The onset of summer gave me a very plausible excuse for not seeing much of Nepal - no school, no Nepal. Of course I wanted to - boy did I ever want to! His kiss still lingered on my lips - even weeks after that encounter in the halls of our school. But I had run! Yep, I'd quivered in front of him for a few moments, unable to look into his eyes, unable to answer the question...and then I turned around and ran away.
Yeah I'm a brave one.
I pushed Nepal from my thoughts for the umpteenth time and focused on the mirror, carefully applying the makeup. "Vi!" Minsk called from downstairs. It was the third time he'd called up to me, each time growing more impatient. This time I heard his heavy footfalls on the stairs so I hastily finished up and spun around as he walked in.
I smiled broadly, "All done! Let's go!" I said quickly, before he could get out a word. I grabbed my purse and his arm, dragging him along behind me. "Bye Mom! Bye Dad!" I called on the way out.
There was a bit of a crowd by the time we'd gotten to the Art Gallery and Minsk was biting his lip hard not to say "I told you so." I shrugged at him and we slowly pushed our way forward. This convention was certainly a big deal for our little town and I hoped it would be the first of many. Ever since Sugar Valley Studios had been selected to film the spin off of San Marino Hospital, there'd been an influx of new people - mostly reporters trying to figure out what the sleepy town had to offer that other larger cities - like Berrywood (where everything else was filmed) - didn't. Personally I'd like to know that too! I couldn't wait to get out of this place and move on to bigger and better things but high school had to be first I guess.
Finally I'd made a dent in the crowd and there she was! My dearest pen pal - Blossom Sakura! She'd written me last week to tell me she'd be here for the convention and I could hardly believe it! As of late she'd mostly done voice acting but it had been enough to get her name out there among a certain set of fans.
I smiled broadly as she spoke and answered several questions. I hadn't actually followed the animated series she'd been working on so I had no idea what anyone was talking about but they seemed to like to ask about the various romantic entanglements her character seemed to get into. Bloss managed to answer every question without giving any plot details away but still amuse the guests.
I felt someone brush against me and looked over in surprise. I was about to say something when the words caught in my throat and I just stared.
Surf Torrent had brushed against me - albeit on accident - and was now looking at me. He was looking at ME!
And my mouth was hanging open attempting to catch flies! I clamped my mouth shut and blushed several shades. He didn't say anything but I thought I heard him chuckling as he walked on by. I wouldn't know because I'd quickly turned my attention back to Bloss so he wouldn't see just how crimson my cheeks were.
Surf Torrent was a television actor, currently on one of my favorite crime dramas. He played a supporting role as one of cops but I think he stole the show on most episodes...of course that could be because he was so damn cute and charming. I'd waited a few moments before I slowly turned back and peeked through the crowd at his departing figure. I had to strain a bit to see his direction but I soon spied him settling at another booth where a small crowd of people were waiting for him to begin his own Q&A session.
Part of me wanted to go over there but my loyalty - for the moment - was to Bloss. So I turned my full attention back to her and realized her own session seemed to be wrapping up. A throng of people pushed toward the table, eager for autographs and I hung back. I already had one or twelve of those. I poked around the nearby auction table which had dozens of props and costumes from the various shows represented today on display. I was a heart beat away from putting a low ball bit on a costume when I heard a shriek and my name being shouted. "Vi!!!!" Bloss squeaked as she ran toward me. A few of the crowd looked on curiously as we hugged for several minutes.
"You have to come visit me this summer!" she said, still speak loud enough to attract attention from passerby.
"Oh you know that will never happen!" I said sadly. While this was the first time we'd met in person, she knew enough from my letters and emails that Mom and Dad would NOT be letting me go off on my own for the summer - or even a couple weeks of said summer.
"No no! You HAVE to! You just gotta!" she said, clutching my hands. "We'll have so much fun! I can come over with Paco - he'll convince your parents."
"Who's Paco?" I asked, changing the subject.
She pointed over her shoulder to a large man in the corner. He was rippling with muscles and would have looked like a stone statue if it hadn't been for the breathing. "He's my driver...and my body guard as needed."
"Bodyguard?" I raised my eyebrow but she didn't elaborate further. True to her word though, she and Paco showed up a few nights later with a mission to convince my parents to let me go.
To say they were unmoved would have been an understatement. Sure Mom put on the show of considering it but I could tell by the set of her eyes that she'd made up her mind already. Dad was a little more flexible but seemed leery. They peppered Bloss and Paco with questions and left the evening with the rather ambiguous "We'll think about it." hanging in the air.
Yep, I knew as they shut the door that it was never going to happen so I slumped up the stairs without a word to either of them.
I was in the middle of my morning exercise when Mom stepped into my view, nearly blocking the TV. "We've decided to let you go." she said while I was mid-lunge.
I paused and my legs and sides screamed the longer I held myself still. It took my brain several moments to process what she said. "Wha?" I stammered finally, nearly collapsing as I tried to right myself.
"We've decided to let you go, to visit Blossom for a week or two." she repeated.
I don't think I could have been more surprised if a herd of elephants with wings had appeared in the room. "Um...why?" I asked stupidly. What did it matter why?!
"Don't you want to go?" she asked surprised. Before I could answer though she continued, "Your grades were excellent at end of term and Paco assured us he'd keep as close an eye on you as he does on Blossom..." she continued to tell me all the reasons and then immediately launched into the rules (no boys staying overnight, no drinking, no overage clubs, etc). I nodded along as she spoke but didn't really hear most of the words. My eyes were wide and glazed over with happy thoughts. With a bit of pixie dust, I'd be flying right now!
"This is where you live?" I asked looking around the pristine apartment. The walls were mostly painted white brick with accents of pinks and purples in the light fixtures and the curtains. There were pictures of Bloss on the walls and there were various award from her work scattered around the apartment. Everything was perfectly neat as if no one so much as breathed in the space let alone lived there.
"Yeah well the maids come in every day," she said, correctly surmising the cause of my disbelief. "It barely has a chance to look lived in before it's back to show room quality. My mother's idea - though she's so rarely here I'm not sure why she cares..."
"She's not around much?" I asked in surprise. Bloss talked about her mother occasionally in her letters and her father not at all. I knew her father had disappeared off the face of the planet when she was only five (thank you Beripedia). Bloss just shrugged in response to my question and I let the subject drop. After a tour of the rest of the apartment (three bedrooms, an office, four bathrooms, large walk in closets and a fully stocked bar were among its assets), Bloss pulled me back out onto the streets of the city and off we went.
The first day we visited most of the high end stores in uptown and the next day visited the ones in downtown. I really didn't understand why we had to do both as a lot of the stock looked the same to me but Bloss was the boss and I was eager to tag along. On the third day we went to her favorite salon and Bloss directed the hair dresser in regards to my hair. I wasn't sure how Mom would react to the highlights or tips honestly! And every night after shopping or primping, we went to the clubs. I quickly pushed Mom's rules out of my head as Bloss took me from one club to another, introducing me to everyone we ran into.
By the fourth night, all I really wanted to do was stay in and watch a movie on one of her seven hundred channels - surely with seven hundred channels at your disposal, ONE would have something good on. But Bloss had other ideas of course!
I tugged at the short skirt, hoping to inch the fabric down a fraction. It's not that I had a problem with my body...just showing so much of it. "Vi....you look great now come on! Oh and take the jacket off!" Bloss commanded.
"Oh no!" I said, clinging to the jacket. The shirt underneath it was thin and flimsy and the jacket was my lifeline. The jacket would stay I'd decided!
Bloss rolled her eyes but dropped the subject of the jacket. She pulled out her cell phone and I heard the tell-tale sound of the cell camera "clicking" a picture or two of me and cringed a bit. "Okay enough being shy - you look fab!" she said hooking her arm in mine. I realized at that moment that I was Bloss's life size Barbie doll for the week...I wonder who she dressed up when I wasn't here.
As soon as we entered the club, Bloss went to the bar to start up a tab and order us a couple drinks. She brought mine to me and grinned. I now knew exactly what alcohol smelled like and was quickly learning which drinks had more of it than others.
I also knew about how many drinks was too many for me after that first disastrous night. I actually had very little recollection of the night as a whole but Bloss assures me I didn't do anything too bad. Of course I'd also discovered her idea of bad and mine were very very different.
I drank the first drink slowly and held it up to show Bloss I still had some when she returned to the bar. I hadn't yet figured out why no one questioned her age - or mine for that matter but they didn't. As far as they were concerned we were of legal age to be in the club and to be drinking; though I don't think they actually believed that.
After my first drink was gone (and Bloss's second), we moved to the dance floor. The music in this club was being pumped through wall speakers but I didn't recognize it as any current pop song. It had a great beat to it though and was easy to dance to.
We'd been dancing together for some time when I felt Bloss falter next to me. "Oh, oooh." she said, her voice sounded far away. "Well he's tasty looking."
I rolled my eyes and kept dancing, Bloss would wonder off in search of a new partner - probably the tasty one she'd just spotted - soon enough.
I felt her nudge me and still didn't turn around right away. "Vi!" she hissed. "He's been watching us..." she said jabbing me in the side to get my attention.
"Yeah well you're you." I said with a smirk. But I turned around anyway and followed her line of sight.
Nepal was striding toward us.
Unlike Bloss, who was smiling her flirty smile, I frowned a bit and looked away lest I start staring at him in open admiration. "What's up with you?" Bloss whispered as he got just within hearing distance.
I leaned close to her and whispered in her ear, "That's him - the guy from Sugar Valley."
Her eyes went wide and the flirty smile disappeared in an instant. It was replaced with a scheming look mingled with a look of appreciation. He was now right beside us and looking at me - all but ignoring Bloss. This annoyed her but she tried not to show it for my sake. "Vi..." he said, a twinge of uncertainty in his voice.
I nodded to him in acknowledgement and then made very quick introductions, "Blossom this is Nepal, Nepal this is Blossom..." I said without looking either of them in the eyes. "I'm gonna get a drink." I added quickly and retreated. My ears were burning and I was certain if I turned to look at them, they'd be staring at me in surprise.
I didn't look back.
The bartender was obviously new. He didn't know what I was ordering and given my limited alcoholic experience I wondered how he'd even gotten a job at such a high end club. Thankfully he recognized the third drink I asked for and slowly fumbled his way through making it. More of the beverage ended up on the counter and floor than in the glass but I didn't care enough to complain.
I took the drink gratefully and may have consumed it a little too eagerly because it was soon gone and I was ordering another - despite the fact that I knew I would soon be tittering on the edge. I chanced a glance over at where I'd left them standing and saw Bloss was trying to keep Nepal's attention and focus on her. Somewhere deep inside I knew she was doing so for my own benefit - correctly surmising I needed a moment to collect my wits around Nepal. But given the two drinks I'd just downed, my mind wasn't processing at that level and I was swept with jealousy. I tossed back the rest of the drink quickly and spun toward the dance floor.
Though Blossom stepped aside as soon as I approached, I still felt the need to show her up. This was one night she would not be getting the boy! I wrapped my arms around Nepal - whose back was turned toward at that moment - and his head whipped around to see who had embraced him. "Care to dance?" I said, my voice low.
"More than you know." he replied. Boy was I glad he didn't reject my sorry, tipsy self in that moment.
The alcohol coursing through me was enough to lower my usual inhibitions a bit and I pressed against him, closer than I ever had before. His eyes went wide as I did so but he didn't object or push me back at all. Instead he grinned mischievously and wrapped his arm around my waist snuggly. "I admit this isn't the reception I was expecting." he said.
"Hmm, well what were you expecting?" I asked. I knew there was another, a more important, question I ought to be asking him but if it was in my fuzzy mind, it was trapped out of reach and I just couldn't figure out what it was.
The song hit a particularly long note and I leaned back over his arm, trusting him not to drop me. His face was slack as if he'd been caught mid sentence as he stared at my figure. He didn't answer my question except with a few undistinguished noises. I slowly curved myself up into a righted position, tossing my hair a bit with the music as I did so and grinned at him. "Do you have any idea how hot that is?" he asked, once he'd recovered.
"No," I said coyly. "Why don't you tell me?" I asked as I lifted my leg along his, running the heel of my shoes along his jeans.
"I'm not sure I should." he said with a laugh. I glanced over at Blossom and found her dancing with some other guy already. Paco, who was ever present but rarely involved, lingered in one corner of the club. I could tell from his stance that he was ready to intervene if anything happened to Blossom but he let her do what she wanted as long as no one got out of hand.
"Why are you here?" The words popped out of my mouth almost as soon as they'd entered my head. That was the question I should have asked earlier!
"Oh!" Nepal pulled back just a little from me in surprise. "I went by your house - seeing as you ran off and all - and Minsk mentioned you were out of town."
"So you're stalking me now?" I asked with a giggle. Clearly stalking was not a giggly matter but I found it a little endearing.
He pulled me close to him again and whispered in my ear, "You could call it that I suppose...I wanted to see you." he paused a moment to consider his words. "I guess I missed you."
At some point in the evening, Bloss excused herself. She said she wasn't feeling too well and needed to put in an appearance at someone's shindig before heading home. "Oh I'll get my purse" I said, starting to extract myself from Nepal's warm and inviting grip.
"No no! You stay - you're having a good time!" she said with a playful grin. "You can get back to the apartment right? If not call my cell and Paco will come get you."
I spent a minute thinking about how we'd gotten here and knew it was only a couple blocks away. "Sure..." I said. She pecked me on the cheek and wiggled her fingers at me as a wave and disappeared into the elevator with Paco.
It wasn't long after that Nepal and I left. I stopped by the bar to pay the tab but found that Bloss had already taken care of it. Nepal followed me without a word, he held my hand firmly in his and every time I looked at him he seemed to be in protective mode. I used my free hand to cover my mouth and hide the small snicker. "So where are you staying?" I asked once I recovered.
"Well - I wasn't even sure I'd find you..." he said, looking away from me for the first time.
"So you came stalking on a whim and don't actually have a place to stay..." I surmised quickly.
"Something like that..." he said. He didn't look embarrassed about this though, he actually looked a bit smug - of course he usually looked smug. I considered the options quickly and hoped Bloss wouldn't mind an extra house guest for just one night. He could find a hotel or go home tomorrow.
"Just one night!" I cautioned, without putting voice to my other thoughts. He raised his eyebrows a bit and if it was possible for him to look MORE smug - he did.
"Why THIS movie?" he asked for the fifth time. He'd looked mostly anxious since the moment I'd pulled the movie from Bloss's extensive collection and popped it in the DVD player. Now he just looked sullen.
"What's wrong with this movie?" I asked again - and still he didn't answer me. I shrugged and turned my attention back to the screen. It was halfway through when I sat upright, my eyes wide and pointed between the screen and Nepal. "That's...wait...it's...YOU!"
Nepal had his head hung down and his eyes closed as a younger version of himself pulled on the heart strings of the audience.
"Why is everyone I know in the industry?!" I threw my hands up in frustration and grumbled a bit.
"I'm not!" he said firmly, moving up onto the couch with me. "I never really was! It was one role and I was only doing it because of my dad!" he added, taking my hands in his. I pouted in his direction but didn't pull my hands from his.
The movie droned on in the background but I was no longer interested in it as Nepal was now holding me firmly in his grasp. He'd wrapped his arm around my shoulders and I was snuggled against him. We turned it off before it was even over and I realized it was near four in the morning by now and Bloss still hadn't come home. So much for being sick.
As I stood there preparing to show Nepal to a bedroom I realized a fault in my invitation to him. While there were three bedrooms in the apartment, one of them belonged to Paco, one of them belonged to Blossom leaving only one guest bedroom. "Err..." I said out loud.
"Problem?" Nepal asked even as he wrapped his arm around my waist and tugged me closer to him. I don't think he cared about the lack of bedrooms - not that he could know.
"Um...." I chewed on my lip and then saw the couch in the corner of my eye. It wasn't particularly comfortable - it seemed to be more for appearance than comfort - but it would do. "Come on, I'll show you where you can sleep..." I said.
He surveyed the guest bedroom that was meant to be mine and shrugged. He wasn't too particular about his free room and board it seemed. "You know, I only saw three bedrooms - and I imagine one is for that tall, surly guy your friend has following her around. Where are YOU going to sleep?" I blushed a bit and shrugged. I'm sure he'd already anticipated my plan and just shook his head. "This is a double bed..." he said pointing to it. "And that couch isn't that comfortable..." I tried to shrug it off and stick to my plan but he nudged me toward the soft, cozy bed. "Come on Vi, you can't tell me that this bed here isn't comfortable." He was leaning into me to the point that I had no choice but to fall back onto the bed. In an instant he was laying beside me and smirking...always with the smirking!
"See now...much better than the stuffy couch." he said with a playful smile. He placed his arm over my exposed stomach and scooted closer to me. "Besides..."
"Besides what?" I asked, the words catching in my throat as the cold metal studs of his jacket pushed into my bare skin in places. His fingers were tracing intricate patterns across my abdomen and sending tingling sensations throughout my body. For that moment, I wished I'd gone without the jacket just so he'd have more canvas for his fingers to play across.
"I'm going to go get...cleaned up." he said suddenly, pulling away from me and jumping out of the bed. He disappeared into the bathroom and I slumped back onto the bed with a great exhale of breath. I'm not sure where I'd wanted that to go but him retreating into the bathroom wasn't it!
I pulled myself up and grabbed my own clothes. I used Bloss's bathroom to clean up and change into some pajamas. I took an extra long time drying my hair and delaying stepping out of that little room. I hadn't even figured out where I was sleeping and hoped it would come to me before I finished. It didn't.
I walked slowly past the couch, casting a long look at it before straightening myself and steeling my nerves. Why waste half of a perfectly good bed?
Nepal was waiting for me. My breath caught and I know I gasped as I looked at his bare chest (my eyes couldn't seem to move up from there for several minutes). "I didn't exactly bring pajamas" he was apologizing.
"Durrr..." I said. I'm not sure what I'd intended to say and neither did Nepal. His brow creased and he moved slightly in the bed. The way his body moved sent sparks through me as I continued to stare, my mouth hanging open.
"Vi..." he got to his feet and walked over to me, taking no effort to hide his own survey of my body. I admit, the pajamas I had for snug and form fitting so it left little to the imagination as far as curves went - of which I had a few well placed ones.
By the time he reached me, my mouth was no longer hanging open and I'd managed to move my eyes away from his face. He placed his fingers under my chin, tilting my face up to look him in the eyes. I didn't have to look far - he wasn't that much taller than me. His eyes revealed what he'd otherwise hidden - they were on fire and hungry. For me.
When he leaned forward to kiss me, I greeted his lips openly and wrapped my arms around his neck. Within moments, I had my legs around his waist and he was gripping me firmly by the rear end, supporting me as he carried me over to the bed. He placed me gently on the bed and for a second hesitated but I pulled him back towards me, not wanting to lose this moment again.
Instead of sleeping awkwardly on the edge of the bed, we curled against each other, skin to skin, and drifted off the sleep after.
When I woke up in the morning, I found the bed empty aside from myself and frowned. I could hear noise from the other room though and saw Nepal's shirt and shoes in the corner. I found my own clothes and pulled them on before walking into the main living room. A quick glance at the clock told me it was almost noon. I looked into Bloss's room as I passed and saw the bed was still made - it looked as if she'd never come home. With a frown I continued toward the kitchen where Nepal stood - still shirtless - blending up something. "She doesn't have a stove..." he said.
I looked back into the kitchen and was surprised to find he was correct. There was a small microwave and a toaster oven but no stove. I knew she pretty much always ate out or ordered in but I'd assumed there was still one there. "Hmm, I didn't notice..." I sat down at the little bar where I discovered he was blending up fruit for smoothies.
At that moment Blossom departed the elevator that led directly into her apartment and grimaced as the bright day lighting hit her eyes. "What's he doing here?"
"Good day to you too Bloss." I said with a smirk. She didn't respond and I grimaced a bit. "Sorry, we got out of the club pretty late and he hadn't arranged a hotel before hand..."
"I'll get one today." Nepal offered. "It was just one night..."
"Whatever." Bloss sound. Her nose curled up as she smelled the scent of the intermingling fruits in the blender.
"Would you like one?" Nepal offered, already reaching for another glass for her.
"Pfft." she said. "That is not the liquid breakfast I need..."
Nepal just shrugged and put the glass back before pouring one for me and one for himself. We turned our attention to Bloss as she walked - or rather staggered -away from the bar and toward the coffee maker.
She went through the great ritual of preparing her preferred blend and then pushed all the necessary buttons and waited. And waited. I looked over at Nepal curiously - I'd never been a coffee drinker so I didn't know how long this process took. He just shrugged and offered me a croissant. Where had he found croissants? Bloss didn't keep much food in this place.
Finally the coffee maker stopped percolating and Blossom was able to pour herself a cup of coffee. She drank the first cup quickly, not even concerned with the heat or burning her lips. Then she poured another one and savored it a bit more slowly before she turned toward us.
"So are you two a couple or something?" she asked.
Man I wish I knew how best to answer that question...