Our First Kiss for the Fifteenth Time
In the history of kissing, no one sucked at it as much as we did. Seriously. It was like slapping Ken and Barbie together and expecting their plastic mouths to sizzle with friction. No. It was worse than that. It was like slapping cardboard cut-outs of Ken and Barbie together. We had no chemistry while kissing. It was awkward to watch—everyone said so. Someone commented that we looked as uncomfortable as if we were siblings. It made me want to cry. I’d never had this much problem kissing someone.
The play’s director was ready to cut the scene entirely. It wasn’t integral to the plot, and we were just stinking it up. That’s what you always want to hear to really buoy up your self-esteem. People would rather you not kiss…than kiss. Rylan had convinced Chuck, the director, to give us a chance to practice without an audience, so here we sat on stools in the middle of a spotlight in an empty theatre.
Even without an audience, I was nervous.
The dust twinkled in the light around him like it knew what I did: Rylan was supernaturally hot. His dark hair caught the light too and shone and shimmered. The black almost looked like it had streaks of purple or blue in it—in this light.
His brown eyes glanced up from the script he’d been frowning at. “You have kissed before, right?”
My mouth dropped open. I had no idea what I’d expected him to say, but it wasn’t that. “You mean on stage?” I asked finally.
He smiled…that lop-sided grin with one dimple in his left cheek and his eyebrows raised slightly. “Yes, on stage. I have no doubt you’ve kissed plenty off-stage, Lia.”
Plenty? Was he implying I was easy? No, that didn’t make sense. “Yeah, I was in the community theatre’s Guys and Dolls last year.” I sounded defensive, but I had no idea why we sucked at kissing.
When he’d been picked as the lead, it was as if all my dreams had come true in one moment. I’d been looking forward to kissing him. In fact, I’d been disappointed that there was only one kiss in the whole thing.
Then, we’d kissed.
And, wow, it had blown.
In all my twenty-three years, I’d never felt less alive. I swear, the souls of all those present died a little while witnessing two people kiss this badly.
“It must be me, then,” Rylan said now, looking back at the script. “I’ve never kissed in front of people. It’s…weird.” He was new in town, and he’d originally just wanted to do the scenery for the production, but the director had conned him into reading for the part.
Maybe it was him? Maybe he always kissed bad?
No. There was no way.
“Are you married?” he asked suddenly.
“No!” I got to my feet and turned away, pretending to be studying the script. Was I married? He actually knew so little about me that he had to ask that?
In comparison, I was full-on stalker. I knew he wasn’t married. I knew that he worked at the retirement home as an assistant. I knew he drove an old Ford pickup that still had Georgia plates. He smelled like cinnamon gum and hummed country songs under his breath.
Was I married? Was it wrong to start crying now? Maybe he’d think I was getting into character. No wonder we sucked as an onstage couple. He had absolutely no interest in me outside of my role.
“Are you dating anyone?” he asked.
“No,” I muttered.
That should have been his first question. It was at least something he might not know. That was my problem after all. I’d broken it off with my on-and-off date when I’d realized just how much I wanted to be available should Rylan be interested. Mick had taken the news well, of course, because we were better friends than anything more. He’d picked up that I was hot for someone, and he’d found it hilarious. It was so much less funny now.
“Maybe that’s the problem,” Rylan said, coming up behind me.
“What?” Please let him not have been reading my mind just then.
“I think we’re both acting too much.” He was less than a foot away. I could smell his cinnamon gum and feel the heat from his body. Just like always—every rational thought fled my brain and left me stupid. “I’m not married…or dating anyone.”
“I know.” I blinked at the script. Why had he thrown that out there? Why had I responded? Crap. Lia, it was time to be quiet. No more talking. You are just bound to blurt out stupid things from here on out.
His hands slid onto my hips, and he dropped the script to the stage. It fluttered across my feet. What was he doing? The script on the ground was open to the appropriate page. He was meant to say, “I’m not going to let him get away with that.” I was supposed to reply, “Nobody should, Johnny. Nobody.” Then, we kissed passionately before he exited stage right, and I looked after him longingly. I got that part. I pretty much looked after him longingly every time he went anywhere.
Wow. He was close. His hand reached around and grabbed the script from my hand and tossed it down on the stage. Okay. Improvising. We were improvising. I was lousy at that. Then, his hand slid across the back of my hand in a caress.
“What if we met just how they did?” he asked.
“What?” I whispered.
“There is no stage, Lia. Just you and me. We met at your dad’s store just like in the play,” he said.
I watched his fingers trace my skin. It made me shiver. “My dad doesn’t own a store,” I said before I could think better of it.
He laughed and slipped an arm around my waist, pulling me against him. I was going up in flames…so hot. His fingers that had been tracing my arm went up to the collar of my shirt and pulled at it slightly.
“I’ve always wondered what this tattoo is of,” he said.
“It’s a dragonfly,” I whispered, pulling it over slightly, so he could see it. “My dad called me his little dragonfly. I got it when his cancer went into remission.” His lips pressed against the small tattoo, and my knees nearly gave out.
“We met at a store…then. A bakery,” he said.
“Why a bakery?” I asked, tipping closer to him and closing my eyes. I was getting into character…that was all.
“I like sweet things,” he said, kissing my neck.
Thank goodness no one else was here. I was raging inside, my heart pounding. Any other woman who saw me right at this second would be able to tell I wasn’t acting. This wasn’t acting. This was a dream come true.
Except, he was acting.
It threw a bucket of cold water on me as it always did. I stiffened up in his arms. He hadn’t even known I wasn’t married! Pulling out of his arms, I took a few steps forward.
“Look, this isn’t working. We should just have them cut the scene,” I murmured. I willed my heart to stop beating so fast and for my skin to quit wanting his hands back on me. It was an act, Lia. It was all an act.
“What if it was our first kiss?” he said, stepping around in front to face me.
“It’s not. We’ve tried this fourteen times already,” I ground out. Fourteen times we’d proven that he couldn’t even rouse enough passion to act interested in me.
He laughed and grabbed the belt loops on my jeans, tugging me into his arms.
I could stare at his shirt. No problem.
“Why do you get all scrunched up like this if you’re not with someone else?” he asked, wrapping his arms around me.
“What?” It surprised me enough that I met his eyes.
“This! The moment I get close to you, you freeze up…like being near me would be wrong.”
“You’re just acting. We’re just acting.” Crap. Why had I said that?
“I’m not…not really.” His hand came up to cup my chin. “Do you know what I’d do if I was kissing you for the first time?”
“For the fifteenth time,” I whispered.
His thumb rubbed across my lower lip. “For the first time,” he said again. “Those other times don’t count. That was Johnny and Linda. This is Rylan and Lia.”
Okay. I liked the sound of that.
“First, I’d hold you really close like this,” he said, tightening his arms around me. “You’d put your arms around my neck.”
I was really good at taking directions. It felt natural to slide my arms around his neck.
“I’d go slow because you seem unsure, and I’m trying to convince you to give me a chance.” He leaned down. “Maybe I wouldn’t kiss your mouth first. Maybe I’d give you a chance to get used to me.” He kissed my cheek, but then without pulling away, slid to the corner of my mouth and kissed there. “Did you know you have a mole right here that I’ve wanted to explore with my tongue?” His tongue whispered across the corner of my mouth where I had a tiny mole. “You taste sweet,” he whispered.
I turned my head, capturing his mouth. Enough was enough. Our lips pressed together—warmly, softly. Not like plastic. Not this time. When his lips opened, I tugged his mouth tighter against mine with my hands on the back of his head. My tongue met his. Cinnamon. Hot cinnamon. His hands cupped my hips, pressing me against him.
Mmm. This was a dream…a fantasy.
When he pulled back, I was confused for a moment, even a little dizzy. I opened my eyes to stare at him. I was panting from excitement—out of breath and stunned. Wow. That was….
Then, I realized.
That was acting.
I scrambled backwards. Betrayal slammed through me. This was why I hadn’t been giving in to what I felt. In four weeks, the play would be run and we’d go our separate ways…except he’d keep my heart. I’d been terrified of putting my whole heart into this and, now, with a few smooth words he’d conned me into it.
“What?” he asked.
Oh crap. I was going to cry. I had to get out of here. I had to escape with whatever bit of my dignity hadn’t responded just then. I most definitely hadn’t been acting. I snatched the script off the floor and went to grab my jacket. Escape. Get out.
“Lia!” he said, grabbing my arm. “I know you felt something just then, so why do you keep running from it?”
Running? I was trying not to get my heart shattered here, and he was acting like I was a coward.
“Look,” I said, staring toward the door at the back of the theatre. If he’d let go of my arm…. “I’m not really good at these things without getting emotional. I’m not that good at acting.”
“You were acting?” He sounded shocked.
I cleared my throat. “Weren’t you?”
“No. Are you kidding? I wouldn’t even have taken this role if not for you. When I read the script and saw this scene, I couldn’t imagine watching anyone else kiss you over and over without wanting to throw something.”
“You asked me if I was married.”
“I was trying to make a point. I knew you weren’t married.”
I turned to stare at him. This was just too good. My brain was making this up. “You weren’t acting?” I whispered.
He smiled and shook his head. “No. Do you want to see what happens when Lia and Rylan kiss for the first time for the sixteenth time?” He tugged me into his arms.
“I don’t know. Their first time for the fifteenth time was pretty good.”
He threw the script on the stage again.
“This time, it’s completely unscripted, though,” he said, his head lowering. His hands cupped my hips. “Don’t worry. I’ll take care of your lines.” His caress of my hips was so suggestive it was funny.
I laughed, and then his mouth touched mine, and we kissed for the sixteenth time…for the first time.
Copyright © 2013 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked Our First Kiss for the Fifteenth Time, you’ll love How to Bring Your Love Life Back from the Dead.