Colette didn’t even bother knocking and when she came bursting into Jeff’s house that night, he wondered if there had ever been a time in their friendship when the petite blond had had any respect for personal space or privacy.
In spite of the fact that Jeff was lounging on the couch watching a football game, she started right in. “You will not believe what Noah did…”
She went off on her tangent and Jeff rolled his eyes, luckily she was too busy pacing back and forth in his living room, waving her arms and yelling about her boyfriend to notice. How many times had he listened to essentially the same complaints? The men Colette seemed to date were apparently always lacking the same ways: they didn’t listen to her, they didn’t care about her feelings, they were annoyed at all the time she spent at the rink, they didn’t like her skating partners, and on and on and on.
Meanwhile, Jeff thought, there he was right in front of her beautiful, complaining face, a man who always listened, the one who cared deeply about her feelings, someone who spent even more time than she did on the ice, and the sort of man who would never get jealous over something as mundane as a figure skating partner.
“Honestly, he’s just…so…ugh! I could scream, Jeff. And then, you know what he said to me? He goes…”
Too many years this had been going on, too many boyfriends. He had tried to tell her a million different ways, started and stopped bold confessions of his feelings at least a dozen times a year every year since they were fifteen. But when you’ve known someone half your life, someone who is your dearest and closest friend it’s not a fear of rejection that holds you back, but the terrifying prospect of gambling a friendship that would be lost if a relationship didn’t pan out.
And he couldn’t lose her, not like that. She kept on about Noah and he thought about the first time they had met, back during the 2004 Canadian Junior National Figure Skating Championships. Awkward eleven year olds who both became as graceful as flying birds when they hit the ice. She was always small, but subtly strong, the perfect figure skater’s body. Twelve years later she still wore her hair the same way, in a thick, messy french braid cascading down the back of her head and continuing to the center of her back. But it was her eyes he had noticed first and that he now found himself dreaming about almost nightly. Even as a middle schooler with no interest in girls, her eyes had mesmerized him, a pale but crisp green set beneath long blond lashes.
“Are you even listening?”
His mind pulled him back from the past and snapped to attention in the present. “Huh? Yeah, yeah, he’s an asshole, shocking.”
Colette crossed her arms and her mouth hung open in surprise. “What are you implying? Shocking how, like I always date assholes?”
“To be honest, yeah, you do.” Jeff sat back on the couch and returned his eyes to the football game. Something in him had snapped, he couldn’t just listen and comfort her anymore. He thought about what Eric Staal had told him, that he needed to be a man, speak his mind, women love that.
He braved a glance at the woman in his living room, but she didn’t seem to be loving it. The feisty little thing raised an eyebrow at him and pursed her lips. “Well, I can see I’m bothering you. I’ll get out of your hair.”
She stormed out of the living room towards the front door. Shit, shit, shit, Jeff thought. Oh God, what would his Captain do, think, think! Maybe let her leave, give her a chance to cool off, and then call her later? Or would he grab her and kiss her? He’d probably grab her and kiss her, but that wasn’t Jeff. And this was Colette! If it were that easy he would have done it by now. Right?
The Captain’s voice was back in his head and it was saying, “It is that easy, tell her how you feel and then kiss her before she has a chance to argue. But you better make it good, screw up the kiss and you ruin everything.”
Jeff heard the door slam and that silenced the voices in his head. He jumped up and sprinted out the door, ready to chase after her car if he had to. Instead, he slammed right into her on the porch.
“Oh, God, sorry! Are you ok?” He held her by the shoulders and she was shivering. It was the middle of winter, but he just now noticed she had come from her car to his house in nothing more than a leotard, tights, and a thin cardigan. “Come on, come back inside.”
She didn’t move, but hugged her arms tighter around her body. “Why did you say that? Are you tired of me whining all the time?”
“What? No, not at all.”
“So you think I’m a whiner?”
“Lettie, stop, you know I don’t think that. I -”
“Because if you don’t want me to come here anymore, just say so. I know you’re some big time NHLer, but I thought you still cared for your old friends.”
His voice became suddenly stern. “You’re not being fair, I didn’t do this to you, Noah did. So please don’t take it out on me.”
He saw a tear escape her eye now and his stomach clenched. He started to speak, but she cut him off again. “I’m sorry, Jeff. I’m sorry for snapping at you. You don’t deserve it. I’m just -”
He voice softened. “Hurting, I know you are. Come back inside.”
She sniffled once and shook her head. “I should go, this was a mistake.” She broke free of his grasp and started to back down the stairs. “I’ll call you tomorrow. Maybe we can -”
“I’m in love with you!” As he said the words he threw his arms out and let them fall to his sides, resigned to the consequences of this statement.
She fell silent, as was the empty street and there Jeff was, left with the echo of his shouted proclamation. He had held it in for so long that it felt amazing to have it out in the open. His heart felt lighter, his shoulders straighter, his mind clearer. No matter what happens now, he knew he had done the right thing.
Colette just stared at him and she felt like she was seeing him for the first time. When had he gotten so tall, his hair so long and luscious? When had his dimpled smile turned from childishly sweet to masculinely sexy? And why did it feel to her heart like this was the perfect moment when her brain was still struggling to process what he had said.
And…oh, God, now he was just grinning at her and she felt her lips mirroring the joyous shape. “What…what did you just say?”
He blew out a huge breath. “I’m fucking in love with you. I have been since I was old enough to realize that girls are awesome and that I totally wanted to kiss one. You, I wanted to kiss you, just you, but you were making out with Kevin or Jimmy or -”
“Mark or Sam?”
“Yeah, those assholes. And I wanted to tell you, I tried, but you’d give me that look and ruffle my hair like I was just one of your brothers.”
“You are like one of my brothers.”
Colette watched his face fall and now her stomach was doing flips. For Jeff, it was the worst possible thing she could have said and for Colette it felt like a lie suddenly.
She bounded up the stairs, reached up to cup that darling face in her palms. “Were, you were like one of my brothers.” Man oh man, how had she never realized how amazing it felt to make him smile?
He tentatively put his hands on her sides. “And now?”
Colette grabbed his wrists, moved his hands lower to rest on her hips. “Now, you’ve changed everything, but I don’t mind.” Breath catching in his throat, he moved to kiss her. Her mouth was going again before he got there. “Jeff, can we do this inside? It’s cold as hell out here.”
He took her hand and led her in; and he had never been more nervous in his entire life. He wasn’t a virgin and he knew she wasn’t either, but this, the two of them, that was new. And he wanted it to mean something, for her to feel the full force of his feelings that he had been bottling up for so long.
He thought about starting a fire, that would be romantic, right? Maybe they could make love in front of it, but then, he didn’t have a nice rug or anything and the floor would be uncomfortable. He could draw her a bath, but that might take too long and would they both fit in his tub?
Colette watched the thoughts race behind his eyes and bit her lip to keep from laughing. She had been worried about how she would perceive him now, if things would change so much they would be hardly recognizable to each other. That worry, however, was being quickly brushed aside. She felt something for him, something that was maybe always there, just dormant, something intense, but standing before her was her same old Jeff. He was still himself, her friend who got so nervous about making everything just right, the quiet one who let her take charge and make the plans, the sweet boy turned man who knew her better than anyone. Yes, they were different now, but they were also the same and that meant she knew what she had to do.
Grabbing the front of his shirt, she pulled him down to erase their six inch height difference and then firmly, but slowly pressed their lips together. And he was…
Perfect, he thought, so very perfect. Their mouths slotted together just right, and when he licked inside she tasted so…
Sweet, his mouth was sweet and gentle under hers. She opened her lips to invite him in and she wanted to scream for…
More, God, he need more of her, he needed everything, immediately. At the same time he wanted to savor this moment, this night and he wanted it…
Slow, she thought, he’s going so slow it’s going to drive me out of my mind. But if she tried to rush him would he think she was easy?
He knew she wasn’t easy, but goddamn it they had waited so long and there was nothing left between them, all their secrets had been laid bare with his most recent confession. Do you start dating someone you’ve known for over a decade? No, he thought, you just start loving them as soon as possible.
She broke their kiss first, looking up at him with those pale eyes of hers. “Jeff…let’s -”
“Please God say ‘go upstairs’ or I may die.”
She laughed and the sound was familiar, but had new meaning now. “Yes, that is what I was going to say.”
He didn’t mean to drag her along by the hand, but that’s exactly what he did. And he certainly didn’t mean to immediately start taking apart her braid so he could finally run his fingers through her hair, but that’s also what he did as soon as they reached his room. While he was doing that, Colette was thinking about his body, the broad shoulders and compact muscles he’d been exposing to her every summer. Now, she’d get to to touch him, feel his skin against hers. She grabbed the bottom of his shirt and pulled it off, running her hands down his chest and wondering…
“Why the hell did we wait this long? Why did YOU wait this long?” Just then she realized, she had never said it back to him, the L word. Did she love him? Well, strike that actually, she knew she loved him, but was she in love with him? Could she do this in good faith without returning his feelings in kind?
As usual, he read her mind perfectly. “Lettie, you don’t have to say anything tonight. If you’ll let me, I plan to spend the rest of my life making you fall madly in love with me.”
“I doubt it’ll take that long, but I appreciate your dedication.”
He answered with another kiss, one that made her toes curl and her blood heat to an unbearable level. She was pulling at her cardigan and then peeling down her leotard to show him those perfect breasts, live and in the flesh.
He groaned at the sight, no stopping the sound. He cupped them both, wrapping long fingers around the soft, rounded flesh and feeling her nipples harden under his palms. She let out a exhalation of his name and he lost all sense of decency. He grabbed her hips and turned her towards the bed, tugging her leotard down and off, taking her tights with it.
She reclined on her elbows, shapely, naked, and pale, like a statue of Aphrodite. No, even better, she was not cold marble, but a lovely creature made of hot flesh and pumping blood, with a soft, wet place he wanted to burrow into and call home. And there she was, waiting for him, finally.
He was torn between jumping on her and taking it slow. His brain reasoned that they only got one first time and that he should make it special, but the lower half of his body was throbbing for release.
Colette was nearly panting already, anxious for him to do anything to her. She wanted him to take her, own her, she didn’t want to be the aggressor, not tonight. He just stood there staring at her, drinking in her beauty and she decided to give him a little nudge.
“Jeff, if you don’t wanna do this, if you want me to go -”
Worked like a charm; he started unbuckling his pants as he crawled over her and cut her off with his tongue in her mouth. Because there was no way, no way in hell he was letting her leave this bed.
He found his boldness in his confidence as lover. Several women had told him he was the best they’d had and while he knew that probably at least one of them was lying, at least one of them had to have been telling the truth. Right?
“Oh, God, Jeff…” Jackpot, he had found her sweet spot, the strip of skin directly behind her ear. He lick at it again and she bucked underneath him. His pants were still on and that was an issue. He pressed one more kiss, two, three, ok even a few more on her neck, throat, and lips. He sat up, freed himself from the rest of his clothes and returned to her in the bed.
She pulled him in for a languid kiss that nearly had him exploding against her leg. He needed her so badly, desperately, but maybe she wanted more, foreplay? What would she think of him if he just got down to business with no build up? He started to ask, “Do you want me to -”
“Jeff, I’m more than ready as it is. I wanna feel you, finally.”
And that was why he loved her, why he always had, and why he always would. Blunt, honest, speaks her mind Colette and now she was all his. Hovering over her, he pressed slowly into her as his mouth found hers for a kiss. She moaned against his lips at the sensation of him filling her. It was glorious and it felt so right, like this is how it should have been all along.
He started to move and struggled to hold himself back. The feel of her around him, soft, giving, warm, and wet, it was all he had ever dreamed about. When she opened her eyes and met his, he nearly lost it. He was never going to last if she kept looking up at him like that, like he was all she ever wanted.
His face nuzzled her neck and he repeated her name over and over again, gasping it out like a prayer of gratitude. And he was, so very grateful, for her, for this moment, for everything he knew they could build together. This was amazing, but the best part was knowing it was just the beginning.
Her breath was hot in his ear and the little noises she made very time he pressed against her soft spot were driving him insane. Then, she said something so quietly, he couldn’t hear it even though her mouth was right next to his ear.
He worked his mouth along her jaw and kissed her swollen lips. “What was that, baby?”
She dug her hands into his hair and held his face close to hers, her breath coming out in frantic bursts. “I love you…I love you…I love you.” And it was true, she did, not as a friend, but as a partner, a man she wanted a life with. How had she not seen it? How had she not known that he was, in a word, perfect?
He could have sobbed, he felt like he might. He kissed her instead, answering with his mouth and hips working faster towards completion. When he knew she was close, he held her face in his palms and told her, “I’m gonna make you so happy, I promise. I want years with you like this, decades.”
“A lifetime, Jeff. Jeff…God, don’t stop. Are you close?”
He let out a breathy chuckle. “I’ve been close since we started. Go, I’ll be right there with you. I always will be.”
Colette closed her eyes and let the feel of him deep inside build her body to the breaking point and then she went, calling out for him as he started to jerk and come right along with her. He didn’t think it was possible to release that much at once, but he wasn’t surprised that she had been the one to pull it out of him.
A little while later, snuggled under the covers and lying close, he said, “I should have told you, years ago. I should have found away. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be. I should have seen it, I should have felt it sooner.”
He folded her hair behind her ear and stroked that tender spot on her neck with his fingers. “You feel it now, that’s all I care about.”
“I feel it. I meant it. I love you, Jeff. I honestly do.”
Years later, he thought, this is the moment I’ll look back on as the one that started the rest of my life. He smiled wide and kissed her again. “I knew you would.”