Structural Damage – Chapter 9

While his body was comfortable, his mind was on the verge of spiraling out of control. Sabrina’s arms were wrapped around him, her head was resting in the middle of his back – this felt comfortable and was something he could get used to. Something he would like to have on a regular basis. She felt good to him, oh God how she felt good. He loved how soft she was and the way his body felt when pressed against her. It was as if they were made to fit together, two puzzle pieces that were specially made to match. It wasn’t just the way their bodies met, it was how they seemed to intrinsically relate to one another. He never fell this hard or this fast for anyone; one minute he is flirting with her over drinks at the Hancock building and the next they are having non-stop sex in his hotel room, and he is canceling his flight to go home with her. And now he is here, in her apartment, enjoying a magnificent view of the city of Chicago from the 80th floor of a building she designed and built. Her words were bouncing through his head, ‘the invitation is open for your to stay, and never leave.’ Things were moving fast between the two of them, it was almost like a landslide. He knew he needed to get out of the way or find a way to stop it, but he wasn’t sure he wanted to.

Sabrina Burnham wasn’t the type of woman that Chris Evans falls in love with. Wait? Love? Is that what this was? Isn’t it a little early to throw that word around? He knew he needed to get out of his head, he had Audrey’s warning going off in his mind as well, ‘Sabrina doesn’t do relationships.’ Why doesn’t she do them? She was certainly acting like she wanted this. He knew that he needed to center himself and quiet this brain noise, it was going to drive him insane, and it would threaten the time he had with her. He needed answers, though; needed to understand what was really going on between the two of them and where this was going, if anywhere.

He wondered if the doubt and concern that was flowing through his mind were making its way to Sabrina. The comfort he was feeling moments ago was starting to ebb, and Sabrina was starting to move. Her arms slid from his body, and she lifted her head and stepped away. For a moment, he felt as if his heart was going to stop; which was a surreal thought considering he was concerned things were probably moving too fast not more than a minute ago.

He turned to look at her, “Is something wrong?” He was sure that the pain he felt was evident in his eyes.

She placed her hand on his cheek, “Hey, don’t worry, everything’s fine. I just figured I should go ahead and call the office and leave a message for Alice.” He knew he was giving her a questioning look, his mind was confused. “Chris, it’s okay, I want to tell her to clear my calendar for tomorrow. I’m afraid if I don’t do it now while I’m thinking of it, I’ll forget. And, if I do it in the morning, she’ll ask a million questions; today, I can do it and leave a message and then turn my phone off.”

She moved effortlessly across the room towards the small nook that served as her office when she worked from home. He noticed the space wasn’t very large, but it was comfortable and inviting and provided one hell of a view that could serve as her inspiration. He watched as she settled in at her desk and then suddenly jumped up and ran back to the door to peek out at him, “Go ahead and look around and make yourself comfortable. You can take your things upstairs if you want, our bedroom is the first one at the top of the steps.”

Those words, ‘our bedroom,’ they struck him as an odd turn of phrase. Why didn’t she just say, her room? Was it the fact that for the next two nights they would be sharing the room and she was trying to be inclusive? It gave him a weird, sinking feeling in his stomach and he began to worry that he was thinking too much about this. She must have seen it on his face because she commented on it.

“Is something wrong?”

“Huh, oh no,” he lied, unable to come clean on what he was thinking.

“Chris, really, what’s wrong? You look like something is really bothering you,” suddenly it seem to hit her, as if the words came to her, “Oh! I freaked you out, I’m sorry. My bedroom is the first one at the top of the steps, I just took for granted you would be staying in there with me tonight. Hence, our bedroom. But if you would rather sleep in one of the guest rooms, you are more than welcome to do so. I’m sorry if I sort of jumped to a conclusion.”

He noticed that as she spoke the words, her eyes clouded over, she looked pensive and distant. Upset and disappointed that he might want to sleep somewhere other than in her bed and in her arms for the next two nights. She turned back to her office and sat at her desk, electing not to wait for him to respond. Chris didn’t move to ascend the stairs. Instead, he walked to the door of her nook and quietly watched her. She shuffled some papers on her desk and dialed the phone, putting it on speaker. The rings going into Alice’s voicemail and prompting Sabrina to leave a message, “Good Morning Alice, It’s Sabrina, I wanted to let you know I need to ask you to clear my calendar through Tuesday at noon. I will be unavailable until then. I will attend the meeting with the Mayor on Tuesday afternoon and will be in the office following that meeting. Please let Audrey and the principals know and reschedule any meetings as needed. Thank you.”

As she disconnected the call, she took a deep breath and stared out the window. Chris wondered if she was questioning her decision. He figured he would go ahead and ask, “Are you having second thoughts about this?”

She snapped around to see him standing there, “You scared me, I didn’t know you were there! No, no second thoughts, why would you even think that?” Her voice was betraying her.

He pushed himself away from the door where he was leaning and moved across the room, taking the seat on the loveseat that was situated next to her desk. “I get the sneaking suspicion that this is just a little out of character for you. And your voice, when you left your voicemail, you were very measured and had no emotion. And I won’t even bring up the heavy sigh when you hung up.”

“Are you analyzing me, Chris?”

“Not trying to, I guess I’m just wondering if you’re rethinking this, that’s all. Maybe you’re beginning to worry how everyone is going to react. You’re calling when no one can ask you questions, and you’re having Alice tell Audrey versus you telling her.”

“Fine, I rarely take time off,” she sat back in her chair and tilted her head and gave a half smile, “I’m sure that shocks you doesn’t it? So, yeah, it is slightly out of character for me to blow off work for potentially blowing someone else,” she raised her eyebrows and tried to make a half-hearted joke. “I’m not regretting this, I’m just…I don’t know,” her words broke off.

“You realize that Audrey will most likely come looking for you, right?”

“She’ll probably call, and when I don’t answer, she’ll probably try coming over here. But she doesn’t have a key to the apartment and will take the hint when I don’t answer the door. I think she’s smart enough to figure out what’s going on though if I’m not available, and you’re not answering your phone either.”

Chris reached for Sabrina’s hands, pulling her from her chair and onto the loveseat, straddling his lap; facing him with her knees on either side of his legs. “So, tell me, what exactly is going on? What is happening between us, or better yet, what do you want to happen between us?”

She swallowed hard, “I don’t know, I’m trying not to think about it, Chris.”

“Why is that, what are you afraid of?” He brushed her hair off of her face and tucked it behind her ear, his soft touch on her skin is enough to set her alight.

“Everything,” her emotions were raw, and she was honest with him. She had not done that with a man in years; sharing feelings and being honest about what was going on in her heart and head were not things that came easily to her. “I’m not sure what is happening between us…this is…well, it’s not…it’s different.”

He cupped her face and kissed her, tugging on her bottom lip as he pulled away. “Yeah, I know. I can’t explain it myself; sometimes I feel like I am moving too fast and sometimes, not fast enough.” He took a chance and kissed her again, this time, more softly and slowly, letting his lips linger.

“Tell me why you and Audrey were arguing about me,” her voice was soft, almost a whisper.

“I don’t know that I want to do that, baby. You and Audrey are good friends, and I don’t want to cause problems between the two of you,” he put his hands on her thighs and began to rub on them gently. “Stop torturing yourself, it really was nothing, and I don’t want to get into it and have it blown up into some big misunderstanding.” Chris wanted to tell her, he wanted to say he had feelings for her, and Audrey told him to back off. He just knew it was not the right time.

Sabrina rested her forehead on his, she knew he had a point, but it didn’t make it any easier to hear. The intimacy she was feeling at the moment was overwhelming; she had been honest with him, she was scared. She had asked him back to her apartment because she wasn’t quite ready for him to leave, but honestly, what was she expecting by having him stay? She was merely delaying the inevitable; right now, she needed to stop thinking about it. “You know what, I’m hungry,” she declared, “I’m sure you are too, so why don’t we go see what we can find in the kitchen.” She moved to stand from his lap and walk towards the kitchen.

Chris reached out for her hand as he stood from the chair, “Hey, come here,” he pulled her back towards him and into an embrace. A hug that conveyed safety and strength, but also his own vulnerability and the fact that he needed reassurance, “I need you to know that my little dust-up with Audrey was more about Audrey and me than anything. I don’t want you to worry about it, okay? Please don’t put that between us, babe.”

Chris felt Sabrina squeeze just a little tighter, and he hoped that it meant that she was letting it go.

Lunch was a bit awkward, to say the least. While Sabrina had made small salads for each of them, Chris picked out a bottle of wine from her vast selection and poured them each a glass. They ate in relative silence, it was as if their discussion, or lack thereof, in the office nook, had killed any and all need for conversation. When Chris finished eating, he decided to take Sabrina up on her earlier offer of making himself at home. He decided to explore the downstairs area a little more carefully. They had been lunching at the bar in the kitchen, and as he walked toward the open dining and living area, he was amazed by the space. He estimated she could fit forty or fifty people in here for a dinner party if she wanted to. It was then that he noticed she had a piano tucked in the back corner.

He sat down and began to play, he hoped she wouldn’t mind. He decided to play something fun and not anything romantic or sappy, there was already tension in the air between them and he didn’t want to add to it. He had not been playing for very long when he noticed she was walking towards him, with her wine glass as well as his. She sat them down on top of the piano and then sat on the bench next to him.

“Winnie the Pooh? You are playing the theme song to Winnie the Pooh?” Sabrina was smiling and laughing lightly as she spoke the words and it was just as melodic as the notes from the piano.

“Yep, I’m a sucker for Pooh. I mean, come on, my name is pretty close to Pooh’s best friend after all.”

“Chris sounds nothing like Tigger or Rabbit,” Sabrina said deadpanned.

“Christopher Robin you goof!” Chris said as he bumped her shoulder with his, “My middle name is Robert, so it’s close enough.” Sabrina tried to suppress her laughter, “Oh yeah, you laugh but I like Pooh, and you evidently do, too because you picked Tigger out of the air last night.”

“Yeah, well he is kinda cute. I will admit to liking Tigger and Eeyore, although, Audrey will tell you I am most like Owl, I’m a know-it-all.”

Chris stopped playing and just looked at her for a minute, “How long have you known Audrey?”

“We went to college together, so for,” she started to say it and then stopped herself, she was about to give away her age to him, and she wasn’t sure that was a good idea, at least not yet. “A long time, let’s just leave it at that.

“It’s okay, I know you’re older than I am,” he gave her another shoulder bump, “It doesn’t bother me so it shouldn’t bother you. It’s just a number and nothing more, and honestly, you don’t look a second over thirty-five.” He could see she was starting to blush, and he decided to go back to playing the piano. He thought maybe he should stay clear of Disney songs.

“The Beatles? Wouldn’t have pegged you for a fan. I have to admit, you picked one my favorites, I’ve always loved this song.”

“I’d sing it to you, but I wouldn’t do it justice. No one can sing Let it Be like McCartney,” he finished the song and turned to her, “Do you play?”

“Sadly, no. I always wanted to learn so I bought this figuring it would inspire me to get lessons, but it never has.”

“That’s a shame, it’s a beautiful instrument that should be played and shown the right amount of love and affection on a regular basis.” He carefully closed the fallboard, being mindful of the location of Sabrina’s hands.

“You can dance, and you can play the piano,” she turned to look at him, a smile creeping onto her face, “And you slid into the conversation that you can sing. So, tell me, Mr. Evans, what other talents do you have that you have not shared with me?”

“Well, hmm, I shared quite a few last night,” he laughed, “But honestly, I don’t know that I am leaving anything out at the moment. Well, I mean, I can play the guitar, but that would be it. I would not say I am athletically gifted, and I’m unable to perform brain surgery. Is there anything specific you want to know about?”

“Obviously, you have the ability to do comedy. No, I just wondered what else you were keeping secret from me.”

He took her hand in his, lifting it to his lips and gently kissing it, “I’m not trying to keep secrets from you. These things have just never come up.”

“Yeah, I know, we don’t really know one another. I mean, we haven’t dated or anything. We had a few drinks at the Hancock, then a walk down Michigan Avenue, then the Tango at a wedding which led to marathon sex which brought you here.”

“You have a point, maybe we need to slow things down. I like you, Sabrina, I really do, but there is no harm in having a date night and using it to get to know one another. Maybe just stay in, watch a movie and relax. How does that sound?”

“I like you too, Chris, and that sounds like a perfect evening,” she leaned forward to give him a kiss. She had to admit that a weight had been lifted off of her shoulders. She didn’t know if he saw it move away, but she absolutely felt it.

She moved off of the bench and headed back into the kitchen to clean up the lunch mess. He followed her, carrying their wine glasses. As they finished the clean up, Chris poured the rest of the wine into their glasses, picked his up and walked over to the large windows.

“So, Sabrina,” he called over to her, “I have a curious question, why do you not have screens in these windows? Wouldn’t you want to open them up for fresh air?

Sabrina plucked her glass from the table and joined him at the window. She eased herself under his arm and slid her free hand around his waist, “This high up, the force of the air is too intense. The suction and power are too strong for having the windows open. Hell, I can barely stand to go outside, it hurts my ears, and it gets a little painful. I think I went out once to check out the air show. It was a fantastic view, but I had to come back in after five minutes.”

He took a glance up and down the balcony, “So that’s why you have no furniture out there?”

“Yeah, I won’t sit out there, and I don’t want a strong wind to blow anything off from this height. Good gracious, it would kill a person if something fell from up here!”

“Just think of the privacy, though,” he said with his eyebrows raised. “You could be one hell of an exhibitionist up here, and no one would ever know.”

“Oh, trust me, people would know! There are enough folks around here who are trained on these windows with telescopes, you don’t want to be an exhibitionist, but by all means, give it a try. I can’t wait to see your publicist explain it away,” her laughter was a delight for him to hear, it was the first time he had heard her sound so carefree.

“Well, I’m not in the mood to deal with that sort of fiasco. I think I’m escaping this weekend unscathed, and I’d like to keep it that way. Meghan gets worried when I go off on my own, she wonders what mess she has to clean up.” He started to worry that he’d said that, not sure what Sabrina did or did not know about him. He was afraid she might be sensitive to a comment like this and figured he should probably set it straight right away. “Get out of your head, it was a joke,” he said, leaning over and kissing the top of her head.

Sabrina already knew that because she had done an internet search on him and did not find any wild and crazy tabloid stories. But she couldn’t help having her mind race just a little.

“Whew! I dodged a bullet there. I didn’t even think to do that sort of background check on you first,” she winked at him and let him know that she was not hung up on what he had said. “Ok, are you ready to head upstairs and watch movies?”

She pulled away from him, moving to the front door to check the locks. She then picked up her bag and proceeded to lead Chris up the stairs. Being a gentleman, Chris took the bag from her hand, picked up his own and followed behind her. As they reached the top step, Sabrina turned and walked into the expansive bedroom that Chris knew to be her room.

The view is just as spectacular as the one downstairs. The bed was facing the windows, which meant that if the telescopes were aimed at the room, the peeping tom would have one hell of a show. Chris was looking at the window intently and then back on the bed, she had an idea of what was going through his mind. She stepped over to the bedside table and picked up a remote control, clicked one button and shades descended from the ceiling, covering the windows.

His eyes went wide, “I knew you had to have a secret to keep out the peeping toms! Tell me, have you had problems with people watching you?”

She shook her head, “No, I haven’t but I know someone who did. It wasn’t in this building either, it was in another building. I still lived in a dreary apartment with regular curtains when I started hearing about the telescope stories. I just knew that when I moved into a high-rise, I was going to keep myself covered. I have Audrey taken care of, as well.”

“Yeah, I would bet so, don’t want to take any chances, eh?”

“Uh, no! No chances at all,” she placed the remote control down on the table, “Are you going to sleep in here with me or do you want to sleep in one of the other rooms?”

“Didn’t you invite me to stay here specifically so I could sleep with you?” He asked as he brushed past her and placed his bag on the bed. His tone was playful, but there was a level of seriousness to his question.

“Well, you seemed a little apprehensive earlier when I mentioned it,” there it was, the hurt and pain had come back to her eyes.

He put his fingers under her chin, gently tilting her head upwards, “It was just odd to hear you refer to your bedroom as ‘our’ bedroom, that’s all. Caught me a little off guard, but I didn’t say I didn’t want to sleep with you, now did I?”

She shook her head, “No, you didn’t,” she swallowed hard, “We’re going to screw this up aren’t we?”

“Honestly, yes, we probably will. Can we just agree that we’re treading on new ground, and we’re a little scared?”

Sabrina nodded in unison with Chris, and it led to a kiss, chaste at first and then into something deeper. As they broke from the kiss, breathing ragged and hearts beating rapidly, Sabrina reminded him of why they came upstairs, “We should go back to that idea of a date night before we get ourselves into more trouble.”

She took him by the hand and led him down the hall to the TV room. As soon as she entered the room, Sabrina hit a button on the wall, blinds covered the windows and room darkening curtains closed over the wall of windows as well. Small incandescent can lights in the ceiling were now visible and provided lighting in the room; Sabrina also turned on the table lamp next to the oversized couch.

She let Chris look over the movie collection, plus he knew she had Netflix and Amazon to select from. He had actually been pleasantly surprised to realize that Sabrina’s favorite actor was Cary Grant, his personal favorite as well. She had an impressive DVD collection of his movies, and they settled in to watch several of his most memorable roles. They had already completed The Philadelphia Story and His Girl Friday and were just about to watch Operation Petticoat when Chris noticed that Sabrina was starting to fight to stay awake.

“So, is Cary boring you, or am I?” He asked softly as he kissed her forehead when he came back to the couch.

“Neither one, I’m just tired. I think all of the action from last night is finally catching up to me,” she yawned and stretched in response.

“Ok, up we go,” he said as he reached for her hands to pull her off the couch.

“What are you doing?” She asked in protest.

“Let’s call it a night, you’re tired and so am I, we can watch this one in the morning,” he reached over and picked up the remote and turned the TV off. Taking Sabrina by the hand, he led her towards the bedroom, turning off the lights in the room as they exited. Luckily, she had left the bedroom light on earlier, so they had a light to guide them down the hall. The penthouse was extremely dark except for that light.

Chris removed the bags from the bed, and Sabrina then pulled back the covers. She went over to the dresser, pulled out a few things and retreated to the bathroom. While Chris had his bag set up on the footstool at the end of the bed, he began to undress. He slipped off his jeans shoes, socks, and jeans. He slipped on a pair of pajama bottoms, although he generally slept in the nude; he had brought them along to be safe. He took off his shirt, figuring he would at least sleep without a t-shirt on, he didn’t expect that she would mind.

He sat on the footstool to wait for her to exit the bathroom. This was her bedroom, and he didn’t know which side of the bed she preferred, it would be rude for him to get into the bed and make an assumption. Although based on how the room was set up, he guessed she slept on the left, it was closer to the bathroom, and he imagined she did not want to sleep next to the bedroom door. He didn’t know why that struck him as odd, it just did. As he waited for her, he took in the room; it was not opulent, it was subtle and elegant and was the perfect reflection of her.

The bathroom door opened, and she stepped out wearing a light pink chemise with a matching robe; the chemise, not overly revealing, actually came down to her knees. Chris quickly stood up, taking her all in, she was just as lovely in a nightgown with no makeup as she was in a party dress all dolled up. He knew he was staring at her, but he could not help himself.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to take so long in the bathroom. It’s all yours if you need it.”

“Um, no, you’re fine. I just didn’t know which side of the bed you prefer,” his voice trailed off, and he actually felt his face start to flush.

“Oh, well I usually sleep on the left.”

He smiled and shook his head, “You won’t believe this, but I kinda figured that was the case.” He walked around to the right side of the bed and got in, watching as she removed her robe and hung it on the end of the bed. She got into bed, and he motioned for her to come to him, opening his arm for her to snuggle in next to him. He kissed the top of her head and then reached over to turn off the bedside table.

Almost instantly they fell asleep, the sexual activities from the night before and the tension from the day had been exhausting. They were each a little more worn out than they wanted to admit.

Sabrina’s body twitched and she woke up; it was a dream, or was it a nightmare? She was falling, endlessly falling and that is what made her wake up – she had a fear of falling. The falling of any sort, including in love. She pulled herself away from Chris, she was still snuggled next to him with his arm protectively draped over her. Neither one of them had moved since they had gone to bed. Had they not been asleep that long or had they just been so tired they couldn’t move? She checked her phone, it was 2:30 am, they had been asleep for some time. So, they had just been that tired.

As she got out of bed, she noticed that he moved; he moved towards where she had been sleeping. It was almost as if he was searching for her. She saw the light flashing on her cell, it indicated she had a message. She picked up her phone and made her way over to the armchair, the one that Audrey had sat in two days ago to watch her parade around in dresses to wear to the wedding. She had the perfect vantage point to see Chris on the bed and to watch him sleep. He was a visually stunning man, from his arms, chest, eyes, lips and those ridiculous eyelashes. She watched him sleep, watched his chest move up and down with every breath he took.

He looked fabulous in her bed, and she would love for him to stay there permanently. When she had her arms wrapped around him at the window yesterday, she meant those words that there was an invitation for him to stay and never leave. But that weighed heavily on her now. She could feel herself falling over the abyss for him, and she could not explain how it could happen so fast. He was simply not the kind of man she should fall for. He is younger, from outside of Chicago, he’s an actor for heaven sake. She had done so well in not falling for anyone in the ten years since her divorce; her heart had been closed off, and the occasional fling was good enough.

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