It’s two in the morning.
Natalie has been trying to get to sleep for three hours now. Normally, she’d be out like a light in five minutes or less, mainly from the stress of it all – or the sadness. But today is different.
Today her mind is occupied by Nick Bradley.
He’s in the bedroom next to hers. She can’t stop thinking about the way he’d kissed her earlier that day, like he just couldn’t bear not to.
She’d swept him off his feet into a waltz like it was the easiest thing in the world. After a stop at Kessler’s table to gleefully tell a lie and nervously fake an accent, they were dancing together for the first time.
She knew an attraction between a Le Candide waitress and supposed German officer would be alright, even beneficial, for Lifeline – which is why Monique let them dance together. Still, Natalie didn’t exactly need any Nazi creeps hearing too many details about her personal life. She whispered, “Can we talk about... earlier?”
She was suddenly lost for words, and started mumbling, barely audible. “I... well, um... I liked, uh...”
“You liked it?”
She finally breathed out. “Yes.”
“Well, that’s very flattering.”
They spun a little too quickly and stumbled into the piano. Paul, who was Monique’s pianist and just as tired of Nick as she was, rolled his eyes without even looking at them, and they carried on.
“What about you?” she asked.
“What about me?”
“Did you like it too?”
“Of course. I did it twice, after all.”
She sighed and smiled, and the song ended. Natalie felt Monique’s eyes shooting daggers at her, but she couldn’t bring herself to care. She and Nick parted ways: Natalie to pour drinks for some leering German at the bar, and Nick to sit at a table and pretend he was paying for what he ordered.
She thinks about the way he‘d kiss her now, at two in the morning, in the near-privacy of her tiny bedroom. If he’d kiss her like he had earlier in the day, in that life-or-death high. Probably not – nothing in her bedroom poses any immediate danger. But who knows, maybe he just kisses like that.
She rolls onto her other side and huffs out a breath. She’ll never know, anyway – new relationships these days are bound to end in disaster. Usually one of two disasters – forced separation, or death. So if anything were to happen, she’d be spending all her time crossing her fingers for forced separation.
And she still doesn’t know what he really thinks. She doesn’t know very much about him. And she doesn’t even know if what he has told her is true. There’s just something about him. Monique would call it arrogance, or carelessness, or maybe even charm, when she’s in one of her better moods – but Natalie doesn’t want to put a word to it.
Before she knows what she’s doing, she’s at his door, knocking so softly she may as well not even be doing it. After a few seconds, though, she hears a faint hmmph from the other side of the door. She cracks the door open a little and peers in to find Nick sitting up in bed, surprisingly wide-eyed for a man who’s just woken up. He must be a light sleeper, she thinks. He has to be.
“Hello, Nick. I’m sorry to bother you,” she says.
He suddenly looks afraid, from what she can see in the dim moonlight streaming through the barely-there curtains. “Is something wrong?” he asks.
“No. Not at all.” She searches her mind for something that would justify her sudden appearance in his bedroom in the middle of the night, without absolutely terrifying him. “I was thinking about you and now I can’t sleep.”
Jesus. She suddenly realises she’s spent three hours daydreaming and hasn’t actually planned a single thing to say.
“You can’t sleep because you were thinking about me?” he asks. He flicks a switch on his bedside lamp to fill the room with light, making him wince and cover his eyes.
She squints into the light and finds that he wears striped pyjamas. He holds up a hand and gestures for her to come in. The click of the door behind her is surprisingly loud. “Yes. About... earlier.”
“Oh.” He seems to come to his senses, but his face drops a little. “I’m sorry.”
“No! No, that wasn’t what I meant.”
“Then why is it keeping you awake?”
She’s officially messing this up. Well, while she’s at it, she may as well completely ruin it.
“Because I can’t stop thinking about doing it again.”
He pushes the covers off his lap and gets out of bed, making the bedsprings creak until there’s only a painful silence. She’s known him for weeks now – more than a year, actually, if you count the weekend last autumn – and she’s never once seen him look awkward. But right now, staring at the ground and shuffling his feet, he looks positively nervous.
She takes a few steps forward. “I hope I haven’t offended you,” she says.
“You haven’t,” he says, walking forward to meet her in the middle of the room. “I promise.”
Suddenly, they’re less than a foot apart. He brings a hand up to the nape of her neck and pulls her gently towards him, until their lips meet and the fingers of his other hand lace with hers. He‘s the only person she’s ever kissed who hasn’t tasted like cigarettes.
He pulls away from her and brings his hands back to his sides.
“Well, I hope that helps you get to sleep.”
He turns back to the bed. She simultaneously feels rejected and irritated. She’s desperate for it to be just another Nick Bradley quip.
Luckily, it is.
He spins back around to her and smiles. “Kidding,” he says, laughing, and takes her face in his hands again, kissing her more passionately this time. Her hands start to move from his waist to his shoulders to his chest, unsure of where to linger.
She pulls away only for a second. “You’re an absolute bastard,” she says, grinning widely before going straight back to kissing him.
“You love it,” he grumbles as his hand travels down to her ass, grabbing it through the thin fabric of her cotton chemise.
Caught off guard, she makes a noise similar to a squeak, and feels pleased laughter through his kiss. She does love it.
He kneels down just slightly and picks her up off the floor, and she wraps her legs around him. Careful not to trip over anything, he walks to his bed and gently lays her down, moving to kiss across her jaw and down her neck. She finds herself moaning when he kisses behind her ear, and whimpering when he finds her lips again. He really does just kiss like that.
His pyjamas are charming but ultimately irritating, so she undoes the buttons as quickly as possible. His arm muscles are well defined, and he has a small tummy that she finds herself incredibly attracted to.
He notices her staring at his stomach. “Sorry, angel. All that free wine.” He kisses her again.
“You do know it isn’t free, don’t you?” she says. He smiles, playfully placing a finger on her lips and quietly shushing her. She kisses his finger before adding, “And don’t apologise. I like it.”
His façade seems to fall away just for a moment as he blushes and averts his gaze. “Thank you,” he murmurs. He quickly returns to kissing her, moving his hands down to the bottom of her chemise and slowly pushing it upwards. “Is this alright?”
“Of course,” she responds, sitting up to help him. He smiles and pulls the chemise over her head, exposing herself to him nearly completely. “Well, now I feel underdressed.”
“I suppose I should be a gentleman, then. Even things out.” He quickly stands up again, and the space between them is suddenly unbearable. He pushes his pyjama bottoms down and kicks them off, revealing worn tartan boxers.
“I didn’t know you were Scottish, Nick,” she jokes.
He laughs, returns to the bed, and kisses her soundly, running his hands up the sides of her body. He grabs her thigh and moves her leg so it wraps around his hip. He grinds into her and grunts, making them both laugh in flirtatious joy.
“How long have you been wanting to do this?” she asks him while he nuzzles her neck and pinches one of her nipples.
He looks up at her through soft brown hair, now falling over his eyes. “Forever.”
It takes her mind back to the day they met, when he pinned her on the floor and growled no noise. “Nick, darling, can you do me a favour?”
He nods and smiles. “Of course.”
“Say ‘no noise’.”
He kisses her deeply, tucking a piece of blonde hair behind one of her ears. He pulls away just barely, and whispers, “No noise.”
Her stomach flips and her chest swells, and she‘s overcome with emotion. She’s kissing Nick, mostly naked, and soon they’ll be making love. And yes, her heart pounds with desire. The space between her skin and his skin feels electric, like she’ll be shocked any moment. She’s never wanted anyone this badly. But mostly, she’s struck by how much she loves him. Despite his bluntness, his pride, and his occasional lack of tact: she loves him.
He takes off her underwear, kisses her forehead, and looks at her with a kind of utter sincerity she’s never seen in him before. She knows she’ll always treasure this feeling. More than that, she knows she’ll spend the rest of her life chasing it. And she knows that he does feel the same way as her, at least a little bit, even if he doesn’t know it yet.
He takes off his own boxers and climbs over her, taking his time. “Are you alright, angel?” he asks, and she figures he’s noticed her sudden bout of introspection.
“I’m wonderful.” She pauses, and blushes. “Thank you for calling me that.”
”My pleasure, angel.” He aligns his body with hers and moves himself into position, entering her slowly but surely. “Tell me if it hurts.”
Thankfully, it doesn’t. It‘s unfamiliar, of course, but in no way uncomfortable. His thrusts start shallow, getting deeper and deeper until the bed starts to creak.
“Sorry,” he says between heavy breaths.
“Don’t worry about it,” she pants. “Just tell Monique you were testing the bedsprings.”
He lets out a breathy laugh and speeds up. He kisses her anywhere he can reach, and she wraps her legs around his back, wanting him as close to her as possible. They’re both at least trying to be silent, the only sounds being somewhere in between loud breathing and quiet moaning. But when she grabs a fistful of his hair and pulls just slightly, he growls. She leans into his ear and whispers, “No noise.”
That nearly sends him over the edge by itself, but he holds back just enough to make sure she comes, too, his fingers on her and his tongue in her mouth. He follows shortly after, finishing inside her with a groan slightly louder than he intended.
They stay like that for a few moments before he pulls out and she uses the facecloth on his bedside table to clean up. She rolls over on her other side so he can hold her, and she runs her fingers across his chest.
“How are you?” he asks.
“Lovely. And you?”
“Excellent,” he says, a smile spreading across his face.
She moves her hand up to caress his cheek and he looks her in the eye. He kisses her so gently and so sweetly that she knows this won’t be the last time.
After a while, she starts to get cold, so she slips on her underwear and his pyjama top. When she turns back to Nick he’s lying on his side, patting her side of the bed. She gets in, pulls the covers over them and faces away, so he can hold her from behind.
After she switches the lamp off, he pulls her closer to him and kisses her shoulder. “Please sleep here tonight.”
She feels him smile against her shoulder. “Just warning you... I talk in my sleep.” Soon, his breathing slows and his fingers on her stomach relax.
After a few minutes, she still can’t get to sleep. And yes, still because of Nick – but only because he’s an eager cuddler, and she’s suddenly very, very warm. She tries her best to ease him off gently, and eventually she succeeds.
But it feels wrong not to touch him at all, so she places her hand in his. He squeezes her hand and mumbles incoherently for a while before saying in a slightly clearer voice:
”Sleep with me, Natalie Bradley.”
She knows he’s only sleep-talking. And he probably only forgot her surname – it is difficult to pronounce, at least for him. Some wires in his brain just crossed. But it feels nice to hear. Especially from him. The words Natalie Bradley bounce off the walls of her mind, but the ones that settle, deep and heavy, are sleep with me.