Laila let out a muffled cry of excitement as soon as she closed the door to her dorm room. The smile hadn't left her face since she walked out on Sterling. She was embarrassed by how she had acted, reprimanding herself for losing control, but she was also incredibly turned on by how good Sterling had felt. He was so strong, she could tell from the way he held her, the effortless way he had spun her around and pulled her into his chest.
Reaching for her nightstand, she brought her inhaler to her lips and pressed the medication into her lungs. The tightness in her chest eased almost instantly and she took a few deep breaths. She could still feel his hands on her hips, still taste his mouth on her tongue. Although she didn't want to, she knew she would be feeling him all night unless she took a shower.
She unzipped her black dress, shrugging it from her shoulders and letting it fall to the ground. Her pink robe was wrapped around her before she stepped out of her panties and heals, exchanging them for a pair of plastic shower sandals. She had been here for two days already, but things still seemed foreign. She didn't like sharing a shower with the rest of the girls on her floor, even though there were more than enough stalls to go around. She felt lucky to have a roommate as great at Tennille, but missed the privacy of her own room as well.
Laila peered down from behind her door, glad to find the darkened hallway empty of students. She walked quickly to the showers, opening the door quietly and slipping inside. She chose the last stall, utterly aware of the fact her silhouette would be visible from behind the textured glass.
The warm water felt good against her skin, washing away the indecency of the night's activities. Her eyes closed as she rinsed her hair. Tennille had wanted her to wear it straight and begged Laila to let her use the flattening iron on it, but without product, her natural wave came back as soon as the steam from the shower reached her head.
"Did you see how Sterling Pierce was carrying on with Tennille's new roommate?" A whiny voice interrupted Laila's peace.
"Jealous, Kalyn?" A second voice teased.
"Hardly," Kalyn replied, not too convincingly.
"Julian seemed to notice her, too," a third voice chimed in.
"Yes, well, Julian notices anything with boobs and a vagina. If he weren't so damn hot and rich, I would have given up on him a long time ago."
The three girls laughed and Laila waited to see if they would say anything else.
"But seriously, who does she think she is?" Kalyn asked her friends, her words sounding as if her mouth was full of toothpaste. "I mean, she just shows up our senior year, hell-bent on being a bitch?"
"You were the one who started it," one of the girls said.
"Whatever, Tasha. She's just some ugly, west coast hippy, with bad hair and an inflated ego."
The three of them laughed and Laila sighed, arguing with her better sense on if she wanted to turn off the shower and confront the girls. But she didn't have time to make up her mind. The laughter faded and the door closed behind them. Laila turned off the water as soon as she was sure they had left and stepped out of the stall, grabbing her robe and pulling it around her.
She took her time flossing and brushing her teeth, trying not to let Kalyn's words hurt her. But looking in the mirror, she couldn't help cursing her reflection. Her light eyes looked dead without make up on her blonde eyelashes. Her skin was so pale it was almost translucent and her body was too thin for her liking. But sports were hard for her to play with her asthma and she was stuck with Yoga or Pilates to keep healthy, and a limited diet to keep her figure from ballooning.
Laila walked back to her room, convincing herself that she was better than Kalyn and her friends. She closed and locked the door behind her, resisting an urge to call her mom and beg a plane ticket home.
"You can do this, Laila." Yale is worth it.
"You can do what?"
Laila jumped and screamed as a deep voice spoke from behind her.
"Darn it, Sterling! You scared me half to death."
"Sorry," he smiled at her, not looking apologetic at all. He had changed, exchanging his jeans and button up dress shirt for a plain white tee and flannel pajama pants. The short sleeves of his t-shirt showed his strong arms which would undoubtedly look even better if she could see his chest and abs as well.
"How did you get in here?"
"You left the door unlocked."
She did, didn't she? "Well, please leave."
Sterling took a few steps toward her and stared down into her eyes. "Alistair laid claim to the room tonight. I've got nowhere else to go."
"What about Tate's room?"
"Where do you think Tennille is?"
"Is his roommate going to let himself into my room as well?"
Sterling laughed. "Matt, I'm sure, has his own backup room. You'll find that on the weekends, no one really stays with their designated roommates."
"And you just assumed my room would be the best place to crash for the night?"
"I always stay here. Tennille had her own room for most of last year after the roommate was expelled for sleeping with her math teacher. And since she was always in Tate's room, I was able to come and go as I pleased." Sterling took a few more steps in Laila's direction, reaching for the belt of her robe and twirling it through his fingers. She was shocked and slightly disturbed at the ease with which Sterling spoke about student faculty relations.
"As you've already noticed, I'm sure, Tennille has a new roommate who most definitely doesn't want strange guys staying with her."
"Most definitely?" Sterling smiled down Laila's beautiful face. She was trying to be determined but failing miserably. He could see the lust behind her violet eyes and knew he wouldn't have to try hard to convince her to let him stay.
"Don't make fun, I'm still getting used to the way you talk out here."
His hand rose to her face and brushed some of the damp hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear. "I like the way you speak. It's endearing."
"Look, Sterling," Laila said, turning away from his hand and walking across the room. "It's bad enough what happened in the basement earlier tonight. I don't need you sleeping in my room to start any more rumors about me."
"Did someone say something to you?"
"I heard Kalyn and some of her friends talking about us in the bathroom." She bent over and opened her dresser drawer, the back of her robe riding up her thighs far enough for Sterling to get an almost indecent look at her legs.
"Is there an us already?" Sterling smiled at her back and sat down on her bed.
"They were mostly talking about me, I guess," Laila said, turning back around, a pair of purple shorts and matching cotton top clutched in her hand.
"Did they call you ugly and poor?"
"An ugly, west coast hippy with bad hair and an inflated ego."
Sterling laughed out loud and shook his head. "Kalyn's just jealous. Everyone who isn't her friend is either ugly or poor. She probably didn't like the attention Julian was giving you, either. "
"That's what I keep telling myself. But I really don't need to make any enemies right now. This year's going to be hard enough as it is." She stood awkwardly beside her bed.
"Just ignore her. She'll leave you alone…eventually."
Laila smiled and stared into his eyes. She never thought she would feel comfortable standing in front of a boy with no make-up and no clothes on, but that is exactly how she felt with Sterling. His eyes were calming and his voice was soothing, his body language was unobtrusive and almost inviting.
"I need to change," Laila said almost shyly.
"Okay," Sterling grinned at her.
Laila waited for him to turn around or close his eyes but the seconds ticking away on the clock above her door seemed to take forever to pass.
"Are you waiting for something?"
"You think?" Laila retorted, her hands on her hips.
Sterling looked proud of himself as he turned around and put a hand over his eyes. Shaking her head at his cockiness, Laila waited before stripping off her robe, wanting to make sure he wasn't going to surprise her and turn around. But he didn't and she had to smile, believing he was truly a gentleman. She pulled her shorts and tank top on quickly before throwing back the covers of her bed and sliding underneath them.
"Okay, you can turn around now."
Sterling turned toward her and opened his eyes. She couldn't believe it had taken her as long as it had to notice them. They were entrancing, impossible to look away from. Everything about him was that way, though, and she couldn't even begin to control the butterflies that were taking over her stomach. But that was probably a normal way to feel, she imagined. Having never spent much time around boys her age, she probably would react to any male attention this way. Or perhaps not. Julian and Chase's attention didn't seem to produce the same reaction in her.
"Your eyes look beautiful right now," Sterling said softly as he started to crawl his way up her bed.
"I never wear purple outside my bedroom. It's my favorite color but it causes too many questions." Why was she telling him these things? It didn't make sense, but she wanted him to know everything about her; she wanted to know everything about him.
"Funny, same thing happens to me when I wear purple. But I imagine the questions aren't the same." Sterling grinned at her and she laughed, not so much from his joke but more from the awkwardness of the situation he was creating. She wanted him to kiss her again, but she didn't want him to come any closer. He was on her bed. What would he expect from her if she let him kiss her right now?
"You should go to Tennille's bed, now. I'm ready to turn the lights out."
Sterling looked shocked. "I can't sleep in her bed."
"Yes you can," Laila answered him, not wanting to hear his reasons why not.
"I could, I suppose, but I don't want to. I don't want to for the same reasons I would never sleep in Alistair's bed or Tate's. I know what goes on between the sheets."
"Okay, gross." Laila couldn't help herself. Scenes from CSI Miami with black lights and obscene amount of semen flashed through her mind.
"Exactly. So, you couldn't possibly make me sleep there."
"You'll have to sleep on top of the covers then. You aren't sleeping with me."
But Sterling was already pulling back the sheets on the other side of the bed. "Come on. This is a queen. You won't even notice I'm here."
"Nope," Laila pulled the sheets away from his hand and wrapped them around her. "You're lucky I'm letting you stay here at all. I could call campus security and have you removed."
"You really aren't going to let me sleep with you?"
"Not tonight, I'm not."
Had he heard her correctly? Her eyes were playful but he could tell she was nervous and uncomfortable with the idea of him sleeping in the same bed as her. Not tonight could mean sometime soon and Sterling wasn't going to ruin his chances by pushing his luck with her that night. He lifted himself onto his knees, looking down at her as she sat against the headboard. He could, he knew, ask her for one thing he knew she wanted to give him.
"Can I ask for a goodnight kiss, then?"
Her pale cheeks blushed pink. He had never seen a girl blush as much as she did and he loved it. He smiled as he watched her expression change from shock to delight at his request. Slowly, she sat up and rolled onto her knees, her small body gracefully moving closer to his. He saw the sheets drop from around her waist and knew she was wearing only a pair of incredibly short pajama bottoms beneath, but he didn't look down. He didn't want her to think he was after anything other than her heart.
Her top teeth grazed seductively over her bottom lip as she walked on her knees to meet him in the center of the bed. His smile widened as she approached, as did hers, both of them filled with anticipation and longing. Sterling kept his hands down at his sides until she was merely centimeters from him.
"Close your eyes," he whispered, taking her face in his hands.
Her eyes narrowed before she complied, her lips pulling tight and then relaxing as she waited for his kiss. He held her in anticipation, staring at her beautiful face for a few seconds before lowering his lips to hers. He softly kissed first one corner of her mouth and then the other before covering her lips entirely with his. His kiss remained gentle from start to finish, his tongue lightly tasting her lips before searching for hers. Their tongues danced together in a slow, incisive way as they kissed again and again, neither ready for the other to pull away.
"Wow," Laila breathed against his lips when their kiss finally did end. Her eyes were still closed and her lips were red and slightly swollen.
"My feelings exactly," Sterling grinned as he opened his eyes to look at her.
She took a deep breath and smiled as she opened her eyes. "No one has ever kissed me like that."
"I've never kissed anyone like that before," he admitted, trying to remember the last time he actually put effort into a kiss.
Laila gave him a disbelieving look and laughed, sitting on the bed and sliding under the covers. "Goodnight Sterling. For real this time."
"For real?" He teased her as he stepped off the bed and turned off the lights.
"Whatever, go to bed." She laughed in the darkness.
"As if," he countered.
He heard her gasp at the insult as he drew back only the top quilt of Tennille's bed.
"You're deplorable," she yawned.
"Now you're getting it," he yawned as well, then closed his eyes and replayed their last kiss in his mind again and again until he had fallen asleep.