Crime Traveller – From a Different Angle
The world seemed to have been turned on its axis - it was six o'clock in the morning, and Jeff Slade was already wide awake. Considering it was his day off this was unusual, but it wasn't every Saturday morning that we woke up in bed next to Holly Turner. Or, more accurately, partly underneath her.
On the rare occasions he did stir early, he never had problems getting back to sleep, but this morning had been different; once he set eyes on Holly lying there, any chance of him dropping off again vanished. She didn't seem to be having this problem at all; in fact, Slade had never seen anyone sleeping so peacefully, and the whole picture made his heart swell. This was what it felt like. It was a feeling he had tried to imagine many times in the weeks and months in the lead-up to the previous evening, and during all those nights alone in his own bed. But his imagination didn't come close to doing justice to how he actually felt now.
A year ago, the current scenario would never have entered his head. After his wife died, he told himself that was it, that was his chance gone, and it was almost a conscious decision never to go looking for another one. But that was because he had assumed he would never meet anyone like Jessica ever again – and in a sense that was completely true; Holly was nothing like his former wife, and that was how she had been able to creep up on him like she had. Whereas Jessica was almost like a female version of him – probably why they clicked so quickly – he and Holly were complete opposites in almost every way. That was part of what made her so continually fascinating to him; she constantly confounded his expectations, always kept him guessing. As he glanced down at Holly, tucked into his side and breathing softly, Slade reflected on the fact that this was the first time he'd ever made the transition with a woman from a position of friends to something more. In the past, it was a case of meeting someone, finding them attractive and getting on with it. But with Holly, he really knew her and even though he hadn't yet spoken the words out loud, he already loved her – and strongly suspected that she loved him, too. Which, he supposed, was probably why their first night together has been so great.
For a while he had started to wonder whether it would ever happen because, where women were concerned, Holly broke all the rules. Well, the rules he understood and lived by. It wasn't as though he doubted her feelings – in fact, she was terrible at keeping them hidden – but he had no idea how to act on the feelings of his own. It was easier to keep up the playful teasing than to get serious – at least until Stephen Marlowe arrived on the scene. That had been somewhat of a wake-up call for Slade, suddenly catapulting him to a place of uncertainty. He had been coasting, assuming he had Holly's complete attention, and he was rudely confronted with the possibility that his position at the centre of her universe was vulnerable. Not that this was what last night had been about – it wasn't about staking his claim. It was about finally being honest with Holly and with himself; putting the missing components in place.
Slade reached down and gently moved a strand of hair that had fallen across Holly's face, admiring the view he had of her bare shoulders, arms and back. He should have realised that she would deal with his romantic advances in the same way she approached any of his propositions – with trademark suspicion and caution. As he'd moved in to kiss Holly for the first time, she seemed ready to accept it, before abruptly stopping him with a hand on his chest. When she'd asked what he was doing, Slade couldn't help laughing at the absurdity of the question, but it was actually the best thing had could have happened, as any tension there had been completely evaporated. Moments later, his second attempt was much more successful.
He had no idea how much time passed between those exploratory first kisses on the couch and finding himself cradled between Holly's legs in her bed, but these were memories that would now be hard to rival. He thought about how she had stopped him briefly, and told him shyly, almost apologetically, that he was only the second man she had ever been with. Why she thought it mattered, Slade didn't know, but he still loved the fact that she'd told him. His own lack of recent experience had been circling his mind, too, but as it was, neither of them had need to worry.
The hand on Slade's chest twitched slightly; Holly was waking up. He saw her look at the position of her hand before angling her head to look up at him. This was possibly the most perfect sight that had ever greeted him.
"'Morning," he whispered.
"Good morning," she replied, a coyness in her voice that was matched by the mild blush that came over her.
"Don't normally see you from this angle," Slade said, smiling. "I like it, though."
Holly shifted her weight onto her elbow, her skin still touching his.
"I like it, too," she said.
"What, being able to see straight up my nose?" Slade grinned.
"Well, it's different."
"Is it something you could get used to?"
She took a breath, holding it there as though considering his question.
"I think so," she said finally, with a smile.
"Last night..." he began, fishing for an adjective that might do it justice, "...was astonishing."
Holly laughed, shyly.
"Yes, it was."
"It's pretty rare for the reality to be even better than the fantasy," he added.
Holly sat up a little, pulling the duvet with her. She raised an eyebrow at him in her familiar way.
"Fantasy? So last night was premeditated, then?"
Slade stroked her shoulder gently, revelling in the fact that he now had permission to touch her this way.
"Let's just say I was hopeful," he said. "Just waiting for the right time."
"I should be flattered," Holly replied. "That must be the first time in your life that you've planned anything."
Slade grinned; it was a relief that despite recent developments, the elements of their friendship that he loved most were still there, including Holly's gentle mocking of some of his less desirable attributes.
"While I'm on a roll," he said. "I think we should start planning the next generation of time-travellers. I can just see a handful of little scientific geniuses running around the place, what do you think?"
He saw Holly's eyes widen, clearly trying to determine how serious he was being. Slade wasn't even sure himself, but if Holly was to call his bluff and say yes, it was something for which he felt completely ready.
"Slade, we don't even know if we could tolerate living under the same roof!" she replied.
"I'm sure you're not that bad," he grinned.
"Seriously, what's to tolerate?" Slade countered. "I'm clean, I'm house-trained and it's not every day you get the offer of a live-in cook."
"Well, if you want to make me breakfast, we can take it from there," Holly said.
"Well, I can have that effect," Slade joked, dodging the mock swipe that came in his direction. He caught Holly's hand and pulled her closer to him again, realising it had been too long since their last kiss. She willingly kissed him back, lacing her fingers through his hair and pulling him towards her until she was pinned beneath him again. Slade had to admit there was a lot of enjoyment to be had from discovering this side to Holly.
"If this is your idea of me getting you breakfast," Slade murmured, kissing her neck. "I'm happy to provide lunch, dinner, afternoon tea and assorted snacks, too."
Holly giggled, and Slade brought her hand to his lips in a gentle kiss. Funny, he could see a certain piece of jewellery looking good on that hand before too long. But that was for the future. Right now, he was happily resigned to a weekend that would hopefully exclude getting dressed or leaving the haven of 67 Sundown Court. And the way Holly was acting, it didn't look as though she'd argue with that plan...