Did I Mention I Need You? by Estelle Maskame


  “Mmm,” he murmurs.

  “I think you better switch that off,” I whisper. Throwing a glance at the camcorder on the bedside table, I kiss the edge of his jaw.

  Tyler smirks, expression full of mischief. “How about we keep it on?”

  “Hmm.” Playfully, I lean back and sit up. “Never mind then.” I swing my body off his and slide out the bed, getting to my feet.

  “Okay, okay, I’ll turn it off,” Tyler says, leaning over to grab the camera. He shuts it off within a split second.

  “Too late now,” I say with a shrug, teasingly. It feels slightly odd looking at him in his own bed rather than the couch for once, and I decide right then and there that I’m going to let him sleep next to me every night from now on. I want to wake up like this each and every day. “Coffee?”

  “You know it.”

  Late afternoon, thunder and scattered rainstorms began to torment the city. Dark skies and rain have hung over Manhattan ever since, and just as Tyler and I are deciding whether or not we’re still going to head out to view the celebrations, the power suddenly cuts out.

  The apartment plunges into darkness and there’s no noise besides the sound of the rain rolling down the windows. Outside, the usual lights of New York City are just as they should be. It’s only Tyler’s building that’s lost all power.

  “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I mutter in disbelief. I edge my body closer to Tyler’s and reach out to touch his arm through the limited lighting.

  “What a mess,” he says, taking a few steps back. “July Fourth and it’s raining like hell and now we don’t have power?” I feel him grasping at our surroundings as he begins to edge his way through the living room. My fingers tighten around the hem of his tee and I follow slowly at his heels. “I think there are candles in the laundry room somewhere. Never thought we’d ever use them.”

  It’s only a matter of seconds before Tyler clashes into the kitchen worktop, the noise of his hip hitting the edge enough to make even me flinch. He groans but doesn’t stop for long, and leads me into the laundry room. I’m only wearing underwear and an oversized T-shirt, so I stretch my hand under my shirt to retrieve my phone from my bra. Although the light given off by my phone is limited, it helps Tyler to locate a collection of wax candles on one of the shelves above the dryer.

  “Here,” he says, handing me a couple of them. “Set them up in the living room for me?”

  I do as he asks, and I squirm my way back through the darkness and set the candles down on the coffee table. My eyes are slowly adjusting to the lack of light and I’m beginning to make out the outlines of the furniture and even Tyler’s body as he walks over to join me. “Over here,” I say. Extending both my arms, I reach for his wrist and pull him over.

  Setting down a few more candles, he stuffs his hands into the pockets of his jeans and there’s a jingling noise of keys and loose change as he pulls out a lighter. He runs his thumb over the spark wheel and a burning flame flickers to life, illuminating a tiny proportion of the room. Lighting the candles we’ve brought through, he puts the lighter back in his pocket and picks up two of the six candles, carrying them back over to the kitchen. He positions one on each worktop, and as he approaches me again, I can see his entire face. There’s an orange glow cast over the room, and despite the fact that it’s raining outside the apartment feels warm and cozy.

  “How about we just stay here?” he asks, arching an eyebrow. “I mean, you’re not even dressed yet. We’re gonna get soaked. Who knows, they might even cancel the display.”

  Snake and Emily headed out earlier to claim a decent viewing spot for the display over the Hudson River, and we’re supposed to be meeting them within the next half-hour. I’m not sure they’d be too impressed if we didn’t show up, especially when it was Tyler who was adamant we stayed in Manhattan.

  “Are we making it a tradition to skip the fireworks?” I ask teasingly.

  “I’ve got an idea,” he says quietly, ignoring my question, setting the two candles down on the table and making his way back toward me. He picks up another two, firing his eyes in the direction of his room. So I head over there, carrying a third candle with me.

  “What’s your idea?” I ask, placing the candle down onto one of the bedside tables. The room is dark and the weather outside is thunderous, yet the three small candles we’ve brought through provide us with some light, enough to see each other.

  Only one half of Tyler’s face is lit up, and as he moves toward his bed, I watch his shadow dance across the walls. “Baby, come here,” he murmurs, and a lump rises in my throat as I follow his order. “I want to play a game.”

  “A game?” I echo. I try my hardest to appear calm and confident and cool, but it seems impossible. My voice is almost a squeak. However, it doesn’t stop me from softly gripping the sheets as I crawl onto the bed next to him and sit on my knees.

  Tyler licks his lips as he studies me, as if wondering if I’m too delicate, too fragile for what he has in mind. I’m not. Just slightly nervous. “Turn around,” he says quietly but firmly.

  “Turn around?” I repeat, swallowing. I analyze his features as I try to figure out what he’s thinking, but he isn’t giving anything away. He’s just looking at me, expression nonchalant.

  “Eden,” he says again.

  I loosen up, relaxing as I take a deep breath. In the candlelight, I twist my body around so that my back is to him and my legs are crossed, and I say nothing more. I just wait.

  “Take your shirt off,” he orders gently, and even against the rain, his voice seems like the most powerful thing around me right now.

  It takes me by surprise, but I don’t panic. Everything feels so comfortable and just right. Closing my eyes, I exhale slowly as I reach down for the hem of my T-shirt. My heart is beating fast, but it’s not pounding against my chest and my pulse isn’t racing, so I pull it off with ease and drop it to the floor. I’m not sure what Tyler’s doing.

  I suddenly shiver and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m almost completely bare and slightly cold or if it’s because I’m almost completely bare in front Tyler. Either way, I don’t feel uncomfortable.

  “And this,” Tyler murmurs, the mattress beneath us shifting as he moves his body closer to mine. Carefully, he gathers my hair, moving it to one side and pressing his cool lips to the back of my shoulder, breathing heavily against my skin. His opposite hand runs along the clasp of my bra.

  “What?” I whisper.

  “Take it off,” he urges, his lips running across the back of my neck.

  Reaching behind me, I feebly fumble around with the clasp and release it. My chest relaxes and my breath finally hitches. Now I’m anxious. It’s been so long. Two years, specifically. I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that I don’t want to say no. The sexual tension between us has been building up ever since the Yankees game, from the moment Tyler mentioned Derek Jeter and home runs. And I think, Maybe this is it. Maybe our home run is here. Maybe it’s time. I have been waiting, always too awkward to bring it up, having assumed that Tyler had forgotten about the deal we made, and now that the moment has arrived I’m suddenly terrified. It feels like our first time all over again. And so I might be terrified and I might be nauseous, but I don’t think I’ve ever wanted anything more than I want this.

  Numbly, I push my bra onto the floor and close my eyes. I’m so glad I’m not facing him. I don’t think I’d be able to meet his gaze right now. He doesn’t say anything, though. We just sit in silence for a moment, and then I feel the tips of his fingers against my skin. Softly, he traces patterns on my back.

  I say nothing either, mostly because I don’t think I’m capable of stringing a decent sentence together right now, and I sit still, my eyes resting on the candle in front of me. Tyler moves for a second but quickly falls back into his position behind me, and I hear the clicking of a pen lid as he pops it off. I want to turn around or at least glance back at him to see what he’s doing, but I get the feeling tha
t he doesn’t want me to look.

  Suddenly, he presses the tip of the pen to my back and the ink feels strange against my skin. For a moment or two, I almost feel like giggling at the feeling. I avoid the temptation to move and I allow Tyler to write whatever it is he’s writing. The pen tip swirls against my skin and the sensation of curves and dots forming is fascinating as he marks words on my body, an entire string of them.

  “Done,” Tyler announces, sounding satisfied. “Eden.”

  “Tyler?”

  “Turn around,” he orders again. His voice is completely hushed and I can feel the intensity of his eyes on me.

  Now I’m shaking a little. Not because I’m nervous, but because I know it’s wrong to turn around. I know it’s unfaithful to Dean. I know. That’s the worst part about this. I know this is wrong and I know it’s unfaithful, yet I do it anyway. Squeezing my eyes shut, I turn my body around to face Tyler directly, and by the time I stop moving my pulse really is racing and my heart really is pounding like hell. Slowly, I open my eyes.

  Tyler’s gazing at me, his glowing eyes analyzing my body. They rest on my breasts for several long seconds, and then they drift back up to meet mine. “ ‘The nakedness of thy sister, the daughter of thy father, or daughter of thy mother, whether she be born at home, or born abroad, even their nakedness thou shalt not uncover,’ ” Tyler murmurs, his eyes never leaving mine, forever smoldering. “Leviticus, chapter eighteen, verse nine.”

  I’m surprised at myself for remaining there, unflinching and without feeling the natural reflex to cover my chest. Instead, I just play with my fingers in my lap as I raise my eyebrows at him.

  His lips quirk up into a devious grin, revealing the tips of his teeth. His entire face is still glowing. “In other words,” he says, “I am most definitely going to hell.”

  “Did you go to church or something?” I ask, holding back laughter. I never in my entire life believed that one day Tyler would be quoting the Bible. Even if it is with sarcasm.

  “Googled it,” Tyler deadpans. “I was making sure that I can’t end up in jail for any of this and the good news is that I can’t.”

  I do let out a laugh now, grinning back at him as he chuckles along with me, and I realize that I don’t even mind that we’re missing the fireworks. We missed them two years ago and we’re missing them again now, but it’s okay. Having intimate moments with Tyler is always much better, and as I think about this, a shiver shoots down my spine. Never do I think I’ll be able to get over any of these moments. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get over Tyler, either. Thankfully, I no longer have to.

  It’s only then, while I’m laughing, that I catch sight of the pen Tyler has used lying on the sheets. Reaching for it, I grasp it between my fingers and I hold it up to the light. It’s permanent marker.

  “Tyler!” I exclaim, immediately pushing myself up and hurling my bare body toward the door. Of all things, he had to use permanent marker? He’s probably scrawled profanities across my skin and I’m having terrible visions of the ink taking weeks to fade. “Get this off me!” Running across the apartment with Tyler close behind me, I grab a candle from the kitchen as I pass and throw myself into the bathroom. I dump the candle on the floor and reach for a hand towel, covering it completely in soap. Desperately, I attempt to reach around for my back.

  “Calm down,” Tyler says, but he’s still laughing and he’s not even attempting to hide it. He takes the towel from my hand as he steps behind me. “I’ll get it.

  He starts to rub at my skin as softly as he possibly can and out of the corner of my eye, I see our reflections in the mirror. I tilt my head slightly to get a better look at my back, at the writing before Tyler wipes it all away. The words look foreign to begin with and I think he might have written in Spanish, but I realize that the mirror is reflecting them backward. I concentrate hard on each letter until it hits me all at once what’s he’s done. There’s only one word. One word, but written over and over again, covering every single inch of my back from the tips of my shoulders straight down to the small of my back.

  All it says is this: MINE.

  Each letter capitalized. Each letter bold and sharp. Each letter significant.

  I part my lips as I release the smallest of gasps. I feel satisfaction rippling through my entire body as I realise it’s true. I’m his. I’ve always been his, never quite Dean’s, and Tyler’s always been mine, too.

  As Tyler applies more pressure to my skin, he also sighs. “I hate to break it you,” he eventually says, “but it’s not exactly working. How about this?”

  Suddenly his firm hands are grasping at my body, pushing me backward into the shower. Within a split second, he’s flicked on the water. It pounds against my back, pouring over my face, drenching me. Tyler’s laughing at my expression, but as I glare up at him through the water, I find myself shaking my head. I really can’t bear this any longer.

  “Screw it,” I murmur. Slapping my hand against his chest, I grab a fistful of his shirt and pull his body into mine beneath the water. I stretch up on my tiptoes, crashing my lips hard against his. This time, I definitely take advantage of being in control, and with my new power, I push him against the back of the shower wall and press my breasts against his chest, my mouth moving in sync with the flow of the water.

  His polo tee clings to his body as his clothes begin to soak straight through, but he doesn’t appear to care in the slightest. His hands are in my hair; his lips are against mine. The water keeps sparkling down over us in an endless burst, powerful and heavy, and it reminds me of what it’s like to kiss in the rain. Heavy, fast rain. Eager, I drop one hand to the hem of his tee as I make a messy attempt to tug it upward, and I shift the other to his belt.

  “Stop,” Tyler groans against my mouth. It takes him a while to tear his lips away from mine, but when he does, he pants against my ear. I’m studying him through the stream of water, perplexed and irritated, wondering why the hell he keeps shutting me down, until I realize exactly why he’s come to a standstill.

  Somewhere in the apartment, I can hear Snake’s voice.

  “Wait here,” Tyler whispers, breathing heavily, chest rising and sinking. Within a heartbeat, the water is shut off and Tyler is already by the bathroom door. He runs a hand through his dripping hair as he swings it open, peering around the frame. “Guys, guys, we’re here. Shower went weird again. Was trying to fix it for Eden. Water kinda burst everywhere.”

  “Who cares about the shower?” I hear Snake mutter back. “The real question is this: Did you guys forget about something? You know, like the fucking fireworks?”

  Sighing, I slide down against the shower wall. I’m absolutely drenched and my euphoric rush has quickly faded away. Hugging my knees to my chest, I throw my head back against the wall. All I can think about is the Bible verse Tyler quoted, and the more I repeat it in my head, the more my lips curve into a smile.

  Sinners, indeed.

  18

  I tilt my face up to the sky, squeezing my eyes shut as the sun beats down on my forehead. We’ve been outside in the heat all day and I’m starting to feel nauseous, burning up and sweating. If there’s anything I’ve learned about New York, it’s that the weather can switch between scorching sunlight and rainstorms whenever it wants to. Today, it’s ninety out. I tighten my hand around the plastic cup of iced tea I’ve been drinking for a while and exhale deeply. It’s times like these that I miss being in Santa Monica, where there’s always a pool to dive into no more than fifty feet away from my room. I’ve been taking that luxury for granted until now. There’s no space for pools in back yards here. Hell, I think half the people in the city might not even have back yards. I’m not sure how to cool down. My skin feels like it’s burning, and on the ride back from our day trip to Queens and Brooklyn, I stole a glance at my face in the sun-visor mirror, only to discover that my forehead is burnt. I even have pale circles around my eye sockets from where I was wearing my sunglasses.

  “Hot, huh?” Tyler s
ays. He squints up at the sky too, clear blue with not a single cloud in sight, and then glances back down to his car. I don’t know why, but he gingerly presses his hand to the hood. Immediately, he flinches and steps back. He shakes his hand, trying to ease the burn. “Shit.”

  Rolling my eyes, I drop to the ground and sit down on the curb of the sidewalk. The concrete is burning hot against my thighs, but after a few seconds it becomes bearable. I set my drink down by my side—it’s too warm and gross now to drink the rest of it anyway—and study Tyler’s car as the sunlight bounces off the glossy white bodywork. A thought arises that’s just too tempting to ignore. “Can I drive your car?”

  Tyler stops soothing his hand. Frozen, he looks down at me and then, with a wary expression, he glances back at his Audi. “You? My car? This car?” He bites down on his lower lip and rubs at the back of his neck, uneasy. “Don’t get me wrong, Eden, but . . . you know.”

  I place my hands down flat on the sidewalk behind me, leaning back as I squint up at him through the bright sunlight, an eyebrow arched. “You don’t trust me?”

  “For starters,” he says quickly, “you drive automatic. My car’s a stick shift.”

  “And you think I can’t drive a stick?”

  Both Tyler’s eyebrows shoot up, and he stares down at me intensely. “You can?”

  “Automatic is the easy way out,” I say, pushing myself up from the ground and straightening up. Challengingly, I narrow my eyes at him and smile. “Stick shift is way better. Keys?”

  He gives me a beaming smile and laughs, hooking his arm around my neck and drawing me toward him. “No way in hell,” he says, and promptly plants a kiss on my cheek. Playfully, he pushes me away again.

  I knew there was absolutely zero chance of him letting me get behind the wheel of his car, but it was worth a shot. Shrugging, I grab my drink from the ground and head across the street to the apartment building. Tyler follows behind me, stepping into position by my side, interlocking my free hand with his. I think, for the first time, I don’t react. It just feels normal, and Tyler doesn’t make a big deal out of it either, because he simply leads me into the building and toward the elevator, never letting go.

 
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