Was He Just A Dream?


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Chapter 1: Discovery

I was sitting in a café on my day off. I think it's the one around the corner from home but I'm not sure. It's both familiar and not at the same time. It was a sunny, peaceful day and I was enjoying a cup of coffee. I'm by myself so I'm dressed pretty casual and have my hair up in a messy bun. It could use a washing when I get home. I'm reading one of my favorite books when in comes this beautiful man. Hair that length of just enough unkempt that hot guys always seem to get with no effort at all. His chiseled features were definitely something out of a fashion magazine and his style of dress added to the fact that he might very well be a model. He was wearing sunglasses but pulled them up as he walked in, pushing his sandy waves back. If this were an anime, I'd have bled to death through my nose by now and drag my dead body to a dark corner so he couldn't see me die. I must have been staring real hard because he looked directly at me. Oh my god, I thought to myself and quickly drew my eyes back to my book. Only... I'm too flustered and distracted to pick up where I left off! My face is hot like it's on fire and I bet it looked like it too. Damn me for being Asian! This is so embarrassing! I'm intent on keeping my face directed at my book and went for my cup to give my hands something to hold onto. But nothing was going to help the fact that that gorgeous gift from the gods coming to my table and stood directly opposite me.


"Excuse me, is this seat taken?" His voice had just enough bass and timber to send shivers up and down my spine. The hint of European accent just intensifies those feelings and makes his words sound more sultry that he means them to be. Is he from Europe? His eyes look Asian though... I look up a little too fast and I go dizzy with blood rush. Automatically, I indicate for him to have a seat. I was raised to be polite regardless of looks but, did it really have to be him?! After I get my bearings, I look around and see a few empty tables he could have chosen but he chose to sit with me. My face gets even hotter and my body goes frozen stiff. Worst day ever! Whenever I'm having a bad hair day or not looking my best is when I interact hot guys. Just my luck! But why would he come to my table when there were so many available seats? Did he really want to see my not so awesomeness up close? I don't want to see my not so awesomeness up close! I look at him and he's smiling a soft smile at me. Oh noes! I think I just died a little...


All these thought and more ran through my mind and came to a crash when he says, "Are you Allison Lau?" I snap out of my whirlwind of self pity to nod in acknowledgement. "I thought so. I've been waiting to meet you for so long." He said that last statement with huskiness that made me shake my coffee cup and spill a little on my sweatshirt. Ugh! "Here, let me help you with that." He grabs a napkin from the table, pulls his chair closer to me and begins blotting the coffee from my chest. His head is bent in concentration but I can't care about that. He was touching me.... He was touching my chest! I'm mentally flailing right now. I care about the fact that this...this... sculpted perfection is sitting so close to me. I could feel the heat radiating from him, smell the richness of his hair, sense that there could be more to this moment. So much more...


When he's done blotting out all he could, he draws his attention to my face. Oh my god, why are we so close?! And in public! I fight for the words to come out, to do something to defend my personal space. I realized I'm holding onto the seat of my chair, but all I could do was sit there as he took my chin in his hand and whisper softly onto my lips, "How I've waited... for so long to kiss these lips..." And then he does.


Holy crap! I snap out of sleep and fall out of bed. My heart is pounding against my chest and I think I wet myself. I'm sweating bullets and I'm hot as hell. I'm looking around my bedroom in frantic anticipation that this was really the dream, but no. No, it's real. It's real because wood floors really, really hurt to fall on. Sigh... It's almost 6AM. I might as well get on with my day.


A knock on my bedroom door startles me. "Are you okay?" Tabitha (Tabbie for short) Bardsley, my roommate, is always checking on me whenever she hears something wrong from my bedroom. I took a deep breath and then let it out. "Yeah,... I'm fine," I replied. “Just fell out of bed." I could hear her giggle a little and then leave. She's been my roommate for a few months now but we got a pretty good routine going to the point where we're those besties that can guess each other's thoughts. I work during the day at the big Strand bookstore in Union Square while she has odd hours due to her job as a styling assistant. The woman she works for is really nice and has helped us out when we were in tough binds. If I didn't have a day job, I'd be her assistant, too, but I don't have the greatest sense of fashion. Whenever I want to go shopping for clothes or anything of that nature, Tabbie insists on making sure she can go too or I can't go at all. Always telling me she needs to make sure I'm dressing like I'm from the city and not just living there.


Anyway, time to wash up and go for a jog. I check to see that it's nice out. Winter's almost over so the sun's been coming out earlier and very little snow is left from the last major storm. I have a couple of hours before I have to get ready for work so I can make the most of my morning. I dress in my jogging gear and make sure my headphones are good to go. Phone is fully charged and playlist is up and running. I let Tabbie know I'll be back in an hour while filling up my water bottle then head out.


The sun feels so good on my skin, like it's been forever since I’ve been outside.  That’s sort of true. Winter always makes me just want to stay in when I’m on my weekends and just read for hours. When I hit play, I wake up more as the sweet vocals of Charlie XCX sing in my ears. Her upbeat song keeps me in pace and totally works for jogging. The one good thing about jogging in the city is that pedestrians are just like obstacles in a race course. Only they can curse you out or worse. But jogging in the mornings mean people are more likely to stay out of your way. Every morning, you can see the same people in different moods and dress, what they're thinking about all by how they're heading to their destinations. Occasionally, a group of tourists or someone I've never seen before mingles in. But it's all part of the package deal when you choose to live in a major international city like New York. Tove Lo's "Habits (Stay High)" comes on and I'm halfway done with my jog. I'm so focused that I'm startled by a huge Doberman coming my way and get the shit scared out of me when he tries to pounce on me, loudly barking and bringing me back to the real world. In my attempt to get out of its way, I end up crashing into a large mass and fall to the sidewalk, scraping my palms and crashing my tailbone to the pavement. The sting indicates that the peace is over and the jog was ruined.


Realizing it was a person I crashed into, I try to scramble to my feet and apologize but I slip on a patch of ice that was missed by a cleaning crew and fall right back down onto my knees. Completely embarrassed, I try again and succeed... with the help of strong, sturdy hands. Hands that belonged to the man I ran into. "Oh my god! I-I'm so sorry! Are you-" When I look up, I see that it's the man from my dreams. Literally. Like, every detail I ever had from last night is right here in front of me in the flesh. Thank god I was jogging because, if I wasn't, I'd be gasping for air right now, minus the sweat. He was holding my forearms and looking at my palms. "Never mind me, miss. Are you okay? Because your hands don't look so." There was legitimate concern on his face. Still holding onto one of my wrists, he drags me off and away from the main street.


"I'm okay," I blurt out, "Really, it's not as bad as it looks." My face is hot like in my dream but my bruised tailbone keeps me grounded in reality.


His touch is forceful but gentle and his palm is soft but there's strength in that grip. His hair flows gently as he leads me to a door of an apartment building. With his free hand, he digs into his coat pocket for his keys. "Let's get those cuts cleaned up. You have quite a few." He smiles softly at me as the door is opened and I'm led inside. A normal person would have kept fighting, but that smile could disarm Satan himself. I prayed to whoever was listening to let this guy be just a nice Samaritan and let me be on my way.


we ride the elevator to his loft. It was on the top floor so the view was breathtaking. I take a few short steps before he indicates for me to have a seat on a tall stool by the kitchen island that was like something out of a catalog. Tall shelves separate spaces and are filled with books of varying age and size. The other furnishings look like they could have come from an estate auction. He takes his coat off and even his clothes are from my dreams. Am I still dreaming, I thought as I poke one of my scrapes and wince. Nope. Not a dream. No way, José​. This is really happening! My savior returns with a bottle of rubbing alcohol, some cotton balls and a box of bandages. Taking the alcohol, he sops a cotton ball in some and takes one of my hands. "I apologize for this is going to sting a little." I wince and jerk my hand instinctively to take it back from the sting of applied antiseptic, but his grip is strong. "I also want to apologize for dragging you to my place," he said. "I just couldn't leave you with all these cuts unattended." He's looking at them with such tenderness that I don't know what to do. Then, the thought that he could have ulterior motives flash in my mind and it must have shown on my face. "Please, do not worry yourself. I simply wanted to make sure you were okay." He takes my other hand and repeats the process then goes for the bandages. "I'm Hayden Oda, by the way."


"Allison... Allison Lau," was all I could manage as I'm trying to absorb the reality of the situation. Watching as he placed a bandage on one palm, I say, "You really didn't have to go out of your way to do this for me. I'm sure you're late for work now." Feeling really guilty for all this, I try to break free from his hold and stand but he catches my un-bandaged hand.


"I'd rather know that your wounds are well cared for and be late for work than wonder the entire day if you're really alright." His expression was endearing.


"But,... you don't even know me," I replied. taking in deep breaths to stay calm.


"You're name is Allison and you, obviously, like to go jogging in the morning." Hayden smirked in a way that gave me butterflies in my stomach. "Besides, I'm a supermodel so I make my own schedule." He draws me back to the stool. "I have one more cut to clean," he said as he points to my knee. For a moment, I died. A supermodel! Tabbie might kill me for this. Quick, someone pinch me!


"Aww crap..." My free hand touched my scuffed knee and I see my favorite jogging leggings are ripped on the side of my knee cap. It’s been crusted with blood and dirt. Tabbie would use this as an excuse to take me shopping for cute running gear. I look at my palms and sigh in defeat as I gesture for Hayden to proceed. He knelt down and rolled the leg up to reveal the matted blood that was hidden underneath. He goes to the sink and wets a paper towel to clean up the mess. Letting out another sigh, I shook my head and accepted that this was really happening. "Since we're getting to know each other, how long have you been in New York?"


Gently cleaning my wound of dirt and crust, he replies, "Oh, not too long. A year maybe? I was a big model in Europe and Asia and just decided to come here to work. I've always wanted to live here." He took a fresh cotton ball with alcohol to my wound and gently cleaned some more. "What about you, Allison? How long have you been in the city that never sleeps?"


The way he said my name made me blush for some reason. Damn that accent! "I, uh, I've lived here my whole life. I was born in the Bronx but moved into the city to be closer to work."


"And where do you work," Hayden asked as he placed a bandage on my knee and stood up, pleased with his handling of the situation.


"I work at the big Strand bookstore by Union Square."


"Oh really?" Hayden’s moved to the sink and washed his hands. "I'm always in there killing time or looking for something interesting to read." He gives me a sideways glance. "That's where I've seen you before!" He laughs a little.


I smile hesitantly and let out a short laugh myself. "Well," I said, standing up and testing my knee for any further damage as a distraction because my pulse is racing like a track star and I need to make it out of here without embarrassing myself anymore than I already have. "I've taken up way more of your time than I should have and I'm sure by now you're super late for work..." Oh dear... I'm rambling...


"Nonsense," Hayden said. " I was just on my way to get breakfast. Normally," he goes to put on his coat, "I have breakfast at home but it's so wonderful outside, I thought to go and grab something and sit in the park.” He smiles with a tilt of his head, that smile that sends the butterflies my way, coat in both hands. "If you have time, would you like to join me?"


Remain calm and keep breathing, I tell myself. I'm sure he can see the internal struggle within me. "Well... I'm not exactly presentable. Especially after what happened earlier." I shrug with my burning palms upward. I dust myself off in an attempt to avert my eyes from his gorgeousness. If there is a God, he's having the time of his life at my expense right now. "Besides," I said, shaking my head insistently, "I really must go. My roommate must have called me several time by now wondering where I went." I pull my iPhone out and am relieved to see it's not damaged. But, the list of missed calls and messages from Over Protective Tabbie prove that I was right. I showed him the list so he doesn't think I'm lying.


"I see," he said, hearing the hint of disappointment in his voice. "Well, can I at least walk you back home?"


"S-Sure," I said. "I'm not that far from here." I'm not dead yet so what's the harm in letting him walk me to my building? Not like I'm giving him keys or anything. Tabbie would definitely kill me if I did.


"And, if I may be so bold as to ask, are you going to work today?" Oh noes... "Because, I'd still like to take you out sometime ." He's still smiling that smile!


"Umm,... I, uh..." Oh damn it. Why must I always suck at moments like these? "I’m sorry, but I'm not good at this at all." I bolt for the door and run down all the stairs, ignoring his calls for me to come back. Did that really just happen? No take backs now. I just freaked out on what could have been the greatest thing to ever happen to me. I guess it just wasn't meant to be. I keep on running until I'm back home and head straight into the bathroom to wash up. Tabbie was on the phone (thank God), so she didn't see the mess I was in.


I can't believe I just ran away from a hot guy! Tabbie will never let me live it down. Maybe she won't ask about my scars... I ran the tub and get a bath going. I need to calm my ass down before I left for my shift and put this all behind me. As I strip, I peel the layers off carefully and am reminded that a completely hot stranger helped me out when he could have just left me on the street. I sink into the hot water and slowly sink lower in reminding myself of the ultimate embarrassment. Oh please don't let me run into him again!

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Chapter 2: Rediscovery

Tabbie had stepped out while I was still taking that bath. Thank heavens because I did not want to revisit what happened earlier today just yet. Or at all. I'm thinking like I'm definitely gonna bump into this guy again. It's a big city, right? What are the chances in a million I'd see him again? And the possibility of seeing him again today could be even greater. Anyway, I got calm enough to get dressed and think about what to pack for lunch before heading to work. Tabbie set up an outfit for me: red boyfriend cardigan with a gray long sleeve blouse, black pleated skirt, matching gray leggings and black leg warmer socks. She even put out a pair of brown ankle high buckled boots and some gold accessories. Really now... It's like she's being my mother or treating me like I'm her Barbie doll. I can't complain though. I would have just slapped on jeans, a tee shirt and sneakers but this is cuter. I made a sandwich and packed it with fruit on the side and I was good to go.


Ever since I met Tabbie, my closets and drawers have been filled with things I never considered before from places I never bothered to step foot in. Or consider the kind of skin and hair care I should be using. I just used whatever was on sale and it seemed good enough to me. When I got my job at Strands, traveling from the Bronx was okay and all, but living with my parents was becoming very stressful what with my brother in college now and sometimes bringing his friends home. I needed my own space. I was lucky that a coworker knew someone that was looking to take on a roommate. How she was able to afford the huge apartment we now share was a mystery but I was so grateful. The only stipulation was that she might occasionally have a bone to pick about my sense of fashion,which ended up being all the time. I mean, when we met up for the first time, I dressed like it was a job interview. I wanted to make a good first impression and I was honest when she asked about my wardrobe. But after that, it was like I signed away all of my casual clothing to the Salvation Army. Which, I admit, I had to do in order to revamp my wardrobe. You might be saying "this bitch is crazy to put up with this." But think about the amount of money I just saved by living with a styling assistant. Not only is Tabbie fashion savvy, she's also a smart shopper that's so alert to sales, she knows about them before they're announced. I still have a few raggedy clothes for everyday things like chores and when I really don't care to be noticed but, living la vida broka is not a visual option for me anymore.


After my run in with Mr. Fabulous, I needed to treat myself for surviving what could have been a really bad experience. I headed out and made my way to Starbucks for a Green Tea Frappe because nothing makes me feel better than waiting for whipped antioxidants in a room filled with the smells of freshly brewed bean water. As I'm waiting on line, I see someone waving in the far corner. It's Tabbie with her boss and friend, Kiki Perez. I wave back just as it's my turn to order. Once I get my fluffy iced deliciousness, I walk over to their table to perform the social graces of having been noticed.


"Oh, look at you, chickee!" Kiki looks me over while I stood by their table. "Did my fabulous fashion assistant do this to you again?"


I laugh a little. "Yep. Never a dull moment when it comes to what I wear to work." I take a seat next to her after she pulls a chair up for me.


"So," Tabbie asks, "What happened this morning? You took longer than usual and you looked so spazzed." She sounded really worried, then noticed the bandages I had on my hands. "Oh my god! What happened to your hands?"


I flippantly gesture as if to say that it's nothing. "Just got spooked by a big dog, crashed into someone and fell down. No big deal." I save myself from saying more by drinking my frappe.


"Really? Is that all? Because you're turning red." Kiki was always an eye for details and she had to catch on to my face. Damn you, Asian face. Hide embarrassment better!


Fine... Can't lie to save my ass anyway... "I was halfway through my jog when I was spooked by some ugly dog and crashed into this guy. He helped me up and dragged me back to his place-"


"Wait, what?" Tabbie and Kiki said this in high pitched unison. Then Tabbie said, "You let some stranger drag you to his place? And then what? Did he show you his creepy collection of God's know what?” She's so excited that some random guy grabbed me street for all the wrong reasons. It shouldn't have happen at all!


"It was nothing!" I'm flailing my arms in front of me to stop them from asking anymore as I choke on my drink. "He insisted on cleaning my wounds because he felt they were his fault," my voice getting lower and lower, "And then he asked me to breakfast.."


"And you went?!" Kiki is kind of like my city mother since I always see her in Manhattan and she's always been one to care for those she feels need it.


"No!" More internal flailing. "I ran out of his place as fast as I could and came right back home. I know you'd start to worry if I wasn't back in the time I said." I stared at my cup knowing my face is so red right now I couldn't hide it from NASA.


"So," Tabbie said slowly, "Let me get this straight... You fell outside and some random guy drags you back to his place... just to bandage your boo boos?" Leaning closer towards me, she asks in a low, mockish tone, "Was he cute?"


Could red get any redder? "Well,..." Drawing on dramatic pause to try and stop my heart from pounding out my chest, I take as deep a breath as I could before finishing my sentence. "He's... kind of a supermodel..." I gave them a strained sheepish smile.


The girls start squealing like we're in high school and I just got asked out to prom by the captain of the football team. "Shut the fuck up! No way," Tabbie is shaking her head fiercely, "I don't believe you."


"Go on, look him up. He told me his name is Hayden Oda." I feel both energetic and drained. This man is sucking the life out of me and it's not even night yet. It feels like a comic joke only it's not. I hope it's not...


They hop onto their phones and quickly Googled this guy up. The slow gawks on their faces show how real the shit just got. "Girrrrrl, do you know how lucky you are," Kiki said as she places a hand on my arm, "To have been blessed by this gift from the gods? No one gets so up close and personal with him. That's how hot he is. He's never caught outside a photo shoot or Fashion Week."


“Or his charity work. He always does those big charities dinners for various children's causes,” Tabbie’s matter of fact tone matched her true story pose.


"Well, he was the one I crashed into on the street," I said defensively. "Everything would have been normal if he ignored me like a normal New Yorker."


"But he's not!" Kiki gasped. "It’s been said he’s always lived in, like, Japan or England. That’s where his parents are from. I didn't know he was living here and i’m usually the one that would know. Did you get his number? What's his place like?" Why am I suddenly getting the fifth degree?


"Did he try to do anything to you besides bandage you up?" Tabbie started taking on that tone she gets whenever a guy comes into my life. Like I’m suddenly a unicorn come with the juiciest of gossip. I might as well be so in this instance.


I take a long drag from my cup. "No, I don't really remember since I was more concerned about getting outta dodge, and absolutely not!" I said that a little too loudly and took a deep breath to calm down. "He was really nice and polite and insisted on doing what he did. He wanted to take me out to apologize for dragging me to his place." I look at my phone and stood up. "Oh crap, I gotta go or I'll be late for work." Saying a quick goodbye, I make my way out the door, leaving pleading questions for more details behind me.



It's busy today, but everyday is busy. It's a big book store in a major part of the city that's always managed to hold its own against Barnes & Nobles across the way. Everyday, someone is in need of a book and sometimes that book can't be found at a big time, multi-chain store. Today, I'm doing general customer service and inventory. I'm going over the list my manager gave me to see what we need more of on the shelves towards the back wall when, about half way done, a coworker reminded me that my break was coming up. As if my stomach didn't let me know already. I barely ate after my run in with that guy, Hayden. I didn't believe him when he said he was a supermodel but I'll be damned if I wasn't going to check his story out. I mean, yeah, you're fucking hot as hell, but you could just be saying you're a supermodel to get chicks into bed with you. Gotta play it safe these days. Doesn't help that mom is always worried about me since my move, but moms are like that. So glad I didn't check while I was in the tub, though, or my phone would have hit that water so fast. A real life, internationally known supermodel pulled me up from the streets (a complete stranger covered in dirt, sweat and blood) and took me to his place to tend to my wounds. If that wasn't a modern fairy tale moment, I don't know what is. I must have been living under a rock in the deepest hole not to have seen him before. How?! I'll tell you how. Because that hole was so deep, fashion could reach the end of a black hole and I still wouldn't know what a Gucci bag looked like if it slapped me in the face out front of Bloomingdale's.


But, that was this morning. I'm really hoping to put all that behind me and just move on. I admit it. I screwed up royally with even the possibility of friending an ultra hot male model. I mean, for all I know, he could be gay or pansexual. Or hell, just naturally sultry (is that even a thing?). He was European, after all. If he's French, well... Deep breath, girl. Come back to planet Earth. New York City is filled with millions of people. The possibility of me bumping into him again is minuscule at best. I'm finishing up with the Van Gogh section when I spin around to get take my break and crash into someone. "Oh! I'm so sorry!" My face went right into some really nice gray coat right then and my vision blurred a bit from the shock.


"Don't be," said a deliciously familiar voice. "I was hoping you'd bump into me again." That gentle voice put me on edge and made my heart jump hoops.


I take a deep breath, blinked a few times and there was that intoxicating scent. Hayden Akiyama, quite possibly the hottest guy I could ever have interacted with, was standing in front of me and so close! Dressed like Burberry and Marc Jacobs had a baby, his heat was radiating and it felt like a safe place to just snuggle up into... Get it together, girl! I snap back to reality and try to shake it all off. "Oh, uh, hi... I, uh... " Good job, self. I start walking off to make my get away. "I didn't expect to see you after what happened." I'm trying not to walk too fast and act like my hair is getting in the way. Still talking, more rapidly now, "You must think me a super flake for what I did before and-"


His footsteps followed me and grabs my arm gently to stop me. "Listen, I didn't mean to make things so awkward between us. Please, allow me to apologize by taking you to lunch."


I try to get him to let go by trying to turn down his offer. "I-I-I can't. I, uh,... I, uh..." I see John, my manager, looking over at me with concern. I mouth “It's okay” to let him know he's not causing me trouble. "Well," I said, shifting my weight a little nervous, "I am going on break right now, but I already brought lunch."


Smiling, Hayden said, "So did I." He lifts up a large brown paper shopping bag. Is that soy sauce I smell? "I would be honored if you would allow me to take you out on a picnic date." He bows as if he were a knight being graced by a princess. Oh my god, tone down the hotness! My manager can see it all play out and lipped out the words "What is going on?" I responded with what felt like the kind of expression a deer in headlights would make and made off to get my things.


When I came out, Hayden was near the exit, waiting patiently and being ogled by females and males at every turn. John stops me before we're in ear shot of my date. "Is everything okay, Alice? Was that guy bothering you?" Alice is his nickname for me when I started working here. He thought it was appropriate since I always seem lost when someone brings up fashion. John's not a fighter, but he'll defend his people tooth and nail like the big brother I never had. "Do you want me to tell him to leave you alone?"


"No," I said as I put my hat on and fix my scarf. "It's okay. He's a friend. Just surprised me is all. I'll be back. Promise." John gave me a skeptical look but nodded in agreement. I flashed him my phone to show he could always text me if he was that worried. "It's just lunch." John still had that look of worry on his face. "You'll be the first one I call if anything happens." Hayden holds out his arm for me to take and I hesitantly take it. Am I being swept off my feet or is he just being a gentleman?


Spring may be around the corner but it could hurry up just a little bit. My Liz Claiborne coat is warm enough when paired with the hat, scarf and mittens I made but knowing that Winter still lingers doesn't make them any warmer. We manage to find a nice sun patch with a bench and table under it at the park in Union Square. There's a fair bit of people around on their lunch break or just enjoying this weather. The farmer's market is in full swing too. I have to remember to pick up some stuff for the house... Hayden begins taking out container after container of steaming wonderful. The smells are amazing! My stomach shares in this thought by making a public announcement. How embarrassing! I can feel my face turn red as he looks at me with a chuckle. He hands me a container of steaming rice and takeout bamboo chopsticks. When the containers are opened, it was like a dim sum palace came to me. So many dumplings and rolls and delicious awesomeness came right from Chinatown. Whatever fears I may have had are gone now because he brought me a peace offering worthy of any war.


"If you're wondering, yes, I did go to Chinatown to get all of this," Hayden said as he reached over to open my container of rice and serve me. "Fresh from this little place on the corner across from the visitors' center."


"Oh, I know that place! My family used to go there whenever we had to make a grocery run." Food! Oh my god, shut up and eat, said my stomach. But I can't go scarfing down food when I'm technically someone's guest. I take one of the dim sums he gave me and savor it. Had I been by myself, I'd be shoving food in my face and not care who saw me. Unfortunately, I have to have a care.


He chuckles. "It was one of the first places I ate at when I came here to work. It was also the cheapest." He popped a dumpling into his mouth. Does he have to look hot while eating too? I swear, someone took a magic wand and turned my life into a Shojo. Seriously. I'm that dork girl that has the attention of the hottest guy in the universe. All I need now is the jealous ex-girlfriend and the cast is complete. I broke out of my train of thought when he continued his story. "I ate there all the time. So much so, that I got to know the owner and he would give me extra food whenever I came by close to closing. Really nice guy." He looked at me with concern. "Aren't you hungry? You're not eating." He took a har gow and indicated for me to open my mouth and eat it from his chop sticks. What?! Clearly he's never heard of cooties. Or germs. I think the normal response would have been to complain or wave off the gesture, but I was so hungry and it would be a sin to waste food so... I just ate it. "That's better," Hayden said with a satisfied smile. "You look so much better."


I rested my hands on the table while still holding my container of rice and chopsticks. "I'm sorry I'm acting like such a spaz. It's just that..." I can feel my face flush a little. Why must I suck at this so much? "It's just that..."


"You've never been out on a lunch date with a supermodel before?" Said supermodel smiled a charming smile worthy of any photo shoot.




"Wait," he said, pointing his chopsticks at me. "You mean..." I nodded. "You've never been out on any date before?" I nod again. "No way," he said, placing his rice and chopsticks down and bringing out a thermos and two cups. "I don't believe you. You, an attractive young woman, could find a date anywhere."


I laugh a little sardonically. "Don't let the clothes fool you. My roommate is a styling assistant so she usually picks out my clothes when I have to go somewhere." I look off to the distance feeling somewhat ashamed now. Thanks for letting me grow up a tomboy, parental units. "The only reason I can dress like this is because I agreed to it. Otherwise, I'd still be home with my parents wearing jeans and tee shirts the rest of my life. And I never found a date because... Because I never went looking." Oh, I feel so stupid sitting here! "And besides, this is just lunch right? It's never gonna happen again."


Hayden looked a little hurt as he poured me a cup of tea. "Do you mean to say you don't want to have lunch with me again?"


Oh crap, really?!?! He's serious! "You're joking... Aren’t you..."


"I'm being completely serious."he passes me the cup of hot tea. "As serious as I was when I bandaged your wounds this morning."


"But, I was a total flake! I'm still a total flake... A hungry... Total... Flake..." I eat another dumpling because I didn't know what else to say… and I was still hungry.


Hayden smiled and started to laugh. It was a refreshing kind of laugh, but I wasn't sure if he was laughing me or the situation or both. He managed to calm himself and see the mixed expressions on my face. "I'm sorry," he said as he reached for my hand and held it in his gentle grasp. "I mean no offense whatsoever."


"Didn't feel like that," I muttered bluntly. That really hurt and felt like he was making fun of me. I try to take my hand from him, but he held onto it.


"You have to believe me when I say I wasn't laughing at you or at anything about you." Now he's holding my hand in both of his. His skin is so amazingly soft and his hands are so warm, I want to hold them in mine. But I'm still so mixed up with what's happening right now. "Please understand that, when I was laughing, it was because I have only ever met girls that have been is so many relationships that I could almost predict what they were going to do next." I blinked at him in disbelief. "Truly. It's the price one pays, socially, for becoming famous. It's why society hasn't seen me outside anything fashion related. I feel like it's a waste of time to look for genuine in a sea of, for lack of a better word, posers."


At that I had to giggle. "Because all models are posers?" We both start laughing and I start to feel better. I sip some tea and the warmth is refreshing. "I'm so glad. You'd think that, being born and raised in this city, I'd have some dating experience. But all I've ever known was getting good grades and landing a job. Technically, a really good paying job but, beggars can't be choosers sometimes. And, I just never bothered to think about dating."


Hayden patted my hand and let it go to resume eating. The heat was leaving my palm too fast. I wish I could hold onto it just a little longer. "Ah, the Asian parent mentality. Well, since our little run in, it's been quite refreshing to meet a girl that's a clean slate and wonderful to talk to." Oh crap, is that his smolder look? His soft smile is amazing and I could get lost in those eyes. The fringes hanging off sway gently in the breeze and it's like those tender moments you see in movies. I'm captivated enough to let this moment last a little longer.


But, before I could say anything, I saw the time. Five minutes till my break is over. "Oh shit!" I stood up super fast and blood rushed to my head, sending me into a dizzying whirlwind and spiraling to the ground. Hayden rushed to my aid and tries to steady me onto my feet. "I have to get back to work." I'm swaying too much and have to lean against him to make the world stop spinning. His steady hands keeping me from swaying too much as he guides me back into my seat.


"Here, drink more tea and let me pack this all up. I will walk you back and we can pick up where we left off when you get out of work." Wait, what? "When is your shift over?"


Before I could think about what to say, I blurt out "8 pm."


A big smile spread across his lips. "Fantastic," he said as he finished packing up the leftovers. "I'll pick you up from work and we can continue to talk over dinner. Good?" He held a hand out for me.


I merely nodded in agreement and took the offered hand. Hayden interlocked our fingers and stuck both hands into his coat pocket. I was still a bit dizzy so I leaned into his presence. He didn't seem to mind it at all the whole walk back to work.


John so happened to be outside going over the carts of books we have out front when he saw us. He looked at me and didn't hide the frown on his face. "Is everything okay? You don't look so well."


"She stood up so fast to come back that she had a dizzy spell and almost fell down," Hayden explained matter-of-factly. "She should be just fine but I said I'd come and get her when her shift ended, just to make sure she gets a decent meal in before I take her home." John indicated an "ah" as he sized the model up before going back to what he was doing.


I straightened up after a few deep breaths and faced my lunch date. "Well! This has been really interesting, but you really don't have to come and get me later-"


Hayden rested the bag on the ground and took my face into those soft warm hands of his before I could finish what I was saying. "I want to see you again," he said in a soft, low tone that I can't tell was intimate or just low because only I was meant to hear him. He bent down to where his lips were by my ear and when he spoke, trembles shook my entire body. "I already like saying your name, Allison." He said my name in that sultry come hither kinda tone. Or was it? At least I think that's what it was. Man do I suck at this dating thing! His breath tingled in my ear. Again, anime, nose bleed, death. Right here. In public. Outside of work for the whole world to see. Oh look... There goes my soul... I'm pretty sure I'm blushing because I'm in no condition to speak. All I do is nod. "Splendid," he said in that low tone. "I'll pick you up at 8," he said, right before giving me a kiss on the cheek. We stand there for a moment longer and he caresses the spot he kissed before walking away.


Holy. Fucking. Shit. Did that really just happen? This thought went through my mind over and over as I went back to working inventory. It all seems like a daydream that I woke up from. I never went on that lunch. I was sitting in the back having that sandwich I made. But, the tingling sensation on my cheek was too real to ignore. I touch it for a moment. I don't want John or anyone else to ask what was up. Worse would be if Tabbie and Kiki came in to see how I was doing. I'm pretty sure they're still doing a shoot so they wouldn't be done until I get out, at the very least. I never knew how long photo shoots could go until I helped out on that one editorial Kiki invited me to help on and we didn't get home till 10 'o'clock at night. My feet were throbbing and I think I didn't wake up until the next afternoon. I don't know how they do it! Anyway, I better let her know I have plans after work so she doesn't worry about me. Oh, but I know she will. One time, we went out to dinner to try this new place that opened in the Village and some guy tried to pick me up. He was half drunk and rude as hell. Just some random guy that bumped into us after he crawled out from one of the bars. Tabitha almost kicked his ass to the curb. Literally! She's one of few that has ever known I've never dated in my entire life. And Kiki knows because, whenever she talks about guys and sex and all things related, it makes me super uncomfortable. Yes, I'm a virgin. I begrudgingly admit that fact. My parents led me on that ultra sheltered road to success. They wouldn't let me date until I got a job. Yeah, you'd think till I got into college but no, it had to be a job. But when I was in college, I was too busy with studies to worry about dating. And then a job as well? Nope. No time for tomfoolery. So when it comes to guys, I'm a total flake when it comes to normal guys. Never mind hot guys. And Hayden is a whole 'nother animal. Just to have someone from the beautiful spectrum even look at me turns me to stone because I don't know if I'm being judged or mocked or stripped by those eyes. Ugh! Tabitha always tells me I look cute and adorable and that I'm very attractive, but all I ever see in the morning is a generic Asian female that was born and raised in America and who's into the occasional video game, books, and food. Fashion won't get you into medical school, but clearly I can't get myself in either so yeah...


I let out a heavy sigh. I'm really over thinking this and have seen way too much TV which makes me paranoid about things out of my control. I just have to take things one hesitant step at a time and see where it leads me. I do have pepper spray my older brother got me when he came back from drill and those few moves he showed me. Moves I haven't practiced in a while... Shaking my head, I manage to snag a quick break and give Tabbie a call.


"What?!," hit my ear sharply when I relayed the news of my dinner date. "Are you serious? With Mr. Fabulous? Fuck, what I wouldn't do to be you tonight."


"It's just dinner," I said. Really, what's the big deal?


"Just dinner? Just dinner, Allison?" My roommate sounds like she's on the borderline of hysterics. "You're about to have dinner with one of the world's hottest bachelors and you're saying it's just dinner?" I didn't even know he was internationally known. How was I also supposed to know he's a bachelor? If you told me from the start that he was who he was, I would have either stared in disbelief or said a small greeting then crawled right back under the rock I was hiding under all this time. "No one's been able to see this guy outside a shoot. Hell, no one's seen him eat like a human being, let alone walk outside like a normal person."


"Well,... He kinda took me out to lunch..." I brace myself for impact and grimace as if I as already hit.


"He did what?!?!" I can hear Kiki in the background asking like something when horribly wrong and Tabitha goes ahead and tells her. Great. Just great. She puts me on speaker and they're now all over my business, asking all sorts of questions related to lunch. "He fed you a dumpling? Shut up!" They're squealing more and aweing at how sweet he was to help me out when I had that dizzy spell. Then I tell them about after work and everything goes silent. Like, the tiniest pin that could possibly fall could be heard for the split second that it lasted. Then the flood of questions came on: when was he picking me up, where were we going, is it just dinner or will there be a movie involved, will I be coming home tonight and if not, I have to parlay all the juicy details whenever I get home. Oh hi, NASA. That super bright red spot you're seeing from space is just me. Me talking about the first real date I'm having with the only two people I'd ever allow embarrass me like this. Do not be alarmed. Continue doing science.


"Don't you guys have a shoot to finish," I deflect in the hopes they drop the subject already.


"Oh, we're on break, chickee," Kiki said, all purrs. "Listen, if you ever need any advice on men, you just hit me up. I can tell you all you need to do if things go past just dinner and mo-"


"Hoo, no! Stop! Stopstopstop! Goodbye!" I hang up and realized what I just said was louder than I meant it to me. I look around and only Brenda was in the break room at the moment listening to her music loud enough the dead could hear it. Thank you, sweet baby Jesus, for that small blessing. I got enough people catching me in all this hot mess already. I do not need anymore! I trot to the ladies room to wash my face and calm down so I can finish my shift. I have just under a couple of hours before that ends and my date begins. I take a few deep fortifying breaths and told my inner self to calm the fuck down. All this running about in my head is making me really tired and I need to be aware of myself tonight. I have no idea what's planned for dinner, if it's just going to be dinner or more... I'm sooooooooooooooo not ready for the more part. I head to the ladies room and my inner fangirl broke out and I held my fists over my mouth to hold in the squeal that was about to escape while I shook my head in excitement. I’m alone in here so no one needs to know I'm that much of a dork. More deep breaths. Come on, blood pressure, calm your tits. When I finally calm down enough, I head back out and finish what I can. Whoever said "Expect the unexpected" clearly never met anyone like me and never had a day like this.

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Chapter 3: The Dinner Date

Minutes slowly rolled by in that hour from the time I spoke with Tabitha and when I got ready to clock out for the day. Nervous barely describes how I feel because this is really happening and I'm still thinking it's a dream. It’s been forever since I’ve gone on a date with anyone. I mean, drinks with the girls is one thing. Date with an international model? Ugh... Never occurred to me to think about where he was going to take me to dinner when, as I make my way to the front door, there stood my dashingly handsome date waiting for me. Hayden didn't really change his clothes as far as I could tell but he looked so much more attractive somehow. Maybe it's because it's night. Maybe it's because I've died so many time from the mental blood loss. Maybe... Maybe he's a vampire! Or, maybe it's all the other females in the room undressing him with their eyes. Could you blame them? Deep breath and get it together, self. He's here for you! I'm holding my mittens in my hand as I step up to the tall, dashing gentleman wading in the sea of pheromones. "Hi," was all I was able to come up with besides my small, timid smile. I could feel eyes on me, all wondering who was I to this gorgeous thing. I was thinking about what I was going to say next when he returns my smile with a gentle one of his own.


"Good evening, my Alice," Hayden said as he held out his hand for me to take. My ears burned a little hearing him call me by a nickname. Alice? Really? I think I shivered a little in excitement or something, but too nervous to register. I sure as hell feel like Alice falling down that rabbit hole. Where the hell is that bottom already? I should have had my mitts on as the chill passes us, but his hands were pretty warm. We’re holding hands, right? Yea… We are. Seeing him take notice of my frosty skin, he rubbed my hands in his before taking one and placing it into his coat pocket.


It was quiet for a few moments as we walked casually to our destination, which was still a mystery to me. "How was your day," Hayden asked, breaking the silence that felt suffocating to me. With my hand still in his inside his coat pocket, he gently rubbed the back of my hand as if he could sense the tension deep inside me. Tingling sensations shot up my arm and I took another deep breath to try and keep the calm inside me that was battling the nervousness.


"It was okay," I replied as calmly as I could. "Just the usual retail thing with lots of books. Nothing eventful happened." Except for before but no one's really counting that except me and the two people that explode whenever I tell them about this new venture in my life. "How was yours?" Polite society dictates that the social graces of asking about one's day goes both ways and, well, it would be really awkward if he asked all the questions. Besides... did I sound calm and casual? I did... didn't I? I need to get a grip...


He was smiling that soft smile as he looked ahead. "Well, I called my agency about that gig I missed thanks to you," he said with a sly smirk and a wink at me. God, do I feel so bad about that! There was really no way to hide that fact as I avoided eye contact. "Oh, don’t worry about it. They rescheduled before I even bumped into you so it all worked out in the end. I missed the call because I had to make sure your wounds were tended to, after all." He took our entwined hands from his pocket and kissed the back of mine, sending more tingles up my arms. I think I visually trembled because Hayden frowned a little and let my hand go to wrap his arm around me. I was going to say I wasn't that cold, but I didn't object to being held either. It felt as if I couldn’t because the words were trapped in this new experience, stunned into silence from WTF overload. His scent was intoxicating and I felt so warm and safe in his arms that I leaned into him a little. He hugged me tighter in response. "You must be tired after all that's happened today. Good thing I'm taking you to dinner." I said nothing as we kept walking. There was a moment of silence that felt suffocating with anticipation. It was broken when he asked, "Are you okay," a look of concern on his face as he stopped us on the corner of the street. As if in emphasis, he brushed a few strands of hair from my face I hadn’t notice escape my hat.


"Yeah," I said hurriedly, "I'm fine! Really... I'm just..."I think my face was turning red with embarrassment and worry. Panic, you suck so much right now!


Hayden chuckled and hugged me again, a little more gently this time, before letting me go and taking my hand again. "You're not used to all this..." He flailed his hand before us, "dating stuff, are you?" He sighed still smiling. All I could do was nod as my heart sank a little. I must be one hell of a disappointment to him as that sigh replayed in my mind over and over. "It's okay,” he said, tone gentle and accepting. Not what I expected at all and I’m stunned again, gaze turning to his profile. “We don't have to refer to it as a date. I'm just a friend taking a friend out for a hot meal and good conversation. A new friend, in fact! I am truly excited to get to know you, Allison." That made me relax a little, but seeing how people were looking at us as they passed by made me squirm on the inside. I shrank a bit under all this pressure that, in reality, is probably non-existent. Beautiful people can be friends and just wanna go out to eat and drink and be social. So why must my lack of self confidence make this so difficult? In reassurance, he said, "I promise that I will never be untoward you in any way and I won't do anything you don't want to do." He crossed his heart, held his palm out in swear to the promise he just made and had an innocent look on his face. “You are my friend and I don’t want to seem like anything dangerous or creepy to you. You have no idea how hard it is to not be yourself and have an actual decent conversation that’s not fashion or work related.”


I couldn’t help the little giggle that left me. It was so silly, but can you blame me? "I appreciate that, Hayden. Truly, and you’re totally right on the dating thing, though I can’t relate to that last part..." I let the words trail a bit before taking a deep breath and let it out slowly, feeling all the air leave my body to join the evening breeze. What was the last conversation I had with someone of the opposite sex outside of work? Feeling a little better, I asked "So..., where are we going?" Hayden stopped, making me stop and bump into him before I could stop. Looking at where we are I blurt out "Here?" The Gramercy Tavern. The outside didn't look like much but the inside was a little more upscale than what I was used to. "I don't think I'm really dressed for this kind of place..." I looked down at what I was wearing and started mentally comparing myself to the other women i could see through the window.


"You look wonderful," he reassured me, leaning down to kiss my forehead through my hat. I looked up at him and felt my face flush. He smiled at me, looking me over with curious, innocent eyes that made me feel like I turned into a puddle. “Come, we’re here for us, not them. Let’s just enjoy our time together. Two new friends just getting to know each other and vent about our long day at work.” He brushes hair from my face again with a tender gaze and all I did was nod. How can he reassure me so and we only just met?


Leading the way, we entered the fancy restaurant and waited to be seated. As we waited, I looked around at the decor. The place itself was wonderful: Simple dark wood trims with great lighting and the layout of the tables made it intimate yet not as sophisticated as I thought. Some of the patrons looked like business people enjoying themselves after a long day at the bar or having dinner with colleagues. Others looked like tourists looking to have a New York style restaurant experience. Overall, the atmosphere was much more casual than I expected. I really need to get out more... Hayden smiled softly at me. "Have you ever been here before?"


I shook my head. "No. I've only ever been to small diners and bars. Never any place this nice unless it was a special occasion. And even then, it was more like those banquet places in Chinatown when someone gets married."


“Really? I’ve never been to a Chinese style banquet wedding. Italian is really lively. One day, we will need to go to both.” What did he mean by that? Before I could ask, the hostess indicated our seats will be ready soon. "Don't worry then. I'll do all the ordering. Do you drink wine?"


"I don't really drink alcohol in general, but," I laughed a little at myself, "I've only ever had the cheap stuff if offered." I smiled sheepishly. "So don't ask me on how to choose a bottle." I’m so out of touch with the drinking culture, I have no idea what’s good to have in any social setting.


Hayden squeezed my hand in reassurance. "Well, this place has a set dinner menu that comes with pairings so it takes the trouble out of picking." The hostess signaled for us to follow her and we were led to a more quieter part of the tavern. Seated at a booth by the window, the night atmosphere passed us by as we begin settling in. I took my outer things off and placed them next to me before sitting down. Hayden did the same, sitting across from me while the hostess left menus on the table and signaled for a busboy to bring us water with lemon. I tried to calm my nerves, leaving my hands on my lap and kneading the hem of my sweater to give them something to do. We sat in silence for a moment before a waiter came by and my date (because let’s face it, that’s what Hayden is unless he was really serious about being just friends, which is totally fine because he shouldn’t be settling for a flake like me!) told him that we would have the prefix dinner menu for the evening. Once we were left alone, my nervousness started to creep up again. I almost jumped out of my skin when Hayden spoke. "So, tell me more about yourself. I want to get to know you better so I know how to do things around you."


Oooh, that sounded so wrong! Looking at my busy hands to hide my stupid face, I replied, "Well... Like, what do you want to know?"


He reached across the table and gestured for me to give him my hands. I hesitated before giving in, slowly emerging them to join his. Christ, I've never felt such wonderful hands so much in all my very short, limited dating life. I'm starting to wonder what those hands might feel like in other places before snapping out of that train when he said, "Well, for starters, obviously you're into crafts and staying healthy. Do you like cooking or traveling?"


The first course interrupts us so Hayden had to let go of my hands. He looked a bit disappointed, but my stomach was grateful. I don't know if he heard it, but I hope he didn't like last time. "This looks pretty interesting," I commented as I poked the contents of my plate with my fork.


"I come here once in awhile," Hayden said as he started eating. "Every day the menu changes. So, every time you come, it's a surprise!" He looked so happy eating this interestingly crispy salad thing. Seemed like it was his natural environment. If I just bumped into him now, I would not have thought he was a model, but a food critic or blogger trying this menu out for a review or just some foodie that loves coming here. Watching him eat was like watching an intimate moment, brief but intense. The busboy came to take our plates as the next course came with it's wine pairing and it was a pasta dish that was quite palette cleansing despite its appearance. And with each dish, we discussed how it tasted, the texture, how the wine interacted with the flavors, anything and everything that could be discussed in casual conversation about food and ourselves.


When we left, we were talking about what were our favorite things about dinner. "It has got to be the red velvet cake. That ice cream and frosting must have added, like, ten pounds on me! But it was worth it." I felt like such a glutton for having that meal, but the experience was amazing! I was smiling and chipper, forgetting I was on a date with a supermodel and that it had gotten chilly. Hayden looked content walking by my side, leaving me to talk on and on. I am tipsy and not ashamed to show it! More like unable to control myself. That's what I get for being a lightweight. I almost trip on air when Hayden catches me and clutches me to him. "Oooooooooooh... I don't feel so good now..." One hand on my head and the other on his chest, I try to stop the world from spinning and not to go the embarrassing route of puking by the curb with him holding my hair. I take a few deep breaths and take in that wonderful Hayden scent. It's kinda like gentle musk mixed with clean linen on a warm Spring day. So warm and inviting and safe.


Concern was quite evident in Hayden’s voice. "Let's get you inside so we can get you well again." I nodded since I was in no condition to argue and we walked back towards Union Square. It's amazing how many people are still out at this time of the night. I always forget that since I come from a small town outside of the city. It’s only been a few months, but I still can’t get over how people work at all hours of the night and day here. Truly a city that never sleeps.


We end up back at his place, lights come on low and there was a fire place I didn't see before. Given this was a much older building, I guess they kept it instead of modernizing the whole place. Pretty sure people pay to have that installed... I stood there still with my coat and things on as I watched my date turned host go to the fireplace and get it going then put a kettle on the stove. "Come, why are you still standing there?" He ledme to a plush couch and helped me out of my coat, purse placed to the side with it. He even went so far as to get me out of my shoes. I curl my toes in embarrassment. Instinctually, I wrap my arms around myself to warm up and he comes up from behind me with an afghan, wrapping me up as he leads me to the couch. Planting a soft kiss on my forehead, Hayden looked at me with concern as he sat me down. He goes back to the kitchen area and I could hear the clinking of mugs and rustle of kitchen activity. I look around and see framed artwork, some statues and pictures of him with others on the hearth. The large bay windows showed the vast night sky in all it's glittering glory. There's a plush rug under my feet like a large round patch of white fuzzy grassland that was like foot heaven.


I was slowly rubbing my feet on this furry cloud when I hear him return. "Here we go," my host said as he joined me with two steaming mugs. "Green sencha tea will help flush your system. Careful, it's extremely hot and I wouldn't want you to burn yourself. Just give it a few moments." He set them on the stand and placed a hand on my forehead, frowning a bit. "You seem a little warm and flushed. Do you always get like this when you drink?"


"Well," I said, swaying a little back and forth uncontrollably, " I did say I didn't drink often." My head found its way to his chest, a soft “poof” kind of sound was heard somewhere (I think in my mind) and he gently embraced me. "I'm really sorry for ruining everything."


I could feel the chuckle softly rumbling deep within him. "No, don't be. I should have thought better than to have taken you someplace that offered alcohol. I should have asked for an alternative or something for the wine."


“N-no no!” I sat up right, causing myself to get dizzy again. “I shouldn’t have drank. I just felt guilty thinking you’re paying for this unique dinner and I wasn’t sharing omg it all.” Averting my gaze, I felt that guilt come up again and I felt sheepish at the same time.


He held me close in my bundled state and rubbed my arm as if to warm me up from a deep freeze. "I think that you stay the night. I can’t, in good faith, send you off into the night feeling so unwell."


Panic set in suddenly and I stood quickly, half bursting out of my blanketed state. "Oh no! I-I-I can't." Shaking my head, I stumble backwards, tripping on myself and start falling. I have no idea why I’m reacting this way, but when Hayden goes to catch me, I end up taking him down with me instead. Just great. Not only did I get drunk, but I smashed a supermodel onto the floor. Life can never be the same now and I try uselessly to get up while Hayden continues to hold me in his warm embrace like a fish flopping out of water. When I finally stop flailing, he loosens his hold and I'm able to gain a bit of strength in my arms. Lifting myself up, I can see very clearly just how close we are. His hair was tousled about that only made him even hotter. I can feel my face start to burn. My breath feels like it's been taken away the longer we remain like this. I feel his fingers slowly thread through my hair and there's this look of desire in his eyes that only made my heart pound louder, my throat go dry and a desire rise within me that I’m not sure I ever felt before.


He slowly pulls me back towards him and all I can do is close my eyes as I'm pulled in for my first real kiss. His lips were so soft and warm and inviting, sending sparks throughout my body with each kiss. I feel like I’m floating. I've read romance novels and had a few casual dates, but they never led to this. My head is swimming with all kinds of feelings and emotions it’s unbearable! But I have no idea what's going on other than he gives me another kiss and then another and another, each kiss more deeper than the last. My mind swirls and my body shutters when his tongue caresses my lips. My breath is taken away with each passing moment of this and I feel a moan leave my throat as he kisses me. This time trying to get his tongue into my mouth. I can feel one hand still holding my head while the other slowly strokes my arm, then back, then getting closer and further down towards my leg. I forgot all about the panic that set this in motion in the beginning. His tongue explores my mouth and I'm hesitant to return the action. A moan escapes him as our lips part. I can hear the pounding of my heart in my ear beating in time with the desire that continues to grow. For the moment, I let go, hoping that hand will find its way even lower. But then the panic returns. I come up for air like someone who’s almost drowned at sea, gasping for air and trying to make it back to shore.


I forgot I was wrapped in a blanket and Hayden manages to use it and pull me back into his embrace. Something primal was set in his eyes and his husky voice. "And where are you trying to go?" His voice is breathy and sultry and deep and I can feel this intense heat radiating between us. I’m fully aware of how far he’s capable of going, and as much as I love the idea like it would be in a romance novel, this is not fiction. This could be a life changing moment. Do not passed go, no $200 at the end of the cobble street road. I can see him looking into my eyes and seeing the panic deep in my very soul. Beastly hunger disappears, welcoming back the soothing sweet man I was speaking to moments before. "I'm sorry," he whispered as he drew me towards him and hid my face in the curve of his neck. He's kissing my hair, whispering "I'm so, so sorry" over and over, hugging me close. The heat subsides and so does the pounding in my chest. I cling to him and close my eyes as I feel him breathing, stroking my hair and holding onto me as we just lay there on the floor.


The world is spinning again, but not like before. ow decent and I’m so lost, feeling like I really did just become Alice falling down that rabbit hole. Only she eventually landed at the bottom. I don’t know if I’m anywhere near there yet. I feel like crying, but I’m also stunned at what happened and how far it went. I think I'm still falling deeper and deeper, slashes of emotions and questions arising with each spin while we just laid on that furry rug by the warm fireplace. The only calm I know is coming from Hayden's embrace as we lay still, our breaths the only sounds filling the air and it feels like an eternity. At some point, I realize our breathing synced, I’m filled with a sense of calm and security, and I slowly drift away.

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