10: In Which He Gets Advice from Half His Shoe Size [Nikolai’s POV]
I squinted at the cloud, concentrating all my energy on considering what the hell it looked like. If I covered my right eye with a hand, it looked like a rabbit but with both bloodshot eyes open, it looked like a heart split down the fucking middle, tiny puffs of silver-grey blood spatters following in its wake.
Yeah, I’m not telling that to a six-year-old, I thought, now wishing I’d stayed away from my fourth glass of Hennessy that morning. If I had, maybe I would’ve made even the least bit of sense even in my own head.
“So what do you see?” Asya asked in perfect, impatient Ruslavian, shifting slightly in the grass on my left. She pointed at the cloud we were currently analysing. “That one, remember?”
I wiped at the moisture that was already accumulating on my brow. “Nothing. I see nothing.” I glared up at the sun hiding behind a cloud.
“You’re talking funny,” Asya giggled.
I gave the girl a sideways glance. “I’m talking funny? Your front teeth are out and I’m talking funny?” I slurred, sitting up.
Yeah. I was talking funny, all right.
Someone as intoxicated as me shouldn’t have been around a kid just then, but it was fucking impossible for me to chase her away from her space, a space that was specifically for the children of Kroya. I was the outsider, the strange man who got someone to drive him into the village so that he could stumble into a children’s park at eleven in the morning like a paedophile.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Lev, my bodyguard and glorified babysitter, unobtrusively leaning against the limo parked at a distance outside the park’s gates. I couldn’t even get shitfaced like a normal person without someone watching my every move.
“Yes,” Asya replied, still laughing. She pushed herself up beside me. “Papa talks like that sometimes, but it’s only when he’s had his bitter drink. Have you had bitter drink today, Kolya?”
Let’s see. I was drunk by eight this morning. My sobriety has gone to shit. And why? Because of a female?
I wasn’t an alcoholic. I just liked drinking and didn’t particularly like how I got when I was drinking. This was partly the reason why I’d dropped out of college; why I couldn’t hold down a proper job. I could drink, but only socially, around people. When I was alone with a bottle, it was a toss-up on whether I’d stop at one – or finish the entire bar.
Think clean thoughts, Kolya.
“My mother would bring me here to play every weekend,” I murmured, resting my chin on my raised knees. “Back then, it was just a field of weeds but she had the best imagination. I forgot the bad things when she was around. This park was Eden and I was a six-year-old boy-king.”
“Mama says Aunt Sonya wanted to be an actress,” Asya spoke up, reaching out and curling her hand in mine. For someone so young, she was extremely intuitive. I squeezed her tiny hand in mine. “But she made dresses for princesses! She looked like a princess, too, didn’t she?” she wanted to know.
I reached out and ran my free hand through her thick, dark hair, staring back at green eyes that were exactly like my mother’s. “Yes,” I told her. “Yes, she did. And so do you.” She brightened at my answer.
Sometimes, when I looked at my little cousin, I swore I could see my mother staring back at me. Their eyes were the same, but Asya’s were almond-shaped and so expressive, they made Puss in Boots’ eyes look dull and lifeless. Even in a faded pink dress, Asya was beautiful. There were moments when I wanted to tell her mother – my aunt – to fuck her pride and accept my money, to accept the things I could and desperately wanted to offer her family.
But Aunt Sofia, my mother’s younger and only sibling, was stubborn. As was her carpenter husband, Josef. They were cutting off their noses to spite their faces and it was my cousin Asya who was suffering because of it. Pride was the reason they wouldn’t take money from the king’s bastard brother. Pride was the reason they felt slighted by my repeated offers and weren’t talking to me.
“Where’s your princess?” Asya questioned, finally opening the box of Romany Creams I’d brought her.
“I scared her off,” I replied, voicing the words aloud. “You know, when you grow up, little one, you'll be a heartbreaker. I pity the boys that will throw themselves at your feet and get breadcrumbs of a response.” I fixed my eyes on my cousin. “Promise me you won’t be too hard on them, Asya. They just want to understand you.”
She fixed me with a puzzled stare but I pressed on.
“And what do women want? A man to treat them like dirt, kick them around and swear that he’ll never do it again?” I rambled, accepting Asya’s offer of one chocolate-covered coconut cookie. I wolfed the thing down in two bites. “Don’t ever let a man do that to you, little one. A man should worship the ground his woman walks on. Promise me you'll come to me the minute a man so much as swats a fly in your face, angel.”
“Kolya,” Asya began uncertainly, “why did you scare her? I liked her. Sometimes the boys hide behind trees and jump out to scare us but it’s only a joke. I never get scared. Papa says I’m braver than all the boys.”
“I didn’t mean to scare her. I just wasn’t thinking straight,” I mumbled, rubbing at my temple with two fingers. If I rubbed hard enough, maybe the throbbing would ease. “I never think straight when it comes to her, Asya. I never think straight, period. Help me.”
She was licking cream of her tiny fingers, regarding me cautiously. “How?”
“Tell me how great I am.”
The little creature actually rolled her eyes at me. “I thought you would get a princess and have little princes and princesses for me to play with.” She shot me a glare. “Why did you have to jump out and scare her?”
Good question. Could’ve been worded differently but it was ultimately the same thing: Why did you have to come on too strong?
That was exactly like jumping out from behind a tree and yelling, “Surprise! I’m into you more than you're into me,” and expecting her to be completely fine with it. Women like Ophelia didn’t give up their lives, their dreams for a casual holiday fling. That was exactly what I amounted to – a few days of sexual tension building up to incredible, mind-blowing sex. Being inside Ophelia was like…was like being inside a fucking womb.
Yeah, I’m not telling that to a six-year-old, I thought for the second time, amazed that I was still in charge of what came out of my mouth. My thoughts, on the other hand, were warped.
Before I could change the subject, Asya’s favourite song in the world, Ylvis’ The Fox, blared from the back pocket of my Levi’s. I scrabbled to get my phone out, answering it without even glancing at the screen.
“You put your number in my phone,” a husky voice said in my ear.
She sounded strange, her voice thicker, lower. But I still knew who she was.
“Ophelia,” I said. “What a pleasant surprise. You sound –”
“Drunk? Sloshed? Wasted?” she cut in, giggling. “I had a couple shots of Jose Cuervo. I think therefore I am pretty fan-fucking-tastic! God, what a trip.”
I instantly sobered up. “Where are you?” I strained my ear to hear and was rewarded by the faint thump of music in the background.
“Highway,” she replied. “It’s the only club in the Bay. Pretty sad, if you ask me.”
A sharp arrow of jealousy pierced my chest. Clubs meant dancing and if she was drunk, men would take advantage. Hell, I would take advantage of someone as incredible as her.
“You’re back home? With Devin and your mother?”
“My mother is in hospital because she tried to OD. The stupid bitch can’t even kill herself right,” she snarled, rolling her Rs. “My mom is Rory and Rory is great. Rory is perfect and Rory thinks I’m perfect. But I’m not, Nikolai. I’m not perfect.”
I pushed myself up to my feet, stumbling away from my cousin and finding the nearest park bench. “You’re perfect,” I told her. “You’re perfect to me.”
“I wish you’d stop saying things like that. I wish I’d stop thinking about you,” she complained loudly. “It’s been three damn days and all I hear is your stupid, stupid sexy accent. I can’t even look at cats anymore. You made me hate cats!”
“Kitten,” I began, “do you have someone to get you home?”
“No, I came here alone.”
God, that was much, much worse than if she went out with a handful of girlfriends. I pushed down yet another flash of protectiveness.
“Can you call Devin to pick you up?”
She laughed in my ear, the throaty sound churning my insides and heating my skin. “You must be crazy. I’ll call a cab. I’m not totally out of it.”
“When you end this call, phone a cab and then phone me back while you’re waiting, OK?”
“You’re so bossy, Prince Nikolai. I miss you.”
I squeezed my eyes shut. “You have no idea how much I miss you.”
“I lied. I lied because I was scared, because you make me feel things that I shouldn’t feel so soon,” she said in one breath. “You're intense and sweet and the only guy to ever make me come. I was scared.”
My eyes flew open. “The only guy to what?”
Laughter filled my ear once again. “Is that the only thing you heard? And here I thought you were a sweet guy but you're only after one thing.”
“I don’t want to have this conversation over the phone, kitten,” I growled, aware that I was fast on my way to becoming aroused in a park that was filled with swings and sandpits and merry-go-rounds.
“Then come to me, Nikolai,” she said softly. “I need you. I need you because…because I really, really… like you. I do want you. I want you very, very much. I want you and it scares me because I’ve never needed anyone this much.” She inhaled deeply. “God, I really am drunk, aren’t I? I should never have –”
“I’ll be there,” I interjected, eyes on Asya as she hopped onto a swing. “And pussycat?”
“Yes?” she breathed.
“By the time I get there, you’ll have sobered up,” I told her, “which is why I recorded this conversation. You won’t be able to back out once I see you again.”
“I won’t want to,” she said softly. “As long as you hurry.”
I didn’t bargain for Ophelia’s stepmother to open the door. I’d spent the eleven-hour plane ride battling a ridiculous hangover with ibuprofen and Angry Birds on my iPad, all the while trying to push away the fact that travelling on the whim of a woman who wasn’t one-hundred-percent sure of her feelings made me slightly foolish.
No, not slightly. Completely and totally un-fucking-believably foolish.
Now I was standing on the doorstep of Ophelia’s childhood home, staring back at her stepmother, who kept sliding a curious glance at an admittedly intimidating Lev leaning against the rental Benz.
“Well, whoever you are, it’s too early in the morning for you to look that unhealthy,” Rory observed, giving me the once-over.
I glanced down at myself. Yeah, I looked like shit in a cup. My hair was dishevelled and I had a couple of days’ worth of stubble on my jaw, not to mention the fact that I was sure the remnants of my alcohol binge were in my bleary eyes. My T-shirt was rumpled and my jeans still had grass stains on the back.
“Mrs. Shaw, I’m, uh, a friend of Ophelia’s.”
Her brown-eyes, which ridiculously reminded me of Ophelia’s, danced. Dressed in a checked flannel shirt and jeans with her raven-black hair pinned up, she looked way younger than Devin, although the sparse wisps of silver in her hair and faint laugh lines on her face told a different story.
“A friend, hmm? Well, I think you’d better come in then, Prince Nikolai,” she said brightly, stepping aside to let me in.
“How did you –”
“Just hearing that voice,” she said, laughing at my incredulous expression. “It’s not every day Anton Yelchin in Star Trek says my name. Is your equally giant friend coming in?”
Glancing back at Lev, I replied, “Uh, no. Anton Yelchin?” I allowed her to lead me through the passageway and into the inviting, brightly-lit living area.
“Yeah. He’s younger than you, obviously, but Russian. Sometimes. Think the Fright Night remake.” Rory motioned for me to sit but I found that I couldn’t. “Though I suppose princes don’t go for that sort of thing? Movies. You’re probably always busy with important things. Ruling principalities and whatnot.”
“You're English,” I stated, receiving a look that said I was dumb.
“Am I speaking too fast for you? I tend to do that sometimes.” She flashed me a wide smile. “Ophelia’s fast asleep, so if you’d like breakfast, I could make you some while you wait. Although perhaps it would be better if you…took a shower. No offence, of course.”
“None taken. A shower would be great. So would breakfast. Thank you.”
“OK, then. We have plenty of guest rooms. Follow me.”
Once she’d deposited me in a bedroom and handed me fresh towels, the strangeness hit me.
I was in the Shaw residence, taking a shower in one of their guest rooms. Devin was going to flip the shit out and Ophelia was nursing a hangover. With my luck, she wouldn’t remember our whole phone conversation and I’d end up looking like the stalker she probably still assumed I was. This woman turned me inside out and fucked with my head just by existing.
I pressed my forehead against the glass of the shower stall, scalding water beating down my back. The painkillers had more or less cleared my headache but I still felt slightly fucked up and it wasn’t jetlag.
Then the shower door cracked open.
Thinking Rory was truly a hyperactive mental patient, I cursed loudly, practically cowering in one corner for a modicum of decency.
No, not Ophelia’s stepmother, thank God.
“Pussycat,” I said on an exhale, sweeping my eyes over her towel-covered body.
I didn’t want to blink, in case the vision disappeared and I discovered that I was really passed out on a bench back in Kroya. Ophelia wasn’t beautiful in the quintessential meaning of the word; no, she was beautiful in her simplicity, in her lack of pretension. I drank in the way her hair was piled up on her head, itching for my hands to dive into it and pull, unravelling the knot. Her coffee-brown eyes were wide, sizing me up. The tip of her tongue darted out, flickering across her lower lip.
She loosened her towel, letting the white terrycloth fall to the floor.
I blatantly eyeballed the rise and fall of her perfectly-shaped tits with their hard, dusky tips; the visible tautening of her belly, and the puffy folds of her pink cunt.
So fucking beautiful.
“Come here,” I rasped, blood rushing through my ears when she stepped into the stall, pausing a hair’s breadth away from me.
“Nikolai,” she said, barely a whisper; barely a sigh.
That was all I needed. There was no way I was going slow, no way I was holding back the force of what I felt for her. She squeaked in surprise when I yanked her to me, slid a hand around her neck and smashed my lips against hers. She was pliant beneath me, lips parting. I took what she offered, panting heavily as she kissed me back, shoving me against the wall with her small hands.
“I’m sorry,” she said against my lips, slinging her arms around my waist. “It was awful without you.” She bit into my lower lip, hard enough to draw blood.
I groaned, jerking against her and inadvertently allowing her to feel just how happy I was to see her. It was so goddamn pitiful.
“Please, Nikolai,” she murmured, wrapping a hand around me. She began to stroke, slowly at first, then quickly, as if she were getting herself off and not me. “I…need…”
“Stop,” I gasped, negating that word by fucking her fist. “Stop, or it’ll be all over soon.”
“But I –”
“Enough,” I growled, hoisting her into my arms and looping her legs around my hips. I swung her around so that her back was pressed against the wall now. “I’m going to make you come, kitten.”
Ophelia released a soft sigh of satisfaction when she felt the first graze of the head of my cock. The barbell was there, bumping her clit the way she liked it. I slid my cock along the swollen lips of her cunt, swallowing the sounds she was making when her mouth made contact with mine.
“I need to tell you…some…stuff,” she murmured, her breath quickening as it fanned my lips. “Oh God, Nikolai. Oh, God.”
“What stuff?” I grunted, guiding myself along her slit. She keened against me, biting her bottom lip until it was swollen and inviting. I instantly licked it better.
“Stuff about…shit-fucking whores of Gomorrah!” And just like that, Ophelia came.
I stared up at her raised face, watching the picture of her orgasm painted on her features. Lips parted in an O of wonder, of surprise and shock and eyes dazed, she had never looked so erotic.
Satisfied that she was ready for me and unable to control myself, I pushed into her, balls deep. She cried out, sinking her fingernails into my shoulder blades.
“Good, kitten?” I panted, forcing myself not to move inside her yet. She never failed to overwhelm me with her tightness, with the snugness of her cunt. I knew that I was hurting her.
“We’re good,” she whispered back, beginning to move above me. “So good.”
I sighed, pulling my hips back and sliding into her again. I drew back, pushed into her again, deeper; harder. Ophelia’s eyes were shut, eyelashes fanning her cheeks. Her breathless approval with each upward thrust built up my helpless need for her, the torturous hunger. The tempo became frantic, out of my control. I told myself not to fuck. Told myself to at least attempt to make this romantic, to make it last. To behave like I wasn’t an excited high school boy.
But Ophelia drove me half-mad. I was powerless to fight the urge to climax with her, to sink into her so far, so deep that my cock nudged her cervix. And eventually, it did. She was trembling, gasping for breath, moaning my name.
Will this ever get old? Will I ever get bored?
“Never,” I grunted aloud, thrusting into this unravelling enigma hard enough to elicit a curse from her mouth.
I’d never had shower sex before. Its merits were endless.
“I’m…going…to…” Ophelia whimpered, eyes flying open. She looked down at me, her nails digging in deeper. “Come…with…me…Kolya.”
“Hold on,” I groaned, pressing my mouth against the base of her throat. Her pulse beat a tattoo against my lips and just when I thought I’d last a little longer, my pussycat clenched her cunt around me like a velvety fist and I couldn’t delay my explosion.
The guttural moan I let out could have belonged to a wild animal but it was Ophelia’s painful cry announcing her release that warmed my blood. I spurted inside her, coming so long and so hard it was a wonder I wasn’t hurting her.
Bliss. Heaven. Eden.
Perhaps she hasn’t been taking her birth control.
And that unwarranted thought only caused my final, powerful ejaculation.
Ophelia’s head rolled forward, resting in the crook of my shoulder, and we both panted for air in a bid to crash down to earth. Moments passed and the hot water turned arctic before I slowly pulled out of her and gently levelled her on the ground. She clung to me on shaky feet, her eyes slightly more focused now.
“You're not going down to breakfast looking like you just got laid,” she said suddenly, running her fingertips along my unshaven jaw line. “I really did miss you, Nikolai.”
I grabbed her wrist, stilling her hand and flattening her palm against my cheek. “I didn’t resent you for leaving, kotik. I’m not saying I handled it well but I –”
“I’m far from being an alcoholic,” I muttered, already on the defensive. I flashed her a grin to soften the blow. “Were you keeping tabs on me, stalker?”
She rolled her eyes at me. “Lev told me. I have him on BBM.”
“So much for his loyalties lying with me,” I grumbled. “And why were you chatting with Lev?”
“It doesn’t matter. Point is, Kolya, if you have a problem, it’s best that you acknowledge it.” She looked away. “My dad was an alcoholic. It was before my time but he avoids alcohol like the plague. Not even a sip or a glass or anything. Absolutely teetotal.”
I felt heat rise up my chest. No wonder the man stuck to water at the wedding. I felt like an ass for bringing up memories of her less-than-perfect past.
“Hey, look at me.” I cupped her chin, making her turn to me. “I am not a drunkard. You just make me…”
“I make you what?” Ophelia wanted to know.
“You make me Google you. You make me drink to forget you ever existed in my bed. You make me crazy, OK?”
She stared at me for a long time before taking my hand in hers and bringing it to her lips. “About that stuff I wanted to discuss?”
“We’re going out on a date, Nikolai,” she stated firmly, her tongue swirling around my index finger. Such a simple act and yet I groaned as if she’d licked my cock. “A proper date. You're not going to try and fuck me in the restroom or finger me under the table, or anything like that. No sex.”
“Also, I’m twenty-four,” she continued, releasing my hand. “I don’t want to settle down now, so if that’s a problem for you, we should end this before it even starts.”
I fixed her with a heated stare, desire knotting in my gut when her tongue ran along her bottom lip. “Oh, but it has started, kitten. It started a long time ago.”
Uncertainty crossed her face and I mentally cursed myself for coming off too strong again.
“How long are you here for?” she asked quietly.
I let out a sigh. “I’ve never…dated before, but I know I don’t do long distance, whether you're here or in Miami.” I rubbed the pad of my thumb across her pouting lip. “You called, pussycat. I came. I’m here for as long as you need me to be.”
She closed her eyes, leaning in to my touch. “I was never able to control anything when I was younger,” she whispered, “so you can imagine how OCD I am about my life today. But you… you’ve screwed everything up and fast-forwarded my life to thirty. ”
“Why thirty?” I couldn’t tear my eyes away from her.
“Thirty is when I imagine I’d be ready to…you know, play house.” She reluctantly opened her eyes. “I knew you’d look at me like that. Oh, she has a timeline for procreating.”
I couldn’t suppress my laughter even if I wanted to. “You’re right. We do need to talk.”
“Yeah, and preferably when you’re not completely naked and my crotch isn’t so sore,” she said, standing under the icy spray of water.
I moved behind her, slinking my arms around her waist. “I have one request, though.”
Ophelia’s head fell back against my chest. “Which is?”
“When we go downstairs for what will certainly be an awkward breakfast” – I kissed the side of her neck – “I want you to introduce me as your boyfriend.”
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