I want to be with someone. I haven’t had that in a long time. And the last time… it was nothing. Nothing like this.” I rocked away and looked up at him. “It would be easiest for everyone if I did not choose. Easiest for me.”

Kris put his arm around me. It was cold now. He brushed some stray snowflakes from my skin.

“Belle,” he said. “I want to make you happy. If that means seeing you with someone else, I will do that. Don’t worry about me.”

“I will always worry about you,” I said.

Kris put his hand on my face, turned it toward him. He leaned down and kissed my lips. It was soft, ripe, slow. A lazy, no-pressure kiss. A moment later, he broke away.

“Let’s go inside,” he said.

She is worried about being alone. I know how she feels, Kris thought. Max, he is never alone. But I think he is lonely too.

“Last test tomorrow?” Sid asked into the phone.

“One more after that, but almost done,” I answered. I was sprawled on my bed surrounded by books and papers. I’d been thinking about Kris and the snowballs yesterday when my phone rang.

“Want to take a study break and have dinner?”

“You have a game tonight,” I pointed out.

“Come over and have pre-game meal. Nathalie is cooking.”

I was a little afraid to be with Sid. He was as fun and sweet as ever, but the kiss-that-never-was still hung over us. He’d been so thoughtful with his gifts the week before, I was almost unsure of how to act around him.

“Don’t be scared to hang out with me,” he said softly, reading my mind.

I closed my eyes, caught. “I will come over.”

I pulled into Mario’s driveway at 3:30 PM. I let myself in and swung through the kitchen.

“Kahlan!” Nathalie put down her spoon and gave me a hug. “Nice to see you! I hope you’re hungry, it’s pasta tonight. Sid is upstairs. It’ll be ready in 30 minutes.”

I admired their house as I walked to Sidney’s side. He had a huge portion of the place to himself. It was a palace, really, but Mario and Nathalie were so down to Earth that it felt homey. I lifted my hand to knock on Sid’s door as he pulled it open.

“Hi!” he swept me up into a hug. “Thanks for coming.”

I was a little flustered by his welcome, but Sid was always goofy. His room was large, with a big bed and desk. The couch was set up in front of the TV, a pile of video game consoles on the floor in front of it. Clothes were stacked in front of the closet – clearly someone did the laundry but didn’t put his stuff away for him. He propelled me over to the couch and sat across from me.

“Kay,” he said.

Oh boy, here we go.

“I guess we do need to talk about this,” I said.

Relief crossed his face. “I have been going over what I want to say a hundred times. Let me get it all out, before I lose my nerve.” He shifted in his seat.

“I have liked you for a long time. Max seems to think he should have noticed before, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I’m not such a tool after all,” he smiled. “I was scared. You’re one of us, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. I didn’t want to be the reason you left. I would like to be the reason that you stay. I’ve already said that. But I would rather not be part of the problem. So I want to offer you an out.”

I wasn’t moving.

“I will leave off pursuing you. If you want me to. You don’t have to turn me down, I will just step away. On one condition,” he said. “You have to let me kiss you first.”

I sat perfectly still. I knew this was a chance to take my problem down a notch. Like a ‘Get Out of Jail’ free card. Part of me had secretly, selfishly wished for something like this to happen. But I also knew that wasn’t fair to Sid. He was protecting me, and protecting himself. After so much trouble, wasn’t the point to figure out what I really wanted? Not to dither about till the problem took itself away? What if Sidney was what I wanted and I lost him because I was scared?

Maybe I was being selfish, liking all this attention in some masochistic way. Sid had a lot to offer a girl, and he was already a great friend. Who wouldn’t want to date him, fall in love with him?

“Sid,” I said softly. “I don’t know if I want you to give up.”

He was on me in an instant. I was flat on my back, Sid’s lips on mine. He crawled his body up the couch, perfectly aligning himself before pressing down on top of me. I gave in to the kiss hungrily. I was flustered and really turned on. This bold move was surprising. His hands were in my hair, at my neck, my sides. I reached over his back and pulled up his t-shirt.

You’re losing it, I warned myself.

Don’t care! the other half of my brain replied.

I had been wound so tightly for weeks. Finals, finishing school, Max in the shower, Kris in the kitchen…

Stop thinking about them! I screamed at myself. An image flashed through my mind – a red button labeled ‘Self Destruct.’

I tossed his shirt away. With his body lifted, he used the space between us to unbutton my top. Once it was open, he covered my body with kisses. His strong hands devoured me. He pulled the cup of my bra down and touched my hard nipple. He licked it and flicked his tongue over me. His knee was pressing down between my thighs, and I moved against him. I thought I might black out. I pulled his head up so he was looking at me.

“Bed,” he rasped. I nodded.

He stood, scooped me up, and carried me three steps to the bed. He fairly tossed me onto it. Then he was on top of me again. I slid my hand down and over his jeans. He was rock hard, as expected. I started undoing the belt. His hands were under my ass.

I tugged his zipper down. His breathing was ragged as I pushed his jeans off and hooked my fingers into the waistband of his boxer briefs. I pulled away, revealing his cock. I wrapped my hand around it, felt him throbbing. He was hot to the touch. My body was rioting.

He unbuttoned my pants and opened the fly in one movement. I lifted my butt as he pushed them away. He ran a finger over my panties, near my hip, and looked at me.

“Are you sure,” he panted.

“No,” I said truthfully, and kissed him hard.

A moment later, I gasped as he pressed himself into me. I could feel him sliding all the way in, filling every space. I was hot, wet and trembling. He pulled out and pushed in again, I could feel him shaking as he did.

“Kay, I can’t hold…” he gasped.

I dug my nails into his ass, pulling him into me as far as he could go. He pumped once, twice, and on the third time, I saw stars. A white hot bolt of lightning ripped through my body. I writhed underneath him, my back arched. I bit back a scream as it rolled over my head.

Sid rocked into me two more times, then he shuddered. I felt his entire body vibrate, from his broad chest down through his chiseled thighs. He collapsed. We lay there panting for a full five minutes, silent. He was still inside me, still on top of me. I couldn’t have spoken a whole sentence if I’d wanted to.

“Wow,” he whispered.

“Wow,” I replied.

He peeled himself off and propped himself up on an elbow. I could see things running through his mind. His chocolate brown eyes were scanning mine like radar, looking for clues.

Shit, Sidney almost said out loud. I knew it. And now she knows it too.

He finally spoke. “You really love them both, don’t you?”

Instantly tears stung my eyes. I nodded. “Oh God,” I whispered.

“I will back off,” he said quietly. “What just happened, that was us. You and me and nobody else.”

I bit my lip. I knew it then, like touching a hot stove just to see it if burns. This was not what I wanted, not like this. If Sidney needed me to fall in love, I couldn’t give it to him.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t plan for this to happen,” he smiled sadly. “And I don’t think you came here for this.” I shook my head. “You love them. I don’t want to compete with that.”

He sighed. “I really like you, Kahlan. And obviously we could have something amazing,” he smiled and it made me smile. “Now that we know, can we go back to the way we were? I need that version of you in my life. I can’t risk losing it. And this, this is between us.”

A tear slipped down my cheek, followed by another. Sid reached over and brushed them away. He kissed where they’d fallen. I was still shaking from my orgasm, from fear and guilt and surprise and overwhelming gratitude toward Sidney.

“Thank you,” I whispered.

He smiled, and it grew into that goofy grin I loved so much. “Thank you. That was crazy hot. I will be thinking about that a LOT in the future.” He winked and I slapped his arm.

He leaned back over me. “If it doesn’t work out down here, we can always do a slow-motion replay when you come to Nova Scotia.”

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