I veered over toward a fountain. Reeve handed me a penny before I even asked. He found my desire to wish on stars and pennies to be amusing for someone who didn’t believe in fantasy.
It was one of the few sweet and non-violent impulses that I allowed myself. There was some part of me that wanted that kind of magic to be possible. It had to be. Right?
I stood with my back to the fountain, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath.
‘What do you wish for?’ he asked inside my head.
I peeked one eye open. “I’m not supposed to tell you.” I closed my eye and took another deep breath.
‘Why?’ he asked. I could feel he’d gotten closer to me and it made my heart jump around a little.
“It won’t come true if I say it out loud,” I said.
‘So…. Don’t say it out loud. Just tell me.’ His voice in my head sounded warm and deep.
“It’s against the rules,” I whispered while frowning at him. I could tell he was prowling around in front of me trying to force me to open my eyes.
“THE rules,” I explained. “The unwritten rules regarding wishing on anything….”
‘So, you’re saying that someone thought of our situation when coming up with unwritten rules?’ His tone was amused.
Reeve was really close now. I could feel the warmth from his body. It made me shiver.
“Yes, they knew someday two people would come along who could hear each other’s thoughts and one of them would be vastly annoying about cheating on the wishing rules,” I said.
I scrunched up my nose. I was going to have to try extra hard to block him out so I could make a wish. Actually, most of what I wished for was right in front of me trying to annoy me enough to kick him. I frowned and said, “Actually, the frustrating thing is that if I did tell you what I’d wish for, you’d be forced to try to give it to me. That ruins wishes.”
“Not necessarily,” he said. “Maybe it’d be something I wanted to give you.” He said it in a husky voice that made me wonder what he had in mind even while I shivered again.
“Are you cold?” he asked amused… knowing that I wasn’t.
“Well, if that was the case, if you wanted to give me something, then you could do that without me forcing you to,” I pointed out.
Then, an idea for my fountain wish came to me. I wished Reeve loved me the same way that I loved him. I wished that with every part of myself… especially the girly part that believed in wishing.
‘You know what I’d wish for?’ Reeve asked.
I tossed the coin over my shoulder, opened my eyes, and asked, “What?” while raising an eyebrow.
He was staring down at my hips but looked up smiling. His smile was dangerously close to a smirk. That smile always meant one thing.
I cleared my throat and said, “Never mind. I think I know.”
‘Did you ever decide which step seeing you naked was on this path to mating? I’m guessing we’re not going through these steps very quickly. How many steps are there? Ten? Fifteen?’
His questions sounded vague and thoughtful. I got the feeling he might know more about the steps, so I decided not to attempt a stumbling and embarrassing guess. I didn’t have much input to give. I was four years old even if my memories of the world seemed a little older. He was four hundred and five. He must have gained some carnal knowledge in all those years.
He’d read books. Books had ‘stuff’ in them. I’d read a very interesting book that I’d borrowed from Pamela in which a vampire was the lead male character even. Most of the ‘pertinent’ descriptions had left me feeling a bit ill. I like to think that made me practical and rational. Seriously, who throws around the words “heaving”, “swollen”, and “engorged” thinking it sounds sexy when you could use those same words to describe viewing a case of gangrene. I think the fact that I was repulsed just goes to show you that I saw a more universal application of the adjectives in use.
I looked at Reeve who still had a serious look on his face.
I found it strange that he was wondering about seeing me naked again. I couldn’t figure out what the draw was. I was short and scrawny.
Reeve looked over my body as if considering a puzzle or writing up a checklist, and I shifted uncomfortably.
What if, once he saw the full me, he wasn’t interested anymore in me at all? Maybe he’d get tired of me…. Maybe he secretly wanted someone more like Callie. She looked so statuesque and perfectly perfect. Reeve was perfect. He was huge and muscled. I stared at the frown on his sculpted mouth.
Did it matter if there were any steps beyond kissing? Kissing was pretty amazing. My stomach jumped around like a wild thing trying to fly every time. Why clutter up something perfect with crass groping or my nakedness?
Reeve finally said, “From what I’ve seen, I think there are probably nine steps.’
“Yeah?” I asked aloud. Wow. He must have really thought this through. I might have made up a step just to make it an even ten, though. Reeve wouldn’t. He was strictly honest… sometimes to a fault.
Okay. So he wasn’t perfect… but I didn’t hold his honesty against him.
“I think we’re on two,” he calculated.
Two? Two wasn’t very far. Was he telling me this because we were taking too long?
“Your point?” I asked crossing my arms.
“I just told you,” he said in confusion. “I think seeing you naked is around step seven.”
“Step seven? What are steps uhh….? No. Wait. I don’t want to know. Let’s just get going.”
I started walking and then turned to see him looking at me from behind while walking very slowly.
“You’re starting to make this creepy,” I warned him while putting my hands on my hips.
“I find you fascinating,” he said honestly.
I felt my cheeks flush and my heart start thumping. I felt flattered and terrified. Was that the same as saying he loved me? Probably not. I wondered what step that was. Maybe it wasn’t one in Reeve’s mind. My heart started thudding… from dread.
What if he really didn’t love me? Now that I thought about it, fascinating wasn’t the same as a declaration of affection of any kind.
A snake swallowing a rat was fascinating in a grotesque way. That really clarified the definition in my mind. Fascinating could be documentary-worthy. Then, there was that woman with the world’s longest fingernails in the world record books. That was fascinating.
“It would be nice if it was before step seven. Maybe we could skip steps?” he suggested, dragging my mind away from vile topics.
“We can’t skip steps! That’s why there are steps.” I threw my hands up in the air for emphasis and to distract him from the sound of my nervous heartbeat.
It worked, because, for a moment, he followed my hands with his eyes as if they were saying something. It was wise of him, because most of my hand movements were making a statement. This one was saying, “SKIP STEPS! NO! Then we’ll get to the monster at the end of the book which is where you see me naked and freak out.”
“We can skip step five, though,” he said. “I’m more interested in seeing you naked.”
“We CAN’T skip step five! That’s an important step.” I had no idea what step five was. It could be sharing straws for all I knew. I was just not ready to jettison ahead to step seven.
“We could move step seven up so that it’s step four or five and just slide the remainder of the steps backward. We wouldn’t be skipping things that way,” he suggested.
I narrowed my eyes.
“You’ve seen me naked,” he pointed out.
I choked a little. Wow. That memory was both disturbing and good. “It wasn’t by choice. You and all the Hunters seem to think the Inner City is some sort of men’s locker room.”
“You were the first female there in five hundred years.”
“Just because you prefer for there not to be any mystery….”