Casey strolled up the pathway leading to the door of her old house. She’d been here many times since she’d moved out, but every time it seemed like a place more and more foreign, like it wasn’t quite home anymore. She didn’t really like to think about it.
She stopped at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for Derek to make his way with his sports bag on one shoulder and her carry on lagging behind him. She bit her lip, contemplating the picture. "Maybe I should take my bag," she said, reaching for the handle.
Derek kept his hold on it solidly. "What for?" he asked.
"It will be kind of weird if we go in there and you’re carrying my bags, won’t it?" Casey sighed. She made another grab for the handle, Derek moved his arm away.
"You think they’ll get suspicious if I’m carrying your bag?" He asked in astonishment.
She crossed her arms over her chest. "You never do anything nice for me, Derek."
"Obviously," Derek shook his hand holding the carry on to show it off, "that’s not true."
"Sure, now you do," Casey rolled her eyes.
"I’m pretty sure I’ve done nice things for you before," he argued, like he was insulted or something, which was so unreasonable.
"Derek, can you not be so stubborn and just give me my bag."
"No," he said and adjusted his bag over his shoulder. "Because I can see where this is going. You want to go in and act like we’re fifteen again, to pretend like we haven’t grown up or god forbid started to like each other. And you know what? That’s what’s going to get us caught."
"And why?" Casey scoffed.
"Because you can’t lie for shit," Derek sneered.
"De-rek!" She went to punch him on the arm.
Derek laughed, walking backwards to avoid the hit. "I’m just saying, it’ll get too hard for you to resist my charms and you’ll end up jumping me in the middle of the living room. Wouldn’t want that, right?"
Casey shook her head, trying to hide the smile growing on her face. He was such an idiot. "Derek, you are so-"
"Oh please, get a room," Marti shot from the top of the stairs. Both Casey and Derek’s eyes boggled as their heads snapped towards her.
"Marti!" Derek snapped furiously.
"Oh shut up, dad and Nora are at work, the coast is clear."
Derek visibly relaxed, and Casey let out a relieved sigh. Derek gave her a pointed look as he passed in front of her to get inside. "Always worrying over nothing."
"How was I supposed to know they weren’t here?"
Marti turned around to give her a look. "Um, it’s Monday?"
Right, it was that normal time of day that normal people worked at. True. Yup. "You’re so cute when you’re embarrassed," Derek muttered in her ear as he walked over to Marti, letting the bags down so he could hug his little sister. "How you doing, Smarti?"
"Ugh, Derek. I’m eighteen in like five days."
"Wow," he deadpanned, letting go of his sister, acting insulted that she'd rejected his term of endearment.
"It’s good to see you, Marti." Casey smiled, holding her tight.
Marti smiled. "George said Derek sleeps in the basement so I guess Casey can have Lizzie’s old room."
Derek made a show of grumbling as he went to drop his bag where they belonged. "Banished to the basement. Suddenly, I feel wanted."
Casey laughed as she watched him go.
"So you finally fell for my brother, huh?" Marti said, interrupting Casey’s staring at Derek’s butt, as she dropped in the - why was that thing still here? - chair next to the couch. Marti pushed the arms so the chair reclined and the legs sprung up. It made a creaking sound from hell.
"I did not fall," Casey denied, trying to sound offended. It was more of a soft, gentle roll down a hill.
"So you don’t think he’s handsome, charming, funny, amazing…"
"Can we talk about this later?"
"Yeah Marti," Derek said, coming back from the basement. "Don’t think we’re going to let you distract us from the real issue, here."
Marti looked up at her brother with the most innocent eyes she could muster. "What do you mean, oh dear brother?"
"I know you’re going to spill the beans on the school thing eventually. Maybe there’ll be a grand announcement on your birthday, huh? You don’t fool me. I wrote the book, sister."
Marti crossed her arms over her chest. "Well it’s not my birthday yet, is it?"
Derek jumped over the back of the couch to sit on the spot closest to Marti, pointing a threatening finger at her. "I will find out the truth," he dared. Marti shrugged casually.
Shaking her head, Casey moved up the stairs, grabbing her luggage on her way.
She entered Lizzie’s old room, surprised to find that it had already been repainted and redecorated in a neutral palette, effectively giving off the guestroom vibe. It was so impersonal. As she blinked, she could still picture the bright colours on the walls, the hamster wheel in one corner and the rain forest maquettes in the other.
Sighing, she sat down on the bed. She caught a lonely tear at the corner of her eye. She wasn’t exactly sad, it just felt like… things had changed, which obviously, they had, she just hadn’t realized it until now. When she came home now, she was sleeping in a guest room, not her own room or sharing Lizzie’s room. In a way, it was kind of depressing.
She shook herself out of it, though, because if Derek caught her he’d definitely tease her about it, and quickly unpacked her things.
When she came back downstairs, Derek was in the kitchen, probably hunting for snacks and Marti was still lounging in the chair, watching TV, in a perfect copy picture of her brother at her age. It was disconcerting.
"Marti, where are the chips?" Derek shouted from the kitchen.
As Casey made her way to the couch, she heard Marti grumble under her breath, then louder, she answered. "The chips are being held hostage, Derek, deal with it."
"Hostage?" Derek squeaked.
"Dad is still mad at me so he won’t let chips anywhere near the house."
Derek approached the living room slowly. "You’re saying that I can’t have chips because of your shenanigans?" he said, outraged.
"You can’t stop me from living my life!" Marti shot dramatically.
"But what about the chips, Marti!"
By the time George and Nora arrived, Derek had accepted his fate and decided to snack on crackers. He shot upright on the couch as soon as the door opened, having previously been lying in Casey’s lap to watch TV.
The house was instantly filled with the cries of a seven year old starved for the attention of his older siblings. "Casey! Derek!"
Simon jumped on the couch between Derek and Casey, wrapping his arms awkwardly around their necks. Derek fake coughed as if he was being strangled. "Aaaargh, I will never surrender!" He squeaked, grabbing for the boy to pop him on his knee and tickling him until the little boy giggled helplessly.
"Casey!" Nora exclaimed. "We weren’t expecting you to be here so early?" It was a question but she seemed pleasantly surprised. "We didn’t prepare the guest room for you yet."
"It’s okay, mom, I’ll grab some new sheets later," Casey shrugged.
"Aww, I’m so happy to see you," Nora cooed, leaning into the couch to hug Casey. Casey hummed and closed her eyes, breathing in the nice mom smell. "How’s Jesse?"
Casey tensed, unsure of what she should tell her mother. "He’s fine," she said noncommittally as her mom released her.
"Derek," Nora greeted, pecking his cheek. "Why didn’t you tell us Casey was coming with you?"
He shrugged, letting his brother drop to the floor so he could run away, only the spirit of a seven year old knew where. "Thought you’d like the surprise."
Casey raised her eyebrow at him. "It's probably more like he forgot."
"Which one is it, you’ll never know," he said winningly, as he stretched his arms above his head before jumping to his feet. "What are we having for dinner, Dad?"
"Hello to you too, Derek," George drawled, welcoming his son in his embrace. Derek patted him on the back quickly and pulled away.
"Hey Dad," he smirked, tongue in cheek. "I really am starving though."
"Derek, you just ate crackers," Casey scolded, smiling as she rolled her eyes. Why was it that everything he did seemed cute now that they’d made out? Maybe Marti had been right.
In their circle around the room, Casey’s eyes caught her mom’s who was frowning down at her thoughtfully. She blushed, feeling like a deer caught in headlights. She smiled nervously and got up in an attempt to avoid Nora’s questioning gaze.
"Do you guys need help with dinner?" Casey tried to distract.
"Nah," George said, walking to the phone. "We were going to order Chinese."
"Hell yeah!" Derek drawled.
"Again?" Marti grumbled.
"I want Chinese!" Simon shouted as he came running down the stairs, back from who knows land.
"It’s five against one," Derek teased, pushing Marti’s shoulder.
Marti groaned, pulling a face. "Whatever."
Casey offered to help with the dishes after dinner. Marti had cleared the table and piled everything up carelessly in the sink. Casey rolled her eyes as she rinsed the plates from leftover rice and thai sauce.
"Just like her brother," Casey muttered to herself.
A hand grabbed for a newly clean plate that she’d left in the drying rack and she turned to find Nora saddling next to her with the drying rag. "Thanks," she smiled at her mother.
Nora smiled back. "So, you flew in with Derek?"
"Yeah, since I’m done with work for the rest of the summer, I thought why not?"
"That was a pretty last minute decision, no?"
Casey shrugged, getting back to the dishes, trying to avoid her mother’s interrogation. She hadn’t done anything suspicious since they’d arrived, Nora couldn’t be onto them just yet, could she?
"What did Jesse think?"
Casey bit her lip. "Actually… Jesse and I broke up." She concentrated on a particularly stubborn stain.
"Really?" Nora seemed taken aback, but recovered quickly. "Are you okay?" Though she was calm, her voice was full of concern and Casey just couldn’t ignore her mother anymore. She sighed and turned to look at her.
"I’m fine," she said, "it was kind of a mutual decision. We're still living together for now."
"When did it happen?"
"Hmm…" Nora seemed thoughtful for a few seconds, then nodded and went back to drying the dishes, all traces of concerned mom gone. "That’s interesting."
Casey frowned. "Interesting how?"
"Just that you decided to break up now," Nora took the next clean plate from Casey’s hand.
"What’s so interesting about the timing?"
Nora shrugged and pouted innocently, "Not much, it’s just convenient that Derek was there to visit."
"The break up had nothing to do with Derek."
Nora smiled as she put last clean dishes in the cupboard. She looked up at Casey and cupped her cheek. "I know, honey."
Casey watched, confused, as her mother headed back into the living room to pick up Simon for his bath. She caught Derek’s eye, he was laughing at something his dad said. He winked and her heart skipped a beat. Oh no.
Though Derek had tried to get her attention at every turn, Casey just hadn’t been able to allow herself to give him the time of day. She fled from his touch when he tried to grab her hand under the table or cornered her before bed. She just couldn’t do it, feeling like she was watched constantly after her conversation with her mother.
The third day, though, she had to start admitting to herself that she craved it a little bit, some touch, or interaction of any kind. They hadn’t agreed on this pseudo-relationship thing for a week yet and she was already missing him.
She wouldn’t dare visiting him in the basement though, knowing that things could easily get out of hand if she let them. She looked away from the book in her lap, which honestly she hadn’t been reading, and caught her reflection in the long mirror in the corner of the room.
She put her book down on the side table and got up, approaching the long mirror to observe her form. She was wearing a cute nightgown, something comfortable and light because they’d managed to arrive in London during the one freaking heat wave of the summer. Even in the soft light of the reading lamp she noticed that the thin fabric was sheer enough to see through. She bit her lip, thinking - out of nowhere - that it wasn’t quite sexy the way she wanted.
Her eyes drifted towards the drawers as she mentally check listed what she’d brought with her. She knew there was one pair of sexy underwear in there that she hadn’t been able to leave behind. It was completely normal for a woman to want to feel sexy from time to time, right? Even if she wasn’t going to show off to anyone, sometimes dressing up just felt nice.
Promising herself that she would not leave her room no matter what, she allowed herself to pick up the pink lacy underwear from the drawer. She took off her nightgown to pull it on, returning to the lengthy mirror for deeper scrutiny of her body.
She liked the way the bra pushed her breasts up perfectly, in a not so obvious way. She felt the high waist of the bottoms suited her shape very well, as it followed the curve of her hips, attracting further attention to it. She’d picked it out sometime around her birthday with no specific purpose, but knowing that it would drive any guy crazy if she wanted. Looking herself up and down, she thought it would be a waste if nobody got to see it.
With a devious thought on her mind, she reached for her phone next to her book and took a few full body selfies in the mirror, making sure the light was capturing everything just right. She wondered what Derek’s reaction would be when she sent out the picture, if he’d be surprised at how daring she’d decided to be or if he’d think it was funny, that she would do something like this. Maybe girls sent him risqué pictures all the time and it was just predictable to him.
No matter what his answer would be, she felt a really urgent need to do it, to tease him, to reach out and try to provoke some kind of reaction.
She hit send, opting out of adding any text, knowing that showing was better than telling. She waited for him to see the picture, lying back down on the bed, on top of the covers.
It wasn’t quite that late, she could still hear the tv from their parent’s bedroom, which used to be hers, as well as faint music from Marti’s, who’d somehow inherited Derek’s room after he’d moved out. Knowing that everyone else was still awake made it kind of more thrilling somehow, like they were sneaking behind everyone’s back.
His response came quick.
[ Fuck ]
Casey rolled her eyes.
[ That’s all you have to say? ]
[ I’m not sure if any response I have is appropriate. ]
[ Well obviously I’m expecting something. ]
[ Wanna come down here? ]
She bit her lip and remembered her promise to herself.
[ I can’t do that. ]
[ There’s no use in me arguing, is there? ]
She kind of wanted him to insist, because it felt nice to know that he wanted her. But feeling her resolve waver already, she had to cut it out before it was too late.
[ Nope. ]
[ So you’re just trying to tease me then. ]
[ Is it working? ]
[ Is it what you were trying to do? ]
[ Yes... ]
[ Then yes, it’s working. ]
[ Tell me more... ]
[ You’re playing dirty, I’m not sure I wanna bite. ]
[ Come on... ]
[ You’ve been icing me for like three days, Case. ]
She huffed, frustrated that he couldn’t just get it . He always had to push and he wasn’t letting her just try to sext him in peace, dammit.
[ You know we can’t get caught, Derek. ]
[ We wouldn’t get caught. ]
[ That’s the kind of attitude that gets people caught! ]
[ I want to respect that, Case, I’m just getting some mixed signals from you rn. ]
What mixed signals?
[ I’m not sending mixed signals. ]
[ You haven’t let me come near you since we got here and now I’m supposed to jump through the hoop? ]
[ It’s not a hoop. ]
Casey hesitated, pondering how much she wanted to reveal, before sending her next text.
[ I miss you... ]
She watched the phone for five minutes until she realized he wasn’t going to respond. She guessed she should have known he wasn’t going to let her get her way. It was just so typical of him.
Dropping her phone, she turned on her side and buried her frown in the pillow. She breathed deeply, holding back the tears that were threatening to come because she’d exposed herself and been flatly rejected, and it was all her fault.
When she heard the soft knock on the door, she jumped to get under the blankets quickly so she didn’t look indecent in front of her mom, or worse, George. The door opened before she was halfway covered and she squealed softly, throwing the blanket over her head.
She heard the deep chuckle and the soft click of the door closing, and poked her head out. "De-rek!" she whisper-shouted as he approached her bed. "What are you doing?"
He was going to give her a heart attack.
"Well, darling, I missed you too," Derek said sarcastically, his tongue running over his teeth as he tried to pry the sheet from her grasp.
"Derek! Our parents are in the room next door! They’re still awake!"
"You know I love to live dangerously," He leaned down, capturing her mouth with his, silencing her next argument. She melted instantly. Her whole body relaxed as it leaned into him, seeking more proximity.
He took advantage of this to successfully grab the sheet away from her to reveal her body to him. "Derek!"
"Stop shouting, Case," Derek whispered as he lied on top of her, pushing her legs apart with his knee, "you’ll alert the parents. They’re right next door."
She pushed at his chest. "You can’t just come in here and molest me."
"Really?" he said unconvinced, shifting his hips just so that her eyes fluttered shut a little. "I thought that’s what the invitation was about."
"What invitation?" Casey asked, her voice breathier than she wanted to, her hands grabbing onto his back instinctively.
"That picture," Derek said, leaning down to kiss her neck. "It was right there. Full colour, all skin and pink lace. It said: Fuck me, Derek!"
Giggling, she pushed him off, and he rolled onto his side next to her this time. "It did not say that and it will not happen here, in this bed, in between our parents and our brother’s bedrooms."
"You sure know how to kill a mood," Derek complained, brushing his hand over her stomach.
"There is no mood, Derek. Go back to your room."
He pouted. "I don’t want to."
"Too bad, you can’t always get what you want."
"That would be an incorrect statement," Derek smirked, letting his hand wander lower, until he reached the band of her underwear.
The tips of his fingers tickled her skin and she had to hold in a joyful sigh. "No, Der."
Derek sighed and pushed himself away. "Fine." He got off the bed and walked over to the door, delivering his parting words in a soft whisper. "Just so you know, you’re a tease."
The door closed behind him, but she could still hear his voice on the other side. "Hey, Smarts."
"Ew, gross," Marti complained.
Casey closed her eyes in annoyance.
Friday morning, when George and Nora had left with Simon, Casey remained alone at the kitchen island, enjoying a quiet breakfast. Mornings had been hectic all week and she barely had time to herself between her mom, her little brother and the other, taller child vying for her attentions. It was a nice sunny day, sunlight peeking through the back window. It was a nice day to go read outside, she thought.
She really hadn’t been able to find her school books, which only left her with some novels she’d left behind back when she’d moved out. Romance, bodice rippers, all those things that didn’t help her sleep soundly at night as it left her feeling frustrated and unfulfilled. Gosh, she was horny.
As if he could smell it in the air, like the smell of bacon in the morning, Derek emerged from the basement, smirking when he saw her alone at the island.
"Good morning," he said in a way that made good morning sound indecent, which really should not be allowed.
He was looking especially yummy that morning, his pajama bottoms hanging low on his hips, chest exposed, hair tousled and eyes drowsy with sleep. As he stopped in front of the sink to look outside, he laid both hands on the counter, giving her a nice view of his backside. The shape of his shoulders and back muscles were also pretty inviting. She licked her lips, picturing what his skin would taste like, while the sun reflected on tiny beads of sweat rolling down his skin.
Suddenly feeling ravenous, she went back to her toast, taking out a huge bite. She looked up after finishing her toast to find him looking at her expectantly. "Hm?" she uttered.
"I said, too bad I didn’t bring my guitar, it’d be the perfect day to hang outside and strum out some new song," Derek said conversationally.
Shaking herself out of her daze, she shrugged. "You can still write the words," she suggested easily.
"Meh, it’s not the same without the music," he said, scrunching his nose in disappointment before shrugging it off and moving to make himself breakfast.
"I was going to spend some time outside, reading," Casey volunteered.
Derek stopped short as he put the cereal box down on the counter and frowned up at her cryptically.
Casey rolled her eyes. "I did not find my textbooks. I had some novels lying around."
"That stuff about moth’s blood?"
"No," Casey laughed, "just some romance novels."
"Uhuh," Derek said pensively, as he poured the milk in his bowl. "Since everyone’s out you might wanna skip the novels and enjoy some real life romance, no?" he said raising his eyebrows up at her suggestively.
Suppressing a shiver (the struggle was real), she got up and brought her plate to the sink, purposely brushing her side against his. "Marti’s still here. She’s asleep," she pointed out.
"Exactly," he said, turning around to grab her waist and pull her to him.
She stopped herself from bumping into him with her hands, coming up flat over his chest. His skin was burning hot, soft underneath her fingertips. She slowly lifted her gaze from his chest, watching his Adam's apple bob as he swallowed, until she met his. He was grinning victoriously, obviously aware of the effect he had on her.
His arms tightened around her waist, pressing her flush against him, and his face lowered towards hers. "I was thinking about skipping the cereal," he breathed, lips practically brushing against hers, "I think I found something else I’d rather have for breakfast."
She pulled her face away before he could catch her mouth. "Do any of your corny lines ever work?" she said, pretending she wasn’t quivering in anticipation.
His lips found her burning cheek. "You tell me," he whispered.
She bit her lip, eyes falling shut. She wanted to. She really, really wanted to. There was nothing she’d rather be doing than Derek fucking Venturi right then and there in their family’s kitchen. She’d been good all week, but it was getting harder to resist the more days went by. They’d really only just arrived to an understanding before they left New York, but hadn’t had the chance to really embrace it, to find out what it was all about. She was dying to know.
Yet there was that sensible voice in the back of her head that reminded her that this was the house their family lived in, their married parents and their little brother, and she felt kind of crummy even considering having sex with Derek in it. They may not be related, but from Simon’s perspective, it actually was the same difference, and that was just too hard to overlook when they were standing where the kid was having his breakfast in the morning.
She moved her head to meet his mouth in a gentle kiss. "Truthfully, it is working," she started. Derek smiled into another kiss. "But," she panted, between kisses. Derek paused. "I-"
As luck would have it, she was saved from finishing her thought when the front door burst open on Edwin and Lizzie barging in like they still owned the place. Casey’s shoulders relaxed a little.
"We come bearing gi- waaah!" Edwin yelled, eyes wide as saucers when he caught sight of them in the kitchen. Realizing the position they were in, Casey pushed Derek away from her.
Lizzie sighed and picked up the gift bags that Edwin had dropped. "I warned you about this, Edwin," Lizzie looked up and smiled brightly. "Sorry guys, Edwin’s still emotionally twelve."
Casey chuckled and made her way to her sister. "I think all Venturis stop maturing at twelve."
"I take offence to that," Marti quipped from the top of the stairs.
"I think she meant the Venturi men," Lizzie mended, grinning at her step-sister.
Marti grinned back and ran down the stairs, joining the girls in a group hug. "I missed you, Lizzie!"
Behind them Casey heard the boys sharing a fist bump. "Should we take offence to that?" Derek asked.
As she turned, she saw Edwin shaking his head glumly. "If I learned something from living with two girls, bro, is pick your battles."
Derek nodded in understanding and patted his brother’s shoulder. "Words of wisdom, Ed."
"Speaking of," Marti chimed in, looking around them pointedly, "Where’s your better whole, Edwin?"
"Ha. Ha." Edwin deadpanned.
"Claudia will come later," Lizzie offered. "She’s going to lunch with her mom."
Casey looked at the clock. "You guys are here early, we weren’t expecting you before noon."
"Yeah… we were bored," Lizzie said, shrugging and moving towards the stairs. She got to the first step and turned around, frowning. "Um. So where is everyone sleeping?"
The five of them looked at each other in dismay, as they realized that their family had finally outgrown their house. Casey caught Derek’s eye and he smirked as a devious thought obviously occurred to him.
"Edwin and Claudia can take the guest room," Derek said, wrapping his arm around Casey’s waist. "Bed downstairs is big enough for two," he fake-whispered into her ear.
"Ew," Marti said, shaking her head, and turned to Lizzie. "You and I can have a sleepover, sis!"
"Like old times," Lizzie nodded and left to drop her things.
"So, before I bring my girlfriend upstairs, did anything unholy happen in there?" Edwin asked, looking between Derek and Casey wearily.
"Edwin!" Casey gasped.
"Don’t worry, Ed," Derek rolled his eyes, disentangling himself from Casey in order to take roots in the chair. "Haven’t figured out the combination to the chastity belt."
"Excuse me?" Casey cried in outrage, rushing to slap him over the head.
"I don’t know Edwin, I’d burn the sheets if I were you," Marti said.
Edwin hung his head and walked up the stairs.
"I’ll get my stuff down later, Ed!" Casey shouted after him, resigning herself to sitting on the couch.
She observed Derek, he was already engrossed in some sports highlights on television.
"Isn’t it suspicious if we sleep in the same bed, Derek?"
"Casey, Casey, Casey," Derek said in his annoying smug voice. He turned towards her with a sneaky smile. "Nobody’s going to ask. So you don’t need to tell anyone."
"What do you mean nobody is going to ask?"
"I swear to you, Casey, nobody will bring up the sleeping arrangements, and you won’t have any explaining to do."
"He’s probably right," Marti came up next to Derek in the chair, shrugging.
"See?" Derek pointed at his sister, like she’d spoken some irrefutable truth.
Casey sighed and gave in. "Fine."
Marti remained at Derek’s side, observing him calmly until he turned to look at her quizzically. "Um?"
"You’re in my chair," Marti grinned.
"This is my chair now."
"Don’t you think inheriting my room, charms and good looks was enough?"
"Nope. My chair."
Derek squinted at his sister, who grinned maniacally back at him. Probably deciding he couldn’t win against Marti in a fair fight, he withdrew, rising from the chair, and dropped right next to Casey, letting his arm fall over the back of the couch behind her head.
"I guess it’s much nicer here anyways," Derek said, leaning in to nuzzle Casey’s neck. She rolled her eyes and rolled her shoulder to dislodge his head.
"When you’re done traumatizing the whole family," Marti said conversationally, "you could fetch me breakfast."
The dinner table was crowded and chaotic. With the arrival of Lizzie, Edwin, and then Claudia, there was barely any room to catch up without everyone talking over each other.
Claudia had arrived shortly after George and Nora, hugging the whole family like they were hers before reaching Casey and introducing herself. They didn’t get to talk much after that, but Claudia was a sweet girl, a bit awkward around the edges, so reasonably perfect for Edwin. She genuinely laughed at all his jokes, which was impressive, considering absolutely none of them were funny.
Casey tried to keep up with conversation, eventually giving up when she started feeling too out of the loop. She focused on her plate, resolving to catch up with everyone individually and ate up her unfrozen meatloaf, as she listened on the conversation distantly.
"... told Edwin we shouldn’t leave them there. Next thing you know, the oven’s catching on fire…"
"... haven’t seen her in a while, so I look her up on Facebook …"
"... really didn’t think it through… okay, who’s playing footsie with me?"
The table jerked, sending a couple of dishes flying about and making Casey jump. She looked up, catching Derek in a coughing fit. Marti took pity on him and slapped him a couple of times on the back.
"Sorry, Liz," Derek muttered, keeping his eyes on his plate.
Lizzie shrugged. "So, anyway…"
Casey narrowed her eyes in Derek’s direction, holding back a smile as she took in the slight blush on his cheeks. He’d been trying to play footsie with her…
Deciding that he was just too cute to deny, she let her own foot wander until she - hopefully - met his. He looked up quickly through his lashes, confirming that she had indeed placed her foot on top of his, and wiggled his toes into the arch of her foot in response. She bit her tongue to hold in her giggle.
She pushed her foot higher, brushing over his calf. He stopped her from going higher when she was about to reach the inside of his thigh by catching her ankle between his knees. He gave her a pointed look. "Later," he mouthed.
Feeling her own blush creeping up on her face, she looked back down at her plate. He didn’t let go of her ankle.
In the evening, dressed in her soft peach nightgown, she stood at the edge of the bed, eyes darting between Derek lying comfortably under the thin sheet and the slightly open window letting in the midnight air.
"Stop worrying, I’m not going to try anything. I’ll behave."
She licked her lips, meeting his eyes seriously. "It’s not that…"
He raised an eyebrow inquiringly, waiting for her to go on.
"Can I have the side farthest from the window?"
Derek snickered and moved to the other side. "You live in New York and sleep like a baby but you’re scared of a small window in the suburbs?"
"It’s open," she argued, pouting, as she crawled towards her side of the bed.
Derek chuckled and turned on his side to look at her. "I’d say I’ll protect you but honestly I pity the poor fucker who dares coming through that window and has to face you."
"But you’re the guy, it’s your job," she argued.
Derek looked at her curiously, tongue poking into his cheek. "You are the most confusing feminist I have ever met," he stated.
"I think a robber will be more scared of the professional hockey player than harmless little me," she replied haughtily.
"Harmless," Derek scoffed. "Funny."
Casey frowned and smacked his arm. "He could have a gun!"
Derek blinked and pushed himself closer, brushing his hand up and down her arm. "Tell you what, if some guy breaks in with a gun, I’ll protect you."
Casey smiled. "You will?"
"I’ll take the bullet if I have to," Derek shrugged casually.
Her breath caught in her throat. He kept his face soft and calm but she couldn’t help the feeling that he’d said something big. Like he’d take a freaking bullet for her or something.
"That’s a serious commitment for a non-boyfriend," Casey said softly.
"I’m not a conventional ‘non-boyfriend’, am I?" he finger quoted.
"No, you’re not," she agreed, trying to read his expression. He held her gaze seriously, before sighing.
"Look, there are no rules," Derek said. "We make our own rules."
"And then break them?" Casey smirked.
"Now you’re getting it," he said, grabbing the back of her head to pull her forward and press a kiss on her forehead. She let her head fall forward into his shoulder and they moved into each other, his arm wrapping tightly around her shoulder, and hers around his waist.
She breathed in his neck, the spicy scent of his cologne tickling her nose pleasantly. His embrace was warm and comforting, and it was the closest thing to home she’d felt in a long time. The thought scared her more than anything, knowing fully well that if she really gave into it, she was setting herself up for a hard fall.
"Maybe we should set some ground rules," Casey said.
Derek groaned. "You always take the things I say literally."
"I mean it though," Casey said, pulling away to look him in the eye. "What if this… what if it blows over?"
"There’s a 50/50 chance it will happen," Derek shrugged, seemingly oblivious to how distressing the statement was.
"And you think those are good odds?"
"I’m just being realistic."
"Well," Casey nodded slowly as she thought, "I’d like to improve the odds."
"With ground rules?" Derek asked cautiously.
"Fine. But if I have to listen to this, I should at least be allowed to get some… sugar?"
Casey rolled her eyes as he pulled her close to bury his face in her neck. "You said you’d behave."
"By that I meant I won’t try to undress and ravish you."
"Fine," she sighed, more in pleasure than actual annoyance, but she wasn’t going to tell him that. "First, I think there should be no PDA when we’re at home."
"You’ve already seen to that, darling," he intoned, kissing down her collarbone.
"But making it a rule means you need to actually follow it, De-rek."
Derek lifted his head from her cleavage to stare at her in exasperation. "I knew we were regressing to high school. First I can’t carry your bags, now I can’t touch or kiss you. What’s next?"
"Second," Casey resumed, ignoring his childish reasoning. "We should check in with the other if there is going to be a potential new partner."
Derek frowned. "Besides Sally, you mean?" She nodded. "You planning on seeing other people?"
"No," Casey said.
"Then I thought we’d already taken care of that too," Derek said with aggravation.
"There’s no harm in reiterating," Casey said sharply.
"Except I’m getting bored."
"Third," she continued, "protection should always be used."
"Oh god," Derek groaned, apparently over this discussion already.
"Don’t I get to make up some rules?" he interrupted.
She looked at him apprehensively. "Go on…"
"No bottling shit up. If you’re not okay with something, you say it upfront."
Surprisingly, his suggestion was very helpful and considerate. She nodded slowly. "That’s a good rule."
"And um…" Derek frowned, lips pressed together as he searched for his words. "No ghosting," he settled on.
"You think I’m going to ghost on you?" Casey asked, raising her eyebrow in confusion. Like it was something that she would ever do.
"You do tend to avoid me from time to time," Derek informed calmly, "you know, when you can’t handle the heat going up."
Remembering how she’d ignored him for days a couple of months ago, Casey realized that he was right. Her eyes dropped to his chin, suddenly feeling guilty. "Sorry…"
"It’s fine," Derek dismissed, pecking the tip of her nose. "We didn’t have ground rules then."
Casey smiled softly, for once appreciating the fact that he was the way he was, somewhat aloof, considerably detached, but never indifferent. "Anything else?"
"Not for now," Derek shrugged. "You?"
"I think that’s it," Casey said.
"I guess it wasn’t so bad," Derek commented, returning his mouth to her chest and dropping lazy kisses over the tops of her breasts.
"I’m surprised we went through the whole thing without arguing," Casey said, closing her eyes and letting her fingers loose into his hair.
"Is it too late to add another rule?" he asked, barely pausing to speak in between kisses. "You should always come to bed with those sexy underwear like last time."
"I don’t sleep with that outfit on, Derek," she chuckled.
"I didn’t say you’d still be wearing it by the time you go to sleep," he said suggestively.
"Oh you think you’re so clever," Casey chided.
"Oh but I am," Derek affirmed, latching on her with his tongue. She moaned softly, enjoying the feeling of his warm mouth on her skin.
His hands ran up her form, dragging the soft fabric of her gown up with them, until they cupped her breasts, and squeezed tight. She exhaled blissfully, his touch waking up her every nerve endings. She felt like something deep inside of her was being pulled to the surface, as she writhed underneath him, each stroke of his tongue, his fingers, working together beautifully to unravel her insides.
He was breaking her soul open, gently, excruciatingly, until she was left bare, exposed to him. A yielding, panting mess, left defenceless to his every whim. He could seriously hurt her like this, if he wanted to, he could break her down into pieces and leave without looking back. He could destroy her.
"You really think this is going to be a disaster?" Casey asked, breathless.
Derek faltered slightly, before making his way up her torso and her neck, stopping at her jaw. "You know my main and only goal is to make my life as easy as possible right?" he asked, pausing to look at her seriously. His face was so close, his lips could be touching hers if he moved just a little... "Do you really think I’d bother with something complicated if I didn’t think it was worth it?"
There was a candid softness in his eyes, all traces of the master deceiver, trickster, player - gone. He met her vulnerability with sincerity.
"You think this is worth it?"
"That’s what I said."
Yeah… if her heart was to ever be broken without repair, she knew it could only be by his doing.
"You make it hard you know?" Casey whispered.
"Hard to what?" Derek asked, brows furrowing anxiously.
His eyes were so deep and intense, she couldn’t look at them anymore, or she would drown. She hid her face into his neck, confiding into his skin. "Not to fall for you."
His hand on her arm tensed, and she could feel against his chest his heartbeat increasing. "Um…" he started awkwardly and stopped, swallowing hard. "That’s... the Venturi charm... I guess?" he stumbled over his words. He was adorable.
"Shut up, Derek," she snapped softly.
Finally wrapping her in his arms, he kissed the top of her head and stayed quiet. The soft whistle of the breeze coming from the window above eventually lulled them to sleep.