Caroline and the Third Kiss
Caroline sighed, finishing dashing at her tears as she listened to the door close behind Del. It was over. She was no longer a bride... no longer somebody's future wife. Why wasn't she more upset by this?
She touched her fingers to her lips, still able to feel the tingling burn left behind by the slide of Richard's lips on hers. His kiss had been so passionate, so... full of longing. There was no way he would kiss her like that and then claim it to be a new personality quirk. And what had he said? Something about a letter? Why would he write her a letter about becoming freer? It didn't add up.
Then again... what did, when it came to him? The ease with which he endeared himself to her didn't add up, given his dour personality. Her attraction to the dark, wounded side of him? That certainly didn't add up, either. The way her body reacted the two times they'd kissed? Again, it just didn't add up. She reached for the phone and hit the first speed-dial button, sitting down with her back to the back of the couch... the precise place she'd sat the last time she'd called him like this.
"If you're calling for drugs, you've got the wrong number."
Her eyes slid closed as a smile flitted across her lips. The fact that his voice gave her butterflies? -- also did not add up. "Richard, it's me."
"Caroline, um... I'm kind of busy. What do you need?"
Her chin slowly lowered to her chest, and she closed her eyes. "Look, um, I-I'm sorry to bother you, but..." Her voice broke with tears. "Can I come and see you?"
There was a pause on the other end, and when he spoke again his voice was filled with concern... tenderness. Her heart swelled at the sound. "Are you okay?"
"I'm, um... I think so. I'm just... sort of confused. I need to see you."
She could practically feel him nodding his head on the other end of the line, and wondered how she so often could sense him like that. "Stay where you are," he told her hastily, "I'll be right over."
The line went dead before she could respond.
The sound of keys jingling in the lock startled Caroline out of the pseudo-stupor she'd fallen into, and she sprang to her feet, swiping at her still-falling tears as Richard came through the door. He took a long look at her while setting his keys on the fish tank, and was at her side with one big stride, standing toe-to-toe with her while he stared analytically at the tear tracks on her face. "What's the matter?"
The tenderness in his voice brought on another wave of tears, and as Caroline closed her eyes to will them away, she gasped at the feel of his hands on her face. He was wiping away her tears. With eyes still closed, she swayed under the attention, reaching her hands out to brace herself... placing them on Richard's chest.
He tugged her a little closer, sending her stomach into somersaults as he enquired softly once more, "What's the matter, Caroline?"
"Del and I called off the wedding," she whispered, slowly opening her eyes and turning them up to his.
His own widened. "You what? Why?"
Caroline held his gaze, searching the sable depths before her as she replied, "He wasn't my sincere amore."
She then watched him gulp and draw in a shuddering breath. She knew just what he was thinking about. "Uh... Caroline--"
"You kissed me in Remo's," she dove in, unwilling to spend another moment dancing around the important question on her mind.
He nodded, just barely; nervous. "I know."
"I told you, it was because--"
"Richard, please don't lie to me," she whispered. She took one more step into him, completing her invasion of the personal space he guarded so fiercely. He didn't flinch. She tipped her chin up, almost in a challenge, and asked again... slower... "Why did you kiss me?"
"Uh..." Richard was searching her eyes almost frantically now, knowing he was too close to be able to make an escape, even if he wanted to. "Be-because..."
She gave him a dimpled smile. "Because why, Richard?" she baited.
He stared into her guileless eyes and saw nothing but acceptance, caring... and maybe a bit of a dare. He straightened his spine, taking the challenge. "Because I've been dying to kiss you again since we met."
"So what's stopping you from doing it a third time?"
His eyes widened, and she chuckled.
"Before you ask, I'm completely sane. Not to mention completely unattached." She paused. "I want you to kiss me again, Richard."
Richard nodded slowly as his hands framed her face, "Okay," and he began to lean in...
"On one condition," she interjected, and he pulled away looking panicked. She just grinned all the wider at the sight and whispered, "Go slow this time."
A smile previously unseen by anyone lit his features for a fleeting moment before he brought his lips to hers. The kiss began chastely, tentatively... but when Richard took her bottom lip between his, everything came crashing down around them. Caroline's lips fell open and she accepted the gentle slide of his tongue, timidly greeting hers. His arms closed around her waist and pulled her flush against him. She wrapped her arms around his neck and held on for dear life as he kissed her like she'd never been kissed before.
This was it. This was real; tangible. A dream she'd been suppressing, seemingly since she met the enigmatic artist in her arms, was finally coming true. She hadn't even realized how deeply in love with him she'd been until their mouths fused together. And she was stunned by how right it felt -- as if they'd been lovers for years.
When Richard bound his arms tight around her waist and lifted her, only to turn them so she was leaning back against the door, she sighed against his lips. Her fingers found their way to his silken tufts of blond hair and dove into them; she relished the feeling of him shuddering against her in response.
For what felt like hours, they kissed... touched; they got acquainted with each other on a more intimate level. When oxygen became an issue, they'd break the kiss, only to lean their foreheads together in hopes of keeping the mind-blowing connection. Caroline's hands would rest on Richard's chest while his hands stroked her hips and sides... and when an adequate amount of air had come back to them, they'd melt into each other all over again.
The fifth (or perhaps sixth or seventh) time they broke away from each other, Caroline almost started crying from the look of pure happiness on Richard's face. He drew her hands up from his chest, kissing her knuckles, eyes diving into hers as he asked her, "Would you like to go for a walk? Tell me what happened with Del?"
She couldn't help the grin. "It's raining, Richard."
"I know. Perfect. The rain is washing the city clean, opening things up to begin anew..."
"Wow," she breathed. Who knew he could get so poetic?
"We can take an umbrella."
She smiled as he pulled fully out of their embrace and reached for the umbrella she always kept near the door, while Caroline grabbed her jacket. "You really want to hear about me and Del?"
Richard looked pained for a moment -- he really didn't want to -- but he nodded nonetheless, his response quiet. "Sure."
He took her hand and led her to the elevator, and Caroline marveled at how affectionate he was, rubbing the back of her hand with his thumb. As they got on the elevator, he added, "Besides, there's a letter I need to tell you about."
Caroline smiled and allowed Richard to pull her into another kiss as the doors slid shut.