(A/N: Yup, it's another one. By the way, thank you to everyone who reviewed! And about Clara's mother. You're going to meet her very soon. Within the next few chapters, I do believe. I gave you guys a lovely cliffie, because, well, damn it, I'm evil. And its funny to make you squirm.)
The car doors slamming felt almost absolute, and had a finality that made what I was about to do, about to say feel concrete. This was a conscious decision I was making, and I was afraid of the ramifications it was going to have. Here was a man that set me on fire, gave me feelings I had never had before, and I was about to do something that was going to change my life. For better or for worse was yet to be seen, yet I was ready.
You can do this, Clara.
The engine started, and he started to drive, taking us out of the down town area, taking me who knows where, yet I intrinsically trusted him. And yet, even though I trusted him, even though I knew I could share this with him, I couldn't open my mouth and speak.
My hands tangled in my lap, palms sweaty. I wanted to speak, but couldn't, and even after a few glances in my direction, Alexander didn't push. It was like he knew the battle that I was having with myself right now, and he knew that I needed a little time to get it together. To feel like it was the right time to tell him.
He waited the entire ride. Even as we pulled into a suburban area, filled with houses I could never afford, he didn't pry. Instead, he reached to my side of the car and gently squeezed my knee.
I looked up at him, and he gave me a small smile, one that didn't quite reach his eyes, and I wondered for the first time if maybe he was as nervous as I was. It didn't seem like it could be possible, but I realized that we didn't really know each other that well. At least, we couldn't know what was going on in the other's head, but at the same time, we had an understanding that what needed to be said was to wait until we were at a place where we could both feel comfortable.
Again, I wondered where he was taking me. That was, until the car started to slow and he pulled into a circle driveway, one that led up to the doors of a breathtaking home.
I blinked once, jaw dropping before clamping shut again. My hands clenched tightly together before I glanced at Alexander again. He slowly pulled to a stop at the front door and turned to give me what I could only describe as a nervous smile.
Alexander, nervous? Preposterous.
"Welcome to my home," he said, voice deep and sultry, but not a hint of his usual promise. Again, he seemed worried, almost… hesitant.
"This," I began, probably too incredulously, "is your home?"
He coughed and laughed a bit nervously. "Well, yes. Business is good in a college town. We sell the cheapest college text books around, and there's always the mandatory books for classes. Plus, my father picked it out. I personally would have rather stayed in the apartment above the shop, but he insisted."
"It's… beautiful," I breathed, turning again to look at the façade. It wasn't anything that was architecturally astounding, but it was one of those beautiful homes that you saw the beautiful upper-middle class families living in. It was a step above the white picket fence, and it was extremely intimidating.
He laughed again, seeming slightly more at ease. "Yes, well, like I said, it wasn't my first choice."
I turned to smile at him. "At least you have your own place. But it seems a bit big, and a little bit lonely."
He never stopped smiling, and yet his eyes looked sad. "It is. But it's always a little better when I have company. Shall we go inside?"
My lips puckered for a second as I looked at the house before I shrugged. "I suppose it's a little cold tonight to be sitting in the car."
He laughed as he got out of the car. I untangled my fingers and fumbled with the seat belt. The push mechanism didn't always want to work for older models like this, but it definitely didn't take away from the experience. By the time I had managed to free myself, Alexander had already opened the door, and was waiting to help me out.
I couldn't help my smile as he took my hand and guided me out of the car before shutting the door and locking it. It was such a classic gentleman move that I almost forgot my nerves and teased him for it.
Instead he led me to the front door and let us inside, setting his keys on a table near the door. I looked up and around. A chandelier hung over us and a curving stair case that led to the second story. The hallway led straight back to what I could see was a modern kitchen that smelled faintly of food, with double doorways that led to various rooms.
"Follow me," he said, grabbing my hand once again and tugging me down the hallway and into the kitchen. I watched with some growing amusement as he raided the cabinets and fridge for snacks and fruit until he led me through an archway to the left that led to a modern, yet comfortable living room, complete with some of the latest gadgets, including what looked like an expensive TV.
"Take a seat wherever you'd like and make yourself comfortable," he said, playing the part of gracious host as he started setting the snacks down on the coffee table before leaving again, apparently to acquire more goodies from the kitchen.
There were a few obvious choices. Like the recliner, or an ottoman that surrounded the coffee table. Simple places where I could remain on my own and unapproachable. Where I wouldn't have to worry about his nearness.
Instead I chose the wrap-around couch. I sat against one of the arm rests and kicked off my shoes before wrapping them beneath me. It was closest to the snacks, I told myself, and if I needed to shut myself up, there was always something close by to keep me from babbling.
Case in point, I reached over and picked up a box of fruit gummies shaped into characters from popular cartoon shows- obviously for the kids when they visited their uncle. I popped open a baggie of SpongeBob gummies and popped one in my mouth, laughing to myself how strange this was.
This was not where I would have seen myself just a few hours ago. However, I reminded myself, I might not ever see myself here again if this didn't go well.
Alexander made his way back in, a variety of drinks in hand. He cast a small smile at me before setting everything down within arm's reach.
"I'm pretty sure there's enough here for a small army," I observed, popping another fruit chew into my mouth.
He raised a brow and nodded toward my snack of choice. "Well, if you haven't noticed, I occasionally host a small army."
I bent my head in concession. "Touché, Monsieur."
His lips bent into a smirk for just a second before he sat down on the ottoman, which was close, yet far enough away to give me respectable thinking room. "You said we had to talk, and I agree. I'm sorry for taking you to my home on such short notice, but I felt that your roommate might have a problem with such a public conference in your dorm room."
I snorted with laughter, forgetting my fear for a moment. "Oh please, Resa would have loved the drama. She would have just told us to forget she was there while making commentary the whole time."
He smiled, and this time it reached his eyes. "You two seem like you are good friends."
I guffawed. "We've been friends since we were in preschool. Typical kid stuff. She stole my crayons, I pulled her hair, and we got in trouble together. Best friends ever since."
He smiled, but his face was falling back into neutral territory and I knew it was time to just get this over with.
"I'm not sure if us… being together, dating, whatever this is… is such a good idea," I said, let it burst out of me.
His brow furrowed, and he leaned forward, hands clasped in his lap. He seemed to take a moment to consider what he wanted to say, but instead asked me a question instead. "Why do you say that?"
Here it goes.
"I don't think my mother would approve." Oh god, that sounded even worse out loud.
He looked genuinely confused. "Not to sound conceited, but from outward appearances, I'm probably the man most mothers would want for their daughters."
I couldn't quite smile, but there was amusement in my tone. "Yes, you're right, that does sound quite conceited."
He did smile, however. "What I'm trying to say is that I'm sure she wouldn't mind if she just met me."
I shook my head, reaching across the table and grabbing a soda. "It's not like that. She doesn't want me dating, period."
"So it's a 'no dating while in college' policy?"
"Kind of," I hedged.
"I'm afraid you're going to have to explain it better than that, then," he said, a hint of amusement still in his eyes.
Good, he wasn't completely frustrated yet.
"There was a lot of… stuff… that happened in her past. She's hated men my entire life. She never dated anyone. She made me promise that I wouldn't… get involved… with anyone. Ever. That's why it's so hard for me. You're the first person who has ever made me break that rule, and want to keep breaking it." Oh god, I sounded like an imbecile. Or in fifth grade. But Mom. She was terrifying. She would kill me.
Alexander stared at his hands for a few moments before speaking. "I know she wouldn't approve of much of what I do in my private life, but I feel that if you let me meet her everything will be fine. I mean, I'm sure she doesn't hate me."
"She doesn't even know you exist, Alexander. I haven't told her about any of this yet."
For the first time, he looked like he was taking what I was saying with complete seriousness. "Is it really that bad?"
"Probably worse," I admitted with a half shrug and crumpling my empty gummy bag into my fist. "She's extremely protective of me. She doesn't want me to get hurt, and so occasionally she can go kind of overboard."
"Clara, I'm willing to try. I know most people would run from a situation like that, but I don't think that would be fair to you. And it wouldn't be fair to me either. You are a beautiful person, Clara. Inside and out. I think that if you chose to have a relationship with me of any kind, you should tell your mother. If you don't, you are only going to make yourself unhappy," he soothed, telling me all of the things I had been trying to tell myself over the last couple weeks.
However, she wasn't what was on my mind anymore. "And what are we exactly?" I managed, voice on the verge of squeaking.
He smiled largely, showing that predatory smile that I was trying to convince myself I wasn't exactly afraid of anymore, and leaned even closer toward me.
(A/N: Something completely unrelated, I felt like I'd share that the area that Clara comes from is something similar to northern Indiana/ southern Wisconsin area. I've lived in those areas most of my life, and I wanted a place that was a little different topographically and was a mixture of country and town. If you've ever been to LaPorte, IN, or Kenosha, WI, those are kind of the mixes of the town where Clara and Alexander are currently residing. If you don't know what they look like, google em. Always interesting. Another interesting tidbit: I tend to write in this story the most when I'm single. #forever alone. And yes, I'm going to go kill myself for that last bit. I want to give you guys a "fan" name for this story, but I feel like that's silly. Unless you want to be in an elite class of romantabdsm lovers who are seriously wondering "WHEN IS THE SECKS?!". I leave that up to you. But I love the reviews. You guys give the best feedback!)