Breathe Me Page 6

They were dead now. Long gone, in a freak plane accident. Just like that. Gone.

The sting of tears prickled at my eyes and I swerved away, heading to grab my purse at the entrance table and check my drying hair one more time in the ornate silver mirror on the wall above. It was drying well into soft spirals which looked like I’d done the style on purpose. I shook off the sadness and turned back toward Sasha, who was watching me intently. Once again, I forced a smile across my face, grateful he didn’t ask many questions.

“Let’s go.”

Chapter Seven


SHE WAS STUNNING, and the way her hazel-brown eyes glinted with a sheen of tears building and the slight pink blossoming across her face as she stared at her family’s portrait made me want to run to her, pull her into my arms and kiss her gently, even though I knew she would pull away almost immediately. She was utterly alone, but she didn’t have to be.

“Really, where are you taking me? You know how much I hate surprises.” Her voice echoed from the passenger side of my sedan. I saw her eyes flash as I opened the door for her and she slipped into the clean, new leather interior. She made it obvious that she hadn’t ridden in too many fancy cars before. I was happy to see that I’d impressed her somewhat, even if she had pushed away the surprised look in the hope I hadn’t yet seen it. But I had seen it. That was all that mattered.

“You’ll love this one.” I smirked, knowing it was going to make her a little flustered. I knew she didn’t like surprises, I’d known her well at one point in our lives. How quickly she’d forgotten the good between us. I always surprised her back then, knowing full well it would piss her off. The memory made my lips twitch into a small grin. Those days had been the best of my life, yet I had thrown them away like a fool. Here I was, years later, making up for it big time.

“Nice set of wheels.”


“Guess your business is doing really well from the looks of it.”

“It’s doing pretty good.”

“Why’d you pick me up in a taxi yesterday?”

“My car was being repaired. The AC wasn’t working right. In this heat, have to get it done ASAP. Plus….” I grinned as I waited for her to buckle in. “Sometimes it’s nice when someone else is driving.”

“That’s for sure.”

I turned the radio on, and Smash Mouth blasted through the speakers. It reminded me of my high school, and I left it on. Piper didn’t seem bothered and even started bobbing her head to the beat.

“You’re not going to tell me, are you?”

“Tell you what?”

“What the surprise is.”


She sighed and leaned on the window, staring glumly through it. She may have hated surprises, but I knew she would love this one, she just didn’t know it yet.

“Okay, when I hit that signal up there, close your eyes.”

She whipped her head around to face me, her eyes wide like I had a horn growing out my forehead. “No! Why?”

“Close your eyes, almost there.”

“I’m not closing my eyes.”

“Piper,” I eyed her in my periphery. She had always liked to try my patience. “Please? Just once. I promise I won’t do any more surprises this week.”

“This week?”


My pleading wore her out, and she complied, crossing her arms to make it obvious she wasn’t at all happy about it. “Fine. This better be worth it.”

“Oh, it is.” I licked my lips, almost laughing out loud at her stubbornness. Turning the car into a busy parking lot, I found a spot right away and switched the engine off. Jumping out, I jogged over to her side of the car and pulled the door open. “Ready? Keep them closed one more minute! Just be careful stepping down.”

“I’m going to break an ankle.”

“We really don’t want that happening, hun. Especially here.”

The distant thumping of bass music vibrated the ground, even out here in the parking lot. Piper tilted her head to listen to the sounds, and I could see her visibly start breathing faster, an apparent frown forming on her lips.

“Okay, open your eyes.”

Her lids slowly slipped open, and the look of awe—along with a touch of fear—flashed across her eyes. “A dance club?”

“You still dance?”

She gulped and stared hard at the crowd of people filtering in and out through the doors, all in nightclub attire. “No… I—I didn’t dress for a nightclub.”

“You’re kidding, you look fantastic!” Her tight jean shorts and figure-hugging tank showed off her slim curves in all the right places. She glanced down, nervously smoothing her shirt down. She had nothing to fear, it hugged her deliciously and the shorts showed off her long, tanned legs. It was work enough to not reach over and run my fingers up her thighs.

“I don’t really dance that much anymore.”

“Really? You used to love it! Remember that time you took me line dancing? I was so clueless, think I stepped on more people than anyone else that night.”

“Can we just go?”

I studied her face, desperately wanting to come up with a way to convince her otherwise. “Just for a little bit.”


“Please, Piper?”

“I don’t know….” She didn’t move from her position, looking like she had grown roots into the asphalt. Her breathing had increased into short, shallow breaths as she paled before my eyes.

“Hey.” I stepped closer, cupping her chin, bringing her eyes back toward me. “Don’t forget to breathe, Piper. Slowly, deeply….”

The old fears were still there. I used to wake up in the middle of the night to find her pacing the room and chewing her nails to the nubs after a nightmare had shaken her awake. Anxiety would grasp her with a titan’s grip, and she’d have such difficulty shaking it off. I’d pull her back from whatever oblivion it had sent her to, until the monsters had drifted away, and she could slip back into the arms of sleep once more.

“Hey, hey, breathe. Look at me, Piper.” Her glistening orbs blinked at me, speckled with green which turned the honey brown of her irises into flashing neon lights. “Still getting those panic attacks?”

She managed to nod as she continued to slow her breathing. Her body shook, and I made it around the car toward her. “I’m sorry. I haven’t had any for a long time. Don’t know why I’m having so many lately.”

“Okay.” I pulled her close and stroked her soft hair, letting her loose, spiral tendrils slip through my fingers. She smells of citrus shampoo and some pleasant, faded scent of lotion. I felt her breath on my chest, through my shirt, warm and fast. The scents caught my attention and reminded me of the nights she’d fall asleep in my arms. The longing in my chest arrested my own breathing, but I continued to let her steady herself against me. I realized she was wearing her favorite perfume. It was the same one I remembered smelling on my pillows for months after we’d broken up, it had become something I’d missed so much. Especially when it no longer smelled of her. I had wished I’d asked her what brand it was, just to buy a bottle of it to spritz on the pillows again, anytime I was missing her. Funny how the little things we don’t think much about are the things we miss the most.

“Deep breaths,” I said. “We can just watch. You don’t have to dance, okay? Just breathe.”

Her shoulders shuddered as she breathed, relaxing with each breath until she looked up at me, looking a lot less pasty as a flutter of pink began to flush her cheeks. I squeezed her a bit tighter, hoping she wouldn’t pull away just yet.

“You smell good. It’s… it’s nice to breathe you in again. I missed it,” she said.

Grinning sheepishly, I pushed a strand of hair out of her eyes. “If you feel it coming on again, just pull me over and breathe me. I don’t mind.”

She gave a small laugh at that and let go. The loss of the warmth of her body left me feeling colder than I’d have liked, even in the heat of the summer night. I longed to feel her arms around me again.

“Alright, let’s just watch. I need a drink.” She had calmed enough to pull me along behind her into the line snaking from the doorway.

After flashing our I.D.s at the door and receiving black stamps on our hands, we entered the large dance club. The open-aired room was like a warehouse, painted glittery black inside with the pipes and AC ducts exposed and blended into the décor. A mirror ball hung from above the center of the wood dance floor. It glinted against the strobes as it spun. People were everywhere, and a thick layer of smoke permeated the air, stinging my eyes and scraping down my throat. We paused beyond the entrance to take it all in. Like deer in headlights, we gawked at the half-naked dancers gyrating on their pedestals which were barely wide enough for them to step side to side as their h*ps undulated and rolled seductively to the music.

I remembered Piper dancing that way against me. She would sway her body around mine like no other woman I’d ever met. She’d dance and dance, grinding against my clumsy butt, lost in the music, making the crowd around us disappear. It’d been the time of my life, enjoying the arousal her prowling had caused me.

What happened to us?

I prayed that with the demise of our relationship being my fault, she’d find a way to forgive me. I knew she’d suffered damage before I had ever come around, but I was pretty sure it hadn’t been much help in keeping away her nightmares when we fell apart. In the end, I’d make it up to her, or die trying. I had to.

“Let’s get a drink,” I suggested. She nodded and slipped her fingers through mine as we made our way through the thick crowd. She tucked herself behind me, and I managed to slip past a knot of people and finally got to the bar.

“Jack and Coke?”

She mouthed a “yes,” and I flagged the bartender down. I was ignored for about ten minutes, which annoyed me to no end, and the crowd kept bumping into me. Piper didn’t get spared either, yelping when one stumbling drunk guy smashed her toes. I shoved him away, and he swayed before turning back around, swallowed by the crowd. Piper shrugged and snaked her way to the bar, waving the bartender down with a flick of her wrist. I had to admit, she was the best-looking one there.

After we finally got our drinks, we headed over to where a few tables stood at the edge of the dance floor. The music changed from a classic rock tune to a dance mix, and the bass once again pumped out, vibrating the room. The floor was soon jam-packed with couples, girlfriends and groups of hopeful single guys. All were there for something. All studied each other, with lust and desire permeating the air.

“The music’s awesome!” Piper yelled out. I nodded and finished off my drink. It burned going down; the bartender had been generous. I discarded it on a nearby table and turned back toward Piper. Her eyes were filled with longing, and I knew she wished she could just will away her inhibitions and give in to the infectious energy of the crowd.

I grabbed her hand as she finished her drink and plopped it next to my emptied glass. “Come on.”

“What? No!” She tugged back, her eyes wide as she shook her head. “I’d rather stay here.”

“Piper, there’s so many people out there, we look more exposed standing here. Let’s just bob to the music. You don’t have to dance. Just enjoy the beat.” I tugged again. This time she took a tentative step forward and followed me as I guided her into the mash of people. I led her to a small area where the elbows and feet weren’t as close together as others. Facing each other, I started to dance, slowly bobbing to the beat as she stared at me, the fear ebbing from every part of her as she fought back a laugh. The sight of me dancing had to be ridiculous, but it was worth watching her loosen up. I inched closer until I could pull her arms around my neck, slide my fingers around her slender h*ps and sway. She fought it, but as I kept on, she relaxed slightly, amused by my awkward dance moves. I was pretty sure I looked like a fool, jerking more than dancing, but it was all worth the humiliation.

Somehow, the thick crowd created a kind of anonymity, letting her loosen up even more. Her body found its rhythm as we continued to follow the music. Pressing my fingers against her hips, I could feel her warmth seeping through her clothes. I pulled her closer. Her heartbeat was fluttering under her chest and caused a splash of pink across her cheeks as her lips turned upward, revealing her pearly white teeth.

The hypnotic beat transitioned into a slow rock song, and the dance floor cleared out, except for the couples who were now pasted to one other. Piper laced her fingers around my neck, looking like she was actually having a good time. I was beaming ear to ear to see her so happy. It was the best thing I’d seen in such a long time.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her breath tickling my ear as her lips softly bumped against my skin. It sent a thrill through me, reminding me how close she was. I’d imagined this moment for years, and I never wanted it to end.

“For what?” I asked.

“For this. The dancing, the music. I missed it. Never realized just how much I had.”

I tilted my head, and our foreheads touched as we danced. I was slightly taller than her, but not by much. I could easily lean forward to kiss her soft pink lips, they were so close.

“The pleasure is mine. I have you to thank.”

Her confusion played across her face as her eyes flicked between mine, shining under the sparkling lights above. The colors had darkened in the dim lighting, making her irises liquid black. “Why do you have to thank me? I’ve been such a pain.”

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