Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chapter 25 - Finally

Thank God, Kris thought. Thank God.

He quietly moved from his knees to the bed and gathered her in. Kahlan put her legs over his, wrapping into his body, and snuggled against him as closely as she could. For ten minutes, nothing would come but tears. He held on as sobs wracked her body, ripping away what little strength she had left. Kris knew when all the tears were gone, when all her pent up emotions had drained away, there’d be a clean, sturdy place where they could build their life together.

I tried to stop crying but I was so, so tired. Hysterical sobbing is not the typical response to a marriage proposal from the man you love. After everything that had happened, I was relieved, exhilarated, comforted. But I was also completely spent. Kris just held me, like he was trying to absorb my pain, trying to heal me. In those first few minutes, I knew I would never want for anything the rest of my life.

When I finally stopped crying, Kris laid me down, covered me and climbed into bed. We were fully dressed. I couldn’t even remember if I’d showered during my two day shut-in at Cara’s. He didn’t seem to care as he pulled me close.

“Je t’aime, Kahlan.”

“Je t’aime, Kristopher.”

“You know the word fiancée is French.” I could hear him smiling.

“But only one ‘e’ for you, fiancé,” I said.

He cuddled closer, his breath on my neck. “My fiancée is so smart.”

A little giggle got away from me. Then another. Fiancée?! Half an hour ago I was sure he wanted me dead. Now Kris Letang is my fiancée. More laughing.

“You may also be crazy, belle,” he said into my hair.

“You’re stuck with me now,” I stifled my laughter. Fatigue quickly overwhelmed me and for only the second time ever, I fell asleep in Kris’ arms.

The morning came late – we slept till after 10 AM. When I finally woke, feeling pummeled but hopeful, Kris was still attached to me. I lay as still as possible. The word fiancée still bounced around my mind.

In the quiet, I thought of Max. He’d be so sad. He had given me so much. But I knew that Max was also hoping to find forever, he just wasn’t quite there yet. I wasn’t sure I had been there, just the night before. I hoped something wonderful would happen so quickly for Max, to give him what he deserved. Maybe I’d wanted it to be me. Now I just wanted it for him, for his sake. Leaving the house would be hard. But not seeing Max every day would be harder. I said a little prayer that he would still want to see me, would still accept the role of my best friend. We’d promised it to each other countless times. I hoped he would keep his word.

I rolled to face Kris. He slept like an angel – or a puppy or a little kid. Absolute peace. His hair was everywhere, I brushed it from his face and helped myself to all the beauty I could handle. Mine, all mine. Always. Kris woke to find me looking at him. A smile immediately came to his face and his lips to mine.

“Good morning, fiancée,” he said into my mouth. I laughed again.

Instantly it was very clear that Kris and I still had never had sex. How I’d not thought of that once over the past 10 hours seemed insane. The amount of clothing between us was equivalent to a snow suit, but the heat from Kris’ body and the soft spoon of the mattress were almost intoxicating. This was as private as we were going to get.

“Let’s stay here tonight,” I said. “I promise not to cry, and I promise to take a shower. You have waited so long, please let me make it something worth waiting for.”

He gave me a lopsided grin. “So long, belle. You’d better make it really good.”

Max’s car was in the driveway. Kris had agreed to wait half an hour before coming home. I was on my own for this. I let myself in, looked around and knocked on his bedroom door.

“Come in,” he said. It was almost Noon but he was still in bed. He must have known by the fact I hadn’t come back last night. He must have felt it in his heart. But his voice wasn’t really sad. It was just Max. I pulled the curtain a sliver, letting light stream against the far wall. Then I sat on the empty half of the bed. My half, I thought.

“So what happened?” His look was as even as his voice – not hopeful, but not defeated.

“I said yes.”

He exhaled then sat very, very still for a long time. I didn’t move either. My brain played the Max Talbot highlight reel – laughing, cuddling, cheering at games, dancing. None of the sex or crying made the list.

“I am very happy for you, cherie,” he said at last. “You have made the right choice.”

My voice broke a little. “I’m so sorry, Max. I love you so much. I always will. But Kris is the one for me. I should have seen it long ago and I could have saved us all from this.”

He slowly ran his thumb along the underside of my forearm. “Kahlan, I would not have really believed you without all this. You fought so hard, against yourself and us – I know you really love me. It’s better, knowing that. And I got to fight for you too.

“I may have lost, but at least I didn’t give up.” His eyes met mine and he gave me an honest smile. I saw sadness in him, but also something else. Pride maybe, or resolution. And friendship.

“Can you still be my best friend?” I asked. Not ‘will you’, but ‘can you?’ Can you forgive me, can you look at me, can you still love me just a little?

“Always,” he said. I slid up into his arms and gave him a big hug. For the first time my body didn’t melt at his touch. Well maybe a little – he was half-naked and half-asleep. But my dialed-down response told me that we would get past this, we would be strong again.

“So you’re marrying Kris. Guess you’ll be moving out of here?” I nodded.

“Time for a place of my own,” he looked around the darkened room. “Time to grow up, I think.”

There was a team meeting at 3 PM to watch some videotape. Max insisted that I get Kris, come to the Mellon and tell everyone the good news. I was nervous – it still felt so fragile, like saying it out loud might make it disappear. What if something went wrong before tomorrow, or next week? Before we could actually get married? What if I truly did suck at life, despite Kris’ belief otherwise and I ruined this again? Kris wasn’t hearing it.

“I am marrying you. That’s final.” He couldn’t keep a straight face as he pretended to threaten me. “But first I am going to tell everyone all about it.”

We showed up one minute early. I felt conspicuous, so I lagged in the hallway as long as I could. Everyone knew that something was wrong from the way Kris and Max both acted the day before. Didn’t take a genius to figure out that I was the problem. But Kris strode right in, saying hello, like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He talked to a few people until finally they started coming to attention. I turned at the sound of footsteps. It was Max, with a big smile on his face. He pulled me in and kissed my temple.

“I’m going to start calling you Tanger now.”

Kris came out. He and Max didn’t slow, they just gave each other a big hug. Hockey players, they love to hug, I thought. I was so relieved to see them happy together that I almost started to cry. Then Kris came for me.

“Ready, belle?” I bit my lip and nodded. He grabbed my hand and led me right in. Even Coach was there.

“Uh oh,” Bylsma said.

Without any introduction, Kris simply announced, “I want to tell you all that Kahlan and I are getting married.”

One second passed. Then the place went bananas. Jordan knocked over his chair getting to me and swung me around. I was wobbly when he put me down, just to be grabbed by Geno and twirled again. He dumped me, really dizzy, right into Flower’s arms.

“Kahlan, I am so happy for you,” he said, all French and smiling. I kissed him on the cheek. “Now I am really in trouble, I’d better ask Vero to marry me quickly!”

I hugged the whole team. TK felt my stomach for a baby. Sidney laughed and pulled me into the biggest hug I’ve ever had in my whole life.

“You made the right choice. Well, other than me, obviously,” he held my face close to his. “You deserve it. Let him love you.” I almost started to cry, my forehead pressed to Sid’s. He just smiled, then he took my left hand and raised it into the air.

“Kris, what is this? Where I come from, a girl’s not engaged until she’s wearing a ring. Does this mean I still have a chance?”

I might have panicked, but Kris had a huge smile on his face.

“I brought the ring,” Max said from the front of the room. He held up Kris’ Stanley Cup ring.

Kris wrapped his arms around me from behind and pushed me toward the front. I was laughing and crying, everyone was cheering.

“It’s the only ring I have,” he said, taking it from Max. I held out my hand and he slid it onto my ring finger. Then off and back onto my ring and pinky fingers pushed together.

“Fits perfectly, for now,” he said. Then he kissed me, big time, in front of everyone.

They all lost it. Someone threw a stack of papers into the air. Jordan whistled loud enough to rattle the windows. Or at least that’s what people would tell me later. I couldn’t hear a thing.

I went back to the house while they worked. I got cleaned up, packed a bag then went to the mall and bought every single thing in Victoria’s Secret. Everything. I took it to the hotel, dumped it out on the bed and laughed for half and hour.

“Cara!” I shouted when she answered the phone. “Kris and I are getting married!”

She screamed. “For fuck’s sake, Kahlan. Thank God that’s over!”

It took her and Vero each fifteen minutes to get there. Vero was winded when she pounded on my door. “I couldn’t wait for the elevator, I ran up the stairs,” she shouted, throwing herself on me. “I am so happy for you! And for Kris. Ohhh Kris!” She wrung me like a rag doll then took in the pile of lingerie on the bed. “What is all this?”

Cara came in then, repeated the hugging and shouting, then we all stood in front of the small mountain of lace and straps.

“Jesus Kay, don’t kill him before you’re married,” Cara said.

“I couldn’t decide! I couldn’t even think. I got measured and then bought everything they had in my size.”

Vero and Cara sorted through. Every few minutes a bra or slip flew through the air in my direction. When they were done, I had 12 things in my hands. It would have been a stretch to call them outfits.

“Let Kris pick from those,” Vero smiled wickedly. “The rest are for the honeymoon… honeymoon. Oh my God you know what you should…,” she clamped a hand over her mouth. “No! I will talk to Kris.”

“Want to go out to dinner?” Kris asked me on his way back from the arena. I was walking slowly to the hotel, trying not to ruin my still-damp pedicure.

“Want to order food and never leave the room?” I suggested. He laughed and hung up.

I wasn’t there when he arrived. Instead I left him a note on the door: Pick something. Twenty minutes later, I came back. He was blushing adorably and holding both hands behind his back.

“Black or white?” he asked.

“White.” Not exactly pure, I thought, but they even let brides wear white these days.

I handed Kris our takeout slip and sent him across the street to where I’d just ordered dinner. While he was gone, I put on the lingerie he’d chosen. It was a short, white slip with a black lace overlay. The silk stretched across my body like a second skin. I had to smile – it was beautiful and felt expensive. I tied the ribbon at the back then pulled a little black dress on over it. Good thing I went home to pack. I fixed my hair, put on a little makeup and waited.

Kris came back with two bags of food. I set the table as well as I could. From his bag, Kris pulled a bottle of wine. I filled the tumblers from the bathroom. We had steak and greens and potatoes. Kris pulled his chair next mine, both of us on one side of a round table. Then he raised his glass.

“To getting married,” he said.

“To forever,” I answered.

Dinner was exquisite – not just the food, but the tension between us. I took my time eating, drinking, even running my foot up the side of his calf like people do in the movies when they’re about to get it on. He growled at me. When the last of the wine was finally gone, Kris and I looked at each other for a long time. Then he laughed helplessly.

“Now I’m nervous!” he said.

“We’re supposed to be nervous our first time. Just like an old-fashioned married couple.” I broke the tension by draping an arm around his neck and kissing him.

That cured Kris’ nerves. He kissed me deeply and ran his hands, inch by inch, down my body. Kris had touched me before, but now I was his. I happily let him handle the merchandise. My hands were in his hair, pulling his face to mine, over his mind-numbing shoulders and the hard flat of his lower back. As my breathing started to slacken, Kris spun me around. Very slowly, he unzipped the back of my dress. Then he sifted it down, down until it was off my body. I turned to him as I stepped free of the tangle at my feet.

His eyes took in the lingerie he’d chosen. I could tell he did not regret his decision. As his eyes moved over my body I felt powerful, delirious. This was not just desire or lust, coupled with the strains of fear or despair I’d known before. This was all-consuming, victorious and joyful. He touched the lace and I melted into him.

We both moved very slowly. I left his shirt on a painfully long time, knowing I’d lose my mind once he was bare-chested. Kris had proven himself a saint before, but even he seemed to struggle against the pull. His hands slid up my thighs, raising the fabric, until they were at the hips of my panties. He pulled them down, slowly grazing my skin with the silky fabric. Then he straightened my slip back down and resumed kissing me.

“I like to know you’re not wearing any underwear,” he whispered heavily. “Drives me crazy.”

“Never wearing any ever again,” I agreed, thinking of the twenty or so pairs I’d just bought. Oh well!

He laughed into my hair and that was the last straw for me. I rolled, catching him by surprise, and straightened myself on top. Then I slid down his body, resting my chin on his belt buckle. I smiled at him but he looked ready to pounce. My palms slid beneath his shirt and pushed the hem up, kissing and licking and nipping across his abs as I went. When I reached his chest, he gave up and pulled the shirt over his head. My vision swam a little. All that creamy skin, hot to the touch, lying before me. Broad shoulders, defined muscles, taut waist. I had to pause a second and a little sigh puffed out of me.

“You are so beautiful,” I said. “You’re devastating.”

I kissed him a hundred times, maybe a thousand. His belt opened in my hand so I wasted no time unzipping his pants. When they were on the floor, he rolled back on top and stretched his entire body weight out across me. I felt like a sticker really in love with whatever it was stuck to.

He stood and I was instantly bereft. Then he wiggled me out of my lingerie, very careful not to tear it, and poured his eyes over my naked body. His gaze, so full of longing, made my a little dizzy. When he finally touched me, I gasped sharply.

Kris had touched me before, intimately. He’d made me orgasm. But this was different. All the bad stuff was gone and we were both in on it. His lips moved down my neck, across my chest and onto my breasts. His hands joined them. I fought the battle between hurry up and go slow as his tongue flicked my nipple taut. Then his mouth was on my stomach, the ticklish spot along my side. He passed onto my inner thigh, then further down my leg. After kissing the arch of my foot, he stood again.

It’s time. He was tremendously hard. I sat up before him and gently, slowly pulled the waistband of his shorts out and down. I had never seen Kris naked before, had never been this close to his body. Every light in the room was on and it still wasn’t enough to really appreciate him. My brain wanted to swoon. My body wanted to melt. I looked up at him and I smiled. Really genuinely smiled. I was like a cat in heat but I remembered to be happy too.

That lasted a second. Then I was stroking him, drawing my hands along the length of his cock as he mumbled something exquisite in French. My lips grazed his tip but I knew there’d be no time for that now. Next time. With a hand to my shoulder, Kris climbed on top of me. He ground his erection into the soft flesh of my thigh as he took his time kissing me. His hand moved in between us and when his fingers dipped between my legs, I felt him smile against my lips.

“Belle, you want this as much as I do,” he purred.

“More,” I panted. “Can’t wait… any longer….”

He smiled against my lips. “Since you finally asked so nicely….”

Kris pressed the head of his penis to my dripping, trembling skin for an impossibly long moment. I was like a balloon, taking infinitesimally more and more pressure just before popping. A ripple of anticipation passed visibly through my body.

He gave me just a little. A just the tip, barely parting my lips, just enough to know what was about to happen. Then, ever so slightly, more.

He’s some kind of ninja, I thought. This is some self-deprivation Zen mind-control fuckery. I must have been making a face, because he moved a bit more. Another half inch slipped inside. I spooled up a new litany of mental curses when he laughed quietly.

“Belle,” he whispered as he pushed all the way inside me.

You know the noise they play in movies when someone has an ‘a-ha!’ moment? It’s like a burst of light and a choir of angels singing? Fireworks, fog horns, laughter, the launch of the space shuttle?

That is what Kris felt like. Times a thousand.

I gasped as he poured into me like molten liquid. He filled every space, every breath of my body then stopped, perfectly fitted, for a moment. A tear slipped out. Kris brushed it away with his lips and looked into my eyes as he moved again. And again.

Kris’s body and mine were old friends, from some other life. They unlocked each others’ secrets. He moved and I moved and every time something new was created, something passed between us.

I twisted my hips, rolling myself down onto him. He slid into me, pressing all the pain and fear out of my body and filling it with heat, passion, love. As his arms wrapped around, I arched my back to feel him along every part of me. For years I’d been nursing the desire to touch and kiss his shoulders. I did not hold back.

My body trembled from the moment he was inside me. I writhed and gripped, greedily taking in more, again and again. When the sensation caught up with my brain, it sent chaos spiking through my veins. My core tensed. My arms locked. I fought it was hard as I could, pleading and praying to get one more deep stroke from his body. Finally, I lost.

I cried out. It wasn’t a word or a name, it was the sound of months of anguish leaving and light rushing in to fill its space. I saw stars. I held my breath. My body shot like a rocket – a huge release of tension and then a continued rumble. When finally the engines quit, I collapsed.

Kris was still, soaking up the sensation from my body as I squirmed and screamed. When he’d had all he could take, he angled himself down and pressed into me with everything he had. I held his head against my neck as he moaned, loud and low, and spilled all his anger and worry and love and happiness inside me. His orgasm met like waves of gratitude after so much pain.

We lay still for a very long while, drifting in and out of sleep. When Kris finally spoke, it was a whisper.

“Je t’aime, Kahlan.”

“Je t’aime, Kristopher.”

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