Kylie did not sleep well, and though she tried to convince herself her aching shoulder and the fire's aftermath were the causes, she knew those were only contributing factors. What turned her troubled mind was not the fire, but doubts about Robin—not just about him, but about herself, and the utterly inexcusable way she'd invited him to bed her on what was essentially their second date.
Since high school Kylie had purposefully mocked the cliche of male impatience: if the girl failed to provide pillow time by the third date, then it was time to move on. Her mockery had served up a strict warning: forget it, buster, on the third date or the thirteenth or the thirtieth. Time duration has nothing to do with romance or pillow time.
That worked both ways, Kylie reflected as she shifted restlessly beneath her comforter; there was nothing wrong with making love when you were in love. But what must he be thinking of me, a girl who didn't even make him wait to the third date? Or if their lovemaking was the third date, as he’d insisted, then at least to the fourth?
And that led to another, weightier question fraught with self-doubt: am I really in love with Robin, or am I just in love with the idea of finally finding romance? The long drought of serious prospects since her college relationship had withered had left her more vulnerable than she'd admitted; the pain in confessing this proved its truth and this only deepened her self-disgust.
I allowed myself to get carried away, just like those women-who-love-falling-in-love I always sneer at. How hard was it for him to sense that I was just another dreamy girl hoping for romance with a handsome stranger? Not hard at all; I practically wore a sign that read, "Please sweep me off to bed—I'll only seem to resist!"
And now, Kylie told herself with resurgent dismay, you're in that same stupid boat with all the other stupid girls: hoping he calls you tomorrow, after you served up what he wanted with no conditions and precious little romance. And what about confirming that there was no need for protection? How stupid not to confirm the test results he mentioned, especially in the middle of my cycle.
Steadying herself, she stared at the dark ceiling and thought, Don't go overboard beating yourself. Let's assume he was honest and protection was unnecessary. But you need to tell him very directly this was a special circumstance and that from now on, we're back to dates and movies and holding hands until I am sure this is love and not just desperation masquerading as love. And I need to ask for his test results, no matter how embarrassing the asking might be.
If, she sighed, he calls me. If I were a guy, would I call me? Why call a girl who threw herself at me on the second date? If there's one thing that freezes a guy's blood, it's a clinging vine. You made it too easy, and now you've ruined it.
The wind had died as quickly as it had arisen, and in the early morning quiet Kylie heard the forlorn distant wail of a passing freight train's whistle. She knew from past bouts of insomnia this marked the dismal hours between midnight and dawn; placing the pillow over her eyes, she told herself, there's nothing to be done now so I might as well go to sleep.
To her surprise, her heartache refused to dim, and a relentless self-loathing robbed her of sleep for three of the longest hours of her young life.
* * *
Robin had once read that the fortunate soul who'd found a girl willing to slip off her knickers on a second date awoke bursting with the wondrous self-confidence that comes from having won the prize without enduring any of the tiresome courtship. The girl, it was reported, was left hugging her pillow, wondering why she felt so empty.
Robin wished he'd awoken bursting with good cheer, but he did not; for the image of Kylie forlornly hugging her pillow gripped his imagination, and a completely undeserved remorse weighed upon him. It was undeserved, he reckoned, for he'd been gentlemanly throughout; he'd only accepted her invitation, and what man would refuse that?
Despite this reassurance that his actions were above reproach, Robin could not lay this question aside: if I'm so admirable, why am I troubled? Perhaps it was bedding Kylie the day after he'd accepted Alexia's invitation; talk about a drought ending with a flood, he told himself, and then sighed. Or maybe it was the suspicion that he'd taken advantage of Kylie's confusion, ergo, his respectful gentleman had been a mere guise.
It had been a fantasy come true to touch her, safely hidden by the dark; and her kiss had expanded the fantasy to reality. Yes, she could have turned on the light and ended the moment, but who made it impossible for her to find her underwear? What was that but subterfuge?
Did she feel the emptiness of being taken where she hadn't planned to go? Maybe she's feeling used, and now she's angry with me. And then what? You've lost her, you greedy fool; how can I make it right?
His first instinct, to apologize, contained its own risks; for didn't a confession imply a guilt which he did not want to admit? What would he be apologizing for—hiding her panties? Of course not, he told himself hollowly, for Hell hath no fury like a hesitant woman whose panties have been deliberately stashed from sight. No, it would have to be the apology of a quasi-innocent: I'm sorry for the confusion.
Hah, that's even worse than no apology, he berated himself; there has to be some confession of culpability: I'm sorry I took advantage of the confusion. She could forgive that, for what man would refuse her a full-body massage?
Satisfied he'd steered clear of both the Scylla of false innocence and the Charybdis of confessing guilt, Robin prepared himself to face Kylie and transport Ross's remaining possessions to Alexia's spare bedroom. After knotting his tie and combing his thick dark hair into submission, he trotted up the stairs to Alexia's to confirm that she was indeed gone to her house-sitting in Sonoma. Opening her door with the key she'd given him to tend to Hanover, he made sure her cat had water and dry food and then peeked into the spare bedroom.
The risk he was taking by moving Ross in without her permission suddenly struck him as absolutely foolhardy, and he thought, You did this hoping to impress Kylie and win her gratitude; what if she's unimpressed, and Alexia finds out? Then what?
To read the previous chapters, visit the "Four Bidding For Love" home page.
Buy the Kindle ebook for $3.00 (print, $16.99)
My new book Why Things Are Falling Apart and What We Can Do About It is currently offered at 20% to 30% discounts that end Saturday night.