Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.

Holding My Breath

I groaned at the consciousness that crashed into me, and then my blanket held me even more tightly. A soft murmur of nonsense slipped past my lips as I clutched at the material and tried to pull it closer as I nestled against it. I inhaled a deep, content breath; that delicious, familiar smell filled every inch of my being, and yet another wave of intense heat followed.

“Elaine,” Quince moaned loudly, causing my half-lidded eyes to flutter to him. His own eyes were clouded, and his jaw was clenched; it was if he could tell how I felt.

“Damn it,” I hissed at myself, my upper lip curling as I growled at this infuriatingly sexy man. “I still want you!”

His eyes darted to me, and a spry smirk formed on his lips as he moved closer to me, so close that his lips hovered just in front of mine.

“You don’t say?” he breathed, refusing to close the distance.

I tried to do it for him, but he backed away quickly. Suddenly he was out of bed, donning a pair of slacks and chuckling under his breath.

“What are you doing? Where do you think you’re going? You promised!”

His eyes were soft when he looked to me, shaking his head while buttoning up his shirt.

“I will do this for you, even though it is the worst thing you could have possibly asked of me.” He looked down, his fingers faltering. “It doesn’t mean I won’t drag it out, to have you for as long as I can. I’m not in any hurry to die.” His eyes snapped to me again, and my breathing hitched in my throat.

When he said things like that, it made me rethink everything! It made me picture myself finding a sneaky way to move in with him; it made me want to wake up in the middle of the night just to watch him dream; it made me want to curl up on the sofa and watch a movie with him on a Friday night instead of going to the bar; worst of all, it made me want to ask him about children. Who would tuck our daughter in at night? Who would give our little boy the talk?

“I have to go to work, hun,” he murmured, dragging me from such revolting thoughts as his lips swept lightly across mine.

My hand flung out without me telling it to do such a thing, and I pulled him back.

“Don’t go,” I whimpered, hating myself.

“I have to, baby,” he lamented, such regret laced into his soft voice. “I’ll be home in eight hours, I promise; if I don’t go, who is going to convince the board to hire you?”

I had completely forgotten… How could I have forgotten that?

“Even after everything I’ve said to you?” How could he still be considering this? I was terrible to him!

He nodded. “I want you here, Elaine; even if I can’t have you, I still need you here.”

“Why?” I whispered, my eyes boring into him. “Why do you need me here?”

He slipped out of my hold and caressed my cheek with his hand. I groaned softly as my body leaned into his touch; the softest smile lit up his face.

“I need you, Elaine, more than I need my next breath. I’ll see you after work.”

He left, just like that. Nothing else; he just left. Did he not see the tears in my eyes? Did he not see how he was killing me?

A rapid, annoying beeping pulled me from my moping. I ran my hand across the tear-stained cheeks and sniffled twice before answering the damnable phone on the nightstand.

“You!” Anne hissed into the receiver, venom in her voice. “What are you thinking? What happened last night? I swear, if you hurt her… Oh, you don’t even want to know what I’ll do to you, Quince! She’s not some bimbo you can just toss—”

“Anne,” I laughed, glad to have the distraction. “What are you doing?”

She shut up immediately, and I could almost picture the Oh shit! look that was surely plastered to her face. But then she must have pieced things together.

“I called Quince’s number, Anne… Why are you answering?”

“If you would like to continue threatening Quince, you might try his cell. He just left for work… I think we’ll know if I have the job by tonight!”

I had to hold the phone away from my ear when she screamed absolute nonsense at me.

“Oh, my gosh!” she shrieked. “That is great! Does—Does this mean you’ll stay? It does! You’ll stay?”

“I don’t have the job yet,” I scolded in a teasing voice, smiling despite myself. “I’ve already told you that I would love to just pack up and move here, but I have to get the job first.”

“Does that mean…”

“Speak up, Anne. I can’t hear you.”

She cleared her throat. “I just mean, well, is that to say you’ll give Quince a shot?”

My mood soured. “Anne, you said so yourself that—”

“I know, I know: he’s not settling material. But that was before.”

“Before what?” I growled, irritated. This wasn’t what I wanted to think about!

“Before I saw how he looks at you, before Bryce told me how he talks about you…”

“Just stop it.”

“No! Elaine, I’m all about letting people make their own mistakes—I'm a mother; it's in my blood. But this isn’t just about you! This involves a whole lot more, so you can’t just be as selfish as you want!”

“How the hell does this involve anyone but me?”

“If you break Quince, if you ruin his life beyond repair by refusing him for no reason… I will never forgive you, Elaine.”

“But Anne—”

“I grew up with everyone in this town, Elaine. If you intentionally hurt that man who is essentially my brother, I don’t doubt that everyone will kick you out of Home.”

I shook my head fervently, gawking into the open space before me. How could she say that? How could she even…?

“I am not spending the rest of my life with a man just because he likes me and would be sad for a couple of months if I left. That is not fair at all!”

“Sad for a couple of months?” she whispered incredulously, as if she truly did not understand me. “What on earth—you would kill him! He would be a shell, Elaine! Surely someone explained this to you!”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“Mates…” Then she went silent, followed by a nearly inaudible gasp. Her voice was suddenly so gentle, so pitiable. “You truly have no idea, do you?”


“I’m not asking you to, how you say, marry someone just because I say to; I’m telling you to give him a chance. That’s enough.”

“But if he gets attached and then it doesn’t work and I leave, everyone will hate me, like you said.”

“It will work, though.”

“You don’t know that, Anne!”

“But I do.” I could hear that she was smiling. “I’ll see you later, Elaine. Tell me how the job goes.”


Then the line went dead.

And I smashed his phone against the wall.