Heather parked beside Kyle’s truck when she got back to Kellan’s apartment. She could hear Kyle’s cello through his closed bedroom door. The sound was beautiful. Kellan’s door was open. Since he wasn’t in the living room, she knew he must be in his room.
“Hey, Sweetie.” She stood just inside the room, watching him. “I’m back.”
He was seated as his computer; his crutches leaned against the desk.
“Hi. Glad you are back.” He looked over his shoulder and smiled. “How was the rehearsal?”
She shrugged and walked over to him, putting her hands on his shoulders. “It was a rehearsal. We practiced entering, walking, standing, and exiting. It was painless.”
He reached up to take her hand. “Then why don’t you sound happy?”
She didn’t answer right away.
“Carrie gave you shit.” He surmised.
“Yep.” She answered, moving to sit on the bed so she could see his face. “But we got it straightened out.”
He shook his head. “I am sorry. I know how much Carrie means to you.” He turned around to face her. “Let me guess: she likes me as a person, but doesn’t want her best friend settling down with a gimp.”
“Something like that.” Heather didn’t like the look on his face. His eyes were cold and his mouth was set in a hard line.
“Get used to it, Heather. If you intend to stay with me, you will spend a lot of your time defending your choice. Most people don’t get how anyone could be attracted to a cripple like me.”
“Fuck most people.” Heather responded, standing up with her fists clenched. “I don’t care about what they think. How could I not be attracted to you?” She put her arms around his neck. “You are gorgeous and smart and sexy and kind and everything else I have ever wanted in a man.” She leaned in for a kiss. His tongue met hers and she felt that tingle she knew so well. “You also have the most talented tongue I have had the pleasure of experiencing. ‘Pleasure’ being the operative word.”
He laughed. “You are easy to please.”
She pouted. “What is that supposed to mean?”
“Anything I do seems to be the right thing. You have no idea how much fun it is to pleasure you.”
“That is because you are the right man for me, Kellan. Anything you do is the right thing.”
“Lucky me.” He kissed her again.
They were late getting to the rehearsal dinner. Fashionably so. Kellan hadn’t been too thrilled about the idea of dealing with Carrie so soon after finding out how she really felt about him, but he wasn’t one to hide from people. Not at this point in his life, anyway. He was more bothered by the fact that Carrie had hurt Heather than that Carrie wasn’t fully taken with him.
Heads always turned when he entered a room. He was used to it. His crutches and braces weren’t exactly quiet and people weren’t accustomed to seeing the way a paraplegic used crutches. It wasn’t the same as watching someone with a broken leg. Since he couldn’t move his legs, he used swing-to or swing-through gait depending upon how much distance he had to cover and how much time he had to cover it. Closer spaces, like the restaurant, demanded swing-to, which meant he placed his forearm crutches ahead of him and then swung his braced legs forward, moving from his waist, until his feet landed even with the crutch tips. Swing-through was faster and put his feet ahead of his crutches.
The dining area reserved for the wedding party was at the rear of the restaurant. People looked up and looked away as he moved past. Kellan made eye contact with no one; he was busy planning the best way to maneuver through the clusters of tables. The place was supposed to be accessible, but it would have been an absolute bitch to navigate in his wheelchair. Every time he had been here before, he had always been seated near the entrance. Now he understood why.
Heather led the way, trying to make sure the path was clear before he came through. She wished she were walking behind him so she could watch the way his body moved. She loved watching him on crutches. She could see his strength, the grace of motion he had not lost, which was not as evident in the wheelchair. It would also have been nice to walk in holding his hand, to announce without saying a word that they were together. She would have to find another way to do that. They reached the dining room with more difficulty than either of them would have liked, and sat down gratefully at the end of the table with the rest of the wedding party. There were the usual curious glances and averted eyes as Kellan took his seat. Carrie and Reid went straight to introductions as soon as Kellan was settled.
“Heather is my best friend from college.” Carrie smiled at Heather.
“And Kellan’s on my cycling team.” Reid explained.
Uneasy glances passed around the table and the unspoken question was loud in Heather’s ears. How is that possible?
Heather also noted the omission of the fact that they were a couple. She looked at Kellan in a silent apology. Kellan smiled and it didn’t matter anymore.
They both reached across the table to hold hands at exactly the same moment. Their smiles were for each other alone and they made no immediate attempt to join the conversation that swirled around them, perfectly content in each other’s company.
“Wow.” A voice to Heather’s left pulled her back. “You two are intense.”
It was Stacie, Reid’s sister, who had spoken.
“I’m sorry?” Heather looked at her, realizing the entire table was looking at them.
“I just asked you a question, Kellan. Twice.” Reid looked amused rather than annoyed. He was happy for his friend, even if his bride-to-be had reservations.
“Yes?” Kellan responded, not letting go of Heather’s hand.
“Greg said you and Heather were by the shop today. You bought a bike?”
“Heather bought a bike.” Kellan answered, never one to use more words than he had to.
“You bought a bike?” Carrie looked at Heather, astounded. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“It didn’t come up.” Heather answered honestly. “I haven’t had the chance to ride it yet. Kellan is taking me out Sunday.”
“You have your work cut out for you, Kellan.” Carrie smiled. “I know she hasn’t been on a bike since elementary school.”
“She is a good rider, Carrie.” Kellan answered. “I borrowed a bike for her and she has been riding with me for a while now.”
“You never mentioned it.” Carrie said to Heather, looking a little hurt.
“I knew you would want to turn me into your next team member.” Heather blushed. She hadn’t meant to keep it from Carrie for so long, but she hadn’t wanted the pressure she knew would come from telling her. “I am not ready for that yet. I ride with Kellan for fun. Kyle is his training partner; I’m not.”
“Cheers, Kellan.” Carrie raised her wine glass. “You have done what I never could.”
Kellan nodded in assent and squeezed Heather’s hand. He hadn’t meant to call her out in front of everyone.
“But now you will have to ride with me, especially since you are joining the Richmond crew.”
The eyes went from Carrie to Heather and Kellan and back again.
“Do you two have an announcement?” Reid asked Kellan.
Stacie looked at Heather’s left hand.
Kellan smiled. “Not that announcement yet. I have asked Heather to move in with me and she said yes.”
“A good St. Christopher’s boy living in sin?” Reid laughed. “Say it isn’t so.”
“It is so.” Heather said. She knew Reid was referring to the fact that Kellan had attended a private Episcopal school from grade school through high school.
“Congratulations!” Reid raised his glass now. “Make sure you two catch the garter and bouquet. You will be next.”
“I hope so.” Kellan said, looking only at Heather.
Heather’s smile lit up the room. Carrie downed the remainder of her glass of wine.
The pizza was served buffet-style and the pitchers of beer and bottles of wine seemed bottomless. Kellan wasn’t much of a drinker. He usually had some level of pain medication in his system and alcohol and painkillers did not mix well, not to mention that he carefully monitored his fluid intake. He didn’t mind being the designated driver. Heather was a lightweight. Two glasses of wine were her usual limit and she enjoyed both of them this evening. The conversation at the table remained lively and Kellan and Heather found themselves having a really good time. The room was reserved until 10:00 and everyone stayed until they were politely asked to leave.
“This party needs to continue.” Reid stood with his arms around Carrie’s shoulders, looking at the others still seated at the table. “Let’s go out. All of those seated at this table need to come along.”
Heather looked at Kellan. She knew he was ready to go home. He didn’t do well when he got too far off his schedule.
“Do you want to go?” He asked. “I think I have a few hours left in me.”
Heather bit her lip. She did want to go, but she was ready to go home if that was what he wanted.
“You have to come out for a little while, Heather.” Carrie encouraged. “Please.”
Heather looked at Kellan again. He nodded. “So where are we going?”
“Most of the out-of-towners are staying at The Jefferson. They have a wine and cigar bar.”
“Classy.” Heather laughed.
“Only the best.” Reid answered. “It should be fun.”
“We’ll see you there.” Kellan said with a smile. He wanted to let the crowd clear before he got up to leave.
“Okay.” Carrie and Reid walked away, mingling with the remainder of the dinner guests. It appeared the invitations to the after-party would not be all-inclusive.
“I don’t know when I last went out to a bar.” Kellan commented. “Much less a wine and cigar bar.”
He was still smiling, but Heather knew he was tired.
“We don’t have to do this. I would much rather go home and curl up beside you, anyway.” Heather said softly.
“I would much rather do that, too, but how often does your best friend get married? And how often do we get asked to go barhopping? We should enjoy it while we have the chance.”
“Okay.” She pushed back her chair. “If you would excuse me, please.”
“I need to make the same trip. I will meet you out front.”
She waited for him to stand and they repeated the process of getting through the restaurant. It was easier this time since the place was less crowded.
She waited for him again in the area by the hostess desk. She got the chance to watch him this time, coming toward her. She smiled, undressing him with her eyes. The jeans were gone, the charcoal-gray sweater was gone, braces and boxers were left. God, she was already horny. She could hardly wait until they got back to his apartment, back to his bed. Their apartment? Her grin widened. He smiled too, watching her.
“What is running around in that pretty head of yours?” He asked when he reached her.
She reached up to put her arms around his neck. “You. Naked.” She whispered in his ear then kissed his cheek.
“Maybe we should have opted to go back to the apartment.”
“We will.” She pulled away. “But first I intend to make a public spectacle of myself with the gorgeous man I love.”
“Can I meet him someday?” Kellan smiled.
Heather gave him a playful smack on the ass.
“I can’t feel that, you know.” He reminded her.
“Yes, I know, but you saw it well enough.” Heather tried to sound annoyed.
“That I did.” He agreed as he swung through the door she held open.
To be continued...