November 14, 2000
"Ah, you must be Nathan?"
Nathan Scott nodded at the middle-aged woman who was sitting at one of the desks in the Tutoring Center. "Yeah, I'm… uh… here to find out who's tutoring me and to get my schedule."
"Okay, well I'm Ms Richardson and I'm the Director of the Tutoring Center. Your tutor should be on her way so you will get to meet her soon." Picking up a file on the side of the desk, she flipped it open and removed a sheet of paper. "Here's your schedule. If there's ever a problem with you keeping one of your sessions, you need to let her or myself know as soon as you can so we can reschedule it."
"Sure," he said as his eyes scanned over the timetable he'd just been handed. Crap, by the looks of this he wasn't going to have too much time for himself. Between tutoring, basketball practice and his father's own brand of training, he was going to be dead on his feet. He sighed loudly when he noticed that the first session was set for that very afternoon.
"Is there a problem?"
"I wasn't expecting my first session to be today. It's just that I'm supposed to be at basketball practice after school—"
"Well, I'm sure Coach Durham will understand that your education comes first," Ms Richardson interrupted.
"Yeah," he mumbled. Since Whitey had been one of the first to mention his slipping grades he knew the old man would understand but, at the same time, he wasn't going to be too happy when he found out a couple of the sessions clashed with practice.
Suddenly the door flew open and Haley James came rushing in. "I'm sorry I'm late, I had a bit of a—" The words died in her throat when she saw who was standing by the Director's desk. She felt the blood rush to her face and tilting her head forward, her long hair helped to shield her from his gaze.
"There you are," the older woman said, smiling at her. "As I mentioned to you this morning, you've been assigned a new student to tutor and this is him. Haley James meet Nathan Scott."
Looking the girl up and down, he noticed that she seemed pretty young and before he could stop himself, he asked, "How old are you?"
"What's that got to do with anything?" she said, fixing him with a stare; her shyness evaporating at his question.
"You look like a freshman."
"Well, I'm not. I'm a sophomore."
"Wow, that makes all the difference." Turning to Ms Richardson, he said, "You're really assigning a sophomore to a senior?"
Standing up, the brunette gave him a sharp look. "Haley is one of our best tutors and you're not the first senior we've paired her with," she informed him. "You might think about asking one or two of your team-mates about her ability and how she's helped them improve their grades."
"Fine," Nathan acquiesced.
"Fine. Well, I've got a meeting to attend so I'll leave the two of you to get acquainted." Picking up her papers, she gave Haley a small smile, whispering "Good luck" as she passed by her.
Moving past Nathan, Haley headed to her usual table in the furthest corner of the room and placed the books she was carrying down on it before pulling out a chair and taking a seat. Getting her pencil case out of her bag, she organized herself while she waited for him to come over. Once he had settled into the chair opposite her, she spoke. "So, maybe we could start with you telling me what you're needing help with."
"Look, just so we're clear, this wasn't my idea and this is the last place I want to be. There are better things I could be doing with my time and—"
"Okay then. Well, how about you go and do those things while I work with someone who wants to improve their grades," she suggested.
Nathan bit back the smirk he felt forming on his lips at the feisty way she had just spoken to him. She glared at him before she grabbed her things and stuffed them back into her bag.
"Wait!" As the word escaped his mouth, he didn't quite believe that he had actually said it.
"I… I don't want to waste your time," he found himself admitting a moment later as she regarded him closely. The way she was watching him… it felt as though she could see right through him and know what he was thinking.
"You'd only be wasting my time if what you said is true."
"Well, it's true that it wasn't my idea to get a tutor but if I wasn't doing this, I'd just be at basketball practice or—"
"What about those better things you could be doing?" she teased.
He shrugged his shoulders but he returned the smile she was giving him.
"I've got a suggestion to make. How about we try this for a couple of weeks and see what happens? If you're not happy by the end of that time, you can go and see Principal Turner and tell him it didn't work out."
"You know about that?" He couldn't help feeling slightly embarrassed that she knew about their Principal's involvement in him having to get a tutor.
She lowered her head as she felt her cheeks grow warm and she knew she was probably blushing, but, to be honest, she was kind of surprised that she wasn't blushing for this entire conversation. If someone had told her a couple of days ago that she'd be having a conversation with Nathan Scott, the basketball star and king of Tree Hill High, she wouldn't have believed them. Yet here she was and it felt… okay.
"I hear things," she finally mumbled. "Having a tutor shouldn't be a big deal. We just meet a few times each week and go through the subjects that you're behind in and work on them. I'm not going to laugh at you or make fun of you so—"
"I know," Nathan told her. Even though he didn't really know her, he had a good feeling about her and couldn't really see her being a gossip. And given how the Director had talked about her, he figured that if he was going to be forced into having a tutor he could probably do a lot worse than Haley James.
Giving him another of her shy smiles, she nodded her head. "How about we start again… clean slate?"
"Okay, yeah, that sounds good."
Haley once again took the things she had just packed away out of her bag and placed them back on the table. Glancing at his schedule, she asked, "Is the schedule they've come up with okay for you?"
"It's fine but I might need to switch one or two of the after school sessions to an early morning if that's possible. By the way, do we always meet in here?"
"I'm an early riser so we could meet at seven-thirty if that's better for you and the sessions are usually in here but we can work in the library or go somewhere else that's quiet. Why, do you have somewhere else in mind?"
"I was thinking of us maybe meeting down by the docks."
"That actually sounds nice. Just let me know which session you want to change and we can work something out. I'm pretty flexible," she told him.
"I'll bet," he mumbled under his breath but when she blushed, he realized she'd heard him. "Sorry."
Haley tried to pretend that she hadn't heard what he had just said but she knew the color of her skin in that instant was giving her away. She'd heard all about his reputation with the opposite sex and she figured his response was just his flirtatious default setting. No way would he be interested in a gawky fifteen-year-old. Taking a deep breath, she forced herself to glance across at him and she said, "Why don't we get started."
"Sure," he replied as he took in her flushed face.
For the next forty-five minutes or so, they discussed the classes Nathan had fallen behind in as well as any of the subjects he was having particular difficulties with and they worked out a plan of action for tackling them. They were currently going through some math problems and as they worked, he couldn't help watching her as she spoke. It was obvious from her tone of voice that she thoroughly enjoyed tutoring and it wasn't something she was just doing to get extra credit and to eventually put down on her college applications.
"Are you listening to me?" Haley's melodic voice coaxed him back into the present, although she'd had to force herself to speak when he suddenly took off his leather jacket which left him in his tight black T-shirt which perfectly displayed his firm, muscular upper body.
"Sorry, I zoned out there for a sec. I am listening though, I promise," he told her, placing his hand on his heart.
"I believe you though thousands wouldn't," she joked and she had to admit it felt kind of nice when he laughed. "Do you want to take a break?"
"Actually, I need to end it early today." Seeing she was about to say something, he quickly added, "I wasn't aware we'd be having a tutoring session this afternoon and I need to be at practice. I'm already late as it is."
"Oh… uh, sure. Is today the session you need to switch to a morning?" she enquired as she picked up her pen to make a note on her timetable.
Nathan shook his head. "No, Friday's session is the one I need to change though if we could maybe bring this one forward slightly that'd be a big help."
"Okay," she nodded. "So is seven-thirty down at the docks good for you?" Her fingers held the pen poised above the paper as she waited for him to answer and when he nodded, she made the necessary note. Flipping to a fresh page in her notepad, she jotted down what she wanted him to work on and then ripped the page out and handed it to him.
"This is what I'd like you to do before our next session."
"But that's the day after tomorrow?"
"Uh huh." Her lips curved up in a half smile for a moment before she continued, "Believe me, I've gone easy on you."
"I'd like to see you when you're being hard on me," he said, folding the paper up and slipping it between the pages of his math textbook.
"Don't worry, I'm sure that'll be something you'll see soon enough."
"Can't wait," he said mock-groaning. Pushing his chair back, he got up out of his seat and pulled his jacket back on before picking up his books.
"Very funny," she said as she packed up her own belongings.
"Listen, can I ask you a favor?"
"Uh… sure, what is it?"
"Can we keep these tutoring sessions just between us? I sort of have a reputation to keep up in this place and I'd like it to stay intact."
Nodding her head, she said, "Yeah, no problem. As far as I know, only Principal Turner and Ms Richardson know but it's possible some of your teachers might have also been told."
"It's not my teachers I'm worried about. I'd rather none of your friends know, if you get my meaning."
Haley could understand him wanting to keep it quiet. Some people – her friends included – seemed to think that needing a tutor meant you were somehow stupid when she knew it meant no such thing. "I won't say a word," she told him. "And besides, we sort of work on a confidential basis anyway in the Tutoring Center. It's one thing for one of the tutees to tell people, but it's not something we broadcast."
"Good. Well, I'd better be going."
"Okay" She watched as he gave her a final head nod and then made his way towards the door. Turning her attention back to what she was doing, Haley almost jumped out of her skin when she suddenly heard him call out to her.
"Hey, Hales, see you Thursday."
"Yeah… Thursday," she muttered, trying not to smile at the nickname he'd already christened her with. She had a feeling that tutoring was going to be a whole lot more interesting from now on.
October 5, 2010
Adding a packet of sugar to her espresso, Haley James gave it a quick stir before popping the plastic lid back onto her to-go cup. She turned to leave and almost collided with the person who had been standing directly behind her. Luckily, she somehow managed to keep a hold on her coffee without spilling it over either of them. "I'm so sorry," she said. The guy she'd bumped into was some kind of giant she realized when she had to take a step back so she could look up into his face. Her eyes widened when she instantly recognized him.
"Haley James, is that you?"
She felt a warmth run through her at the fact he also recognized her, particularly as she looked pretty different from the last time they had seen each other. She'd heard via the Tree Hill grapevine that he'd recently moved to New York but she hadn't even considered the possibility of their paths crossing.
"Still a bit of a klutz, I see," he teased.
"You talking to me or about yourself," she quipped back.
Noticing that the coffee shop was beginning to fill up with the morning rush, Nathan Scott placed his hand on Haley's lower back and led her over to a vacant table in the corner. "You wouldn't by any chance have time to drink that here?" he asked, gesturing to the cup she was holding.
She shook her head. "No, I wish I could. I've got a meeting to attend as soon as I get into the office and I'm already running a little late."
"That's not like you. I remember you being a stickler for punctuality."
"I know, I know," she replied, laughing. "There must have been a power outage during the night 'cause my alarm clock didn't go off this morning."
"Are you, uh, free for dinner tonight, then? It feels like forever since we last saw each other and it'd be great to catch up."
Haley smiled up at him. "Sure, I'd really like that." Reaching into her purse, she pulled out a business card and handed it over to him.
Reading it, he said, "You work for a publishing house, huh?"
"I'm an assistant editor there," she informed him. Glancing at the clock situated on the far wall, she said, "Listen, I hate to run out on you like this but—"
"It's fine," he told her, understandingly. "I've got to get going as well actually. I'll give you a call later, okay." Retrieving his wallet from the back pocket of his pants, he slid her business card inside of it.
"Okay." Placing her hand on his arm, she said, "It's great seeing you again, Nathan."
"You too, Hales. Have a good day."
Hearing the familiar nickname roll off his tongue, her smile deepened. She gave his arm a gentle squeeze before she left, making her way through the other patrons queuing to give their orders to the baristas who, it appeared, were becoming busier by the minute. Once outside, she turned the corner and stood for a moment with her back against the side wall of the shop. She couldn't believe she had just bumped into Nathan Scott. Seeing him standing in front of her had been a surprise... a really nice surprise. It had to have been at least ten years since they had last seen each other but, if possible, he was even more handsome now than he'd been back in high school and those blue eyes of his were even more dazzling.
Realizing she hadn't had any of her coffee yet, she took a sip of the now tepid liquid and grimaced. She hated espresso but had opted for it this morning as a way of hopefully jolting her awake. Whenever she overslept it left her feeling off-kilter but now, thanks to her encounter with Nathan, she was buzzing. Tossing her coffee cup into a nearby trash can, she hurried towards where her office building was located. She couldn't wait for Nathan to call her later. Hopefully she could get out of work a little early so she had a chance to go home and change before their date.
Wait, was it a date? Or was it just a catch-up dinner? He hadn't specified and she didn't want to assume, especially since she'd probably be wrong and end up making a fool of herself. He'd already seen her being klutzy this morning and she was grateful to whoever up there was looking out for her that she hadn't spilled her coffee all down his front. Haley felt her cheeks heat up as she envisioned cleaning him up... touching that hard, muscular body...
She was already a total basket-case and Lord only knew how much worse she'd be later today if and when he called her.
"Huh? Oh, good morning, Robbie," she said, greeting the security guard sitting at the front desk and giving him a small wave as she headed over to the elevator bank. She was working on auto-pilot because she hadn't even realized she'd arrived at her building. Entering the elevator and pressing the button for her floor, she glanced at her watch and saw she still had ten minutes to spare and she breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Resting back against the metal wall of the thankfully empty car, she knew she had to try and push Nathan to the back of her mind because otherwise she had a feeling she wouldn't be getting any work done today.
Besides, for all she knew, he wasn't going to even be calling her and had just suggested dinner as a way of being polite. They hadn't seen each other in such a long time and she doubted whether he had even given her a passing thought over the past decade. If he called, he called but if he didn't... well, it was fine.
It would have to be.
"So, did you think I wouldn't call?" Nathan asked, smirking. Taking a drink of his mineral water, he watched the rosy blush infuse her cheeks and knew he had his answer.
"You're too cocky for your own good," she told him. When he raised an eyebrow, she sighed. "Fine, I wasn't sure whether you were just being polite when you mentioned us having dinner together."
Haley laughed. "Yeah, I know. What was I thinking, right?"
"So, Haley James, how's life been treating you?"
"Things are pretty great," she told him. "I've been in New York for a couple of years now... I came here to interview for my current job and then relocated here when they hired me."
"Where were you living before that?" he enquired.
"Charleston. I interned for a firm there during college and they offered me a full-time position so instead of going home to Tree Hill, I moved to Charleston permanently. When I saw the New York job advertised I couldn't pass up the opportunity of applying." Picking up her glass of white wine, she took a sip. "To be honest, I didn't think I'd get it. I figured they'd want someone more experienced but the interview went really well and they offered me the job later that same day."
"That's great, Haley."
"So, what about you?"
"I can't complain," Nathan stated simply.
"That doesn't tell me anything," she teased before sobering as she remembered what had happened. With Tree Hill being a small town, the news, when it had broken, had travelled fast. "I, uh, was so sorry to hear about your injury."
He shrugged. "Thank you."
"I wanted to call you but... I wasn't sure if you'd want to hear from me."
"I'd always want to hear from you," he told her sincerely. Closing his eyes for a moment, Nathan remembered the pain – both physical and emotional – of the injury he'd suffered to his left wrist during a practice game in his second year of college which had ended his dreams of one day playing in the NBA. "The first few months after it happened weren't good... hell, they were a total nightmare but I managed to get through it," he said, hoping he wouldn't have to go into any greater detail than that.
Biting her lip, Haley pondered whether or not to ask the question that was now at the forefront of her mind. "Uh... how did your dad take it?" She recalled how domineering he had been of Nathan, and his older brother Lucas, during their high school years and when she had heard about Nathan's injury, one of her first thoughts had been to wonder about how Dan Scott would take the news.
"He was great, actually." He laughed at the shocked expression she now wore. "Seriously, he was the one who really helped me through it. I think he realized how badly he'd dealt with the situation when it had happened to him that he didn't want me to go down the same path. Of course, he took me to get a second and third opinion but when they agreed with the first doctor that my injury wouldn't allow me to play professional basketball, he got me thinking about my options and what kind of career I wanted." Nathan was grateful when their waiter suddenly appeared to clear away their dinner plates. While Haley had always been a great listener and he was certain that trait hadn't changed, he wasn't ready to tell her about those missing months between being injured and his father forcing him to look to the future. At least not yet.
"Would you like to see the dessert menu?" The young man asked them.
"Yes," Nathan replied, smiling across at his companion. "C'mon, Hales... I won't believe for a second that you don't still love chocolate as much as you used to."
"Okay, you've twisted my arm," she said, returning his smile.
After perusing the dessert menu their waiter handed to them a few minutes later, they selected a slice of chocolate torte with vanilla ice cream for Haley and a piece of crème brulee cheesecake for Nathan along with two coffees.
Haley's eyes fell shut and she couldn't help moaning as she tasted the first spoonful of her dessert and she blushed when she opened them and saw Nathan smirking at her.
"It's that good, huh?"
"You want some?" she asked, scooping up some more of the gooey chocolate and proffering her spoon towards him.
"Uh... sure." Leaning forward, he let her feed him, keeping his eyes fixed on her beautiful brown ones as he did so. "Mmm, I can see why you moaned," he told her after he'd swallowed the dessert. "You want some of mine?"
"Not right now, thanks. Maybe save me a little for when I've finished this."
"I can't promise anything," he told her, flashing her a wink.
"Oink oink," Nathan retorted and he laughed at the giggle that escaped from her. Watching her eating her dessert, he couldn't help observing her. If possible, she was even more gorgeous than he remembered. Haley's eyes had always been so expressive and that saying about eyes being the windows to the soul could have been written especially for her. Her hair was the main difference about her though. In high school, it had been a deep auburn color which she'd tended to wear straight but now it was a rich honey-blonde and curly. Tonight she was wearing it pinned up with a few loose tendrils framing her heart-shaped face and it suited her perfectly.
When he'd seen her that morning, she'd been dressed smartly in a grey skirt and matching jacket with a pale blue blouse beneath it. She'd obviously been home to change because she was currently wearing a form-fitting wintergreen dress with thin spaghetti straps which subtly dipped in the front to give a tantalizing glimpse of her cleavage. His former tutor was definitely all grown up!
"Do I have something on my face?"
Her voice brought him out of his reverie. "Sorry, what?"
"You were looking at me so intently I wondered if I had something on my face."
"No, you don't," he said, grinning. "I'm sorry for zoning out on you. It's been a long day."
"I've been apartment hunting and it's not going well," he explained. "The good ones seem to have already been taken leaving me with the places that aren't exactly fit for human habitation."
"I've been there," she said, sympathetically. "My first apartment was a dump and that's putting it nicely. If it wasn't for Lindsey… she's a friend of mine from work," Haley informed him, "offering me her guest room I don't know what I would have done."
"You, uh… wouldn't be interested in helping me out with it, would you? I mean, coming along with me and giving me your opinion. I'm not sure if maybe I'm being too picky and just seeing faults where there aren't any."
Haley smiled and nodded. "Sure, I'd be happy to. Is this weekend good for you?"
"That'd be great. Thanks, Haley."
"You're welcome. We can discuss my commission later," she teased.
"How about I spring for dinner and a movie as a way of saying thank you?" he offered.
"Hmm, that's a start. You can also buy my popcorn and candy."
"Deal," he said, a half-smirk gracing his lips. Picking up his cup, he leaned back in his chair and sipped his coffee. They were bantering back and forth like they used to do and he was liking it a lot. His move to New York hadn't been for the best of reasons but now… he was starting to think that someone up there liked him and was wanting to give him a second chance. He hoped that this was an opportunity to start putting his past behind him and begin moving forward.
As Nathan drove her home, Haley turned slightly on her seat so she could see his face. "So, you never told me, what do you do for a living?"
Giving her a quick glance, he smiled at her before turning his attention back to the road. "I'm in advertising."
Chuckling, he asked, "What were you expecting?"
"I don't know. I figured you'd be involved in something sports related... maybe coaching or you'd be an agent."
"I thought about going down the coaching route for a while but I decided against it. To be involved in basketball but not actually playing the game... I think it would've been too hard."
"Yeah," she agreed. Without thinking about what she was doing, Haley reached out her hand and placed it on his knee, giving it a gentle squeeze.
Looking across at her, he gave her a grateful smile.
"So was it your job that brought you to New York?"
Turning his head, he focused on the road again. "Uh... yeah. The New York office had a couple of positions to fill and they decided to recruit internally so I decided to put my name forward. I was wanting a change of scenery so it seemed like perfect timing."
"You were in California, right?" she asked, vaguely remembering what she had heard about him the last time she had been home.
"Yeah, Los Angeles."
"And you decided to swap the sun and surf for New York?"
Nathan laughed. "I'll probably regret it when winter hits."
"Especially with me here to remind you," she teased. Looking out of the window and seeing her building coming into view, she said, "You can pull up just over there."
"Okay." Turning on the indicator, he slowed the car down and then brought it to a stop by the curb before putting the car into park.
Haley played with the strap of her purse, hesitating with what she was about to ask him. Before she could ask him anything, Nathan spoke.
"I had a really great time tonight, Hales."
"I did, too," she replied. "Um... would you like to come up for some coffee?"
"I'd love to but I've got a presentation first thing tomorrow and I need to review some papers when I get in."
"Oh, okay... sure."
"Are we still on for Saturday?" he asked. "You know, with helping me find an apartment."
"Yes, of course."
"Great," he said. "How 'bout I pick you up here at, say, ten-thirty?"
"That'll be fine."
Smiling, he unfastened his seatbelt and then leaned over the centre console to press a kiss onto her cheek. "I'll see you then."
Haley felt a shock of warmth run through her entire body and she did her best not to moan at the feel of his lips against her skin. "Uh... yeah. I'd better get going." Undoing her own seat belt, she opened the car door and stepped out onto the sidewalk, the night air instantly cooling her down. Giving Nathan another smile and a small wave, she closed the door and began walking towards the building. Reaching into her purse, she retrieved her key for the door to the communal entrance and let herself in. When she turned to close it, she saw his car was still there and she smiled at the fact he had waited for her to safely get inside.
While he'd always been nice to her during their tutoring days, Haley couldn't help feeling a tiny bit surprised and disappointed at him turning down her invitation to come up to her apartment. His reputation with the female population of Tree Hill High had been somewhat legendary and, at the very least, she had been expecting a proper goodnight kiss from him.
Walking towards the rear of the lobby, she pressed the button for the elevator and after a minute or so had passed, the doors slid open and she got in, pressing the button for her floor. Closing her eyes, she remembered the feel of his lips and late-in-the-day stubble brushing against her skin and she quietly sighed as she wondered how long she would have to wait until she felt those lips against her own.
Saturday morning dawned bright and early. Always an early riser, Haley was up and showered by seven-thirty but whereas she was usually also dressed, this morning was an altogether different story.
She had no idea what to wear.
The weekends more often than not saw her lazing around the apartment in her comfy sweats, particularly if she was going to be cleaning, or jeans if she was going grocery shopping.
She knew they were only going apartment hunting and that it would probably be best to be comfortable but it didn't mean she couldn't be stylish at the same time.
Going through her closet, she selected a yellow sun-dress and held it up for a moment before hanging it on the rail again. Her eyes settled on a purple and white floral print dress which was one of her favorites and she picked it up and held it against her body; looking at her reflection in the full length mirror fixed to the inside of the door.
"Okay if I come in?" Lindsey asked, lightly rapping her knuckles on the partially opened door to Haley's room.
"Sure, especially if that cup of coffee you're holding is for me," she replied.
"It is," the blonde replied, smiling. "You do know he's not picking you up for a few hours yet, right?"
Haley blushed. "Yeah, I know. I just... I can't decide what to wear. I know we're only going apartment hunting but—"
"You still want to look nice for him?"
She nodded, her rosy blush deepening.
"Since you don't know how many apartments he's got lined up to look at, I'd say comfort is key. Think back to what it was like when you were looking for somewhere to live."
Haley remembered it only too well. Her feet were killing her by the end of each day and she'd been so thankful that she had worn her comfiest shoes. "You're right."
"I know," Lindsey said, her lips quirking upwards. "My suggestion would be those new jeans you bought a couple of weeks ago and your fitted black sweater. It dips just low enough in front to give him a glimpse of your goodies an—"
"What? I saw that dreamy smile on your face when you got in the other night from your date or non-date or whatever... so don't even try and tell me you're not interested in him like that."
"I-I didn't say that."
"Good 'cause I wouldn't believe you even if you did," Lindsey teased.
Haley ducked her head, trying to hide her still blushing face from her friend. "Okay, so... uh, shoes. Sneakers, boots or—"
"What about your Chucks?"
"Yes! Why didn't I think of those?"
"Hmm, probably because all you're able to think about right now is Mr Scott."
"Shut up," Haley retorted, laughing. Bringing the mug she was holding up to her lips, she took a long sip of her coffee.
"Okay, so now we've got your outfit ready you can take it easy and relax. To be honest, I'm surprised you didn't do this when you got home after your date," she teased.
"I'm not that bad."
"I'm just kidding, Hales. I've got to say though, I'm looking forward to meeting the guy who's got you all tied in knots."
"He hasn't got me all tied in knots."
"Whatever you say, babe, whatever you say," Lindsey said, smirking at her friend and roommate before she turned and left the room. "Enjoy apartment hunting," she called out before then adding, "Choose something you like, too 'cause you never know... you might end up sharing it with him."
"Whatever," she mumbled as she tried to quell the girlish giggle she felt bubbling up in her throat at the other woman's words.
"Wow! If all of the other apartments you looked at were like this one and you didn't like them, then there is seriously something wrong with you," Haley told Nathan, playfully bumping into his side as they entered the living room.
"Believe me, I wish all those others looked like this."
The first apartment they were being shown that morning was light, airy and spacious. It had two bedrooms, one large bathroom as well as an en suite, and was located in a mid-rise building which held forty other units. The location was ideal for him, being that it was only about half-an-hour away from his office.
"If you'll follow me, we have the kitchen through here..." Penny, the realtor, told them as she led the way. "This unit was recently renovated so everything is brand new. You've got a dishwasher and a washing machine," she said, gesturing to the appliances, "although there's also an on-site laundry in the basement."
"Great," Nathan said. "What about parking facilities?"
"There's no underground parking but there is an allocated parking lot for residents at the rear of the building."
He nodded. The place seemed to have everything he needed and the more he saw, the more he liked it. "What do you think, Hales?" he asked several minutes later when they were alone in the master bedroom looking out of the window at the beautiful view of the city.
"I love it," she replied, beaming up at him. "Do you want to keep looking or—"
"I don't think I'm going to find better than this place," he interjected.
"Me either," she agreed.
"Okay, then." Wrapping his arm around her, he pulled her into him and kissed the top of her head. "I think you must be my good luck charm or something."
Haley felt her cheeks heat up. "Uh huh... well, don't forget you owe me dinner and a movie."
"I haven't forgotten," he told her. "Are you free tonight?"
"Yes," she said, nodding. "We can do it another night though if you've already got plans."
Before he had a chance to say anything else, Penny walked into the room. "So, Mr Scott, what do you think?"
Looking down at the young woman he was still hugging, he smiled at her before turning to face the older woman. "I'm going to take it."
"You're going to need some furniture," Haley said before placing her straw between her lips and sucking up a mouthful of her chocolate milkshake.
Nathan nodded. Setting his cheeseburger down, he wiped his mouth with a paper napkin. "Yeah. By the way, have I told you yet how much I hate shopping?"
Chuckling, she shook her head. "Now why doesn't that surprise me. Would you like some help?" she asked even though she was already pretty sure of his answer.
"Yes, thank you," he said, smiling gratefully. "You're a lifesaver."
After they had completed all of the paperwork back at the real estate agent's office, Nathan had offered to buy Haley lunch and she had taken him to her favorite burger restaurant. They were sitting across from each other in one of the corner booths.
Twirling her straw around in her glass, she smiled at him. Back in high school, she'd often felt shy and awkward around him but now... she was surprised by how comfortable she felt in his presence.
"You okay?" Nathan asked.
"Uh huh... So when do you want to start shopping for furniture?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "Whenever's convenient for you."
Glancing at her watch, she saw it was only a little past one. "What about now? I mean, with the larger items like a couch and a bed you're going to have to wait a little while for them to be delivered so it'd make sense to buy those first."
"Yeah," he agreed. "I can keep living at the hotel for another couple of weeks while I wait." Placing his hand over the back of hers which was resting on the table, he said, "Thanks for all of this, Hales. I really appreciate you helping me out."
"There's no need to thank me but you're welcome. I'm happy to help." Turning her hand over, she laced her fingers with his and gave them a light squeeze. Something in the air seemed to shift around them and Haley sensed she wasn't the only one to feel it. Reluctantly releasing his hand, she coughed to clear her throat.
"I'm not keeping you from anything, am I?" Nathan asked her. "I mean, if you've got something else you need to be doing we could do this another time or I could even go online and do it."
"No, no, it's fine. If I wasn't here with you I'd just be cleaning the apartment or watching TV. I'm enjoying myself, I promise."
"Okay, I was just making sure," he said, smiling at her before he picked up the rest of his burger and took a bite out of it.
The half-smile he flashed her made her feel giddy and in an attempt to stop herself from saying something stupid, she quickly popped her straw into her mouth and finished off the rest of her drink.
October 26, 2010
The days since their reunion seemed to fly by and before Haley knew it, three weeks had passed. They saw each other practically every other day and were spending most of their free time together. Nathan's new apartment was now fully furnished and he had finally moved out of the hotel he had been staying in while he found a permanent place to live so, naturally, they were hanging out there. To celebrate his first night in his new home, he had cooked for her and as she had watched him, she had been more than a little surprised at the kitchen skills he demonstrated.
Tonight, she was cooking for him at his apartment and she was making her mother's recipe for macaroni and cheese which had been her favorite meal ever since she was a little girl. Opening the oven door, she slipped on the padded mitts she had made him buy during one of their shopping trips and removed the glass dish from inside it. Carefully placing it down onto the counter, she used a large metal spoon to scoop up some of the baked pasta onto each of the plates she had already set out.
"That looks and smells so good," Nathan told her as he retrieved a bottle of wine from the fridge and went about opening it.
"Thanks," she replied, feeling that familiar warmth running through her again.
Picking up the two plates, she carried them over to the dining table which was situated by one of the apartment's large windows and set them down on the place-mats. The view of the sun setting over the city was beautiful and she stood there for a moment drinking it in.
"It's so beautiful," she whispered.
"Yeah," Nathan said. Instead of looking out of the window, he was looking at her and he couldn't help smiling when she caught him staring and that rosy blush infused her cheeks again. Putting down the bottle he was holding onto the table, he walked over to where she was standing and took her hands in both of his. His thumbs brushed back and forth over her knuckles.
His gaze flitted from her expressive, chocolate brown eyes to her glossy lips and back again. Lowering his head, he pressed his mouth against hers in a tender kiss before retreating and holding his breath as he waited to see what her reaction would be.
"Was that just a thank you kiss?" Haley asked, her voice quiet and the question hesitant.
"No. It was more like an 'I've been dying to do that to you for weeks' kiss," he told her.
Nathan watched her face for any clue as to how she was feeling. Right now, he couldn't tell and he was beginning to think he'd made a mistake. "I'm sor—"
"Don't apologize," she quickly cut in, placing her fingertips against his lips. Pushing herself up onto her toes, she moved her hand to the back of his head and held him still as she nuzzled her nose against his before taking the initiative this time and fusing her mouth with his.
Releasing the hand he was still holding, he banded his arms around her waist, pulling her in closer so their fronts were pressed together. He moaned into her mouth as the kiss became even more heated and he felt her tongue tangle with his own. He knew if he wasn't careful he could lose himself in her and just as the thought entered his mind those memories which were always so close to the surface suddenly reared their ugly head and had him pulling back.
He forced himself to smile at her and do his best to reassure her that nothing was wrong. "Uh... the food's getting cold," he said.
"I don't mind," she retorted. "We can reheat it in the microwave."
"Right... I'm actually pretty hungry though."
"Oh, okay," she said, trying to hide the confusion and disappointment she felt. Her arms, which were twined around his neck, slid down his chest and she released him and then took a step back.
Pulling out one of the chairs, he helped her sit down before walking around the table to sit opposite her. "This looks really great."
"Yeah," she mumbled, unfolding her napkin and laying it across her lap. "Is everything okay?" she asked when the silence became too much to bear.
"Everything's fine," he answered, nodding his head. Picking up his fork, he scooped up some of the cheesy pasta and popped it into his mouth, effectively cutting off the conversation.
"Okay." Haley watched him for a few seconds before she picked up her own cutlery and began eating. While they did talk during the meal, the quiet moments felt a little suffocating and she couldn't help sensing that something wasn't quite right but after he had told her everything was fine, she didn't want to ask him again.
Maybe he regretted the kiss, she thought to herself as she sipped her wine. It could be that he'd gotten caught up in the moment and then when she'd kissed him back he realized he'd made a mistake.
"I was just asking if you were free on Saturday. I thought we could maybe try out that new Japanese restaurant." Cocking his head to the side, he asked, "Are you okay?"
The irony of his question didn't escape her. "I'm fine," she told him, echoing his own earlier response. "I can't do it this Saturday; I've got plans with Lindsey and a couple of our friends. We could do it one night during the week if you want."
The subsequent silence seemed even more stifling and Haley couldn't wait for the night to come to an end. As much as she'd loved kissing him, she was kind of wishing she could go back in time and stop it from having happened. It had changed everything and, sadly, not for the better.
"You're not eating," Nathan observed. He'd been watching her for a while and it hadn't escaped his notice that she'd just been pushing her food around on the plate without taking more than a few bites of it.
"I guess I'm not that hungry," she said, setting her fork down. Pushing her chair back, she got up from the table and made her way into the kitchen carrying her plate.
Haley bit back her sigh as she put down her plate onto the granite countertop. Turning, she was startled to see that he had gotten up and followed her. "I'm just going to tidy up in here and then I'll be out of your hair."
"What are you talking about? I don't want you to go, Hales." He reached out to take her hand but she took a step back from him.
"I just think it's better if I go home."
Inwardly cursing himself, Nathan ran a hand through his hair. He knew he was going to screw things up with her but he hadn't expected it to happen so damn soon. "I'm sorry about before, okay. I shouldn't hav—"
"Kissed me?" she finished for him.
"What? No… no, I wasn't going to say that."
"It's okay, Nathan. Maybe we should just be friends and not complicate matters by making it more than that."
When she tried to move past him he grabbed her by the wrist and stilled her. Before she could say anything, his lips were on hers and he was kissing her hard. The hand holding onto her arm released its hold on her and he wrapped it around her waist while the fingers of his other one threaded through her silky hair.
"I wasn't sorry for kissing you before and I'm not sorry for kissing you now," he told her, his breathing heavy.
Her heart was racing wildly and her lips were still tingling from the after-effects of his kiss. The feel of his slightly calloused thumb rubbing along her cheekbone wasn't helping matters either. "Oh."
Nathan chuckled. "Is that all you've got to say?"
"You've kind of rendered me speechless here," she replied, knowing full well she was probably blushing again. She didn't think she'd ever grow out of that annoying trait.
"Is that so?"
The smirk he flashed her made her stomach somersault. "You're too cocky for your own good, you know that?"
He shrugged, the smirk deepening. "That's not the first time you've told me that." Kissing her again, he said, "I'm sorry about before. Not about kissing you… just the part about pulling away and making things feel awkward afterwards. I didn't mean to do that."
"I guess I got scared," he admitted. "I just don't want to screw things up between us. I don't exactly have the best track record when it comes to relationships." If only she knew the truth of that statement, he thought to himself.
"You won't," Haley said. "I like being with you, Nathan… and I want us to keep seeing each other."
"I want that, too." Brushing his lips over hers, he rested his forehead against hers.
"We can take things slow. I mean, it's not even a month yet since we bumped into each other," she reminded him.
"It feels like longer."
"Is that good or bad?" she asked teasingly.
"Good, definitely good. I just meant it feels natural and effortless, you know."
"Yeah, I know and I completely agree with you." Playing with his fingers, she wondered whether to ask him the question on her mind.
"So, uh, is this... I mean, are we dating?"
A burst of relieved laughter filled the air. "I was just going to ask you the same thing," Haley told him.
"I guess great minds really do think alike," he said, laughing along with her. "So, are we?"
"Yes," she stated. A split second later, Nathan's mouth was on hers and he was kissing her long and slow, melting her into a puddle of mush. "I take it you're happy," she quipped, her breathing ragged.
"I'm ecstatic," he murmured, just as breathless as she was. His smile grew even wider as he ducked his head and stole another kiss.
Four days later…
Haley nervously paced her living room. Glancing at her wristwatch, the butterflies in her stomach started flapping even more fiercely when she saw that Nathan would be arriving for their first official date any time now. If he had just told her where he was taking her maybe she wouldn't be feeling like this, she mused to herself. All he'd said was for her to dress casually. Unfortunately for her, Lindsey was away for the weekend visiting her family so she couldn't get an opinion on the outfit she had selected for her date.
Having checked the weather forecast that morning and seeing that the day ahead should stay dry and fairly warm, Haley had chosen a royal blue maxi skirt and teamed it with a lightweight white sweater. A pair of wedge sandals completed the outfit.
While she'd always hated surprises, she had to admit she was excited by what Nathan had planned for them today. Opening her purse, she retrieved her compact from inside of it and gave her appearance a final check. She had decided to wear her hair down and was using a blue silk scarf as a makeshift headband to keep it off of her face.
When the doorbell rang a few minutes later Haley jumped and she giggled to herself as she walked over to open the door. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him standing on the other side looking just as gorgeous as ever. "Hi."
"Hi," Nathan replied, smiling. When she opened the door wider, he entered the apartment and as soon as she had closed the door, he leaned into her and kissed her. "You look amazing," he told her once the kiss had ended.
"Thank you. You're looking pretty good yourself."
"Only pretty good?"
She swatted his bicep. Looking him up and down, she took in the blue Levi's and dark grey T-shirt he was wearing. "Yep, pretty good just about sums it up," she teased. She seemed to suddenly notice the flowers he was holding and her smile widened. "Are those for me?"
"Uh… oh yeah," he said, handing over the posy of purple wildflowers. "Sorry," he mumbled, his own nerves getting the best of him.
"Thank you, they're beautiful," she said, bringing them up to her nose and breathing in their delicate fragrance. "I'll just go and put them in some water."
Heading into the kitchen, Haley found a small glass vase in one of the cupboards and filled it with some water before quickly arranging the flowers into it. Carrying it into the living room where Nathan was waiting, she smiled at him as she set the vase down onto the coffee table.
Walking over to where she was standing, he asked, "You ready to go?"
"Uh huh. Are you going to tell me where we're going?"
"Nope! It's a surprise."
"Nathan," she whined. "I hate surprises."
"I know," he said, cupping her cheek. "I remember you telling me that one day in school."
"I remember everything from our tutoring sessions," he quietly confessed.
"I do, too." Haley raised up onto her toes just as he lowered his head and she sighed when his lips touched hers. When they parted, she couldn't resist teasing him. "I especially remember how you tried getting out of the assignments I set you."
He laughed, shaking his head. "You were such a slave-driver, Miss James, and bossy with it."
"You didn't give me much of a choice," she quipped.
"I was an angel," he said, tongue firmly in his cheek.
Her mouth dropped open. "More like the devil." The pouty look he wore caused her to laugh and lifting her hand, she lightly stroked his cheek. "You want to know a secret?" When he nodded, she said, "Out of all the people I tutored you were kind of my favorite."
She wasn't surprised to see the familiar smirk grace his lips and it made her smile. "Now, if you tell anyone else I'll deny it."
"They probably wouldn't believe you," Nathan joked before stealing one more kiss. "C'mon, let's get going. And before you ask again, I'm not going to tell you where we're headed."
"I wasn't going to ask," she lied.
"Uh huh," he said knowingly as he led her towards the front door.
Haley smiled as she watched her boyfriend shake out and then lay the blue and black plaid blanket onto the grass. For some reason, a picnic in Central Park hadn't been what she would've expected Nathan to have organized for their first official date but she loved it. It was perfect in its simplicity. Setting down the hamper she was holding in the centre of the blanket, she knelt and then sat down, arranging her long skirt around her legs.
"So, is this okay?" Nathan asked her as he opened the hamper and began removing its contents.
"It's more than okay," she replied. "You definitely surprised me and in a really good way. What made you think of it?"
"Google," he said, grinning. "We'd already done the dinner and movie thing before we'd gotten together and I wanted something different for our first proper date so I Googled romantic first dates in New York and a picnic in the park was one of the first things that came up. I know it's October and the weather could've been an issue but I took a chance."
"I'm glad you did 'cause I love this."
"Good." His smile widened. "As for the food... I bought it all so you're safe."
"Well, after that dinner you cooked for me a couple of weeks ago I wouldn't be complaining if you told me you'd made everything. You're pretty good in the kitchen."
"That's not the only room I'm good in," he murmured and he smirked at the flush that infused Haley's cheeks.
Haley watched in amazement at the amount of food he had packed. "Is anyone else joining us?" she asked, gesturing to the spread in front of them.
"No... I guess I might've gone a little overboard, huh?"
"Just a little," she agreed, "but what we don't eat now we can take back home with us. It won't go to waste."
"Yeah," he said, nodding. "Uh, according to the website I looked on, you're not allowed to bring alcohol into the park and since I didn't want to risk us getting busted on our first date I figured it was best to stick to the rules."
"Really? That's not like the Nathan Scott I used to know," she teased. "He was all about breaking the rules."
His eyes darkened and he swallowed thickly. He didn't want to ruin the mood so he forced himself to smile, hoping it looked genuine. "I grew up, I guess."
Haley noticed the change in his demeanor but she decided not to mention it. She was pretty sure he would talk to her if something was bothering him and she didn't want to push him into anything. "What did you bring to drink then?"
Her smile helped relax him and he returned it. "Sparkling apple juice," he replied. "I also brought some bottled water and sodas just in case you wanted something different."
"I'll have some of the apple juice," she told him.
Retrieving a couple of glasses from the hamper, he handed them to her to hold before grabbing the bottle of apple juice and uncapping it. After pouring some into each one, he screwed the cap back on and then took one of the glasses from Haley and held it up. "To our first official date," he toasted.
Haley beamed at him. "To our first official date," she repeated, clinking her glass against his and then taking a drink of the cool, fizzy beverage. "This looks so good," she said, gesturing to the assortment of sandwiches, salads, gourmet cheeses, fruits and desserts laid out in front of them.
"I, uh, had a little help," Nathan admitted.
"Google again?" she asked, tilting her head.
"No, my mom actually. I wanted our first date to be perfect so I called to ask her advice on what I should pack." The tips of his ears turned pink as he quietly said, "I've never done this before... been on a romantic picnic, I mean."
Her heart melted at his confession and scooting forward slightly, she pressed her lips against his and kissed him softly. "Me either."
Haley nodded. "Yeah. I've been on family picnics but I've never been on one with a date."
"Your previous boyfriends didn't take you on any?" he questioned, twirling one of her curls around his pointer finger.
"No. I guess it wasn't their kind of thing."
"Well, it's definitely ours," he stated, brushing his lips over hers before deepening the kiss.
"Yeah," she whispered breathlessly when they drew apart several moments later.
"I don't know about you but I've kind of worked up an appetite."
"C'mon then," Haley said, rolling her eyes, "let's feed you."
Haley felt waves of anticipation swirling around in the pit of stomach as she and Nathan walked up the stairs to her apartment. The elevator was out of service and, in a strange way, she was kind of glad as she wanted a little more time to think before she arrived home.
The whole day had been idyllic and she couldn't have asked for a better first date. After they had eaten, they had walked through the park hand-in-hand just enjoying each other's company and savoring what was possibly the last of the warm fall weather. As the day turned into evening, Nathan had surprised her with two tickets to see the musical "Jersey Boys". She vaguely recalled telling him during one of their tutoring sessions that she loved musicals and one day hoped to be able to see at least one Broadway show. She couldn't believe that after all these years he'd remembered that.
The show had been amazing and while Haley was pretty certain musical theater wasn't Nathan's thing, she believed him when he'd told her he'd enjoyed it and had had a good time.
When her front door came into view, her nervousness cranked up a notch and she debated with herself as to what she should do. She'd never slept with a guy on the first date before but she was willing to make an exception for Nathan. Things with him were so different and, again, she put it down to the fact that they already knew each other and that she felt so comfortable in his presence. She'd never felt like this with anyone else before.
"I had a really great time with you today, Hales," Nathan said, taking her hands in his and rubbing his thumbs along the backs of them.
His voice cut into her thoughts and she gave herself a little mental shake. "I did, too. Thanks for giving me an amazing first date."
Releasing her hands, he wrapped his arms around her waist and pulled her against him. "It was my pleasure," he replied huskily as he lowered his head and kissed her again.
Twining her own arms around his neck, her fingers played with the fine hair at his nape as she parted her lips and welcomed his tongue into her mouth. She shivered when Nathan slipped his hands beneath her sweater and ran his palms up and down her bare back. "Do you want to come in?" she asked. One of her hands had slipped down to rest on his chest and she could feel the fast rhythm of his heart beneath her palm and it reassured her to know she wasn't the only one affected by their dizzying kisses.
"I-I'd love to but I'm going to say no." Seeing the surprised look on her face made him chuckle. "You weren't expecting me to say that, huh?"
Haley's cheeks flushed but she found herself nodding. "Yeah."
"It's just... I want to do things right with you, Haley, and I think sleeping together so soon might mess with that."
"Oh," she mumbled. She definitely hadn't expected him to come out with that and although she knew he probably had a point, she couldn't help feeling slightly rejected by his words. She couldn't imagine the Nathan Scott of old ever saying something like it.
Cupping her face between his hands, Nathan leaned in and rested his forehead against hers. "Don't think I don't want you, Haley James," he told her. "I just don't want to spoil things with us before they have a chance to get started. Keeping his eyes open, he suckled on her bottom lip; releasing it after a couple of seconds. "Besides, good things come to those who wait." Punctuating his statement with a smirk, the girlish giggle she then released made the tightness in his chest ease up a little bit.
"Is that right?"
"Oh yeah," he drawled. Sealing his mouth over hers, he kissed her hotly; his fingers tangling in her hair.
"Are you sure you don't want to come inside?" Haley asked, gently stroking the back of his neck.
"You're trying to kill me, aren't you?"
"I'm just testing your self-restraint," she retorted.
"It's damn near non-existent whenever you're around," he told her, chuckling when she ducked her head and buried it against his chest. "How can you be embarrassed when you're basically inviting me inside to... corrupt you?"
"I'm not embarrassed," she said, tingles shooting through her entire being at the sensation of his hot breath puffing against her ear as he leaned down to speak into it. "And what's that about corrupting me? I'm not that naïve little teenager you used to know."
"Believe me, I've noticed," Nathan replied, his hands skimming over her butt. He laughed when she swatted his arm.
"Well, I'm going to go inside and start getting ready for bed," Haley said, lowering her voice so it was nothing more than a breathless whisper.
"I was right... you are trying to kill me."
Giggling, she pushed up onto her toes and pressed a kiss onto the corner of his mouth. "Thanks for a wonderful date, Nathan. I loved it."
"You're welcome." Before Haley could move out of his reach, he captured her lips again. The kiss went on for several minutes and he was seriously rethinking his decision not to enter the apartment with her. Deep down, he knew it was for the best. Before they took that step he needed to be completely honest with her but he wasn't yet ready to come clean. He knew that he should really be talking to her now before she got in too deep but he couldn't bring himself to do it.
They were both panting for breath by the time the kiss had ended and it took a moment for them to regain the ability to speak.
"Can I see you tomorrow?" Nathan asked her.
"You're going to get awfully sick of me," she teased. As always seemed to be the case whenever he was around, she felt a warmth infuse within her, pooling low in her belly.
"Not a chance," he told her. "God, I love it when you blush."
"You're not helping," she said, fanning herself with her hand.
"Sorry," he said, though he didn't sound it. "So, are you free tomorrow?"
"Yes," she whispered.
"Great. I'll, uh, call you in the morning."
Nathan kissed her again before he reluctantly pulled away. "Talk to you tomorrow, baby."
"Tomorrow," Haley echoed. Watching him walk away, she found she was already missing him; something she'd already felt whenever they said goodbye but now, after their first official date, the feeling was much stronger. And even though his earlier words about why he wasn't coming into the apartment with her had somewhat reassured her, she couldn't help wondering whether there was another reason behind it and if so, what it could be.
November 7, 2010
"What's up?" Nathan asked his girlfriend when he saw her worried expression.
"Nothing," she replied, lowering her head and hoping her hair would hide her from his curious gaze.
"You've got that look on your face, Hales. You know, the one that tells me something's bothering you but you don't want to say."
Her cheeks flushed and she cursed herself. "You shouldn't know that look… not yet anyway."
Laughing, he said, "C'mon, just tell me. You know you want to."
Haley paused before biting the bullet and asking him the question that had plagued her for the last few days. "Okay, well, I was just wondering… are you going home for Thanksgiving? Back to Tree Hill, I mean."
"I, uh, I'm not sure right now," he lied. His mother had called him the previous night asking him what his plans for the upcoming holiday were. He'd wanted to wait until he knew what Haley was doing before he committed himself to anything. "Are you going back home?"
She shook her head. "No, not this year. I somehow got lucky and managed to book Christmas off at work this year so I'll be going home then and staying in New York for Thanksgiving." Twirling a lock of hair around her finger, she forced herself to keep her eyes locked on his. "It's just… I thought if you were going to be here in the city too, that maybe we could spend the holiday together."
Nathan smiled and did his best to ignore the niggling doubt that suddenly popped into his head. He loved the thought of spending the holidays with her but, at the same time, he couldn't help feeling anxious about it.
"It's okay if you don't want to," she said, cutting into his thoughts. "I know we haven't been together all that long yet."
"No, I do. I really do. It's just… I hadn't really given much thought to what I'd be doing, to be honest."
"You're telling me Deb hasn't called yet and talked you into coming home?" Haley asked, her tongue firmly in her cheek.
Nathan had never been one to blush yet he could feel his face heating up. "Fine, you got me. She actually called me a couple of nights ago to see what my plans are. I guess I was wanting to find out what you were doing first before I agreed to anything."
"Yeah. Is that okay?"
She nodded shyly. "Of course it is. So you were also thinking about us spending Thanksgiving together in the city?"
"Uh huh. I'm not expecting you to cook for me or anything," he made sure to tell her. "We can book a table at a restaurant or something."
"I don't mind cooking," she told him. "Besides, a lot of restaurants close for Thanksgiving so it would probably be easier for us to stay in. It'll just be the two of us anyway since Lindsey is going with Josh to visit his parents."
"Right... okay." Nathan swallowed nervously, his anxiety kicking up a notch at that piece of information. At least when her best friend and roommate was around he had an excuse for not being intimate with her. Of course, now having his own apartment didn't help in that regard and some of the excuses he was coming up with for not wanting them to hang out there were sounding even more pathetic. They were dating now so the natural progression of their relationship would be for them to spend as much time alone together as possible… yet here he was doing the exact opposite of that.
He knew at some point he was going to have to be honest with her and tell her the reasons behind his weird behavior but right now he couldn't. Getting involved with her was probably a bad idea… especially considering all the baggage he was carrying but he had always been a selfish bastard and the thought of not being with Haley… yeah, it didn't bear thinking about.
"Nathan… are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine," he replied. Reaching over, he covered her hand with his own and gave it a gentle squeeze. "I guess I'd better give my mom a call later and let her know I won't be home until Christmas now."
"Will she be okay about it?"
He nodded. "Yeah, it's not the first time I haven't been home for one of the holidays."
Turning her hand over, Haley intertwined their fingers. "If it does turn out to be a problem, just tell me. I'll understand."
"It won't be," he reassured her. "I'm pretty sure when I tell her who I'll be spending Thanksgiving with she'll be more than fine about me not coming home."
"Maybe it'd be better to wait to tell her about us," she said, her eyes focused on their joined hands.
"Why?" he asked. "Haley?"
"I don't know… I guess, I just don't want her or any of your family blaming me for keeping you away from them or something."
"Believe me," he said, chuckling, "that's the last thing that'll happen. They'll probably be relieved I'm actually in a relationship with someone they know and approve of."
"Hmm, is that right?" she asked, shifting closer to him on his couch.
"Yep." Lifting his arm, he wrapped it around Haley's shoulders. "My mom already pretty much loves you for helping me graduate high school so she'll probably throw a party when she finds out we're together."
Haley smiled. "A party, huh? Tell her to make sure there's cake," she teased.
"I will and for your sake I'll make sure it's a shop bought one," he quipped.
"She still can't cook, huh?" Haley remembered the stories he would regale her with during some of their tutoring sessions about Deb's culinary disasters.
"According to my dad she's gotten better and I'm sure that's down to Karen giving her some pointers but she's still pretty hopeless. It's a good job the holidays are spent with everyone together and that Karen does the majority of the cooking."
"I miss her cooking. I remember when I used to work in the café and she'd be out in the back baking and the smells coming out of the kitchen would make my mouth water."
"Your mom's an awesome cook, too," Nathan said. "I used to love coming over to your house for tutoring sessions 'cause I knew there'd be a good chance she'd feed me. I still dream about her chocolate fudge brownies."
Haley made a face before she cracked up laughing. "Okay, that sounded kind of dirty."
"You, Haley James, have got a filthy mind," he told her, joining in with her laughter.
"So, it looks like we'll be spending the holidays together, then."
He nodded. "Yeah." Pressing a kiss onto her temple, he said, "I'm really looking forward to it."
Snuggling into his side, she whispered, "Me too."
November 25, 2010 - Thanksgiving Day
"You sure you don't need any help in here?" Nathan asked his girlfriend for the third time since his arrival that morning. Leaning on the door-frame, he couldn't take his eyes off of her as she busied around the kitchen. She was wearing a knee-skimming black lace skirt which she had teamed with a plum colored top and her hair was pulled back into a messy bun, a few loose curls framing her face. It was dressy while still being fairly casual and, as was always the case with her, she looked gorgeous.
"Everything's under control," Haley told him, flashing him a smile, "but thanks for the offer."
Smiling back at her, he entered the room and his mouth was practically watering at the delicious smells filling it. "Well, can I get you a drink at least?"
"That I won't say no to," she replied with a giggle. "There's wine in the fridge."
Nodding his head, Nathan busied himself with retrieving and opening the bottle of white wine before pouring some into the two glasses he'd grabbed from the overhead cupboard she'd directed him to. Picking them up, he handed one to her and then said, "Happy Thanksgiving, Hales."
Haley lightly clinked her glass against his. "Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, baby."
They each took a sip of their wine before they both leaned in at the same time and shared a soft kiss.
"Okay, you go and carry on watching the game while I finish in here." Seeing that he was about to protest, she added, "There's not much left to do, I promise. In fact, we should be eating in about fifteen minutes."
"Okay, okay," he capitulated, chuckling. Making his way back into the living room, Nathan placed his glass onto the coffee table before he took a seat in the middle of the couch and carried on watching the Cowboys who were playing the New Orleans Saints. Football wasn't something he was all that into and as the game progressed, his mind began to wander to other things.
As much as he was trying not to think about it, he couldn't help worrying about what was going to happen that night. With it being a holiday plus the fact Lindsey wasn't at home, Haley would be expecting him to stay over, even more so since neither of them were working the next day. The last thing he wanted to do was hurt her feelings but he just wasn't ready to take that next step in their relationship and definitely not when he wasn't being open and honest with her. For a second, he regretted not going back home to Tree Hill and putting a little bit of distance between them but that thought passed as quickly as it had arrived. He loved being with Haley and he hated the thought of her spending the holiday alone.
Haley's voice broke into his thoughts and turning his head to the side to look up at her, Nathan saw the concerned expression on her face and he mentally kicked himself for yet again spoiling her good mood. "Sorry, I was miles away," he said sheepishly. "Were you calling me?"
"Yeah, I was just saying that dinner's ready."
Hearing that, he was surprised to realized he'd been lost in thought for that length of time. "Okay," he said, pushing himself up off of the couch and following her into the kitchen where the dining table was. It was laid beautifully and he could see the effort she had put into making their first holiday together special. His stomach growled at the sights and smells of the awesome spread she had put on for them both and he smiled broadly as he pulled her chair out for her. "This all looks so good, Hales."
"Thanks... I hope it tastes as good as it looks," she quipped, taking a seat and then laying her napkin across her lap.
"I know it will," he said as went over to his seat and then sat down.
"Uh, I know this is probably something you don't do but would you mind if I said grace?"
"No, of course not."
"Okay," she said, giving him a grateful smile. Placing her hands together and slightly bowing her head, Haley began the blessing, "Lord, for this food and all we need, we give thanks for what we receive. Amen."
"Amen," Nathan repeated.
"So, would you like to do the honors and carve?" she asked him, chuckling at the nervous look he shot her.
"Uh... sure, if you want me to. I've got to warn you though, I haven't got much experience of doing it."
"You'll do fine."
"Okay," he replied, "but don't say I didn't warn you." Picking up the large fork and carving knife, he did his best to picture how his father and uncle did the job before he began to carve the golden turkey; placing the sliced meat onto their two plates.
A few minutes later, he sat down and shook out his own napkin and laid it across his lap.
Smiling over at him, she said, "Help yourself," before she picked up the dish of mashed potatoes and placed a generous serving onto her plate, passing it to Nathan when she was done.
He already knew Haley was an excellent cook but she had outdone herself with her Thanksgiving feast. "I know I keep saying it but this is amazing. I can't remember the last time I ate anything as good as all this."
She blushed at his compliment. "Thank you," she practically whispered.
"You need to learn to start taking compliments, babe," he said teasingly before popping another forkful of turkey and cranberry sauce into his mouth.
Ignoring his words, Haley instead asked, "So, what are you thankful for this year?"
"You," Nathan stated simply. As he knew it would, her blush intensified. "I'm so thankful that you've come back into my life. I wasn't expecting it at all but I'm beyond grateful that it's happened."
"Me too, baby," she replied when she'd swallowed past the lump that had formed in her throat. "Me too."
After dinner, Nathan and Haley worked together to clean up; storing away any leftovers and then loading up the dishwasher. He had offered to do it himself while she relaxed but even as he'd made the suggestion he knew she wouldn't take him up on it and he was right.
Now, here they were, curled up together on the couch; an old black and white movie playing on the TV though neither of them were paying any attention to it. Haley's hands were in his hair, her blunt fingernails scratching along his scalp and down the back of his neck. Her lips danced their way up his throat until she arrived at his mouth but she made no attempt to kiss him. They hovered there for long lingering moments until he couldn't take it a second longer and he captured them with his own. Before he knew what was happening, he had her pinned beneath him as he kissed the hell out of her; one of his hands caressing her cheek.
Curling her tongue around his, Haley drew it into her mouth and sucked on it. The entire length of him was pressing her down into the couch cushions and she loved it. Slipping her fingers beneath his undershirt, she explored his back, savoring the feel of his muscles sliding around beneath his warm skin as he moved against her. "Nathan..." she moaned, moving one arm to curl it around his neck.
Hearing his name brought Nathan back to the present and he froze when, upon opening his eyes, he saw Haley lying underneath him. Breaking the kiss, he drew back from her but forced himself not to pull away the way he wanted to. He didn't want to scare her or, worse, have her think that she'd done something wrong when that wasn't the case at all.
Before she could finish, the telephone suddenly rang and Nathan inwardly sighed with relief. Pushing himself off of her, he helped pull her up and then watched as she went over to the end table and grabbed the phone.
"Hello? … Hey, Linds... Thanks, Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. How's it going up there?"
Nathan tuned the conversation out, hoping that it would go on for a little while and that maybe Haley would forget about what had just happened. Yeah, wishful thinking, he knew that. No doubt her first questions to him would be what was wrong and if he was okay. He didn't know what to tell her. Okay, that was a lie. It was more that he didn't know how to tell her.
Today had been a really great day and the last thing he wanted to do was spoil things.
Giving Haley what he hoped was a reassuring smile as she continued to chat with her friend, Nathan left the room and headed for the bathroom. Closing and locking the door behind him, he went over to the sink and turned on the faucet, splashing his face with cold water. He didn't know what he was hoping that would achieve... maybe it was just another way of buying himself some more time. Patting his face dry with a hand towel, he stared at his reflection for a few minutes, taking long deep breaths as he did so.
Knowing he couldn't hide in there forever, he exited the bathroom and went back into the living room where he saw Haley was now off the phone.
"So, uh, how's Lindsey doing?" he asked, taking a seat in the armchair opposite the couch where she was sitting.
Haley noticed this but chose not to say anything. "She's good. She wanted to call me earlier but Josh's family have been keeping them busy so this was her first real opportunity to do it."
The silence that followed was awkward and uncomfortable and they both felt it.
"Do you want something to drink?" Haley asked just as a way of breaking the quiet.
"Hot chocolate?" she offered.
"Yeah, that sounds great." Nathan gave her a small smile as she got up from her seat and headed into the kitchen. Leaning forward, his elbows on his knees, he placed his head in his hands and couldn't stop another sigh from escaping. The night had been going so well and while he was pretty anxious about what would happen as the night progressed, he'd been having a great time with Haley. Now, things between them felt strained and weird.
An idea suddenly popped into his head and he inwardly cringed at his cowardice but he didn't know what else to do. Tonight so wasn't the night to have the conversation he needed to have with her and while this would make him feel even more of a dick, he decided to go with it.
Making himself as comfortable as possible in the armchair he was sitting in, he laid his head back and closed his eyes; doing his best to relax his breathing. By the time he heard her walk into the room a few minutes later, he was well on his way to falling asleep.
Holding two steaming mugs, Haley's heart sank as she stood by the couch and saw that Nathan was fast asleep. So much for them picking up where they'd left off before Lindsey's phone call, she thought to herself. Even though there had been this strange awkwardness afterwards, she had hoped that would dissipate while they drank their hot chocolate.
Yeah, apparently that had been too much to ask for.
Setting the mugs down onto the nearby coffee table, Haley went over to the hall closet and grabbed a spare comforter before walking back to him. As gently as possible, she covered him with it and unable to resist, she bent down and pressed a kiss onto his forehead. Straightening up, she stood and watched him for a moment. He looked so peaceful and, not for the first time, she wished he was in her bed where they could, at the very least, cuddle. Whispering goodnight to him, she picked up her beverage and made her way towards her bedroom, hitting the light switch as she did so.
It looked like the only thing accompanying her to bed tonight was her mug of hot chocolate.
Haley groaned when she opened her eyes and was confronted by the sun streaming in through her window. She cursed herself for forgetting to close her drapes before she went to sleep. Pushing herself up into a sitting position, she rested against the headboard as memories of last night played through her mind. Knowing she couldn't hide out in her bedroom all day, she threw back the covers and climbed out of bed, pulling her robe on over her pajamas.
After a quick stop in the bathroom, she made her way towards the living room. For all she knew Nathan had already left but she hoped that wasn't the case.
The comforter she'd covered him up with was folded and had been placed onto the armchair he had slept in. A wave of disappointment washed over her but it quickly evaporated and was replaced by a sense of hope when she heard a noise coming from the kitchen. When a few seconds later she saw him standing over the stove, his back to her, she released a quiet sigh of relief.
"Good morning," she said quietly as she entered the room.
Hearing her voice suddenly coming from behind him, Nathan startled slightly before turning around to face her. "Morning," he replied. "How'd you sleep?"
"Not bad. What about you?"
"Same." Glancing to the stove and the pan of eggs he was scrambling, he said, "I was going to bring you breakfast in bed."
Haley couldn't contain the smile that broke out on her face. "That's so sweet."
"It's the least I can do after falling asleep on you last night." The lie felt bitter on his tongue.
"You can't help being tired," she told him even as she remembered lying in bed and wondering whether he was genuinely asleep or faking it.
"Yeah… The wine we drank with dinner probably didn't help matters," he joked.
She smiled. "So, what's for breakfast?"
"Scrambled eggs, bacon and toast," Nathan replied. "Unless you'd prefer yesterday's leftovers." He laughed when she grimaced at his suggestion.
"Uh… no. Leftovers can wait until later… much later."
"Are you sure? I won't mind if you'd rather have some turkey and stuffing," he teased.
"If you're wanting me to throw up all over your shoes keep going," she retorted, giving his arm a playful slap.
"Okay, okay," he said, surrendering. Placing his hands on her shoulders, he ducked his head and popped a quick kiss onto her lips before turning her and gently pushing her towards the table which he had already set. "Take a seat and I'll bring our breakfast over."
Pulling out a chair, Haley sat down and smiled as she watched him comfortably move around her kitchen.
A few moments later, he was seated across from her and they were digging into their food.
"Thanks for doing this, Nathan," she said before picking up her glass of orange juice and taking a sip.
"You're welcome. I wanted to apologize for last night but also… I, uh…"
"I wanted to do something nice to celebrate our one month anniversary," he said shyly.
Haley clamped a hand across her mouth as she realized what today's date was. "I'd completely forgotten," she told him. "I'm sor—"
"Don't apologize," he interrupted. "It was only when I checked my watch this morning and saw the date that I remembered.
She breathed a quiet sigh of relief. Leaning forward slightly, she covered his hand which was resting on the table with her own. "I'm glad you remembered," she whispered.
"Me too," he answered, turning his hand over and lacing their fingers together.
Two weeks later...
Nathan swallowed nervously as Haley unlocked her front door and pushed it open. He hesitated slightly before he sucked it up and followed her into the apartment. The plan had been to just drop her off home after their date at the movies that evening but the look on her face when he'd started to roll out yet another excuse had caused him to backtrack and tell her he'd love to come in.
His hope that Lindsey would be at home was dashed when Haley found a pink Post-It note stuck onto the answering machine telling her she was out with one of their mutual friends and didn't know what time she'd be back.
Sitting on the couch, he jiggled his knee up and down as he waited for his girlfriend to return from the kitchen with their drinks. Instead of coffee, he now wished he'd asked for something stronger. Lord knew he could do with some liquid courage.
"Here you go," Haley said a short while later, handing him a mug of black coffee. "Are you hungry 'cause if you are I could whip up a couple of omelets or something."
"No, I'm fine, thanks. All the crap I ate at the movie theater's filled me up," he joked.
She laughed before taking a sip of her tea and then setting down her cup on the coffee table. After Nathan had drunk some of his own beverage, she took the mug back from him and set it down beside hers.
"What are yo—"
Bending forward, Haley pressed her lips against his and gently pushed him backwards. Her tongue tangled and twisted with his and, without breaking the kiss, she hitched up her knee-length skirt and straddled his lap.
Nathan moaned as he felt her hands wander everywhere, never staying in one place for very long. The same was true of her lips. First they were fused to his, next they were sucking on his earlobe before travelling down the side of his neck and then latching onto the base. When she suddenly and without warning bit down on the fleshy area between his neck and shoulder he felt something akin to an electric shock run right through him. The unexpected action caused him to buck his hips up into hers, bringing his erection into closer contact with her core and the molten heat he could feel emanating through her panties. "Christ!"
He was so lost in a haze of lust that he completely missed her undoing his shirt but he came to at the touch of her delicate fingers exploring the planes of his chest.
"I love the way you feel," Haley whispered, dropping hot, wet kisses all along his collarbone as she slowly made her way south.
Threading his fingers through her hair, Nathan held her to him, encouraging her to continue despite knowing he should instead be pushing her away.
It wasn't until he felt her fingers slipping inside his unzipped pants – how the hell had he missed her doing that, he asked himself – that the panic really set in. "H-Haley..." he started, choking on his breath when she palmed him through his boxer briefs. There was a tiny part of him that contemplated letting her just do what she wanted but he knew he couldn't. He knew he'd hate himself even more than he did already.
"Haley," he said, this time more forcefully. It was negated though when he began to stumble over how to break the news to her that he needed to leave. "We need to... I need to, uh..."
Nathan suddenly paused. He didn't know if it was his imagination playing tricks on him but he thought he heard the sound of a key in the front door and he mentally crossed his fingers that he wasn't mistaken. Maybe tonight he could get away without having to give her another moronic excuse as to why he couldn't stay.
As he waited to find out if they were about to be interrupted, the slow rocking of Haley's hips was driving him even further to distraction. Slipping his fingers beneath her peach colored blouse, he lightly caressed her skin before sliding them around to grip the sides of her waist.
"Yesss," Haley whispered against his throat as she made her way back up to his lips. "Keep doing tha—"
"Oh God! I'm so sorry!" Lindsey exclaimed as she and Jessie, the mutual friend of hers and Haley's that she'd gone out with after work, entered the living room.
The relief Nathan felt at the interruption was overwhelming but he managed to tamp it down and pretend to be just as disappointed as he knew Haley was going to be. He watched as a deep flush tinted her cheeks and he couldn't help wondering how much of it was due to embarrassment at being busted and how much was as a result of her arousal.
"Don't stop on our account," Jessie teased as she further entered the room and took a seat in the armchair across from the couch.
Haley's blushed deepened. "I... we didn't think you'd be back yet, Linds."
"So it would seem," Lindsey replied, a smirk tugging at her lips. "We can go back out again if you two would prefer."
"No, no, that's okay," Nathan quickly interjected. "It's, uh, getting late so I should probably get going." He tried not to look at his girlfriend but when he felt her sag against him, he glanced at her and saw the disappointment etched onto her pretty face.
"It's not that late," Haley whispered. Looking at her two friends, she said, "Could you give us a couple of minutes?"
Jessie pushed herself up out of the armchair and shot the blonde a smile. "Sure, no problem."
"We'll be in the kitchen," Lindsey added.
"Okay, thanks." She waited until the two women had disappeared from view before turning her attention to her boyfriend. "I'm sorry about that."
Nathan gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. "There's nothing to apologize for, Hales," he said, gently stroking her cheek with the back of his hand. "I guess we got a little carried away out here, huh?"
Closing the distance between them, Haley rubbed her lips over his before slanting her head and kissing him harder. As previously, she began to gyrate her hips, brushing her centre against the hard bulge pressing between her legs.
"W-we can't..." he groaned. Any vestiges of self-control he had were fast disappearing. "Haley... you... we need to stop."
"Why?" She pouted. "Let's go into my bedroom and we can continue this in private."
Throwing a glance towards the kitchen, he gave a small shake of his head. "I-I don't feel comfortable."
Haley laughed. "Are you serious?" When he didn't join in with her, her lips parted in surprise. "You are."
"I-I want us to have total privacy when we sleep together for the first time," he told her truthfully. "I don't want either of us to be worrying about being too loud or being interrupted."
Resting her forehead against his, she smiled softly. "You make a good point. We could always go over to your apartment right now and pick up from where we left off."
"We could," he agreed, "but we've both got work tomorrow and I need to be in really early for a breakfast meeting so—"
"So that's a no then?"
Nathan nodded. "Yeah, sorry."
The sad and dejected expression she wore as she climbed off of his lap made him feel sick but, deep down, he knew he was doing the right thing. It was still early days and already he was running out of excuses to give her.
Haley bit her lip to keep from smiling when, after Nathan stood up and zipped up his pants, she saw him untuck his shirt and cover the front of them which were still slightly tented due to their earlier activities. This was what she didn't understand. He obviously was into what they were doing... hell, he was an active participant, yet here he was again calling an end to things before they'd had a chance to really get going.
Pulling on his jacket and straightening out the collar, Nathan took Haley's hand in his and together they walked towards the front door. Cupping her face, he lowered his head and nuzzled his nose against hers before capturing her lips in a tender kiss which was a complete contrast to their kisses of ten minutes ago.
"I'll call you tomorrow," he said, gently holding her chin between his thumb and forefinger.
After a final goodnight kiss, Nathan opened the door and left the apartment; turning around to smile at her when he felt her still standing in the doorway watching his departure.
Sighing loudly, Haley stepped back inside and closed the door. She felt her cheeks heat up when she walked back into the living room and found her two friends sitting on the couch, both women smirking at her. "What?"
"That looked hot and pretty damn intense," Jessie remarked, her dark auburn hair swinging slightly from side to side as she turned to glance at Lindsey who nodded her agreement. "And I'll bet it felt fantastic."
"Jessie!" Haley exclaimed.
"C'mon, you have to give us something, Hales. I always share my sexploits with you."
"Yeah, we know," Lindsey replied with a chuckle. "Sometimes there are things we don't need to know every little detail of."
"Amen to that," Haley chimed in. Dropping down into an armchair, she shifted her position so that she could lay her legs over the side of it. "I'm not ready to share details about Nathan. It's... too soon."
"Okay, okay," Jessie capitulated. "I'll give you a reprieve but I definitely want details at some point."
"Fine, whatever," she replied.
"So, uh, I'm surprised he left so quickly," Lindsey said.
"You and me both. I suggested we go over to his apartment to, uh... pick things up where we left off but he said he has a breakfast meeting tomorrow so..."
"You wanna be careful of guys who put work before sex," Jessie told her. "You remember that guy Greg who I dated a couple of years back… well, he was exactly the same; always fobbing me off for work so I surprised him one night at his office and fucked him on his desk."
"Jessie!" Both women shouted.
"What, I'm just saying," she replied, laughing. "If Nathan's still putting his job before you, maybe you should follow my lead. I'm sure he'd have no objection to you crawling under his desk and blo—"
"Right, that's it, I'm going to bed before you put any more disturbing images into my head," Haley said, swinging her legs around and then getting up from her seat.
"You're no fun!" Jessie said, her laughter getting louder.
"Night, Hales," Lindsey said, biting her lip to stave off her own laughter. After Haley had gone, she turned to the other young woman and said, "You're terrible."
Jessie shrugged. "Tell me something I don't know.
Stripping out of her clothes, Haley pulled on her robe and then headed for the bathroom. After using the facilities and brushing her teeth, she piled her hair up on top of her head, securing it with a clip, before turning on the shower and adjusting the temperature of the water. Stepping into the glass shower stall, she closed the door behind her and let the hot water cascade all over her body. She reached for her favorite raspberry scented shower crème and squirted some into her hands. Returning the bottle to its place on the shelf, she began soaping herself up; and it didn't take long for her eyes to flutter shut as she pretended her hands were Nathan's massaging the fruity scented foam into her skin. A few minutes later, as her arousal sparked and then ignited, she raised her hand to lift the shower-head off of its cradle. Adjusting the shower-head so it was now on her favorite setting, she looked at it and quietly said, "Looks like it's just you and me tonight."
December 24, 2010 - Christmas Eve
Standing on the Scott family's doorstep carrying a bag of gifts together with the chocolate fudge brownie cake she and her mother had made earlier that day, Haley looked around and took in the surroundings. It hadn't changed much in the past ten years since she had last stood here. She remembered how nervous and intimidated she'd felt the first time Nathan had invited her over for one of their study sessions.
"Haley! It's so good to see you, honey," Deb Scott exclaimed a few seconds later when she had opened the door, her voice breaking into the younger woman's thoughts.
"Hi, Deb. It's good to see you, too. Thanks for inviting me over today."
"You're very welcome. Come on in," she said, pulling the door wider and taking a step backwards.
Haley smiled as she crossed the threshold. Glancing around, she noticed that while not much had changed to the exterior, the same couldn't be said for the interior and it was decorated differently to the last time she'd been there. For a start, it was much lighter and brighter. "The house looks great."
"Thank you, I'm glad you like it," Deb replied, smiling.
"Oh, this is for you," Haley said when she realized she was still holding the Tupperware box containing the cake.
"You didn't have to bring anything," she told her, "but thank you. Why don't we go into the kitchen and I'll pour us some coffee... unless you'd prefer something a little stronger."
"No, that's okay," the younger woman replied, giving a small shake of her head. "Coffee will be fine, thanks."
Haley followed Deb into the kitchen and after setting down the box onto the polished granite worktop and then slipping off her jacket, she took a seat at the breakfast bar. "So, uh, where's Nathan?"
"He's out with Dan running some errands for me. They shouldn't be too much longer." Placing two cups of coffee onto the counter along with a small jug of cream and the sugar bowl, Deb took a seat on the stool beside her. "So, you and my son, huh? I've got to admit, I didn't see that coming."
She laughed. "Yeah, me either. To be honest, I didn't think he'd remember me when we bumped into each other."
"Oh, believe me, he's never forgotten you. You made quite an impression on him even if he might try and tell you otherwise."
Haley felt her cheeks warm up. Busying herself with adding a splash of cream to her coffee, she asked, "So, uh, how are you?"
Deb smiled as she lifted her cup and took a sip of her own coffee, letting the young blonde change the subject. "I'm fine, thanks. The café keeps me busy," she replied, referring to Karen's Café which she co-managed with its owner who just so happened to be her friend and sister-in-law. "If you ever feel like doing a little bit of waitressing... you know, for old time's sake, we'll be happy to take you back on."
Haley chuckled, recalling her very first job which she'd had throughout her high school years. "I'll keep that in mind."
Fifteen minutes later, Nathan arrived home with his father and he immediately heard the sound of laughter coming from the living room. Hanging up his leather jacket over the banister, he walked into the room, closely followed by Dan.
"Hey, I'm sorry I wasn't here when you arrived," he told his girlfriend, bending over to press a kiss onto her cheek.
Smiling up at him, Haley said, "Don't worry about it. Your mom's been keeping me entertained and is filling me in on everything that's been happening since my last visit home."
"You should breathe a sigh of relief, Nate, that she didn't bust out the baby photos," Dan quipped as he took a seat in his favorite armchair. "Hi, Haley, it's good seeing you. You're looking well."
"Thanks, Mr Scott. It's good to see you, too."
"Call me Dan," he told her.
She nodded. "Dan," she said quietly.
"That cake looks good," Dan remarked as he noticed the chocolate cake the two women were eating.
"Haley brought it with her. She and Lydia made it especially for us," Deb informed him. "There's plenty more in the kitchen so help yourselves."
"I'll get it, Dad," Nathan said, getting up from his own seat. "Hales, you wanna give me a hand."
"Uh, sure," she agreed, smiling across at him. Setting her plate down onto the coffee table, she stood up and followed him into the kitchen.
Deb couldn't help smiling at the young couple and after she saw them disappear from view hand-in-hand towards the kitchen, she turned to her husband. "Did you see the way his face lit up when he saw her?"
Dan nodded. "Yeah, I couldn't miss it. It looks like our boy's got it bad, doesn't it?"
"It sure does. He's totally smitten." After a quick glance over her shoulder to make sure Nathan and Haley weren't around, she leaned forward and said in a slightly quieter voice, "I'm so glad, honey. With everything that happened back then and... well, ever since... I've been so worried about him."
"I know, Deb; I've been worried, too. He seems better though... and happier."
"He does," she agreed. "I just hope it continues."
"Well, judging by the way he hasn't stopped talking about her in the past twenty-four hours since he arrived home... I can't see things changing any time soon. I mean, when was the last time he's ever willingly talked to us about his love life?"
The blonde laughed softly. "I know."
When several minutes had passed and neither Nathan or Haley had reappeared, Dan smiled over at his wife. "So, what's the betting I won't be seeing any cake any time soon?"
Later that evening, Haley followed Nathan up to his old childhood bedroom and once they were inside and the door was closed he pinned her up against it, his lips instantly finding hers.
Dropping her purse onto the floor, she wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed herself up onto her toes, moaning contentedly at the feel of his tongue sliding along her own.
"I missed you," he whispered, kissing his way down her throat.
"Mmm, I missed you, too."
As Haley hadn't managed to get home for Thanksgiving, a few of her siblings and their families had decided to come home to Tree Hill and celebrate the holidays there so they could see her and, ever since her arrival on Wednesday afternoon, she'd been kept busy catching up with the ones who had already arrived as well as helping her parents get everything ready for the big day. Unfortunately, it had meant she hadn't been able to spend as much time as she would've liked with Nathan.
"You're coming over tomorrow night though, right?" she somehow managed to ask him. God, the things this man could do with his lips and tongue... If it wasn't for his parents sitting downstairs she was about ready to rip his clothes off and drag him down onto the floor.
"Uh huh..." he murmured before attaching his lips to the base of her neck and sucking hard.
"D-don't mark me," Haley warned him. She could just imagine the ribbing she'd get from her family if they saw her neck dotted with hickeys.
"I'm not..." he said, chuckling against her skin. Drawing back from her, he flashed her a smirk. "You really think I wanna get off on the wrong foot with your dad and brothers?"
Haley giggled, her fingers lightly scratching the back of his neck. "I wouldn't put anything past you."
Stealing another kiss, Nathan took her hands in his and pulled her further into his room, leading her over to his bed. When she'd taken a seat on the end of it, he asked, "Can I give you your Christmas present now?"
She nodded eagerly and clapped her hands together. "Yes. If you grab my purse from the floor I'll give you yours too."
He fulfilled her request first before going over to his desk by the window and pulling open the top drawer. Reaching into the back of it, he pulled out two neatly wrapped gifts. As he held them, he suddenly felt nervous and his stomach roiled slightly. He'd never bought a gift for a girlfriend before and certainly not for anyone he cared about as much as he did for Haley. Oh, he had bought presents for his family and friends but that was different.
"Hey, you okay?"
"Uh... yeah. Sorry." Walking over to the bed he took a seat beside her and before he made himself feel even more ill with worry, he held them out to her. "Merry Christmas, Hales."
"Thank you," she replied, taking them from him. "Merry Christmas to you, too, Nathan," she said, handing him a large, plain white envelope. "I... I hope you like them. I, uh, called your brother before I bought them to check that you'd be okay with it and he said you would be so..."
"I'm sure I'll love it. You want me to open it now?"
"Yes, please. Before my nerves get the better of me and I snatch it back from you," she half-teased.
"Okay, okay," he said, laughing. He had to admit, knowing Haley was nervous about them exchanging gifts kind of made him feel a little better. Carefully tearing open the envelope, he pulled out the contents and grinned when he saw what he was holding. "You got me tickets to see the Knicks at Madison Square Garden?"
"Uh... yeah. Is that okay?"
"It's more than okay, baby," he told her. Moving towards her, he cupped her cheek as his lips captured hers. "Why were you worried?"
"I don't know... I guess I wasn't sure how you still felt about the game."
"I still love basketball. Does it still hurt that I didn't realize my dream to play professionally? Yeah, it does but it's not something I spend all my time thinking about."
"So, you like the gift?"
"I love it. It's strange that in the couple of months or so that I've been living in New York I haven't even thought about trying to catch a game." Checking the date on the tickets, he said, "I hope you haven't got plans for the third of February."
"You don't have to take me with you," Haley told him. "I'm sure you've got a friend or colleague who'd love to go with you."
Laughing, he shook his head. "Oh, you're not getting out of it that easily. I want you to come with me."
"Yeah? Well, if you're sure."
"I am," he said, punctuating the statement with a kiss. "So, are you ready to open my gifts?"
"Uh huh. You shouldn't have got me two, although..."
"The tickets aren't your only gift. Back in New York I made up a gift basket for you with some of your favorite things. I didn't want to bring that with me on the plane so I hid it in your apartment and I thought you could have it as a New Year's present given that you'll be there and I'll still be here."
"You didn't have to do that."
"I know, but I wanted to."
"I hate that we're going to be apart at New Year's!" Nathan exclaimed. With him having just started at his firm's New York office, he'd been lucky that his bosses had let him have any time off at all for the holidays so, to be fair, he probably shouldn't be complaining too much about the situation but it didn't mean he had to like it.
"Me too. Maybe we can do something nice together when I'm back in the city."
Looking at the gifts she was still holding, Haley contemplated which one to open first.
"Open the bigger one," he told her. Without realizing he was doing it, he held his breath as he waited to find out her reaction.
"Oh my gosh... Nathan!" Her eyes watered as they settled on the photograph he had given her in a beautiful silver frame.
"Do you like it?" Nathan asked when several minutes had passed and she still hadn't said anything else.
"I-I love it. I can't believe you still had this picture of us," she said, smiling shyly.
The photograph in question had been taken at Nathan's Graduation ceremony which he had invited her to. She remembered him saying that if it hadn't been for her and all of her hard work he wouldn't have been going to Duke so she more than deserved to be there. She'd nervously approached him afterwards to congratulate him and, even now, she found herself blushing as she recalled the big hug he'd given her and the feel of his lips and warm breath against her ear when he'd thanked her for everything.
Before she knew what was happening, Deb had insisted on taking a photo of the two of them and this was the result. They were standing side-by-side, Nathan's arm tightly wrapped around her shoulders as he hugged her to him. This was her first time seeing the photograph but she'd always assumed he'd been looking straight ahead so she was completely shocked to find that had been looking at her as she smiled for the camera. The expression on his face was undecipherable and her forehead creased slightly.
"What is it?" Nathan asked when he saw her frown.
"Nothing," she lied.
A quiet sigh escaped her lips. "I'm just wondering why you were looking at me like that in the photograph."
"Oh," he replied, shyly, before answering her. "I... uh... realized in that moment how much I was going to miss you."
Haley's heart began to pound and butterflies took flight in her stomach as she listened to him.
"We spent so much time together during my final year of high school and somewhere along the line those tutoring sessions became the highlight of my day. With the exception of Lucas, you were the only other person I felt I could really talk to. I never felt like you were judging me and you never made me feel dumb just 'cause I needed a tutor."
"Nathan..." The strangled moan she released was muffled by his mouth urgently pressing against hers and she kissed him back just as hard.
"I'm so glad we found each other again, Hales," he said a long while later when the kiss eventually ended. Leaning his forehead on hers, he closed his eyes and savored the feel of her fingers stroking his cheek.
"I'm glad, too." The urge to confess her teenage crush on him was strong but, for some unknown reason, she held back from vocalizing it.
"Okay, open your second present."
"I'm not sure you'll be able to top the first one," Haley told him, a smile tugging at her lips as she slowly and carefully unwrapped the oblong shaped box. Her mouth dropped open a minute later when she saw the famous store's signature blue box and the white ribbon tied around it. Staring at him, she said, "What did you do?"
Nathan grinned at her stunned reaction as he tucked an errant curl behind her ear. "Just open it."
Cautiously lifting the lid off the top of the box, she gasped when she saw the white gold snowflake charm which was adorned with diamonds together with the matching white gold chain it was attached to.
He didn't know what to think when he saw a single tear roll down her cheek. "Haley?"
"Y-you remembered," she whispered, tentatively touching the sparkling piece of jewelry. Cupping the back of his head, she drew his face towards hers and then kissed him. "It's beautiful... Thank you."
"You're welcome," he said, his mouth reattaching itself to hers.
Nuzzling her nose against his, Haley giggled girlishly. "If it wasn't for your parents sitting downstairs, you'd be getting so lucky right about now."
The images her comment conjured up sent a jolt of pure lust to his groin and as much as he would love to be with her in that way, he wasn't anywhere near ready and was actually grateful for the fact his parents were in the house.
"Nathan, honey... Haley... Come downstairs. Lucas and Peyton are here," they heard Deb call out a moment later.
Nathan inwardly sighed with relief, even more grateful to his mom for interrupting them and giving him an excuse to not react to his girlfriend's comment with anything other than a rueful smile.
"Looks like your mom has the same perfect timing that my parents do," Haley quipped.
"Yeah," he replied. "Hey, before we go downstairs, do you want me to put on your necklace?"
"Hmm, I'm not sure it'd suit you but go ahead if you want to." She yelped when he pinched her side. "Hey!"
"Serves you right, smart-ass," he countered, chuckling.
"I'd love you to put my necklace on for me," she said, turning so that her back was to him. A few seconds later, he'd slipped it around her front and she held her hair up for him so he could secure the clasp at the back of her neck. Getting up from the bed, she walked over to the full length mirror on the back of his closet door and admired the delicate little charm.
Standing behind her, Nathan wrapped his arms around Haley's waist and he felt her sink back against him. Resting his chin on the top of her head, he smiled as he watched their reflection in the mirror and caught her eye. "It looks perfect on you," he told her.
Covering his hands, which were laying across her stomach, with her own, she nodded her agreement. "Thank you so much for this. I love it and I love the photograph." Turning to face him, she slipped her hands beneath his arms and splayed them in the middle of his back. "I feel I owe you more Knicks tickets or something."
Laughing, he shook his head. "You don't. I'm just happy you're happy."
Pushing herself up onto her toes, she said, "I am happy... and it's all because of you, Nathan," before fusing her mouth to his and thanking him properly for her wonderful Christmas gifts.
"That was some Christmas gift you bought your girlfriend, little brother," Lucas Scott said as he and Nathan sat in the den and played a game of NBA Live. "I'd say someone's got it bad."
"Shut up and keep playing," he replied, trying to hide his embarrassment. All anyone had been able to comment on was the necklace he'd bought for Haley and he'd felt all eyes on him at dinner as his family kept shooting amused looks and smiles his way.
"I'm just sayin'."
"You think it was too much?" Nathan asked a moment later, pausing the game and turning to face his older brother.
"No, but the more important question is do you?"
He didn't hesitate to answer. "No. I knew I wanted to get her a necklace or a bracelet and since I know she loves the movie 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' I thought it might be cute to buy it from there. As soon as I saw this one I remembered a conversation we'd had during one of our early tutoring sessions when we were getting to know each other. I can't recall exactly what we were talking about but she told me she loved snowflakes and actually collected them. I made some smart-ass comment about how collecting them must be hard what with them melting so fast and she giggled and it was so cute." He laughed, shaking his head. "When did I ever think a girl's laugh was cute, for crap's sake?"
Lucas had to agree with him on that. Nathan might have thought of girls as hot or any crude equivalent of the term but he couldn't remember him ever using the term 'cute'.
"Anyway, she started telling me how she collected snowflakes made out of glass and crystal; that she'd often get a new one on her birthday or at Christmas."
"So you saw the snowflake charm in the jewelry store and remembered the story?"
"Yeah, pretty much. I did worry that maybe it was too much seeing as we've only been dating for a couple of months but... I couldn't help picturing her face when she saw it so I bought it."
Lucas smiled at his younger sibling. "I'm glad you're happy, Nate. I know you'll think or say otherwise but you deserve it, okay."
The sandy-haired blonde shook his head and smiled as he unpaused the video game. He was pretty sure Nathan was going to dispute what he'd just said. "Sorry, bro, not listening so don't even start."
Nathan stared at him before a half-smile crept onto his face. "Thanks, Luke."
"You're welcome. Okay, so now the mushy stuff's outta the way, let's get back to me kicking your ass at this game."
"Yeah," Nathan said, laughing, "in your dreams."
December 25, 2010 - Christmas Day
"So, you seem really happy, Haley-Bob; I'd say living in New York is agreeing with you," Lydia James commented as she watched her daughter slicing a freshly baked apple pie.
"I'd say it's more like a certain someone is agreeing with her," Taylor, Haley's older sister, chipped in.
Ignoring her sibling, the blonde replied, "I am happy, Mom. I love living in New York an—"
"And you luuuurve Nathan, right?"
"Shut up, Tay!"
"Girls, come on, it's Christmas," Lydia said. "Please try to get along."
"Sorry," Haley muttered before shooting her sister an angry glare.
The two sisters had always had a rocky relationship and, unfortunately, it hadn't improved much as they had gotten older. Until Haley had come along, Taylor had been the baby of the family and though it was left unsaid, Haley often felt like her older-by-two-years sister resented her for taking that title away from her.
"Haley, honey, why don't you go and take Nathan his piece of pie."
She nodded and after adding a large spoonful of whipped cream to the dessert, she carried hers and Nathan's plates into the living room where he was sitting with the rest of her family. Sinking her teeth into her bottom lip, she tried hard not to laugh at the sight of him sitting in the middle of her two brothers, Ryan and Tommy. Those two couldn't be more overprotective of her if they'd tried.
"Hey, why don't one of you boys go and sit over there," she said. "I want to sit down."
"Why don't you go and sit over there," Tommy replied, pointing to the empty armchair on the other side of the room. "I'm comfy where I am."
Rising from the other couch, Jimmy said, "You and Nathan can sit here, sweetie."
"Thanks, Daddy." Turning to look at her brothers, she stuck her tongue out at them. "C'mon, Nathan, come and sit over here with me."
Nathan briefly hesitated before he pushed himself off of the sofa and crossed the room to take Jimmy's empty seat. Once he was settled, he took the plate and spoon Haley held out to him. "Thanks, Hales."
As they ate, he could feel Haley's family watching them and to say he felt uncomfortable was an exaggeration. Her parents, maternal grandparents and eldest sister, Vivian, had been nothing but sweet and welcoming to him but the others... well, they weren't making things easy.
"You okay?" Haley asked him, breaking into his thoughts.
"I'm fine," he said, smiling warmly at her. "This pie is awesome. Did you make it?"
"No," she answered, shaking her head. "Grandma Rose made it this morning. If there are any leftovers I'll let you take them home."
"What are you two whispering about?" Ryan asked.
"None of your beeswax," Haley told him.
"Aunty Haley?" Vivian's six-year-old daughter, Michelle, said.
"Are you and Nathan gonna get married?"
The unexpected question caused the piece of pie Nathan had in his mouth to suddenly go down the wrong way and he started coughing.
"Are you okay, baby?" Haley asked, patting his back.
"Uh huh," he managed to reply a minute later. Reaching forward, he picked up his glass of soda from the coffee table and took a long drink.
"So, are you? Gonna get married."
"Uh... well, I don't know. We've only just started dating and, uh... Why do you ask?" Haley felt like everyone's eyes were on her and she knew her face was probably flaming red. Her skin sure as hell felt hot enough.
"'Cause I wanna be a bridesmaid," the little girl told her.
"Me too," her three-year-old brother, Cameron, chimed in.
"Duh, silly. Boys can't be bridesmaids."
"They can so!"
Nathan could feel a headache forming as the kids bantered back and forth and he hadn't failed to notice the pointed glares growing stronger from Ryan and Tommy.
This was definitely one Christmas he wouldn't be forgetting in a hurry.
"Hey, Mr James," Nathan said, bumping into the older man who was just coming down the stairs. "Have you seen Haley anywhere?"
Jimmy patted his daughter's boyfriend on the shoulder. "I think she might've snuck outside for some fresh air. I don't know if you've noticed but these James family gatherings can be kind of overwhelming."
"Uh..." He didn't know how best to answer the question without possibly insulting the man's family.
Laughing, Jimmy said, "It's okay, son. You don't have to say a word." Walking with Nathan towards the front door, he found Haley's maroon jacket on the coat-stand and handed it over. "Why don't you go outside and join her. I'm sure you want to spend some time together before you leave tomorrow."
Nathan nodded. "Yeah, thanks. Merry Christmas, Mr James."
"It's Jimmy," he told him. "And Merry Christmas to you, Nate. Have a safe trip back to New York and when she gets back next week, you take care of my baby girl for us."
"I will... Jimmy," he replied, shaking his hand. Grabbing his own jacket, he pulled it on before picking up Haley's again and opening the front door. Stepping outside, he instantly felt the chill of the night air on his face. Turning his head, he saw her sitting on the porch's loveseat with her eyes closed. "Thanks for leaving me in there at the mercy of Taylor," he teased.
Hearing the familiar voice, Haley opened her eyes and smiled at him. "Yeah, sorry about that. I just needed some air. I should've told you where I was going."
"It's okay," he said, taking a seat beside her and handing her her jacket.
"Thanks." Quickly pulling it on, she wrapped her arms around herself trying to warm up.
"How long have you been out here?"
"Not long. I just didn't realize the wind had picked up a bit... it makes it feel colder than it is."
Nathan didn't fail to notice the melancholy tone in her voice. Wrapping an arm around her shoulders, he drew her in close and tried to share his body heat with her. "What's wrong, baby?"
Biting her lip to stave off her tears, Haley snuggled into him and breathed in his familiar, comforting scent before replying, "I'm going to miss you."
He felt a surge of affection for her... and another emotion he wasn't yet ready to admit to. "I'm going to miss you, too. Next week is gonna really suck without seeing you but you'll be back in New York before you know it."
"Yeah," she mumbled. "Can we get out of here for a little while? I just... I want us to spend some alone time together. The past couple of days have felt so manic with everyone here and I feel like we've hardly seen each other."
A wave of apprehension and anxiety washed over him but he tried hard to stay relaxed and not tense up. "Sure... I'd like that. Where should we go?"
"How about the River Court?" Haley suggested.
"C'mon then, let's go." Standing up, she reached for his hands and pulled him up, stretching to plant a kiss onto his lips.
Nathan watched amusedly as his girlfriend all but ran to his car which was parked right outside the house. Taking a long, deep breath, he reached into his pants pocket for his keys and made his way down the path.
Nathan couldn't breathe. The windows of his car were all fogged up and they had pretty much used up all of the air inside of it. Haley was practically devouring him... not that he was complaining, of course. Right now, the flat of her tongue was slowly dragging its way up his throat and he could feel his temperature soaring as his mind conjured up erotic images of her doing the same thing to another part of his anatomy.
Despite the cold weather outside, his shirt was unbuttoned and her delicate hands seemed to be touching him everywhere. As much as he'd tried not to, he hadn't been able to stop from popping the buttons on her own top, rewarding him with a terrific view of her breasts in the skimpy black lace bra she was wearing beneath it and his eyes were immediately drawn to the white gold necklace he'd given her yesterday, the diamond encrusted snowflake charm dangling provocatively in her cleavage line.
It had been years since he'd gone parking down at the River Court, a place which held many fond memories for him. He was definitely adding this latest escapade to the vault. When she'd made the suggestion that they come down here he hadn't quite expected to end up parked under one of the large trees surrounding the basketball court. Being winter, there were no leaves on those said trees so they weren't exactly offering them much shelter from anyone who happened to pass by.
So, here he was in the backseat of the car he used whenever he was back in Tree Hill with Haley straddling his lap, her inner thighs gently pressing into the outside of his. He growled in the back of his throat as she began sucking on his tongue while she lightly scraped her fingernails over his pectoral muscles; her hips gyrating against him which was putting a delicious yet torturous pressure on his throbbing erection. He was so hard right now it was bordering on painful.
"God, you feel so good," Haley murmured breathlessly before seizing his mouth and frantically kissing him.
Nathan tightened his grip on her waist, pulling her forward that little bit more and he smirked at the low moan she released. He knew he needed to stop this and soon, before things escalated any further. He wanted to be with her so damn much but, as the thought entered his mind, he could already hear the faint echoes of that fucking voice in his head and feel his body's instant reaction to it. "Haley..." Her lips were trailing liquid fire down his neck and his hips jerked upwards into her when she bit down on the base of it with blunt teeth. "Hales.." he repeated.
"We... we need to stop," he said.
His words didn't register with her at first... she was too busy kissing her way down his chest. It was only when he placed his hands on her shoulders and stilled her that her lust-addled mind took them in and she looked at him, a confused expression etched upon her face. "What?"
"We need to stop."
"Why?" she asked. Her eyes bored into his as she tried to work out what was going on. He'd been kissing her just as enthusiastically as she had been kissing him so what was the problem?
"I don't want us to get busted," he replied, keeping his gaze on her for as long as he could before glancing to the side. "We're kind of out in the open here."
"Yeah," she agreed with a smile, "but we've done a good job of steaming up the windows so they'd have trouble seeing much of anything."
"I guess," he mumbled. "I just think—"
"You know what I think?" Haley interrupted.
"I think you think too much," she teased. Closing the gap between them, she suckled on his top lip before retreating. "It's late and there's no one's around so just relax." Keeping her eyes open, she brushed her mouth over his; flicking the tip of her tongue over the sensitive tissue inside his bottom lip.
Nathan felt his resolve slipping and he did his best to ignore the nagging voice that was getting louder by the minute. Her fingers were suddenly on his belt and he panicked. "C'mon, babe," he coaxed, trying to keep his voice natural. "Let's not do this here..."
"Where then?" Haley asked. "You're staying with your parents and I'm staying with mine and I know we're all grown up now but I don't feel comfortable doing this under their roof and especially not when they're downstairs or just down the hall."
"We could always wait until we're back in New York," he suggested.
Sighing, she said, "Why am I not surprised to hear you say that." The sting of rejection was becoming an all too familiar feeling and she hated it.
"I want our first time to be special," Nathan told her. "You're not just some girl to me and I don't want our first time making love together to happen in the back seat of a car."
She scoffed at that. "Is that right? We've had ample opportunity over the past couple of months to do it in the comfort and privacy of your apartment but you haven't exactly acted upon it."
Nathan was the one to sigh this time. "What's the rush?"
"What's the rush?" she repeated incredulously. "Wow, I never thought I'd ever hear those words coming from you where sex is concerned." Climbing off his lap, she sat beside him on the back seat and began buttoning up her cherry red shirt. "Every time we start getting intimate you put the brakes on and I guess I'm confused as to why that is, especially considering the way you kiss and touch me."
"People change, Haley. I know I had a colorful reputation in high school but I... I've changed, okay. If you're looking to date the guy I was back then... I'm sorry but he's gone." He ran a hand through his hair, mussing it up even more than it already was.
The pain Haley saw in his eyes increased her confusion but, at the same time, it also made her feel guilty. "I want to date you, Nathan... the person you are now. I just... I wasn't expecting you to have changed this much." She felt her cheeks heat up as she realized how she must have sounded a few minutes ago. "You must think I'm such a... a nympho," she said, hiding her face in her hands.
Nathan tried to bite back the laugh he felt forming in his throat but he wasn't successful. "Sorry," he said, sheepishly when she glared at him. "I promise, that thought never entered my head. It's actually pretty damn awesome to know how much you want me."
"Oh God," she muttered.
Threading his fingers through her hair, he gestured for her to look at him which she did a couple of seconds later. "I want you just as much, Hales. Please don't think that I don't."
"Okay," she said, smiling shyly. As much as Nathan was telling her otherwise, Haley was certain there was more to this than him having grown older and wiser over the years. She didn't want to keep asking him or force him into telling her what was wrong; she wanted it to be something he did on his own and hopefully he would open up to her when he was ready to do so. Her imagination was going into overdrive though, conjuring up all sorts of scenarios as to what it could involve.
"How 'bout I take you home?" he said, his voice cutting into her thoughts.
"Sure," she agreed. Going home was the last thing she wanted to do but she figured she might as well now that their night had come to an abrupt end.
As they drove through the quiet streets of Tree Hill to her parents house, Haley wondered how much more rejection she could take from him. On the one hand, it was nice to know he wasn't pressuring her into having sex and was wanting to let their relationship – which, she was well aware, was still in its early stages – develop at a slow and steady pace but, on the other, it was strange to go from hot and heavy one minute to freezing cold the next. Something wasn't right and, deep down inside, she knew he was keeping something from her.
The question was what.
January 6, 2011
The club was heaving when they arrived and Haley tightly held onto her boyfriend's hand as he led them further inside. Somehow, they managed to find an empty table and while he went to get them some drinks, she pulled out a chair and sat down. Surveying her surroundings, she noticed the dance floor and the mass of writhing bodies presently using it. Picking up and playing with one of the coasters, she wondered whether or not she'd be able to persuade Nathan to dance with her.
"Here you go," he said a short while later when he finally returned from the bar, setting down her vodka and cranberry juice. Sitting down opposite Haley, he brought the bottle he was holding up to his mouth and took a long drink of Coke.
It had been a long time since he'd last been in a nightclub and, as he'd thought might happen, unwanted memories began popping into his head. The temptation to swap his soda for something alcoholic was getting stronger by the second but apart from the fact he was driving, he was also concerned about losing control and what he might say or do whilst under the influence.
"Thanks for bringing me here," Haley said, raising her voice to be heard over the loud music.
"No problem," Nathan replied. He let his gaze roam all over her and he felt a rush of lust pool in his stomach. She looked amazing. The black and red dress she wore molded to her every curve like a second skin and the high heels she wore made her legs look even longer. She'd left her hair down but the sides were pulled back and secured with tiny black combs which gave him a glimpse of her diamond stud earrings which, he thought, went well with the snowflake necklace he'd given her. He loved that she was wearing it pretty much every time he saw her.
Taking a sip of her own drink, she leaned forward and asked, "So, is there any chance I can get you to dance with me?"
Smirking, he cupped his fingers around his ear and pretended that he hadn't heard the question. "Sorry, baby... I can't hear you."
Haley repeated the question a couple of times before she realized what he was up to. "Okay, for that, you have to dance with me now."
He was just about to shake his head and say no when the music changed tempo and so, pushing back his chair, he went over to her and took her hand; gently pulling her up out of her seat. "Fine, you win."
She beamed up at him. "Yay!"
Stepping onto the dance floor, Nathan drew her forward into his arms, his hands resting on her lower back while hers crossed behind his neck. Swaying to the slow, sultry beat of the music, he lowered his head and breathed in the fruity scent of her hair. The feel of her pressed flush against the length of him was making his entire body thrum.
Turning her head slightly so that her mouth was beside his ear, Haley said, "You're better at this than you think."
Her warm breath puffing against his skin added to the already blissful sensation of having her in his arms and he closed his eyes to savor it. He knew that soon enough the music would change to another up-tempo song and there was no way he was dancing to that.
Nathan was right. Within a few minutes, the song had changed again and the DJ was once more playing a fast track. He was just about to release her when Haley turned herself in his arms so that her perfectly rounded bottom was in direct contact with his groin. Placing his hands on her hips, ready to ease her away, he bit back the groan when she took his hands in hers and wrapped them around her stomach, leaning forward slightly as she began to rub her ass against him in time to the music.
His breath hitched in his throat when she began sliding his hands up and down her body over the silky fabric of her dress; skimming them over the top of her thighs and then up to glide over her ample breasts. He tried hard not to think about how good she felt.
For a brief moment, Nathan wondered if she was drunk because this so wasn't like her. At least he didn't think it was. Their relationship was new and they were still finding out things about each other but, having said that, he just couldn't imagine her letting someone... even if that person was her boyfriend, feel her up in front of a club full of strangers.
Linking their fingers, he managed to still her hands as they began sliding upwards again. "Let's go and get some fresh air," he said, speaking directly into her ear. He felt her nod against him and a minute later they were making their way through the throngs of club-goers towards the exit, remembering to stop at the cloakroom first to pick up their jackets.
"I didn't mean for us to leave," Nathan told her once they were outside.
"I know," Haley replied. "I just thought maybe we could go to my place and, uh... have a nightcap."
He didn't know what else to do but nod and as they waited for the valet to bring around his car, he cursed himself. How the hell was he going to get out of this without ruining what had, up to now, been a terrific date.
Their night had started off by him picking her up and taking her to a family-run Italian restaurant a work colleague had recommended to him where both the food and atmosphere was excellent. It was while they'd been eating their dessert that Haley had mentioned she hadn't been to a club in a while and before he'd known what he was doing, he told her they could go tonight if she wanted.
The thing was, he figured the later he kept her out, the more chance there was of her feeling tired and not inviting him inside when their date was over. Yeah, some fucking plan that turned out to be, he mused angrily.
The drive to Haley's apartment was over much too quickly for Nathan's liking and he still didn't know what he was going to say to get out of going inside with her. Mentally, he crossed his fingers and hoped that her roommate was home so he could use that as an excuse. He knew it was ridiculous. They were all adults and he knew full well that Lindsey's boyfriend stayed over and that, as such, she most likely wouldn't have an issue with him staying over with Haley.
Finding a parking spot just around the corner from her building, he put the car into park and as soon as he turned to look over at his girlfriend, she unfastened her seatbelt and made her move; grabbing the sides of his face and holding him firmly in place as she all but devoured him using her lips, tongue and teeth. When he moaned, the sounded echoed around the confines of the vehicle, making the noise appear even louder.
Nathan had to admit, he was impressed when she managed to squeeze herself between him and the steering wheel and, reluctantly, he moved his seat back to give her some extra room to maneuver. Bad idea, he realized a second later when she began rubbing the lower half of her body against him. He was still semi-hard from their encounter on the dance floor as well as from the hand she'd placed on his upper thigh during the car journey home and with what she was now doing to him, he was back to full tumescence.
"Touch me," Haley whispered.
There was a moment of hesitation before he ran his hands up and down her bare arms, unable to stop the sense of pride welling up inside of him when he felt her shiver. When she laced their fingers together and brought their joined hands down to her pantyhose-covered thigh he held his breath to see what she would do next and he loudly expelled it when she slipped it beneath the hem of her dress and he discovered that she was in fact wearing stockings. "Holy fuck!" he murmured.
His expletive made Haley giggle against his neck and caused her to release the patch of skin she'd been furiously sucking on. "You like that, huh?"
"Uh huh," Nathan whispered, finding her lips and kissing her hotly. His fingers trailed further up her thigh, caressing her delicate skin before moving downwards again and drawing circles over the lacy stocking-top he could feel. God, she was so sexy!
Slowly rocking her hips and feeling the ridge of his cock through his pants, Haley felt so wanton. She couldn't believe that after all of these years she had Nathan Scott exactly where she wanted him. "You wanna know a secret?"
"I've wanted to do this with you since I was fifteen."
Her confession sent his temperature and blood pressure skyrocketing and he felt beads of sweat break out on the back of his neck. "Haley..." Fusing their mouths together, he kissed her long and deep before she finally pulled away, totally breathless.
"Come home with me," she said a moment later, her breathlessness making her sound even more sultry. Kissing one side of his neck to the other, she swirled her tongue around the shell of his ear, adding. "I want you so much, Nathan."
This was it... the moment he'd been dreading all night.
"I-I can't, Hales." His eyes snapped shut as she began suckling his Adam's apple.
"Yes, you can," Haley told him, kissing the sensitive spot behind his ear.
Removing his hand which was still under her dress, he placed it on her hip while his other hand rested on her shoulder. "No, I can't."
That familiar sense of disappointment reared its ugly head again and she drew back from him so she could look into his face. "Why not? What's the excuse this time? Wait, let me guess; you've got another early meeting tomorrow."
Nathan nodded, his gaze leaving hers to stare past her through the windshield. "Yeah, I have. I've got a ton of paperwork I need to review beforehand and—"
"You know, maybe we should stop going out on dates during the week 'cause I'd hate for you to have to tear yourself away from work just to take me out."
"No, I don't want to hear it, okay. You keep doing this to me... I keep letting you do it and it's not fair." Climbing back into the passenger seat, she reached into the back seat to grab her jacket. "I just wish you'd tell me if you didn't want to be with me."
Grabbing her wrist, he said, "I do want to be with you... you have to know that."
The sting of tears burned behind her eyelids and she wrenched her arm away from him. "How can I, Nathan? Every time we start getting intimate you close yourself off and then push me away. There's only so much rejection a girl can take... there's only so much I can take."
Nathan felt like the biggest bastard on the planet. She didn't deserve to be treated like this but the more time he spent with her, the more selfish he became because he couldn't give her up.
He watched as she grabbed her purse from the floor and then opened the door. "I'm sorry," he whispered as she stepped out of the car, unsure as to whether or not she had heard him.
The sound of the passenger door slamming shut made his heart ache and his throat felt dry and scratchy. He sat in the car for long minutes, wanting to make sure she got inside safely as well as waiting for his suddenly blurry vision to clear.
As he began the short journey to his own apartment, he couldn't remember ever feeling lonelier.
Lindsey glanced up from her place curled up on the couch when she heard the key in the front door and upon seeing the familiar frustrated look on her friend's face as the other woman entered the apartment she bit her lip to keep from smiling. "You're back early. I'm guessing he still won't give it up, huh?"
After a previous date when Haley had returned home feeling completely rejected as well as frustrated, she'd ended up confiding in her roommate and venting to her about the situation.
Haley gave the blonde a pointed look as she kicked off her high heels and then slipped off her raincoat to reveal the elegant red and black cocktail dress she wore beneath it. "Very funny!"
"So, what was his excuse this time?"
Taking a seat in the over-stuffed armchair opposite the couch, Haley sighed. "He said he had an early meeting tomorrow morning and had some paperwork to read over at home to prepare for it."
"And you think he was lying?" Lindsey asked. Leaning forward, she picked up her bottle of water from the coffee table and took a sip.
Haley shrugged. "Yes! No! Ugh, I don't know. He sounded genuine and his excuse sounds plausible but..."
"I-I just feel like... like something's off."
"It's still early days, Hales. You've only been seeing each other for a couple of months or so an—"
"I know what Nathan's like," she interrupted. "Back in high school he was with a different girl practically every other week and I figured when we started seeing each other that he'd have me in his bed by the end of our first date. Now it's almost three months later and it feels like we're standing still. Maybe it's me—"
"Don't you even start with that crap," Lindsey quickly cut in, her voice firm. "Look, you don't know the reason or if there's actually a reason to be worrying about. I mean, you told me you guys are kissing and stuff, right?"
"Well, maybe he is just busy and preoccupied with work. He hasn't been there very long, after all," she reminded her.
Laughing, Haley shook her head; her honey-blonde curls bouncing with the movement. "Believe me, the old Nathan wouldn't have let work get in the way of getting laid."
"That's just it, you're thinking of the old Nathan. The two of you haven't seen each for the past, what? Ten years? People change, Haley. Even those you thought never would. It's worth keeping that in mind."
"Yeah, I know. If he wasn't into me he wouldn't be kissing me the way he has. I guess I just find it… strange for him not to have at least tried getting me into bed yet."
Picking at the label on her bottle, Lindsey smiled. "You could always try talking to him."
"I've tried and I already feel like a… a sex fiend for constantly bringing it up. "
"Whatever," she replied, tossing a throw pillow at her friend who easily caught it.
Getting up from the couch, the other woman laughed. "I'm off to bed since, like Nathan, I've got to be up early for work." Just before she disappeared into her bedroom, she called out, "Oh, and while you're waiting for Nathan to... uh... take charge, you might want to stock up on fresh batteries for your vib—"
"Lindsey!" Haley shouted, her cheeks flushing a furious shade of pink upon hearing her roommate's words.
"Sweet dreams, Hales," Lindsey called back, her laughter muffled as she closed her door.
"If only," Haley mumbled to herself as she pushed herself out of the comfy chair and made her way to her own room. Ever since she had bumped into Nathan three months ago at the coffee shop not far from the office block she worked in, her dreams had been anything but sweet. Erotic would be a better word to describe them. She'd woken up more times than she could count, her body flushed and tangled in the sheets, and the only way she had been able to get back to sleep had been to try and relieve the throbbing ache between her thighs, either with her fingers or using her trusty vibrator which she kept tucked away at the back of the drawer in her nightstand.
She had a feeling she'd be using it again tonight given how frustrated she was feeling, mainly due to the hot and heavy make-out session they'd had in Nathan's car when he had dropped her back home but also because of his... reluctance to take the next step.
Sure, they'd only been officially dating for the past ten weeks and it was still very early days but still... Like she had told her friend, Nathan's reputation with girls back in high school had been somewhat legendary and even though Lindsey was right about people changing, etc, Haley didn't think he would've changed that much... at least not when it came to the opposite sex.
She was pretty sure he was attracted to her, hell she'd felt his arousal pressing into her when he'd pulled her over onto his lap in the car but, then again, she knew some guys could get turned on without necessarily being into the other person. That intense stare of his though... the way his blue eyes would darken as they roamed all over her, his gaze lingering on her lips... his fingers softly caressing her face... she was sure he felt something for her, something more than a simple attraction.
The funny thing was, she'd never felt like this with her two previous boyfriends. Sex had always been a big deal to her and it wasn't something she did lightly. She had been eighteen when she'd lost her virginity to her first serious boyfriend and she'd made him wait almost a year before she'd slept with him. Her second boyfriend had had slightly less of a wait at eight months but, nonetheless, she hadn't jumped into bed with him after just a few dates like she knew some of her friends tended to do.
She didn't know what it was about Nathan that made her want to throw caution to the wind. More than likely it was because they already knew each other and had sort of been friends before anything else. When she'd first been assigned to tutor him, she figured he was nothing more than an arrogant jock and while she did catch glimpses of that, she discovered there was so much more to him. Despite her being two years younger than him and a "lowly sophomore", he'd seemed to really open up to her during their sessions; talking to her about things she had a feeling he hadn't shared with too many other people. She'd never admitted it to anyone but she'd formed a little bit of a crush on him and even now they were actually seeing each other, she sometimes felt the urge to pinch herself to prove it was really happening and wasn't just a figment of her imagination.
After the kisses they had shared at the end of their first official date, she'd lain in bed and wondered why he hadn't tried to have sex with her. She'd all but expected it and even bought condoms the day before and placed them in the drawer of her nightstand. She was more than a little surprised when he'd turned down her invitation of coming into the apartment and had said something about not wanting to spoil things between them before they'd had a chance to get started. It had been in stark counterpoint to the promise-filled kisses he'd given her outside the door to her apartment but after making arrangements to meet up the next day and one last kiss he'd turned around and left.
She remembered standing there and staring at the empty hallway for long minutes before she'd finally unlocked her front door and gone inside.
If someone had told her that the same thing would still be happening now after approaching three months of dating… she wouldn't have believed them. She'd hoped things would improve of their own accord mainly since raising the issue with him felt so… scary. Having plucked up the courage to tell him how rejected she felt, she was still none the wiser about his reasons for continuing to do so and Nathan telling her that he just wanted to take things slowly and not rush into taking that next step wasn't really allaying her fears. No matter what he excuses he gave her, she still felt like he was keeping something from her.
"Ugh!" Haley grumbled. All of these thoughts swirling around her head were driving her crazy. Getting undressed, she frowned as she glanced down at herself. As well as wearing her favorite dress tonight, she'd also put on the sexiest lingerie she owned; a black silk and lace demi-bra, which gave her already ample cleavage an extra little boost, together with a matching thong. Black thigh high stockings completed the ensemble along with her three inch stiletto pumps. What a waste, she thought to herself as she stripped out of them and tossed the delicate items into her laundry hamper.
The sudden ringing of her cell phone startled her for a second and she quickly retrieved it from her purse. Seeing Nathan's name on the display panel had her heart racing and she took a couple of deep breaths before answering the call. "Hi."
"Hey, it's me."
"I know," she said, her voice a soft whisper.
"I just... I wanted to apologize about before." Hearing her slightly ragged breathing on the other end of the line, he asked, "Are you okay? You're sounding a little breathless."
"I'm fine," she replied. Wanting to test the waters a little, she added, "I'm, uh, just getting undressed."
There was a long pause before he responded. "Really?"
Haley shivered at the husky tone in his voice. "Uh huh."
"What are you wearing right now?"
Glancing at her reflection in the full length mirror fixed onto the inside of her closet door, Haley smirked. "Nothin' but a smile."
On the other end of the line, Nathan felt beads of sweat break out on the back of his neck. "Uh..."
"Cat got your tongue?"
He laughed. "You're a little minx. I don't remember you being like this during our tutoring sessions."
"Hmm, that might've had something to do with me being only fifteen at the time."
"And I was the big bad senior, I suppose?"
"You said it." Walking over to her dresser, Haley pulled open the middle drawer and removed a pale blue nightgown from inside of it and pulled it on over her head, switching the phone from one hand to the other while she slipped her arms through the garment's spaghetti straps.
"I think you're just messing with me... you know, about being naked right now."
"Is that so?" She decided against revealing that she'd just slipped into something. "You're more than welcome to come over and see for yourself." Unconsciously, she held her breath as she waited for his response to her not-so-subtle come-on.
"I-I'd love to, Hales, but... I've got that meeting tomorrow an—"
"I get it," she interrupted. "I'll, uh, talk to you another time, then... maybe when you're not so busy. Night, Nathan." Not giving him the chance to say anything, she ended the call, making sure to switch her phone off before tossing it onto her nightstand.
The man was infuriating! If he wasn't into her why didn't he just say so instead of getting her so hot and bothered only to then throw a freezing cold bucket of water over her. Maybe she should just cut her losses and end things now before she got even more involved with him. What the hell had happened to the notorious Nathan Scott she'd known back in high school, she asked herself as she threw back the covers and climbed into bed. Somehow she had a feeling it would be yet another restless night for her.
Across town, Nathan stared at the cell phone he was still holding in his hand. He couldn't blame her for hanging up on him. He knew he had hurt her feelings earlier when he came up with that dumb-ass excuse about having an early meeting tomorrow and ended their date much sooner than she would've liked.
The way she'd climbed over the centre console and straddled his lap had initially taken him by surprise and while he knew he should've put the brakes on sooner, he hadn't been able to stop himself from returning her sizzling hot kisses or from caressing the creamy skin of her thigh when she'd slipped his hand beneath her dress. He could still hear the sexy tone of her voice and feel her hot breath on his skin when she'd asked him to come upstairs with her and it had almost been his undoing. Somehow, though, he'd managed to stay strong and decline, once again using work as his excuse.
The hurt look on her face had killed him but he didn't stop her when she scrambled away from him.
It was a wonder she hadn't broken up with him on the spot.
To be honest, he couldn't help feeling somewhat shocked that Haley James was wanting to get him into bed so fast. A part of him couldn't help remembering her as the innocent little tutor who continually blushed around him, especially when he blatantly teased her. He'd wondered whether she might've had a crush on him but, apart from the blushing, she never given any indication that she did and so he hadn't known for sure.
He now knew differently thanks to what she had whispered into his ear during their frantic make-out session in his car.
"I've wanted to do this with you since I was fifteen."
Hearing her whisper those words into his ear had made him even harder than he'd been already and his hold on her hips had tightened. He was now thankful that he hadn't known she'd felt like that about him during high school, mainly since he knew she came from a large family and the last thing he needed was being threatened by her two older brothers.
But also because he would have hated to end up hurting her.
He hadn't been the nicest person back then... but he liked to think he would've treated her better. Haley was so different and nothing at all like the people who used to hang all over him just because he was captain of the basketball team and his family happened to be wealthy.
It was kind of weird to think that, in many ways, his young tutor had been his closest friend; someone he'd felt able to confide in.
Never in a million years would he have thought that ten years later they would be an actual couple. He chuckled at the irony but, at the same time, he was unable to stop himself from wondering how long they'd stay that way. There were only so many excuses he could give her before she'd run out of patience with him... if she hadn't already, that was.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Nathan got up from the armchair he was seated in and headed down the hall towards his bedroom even though he was sure he wouldn't be getting much sleep.
It was something he'd become accustomed to.
January 28, 2011
Standing outside Nathan's apartment, Haley raised her fist and rapped on the heavy wooden door. She was still trying to figure out in her head how to word what she was going to say to him and she knew it was going to be even more difficult to do when he was right in front of her.
For the last couple of weeks, all she had thought about was her relationship with Nathan; in particular, his hot and cold treatment towards her when it came to anything intimate. She knew something was wrong... that it was probably something big but she had no clue as to what it could be.
The weird thing was, with the exception of this... issue, everything between them was great and she loved being with him.
Knowing this matter most likely wasn't going to be going anywhere any time soon, she knew she needed to do something which is what she was doing here now.
"Hey, this is a nice surprise," Nathan said a minute later when he opened the door and saw her. "Uh, did we have plans tonight?"
"No," she replied, shaking her head. "I just... I need to talk to you. I'm not interrupting anything, am I?"
"No, of course not. I was just worried I might have forgotten we were supposed to meet up." Opening the door wider, he gestured for her to come inside. Usually when she entered his place she immediately took her jacket off but he noticed she wasn't doing that tonight. In fact, her arms were wrapped around her middle in an almost protective-like stance and he frowned at that. "Can I get you a drink or—"
"I'm fine, thanks. Actually, I'm not going to be staying long."
Nathan noticed she kept averting her gaze and that her eyes looked everywhere but at him. "Haley, what's wrong?" he finally asked. It wasn't hard to see that something was up and, suddenly, he felt a sudden heaviness settle in the pit of his stomach and a feeling of dread wash over him.
"I, uh... I think we should stop seeing each other."
He stared at her open-mouthed as her words registered in his brain. "What?" he somehow managed to ask.
"This," she said, gesturing with her hand to the both of them, "doesn't seem to be working. We've been dating for almost four months yet... I keep getting this feeling like... you don't want to be with me."
"That's not true."
"Really? Then why does it feel like we're not moving forward? I feel like you're holding back and I don't understand why. One minute I think we're making progress like when you gave me a key to your apartment so I wouldn't have to wait outside if you got held up at work or in traffic, and then the next we'll be making out only for you to suddenly stop and pull away and give me some excuse about feeling tired or needing to be up early the next day. I just want you to talk to me and tell me what's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong," he told her, the lie rolling easily off his tongue.
Haley scoffed at that. "Fine, keep telling yourself that. If you can't be honest with me, at least be honest with yourself."
"I don't need this," he mumbled, turning and walking away from her.
"Yeah, me either," Haley called after him. Tears were prickling behind her eyelids and she squeezed them shut, willing herself not to break down and cry in front of him.
In the kitchen, Nathan was resting his forehead against the refrigerator. He should have known he'd end up ruining things between them. The last thing he wanted to do was lose her but he figured it was probably best to lose her now than to let things continue as they were and have her eventually end up hating him.
He knew telling her the truth... explaining why he was the way he was would probably help matters and, at the very least, give her some clue as to what she was letting herself in for by being involved with him, but he couldn't bring himself to do it. Seeing his family wearing those looks of disappointment was bad enough... he didn't know if he could bear seeing that same look on Haley.
Taking a deep breath, he pulled open the fridge and grabbed a bottle of Bud from inside it and popped the cap. Bringing it up to his lips, he paused before he took a long swig of the ice cold beverage. He steeled himself before walking back into the living room and his resolve almost shattered when he saw the sad look on his girlfriend's... ex-girlfriend's, he corrected himself, face.
Haley bristled at the coldness in his voice. "Natha—"
"You should go," he told her, cutting her off.
"No, I want to talk."
"There's nothing to talk about," he said before chugging another mouthful of beer.
"Yes there is! I want to know why you won't let us be close; why you kiss me like you do only to then push me away when things start spinning out of control." Her eyes fell to the floor as she whispered, "I want to know why you don't want us to be intimate."
Forcing a smirk onto his face, he said, "Wow, Hales, if I'd have known you were this desperate to sleep with me back in high school I'd have definitely let you have your turn." He felt sick to his stomach just saying that to her and the feeling intensified when he saw her reel back from him as if his words had physically struck her, and her eyes filled with tears.
"You're right," she choked once she had found the ability to speak. "I guess there really isn't anything for us to talk about."
Nathan stood frozen to the spot as Haley turned on her heel and walked away from him. He wanted to go after her, to tell her exactly what was holding him back but he couldn't move.
The quiet snick of the door closing hit him harder than if she had slammed the door. She'd only been gone for about ten seconds and already his heart was aching.
She's better off without me, he told himself. All he needed now was to believe it.
Stroking her hair, Lindsey's heart broke for Haley who was currently curled up against her on the couch, her head resting on her lap while she sobbed her heart out. She didn't know what to say to comfort her so, instead, she just held her as she cried. Judging from the state her friend was in and the fact Haley hadn't wanted her to call Nathan when she had offered to, Lindsey could only assume that they had broken up. She'd known they had been having problems but she'd truly believed the couple could work through them.
"Can I get you anything?" Lindsey asked, her tone gentle.
"No," the curly headed blonde managed to reply.
"I'm here if you want to talk, okay?"
"I-I know... Thanks, Linds."
Although Haley continued to cry, Lindsey was relieved that her sobs weren't quite as heart-wrenching as they had previously been. "He... he didn't hurt you, did he? Physically, I mean," she couldn't help but ask.
Haley shook her head. Her friend's question somewhat shocked her and she moved herself into a sitting position and wiping away her tears, she turned to look at the other woman. "No... no, he didn't and he wouldn't. It's just... I-I think we broke up."
Releasing a heavy sigh, she began to tell Lindsey what had happened. "I went over there to tell him that I thought we shouldn't see each other anymore."
"Because of the big bad sex issue?"
"Partly. I still can't shake the feeling that he's keeping something from me but he won't talk to me about whatever's bothering him. He just keeps giving me these lame excuses whenever the opportunity for us to spend the night together arises. I guess I hoped to shock him into talking to me by mentioning us breaking up."
"I take it that didn't happen though?"
Haley's gaze focused on her hands which she was twisting together in her lap. "No," she mumbled. "He denied there was a problem and then got defensive." She felt the sting of fresh tears prickling behind her eyelids. "He, uh, said some stuff which really hurt and I said some things and then I left."
"So you don't know for sure if you've broken up?"
"No," she replied, shaking her head. "What he said to me... it really hurt but I think he was just lashing out... to maybe get out of actually talking to me."
"Don't make excuses for him, Haley. Maybe you're starting to see the real Nathan."
Haley's head and heart ached and she felt so tired... so drained. "I can't believe that," she whispered. "With the exception of this and those excuses he's been nothing but sweet to me and I don't want to believe that it's all been an act. I can't."
"I hope you're right," Lindsey said. From the times she had met and hung out with Nathan, she had to admit she had trouble believing it was all an act, too but sometimes you couldn't judge a book by its cover. As she reassuringly squeezed her friend's hand, she could only hope their faith in him wouldn't come back to bite them – and especially Haley – in the ass.
Sitting at a back table in the Irish pub that was located a couple of blocks away from his apartment, Nathan nursed his glass of neat Scotch. He stared unseeingly at the amber liquid as he swirled it around and around in the glass tumbler.
It was still relatively early and, excluding himself and the barman, there were only four other patrons in the place. He should really still be at work but he took advantage of a client cancelling on him at the last minute and left the office early. Given that his concentration was shot to hell, it was probably better that he left for the day, he mused.
The only thing on his mind was Haley and how she'd looked the last time he'd seen her when she had come over to his apartment to end things between them. He hadn't gotten a wink of sleep since, mainly because every time he closed his eyes he saw the heartbroken look on her face.
He should've told her everything from the very start. At least that way she could have decided early on whether she wanted anything to do with him. Instead, he'd kept giving her lame-as-fuck excuses for why he couldn't spend the night with her. He knew how her mind worked and that somewhere deep inside she was blaming herself for them not having sex... especially considering she knew what his reputation had been like during his time at Tree Hill High.
If only she knew how desperately he wanted her... how much he craved her kiss... the soft touch of her hands on him. How he never wanted to let her out of his sight at the end of a date.
For him, kissing had always just been a prelude to sex but with Haley... it was an intimate act all in itself and he couldn't get enough. The way she kissed him made him feel special... worthy; something he hadn't ever felt with anyone else. Her hands were so gentle on his face, her touch so tender... almost reverent.
He sounded like such a sap, he thought to himself, the corners of his lips quirking up slightly. The thing was, he didn't care. All he cared about was her. She had the best and kindest heart of anyone he'd ever known... she always had and he was happy to know that hadn't changed during the years in which they hadn't been in touch.
"You look lonely sitting over here all by yourself."
The sultry voice cut into Nathan's thoughts and he looked up from his glass to see a tall and curvaceous redhead standing in front of him, practically spilling out of the tight red dress she was wearing; a bottle of beer held securely in her hands. "Well, I'm not," he told her, his tone curt.
"You sure 'cause I'd be happy to keep you company."
The woman ignored him and pulled out the chair opposite his and sat down. "I'm Rachel."
"Good for you," he retorted. He inwardly rolled his eyes at the way her fingers were suggestively sliding up and down the glass bottle, her tongue snaking out to lick at her bottom lip. She couldn't have been more obvious if she'd tried.
"C'mon," she said, chuckling. "I'm just being friendly."
Pushing away his untouched drink, Nathan got up from his seat. "Maybe so but I'm not interested." Without a second glance at her, he walked away and left the pub. Outside, he smiled to himself as he thought about the lucky escape he'd just had. Over the years, he'd met a hundred "Rachel's" – girls who were only after one thing – and while he'd been happy to give them what they, and he, had wanted, now he wanted more than that just a one-night-stand or a fling.
He wanted Haley.
For the first time in his life, he wanted to have an actual relationship and he wanted it with her. He'd never really given much thought to the future but since Haley had come back into his life he'd started to. More and more he was thinking about what it would be like to be with her for the rest of his life and he wasn't sure whether or not to be surprised at the fact that it didn't scare him. The idea of waking up with her in his arms every morning and going to bed with her every night sent ripples of warmth coursing through him and brought a smile to his face.
He was getting ahead of himself, he knew, particularly given what had taken place several nights ago. For all he knew she didn't feel the same way and besides, even if she did, she might change her mind about him once he'd confessed everything about his past.
Instead of walking in the direction of her apartment, he turned and headed the other way. He needed to get his head straight... to work out exactly what he was going to say so he didn't sound like some kind of bumbling idiot who ended up making things even worse.
He knew he needed to talk to her soon... the longer he left it, the harder it would be.
He just hoped she'd listen and give him a chance 'cause the thought of not having her in his life... it was too much to bear thinking about.
February 5, 2011
The ringing of the bell startled Haley. Dropping the cloth she was using to clean the inside of one of the kitchen drawers, she went over to the front door and looked through the peep hole. She released a heavy sigh when she saw Nathan standing there. The fact the intercom hadn't buzzed meant that some do-gooder must have let him in through the main entrance. Damn them!
"I know you're in there, Haley, so you might as well open the door 'cause I'm not going anywhere."
"I'm busy," she called back.
"I'm sure you can take a break from whatever you're doing for ten minutes."
Looking down at herself, she knew she looked a mess dressed in an old pair of grey sweats and her Tar Heels T-shirt. Her hair was piled high into a messy bun and she wasn't wearing any make-up. Great, just great, she thought.
"C'mon, Hales... please."
"Fine," she mumbled, removing the chain from the door and then opening it. "What do you want?"
"I want to talk," Nathan told her.
"Is that right? Well, when I wanted to talk to you before you didn't want to so maybe I don't want to talk to you anymore." She knew she sounded like a petulant child but she didn't particularly care. He deserved it. Especially after the things he'd said to her that night at his apartment.
"Look, I'm sorry..."
"I am so tired of hearing you say that, Nathan. Sorry is not going to cut it any more; I need to know what the hell is going on with you. This hot and cold thing is getting old. I think you've made things pretty clear. I just wish you would've told me that you didn't want to be with me. I'm a big girl and can handle the truth."
"That's… that's not it at all. I do want to be with you, Haley. So much."
"You've got a funny way of showing it," she muttered under her breath.
"And about the other night… what I said to you… I'm so sorry. It was unforgivable and I hated myself for saying but—"
"Then why did you? Look, I know something's wrong and I think it's about time you told me exactly what it is. Please, Nathan. I think I deserve to know the truth."
"You do. I'm just… I'm scared," he admitted, his voice not much more than a whisper.
"Of what?" Tentatively, she took a couple of steps forward and closed the physical distance between them. Without thinking about what she was doing, she raised her arm and cupped his cheek in her palm. She could see the turmoil clearly etched on his face and even though he had hurt her, she couldn't help but try and offer him some comfort.
Nathan closed his eyes, savoring the feel and warmth of her skin. Opening them again a moment later, he saw the look of concern etched upon her pretty features which was a stark contrast to how she had looked the last time he had seen her. "I'm scared that telling you will change your opinion of me."
"Not knowing is kind of already doing that. Whatever you tell me, I promise I'll do my best to keep an open mind."
Lowering his head, he rested his forehead against hers. "Okay."
Nuzzling her nose against his, she found his lips and kissed him gently. "C'mon," she said, taking his hand in hers and leading him away from the door and into the living room.
"She's gone away with Josh for the weekend. Some spa resort a couple of hours away."
"So you can take your time telling me about what's been bothering you. There's absolutely no rush."
He nodded, swallowing past the lump in his throat. The coward in him had kind of hoped that Lindsey would be due back soon so he could've used it as a reason for postponing their talk.
Noticing his nervousness, Haley squeezed his hand and gestured for him to take a seat on the couch. Before doing the same, she asked, "Would you like something to drink before we start?"
"Uh… yeah, some coffee would be great," he replied, knowing he was really just stalling for time.
"Okay," she said, giving him what she hoped was a reassuring smile and lightly patting his shoulder before she left the room.
While she was gone, Nathan thought about how he was going to begin. Should he start with what happened eighteen months ago or go even further back… to those nightmare months following his injury. His mind was a mess and he wasn't lying when he told Haley he was scared… he was terrified. These past few months with her… getting to know her again… slowly falling in love with her… had been amazing, save for his assy behavior, of course. He knew that unless and until he told her everything he wouldn't be able to move forward with her and that there would come a point where she would tire of his excuses and kick him to the curb and he would only have himself to blame for it. Hell, he was tired of coming up with those damn excuses when all he wanted was to be with her completely.
"Here you go," Haley said several minutes later, setting a tray down onto the coffee table which was located in front of the couch. Handing him the black coffee she'd already doctored with a spoonful of sugar, she picked up her own mug which contained her favorite raspberry fruit tea and took a seat beside him. "I brought us some chocolate chip cookies, too."
"Thanks." Holding the mug securely between his hands, he brought it up to his lips and took a careful sip of the hot liquid before he forced himself to start talking.
"Okay... So, uh, about a year-and-a-half ago, I went home for Luke and Peyton's wedding. I stayed there for about a week; celebrating with them, hanging out with the family for a while and catching up with some old friends. It was when I got back to California that everything changed." He paused as the memories of that early Friday evening came flooding back… not that they were ever that far away from the surface.
Watching him, Haley noticed the dark circles around his eyes and the haunted look he wore. She'd seen little glimpses of that look from time to time ever since their reunion four months ago but today it seemed much more visible and evident. His appearance wasn't anything like the well together look she was used to seeing on him; his clothing was creased and crumpled and he looked as if he hadn't shaved for a few days.
"By the time I got home from the airport it was a little after six pm. I let myself into the apartment and it was quiet which wasn't unusual. Matt... that's my roommate, he often didn't arrive home from work until after eight, sometimes later if he was going out with his girlfriend. Anyway, I headed for my room to drop my bags and figured I'd take a shower. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary..." he said, trailing off.
The silence lingered and Haley didn't know what to say. Like she'd told him, there was no rush but she would be lying if she said she wasn't growing ever more curious. She was about to open her mouth when Nathan began talking again.
"Before I hopped in the shower I decided to go and grab a drink and when I walked into the kitchen... th-that's when I found her."
Nathan's eyes fell shut and he was immediately transported to that night, the coppery smell of blood hitting his nostrils, making him feel like he wanted to throw up. He saw her lying curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the room, her body shaking with silent sobs.
"Found who?" Haley whispered, her hand reaching out to take his free one in hers.
"Sasha... Matt's girlfriend," he told her, coming back to the present. "She... she'd been beaten... badly."
"Oh God, Nathan."
"I walked into the kitchen and there she was... cowering in the corner. I couldn't see her face at first... but when she looked up at me... I-I hardly recognized her."
The sight of her battered and bruised face, her right eye swollen shut... even though her hair was dark he'd still been able to see that it was matted with blood. He took a deep breath, trying to quell the wave of nausea that suddenly washed over him.
"We can take a break," Haley told him, inching closer to him. She desperately wanted to hear the whole story but she didn't want to push him.
Nathan shook his head. "No... it's fine. I just, it might take me a while to get it all out."
"Okay," she said, "just do it in your own time. I'm not going anywhere."
Yet, he thought. Taking another drink of his slowly cooling coffee, he continued. "I didn't know what to do. I remember saying her name but she didn't seem to hear me so I took a step closer and crouched in front of her and she must've thought I was whoever had done that to her 'cause she starting saying 'no, no, no... please don't hurt me again' over and over."
He recalled the panic he'd felt in that moment, thinking that if one of his neighbors heard her that he could be held responsible for whatever had happened to her but he decided against telling Haley that piece of information.
"I told her that it was me... Nathan... that I wasn't going to hurt her; that I was going to call an ambulance but that made her cry harder and I didn't know what to do. I asked her what she wanted me to do but all she did was shake her head. When I told her I'd call Matt that... that's when she really started freaking out."
Feeling the tremors in her boyfriend's hand, Haley set down her mug onto the table before managing to prize away his own which he was holding onto with a vice-like grip. She had a feeling she knew what he was about to tell her and her heart broke for him. "Did he..."
"Yeah," he nodded, his eyes filling with tears. "My roommate... the guy I'd met at college and known for years had done that to his own girlfriend. You see things on TV... in the movies and you brush it off; it's just make believe and make-up but when you see something like that in real life... you smell the blood that seems to be everywhere... it stays with you no matter how much you want to forget.
It was three days before she could open her right eye and it took several more days for the doctors to ascertain that there was no permanent damage to it. As well as her eye, she had a concussion from where her head had been bashed against the wall and two cracked ribs. He'd repeatedly kicked her while she was curled up on the kitchen floor."
Brushing away the tears rolling down her own cheeks, Haley asked, "Didn't any of the neighbors hear anything?"
"No," he answered. "Our nearest neighbor is a journalist and she was away on assignment and the couple who live below us weren't back from work yet."
"So, uh, between finding her and her being in the hospital... what did you do?"
Nathan remembered the utter helplessness he felt. He didn't know where the hell Matt was and, right then, he didn't want to know. Sasha's reaction to his roommate's name had pretty much told him who had done this to her but, for the life of him, he couldn't understand why. The guy had always been so easygoing and he'd seemed so happy for the past year that he'd been with Sasha.
"Sorry," he murmured, rubbing his thumb along the back of Haley's hand. "I knew she needed medical attention so I went into the living room to call for an ambulance. It was when I was in there that I noticed it was messier than usual... I hadn't noticed it when I'd first walked in. One of the corner lamps was on the floor as were a couple of the couch cushions. When I told the dispatcher Sasha had been attacked I knew they'd automatically notify the police and less than half an hour later the paramedics arrived followed by the cops."
Running his palm over his face, he released an exhausted sigh. The police's questions had been relentless and he'd started to worry that they thought he was the person responsible for the attack. Thankfully, though, Sasha had told the female paramedic who had been tending to her that her boyfriend had done it. He'd never felt more relieved in his life.
"After I gave a statement to the cops and told them as much as I could about Matt and where I thought they might find him, I went to the hospital. I didn't know if she'd want me there but I... I thought maybe there'd be something I could do to help."
"No. The police called her family but I stayed there anyway just in case she needed anything, especially since I knew her parents lived on the other side of the country and it'd take them a while to arrive. I think the main reason I stayed though was because I didn't want to go back to the apartment."
He went quiet again. Another reason he hadn't wanted to go back home was Matt. He didn't think the guy would go back there, not after what he'd done but Nathan hadn't wanted to risk it. The thought of his friend... a person he'd known since his freshman year of college when they'd been paired together as roommates, doing something like that... it was too much to fathom but doing it to the girl he'd said he was in love with... None of it had made any sense whatsoever.
"I must've started to doze off 'cause the next thing I know I'm being shaken awake and when I opened my eyes there's a nurse standing there telling me Sasha wanted to see me which I wasn't expecting."
Nathan hadn't realized he was crying until Haley reached up to brush away a tear and he ducked his head, even though he knew he didn't need to feel embarrassed with her.
"Even though they'd cleaned her up she... she still looked bad. Her face was so swollen and I-I could hardly look at her. It was taking everything in me not to turn and run but I took a seat on the chair beside her bed and just sat with her in silence. She started to talk... and she... she sounded so broken. I'd never heard anyone's voice sound like that... so devoid of emotion."
"She told you what happened?"
He nodded slowly. "Yes," he managed to reply, his voice thick with tears. "She told me everything and I felt sick. The way she talked about Matt... it was like she was talking about a stranger and not the guy I'd known for the past eight years."
Everything Sasha had told him... it got worse the more she talked. The things Matt had said to her... the names he'd called her as he punched and then, later, kicked her while she'd lain defenseless on the ground.
He'd thought that was the worse it could get but... he was wrong.
Looking up at Haley, he could barely see her through his tears. "He... he didn't just beat her," he finally whispered, choking on a sob.
"Oh God, no." She didn't need him to elaborate, she understood what he was referring to and leaning forward, she took him into her arms and hugged him tightly.
"How could he have done something like that? They'd been together for a year and from the way he talked about her... I-I was sure he'd end up marrying her. How could he go from being that person to someone who could do something so... so vicious? I just... I'll never understand it."
Even after the trial, he was still clueless as to why his former best friend had done what he did that day to a person he'd claimed to love. It was after the trial had been over and Matt had been sentenced that Nathan had felt the need to move to the other side of the country for some kind of fresh start. Los Angeles held far too many bad memories for his liking.
"Let's leave it there for today," she suggested, her heart aching for him and for Sasha. She could barely begin to imagine what the young woman must have gone through at the hands of the man she'd loved.
"No, I-I haven't even scratched the surface, Haley," he told her. "You deserve to know everything... to know why I've been acting the way I have."
Cradling his cheek in her palm, she brushed her lips over his, tasting the saltiness of his tears. "It can wait until tomorrow, okay. There's plenty of time," she soothed, her fingers lightly caressing the back of his neck.
"Does that mean you want me to go?" he asked.
"What? No, of course not. I was going to ask you if you wanted to stay here tonight," she said, quickly adding, "the couch pulls out into a bed." Knowing how he tended to make excuses whenever things became too intimate between them, she didn't want to give him the wrong idea and have him run out on her, particularly given his current state.
"You wouldn't mind me crashing here?"
"I wouldn't mind at all. I'd actually be glad of the company what with Lindsey being away." She figured he might be more willing to stay if he thought he was doing her a favor.
"Okay," he said, gracing her with a smile, albeit a slightly shaky one. "Uh, is it okay if I took a shower?"
"Sure. There are clean towels on the shelf in the bathroom and just help yourself to anything you need in there."
"Thanks, Haley." Tangling his fingers in her hair, he gently cupped the back of her head and held her steady as he closed the gap between them and kissed her softly.
"You're welcome. While you're in there I'll make us something to eat. Blueberry pancakes sound okay to you?"
Nathan nodded but, at the same time, he said, "I don't want you to go to any trouble."
Popping a kiss into his lips, she told him, "It's no trouble at all."
Running his thumb along her cheekbone, his smile was a little brighter this time.
Haley watched as he pushed himself up off the couch and headed in the direction of the bathroom. When she heard the click of the door being closed, she closed her eyes and released a quiet sigh. It was good that he was finally starting to talk to her about what was going on with him but she couldn't help feeling nervous about what was still to come, especially considering he'd said he hadn't yet scratched the surface. The part about him being scared it – whatever it was – would change her opinion of him was of particular concern.
It was probably for the best that she didn't think about it too much... One of the traits she disliked about herself was her propensity to over-think things and blow them up out of proportion. She could only hope and pray that what he had left to tell her wasn't too bad... somehow though, she didn't think she would be that lucky.
By the time they had eaten and then washed the dishes, it was getting late. The comfortable silence they had enjoyed during dinner had given way to a slight feeling of awkwardness as the night drew nearer.
Going to the hall closet, Haley retrieved a couple of spare pillows, a sheet and a comforter, taking them over to the couch where Nathan was in the process of unfolding it. She helped him pull the mattress part out completely before beginning to make up the bed for him.
"You don't have to do that, Hales," he told her.
Smiling up at him, she replied, "I want to." Truthfully, she wanted something to occupy herself with. It was on the tip of her tongue to tell him he could share her bed but she didn't want to spook him and have him running for the door. "Uh... can I get you a glass of water?"
"I'm fine, thanks, but I can get it myself if I do want one. You don't have to be running around after me."
"I know," she said, laughing softly though it sounded false to her own ears. "Okay, so... uh, I'm going to go to bed... to sleep, I mean."
Nathan couldn't help the smirk that crept onto his face. Taking her hands in his, he stilled their fidgeting. "You're adorable when you're flustered," he told her, ducking his head to rest his forehead against hers.
She blushed at hearing his words.
"I love it when you blush," he whispered.
Haley felt his hot breath on her skin and she desperately wanted to kiss him... to feel his mouth against hers, kissing her long, slow and deep. She was about to press her lips against his when she remembered all the times lately when they would be in the middle of an intense make-out session and he'd suddenly pull back, giving her some dumb excuse about needing to cut things short and that he'd call her the next day. She couldn't deal with the same thing happening tonight so she took the initiative this time and drew away from him.
"I'll see you in the morning, Nathan," she said, reaching up to lightly stroke his cheek. "Try to get some rest."
She heard the confusion in his voice but she didn't say anything in response; she simply gave him a soft smile before retreating to her bedroom, quietly closing the door behind her and leaning against the hard wood, her eyes falling shut.
In the living room, Nathan wondered what he'd said or done to have her running away from him. As he stripped down to his boxers and his white undershirt, he started thinking about what he still had to tell her. Better get used to her not being around, buddy, he told himself. Once Haley knew everything he knew there was every chance she wouldn't want to be anywhere near him.
Climbing into the pull-out bed, he punched his pillow a couple of times before laying down on his side. He had a feeling he wasn't going to be getting much sleep tonight.
Checking her alarm clock for what felt like the hundredth time, Haley saw it was only five past two. Only ten minutes had passed since the last time she'd looked at it though it had felt like an hour. Pushing herself up into a seated position, her back against the headboard, she reached over and switched on her lamp. She frowned when she realized she'd forgotten to bring in a glass of water like she usually did which kind of irked her when she remembered that she'd offered to get Nathan one.
As she got out of her nice warm bed, she wondered if he was asleep. Having slept on the sofa bed a few times, she knew it wasn't the most comfortable piece of furniture. She hoped he was getting some rest... Lord knew he looked like he needed a good night's sleep.
After pulling on her peach colored jersey robe, she quietly opened her door and crept quietly through the apartment to the kitchen. Passing the living room, she glanced in and froze when she noticed Nathan wasn't lying in bed but, instead, was standing looking out of the window. He didn't appear to have noticed her in the doorway and she debated whether or not to keep moving.
As if there was going to be much of a debate, she mused as she entered the room and walked towards him. "Nathan?"
"Hey," he whispered, his eyes not leaving the window.
"I thought you'd be asleep."
"I could say the same about you," he told her, turning and giving her a half-smile.
"I forgot to get myself a glass of water."
"Are you... okay?" Haley asked, hesitantly placing her hand on his forearm.
"Not really." Looking back out of the window, he ran his fingers through his already mussed hair.
"Maybe you were right when you said that we shouldn't be together," he said so quietly that Haley had to strain to hear him properly.
"What? Nathan..." Her eyes instantly filled with tears as she stared up at him, her mouth open in shock.
"I'm a mess and... it's not fair on you. I-I should never have gotten involved with you and dragged you into all of this. The day we bumped into each other in the coffee shop... I shouldn't have called you afterwards. It would've been best in the long run."
Haley hated the detached tone she could hear in his voice. It didn't sound like him at all. "I'm glad you called me," she told him.
"I-I'm glad I did, too but I shouldn't have done... I knew it then and I know it now. You deserve so much better than a fuck-up like me."
Wrapping her fingers around his bicep, she jerked him around to face her. "You are not a fuck-up!" she said vehemently.
Nathan laughed but the sound was hollow. "Yes, I am. If you knew what I was like in college... what I was still like up to eighteen months ago... you'd be the first one to agree with me."
"If it's anything like what you were like in high school, then—"
"Compared to this I was a saint in high school."
"I did drugs!" he suddenly exclaimed and he saw the look of shock that instantly appeared on her face. "After my accident... I-I started taking drugs and I'm not talking about the prescription kind."
Haley's hold on him loosened and her arm fell limply to her side. Her mouth opened and closed a few times but nothing came out.
"There was a period of about four months between the accident happening and my dad coming down to Duke and dragging my ass home that... I'm not proud of," he told her. "I was partying harder than I ever had before; drinking, screwing around... and then one night I was offered some Ecstasy and whereas in the past I always turned it down... this time I didn't. I figured I'd already lost basketball and didn't need to worry now about the prospects of random drug testing after games so I might as well cut loose and numb the pain... the constant pain I felt."
"Didn't the doctors gi—"
"I'm not talking about the physical pain," he cut in.
She nodded, her fingers toying with the gold ring she wore on her pinkie; something she always did when she was nervous or anxious. Right now, she was both.
Turning back to the window, Nathan leaned his forehead against the cool glass. "After that," he continued, "I did it a lot... several times a week."
Haley was scared to ask but she needed to know. "Was it just Ecstasy?"
"No," he stated. "I, uh, tried GHB and then... later I dabbled with cocaine."
"God... Nathan." She wasn't naïve enough to think he'd never ever tried drugs but to know that he did it during such a low period in his life... it frightened her so much. She said a silent prayer to whoever was listening that they'd looked over him and kept him safe.
"I'm not proud of it," he said, still not looking at her.
Her fingers burned with the need to touch him again but she willed herself not to. "What made you stop?"
This was the part she needed to hear but, ironically, the part he didn't want to tell her. The part he was petrified about telling her.
"Nathan?" Lacing her fingers with his, she rubbed her thumb back and forth along his knuckles.
"I started having blackouts," he began. "The first time, I woke up and I couldn't remember a thing about the night before. If it wasn't for a friend who was our group's designated driver telling me what he'd seen me getting up to I still probably wouldn't know. Then next time—"
"You didn't stop after the blackout?"
Nathan shook his head. "No." Even though he'd been so scared at not being able to remember anything... it hadn't stopped him from going out a few nights later and doing the same shit. "I... thought maybe I'd just overdone it or something. That if I was more careful with how much I took... how much I drank, that maybe it'd be okay."
"And was it?" she asked, even though she already knew the answer.
"No. A couple of weeks later the same thing happened. I woke up in some gir..." He stopped abruptly and rubbed the back of his neck.
"You woke up in some girl's bed and?" Haley finished for him.
"I, uh... I saw that she had bruises around her wrists and upper arms."
"You think she got them from you?"
"I don't just think... I know 'cause she told me. She... um..."
Haley understood why he was hesitating to tell her about this part so she said, "You don't need to sidestep around it, Nathan. I do know you've had sex before so just tell me."
"Okay... uh, I was getting out of her bed... trying not to wake her when all of a sudden she turns over and wraps her arms around me from behind. She, uh, told me she'd never... had it that rough before but that she'd liked it a lot. I felt sick... all these scenarios were playing through my head and I just... I had to get out of there."
He was relieved to find Haley was still holding his hand and bringing it up to his face, he held it against his cheek.
"You didn't force her, Nathan."
"Maybe not but who's to say I wouldn't have if she'd resisted my advances? I wasn't in control of myself and anything could've happened while I was under the influence."
"So, did that incident make you stop taking drugs?"
"Yeah, but I was still partying hard and to compensate for not doing any more drugs I started to drink even more heavily. The hangovers were bad... I was skipping classes and my life was just spiraling out of control. I ignored calls from Luke and my parents... I don't know if it was Luke or the college calling him but my Dad suddenly turned up at my door one morning and gave me this look that I will never forget."
He'd been used to seeing Dan Scott looking at him with disappointment, especially in those early years, but that morning it had been a million times worse. He hadn't been able to look the older man in his eyes.
"What did he say?"
"'Pack up your shit, son, 'cause you're coming home with me'," he said, mimicking his father's voice.
Haley tried not to but she couldn't help the giggle that escaped.
"I wish I could've laughed at the time," he teased her. "It took me a while to admit it but I was relieved to see someone familiar... someone who could maybe take control of everything 'cause I was so tired of it all. Anyway, I packed a bag and then he told me to take a shower 'cause he didn't want me stinking up his car and I don't know... I just broke down. Pathetic, huh?" he said, looking away.
"It's not pathetic, baby," she told him before curiosity got the better of her and she asked, "What did Dan do, then?"
"I think he didn't know what to do at first. He just stared at me and then, the next thing I know, I'm being pulled into a hug and I'm hugging him back. Before that day, I couldn't have told you the last time he'd ever hugged me."
When she saw the smile on his face, she couldn't help but smile as well. Gently tugging on his arm, she said, "C'mon, let's go and sit down."
Nathan let her lead him over to the sofa bed and he bit his lip as she climbed into it and then rearranged the comforter. He knew they were just going to be talking but this would be the first time they'd ever been in a bed together. Following her lead, he got in too and then leaned back against the pillows.
"Was that when things with your dad started getting better?" Haley asked. She was lying on her side, her head propped up in her hand watching his profile.
Turning his face towards her, he chuckled. "Let's just say they were better than they'd previously been but once I was back home, we still butted heads like crazy. He went nuts when he found out exactly what I'd been doing since I injured my wrist." Seeing her look of curiosity, he said, "I was the one who told him. I figured if I wanted to clean up my act I needed to start being honest."
He remembered wishing he hadn't told him after his father chewed him out for what felt like weeks for his "reckless behavior".
"Wow!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah," he said, smirking. "What was I thinking, right?"
"I think you did the right thing," she told him.
"Looking back, I know I did but at the time I thought I was the stupidest ass on the planet for telling Dan Scott that I'd been messing around with drugs and blacking out as a result of it."
Haley twirled a lock of hair around her finger, her eyes leaving his face to stare down at the pattern on the comforter. "Uh... did you tell him about that girl and the... bruises on her?"
"No. I thought it was probably best not to after his reaction to the other stuff. The blackouts were a wake-up call, you know. I took it as my body's way of telling me I was heading for big trouble if I didn't stop what I was doing."
Her gaze still didn't meet his and she fiddled with her ring for long moments, wondering whether or not she should ask him the question on her lips.
"Hales?" Shifting over onto his side, he placed his pointer finger beneath her chin and tilted her face up slightly so she was looking at him.
"If you want to know something you can ask me, okay?" he said, recognizing the look on her face and guessing what was on her mind.
"Yeah, I know," she lied.
"So is there something you want to know?"
She was about to shake her head no when she decided otherwise and, instead, gave a small nod.
"Go ahead, shoot."
She swallowed thickly. "I meant what I said earlier about not wanting to rush you but... I was just wondering... what does this have to do with you not wanting to... be intimate with me? I mean, this happened in college and you said you cleaned up your act when your dad got involved and—"
"I didn't clean it up exactly..." he mumbled, interrupting her. "Yes, I stopped taking any drugs but when I went back to college I, uh... kind of fell back into the party lifestyle for a while and carried on drinking and... uh..."
Nathan lowered his head. "Yeah."
She sighed. "What were you thinking? Did you really just blame the drugs you took for the blackouts and your more-erratic-than-usual behavior?"
He could feel the disappointment rolling off of her in waves. "Yes," he simply stated.
"So tell me, did you have any more blackouts?"
"No, I didn't have any more."
"Thank God for that," she whispered more to herself than to him.
"I'm not perfect, Haley... that's something I've never claimed to be."
"I know and I don't need you to be perfect. I just... I need you to be safe... to be careful." As he was telling her all of these things about his past, Haley couldn't help feeling somewhat relieved that they hadn't been close during that period of his life. She didn't think she would've been able to stand by and see him self-destruct though she knew she would've tried everything she could to help him.
"When Sasha was attacked... it sent me reeling and, afterwards, I started looking back at my life... at the things I'd done." Rolling onto his back, he folded his arms behind his head and stared up at the ceiling. "I've never forced a girl to do anything she hasn't wanted to do... at least I know I haven't when I've been sober. But... I started thinking about those times when I was high or drunk off my ass... I have no idea what I got up to during those periods.... during the blackouts. Even now, there are still gaps in my memories."
"Nathan... I know you, okay. I know you wouldn't—"
"How do you know? You weren't there, Haley... you didn't see what I was like. How out of control I was."
She didn't know what to say to that. He was right, she wasn't there. The girl he woke up next to with the bruised wrists... he'd said he couldn't remember doing that yet she'd told him he'd been the one to do it to her.
Closing his eyes, he quietly said, "I-I haven't been with anyone since Sasha was attacked."
Haley's eyes widened at his statement. Eighteen months... he hadn't been intimate with anyone for well over a year. Wow! She definitely hadn't been expecting him to say that.
"Now do you understand what kind of a fuck-up I am?" he said and then, lowering his voice, added, "You'd be better off without me."
"No, I wouldn't," she told him firmly. Inching closer to him, she rested her head on his shoulder and placed her hand in the centre of his chest, feeling the steady rhythm of his heartbeat beneath her palm. She desperately wanted to say the three words she'd been feeling for a while but she forced herself not to. She knew he wouldn't believe her if she said them now and that he would just think she was doing it out of some sense of pity or obligation. When she felt his arm wrap around her a few moments later she wanted to weep with happiness; that despite his words he wasn't physically pushing her away.
"The other night when I came to see you... it-it killed me to tell you I thought we shouldn't be together anymore. I thought maybe it would push you into talking to me but when it didn't and you said—"
"I'm so sorry for that, Hales. I didn't mean it and I guess I was just... trying to save you from me before you got in even deeper."
Inching in even closer, she said, "I'm already in deep and I don't want that to change."
"I think you're a glutton for punishment," he murmured, glancing down at her.
Tipping her head back, she nuzzled her lips against his jaw. "I just know a good thing when I see it," she whispered.
Nathan bit back his retort and, instead, reveled in the warmth of her petite body which was pressing into his side. "I don't deserve you." His hand covered hers which was still resting on his chest.
"Yes, you do."
As he watched her, her eyes getting heavy with sleep, he couldn't help wishing he was a better person. He felt like he wasn't worthy enough of her. He wondered what she'd say when he told her that this was the first proper relationship he had been in. That the longest he'd ever dated anyone for had been one measly month and it had been more of a fling than an actual relationship.
Reaching down, he managed to grab the corner of the comforter and he pulled the soft fabric over the both of them, tucking it in around Haley and making sure she was covered. Pressing a kiss into the top of her head, he snuggled into her and his last conscious thought before he drifted off was how easily he could get used to having her fall asleep in his arms.
The smell of frying bacon woke Haley up the next morning and it took her a few seconds to realize she wasn't lying in her own bed. Sitting herself up, she ran a hand through her messy hair, hoping that she didn't look too dreadful. Pushing back the comforter, she climbed out of the pull-out bed and stretched her arms above her head. It had been a while since she'd slept out here and she'd almost forgotten how uncomfortable the thing could be.
Nathan's voice startled her and she jumped, spinning around to face him and, for some reason, she blushed when she saw his smirking face. "Uh... morning."
"I hope you don't mind but I made breakfast." He tried not to but he couldn't stop himself looking her up and down. She'd taken off the robe sometime during the night so all she wore now was a pair of baby blue sleep shorts and a loose fitting white T-shirt. Even with no make-up on and her hair a tangled mass of blonde curls, she looked incredible.
"I don't mind," she told him. Tucking an errant curl behind her ear, she asked, "Did you sleep okay?"
"Yeah, I think I managed to get a few hours in. How 'bout you?"
"The same. I woke up hot as hell in my robe so I took it off and then fell straight back to sleep."
"Good," he said, smiling. "Do you want something to eat?"
"I'm fine for now, thanks. I think I'll take a shower and then eat something."
"Okay." He shifted from foot to foot. "Uh, would you like me to leave?"
Haley looked at him, a confused expression etched upon her face. "No, why would I?"
"I just... I don't want you to be uncomfortable."
"I'm not." Hesitantly, she walked over to where he was standing and she slid her arms up his chest, linking her fingers behind his neck. "What you told me last night doesn't change how I feel about you, Nathan."
"Maybe it should," he countered. His hands burned with the need to touch her but he forced himself not to.
Haley inwardly sighed. The boy was too stubborn for his own good. "Look, I'm not condoning your behavior but you're not that person anymore."
Nathan focused his gaze on the wall behind her. "Up until eighteen months ago I hadn't changed all that much," he told her. "Sure, I'd calmed down a lot but..."
"But what?" she prompted.
"But I was still screwing around."
"Yeah, oh. I'd go to bars and clubs with friends or co-workers and end up going home with someone I'd picked up that night."
While she wasn't exactly happy hearing this stuff, Haley still didn't see why he was beating himself up over this or what it had to do with their relationship. It wasn't as if he was the only twenty-something doing that kind of thing.
Watching his face, she hated the look of self-loathing he wore. "Nathan," she whispered, cupping his cheek.
"This is my first proper relationship," he quietly confessed, his eyes meeting hers. "Everything before you has been a... a one-night-stand or a fling."
"Wow," was all she managed to say. After everything he'd told her last night and in the early hours of the morning, she'd suspected he hadn't had many long-term relationships but to find out he hadn't had any... it was kind of a shock.
"I'm not proud of it... I want you to know that."
"You didn't want a relationship with any of those women?" Haley asked him, curious to know the answer.
"No," he stated, hesitating briefly before he admitted, "I know you probably won't believe me when I say this but you're the first and only girl I've wanted something more with."
"Then why haven't you tried getting me into bed?" Her face felt flaming hot as she asked the question and she lowered her gaze to stare at the floor.
"Because I didn't want to taint you," he said quietly.
Taking one of her hands in his, Nathan brought it up to his mouth and pressed a kiss onto her knuckles. "You're so good... so innocent an—"
"I'm not that innocent," she interjected.
"Compared to me you are," he told her.
"You still see as that innocent little fifteen-year-old, don't you?"
He gave a small nod of his head. "Yeah, I guess in a way I do."
"Well, you need to stop that," Haley said, smiling. "We're not in high school anymore and, believe me, I'm far from innocent."
"Is that so?" he asked, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
Swatting his shoulder, she said, "Shut up!"
His laughter faded and his face turned serious again. "I know my actions told you otherwise but you don't know how much I wanted you, Haley. How much I still want you."
Wrapping her arms around his neck again, Haley pushed herself up onto her tiptoes. "Yeah?"
"Yeah." Resting his forehead against hers, he let his eyes fall shut. "I just feel like I'm not worthy of you... like I'm going to somehow eventually destroy your goodness or, at the very least, break your heart and I... I couldn't bear it if I did that to you."
"Nathan..." She peppered his face with butterfly kisses before finally ending up at his lips. Her fingers combed through his hair as she tilted her head and deepened the kiss. "You're a good person, baby. Those things in your past... they don't make you a horrible person or in any way defective. You need to start believing that."
"You make me want to believe it," he told her, banding his arms around her waist and pulling her in even closer.
Haley smiled shyly at him. Burying her face in the crook of his shoulder, she breathed him in. She finally knew the truth and while parts of what he'd told her had shocked and surprised her... she didn't think any less of him for any of it. It was a part of his past but, like she had told him, it didn't define him. Ever since they had gotten back in touch, she had seen more than enough signs to show her just what kind of man Nathan had grown up into and so what if he'd made some mistakes. She was sure that if his fears about what he may have gotten up to while he was under the influence were true that he would have known somehow; either from a gut feeling or by the other person having contacted the authorities to report him.
She hated that all these years later those few months of college were still plaguing him and that he was letting his former best friend's behavior affect him like this.
Nathan had always been a love-'em-and-leave-'em type back in high school and while she wasn't surprised to learn he'd been the same way during college, she had to admit she was shocked to find out that their relationship was his first. It was probably twisted to feel even a tiny bit flattered at his confession that she was the only one he'd ever wanted something deeper with.
The sound of his voice brought her back to the present and gently drawing back from him, Haley pressed a kiss onto his cheek. "I know you probably won't like this suggestion but... have you ever thought of talking to someone about all of this?"
"Like a shrink?"
"Yeah. It's just... I think it could really help. Especially with, uh, what happened to Sasha."
He swallowed thickly. "I don't know, Hales."
Caressing his cheek, she smiled. "Just think about it."
"Okay." Ducking his head, Nathan kissed her softly. What Haley had said made a lot of sense and he had to admit that since he'd started talking to her and telling her about what had been on his mind for so long... it felt freeing and the weight he'd been carrying on his shoulders seemed to have lifted a little.
"You feel like getting out of here?" Haley asked a few moments later.
"Are you trying to get rid of me?" he quipped.
She laughed. "No. I meant the two of us getting out of here. I thought it might be nice to get outside and get some fresh air. It feels like we've been cooped up in here for days."
"Yeah, I know what you mean. What do you suggest?"
"Um... a walk in Central Park. We could grab some lunch afterwards."
"That sounds good. Maybe we could talk some more." He frowned when he saw her shaking her head. "What?"
"No more talking... at least not while we're out. Let's take a break from it for a little while and just have some fun. This has been weighing on you for long enough but you don't have to tell me everything in one go. There's plenty of time," she told him, lacing their fingers together, "and I'm not going anywhere."
Nathan felt a lump form in his throat at her saying that. "You promise?" he asked a moment later.
"I promise," she stated, stroking the back of his neck as she leaned in to him and tenderly kissed his lips.
One week later...
Arriving at his apartment after a long day at work, Nathan was ready to collapse in front of the TV. He wasn't seeing Haley that night so the plan was to order in some take-out and check out whatever was playing; maybe catch an old basketball game playing on ESPN. He was still kicking himself that with everything that had been going on lately he'd completely forgotten about the Knicks game Haley had gotten him tickets for. He'd felt awful when he remembered but, as usual, his girlfriend had been her usual understanding self and had simply said there would be other opportunities for them to catch a game.
As he unlocked and opened the front door, he frowned when he heard the faint strains of music emanating from inside. "What the hell..." he mumbled as he fully entered his home. The place was dark but as he walked through it, he could see a faint light coming from his bedroom which was situated at the far end of the hallway. Unconsciously, he held his breath as he approached and it left him in a quiet whoosh when he saw his girlfriend sitting cross-legged in the middle of his bed wearing a lemon colored tank top and a pair of black sleep shorts. "Haley?"
"Hi," she replied, the nervousness she felt evident in her voice.
"I thought we weren't seeing each other tonight."
"We weren't," she replied. "It's just... I had this idea and well... I wasn't sure what you'd say if I talked to you about it first so—"
"So you thought you'd turn up unannounced and surprise me?" he finished for her.
"Something like that. I'm sorry for not giving you a heads up."
The smirk tugged at Nathan's lips. "Yeah, somehow I don't think you are," he told her.
Haley gave him an embarrassed smile.
"So, what's your idea?" He was definitely curious as well as intrigued.
"Massages," she answered.
"Massages?" Even as the word left his mouth, vivid images of her warm, soft hands working their magic all over his body popped into his head and they made his blood sizzle.
"Uh huh." Haley forced herself to keep her gaze on his face as she spoke. "I was reading an article in a magazine and—"
"Which magazine?" he interrupted.
"Cosmo," she replied. Seeing the incredulous look on his face, she said, "Yeah, yeah, I know but it was a pretty good article. Basically, this couple were having problems... you know, in the bedroom, and the therapist writing the piece had suggested they refrain from having sex while they tried to rebuild the intimacy that was lacking in their relationship."
"And massage was their suggestion?" Nathan questioned. As he waited for Haley's response, he shrugged out of his suit jacket and laid it across the armchair in the corner of the room before loosening his tie and then removing it.
"Yes. I know our problems aren't the same as this particular couple's but... I figured it might be worth a try."
"I'm probably going to regret asking this but what exactly was the couple from the article's problem?"
Haley bit her lip as she debated whether or not to tell him the truth. "Uh... well..."
"He, um, had trouble getting an erection."
Nathan choked on the breath he had just taken and he coughed. "That's definitely not my problem."
"I know," she said, quick to reassure him. Shuffling towards him on her knees, she crooked her pointer finger and beckoned for him to come to her. Sliding one of her hands up his chest to then twine around his neck, the fingers of her other one played with a button on his maroon shirt. "You have to admit that during our make-out sessions you kind of freeze when things start getting even more heated and I thought that massage might be a way of you getting used to me touching you… especially if it's not going to lead to anything more right now."
He thought about what she was saying and her reasons for wanting to try out the massage thing and knew it made sense. As their kisses grew hotter and their hands began wandering, particularly Haley's, he did freeze as unwanted memories invaded his mind and sent him hurtling back to a different time; a time he wasn't proud of.
"So, what do you say?" Haley asked, her voice slightly shaky.
"I say you talk a lot of sense," he replied, his fingers tangling in her silky hair. Looking around the candlelit room, the soft glow and vanilla scent emanating from them creating an even more intimate feel, he added, "I'm guessing you want to get started tonight?"
"Yeah. I figured there's no time like the present."
"Yeah," he agreed. "So tonight just involves massage… no sex?"
"Right. I massage you and, if you want to, you massage me."
"Oh, I definitely want to do that," Nathan said teasingly. Ducking his head, he brushed his lips over hers before deepening the kiss. "Just out of curiosity, what happens after the massage? I mean, do you go home or—"
"I'd stay here," Haley interrupted, "but if you felt too uncomfortable with me sleeping in your bed I could sleep on the couch."
He shook his head. "I want you to sleep in my bed with me," he told her. "We need to build our levels of intimacy, right?"
"Yes," she stated simply.
"Okay…" Nathan could feel beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead. "Should we eat dinner first or—"
"There's fresh lasagna baking in the oven," she interrupted. "We can eat afterwards."
"You seem to have thought of everything."
"Uh huh," she murmured, her fingers stroking the back of his neck.
"Do you trust me?"
"With my life," Nathan replied without any hesitation.
"Then take this step with me. I promise, I'm not going to hurt you or do anything you feel uncomfortable with," Haley told him. "If it feels too weird for you we can stop but just… let's give it a try." Nuzzling her nose against his, she finished, "We've got nothing to lose and everything to gain."
"Yeah," he said, his voice not much more than a whisper. Slipping his fingers beneath the hem of her tank top, he lightly caressed her warm skin. When Haley drew back from him slightly, he held his breath as she began working on unbuttoning his shirt, all the while keeping her gaze fixed on his. His eyes fluttered closed when she ran her smooth palms along the planes of his chest. "That feels so good, baby."
"It feels good to me, too," Haley said lowly.
Before he knew what was happening, he was helping her remove his shirt and he forced himself not to stop her when her hands went to his belt.
She felt him tense up. "It's okay," she soothed, continuing with the task of pulling the strap through the buckle. Keeping her eyes on his face, she popped the button on his pants before slowly lowering the zipper.
Nathan watched her through hooded eyes. He couldn't help feeling... pathetic, for want of a better word. If this was happening a couple of years ago he would've been naked from the second he saw her sitting on his bed... and so would she.
"Relax," Haley whispered, her fingers roaming over his stomach and then moving around to his back. Taking one of his hands in hers, she brought it up to her mouth and pressed a soft kiss into the centre of his palm. Realizing that the act of undressing him was perhaps contradicting her "no sex tonight" promise, she said, "How 'bout you finish stripping down to your boxers and then get onto the bed while I go and get the massage oil from the bathroom?"
"Yeah, okay," he replied, grateful for the reprieve. While she was out of the room, he kicked off his shoes and removed the rest of his clothes before climbing onto his bed and lying down in the middle. He folded his arms and rested the side of his head on them, his eyes falling shut as he tried his best to relax.
When she returned a few minutes later, Haley stood in the doorway and admired his almost naked body bathed in the flickering candlelight.
"Like what you see?" Nathan couldn't help teasing her.
"Eh, not bad," she retorted, giggling at the mock-outraged expression he consequently gave her.
Getting back onto the bed, she straddled Nathan's butt and uncapped the bottle of unscented massage oil she'd placed into a half-filled basin of hot water to warm it up. Pouring some into her palm, she carefully replaced the cap before rubbing her hands together and then applying it to Nathan's warm skin. She smiled when he didn't flinch or tense up at the contact. "Does that feel okay? The oil's not too hot, is it?"
"It feels really good... and the oil's fine," he answered. As she kneaded his back and shoulders, working the warm oil into his skin, he could feel his muscles instantly loosening and the tight knots disappearing thanks to her magical touch. He couldn't remember the last time he'd felt so relaxed. He didn't know how much time had passed by the time he felt her swivel around and begin working on his legs and calves.
When Haley had first put the suggestion of massage to him he'd been skeptical but, he had to admit, it was definitely helping the situation. Even though he felt like a huge weight had lifted off of his shoulders due to finally talking to her about everything he'd been keeping bottled up inside, he still felt a barrier between them when it came to taking the next step in their relationship and he silently hoped that this whole massage thing would help break through it.
He wanted them to have a normal, healthy relationship but he felt like that wasn't going to be the case unless and until they made love.
"You okay?" Haley asked, her soft voice breaking into his thoughts.
"Uh huh," he murmured. "I feel like my entire body's turned to Jell-O."
She laughed at that. Shifting her position once more so she was back in the position she had started in, she leaned forward so that her mouth was right by his ear. "So you're enjoying this, then?"
"Oh yeah," Nathan drawled. When her lips met his a split-second later, he moaned into her mouth. "Hey, where'd you go?" he asked when he felt her suddenly pull away and move off of him.
"That's it for tonight, baby," she told him, standing beside the bed. "I want us to take baby steps... no rushing and trying to do too much too soon."
"What about me massaging you?"
"Maybe we could do that after dinner," Haley suggested. "I'm sure you'll have me asleep in no time."
"I'm not sure whether to be flattered or insulted by that," he retorted, a smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth.
"Go with flattered," she said teasingly. "Okay, you stay there for a few more minutes and let the oil soak in and I'll go and check on dinner."
Shifting over onto his side so he could look at her better, he gestured to his almost naked state and asked, "What's the dress code?"
Flushing slightly, she replied, "Uh, just wear whatever you wear to bed?" Seeing his smirk deepen, she had a good idea of what his silence meant so she added, "Yeah, I'm not eating at the table with you totally naked."
"Don't worry, I should have a pair of pajama pants somewhere," Nathan said, chuckling at her. He loved how one second she could be brazen, talking about them being more intimate and massaging each other without blushing and the next she would be the color of a tomato over something relatively innocent.
"Well, while you're hunting them down I'll be in the kitchen." Blowing him a kiss, she then said, "See you in a few."
"Missing you already," he quipped, laughing at the faint groan he heard her release.
Later that night, Nathan and Haley lay curled up in his bed. Her head was resting on his chest and he was gently running his fingertips up and down her bare arm. He could tell from her even breaths that she had fallen asleep and while he felt on the verge of sleep, he couldn't help thinking about what had happened a short while ago.
After they had eaten dinner, they'd watched a little TV before soon retreating back into his bedroom where, as per Haley's earlier suggestion, he had given her a massage. Her skin was so soft and smooth... and the breathy little moans emanating from her as he'd gently rubbed and caressed her bare back had been a total turn on.
When the massage had eventually come to an end and Haley had turned over to slip her top back on, he hadn't averted his gaze. It was the first time he'd ever seen her topless and the sight of her pert, full breasts had definitely spiked his arousal. She hadn't teased him though and for that he'd been grateful.
The make-out session that followed had been long and leisurely and knowing that, for the moment, sex was off the table made it feel more comfortable. That voice in his head which had reared up at the worst damn times reminding him of his past behavior and indiscretions had yet to resurface and he hoped he wouldn't be hearing it for a long time to come.
Laying here with Haley in his arms, feeling completely relaxed and on the edge of sleep was something he was reveling in and he didn't want it to ever end.
March 10, 2011
The getting-closer-through-massage plan had continued for the next month with them slowly doing more and more and building up their levels of intimacy. Haley was so happy with the progress she and Nathan were making that she almost felt like writing a thank you letter to the therapist who had contributed to the Cosmo article which had given her the idea in the first place, especially after last night's success.
Most of their massages took place at Nathan's since she, of course, shared an apartment while he lived alone. They hadn't planned on meeting last night due to her having to work late so it had been a lovely surprise when he had turned up at her place with Chinese take-out and a bottle of her favorite wine.
With Lindsey due to arrive home shortly, Haley hadn't expected them to have another massage session or for him to stay over but when her roommate had phoned to say she would be staying at her boyfriend's house that night, she'd felt the anticipation swirl in her belly. The intense look Nathan had given her while she'd been on the phone, having guessed from the one-sided conversation that they would be having the place to themselves, had strengthened the sensation and, as was more often than not the case with her, she'd blushed.
After they had finished eating and cleared away the take-out cartons, she had secured the apartment for the night and they had then gone into her bedroom. The electricity between them had crackled. Slowly undressing each other, they'd paused to share long, lingering kisses after each item of clothing had been removed. When they were both naked and after she'd spent an inordinate amount of time admiring every inch of his gorgeous body, she'd ignored his request for her to get onto the bed; instead, making him lie down on his front before climbing on top of him and straddling his waist. It had felt so different to all of the other times they had done this. She'd worried that maybe they were still moving a little too fast but she figured he would tell her if he wanted to slow things down a bit.
Every touch had felt erotically charged and as she had begun to massage him, she'd started to rock her hips against him; the slippery oil adding to the amazing sensations that had coursed through her entire being.
The fact neither of them had planned on doing this... that it had been a kind of spur of the moment thing, seemed to create a further frisson of excitement, plus it had helped lessen any nerves that they – particularly Nathan – were experiencing.
Leaning forward, she'd rubbed her breasts against his back while still slowly gyrating her hips and she felt her clit tingle and throb as both a result of what she was doing but, also, due to the deep guttural moans Nathan was releasing. She couldn't remember hearing him sound like that. The fact she was causing that reaction in him was such a powerful aphrodisiac and it had made her feel so sexy. With all the excuses he'd previously been giving her for not wanting to be intimate, she'd felt more than a little insecure about her looks and whether he found her attractive so this gave her confidence a much needed boost.
Nipping his earlobe playfully, Haley had asked him if he was okay and whether he wanted her to stop. She'd barely gotten the words out when he somehow managed to turn over without dislodging her from her position on top of him and she recalled the surprised gasp that had torn from her throat when she had felt his rock hard erection pressed against her. The physical proof that he was just as aroused as she was had caused her to become even wetter than she'd been already.
When Nathan had placed his hands on her hips, she'd worried that he might be about to move her off of him but he did no such thing. Instead, he began sliding her back and forth along the underside of his cock which was curved up against his belly. Keeping her eyes trained on his face, she'd waited to see if any trace of the guilt he'd carried inside of him for so long would suddenly appear on his features but, thankfully, that didn't happen.
Ever since they had starting their massage sessions, Haley had made the decision to stop pleasuring herself even though she desperately craved the release. The next time she came she'd wanted it to be with Nathan and it had finally happened that night. Placing her palms on the sculpted planes of his chest, her fingertips curling into his sweat-slick skin, she'd rocked her hips against his, grinding her clit against the base of his cock on every back-slide. Her body felt primed for a massive explosion and, in an attempt to make that happen as soon as possible, she picked up the pace and began moving even faster. She was so close and the last straw had been when Nathan had started to pinch and tug on her diamond hard nipples sending shock-waves directly to the tiny bundle of nerves at the apex of her thighs. She'd cried out his name as her body began to shiver and shake on top of him. The strength of her orgasm had surprised her, particularly given that he wasn't even inside her.
When she'd collapsed on top of him a few moments later, she breathed in his masculine scent and reveled in the feel of his arms wrapping around her. Having felt that he was still hard, she'd commented on him not reaching his own climax.
"No," he'd replied, "but you sure did."
Despite what they had just done together, Haley had still felt slightly embarrassed but when Nathan had whispered into her ear that he'd loved watching her come and that he was glad he was the one to share in it with her, she'd felt better and more relaxed.
Wanting him to experience the same amazing feeling he'd bestowed onto her, Haley had shifted over onto her side and had then taken him in hand. When he'd started to object, she had quickly shushed him and continued with her ministrations; making sure to keep her eyes locked on his. The sounds coming from him had been undecipherable apart from the occasional "Don't stop" which had come through loud and clear. Leaning over him, her tongue traced a path around his lips before she'd sealed her mouth over his and kissed him hotly; all the while her hand continuing to pump his cock. It had only taken a few minutes to bring him to completion and for his warm seed to spill all over her fingers.
Haley had watched him come down from his high and, as she noticed the rapid rise and fall of his chest together with the fine sheen of perspiration making his skin appear as if it was glowing, a sense of pure satisfaction and pride travelled through her. After pressing a soft kiss onto his lips, she'd disappeared into the bathroom to clean herself up and to also grab a warm, damp wash-cloth with which to do the same to Nathan.
They had both silently seemed to acknowledge that they wouldn't be taking it any further that night and as they'd spooned together in her bed, her back pressed flush against his bare chest and his fingers gently caressing her tummy, she'd felt completely comfortable with that. She was just happy that they were slowly but surely getting there and she had a feeling it wouldn't be much longer before they did take that next step.
When she'd woken up the next morning, Haley had worried that Nathan would withdraw from her; that by having come over to the apartment unexpectedly he had somehow coerced her into doing something she hadn't been ready for. Thankfully, that hadn't been the case – well, insofar as she'd been able to ascertain. He'd been full of smiles and had kissed her thoroughly before he'd left to go back home and get ready for work.
One of the best parts though was when he'd whispered into her ear that his main reason for coming over last night had been in the hope that he could share her bed. He'd told her that he was already so used to them sleeping together on the nights of their massage sessions that he was already badly missing her on the nights they slept apart.
Her heart had thumped wildly in her chest at hearing him say that and the next thing she knew she'd jumped into his arms and was kissing the holy hell out of him. The poor guy hadn't known what hit him.
That same afternoon, Haley had managed to leave work slightly earlier than usual and after a quick stop at her place to change and pack an overnight bag, she'd headed over to Nathan's apartment where she was currently soaking in his large bathtub awaiting his, hopefully, imminent arrival. While they had made plans to meet up that evening, she knew he wouldn't be expecting her to be there when he got home.
Taking a small sip of her chilled Chardonnay, she then placed her glass back on the built-in shelf beside the one she had poured for Nathan. In preparation for tonight, she'd dotted a bunch of tea light candles around the room and having already lit them before she'd gotten into the bath, they were now giving off a lovely warm glow as well as filling the air with the scent of apples.
A short while later, Haley heard the faint sound of a key in the door and she suddenly felt nervous. Taking a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down, she impatiently waited for him to follow the clues she'd left for him and come and find her.
Crossing over the threshold into his apartment, Nathan smirked when, not for the first time, he immediately realized a certain someone had decided to surprise him once again. He felt a faint stirring in his pants as images from last night pushed their way to the forefront of his mind and mingled with the promise of what was possibly... hopefully going to be happening tonight.
His smirk deepened when, as he walked a little further into his home, he looked down and saw the beginning of a trail of what he saw was her clothing which he then followed towards the bathroom where they led to. The door was ajar and pushing it open further, he was greeted by a warm bank of moist, scented air. He was just about to ask why it smelled like apples when the sight of Haley bathed in candlelight while lying in his tub all wet and slick surrounded by bubbles rendered him speechless.
"Hi, baby," Haley whispered seductively. "The water's lovely... wanna join me?"
"Yeah," he instantly replied without a flicker of hesitation. He wasted no time in stripping out of his clothes, tossing them into the laundry hamper. Having her watch him, seeing the tip of her tongue snake out to lick her lips, was sending his blood pressure through the roof, not to mention getting him impossibly hard. The whole time he was getting undressed Nathan kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for that damn voice to begin making its presence felt but it didn't happen and he inwardly sighed with relief as he carefully climbed into the bath behind his girlfriend.
"You okay?" Haley asked once he was fully situated and she was resting along the length of his body; the lightly scented, hot water lapping against them both.
"I'm fine," he assured her. Leaning forward, he nuzzled his cheek against hers and when she turned her head slightly, he captured her lips in a searing hot kiss. He felt rather than heard her moans when he slipped his hand around the front of her body and cupped one of her breasts. "Is this okay?"
"God, yes," she replied breathlessly. "It feels so good, baby." Taking his other hand in his, she brought it under the water and, parting her legs, she wordlessly directed him to caress her most intimate area.
Nathan swallowed thickly. "Are you sure, Hales?"
Nodding her head, she said, "I want you so much, Nathan... please..."
Tentatively, his fingers sifted through the neatly trimmed curls covering her womanhood. He was almost holding his breath as he delved a little lower and traced one long finger along the seam of her lower lips while his thumb lazily circled her clit. He heard the slight hitch in her breathing and leaning forward, he brushed his lips against her ear.
"Do you like that?" His voice was thick with lust and just a touch of lingering nervousness.
"Uh huh," she said, trembling with anticipation of what was going to happen next.
"You want more?" The finger he was touching her with moved to her entrance and he circled it slowly while he waited for her response.
"Yesss," Haley hissed, impatiently waiting for his next move. A gasp tore from her throat when he slid that finger deep inside of her followed by another and then began thrusting them in and out at a leisurely pace. One of her hands gripped the side of the bathtub while she brought her other arm up out of the water and hooked it around his neck. Turning her face to the side, she captured his lips and kissed him hungrily, her tongue mimicking what his fingers were at that very moment doing to the lower half of her body.
Nathan's free hand gently kneaded her breast before his fingers lightly pinched and tugged on her nipple which rewarded him with a long, drawn out moan. His tongue licked at her lips once the kiss had broken and their eyes locked on each other as they slowly drew back and caught their breaths.
"You feel amazing," he told her, crooking his fingers and rubbing along her most sensitive spot.
"So do you," she choked out, her eyes closing as she concentrated on the delicious sensations his talented fingers were creating within her. Feeling his erection pressing into her back, she slowly rocked her hips and rubbed against it. The crescendo inside of her was building with every passing second and when he added more pressure to her over-sensitized clit it was the final straw and she shattered around him, his name repeatedly falling from her lips as she sank back against him.
Nathan didn't immediately remove his fingers. Instead, he stroked her through her orgasm; enjoying the feel of her sheath seductively tightening and pulsing around him. Ducking his head, he kissed along the slope of her shoulder before lifting up and kissing just below her ear. "You okay?"
"Mmm," Haley murmured, a lazy smile gracing her features as she rested against him. He was still hard... in fact, he felt even harder now and that little tidbit cranked up her arousal another notch. "Do you want to get out of the bath now and... uh..."
"And what?" he prompted.
"And continue this in bed?" she asked, a slight note of hesitation in her voice.
"Yes," he simply replied.
Turning so she could see his face better, she gave him a tremulous smile and brushed her lips over his, mewling happily when he automatically deepened the kiss. When they pulled back long minutes later, they were both breathless and they rested their foreheads together while they waited for their breathing to regulate.
Carefully standing up in the bath, Haley grabbed the shower attachment and turned it on, rinsing off the bubbles which were clinging to her skin. She released a tiny gasp when she suddenly felt Nathan's hand caressing her right buttock before moving over to do the same to the left one. Looking at him over her shoulder, she smiled shyly at him when she met his heated gaze.
"You've got a serious ass, Haley James."
Her skin flushed a rosy pink and she shook her head in amusement. Beckoning to him, she said, "C'mere."
Gripping the sides of the tub, Nathan pulled himself up so that he too was standing and he immediately wrapped his arms around her waist, pulling her into him so that practically inch of their bodies was touching. As Haley rinsed them both off, he fused his lips to hers and kissed her hotly; his tongue thrusting into her mouth and exploring every nook and cranny. He chuckled when he felt her almost drop the shower attachment and taking it from her, he turned off the water and hung it back up before pulling the plug from the bathtub and then climbing out.
Haley let out a squeal of surprise when he lifted her out and set her down onto the tiled floor, shivering as the cool air hit her skin. When he grabbed a large, fluffy towel from the heated rail, she expected it to wrap it around himself but he didn't. Instead, he began to pat her dry and it amazed her how something so simple could feel so erotic. Taking a towel for herself, she proceeded to do the same to him and seeing the way his blue eyes darkened several shades, she knew the action was having a similar effect on him.
After hanging the towels up and taking a moment to blow out the candles, Haley folded her hand into his and led him to his bedroom. When she released him to switch on the bedside lamps, Nathan noticed that she'd covered them with a thin, gauzy purple fabric which gave off a soft, dusky glow and which, he had to admit, made the room appear somehow exotic.
"Someone's been busy," he remarked, his lips curving upwards. Walking over to where she stood beside the bed, he drew her into his arms and nuzzled his nose against hers.
"I-I'm not expecting us to... you know, make love tonight but—"
"And what if I'm ready for that?" he interrupted, sucking her bottom lip into his mouth and grazing the sensitive flesh with the edge of his teeth.
Haley felt a surge of hope swell up inside of her but she tried to quell it, just in case. "Are you?"
"Yes," he replied, "I am." Little waves of anxiety rolled through him but his craving for her overcame them. Everything they'd been doing together these past few weeks... talking about his past and slowly freeing himself of the power it had been holding over him, the various dates they'd been on, their inseparability from one another and, of course, their massage sessions had all helped to create a gorgeous slow burn of want, desire and – top of the list – love.
Pushing herself onto her tiptoes, Haley cupped his face in her palms; her thumbs caressing his cheekbones. "I love you so much, Nathan."
"I love you, too, Hales. I love you more than you could ever know."
Combing her fingers through his damp hair, her smile was radiant as they closed the gap between them and shared another sizzling kiss.
Breaking the kiss, Nathan kissed his way down the delicate column of her throat until he arrived at the base of her neck whereupon he sucked a patch of her fragrant skin into his mouth, determined to leave his mark. As he did so, he felt the pads of her fingers stroking along his nape while her other hand was splayed in the centre of his back. Raising her left leg, Haley draped it over his hip and, as a result, his cock was now in direct contact with her wet heat.
He let his hands roam everywhere they could reach, memorizing every tiny little detail of how perfect she felt in his embrace... how good she made him feel. Sliding his hands down to her hips, he carefully lifted her up and laid her down onto the bed before climbing on top of her and bracing his weight on his forearms which rested either side of her shoulders, he asked, "Is this okay? Would you prefer to be on top?"
Haley shook her head as she trailed her fingers up and down his upper arm. "No," she replied, "I want you to be on top." Moving her hands to the back of his neck and then to his head, she directed his face to hers and just before their lips met, she added, "I trust you."
Nathan felt like his heart was going to burst out of his chest at hearing her words and he nodded, too choked up to speak. "Thank you," he finally managed to say before he kissed her. Her soft pliant lips yielded beneath his own, moving in sync with him as he practically devoured her, pouring everything he felt for her into that one kiss.
The feel of her hand slipping between their bodies and wrapping around his cock, pumping him in her fist as they continued kissing was killing what little self-control he had. "I-I'm not gonna last long if you keep doing that," he whispered into her ear.
Haley giggled. Nipping his chin, she said, "I figured this might help take the edge off." She could feel herself blushing to the roots of her hair but she forced herself to continue. "I mean, it's been a while since you... you know, last had sex so... I thought maybe..." she trailed off, certain she wasn't making any sense.
He knew what she was referring to and he smiled down at her. "It's okay, baby..." Kissing his way along her cheek until he arrived at her ear, he whispered, "I want to come inside you the first time." He felt her shiver beneath him.
"I want that, too," she told him.
The smile Nathan gave her soon turned into a smirk when he said, "Before we do that, how 'bout we work on making you come again?"
Her teeth sunk into her bottom lip as she gave a small nod of her head; her heart slamming into her ribcage at the lascivious look he flashed her. The deeply intense, tongue-filled kiss he then gave her had her body arching up into his and she voiced her disapproval when he unexpectedly broke it. When Nathan began kissing his way down her neck, suckling on her collarbone before moving south to capture one of her nipples she cooed happily, suddenly gasping though when he scraped his teeth against the tender little nub. "Oh God... yes..."
His fingers began pulling and pinching at her other nipple, the flat of his tongue licking between the valley of her cleavage, and she felt a jolt of pure lust shoot directly to her core For her part, she started pumping his dick again, loving the sounds he was making which were mingling with her own. He slipped out of her hand as he continued his journey south, kissing her sternum and stomach before dipping the tip of his tongue into her bellybutton which tickled and made her squirm.
Haley unconsciously held her breath as he moved even lower and she cried out at the first touch of his tongue on her clit, her fingers burying themselves into his thick hair as she raised her hips, rocking them against his face and urging him on. Nathan was only too happy to oblige. Using his thumbs to part her lips, he kissed, sucked and nibbled on her most sensitive parts. Licking her up and down, he made sure to leave no part of her untouched. From his position between her legs, he watched as she cupped and kneaded her breasts, her heavy-lidded eyes fixed on him as he practically devoured her whole and he couldn't help but rub his painfully hard cock against the mattress.
She could feel her orgasm fast approaching and the second he slid two fingers inside of her and crooked them forward she screamed his name as she went hurtling into oblivion. Her hips continued to undulate against him until they slowed and then finally stopped.
Crawling up her body, Nathan covered her mouth with his own and kissed her soft and slow, letting her taste herself on his lips. He couldn't believe how carefree he felt in that very moment and all of his worries and anxieties seemed to just fade away. "That felt amazing," he said lowly, brushing away a lock of hair that was sticking to her damp cheek.
"Uh huh," Haley agreed. "Are you okay?" She watched his face for any trace of guilt or regret and felt relieved when she didn't see either.
"I'm perfect," he told her, smiling. "We're perfect."
"Yeah, we are," she said, grinning back at him. Pushing herself up onto her elbows, she took the lead this time and crushed her lips against his. It didn't take long for her arms to give out and she collapsed back against the pillows, reveling in the full weight of his body pressing into her as he followed her down.
The need for air was the only reason why Nathan broke the kiss and burying his face in the crook of her shoulder, he breathed in her scent; letting it fill his lungs and calm his nerves which were beginning to rise to the surface due to what he knew was going to be happening next.
Haley felt him tense up and she gently ran her hands up and down his back in an attempt to try and soothe him. "We don't have to—"
"Yes, we do," he interrupted, having a pretty good idea of what she was going to say. Shifting over onto his side, he kept his gaze fixed on hers as he trailed his forefinger over the slope of her breast. "I want to, Hales... I really want to. It's just... I'm nervous. This is the most intimate I've been with anyone in well over a year and... it's like I've just realized the enormity of it all."
Raising her hand to his face, she cradled his cheek in her palm and gave him what she hoped was a reassuring smile. "Just take a deep breath and try to relax, okay. What we've done so far has been so fantastic but there's absolutely no rush so let's take our time and enjoy it."
"Yeah, okay," he agreed. "How'd you get to be so understanding?"
"It's just another of my ah-mazing qualities," she quipped but her cheeks still pinked slightly.
Chuckling, he brushed his lips over hers before asking, "So, uh, where were we?"
Taking him in hand once more, Haley stroked his throbbing, hard length up and down before placing him at her entrance.
It was on the tip of Nathan's tongue to ask her if she was sure but he forced himself not to. Instead, he said, "There's a... uh, pack of condoms in the nightstand," gesturing with his head to the one on the right-hand side of the bed. His eyes widened slightly when she shook her head.
"I don't want there to be any barriers between us," she told him.
He didn't know if it was his imagination or not but he felt himself thicken in her hand. "What about—"
"I'm on the pill and since you've already told me that after you, uh... "
"Cleaned up my act?" he finished for her.
"Um... yeah. That afterwards you got yourself thoroughly tested so I'd say we're safe."
The trust and faith Haley showed that she had in him sent ripples of warmth coursing through his entire being. "Thank you," he simply said. "But in case I end up knocking you up I hope you know I'll be reminding you of this conversation," he couldn't help teasing.
"Whatever," she replied, playfully rolling her eyes.
Intertwining their fingers, Nathan brought their joined hands up to his mouth and he pressed a kiss against her petal-soft skin before placing them beside her head on the pillow. His eyes were fixed on hers as, inch by inch, he gently pushed himself inside of her, pausing once he was fully embedded so they could both savor the feeling of being so intimately joined.
A deep sigh tore from her throat at the exquisiteness of the moment and she forced herself to keep her eyes open. When after a couple of minutes passed and Nathan began moving, she wrapped her legs around his ankles and used his body as leverage to meet each and every thrust; her mouth dropping open and forming a perfect 'o' shape. Her fingers dug into his firm butt and she giggled at the growl he released.
Massaging one of her breasts, he captured a pert nipple between his pointer and middle fingers and tugged on it. In response, he felt her sheath tighten around his shaft and he smirked against her lips. "Keep doing that, baby... it feels so good."
"Uh huh," she mumbled. Bringing her legs up, she locked them high around his waist and crossed her ankles at the small of his back and the subsequent friction it created was out of this world. She could feel the beginnings of what she knew was going to be a tremendous orgasm stirring low in her belly and she began rocking her hips at a faster pace. Knowing that Nathan most likely wasn't going to last much longer either, she clenched her feminine muscles around the sensitive head of his cock on every upstroke.
"You like that, huh?"
He nodded vigorously, the ability to speak having disappeared due to the mind-numbing pleasure he was currently receiving.
One of her hands moved to tenderly caress the side of his face and sliding it around to the back of his head, she directed his mouth to hers, kissing him passionately and licking at the inside of his bottom lip. When he started to feverishly rub her clit, trying to bring her even closer to the orgasm she could feel fast approaching, she nearly swallowed his tongue. That tight knot in the pit of her stomach was getting tighter and tighter and she knew it wasn't going to take much more for it to snap.
"Baby, I'm so close," Haley panted. The thrusting of his hips sped up and she met him stroke for stroke. Her whole body felt on sensory overload and she knew she'd be rocketing into orbit any moment now. The last straw was when Nathan lowered his head and sucked her nipple into his mouth, rolling his tongue over and around it, while simultaneously rubbing the base of his cock against her throbbing clit which freed up his hand to run the length of her side and then over her thigh. Mere seconds later she violently climaxed, the lower half of her body lifting right up off the bed, her pelvic muscles fluttering seductively around his shaft. It only took a few more thrusts before he followed suit; his body seizing up as he filled her with his seed.
They stayed fused together for several long moments as their bodies calmed down and their breathing evened out; their hands lovingly caressing each other. His lips found hers as he softened completely and slipped out of her tight clutch and shifting over onto his side, he traced his thumb along her cheek as he deepened the kiss.
When Haley opened her eyes, she saw Nathan's eyes were glassy with tears and she felt a tightness in her chest. "W-what's wrong?"
He shook his head. "Thank you, Hales."
"For being patient with me all of these months and not giving up on me, but most of all for sharing this with me... for showing me how amazing sex... making love is when it's with the woman you're head over heels in love with."
Her own eyes filled with tears at hearing his words and taking his hand, she pressed her lips against the middle of his palm. "You don't have to thank me but you're welcome."
Inching towards each other, they shared a lovingly soft and tender kiss.
Hours later, having worked up quite an appetite, Nathan called a local pizza joint and placed an order with them. Within half an hour their food had arrived and they were currently sitting on the carpeted floor in the living room with the pizza box between them and a Friends re-run playing on the TV in the background.
Picking up another slice of double pepperoni pizza, he looked Haley up and down, admiring the way she looked dressed solely in one of his shirts. At the moment, he was being treated to a nice expanse of her lightly tanned thigh as well as a terrific view of her breasts.
"What?" Haley asked shyly, noticing his not-so-subtle perusal of her.
"Have I told you how awesome you look in my clothes?"
"Yeah, you might've mentioned that more than once," she retorted, leaning forward to steal a piece of pepperoni from him.
Flashing him a sexy half-smile, she let one side of the blue shirt she was wearing slip down off of her shoulder, revealing a little more skin. "Is that apology enough?"
"Oh yeah... go ahead and take some more pepperoni." Chuckling, he held out his slice for her.
"You're incorrigible," she told him, shaking her head which made her mass of tangled curls bounce.
"Yeah, that's not the first time you've said that."
The twinkle in his baby blue eyes made her feel almost light-headed. She loved seeing him like this... so happy and carefree."
"Everything okay?" Nathan asked when he noticed her watching him so intently.
"Yeah. I just... I love seeing you so happy."
He felt his face heat up. "You make me happy." Pausing, he took a sip of his root beer and then said, "I wish I could've taken you somewhere special for our first time. You know, like a bed and breakfast or something."
Placing her hand on his knee, she gave another shake of her head. "I wouldn't have changed a thing about tonight, Nathan. This place... your place holds a lot of special moments for us and I'm glad this is where we made love for the first time. And, to be honest, I think if we had gone away somewhere it would've put a lot more pressure on us. We would've known exactly why we were going away and it could've made the whole thing feel kinda forced and awkward."
Nathan considered her words and found himself to be in total agreement with them. Being together tonight had felt so natural and relaxed and he had a feeling the situation might have felt completely different had they gone away to a bed and breakfast or hotel with that specific goal in mind. "Yeah, you're right." Leaning over the pizza box, he pressed his lips against hers and kissed her before retreating a minute later. "I wouldn't have changed a thing about tonight either."
They finished eating in comfortable silence as they watched the TV, laughing at the scene where Chandler and Monica see Ross' screwed up tan for the first time.
"Do you want to go out and maybe catch a movie?" Nathan asked a little while later as he entered the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Haley from behind.
"Now?" She was in the process of washing and rinsing the two wine glasses she'd collected from the bathroom which she'd suddenly remembered while helping to tidy up after their pizza dinner. Turning around to face him, she cocked her head to the side as she waited for his response.
"I just don't want you to feel cooped up in here," he playfully told her.
"You're always thinking of me," Haley teased back. Slipping her hands beneath the hem of the T-shirt he'd pulled on before dinner, she scraped her fingernails over his chiseled abs. "What would you say if I said I did want us to go out now?"
Lowering his head, his mouth now right by her ear, his voice was deep and husky when he next spoke. "I'd do my best to persuade you that we should stay in."
"Mmm, I like the sound of that." Pushing his T-shirt up to his shoulders, her eyes were glued to his as she leaned in and circled the tip of her tongue around his nipple; drawing closer and closer to the hard little nub but never touching it.
Tangling his fingers in her hair and holding her to him, Nathan murmured, "Yeah, somehow I don't think you need any persuading at all."
Haley flashed him a saucy smile before finally sucking the delicate flesh into her mouth and biting down with blunt teeth.
Haley smiled as she watched him sleep. She had been awake for a little while now and was lying propped up on her side, her face resting in the palm of her hand. Nathan was lying on his back with his head turned towards her. He looked so relaxed and peaceful and those worry lines she often saw marring his forehead had completely disappeared.
Last night had been incredible and her body was still thrumming from the mere memory of it. At first, he had been a little tentative and had wanted her to take the lead which had felt slightly strange and unnerving but she soon lost those inhibitions mainly due to the delicious sensations that had coursed through her entire being. The way he'd touched her had ignited a fire deep within her that she never wanted extinguished.
It had taken long for Nathan to start actively participating and her face grew warm as she recalled the touch of his lips and tongue on her skin as he'd kissed every inch of her body.
His deep husky voice broke into her thoughts, bringing her back to the present. "Morning," she replied, her smile deepening. "Sleep well?"
"Uh huh… I think someone wore me out last night," he said, smirking. "How long have you been awake?"
"Not long," she replied. "It's still early so we haven't got to get up yet."
Trailing his fingertips up and down her bare arm, he said, "Oh, I've got no intention of getting up at all and I'm not about to let you get out of this bed any time soon so it's too bad if you've got plans."
She laughed at that. "Is that so?"
"Well, I guess it's lucky I haven't made any plans for today."
Interlacing their fingers, Nathan brought her hand to his mouth and pressed a kiss onto the back of it. "Good.
Shifting further down, Haley snuggled in closer to him and brushed her lips over his; a giggle escaping when he instantly rolled her over onto her back and covered her body with his own. "Is this your way of keeping me in bed?"
"Maybe," he replied, bracing his weight on his forearms which were placed either side of her head. Suddenly realizing their position, he couldn't help asking, "Is this okay?"
Keeping her gaze fixed on his, she nodded but instead of answering him verbally, she wrapped her hands around his wrists while, at the same time, hooking her legs over his hips which pulled his lower body flush against her.
"I love you so much, Hales."
The raw emotion she heard in his voice as he said those words made her heart soar. "I love you, too, baby." When he leaned forward so his chest was pressed along her front, she ran her fingers through his hair and turning her head slightly so her mouth was by his ear, she whispered, "And I trust you. I know you'd never hurt me."
"I won't," he stated vehemently.
"Besides, you know I'd kick your ass if you ever did," she teased, wanting to lighten the mood.
Nathan chuckled. Sealing his mouth over hers, he kissed her soft and slow; lightly brushing her cheek with the back of his hand as the passion between them began to spiral out of control. "I can't get enough of you," he said, panting when they eventually drew apart to breathe in some much needed air.
"Me either." Haley could feel his erection against her stomach and she undulated her hips, telling him without words what she wanted. She moaned in the back of her throat when he took her hand in his and slipped it underneath the thin white sheet covering them and wrapped it around his throbbing length.
His eyes fell shut at the gentle, almost reverent way she caressed him and he bit his lip as he felt her place him at her entrance. He waited for that voice in his head to start chanting but it never came and he inwardly sighed. Talking to Haley... finally confessing to her everything about himself and his past had been incredibly freeing and was like a hundred ton weight being lifted off of his shoulders but he wasn't going to be complacent about it. If he wanted his relationship with her to work... and he did, he knew he needed to keep talking and maybe seek professional help like she had suggested.
"Are you okay?"
Opening his eyes, he saw the nervous look on her face and he smiled, trying his best to reassure her. "Just taking a moment," he said. Nuzzling his nose against hers, he covered her mouth with his own and kissed her hotly while his hips rocked into hers. He swallowed her breathy moans and the subsequent gasp she released when he plunged inside of her, holding still for a moment to let them savor the sensation of being so intimately joined.
Their hands wandered everywhere they could reach, their kisses becoming dirtier and more visceral as their coupling turning from languid and leisurely to fast and frantic.
For Nathan, what had taken place last night and now this morning felt so different to all of his previous encounters and, for the first time in his life, he was truly discovering what it meant to make love with someone. The fact it was with Haley, he knew, was what made the real difference. He couldn't imagine feeling this way with anyone else and nor did he want to. Right then, in that very moment, he knew without a shadow of a doubt that he had found the one person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with and while, in the past, that very thought would have scared the crap out of him, now all he felt was a tremendous sense of peace.
Looking down at her; her hair fanned out across the pillow, her teeth biting into her kiss swollen bottom lip, her beautiful expressive eyes gazing adoringly at him... Nathan didn't need words to tell him that she felt the exact same way about him. He could see it in every look she gave him and feel it in every touch.
"Wh-what are you thinking about?" Haley somehow managed to ask. Her fingernails pressed into his shoulder blades as the blunt head of his cock suddenly rubbed against a sensitive spot deep inside of her.
"You," he replied, his voice thick with lust. Kissing the corner of her mouth before burying his face in the nook between her neck and shoulder, Nathan breathed in her unique scent.
It was still very early on in their relationship and he knew he had a fair way to go in dealing with his baggage before he felt totally free and able to settle down. When he married her... and he knew he would, he wanted his past to have finally been laid to rest so he could concentrate on their future together.
October 26, 2014
"What's the matter?" Haley asked her boyfriend, taking note of his unusual behavior. He was all fidgety which wasn't like him at all.
"Nothing," Nathan lied, something he hadn't done since the day he'd come clean to her about his past. Even though the lie wasn't a bad one, it still left a sour taste in his mouth.
"Uh huh. You wanna know how I know you're lying?"
"Shoot," he said, smirking.
"Your lips are moving," she quipped.
"C'mon, sweetie," she said, laughing at the adorable way he scrunched up his nose at the endearment, "I know something's wrong. You've been kind of antsy for days and it's starting to worry me. If anything's bothering you you know you can talk to me."
"I know. You're the one person I know I can tell anything to," he told her, leaning over slightly to take her hand in his.
"So, what's up?"
Nathan looked around, taking in the familiar view. This was their spot in Central Park; the venue of their first official date and somewhere they often revisited whenever they felt the need to relax and breathe in some fresh air. It was a great place to just sit and let the world go by. "Do you remember the first time we came here together?"
"Of course I do," Haley replied, smiling. "As if I'd forget our very first date."
"I spent forever trying to come up with something original and even though I was sure you'd enjoy a picnic in the park, I was worried it was too simple."
She shook her head. "It was perfect and I loved it." Intertwining their fingers, she gave them a gentle squeeze.
"I'm glad to hear that..." They were sitting side by side on the large blanket they had brought with them. Without removing his hand from hers, Nathan maneuvered himself so that he was now positioned on one knee and even though his heart was thumping like crazy and he could feel beads of sweat breaking out on his forehead, he couldn't help smiling at the shocked look she now wore. He was hoping to take her completely by surprise and it appeared that he'd been successful.
"Oh my God," Haley mumbled as the realization of what he was about to do sunk in. Her eyes widened when she saw him remove a small, black velvet box from the pocket of his pants. "Nathan?"
"I love you so much, Haley," Nathan told her, his eyes locked on hers. "You make me happier than I thought I could ever be." Pausing, he swallowed past the lump which had formed in his throat. "Bumping into you that day in the coffee shop was when I really started living life and you made me want to be a better person."
Haley was too choked to speak and she brushed away the tears that had already started to fall.
"You made me want to be good enough to be seen with you."
"You are good enough," she stated, cupping the side of his face and rubbing her thumb along his cheekbone.
Resting his forehead against hers for a moment, Nathan closed his eyes before opening them again a few moments later. Popping open the jewelry box he was holding, he smiled at her reaction to the ring he had chosen especially for her several months ago. The urge to propose had been getting stronger by the day and when the idea to do it on their four year anniversary had entered into his head, everything seemed to fall into place after that; from the location of where to do it, to finding the perfect engagement ring.
"Haley James, will you marry me?"
There was no hesitation at all as Haley automatically nodded her head and said, "Yes... yes, I'll marry you."
Their lips met in an achingly tender kiss and when they drew apart they were both smiling while their eyes were glassy with unshed tears.
Taking Haley's left hand in his, Nathan removed the vintage Tiffany style, platinum and diamond solitaire ring from it's plush velvet bed and slowly slid it onto her ring finger. Bringing her hand up to his lips, his eyes stayed on hers as he pressed a kiss onto the back of it before leaning in and capturing her mouth again.
"I love you so much," she whispered as she got up onto her knees and wrapped her arms around his neck, hugging him tightly.
"I love you, too and I can't wait to marry you." His own arms were banded around Haley's waist.
Her giggle was like music to his ears and that tiny remaining weight he still sometimes felt he carried on his shoulders seemed to finally dissipate and he breathed a quiet sigh of relief. "Please tell me you don't want to have a long engagement," he said, releasing her and leaning back so he could look at his fiancée's beaming face.
"Hmm, it takes a long time to plan a wedding," she teased.
"We could always elope?" Nathan suggested.
"Okay, sure. But only if you're the one who tells that to both sets of parents plus my siblings."
His eyes widened as he imagined doing just that and he knew she had him. "I was thinking more along the lines of us telling everyone after we'd gotten married."
"Yeah, I know," Haley said, laughing. Kissing the corner of his mouth, she continued, "I don't want a long engagement and since I was thinking we'd keep the wedding to just our close family and friends... it shouldn't take too much time to plan everything."
"You don't want a big wedding?" he asked, somewhat surprised.
Haley shook her head. "No. I've always wanted something intimate and fairly simple... nothing too flashy. But if you do, then—"
"No," Nathan quickly interrupted. "What you've described sounds perfect and exactly the kind of wedding I'd prefer us to have, too. I was thinking we could have it in Tree Hill though."
She smiled. "It's like you read my mind. I know New York holds special memories for us but ever since I was a little girl I've wanted my wedding to take place in the grounds of the church where my parents got married. The gardens are so beautiful and the smell from all the flowers in the spring and summer months is just gorgeous. We can hold it somewhere else though if you've got another venue in mind."
"The church gardens sound great," he told her. "I was just going to suggest the beach but I think we should look into your idea first and see what happens."
"Okay," she agreed. Sliding her left hand down his chest, Haley admired the ring adorning her finger. "Thank you for my ring. I love it."
"I wasn't sure if you'd want to pick something yourself but I kind of wanted the proposal to be traditional."
"I'm glad. You have amazing taste," she told him, playfully nipping his chin. A thought suddenly occurred to her and she asked, "When you say you wanted the proposal to be traditional... does that mean you talked to my dad beforehand?"
Nathan nodded shyly. "Yeah. I thought about talking to both him and your mom but knowing that Lydia doesn't always do well with secrets," he quipped, "I figured it was better not to include her."
Haley laughed at that. "I'm pretty sure she would've been straight on the phone to me dropping hints."
"That's what your dad said," he said, laughing along with her.
"So, my dad gave you his blessing, huh?"
"He did." Recalling the phone conversation he'd had with Jimmy, Nathan felt himself breaking out in a sweat at the memory. He'd debated going back home to Tree Hill to do it face to face but he knew he'd have had trouble getting away without Haley finding out and he was sure someone would've let the cat out of the bag upon his arrival there. Thankfully, his future father-in-law had understood his reasons for doing it over the phone and after giving the obligatory warning about never hurting his baby girl and receiving Nathan's assurances that he wouldn't, Jimmy had given his blessing.
"Well, just for the record, I would've still said yes even if he'd said no," Haley told him.
"Good," he replied, punctuating the statement with a firm kiss. "I wouldn't have taken no for an answer anyway."
"I know." She took the lead this time and kissed him, slipping her tongue between his parted lips to tangle with his own. When they eventually drew back from one another long minutes later, she breathlessly asked, "So, have you got anything else planned for us this afternoon?"
"No. Why, what do you have in mind?" Having a fairly good idea of how she was going to answer, the corner of his mouth quirked upwards.
Keeping her gaze locked on his, Haley slowly and deliberately licked her lips before saying, "I just thought we could go home and you know... celebrate in private."
Nathan knew that if he'd been wearing a collared shirt he'd be tugging on it right about now. His skin suddenly felt hot despite the cool breeze blowing around them. "I definitely like the sound of that."
She moaned when he leaned in and nuzzled his lips against hers before slanting his head and fusing their mouths together. One arm twined around his neck while her other hand cradled his cheek. "We can't do this here," she said, laughing softly and quickly glancing around to see if anyone was watching them.
"You sure?" he teased.
"C'mon, let's go home and start celebrating."
"God, I love it when you say that," Nathan told her.
"Well, considering we're living together it is my home."
Just over a year after Nathan's heartfelt confession to her about his past Haley had moved into his apartment with him. If she'd had her way it would have happened sooner but he had been adamant that he wanted them to date for a while longer first; wanting her to be absolutely sure being in a relationship with him was what she wanted because, he'd said, once she was living with him he wasn't going to let her go. She had been about to remind him that they were practically living together already but she decided not to, knowing he wouldn't give in. As great as things were between them, she knew he still bore some of the scars from his past and that he still needed time to fully heal. In the end though, the matter had been taken out of their hands when Lindsey announced she was going to be moving in with Josh.
At first, Haley was worried that Nathan would feel like he was being forced to let her move in with him but when one morning he'd seen her looking through the property section in the local newspaper he had quickly grabbed it from her and tossed it into the trash, telling her he wanted nothing more than for her to move in with him. That he felt completely ready for them to take that next step in their relationship.
In less than a week she'd packed up all of her stuff and had moved into his place. She blushed at the memory of them "officially" christening every room in the apartment, despite the fact they'd pretty much already done that over the course of the past year.
"Yeah, I know. It's just... there's something about hearing you say it that really turns me on."
Haley's cheeks flushed a rosy pink. "Wanna know a secret?" she asked him.
"Always," he replied, kissing the sensitive spot just behind her ear.
She felt a delicious shiver travel though her and she closed her eyes for a moment to savor the feeling.
"What's the secret?" Nathan prompted when she still hadn't answered.
Opening her eyes, she smiled sexily at him. Closing the tiny gap between them, she sucked his bottom lip into her mouth before releasing it with an audible pop. "It really turns me on, too," she whispered.
His eyes darkened to a shade of midnight blue. "Okay, we need to go home... now," he said, his voice thick with lust.
"Yes," she agreed, quickly gathering their belongings.
Scrambling to his feet, Nathan offered Haley his hands which she took and he gently pulled her up. Grabbing the blanket, he didn't bother folding it and he felt his face heat up when he heard her laugh. "Yeah, yeah," he murmured, unable to keep himself from smiling.
Making sure they had everything, Haley slipped her hand into his and laced their fingers together. She was practically having to run to keep up with him as he hurried through the park. Knowing him as she did, she was surprised he hadn't just tossed her over his shoulder so he could make their exit that little bit quicker.
Glancing at his handsome face, Haley then looked down at her ring. Her smile felt so wide that she was sure her face was going to split into two. She couldn't believe she was engaged. If someone had told her that Nathan Scott would wind up being the love of her life... well, she wasn't sure she would've believed them.
Back when they had first met, she the quiet, unassuming tutor and him the overly-confident king of the Tree Hill Ravens, they hadn't anything in common and had come from totally different backgrounds, but somehow their two worlds had collided. Meeting up with him in New York all these years later had been so unexpected and she said a silent prayer of thanks to whomever or whatever had orchestrated their reunion.
As Nathan led her to where they had parked the car, she smiled at him as he turned and looked at her from over his shoulder. The sexy grin he flashed her made her stomach flip-flop and the urge to jump his bones made her wonder whether they would actually make it home. Right now, the backseat of his SUV was sounding pretty damn appealing.
Finally arriving at the vehicle and unlocking it, Nathan practically bundled her into the passenger seat which made her giggle. "Someone's in a hurry," she remarked.
"Hell yeah," he answered. Ducking his head, he leaned into the car so he could seal his mouth over hers. The kiss was in danger of spiraling out of control and he had to force himself to break it. Quickly shutting her door, he raced around to the driver's side and climbed in. After starting the engine, he looked over at his fiancée and smiled at the dreamy expression on her face as she stared at her engagement ring. "Happy?"
"Happy doesn't even come close to how I'm feeling," Haley told him, reaching out to lay her hand just above his knee. "Now, let's go home and get our private party started."
"Yes, Ma'am." He couldn't resist teasing her by asking, "You don't want to give your parents a call first and tell them the happy news?"
"No, I don't but we can do that if you prefer," she quipped.
He shook his head. "We can do that later... much later."
"Uh huh," she said knowingly, giving his thigh a gentle squeeze. The truth was, she was excited to tell all of their family and friends the happy news but, as Nathan said, that could wait until later 'cause right now their private celebration was all she could think about.